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We did our best with the tarps, but there is only so much to be done when it rains like this. Thin streams of water spurted from holes that, under blue sky’s, didn’t look like holes. Water is resolute, it always finds a way.

We huddled under the driest parts of the shelter. My dad making rounds with a previously burnt stick, leftover from someone elses story’s. He lifted the tarp in now well-practiced locations to dispel the pooled water. The surrounding ground was raw from repeated dousings. Kyle was busy digging irrigation ditches around his tent to divert the floods. His tent site level and true, but also on the lowest ground in our campsite.

I was at peace with the situation. I had endured my days and nights of anxiety and broken sleep. I was ready to race long and hard, be it through sundrenched forests or stormy plateaus. I was however growing tired of being cold and wet. I was trained. I was tapered. I was as rested as I could hope for. I had eaten 3 days of carb-depleted meals, followed by 2 days of carb-rich meals. I was ready. I continually asked what time it was, in hopes of hearing an number that would justify the process of laying down for the night. 6:30pm… Damn.

The sky eventually lifted, even showing patches of blue. We lit a fire, and our campsite collectively relaxed into the evening.

I slept well. I woke confident and excited. Deliberately doing what little was left to do before driving to the start line. With few exceptions, I was surrounded by the people I love the most. Unlike previous journeys into long distance running, we had all done this before. We were ready.

We fueled up in Princeton. I searched the location of the obligatory local Tim Horton’s. It somehow didn’t exist. I had planned on shitty donuts torching me through the first hours of my race. I settled for a gas station turnover and a power bar. No difference.

Sharing greetings with Avery and Chris at the start line. Photo by Mayo Jordanov.

By the time we reached the start line, I had become somewhat numb to the scale of the endeavor. I felt as if a low-level opiate was coursing through me. I was happy. I was enjoying the moment, documenting it all in my mind. After so much wondering, I was finally going to find out how this thing would play out. In more than one way, this felt like the easy part.

Up, up, and away. Photo by Mayo Jordanov.BANG! goes the bear-banger in the sky. Crews, friends and family line the trail out of the start, watching some of the fittest, toughest people around… walk. The wonderfully anti-climactic start that is the Fat Dog 120. I should use the word hike instead. We hike straight uphill out of the start. I suppose, in a fitting tribute to an incredibly difficult collection of linked trails, through BC’s rugged back country.

We begin with what is to be 1 of 4 major climbs on the course. A 5000ft banger, taking about 2hrs to ascend for the lead pack. I settled in with two of my favourite people in the world. Dave and Josh. How perfect that the starting line had sifted us out in a 3 person train. I vowed to stay relaxed through this first climb. Sharing early km’s with such good friends really helped me accomplish that.

I was genuinely happy to let the lead go off the start. I’m no veteran, but I’ve certainly wasted my share of energy getting immersed in a race, when time would be better spent breathing, relaxing, enjoying. We were hiking well and covering ground as fast as we should be, considering the length of this particular event. I was most curious to find out where this effort would put me in relation to the course record split at the first aid station.

I find that breaking down a course of this size is much easier when distracting myself with split times. Forcing myself to crunch a few numbers, predict times etc. These sorts of things might seem annoying, but to me they are better than the alternative, which is thinking about how ridiculous running 120 miles really is.

I had with me a carefully drawn sheet with Sammy’s course record splits (26h59’), as well as a computer generated prediction of 25hr finish splits. Curiously, Sammy’s CR splits were identical to the 25hr splits until about halfway through his race last year.

My friends had faded behind, or I had faded ahead. Either way, I was climbing alone and enjoying the forest. Before long I caught a glimpse of Chris Downie, and soon after, Avery Collins, the two leaders off the start. This gave me confidence as my natural climbing pace had chipped into whatever lead they had built. The trail levelled out and it felt great to open up my stride and move swiftly through some gentle downhill. The 3 of us grouped up as we headed into the first aid station at Cathedral. We were bang on the CR split of 1h49’ coming in. I was surprised, as I expected to be a little quicker than CR pace through the first climb. I took note that Sammy’s record was no joke.

The 3 of us left the aid station together and continued up the rest of the climb, through some gorgeous alpine sections. The views were spectacular, spirits were high. As Avery faded back I told Chris that I was listening to Def Leppard. He made sure it wasn’t that garbage off Hysteria. It was in fact, Pyromania.

