Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Squamish 50k & the Gel Angel

Squamish ate me up, chewed me up and spit me out twice over the 50k course. Not just because they are calling it one of North America's toughest ultras, I had some unusual (for me) challenges to face and overcome during the course of the day.

I was using Squamish 50k as a build for my upcoming race, the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run which was only three weeks away. I decided to make it my last build week before my taper, so I started the race on well used legs and was going to try to treat it like stage 5 of 8.
We hiked the BCMC trail for an extra 3000 feet the afternoon before the race. 

I didn't sleep well the night before and I was a little jazzed when I woke up.  I tried to eat oatmeal and that wasn't working so well, so I drank 1/2 a boost and smashed a gel 15min before the start. I choose the 8am start to beat some of the heat and also so I could start with some of my athletes who were also racing that day.
Jody and Karen with me at the start. These girls would go on to finish an emotional and well earned 50k race. 

I got to meet a fellow Salomon Flight Crew teammate Blaine Penny and spent the weekend with our mutual friend from Canmore, Mike Fitzpatrick. 

The first 10km of the race I felt good.  I ate every 30min, was drinking and dunking my head early in the day.  I planned to take Endurolyes and Anti-Fatigue capsuals every hour and I ran with two bottles so I could have faster transitions and have better access to water to stay cool.  I felt like I was just doing my own pace and trying to enjoy the start of a long day.  I got into the first aid station, refilled my bottles, thank the volunteers and exited. I remember smiling at this point and not feeling too bad.

Not 10min later, however, things changed and I totally felt the dreaded bonk hit me. It came on fast and hard.  So I ate.  I waited and hiked.  I tried running but had zero energy.  I tried not to let the swarms of people that were passing me bring my already low mood lower and I just focused on putting one foot I front of the other.  I remember thinking don't panic. This is going to go away and time is sometimes all you need to dig out of a deep dark pit. But at the same time thinking, gesh I am no longer enjoying and it was hard to digest I still had 40k ahead of me.  As I continued to walk, I suddenly felt a pain in my stomach and moments later, I started dry heaving.  I hate throwing up!  The only thing worse than throwing up is when you have nothing in you to throw up and you dry heave.  My stomach and diaphragm contracted and stung over and over. Any efforts put forward the remainder of the day I felt an awful cramp like pain in my abdominal.  It was worse on the downhills where you really need your core to work. 

Drawing motivation from the reminders we wrote on our hand before the start. 

I basically just tried to keep myself moving forward until I hit Quest University at the 1/2 way.  It was nice to have people cheering and it motivated me to run up the stairs and straight to the coke station.  It lit me back up and I started to feel better.  I was careful not to get too excited and kept reminding myself to stay steady and not push too much because the thought of going back to bonkville was too much for me.  Besides, I knew at this point that my 6:30 goal time was going to be a long shot anyhow and that finishing would be my only goal.

I smashed some more coke, dunked my head with water and felt the pocket in my waist belt to make sure I had gels for the last leg of the race.  Just as I was leaving, Krissy Moehl, one of the world's top ultra runners, came into the aid station. She was running the 50miler which started at 5:30am.  She was also in first place.  It was really motivating to just settle in and try to stay ahead of her.  Things were going well and despite the deep ache in my legs, I was turning them over and thinking I might still be able to salvage at sub 7hr day.  

I held a solid pace for approx 5km and knew it was time to eat. I reached back to have a gel and discovered that it was toilet paper.  (Insert crickets in the background). yep.  That was dumb.  How embarassing to even admit. Who does that?  I thought to myself. I couldnt believe it. And sure enough, not 5min later started to feel the crash and burn for the 2nd time that day.  Krissy passed me like I was standing still.  Oh wait.  I was standing still.  Leaning against a tree at this point.  Praying and waiting for a gel angel to arrive.  And sure enough he did.  His name was Matt and as hard as it was to ask, I knew if I didn't - I wouldnt finish the day. Fortunately, Matt had the goodness in his heart to give me a gel.  It was a vega gel and I remember looking at it thinking 'oh my gawd.  The only gel on the market that makes me gag."  Beggers can't be choosers.  I ate the gel.  Made a squinty, sour look but kept it down.  It was my only chance of finishing this beast of day.

I was back to walking.  One foot in-front of the other.  The last climb felt like Everest.  Okay, maybe not THAT bad but I was in pretty rough shape.  There were two volunteers at the top and they told me it was only 4k to the finish. I asked if they had a radio so I could call Gary Robbins, one of the race directors, to give him a piece of my mind.  Probably a good thing they didn't... he may not have invited me back the following year ;)

The last descent and section through town and into the finish were low for me.  I walked most of the downhill and  I walked/ran it into the finish and had to run holding my stomach because it hurt so much. Wrenching so early in the race had long caught up to me at this point. 

Then my son, Carter, was waiting for me and ran all the way across the finish with me.  It's tradition and my favorite part of every race.  He asked me, like he usually does, "you ready Mom?  You got any kick left?".  "Sorry buddy.  Not today" I replied as be stayed by my side and encouraged me to just keep going. He is such a gem of a child... It was refreshing to have his energy and smile escort me across the line but there would be no sprint finish that day.

When I came into the finishing chute I heard the crowd ROAR!  It was all my friends and PACE athletes who waited at the finish after running their 23k race. It was amazing!!!  I will never forget the love I felt crossing the line. WOW.

I some-how pulled off 8th female, 6th in my age category and stayed top 30 out of 160 runners. 

We had over 25 PA.C.E. athletes represented and tackling either the 23k or 50k course and knowing they all finished was by far the most rewarding part of my day. Not to mention we had some top performers in the 23k distance and miss Stephanie took 1st in her age category in the 50km. I loved sitting on the grass afterwards and listening to everyone's race stories and the extra bonding that this already tight-knit group of people experienced.  I am really proud of all my athletes and I am grateful for the quality time I got to spend with everyone.

Karen and Jody's finish

Salomon Flight Crew Team. I also got to meet John McAlister this weekend. 

Lots to celebrate and with amazing friends. 

Quality chill time the next morning for some of us. 

Despite a tough day at the races, I would certainly consider heading back next year to try to retackle the 50k again. The race was very well organized and the weekend with the PACE family was awesome!  We all made memories and had fun on and off the trails in Squamish that weekend 😊.  Oh, and did I mention there was a beer garden at the finish?  Uh huh... That sealed the deal. 

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