I originally posted this race report over on Runnersworld, but I’ve decided to consolidate everything on this blog in the hopes that it will encourage me to post more frequently. Enjoy.
Before I get onto the race portion of this blog, I want to tell you a little bit about our mini-vacation.
We left Calgary early Wednesday morning for the 11hr drive out to my sister’s place in Vancouver. Along the way we stopped at A&W and enjoyed some deliciously juicy burgers on the shore of beautiful Three Valley Gap Lake.
We got to Vancouver 2hrs before my sister got home from work, so we killed time by hanging out at Allouette Lake. I went for a quick trail run while Matt sat by the shore and read a book. I did a couple of pick-ups during the run and my legs felt great.
Matt and I at Allouette Lake
After the run we went to a local pub for dinner. The food was terrible, but when you’re paying $7 for a steak dinner what do you expect?
We followed up dinner with several beers back at my sister’s and forgot all about the crappy food. Overall, it was a great start to the trip.
Thursday was a beautifully sunny day. Normally when I visit Vancouver I am greeted by torrential rain, so we took advantage of the good weather and went for a steep hike up to the first peak of The Chief. It was supposed to be a rest day, but it’s not like we were hiking fast so I justified it to myself.
My sister and I on The Chief.
We followed up the hike with mounds of sushi, some play time on the beach, and a few more beers. I also finally won a game of Settlers. I think the trip could have ended here and I would have been happy, but there was more good stuff to come!
Fun with crabs
Friday involved a lot of lazing around and eating. We had plates of pasta and crepes, which were masterfully cooked by my brother-in-law. I drank more water and less beer. I also went for a 30 minute run on the roads. My legs felt spunky.
On Saturday Matt and I woke up early for the race. We each had a cup of coffee. I also had some toast with peanut butter and honey, my normal breakfast before a long run.
We drove out to the race course without any issues and parked right at the start/finish line. I love small races. My stomach was full of butterflies so I took a ginger Gravol. I had two goals for this race; finish and don’t puke. Everything else was gravy.
We met up with my friends Kim and Adam who had also driven out from Calgary for the race. Kim and I do a lot of our long runs together in the summer, but she has much more of a speed focus than I do so I can’t keep up with her on the short stuff. In my mind 50km is borderline “short” so I was fairly confident that she would finish well ahead of me.
Adam, Kim and I at the start.
There were some last minute announcements from the RD before we lined up at the start. We had already received an email stating that we would have to run an alternate route because of high water levels along the lake. The alternate route added about 2km and 200m of gain to the original course. The original course is short and I like climbing, so the alternate route sounded like a bonus. The RD announced that there was an additional change to the course that was just decided on that morning. A trail which had been closed for years had reopened, which meant that we got to run on the trail instead of the road. I’m always happy for more trail; more good news!
The race began and we took off down the road before turning onto a rolling lakeside trail. I counted 5 or 6 ladies ahead of me and men were zooming by on either side. I stuck to my easy rhythm.
We left the lake and began to climb up the saddle towards the Diez Vista trail. We were on double-track trail, but it was a fairly steep slope and I transitioned into a power-walk. It wasn’t long before I started passing people.
The Diez Vista trail is super technical single-track. I hiked it once with my mom years ago, and I remember wondering how people ever managed to run on that trail. This race was my chance to find out! The trail climbed steeply and I continued my hike, sometimes using my hands to get up the steep switchbacks. I continued to pass people on the way up and I wondered if maybe I was hiking too fast.
When the trail leveled off I was in No-Man’s Land. I hadn’t caught up to the lead pack, but I seemed to have broken free of the mid-pack. The route was well-flagged but the trail was so technical that it just looked like forest; roots, rocks and mud. I didn’t dare look up while I was hopping over the roots and rocks, but I couldn’t distinguish the trail from the forest. I had to look up in order to follow the flags. It was really slow going, and it got even slower as I began the steep descent back to the lake.
Soon all the people I had passed on the climb caught back up to me. They obviously knew the trail and were used to the terrain. I would tuck in behind someone and try to mirror their footsteps. As long as I could see them I didn’t have to look up for the flags. I didn’t have the confidence to keep up at their pace for long, but it certainly helped to follow even for a short while.
It was during the descent that I caught up to Kim. She was struggling with the terrain as much as I was, so we descended the rest of the mountain together. I really wanted Kim to have a good race so when we hit a road section I encouraged her to go ahead even though it was clear that she wasn’t really in a racing mood.