Chris and I continued along through alpine meadows, chatting about this and that. I realized that my beautiful sheet with all of my split times was no longer in my pack. It must have flown out. It was important to me so I decided to stop and backtrack briefly. Avery was just behind us, I yelled to ask if he had seen it. He hadn’t. Move on with your life Matt.

I began the first of many long descents, this one into Ashnola River Rd aid station. The trails were fantastic and allowed for some quick single-track downhilling. Everything on this course is big. This descent took well over an hour. I passed Chris as he was tying his shoe and rolled into the aid station first, with him only a minute or so behind. Rolling into Ashnola River Rd. aid station. Photo by Mayo Jordanov.

ManyReplacing my lost split sheet. familiar faces in the aid station, though I was focused and my memory of it is somewhat foggy. I was still feeling good, and happy to see my crew of family and friends. Everyone was on point, my mom even offering to wipe the mud off my legs with a wet rag, bless her heart. I told her we were going to need to be tougher than that today. I grabbed another CR split sheet and stuffed it in my pack.

Chris and I heaBest crew in the game.ded out and down the dirt road side by side. Eventually I let Chris go, as I wanted to check my shoe for debris. I had felt a lump in the heel of my left shoe for some time. I crouched down to clear it out, but found it was the start of a blister. A little early for that I thought, nothing I can do now. Crank down the laces and keep moving.

From here things got tough. I was sweating heavily as the trail moved into a dense and muggy section. I was overheating and felt my heart rate climbing to alarming rates. I scaled back my effort and kept pushing forward. I felt a few chills come on, and was generally feeling ill through this climb up to Trapper Lake aid. There was so much beauty in this old burnt out forest, with wildflowers lining the ground. The contrast was stunning. I felt terrible, reminding myself to stay positive and let the rough patch move through me.

I heard the blast of an air horn up ahead. This must be Trapper lake aid. Sure enough these veterans had a man positioned down the trail sending signal blasts to the aid station, who were now ready for action. My kinda people. To my surprise, Chris was still there. We both filled our water and lamented the previous climb. He was feeling sick as well. Again we departed the aid station together. Again I let Chris go. I wanted to run alone at this point, and I also wanted to check split times versus the course record. Not only had I not lost any time on the Chris through my rough patch, we were now under CR pace at Trapper Lake. This boosted my confidence, and helped me regain composure as I rounded the lake and started up the climb to Flat Top Mountain.

Chris was obviously feeling better too, as he gapped me after we split up. We were both moving well through this section. The trail opened wide to a final climb through a fantastic alpine meadow. Flowers everywhere. I saw Chris pass a small tree and noted the time. 5 minutes back when I reached that tree. Reasonable, I thought.

I reach these moments in long distance running that I have found nowhere else in life. An all-consuming energy and happiness. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation, but I’m not interested. 360 degree alpine vistas, and back on the Def Leppard. Air-drumming to Photograph as I finished off the ascent. I was on fire. I was free.

I dug into the descent with vigor, confident I would soon catch a glimpse of Chris, with the pace I was pulling. 15 minutes, no glimpse. 30 minutes.. 45, nothing. My high-on-everything phase was fading, though still operational. I felt twinges of cramping in my calves. Not now, not this early, I thought. I was coming back down to earth, though still covering ground well. Still more descending before finally reaching Calcite Aid Station. I made some noise coming in to rouse the volunteers. I was informed Chris was about 10 minutes ahead of me. How did I lose time despite flying downhill for well over an hour? Chris was here to win, this was now very clear. I was rattled. Cramps were now grabbing at my legs with regularity. My pace wasn’t disastrous, but the pep was gone. I wanted to hit the river and get to Bonnevier aid to see the crew again.

This section took what seemed like forever. I was working hard. The terrain matched my current disposition, uninspired and flat. Long sections of gravel road led to sharp descents, as the course worked it’s way down to the Pasayten River. My quads were beat up. The downhill running was taking a toll. I was questioning everything. Had I used too much on the descents? Was I just not trained for a course like this? Was I not recovered from my West Coast Trail FKT? How would I complete this thing, let alone compete, if my quads are shot at 60k? This is what they call a low-point. I hit the river crossing, and to make things worse I was now well back of the CR split. I felt like garbage. I was baffled how I was able to lose so much time.The boys, working logistics at Bonnevier aid.

