A Summary of Summer Races

March 31 2019!!!

So apparently this has been sitting in my “draft” file for many many MANY months. I can’t carry on and proceed with 2019 race write ups and adventure/life lesson posts without getting this out of my draft box and into the universe.

So here it is: A “summer” of races all leading up to… the big goal race! Squamish 50/50 (more on that soon!) and all the important lessons I learned from each race.

1. Orcas Island Marathon

2. Run For Water 50km

3. Broken Goat 50km

4. Buckin Hell 50km

Orcas Island Marathon, May 12, 2018

26.5miles (42.something km) 6200 ft (roughly 2000m) of ascent & descent

What do you do when you’re stuck in the back of the struggle bus and can’t seem to find a way off?! You smile your biggest because fact: it makes you faster, and keep pushing through it with everything you’ve got, opening your heart to the beauty all around you and just taking it all in so that in the end, you will finish stronger than when you started!

Originally I’d signed up to run the 50miler. That was dumb. I wasn’t ready to run 50miles. Also I was hoping to run the Vancouver Marathon only a week before Orcas and I was finding it very challenging to try train for a fast road marathon but also for a very hilly trail race with loads of elevation gain with both races occurring within 6 days of each other. Talk about overbooking myself and over reaching!

Ultimately I didn’t even run the Vancouver Marathon – my heart really wasn’t in the road running game at the time… and I dropped to the Marathon distance at Orcas Island.

It was an amazing weekend… taking the ferry out to the island and spending the whole weekend with a couple of my closest girlfriends who were also running the race, with Katrina running her first 50 miler and Jenn and I doing the marathon distance.

Race day: The race started out super fast. I thought I had 10minutes left to the start and was just finishing up getting ready in my cabin when I heard the countdown to the start and panicked! I missed the pre race briefing and literally ran straight out the door of the cabin and right across the start line!

The race really didn’t go as I’d hoped… maybe I started out to fast (most likely actually!) and I found it hard to settle into a good rhythm. I felt pretty awful, struggling to control my heart rate and breathing. I started to get frustrated with myself, knowing I should be able to do better but feeling powerless to push much harder. It was discouraging. But I carried on and at about the 23km mark, I just got in the zone and started powering up the last big climb. I started feeling stronger, more confident, finding enjoyment in it. I made some big gains and was feeling so strong by the time I got to the top of the last climb and readied myself to run downhill (it was basically all downhill to the finish). And so I pushed hard and embraced the downhill and ended up finishing in 5:49:02… a time I was satisfied with considering how much I struggled over the first half of the course and even doubted my capacity to continue the race at times!

Overall… I did really enjoy the race… It was a spectacular mossy wonderland (for large sections) with so much easy non technical singletrack, singing streams, cheerful birds and then gorgeous coastal landscapes with stunning views to top it off! I loved it so much that the day after the race, I woke up early and headed up to the top of Mt Constitution to run around the island a little more and explore more of it’s beauty that I may have missed in my misery the day before. It was absolutely glorious!!!! And I’m so grateful to have had the capacity to run a hard marathon the day before but then get up and run again the next morning… and for the next few days turning it into a really great training block. So lucky!!

Lessons learned: warm up. start slow. pace yourself.

Run for Water 50km, May 26, 2018

50 km, 3000m of elevation gain and loss, 2 25km laps, clockwise & counterclockwise

My favourite trail race of all time.

4th female or last female, depending how you look at it. Also, only the 4th female to ever finish the 50km race so there’s that too… cuz it’s one insanely tough course!

I’d been so excited for this race. Sumas Mountain is always a glorious and exceptionally gorgeous mountain to run. It’s local, it’s home! Running a race in your hometown, with ALL of your friends either running it too or volunteering and cheering you on at every turn nearly… and being surrounded by just the most beautiful community of people all around… what more could a girl ask for?

Well, it would have been nice to be healthy the day of the race. Running 50km with an upper respiratory infection is probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done… but it was absolutely worth it!

