July 21, 2017
What is better than a relay race where your portion of the race is all the downhill?! Well maybe the post race beer with all your friends is better than the running… maybe.
I originally signed up for the full 50k race months ago, planning to have at least one 50K under my belt prior to running the Squamish 50 miler. However, this 50K course is one of the toughest around, and when it seemed like the whole Abby Trail Running Club was signing up for the race in relay teams, and a friend was looking for a relay partner, I thought it would be a lot more fun to run with the crew rather than have a solo race that would have me finishing so much later than the rest of the crew! So I jumped at the opportunity to switch to the relay race. And I’m so glad I did!!!
The 50K relay is split in “half”… roughly 27km of uphill and 23km of downhill with 2800m/8600ft of ascent and descent. Somehow my “downhill” segment still had almost 700m of elevation gain (which was nothing compared to my teammates 2100m of elevation gain!!!).
I didn’t have to start the race til about 11AM vs 6AM! Also… I ran 23K while my relay partner ran the uphill 27K. To be fair, he did choose the uphill as it is his strength (not mine!).
However, we were at the start line anyways as we had to pickup our race package prior to the start anyways. So we got to listen to the race briefing – which is always full of helpful info and good laughs. And then we cheered on all the racers as they started off.
And then, since I’ve always run well on donuts… we stopped at Honey’s donuts for more coffee and a donut since we all had to wait at least 3 hours for our relay partners to complete their segment of the race! And yummmm so good!!!!
The day was misty and damp and quite cool… and definitely very cool at the top of Seymour mountain where the exchange would happen. However, there were still a billion mosquitos out. Don’t they hate the cold?! We waited for quite a while in the cold, unsure of when our teammates would come through… but it was fun to hang out and cheer the other runners coming through.
Finally… my buddy Jonathan showed up and I took off running – still had my jacket on but I was still too cold at that point to take it off.
My segment race started uphill pretty quick and within about 500m I was up into the snow!!! Snow in July?! Crazy!!! It was pretty slick and the snow was mushy and wet so forward movement was not as easy as anticipated – sometimes it felt like one step forward, 2 slips back! It was so foggy too but it was kind of cool to run in the snow and the cool misty air!!
I reached Brockton Point – the highest point on the race where if the weather was clearer, would have been a gorgeous view of Vancouver… but instead I paused for a second to peer out through the mist before turning around and heading back down the mountain.I gingerly “ran” or slipped down the mountain – trying to go fast enough to be light and responsive on my feet, but trying not to go too fast or if I slipped I’d end up smashing something on one of the many rocks that were poking up through the mushy/icy snow!
Once I was through the snow, the challenges didn’t stop… the rest of that first loop was pretty steep and technical with a lot of slippery/slightly icy roots and rocks to work my way through. I encountered the race photographer at some point there… trying to make it look like I was moving quickly through all that tricky stuff… but really… I was moving pretty carefully! And apparently laughing my butt off (as per usual) 🙂 Photo credit for these next 2 pictures goes to Brian McCurdy Photography. https://brianmccurdyphotography.smugmug.com/Buckin-Hell-2017/
Eventually, the trail went around a small lake and while the flagging for the course was impeccable, it almost appeared that the trail disappeared into the lake!!! But it didn’t…Once I got to the bottom of that first loop – I passed my friends who were still at the exchange point and quickly ditched my jacket as by now I was well warmed up and quite hot n sweaty despite the cool & mist/light rain!
And then for the real rip downhill!!! Roughly 17km of downhill to go (with the occasional brief jaunt uphill!)
The downhill was pretty technical with quite a lot of roots and rocks in sections but a lot of it was beautifully runnable! At first I was dodging puddles… until I got to one very large puddle with no way around it – but it looked like it wasn’t too deep so I figured all I’d get was a little splash. Well… that puddle was a couple feet deep and so mucky at the bottom. My foot landed in the water at the top and just kept sinking and since I was going pretty quick, my other foot landing in the puddle and sunk deep into the water and muck too!! I almost lost my shoes trying to pull my feet out of that deep, squishy mud puddle!!!
So now both my feet were completely soaked so I just powered through all the puddles feeling a bit like a child splashing in every puddle in my way!
I passed a few people on the trail… gradually getting a bit ahead.
I came running down a hill at one point and then realized that I hadn’t seen a flag for a bit (Gary has a rule that you should see a flag every 30-60 seconds and if you don’t see one after a minute or so you’ve definitely missed a turn!) I was almost at the bottom of the hill that would bring me out on the road and I didn’t see any course marshall’s/traffic controllers/cones on the road so I knew for sure I’d taken a wrong turn.
Worst part of that… I had to go back uphill!!! I powered uphill… and found the turn that I’d missed. And I don’t even know how I could possibly have missed it – there were about 50 thousand pink flags there and arrows guiding me to turn!! Clearly I wasn’t paying attention at that time and just assumed I’d carry on down the hill!
Ugh. That cost me at least 5 minutes and as I turned onto the trail the right way, a few of the people I’d passed previously were now ahead of me again… so I passed them all yet again 😛
I was really having a good time running that course and it felt good!!!
I didn’t even realize I was almost at the end of the course until I came down a bit of a hill with lots of steps and a whole ton of tourists going up. I tried dodging the tourists on the stairs down but it was slowing me down so much that I just jumped down the side of the trail and ran down beside the steps – much faster!!
And then suddenly I was on the road again the course Marshall was telling me that the finish line was less than 1km away!!!!
I could hear and see the finish line ahead and off to the left… so I started sprinting and flew down that hill giving it everything I had!!! I crossed that finish line at a sprint, absolutely full of energy and SO happy!!!!! I high fived Gary but missed the hug cuz I probably would have knocked him over at that speed!!
It was by far the best finish line I’ve ever crossed so far… or I should say I felt the best I’ve ever felt!!!! And all my friends were waiting there and I danced and high fived them all… and it was so wonderful!!!!!
Huge thanks to my friend Jonathan for offering to run the relay with me and especially for offering to run the uphill segment!!! I would absolutely not have finished the downhill segment in the time I did if I’d had to run 27km uphill first… and I would absolutely not have felt that good at the finish line!!!
We waited for a couple more friends to come through but then pretty quickly we high tailed it out of there because finish line beers with the Abbotsford Trail Running Club!!!! Why else would we all run?! For the beer!!!!
Such a great day. Such a great race!!! I absolutely LOVE running downhill – although I’m starting to embrace the uphill more… but I was so glad that I did the relay instead of the full 50 and got to really elaborate and enjoy the day with my friends!! Because one of the best parts of this trail running business is the wonderful people you meet through it!
So cheers to Abby Trail Running Club… cheers to Coast Mountain Trail Series (cuz it’s fantastic!!!) and here’s to loving the run always!!!
Last thoughts… there should probably be a brief moment of reflection on what I learned through this race…
- Don’t be arrogant. I was running downhill, loving the run, passing people, mentally congratulating myself for doing well… and in my slightly arrogant state of not paying enough attention, I flew past course flagging and ended up going off course and costing myself at least 5 precious minutes where I had to re-pass all the people I’d already passed before.
- My downhill does need work. The steep technical stuff does get me. Especially when it is slippery from snow or mud… it slows me down significantly and I am definitely not as “fearless” as I should be to just fly downhill with confidence in myself and my footing!
- Finish line dances are THE BEST.