A short dirt driveway leads out of the river and up to the Crowsnest Highway. A longer-than-I-wanted-it-to-be section of highway-shoulder running led me into Bonnevier aid station. I was gassed, stressed out, in trouble physically and mentally.

I was desperate for some pickle juice. This magic elixir had vanquished my cramping at Zion 100, I was counting on it again. I kept asking my crew where Chris was. He was battering me mentally. They said he was 20 minutes ahead. I asked how he looked. They told me to stop worrying about it. Great advice! I refilled everything and got out of there. Upset with myself for being so wound up, so early in the race. It was time to relax and regroup.

Just as I disappeared out of view from the aid station, I rounded a corner and saw Chris part-way up a hill, struggling with his hydration pack. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He couldn’t either I don’t think, as he quickly darted up the rest of the hill and out of sight.

I was buoyed by his presence, though it didn’t do much to fix my failing quads. I was walking down a dirt road, the most runnable section of the course yet. I couldn’t understand how my quads were in such despair, so early (66km), despite running a conservative race to this point.

The muscles were involuntarily locked, 100% non-functional. I contemplated dropping right there. There was just too much ground to cover if I couldn’t break the cramps. I recounted my experience at Gorge Waterfalls 100k. Faster pace, longer duration, no such cramping. It didn’t add up… until I peed… dark.

I had never seen my pee this colour. No blood thankfully, just a runner who was clearly very, very behind on his hydration needs. This is what I needed. A logical explanation for my problems. I can fix things when I know what’s wrong. There was so much hype about the heat going into this race, I relaxed too much once I realized it wasn’t going to be overly hot. I had been drinking, just not with enough focus over the first 7+ hours of the race. It all made sense when I thought back to my dripping arms and fingertips heading up the climb to Trapper Lake.

Re-focus. Drink as much as you can. I was staring up the 3rd of 4 major climbs on the course. A drawn out, 4000ft, 20km beast that would take upwards of 3hrs to complete. Water, gel, water, salt, water, repeat. I put my head down and kept pushing. Gradually my spirits were lifting. It was evening, temperatures were cool, with a wonderful breeze as I climbed out of the trees. I could feel the life returning to my body and mind. I started picking up the pace. I knew Chris would have a tough time matching what I was doing in here. The trail finally levels out, into more lovely alpine meadows. This time the fog was rolling through. It was dusk, it was mesmerizing. I looked right, and out of the far-away tree line stood a massive, solitary rock. On this rock stood a massive, solitary elk. It was beautiful. It was an inspiring sight for sore eyes, literally. There was salt in my eyes.

I was nearing Heather aid station. I had spent the night here, filming last year’s documentary for the race. I knew the volunteers, but hadn’t seen them in a year. I was excited to see their faces, and those of Alex and Kyle. They offered me quesadillas, whiskey, and beer. For a moment I thought about grabbing my tent and having a re-do of last year… no! Push onward. I was informed that Chris was less than 10 minutes ahead. I was now 25 minutes under CR time after a very solid climb. I was back in the race.

Alex, my wonderful girlfriend, joined me. We ran the beautiful ridgelines towards our next destination, Nicomen Lake. It was quickly dark. The mood on these ridges was eerie, though I felt completely safe and comfortable. Alex and I chatted about staying calm and working through the course. I was re-focused and elated to have her company through such a unique set of circumstances. I was full of gratitude, both for her presence in that moment, and in my life.

We were moving well. Headlamps perfectly illuminating our piece of trail, and just beyond, to what we would travel next, and nothing more. I adore night running. I’ve found nothing comparable in distilling all of life into the present moment. Senses are heightened, yet there is a beautiful calm. We traversed the next 15kms just like this. Experiencing the night, and the race. Covering ground swiftly.

After some technical descending, we arrived at the remote Nicomen Lake aid station. I called out “Motha Fuca Matt Berry!” upon our arrival, a voice hollered back. A reference to our experiences on the Juan de Fuca trail earlier that summer with Mr. Berry, who was volunteering at the aid station. He and his friend were huddled around their crackling fire. We were offered both whiskey and bacon. Both of these things seemed like a bad idea if I was going to keep moving. We opted for water and more gels, moving on with thanks. At 99kms, Nicomen Lake is the unofficial halfway point of the race. I was glad to be on the back half of the course, where most of the runnable terrain is to be had.