I loved EVERY single minute of the 8:19:02 I spent out on that course! Well, nearly every minute. Climbing up to Taggert Peak on lap 2 was a seemingly never ending climb and I was feeling quite sluggish up that hill, with barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other. But then I got a text message from one of my friends saying “you’re killing it, you’re killing it!!!” and I was like, “FUCK YES! I am killin it!” That was all the motivation I needed to keep pushing on. I dug deep and powered up the rest of that climb. That was only the first big climb of the 2nd lap but as I carried on further, I started passing 25km runners, often on the uphill (whaaat?!) which made me feel even stronger. Bumping into friends at aid stations or course marshalling was so fun and I felt like I ran so much of the course with the hugest smile on my face… just SO happy!!

The trails, even though I’ve run all of them before, were filled with new beauty to catch my attention and I just felt so incredibly grateful as I ran along. Sometimes running with other 50k runners and chatting, other times running alone.

I flew down Knobb Gobbler… one of my favourite trails, and eventually ended up on the final stretch… the Sauces and Peels… Holiday sauce, more sauce, extra sauce… pre peel, Emma peel… the trails are gorgeous with an overall downhill, but still so much uphill,  so they take SO much longer than anticipated. I found myself looking at my watch multiple times and watching the minutes past 8hrs count up… wishing I’d realized how long this last section would take me and realizing I should have fueled more before that last stretch.

But then I skittered down the crazy steep little hill down into the finish line where all my friends were waiting with hugs and high fives and it was the best feeling ever! I got to celebrate with the Abby Trail Running Club and my trail sisters Jenny and Katrina who were both first women for the 50k and 25k and both set new course records! Legends!!!

Loved the race. Absolutely loved it. And I can’t wait to run it again next year!!!! Also the money from the race goes to an amazing cause. So you should run it too!!!

Lesson learned: fuel properly for the last hour or so of the race and count on it taking longer than you expect!

Broken Goat 50km, July 21, 2018

8:13:38

50km that was actually 52km, 2300m ascent that was actually 2500m and 2800m descent

Broken Goat is a super challenging course out in Rossland, BC. Together with a whole bunch of friends, I travelled to Rossland for the race. It was incredibly gorgeous and so wonderful right from the start… meeting so many  lovely people the first night already at package pickup & pre-race briefing… and throughout the entire weekend. I think aside from the spectacularly gorgeous race course, what I loved the most was metting so many wonderful new people, building on other newish friendships, and deepening existing friendships. This trail running community is phenomenal and when runners come together from all over the province/country/world for a destination event like this… it really is so special. Our lives are so much richer because of this sport… and not just because we’re stronger, fitter, and healthier, but because of the people we meet along the way. “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” – John Lennon

ok… so race day. Super early 4AM wakeup… after sleeping a grand total of about 2 very restless hours of sleep as I could not turn my brain off and relax into sleep!!! We were shuttled to the start, where we shivered in the cool morning breeze, and were so grateful to finally start running! It was a bit of a slow start as the trail immediately turned into very narrow single track and passing was challenging, but people sorted themselves out and found their place in the race in no time. Going up one of the first climbs, I saw the guy in front of me do a little dance and drop his poles. I wondered what was going on and then suddenly felt a sharp sting on my butt… somehow we’d stumbled on a wasp nest! I managed to escape with only the one sting and fortunately it didn’t bother me at all during the race.

The course runs along the 7 summits trail, a high alpine trail, and accesses several peaks and ridges in short steep side trips off the trail. Mt Plewman, Unnecessary Ridge, Old Glory Mtn, Record Ridge, Granite Mountain, and finally Red Mountain.  We carried on in the early morning and the views were just stunning right from the very beginning. We quickly climbed along a ridge line with glorious views on either side, and were actually able to see in the distance, the highest mountain peak we were headed to – Old Glory. The meadow we traversed through to get to the top of Old Glory was one of my favourite parts of the whole course. It was wide open and green and gorgeous and the views were spectacular. The views everywhere were incredible actually. I was in awe the whole race! We heard rumors there was bacon at the top of Old Glory… and there was! There was even a “shepherd” and “goat” also!

The climbing was hard, and I was exhausted, but I still managed to power hike pretty powerfully up the steep climbs.