She did end up going ahead a little, but then she stopped at an aid station and I carried on through without stopping. It wasn’t long before we were back on the trail and running together. We found some non-technical downhill and I encouraged to her run ahead and enjoy letting her legs go. I had fun trying to keep up behind her. At the bottom of the hill there was a wooden bridge with a hard left at the end. I planted my foot to turn left but it slipped on the wet wood. I went down hard on my knee and a wave of pain washed over me. Kim hadn’t seen me fall so she had already run on ahead. I took the next couple of kilometers gingerly until the pain in my knee subsided.
The route continued on rolling trail with the occasional section of gravel road. There was, in my opinion, just the right amount of root and rock on the trail to keep things interesting. I ran steady, wondering if I should incorporate walk breaks, but I didn’t feel like walking so I didn’t.
I refilled my camelback at AS#4; this was the first AS that I stopped at. Matt was there and he told me that I was in 4th or 5th place. Really?! I thought there were more ladies ahead of me than that. I thought back to the entrants list. Who was in front of me?
Suzanne Evans – perennial favourite and course record holder.
Kim Magnuss – super speedy lady who beats Ellie Greenwood over shorter distances.
My friend Kim.
I had no confidence in my ability to beat those ladies so I focused on not letting anyone catch me. I continued to run at a steady pace and found myself passing a few more guys. No women in sight.
With all the course changes I had no idea what to expect from the course profile so I found myself always holding back just a little bit. You know, just in case there was something nasty around the next corner. After a long climb the trail dropped down a series of switchbacks. I felt my stomach grumble. I had had to go poo since AS #4 (where there were no washrooms) and had ignored it. Downhills always make the urge more insistent and I found myself eyeing the bushes, looking for a private spot.
I came around a corner and there was Matt cheering me on, camera in hand. There was also an AS complete with an outhouse! I was so excited not to have to use the woods! Matt had been timing the ladies ahead of me. I was 14 minutes off the lead and 2 minutes behind Kim. Again I was shocked. I felt like the lead ladies should have been at least 20 minutes ahead, if not more! I didn’t time myself, but with the outhouse stop I probably spent 2-3 minutes at that AS.
The AS was followed by a long climb. I love climbing and I embraced the solitude of the forest. Suddenly a runner came FLYING down the trail towards me, and I realized that this must be the out-and-back portion of the trail. It was seriously impressive to see that guy hurtling down the trail.
I didn’t see anyone else for a long time, but eventually some other guys appeared running down the trail towards me. Where were the ladies? Finally I caught sight of the lead lady as I came around a corner. I checked my watch. 2 minutes later I spied the 2nd lady and 2 minutes behind her was Kim. Kim looked to be in a great mood and I was so excited that she was having a good day. No puking!
3 minutes after seeing Kim I found myself at the turn-around. I had been running downhill for the last few kilometers, now it was time to hike back up. My stomach felt a little off so I took a ginger Gravol, a salt tab and drank some more water. Soon I crested the top of the hill and it was time to run back down the switchbacks in the forest. I knew that there was approximately 10km left (give or take a couple km) and I also knew that there was one more significant hill. I was tempted push as hard as I could on the downhill, but I decided to keep it at 90% effort. I felt smooth, my stomach had settled and I was really enjoying the day.
Before I knew it I was at the last AS and headed up the final climb. I attacked the climb, knowing that if one of the other ladies was struggling, that this was where I could make up time. I didn’t catch anyone on the climb. The descent towards the finish line was highly varied. Sometimes smooth, sometimes very steep and sometimes covered in loose rock that threatened to break your ankles. I wasn’t willing to get hurt at this stage so I kept the effort at 90% all the way through to the finish.
When I got to the finish line I was ecstatic. I really wanted to finish under 6hrs, but I hadn’t allowed myself to focus on that time because of all the course changes. My finishing time was 5:51, 4th lady and 14th overall. Strava says I ran 50.2km, with 7500ft of gain – I have no idea if that is accurate. I finished 9 minutes back of Kim, who had a great final 20km and 17 minutes back of the winner. By ultra-standards 17 minutes is not much. Looking at the results I can hardly believe it!
I won’t say that I’m thankful that all the hard work paid off. I don’t like to call my training ‘hard work’ because I love trail running and I am always excited to go out and run. Running is not work that I have to do, it is something I get to do and I am thankful for every day that I get to lace up my shoes.
I will say that I am very happy to have run a consistent race that represented my ability and fitness level.
I am thankful to have a great support network that fully supports my running/mountain habit. My sister and brother-in-law are always happy to have us crash on their floor, my running friends/enablers who join me on the trails, and my coach who helps keep me focused. Most of all my husband – this mountain addiction is very time consuming. He never complains about the long hours I spend out on the trails and he always ensures there is a meal ready for me when I get home. He is also my biggest fan at all my races – his enthusiasm pushes me to strive for my best.