Alex and I continued our smooth pace. We were flowing through km’s, but I was still holding back a special something for a push later on. I had completed a mental reversal on my position in the race. Most aid stations were informing us that Chris was quite worked up and wanting updates on my position. I realized that I was now driving this bus. I’ve run scared in the lead. It is not an enviable position. Especially this late, in a race of this distance. My watch died somewhere before Cayuse Flats aid station. Generally fixated on numbers, I was surprised to find the lack of information refreshing. After so much running, it was liberating to give up control to the trails. I focused on relaxing, and keeping perspective on how much of the race was still to be run.

My quads were damaged goods since the earlier cramping episode. I found however, that I could nurse them along with proper hydration and fueling. Essentially they reached a certain point of damage, and clung to that ledge for many, many hours.

Hundreds of glow sticks illuminated the forest as I approached Cayuse Flats aid station. It was a surreal environment. The volunteers again going far out of their way to enhance the experience of the runners. Alex finished her pacing duties at Cayuse Flats. I was again informed that Chris was worried about me. I was feeling amazing at this point. I decided it was time for more music. Something about running solo through the darkness of the forest. Something about the numbing fatigue of running for 15 hours. Something about being the hunter. I listened to Deftones’ Around the Fur; this song in particular, really had me going. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and something I will never forget.

I was once again aflame, heading into Cascades aid station. It was great to see the crew here. We were truly doing something crazy now, as we greeted each other in a random parking lot in the thin hours of the morning. The energy was good, we all knew it was business time. I sat down for the first time in the race, doing a full shoe change, making sure everything was organized for my good friend Jed to come on to pace me through the finish. My mom pulled the shoes from my feet, the smell was absolutely horrendous. I was offended, everyone was. This crew didn’t even flinch however, as we pulled the socks off and quickly wiped my feet before new socks and shoes were put on. I still don’t know what that smell was. I maintain there was a rotting animal in a bog we ran through, as Alex’s shoes smelled the same. Her feet are simply not capable of producing such a stench. Mine? Maybe. The socks and shoes had to be quarantined in ziplock bags.

Jed and I took off down the highway section before hitting Sumallo Grove aid station. I updated him on how the race had played out, and of the condition I was in. I had some abdominal cramping going on, the downhill pavement didn’t help. I told him how strong Chris was, and how I couldn’t reel him in, despite hours of quality running. I told him he was like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. I said I knew we could break him if we just stayed the course. Internally I was starting to wonder if that was truthful. We rolled straight through the aid station and got an update that Chris was 11 minutes up on us. We were at km 130, with approximately 65km left to go. I knew the next 17kms to Shawatum, and the 15kms following that were some of the most runnable of the entire course. It was time to make a move, to exhaust any resources I had been hoarding deep inside. Time to race.

We found a brisk rhythm. Working the runnable single-track with efficiency. I think we were both surprised at the pace I was able to maintain. Jed basically taught me how to run trails. We have shared many training miles together. We have always run well together. The Skagit river was to our right, we could feel and hear it’s presence, though all we saw was the dirt in front of us. Time rolled by, along with the kilometres. Occasionally I would verbalize my frustration in not having caught a glimpse of Chris. Was this man human? Surely around the next corner we would see a headlamp, but no. I hadn’t seen Chris in 75kms.

The trail turns hard right, down a small out-and-back section to Shawatum aid station. Just then, right before we reached the volunteers, Chris was walking towards us putting on his hydration pack. “No f%*@#&% way!” were the words I heard from him as we passed each other. Jed and I were silent. I was shocked.

We took care of things at the aid station, making sure not to make a mistake out of excitement. Despite being able to run well, I had very little balance while walking or standing still. I remember staggering around the aid station, watermelon dripping down my face. After leaving, we had a good chat about our strategy. I was sure to encourage patience, as we had put 11 minutes into Chris over the last 17kms. We just needed to keep doing the same.

Chris is a fighter. He must have charged out of that aid station, as it took us 6 more kilometers to catch and pass him. This time the sentiment was more melancholic as he wished me well and told me his quads were shot. We did our best to move swiftly past, looking as fresh as possible, as is customary in situations like this. In reality I was breaking down fast. We had about 5 more kilometres to the final crew stop, at the foot of the notorious Skyline climb. My quads were smashed, and long finished with any sort of revival. They were visibly swollen and basically non-functional. The pain in those muscles is something I will only revisit by doing a race like this again, memory cannot return me to that place. I remember reaching an old bridge. There was a 2-foot drop off the bridge to get back onto the trail. I couldn’t get off the bridge. My brain wouldn’t allow me to drop down. It was protecting my joints from buckling, as my muscles couldn’t support them. Finally I managed an awkward sit, and shuffled myself off the ledge. Jed stood in amusement. What a sport.