Nathan Karsgaard
Nathan Karsgaard

It was the downhills that kept tripping me up… quite literally. Much of the course was super technical and I had to be super cautious with my foot placement, and being so tired, my brain struggled to keep up and mentally I felt very fatigued. I tripped over rocks so many times and nearly fell… but I made it down to a nice smooth flowy section at the bottom of Record Ridge, and could finally relax for a few kms, and that’s where I fell. I sprawled hard in the dirt, landing mostly on my right thigh and butt, ending up with a solid scrape on my thigh and instant bruising. I was a bit shaken, but got up and started carefully running down. The downhill running jostled the muscle quite a bit and it wasn’t comfortable, but it was definitely something I could run through. So I just pushed the pain aside and carried on, more cautious again now to not fall again.

Nathan Karsgaard
Nathan Karsgaard

Now, the most challenging part of this course, is that at about 38km, you run right past the finish line and head straight back up another mountain, Red Mountain, which is a ridiculously steep grind for about 2km. And then you run back downhill for about 10km ending up on a forest service road that you think is going to take you to the finish line, because you know it’s right there around the bend and you can hear it!! But nope… the course swerves back uphill at 50km for a completely unnecessary additional 2km just when you’re like, “shouldn’t I be done this 50km race??!!” and you climb a bit more, undulate some, and finally head down to finish line. The finish is fun though… you run through a meadow into a colorfully flagged chute and across the finish line where Rene, one of my FAVOURITE race directors, just the most wonderful person, is waiting to give you a gorgeous handmade pottery medal. And your friends are there – old and new, and there’s beer and food. It is SO great!!!

I loved the race. Would have loved it more on a little more sleep but the challenge was good for me. I’d 100% race it again!!!

Lessons learned: SLEEP is ESSENTIAL for RACE (running in general) PERFORMANCE and NOT DYING/GETTING INJURED on course!

Buckin Hell 50km, July 28, 2018

7:51:35

50km, 2600m ascent/descent, super technical!!!

The sweatiest sweatfest of all sweatfests. I actually don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life. It was hot. Hot as is it’s name for sure. I think the temps when the race started were at least already 25 degrees, and rapidly rose to at least 32 and it was so humid with very little breeze anywhere!

Last year I ran the 50km as well but in a relay and so I actually only ran the last 23km of the course. So much of the first 27km were unfamiliar to me. I’d run some of it on my birthday run with girlfriends back in April when we ran a good section of the Baden Powell Trail out of Deep Cove, but much of it was new to me! The first 20km have moderate amounts of climbing, and then at about 20km, you start climbing, and you don’t quite climbing for over 1000m until you hit the top of Seymour – Brockton Point.

And then for the downhill. Oh the downhill… its the most technical downhill I’ve ever attempted to run ever. So many many many rocks and roots… it can be almost as slow as going uphill in some sections! But its so much fun too! There’s a surprising amount of uphill in the “downhill” like many trail races I’ve come to learn… with a solid 250m hill climb at 45km into the race. But I powered up that hill passing multiple people and it felt good!! I was deep in the zone and just so ready to be finished the race so I could start to cool down a little!! A few kms before that hill climb, I’d felt something jabbing me in the ankle and when I looked down to investigate, there was a bee squirming inside my sock that had stung my on the ankle! It was pretty uncomfortable but something I could totally run through without any hesitation.

When I finally hit the road for the last km/few hundred meters of the race, I burst into a sprint and raced as fast as my legs would carry me (without awkwardly bailing near the finish) to cross the finish line in 7:51:35, a time I was super happy with on such a challenging course.

Overall, the day went really well for me. I wish I’d positioned myself a little better at the start as it was very congested to start with needing to climb up stairs to gain access to the Baden Powell Trail and I really could have started out faster than I did. But I pushed everywhere I needed too or wanted to on the uphills and felt strong on all the hills. In future, if I was actually really racing it, I would run more of the Seymour Road climb as I power walked much of that, still passing many people while at a walk. But I could have done that faster. Nutrition was good. Hydration was good. Although I was very ready to be done by the time I neared the finish – I was hot and just wanted a good cold drink – preferably a beer, it was a good last long run/race prior to Squamish 50/50 to really boost my confidence!

Lesson learned: you need to work more on your technical downhill and be more fearless!!! Also… the flamingo shorts are cute – but they’re not a good race short when its that hot and you’re that sweaty!! (ALLL the chaffing :S)

img_6682

And so summer training came to an end… lots of valuable lessons in racing and running and life in general. And somehow, I managed to come out through all of this intact, and stronger! And had so much fun along the way in training and racing!

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