I was convinced that Chris was a zombie who would return from the dead. This fueled me to push, and push. Jed was telling me that he was broken, that I had nothing to worry about. This didn’t register in my brain. I wanted this win so badly. I had also witnessed, for an entire day and night, how strong a runner this man was. I would take no chances. Just before we reached Skyline aid station, a searing pain spread from the bottom of my right foot. A significant blister had popped. The pain was brutal, but after a while it just blended in with the rest of it.

The crew was jubilant as we arrived at Skyline aid station in first place. Kyle was on point (as always). My pack was re-loaded with gel and water. I drank a cold double-espresso here, it felt like a decaf. At this point I was numb to basically everything except the idea of laying down.  I was careful not to dwell here too long. There was still so much work left to do. I wanted to get on with it so we could celebrate for real, and end the madness. We left the out-and-back section before seeing Chris come through. This gap helped my confidence, slightly.

From there we climbed, and climbed. The mosquitoes became an issue for the first time. The sharp grade of our ascent slowed our pace to a mosquito-friendly level. This was not fun. I produced some punch-drunk rant about loving all creatures, except mosquitoes. Jed was quick to point out their valuable function in nature.

The Skyline climb is really something to behold after 165kms of running. It honestly helps to be in such a delirious state. It ascends some 7000ft, and includes endless false summits and technical descents. Some say 4 false summits. I say about 10. Once you start climbing this monster, the only way to get out is to finish the race. That, or turn around and return to Skyline aid station to drop out. How’s that for incentive?

We pushed up the hill. Laughing at the enormity of it all. Finally we reached the remote Sky Junction aid station, where my good friends Matt and Kerri were volunteering. They set me up with a nice seat and some coke. I was looking for anything caffeinated as I was starting to nod off. They mentioned a large cat peeing on their tent as they “slept” on the ridge the previous night. Everyone was having fun!

I could still climb at a decent pace; descending however, was excruciating. My quads were bright red and ballooned. I dreaded the damage I had done, and how long it would take to recover. Shut up Matt. Save nothing, there is a zombie chasing you. Run, run!

The entire way I had visions of Chris, or some other strong finisher, flying past us as my quads wouldn’t allow me to respond. This replayed itself until we were finally down the other side of the mountain. I now recognized these trails from jogging around the lake two days prior. I knew we were close. We saw Alex on the trail, who had come out to wait for us. Just then a massive cheer erupted from behind us. I was sure it was another runner, coming to pass me with 400 meters to go. I acted on instinct and found a finishing kick buried deep down, somewhere in a box. The only key to unlock it, terror.Finishing kick. I had Jed looking back and giving me updates on what he saw. “Dude, there is nobody there!” I charged on. Finally I stopped just before the finish line. The crew was all there. So supportive. I hugged everyone I could find before crossing the finish line. It was important to me that my gratitude for them was included in the new course record. They were as big a part of it as I was. It was a wonderful feeling to cross that line and get a hug from race director Peter, and finally, from my mom.The best hug in the world. I learned that the cheer was for a relay runner, and that Chris had dropped at Skyline aid station. In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t know; he pushed me straight through the end. Congrats to him on gutsy race, and an incredibly hard fought 100 miles.

Shortly after finishing, I decided to jump in the lake. This proved costly, as I was hypothermic within minutes of getting out. My body shut down. Luckily the medical staff were alert to my foolishness and acted swiftly. Thanks to Sarah for taking such good care of me.You gotta want it.

A quick trip to the hospital in Hope, some bandages on my feet; a swing through the Mcdonalds drive-thru AND Dairy Queen, and we were back at the finish cheering on runners.

I really can’t overstate how wonderful this race experience was. The organization, volunteers, and scenery were all world-class. I now see why Sammy, and others, have returned year after year. This is a special race, filled with special people. An extremely difficult, special race.Fantasy land.

 

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It has been an amazing summer folks! After a big rush of filming, training, and racing… it’s time to catch up on some editing.

We are thrilled to bring you another installment in our Rainshadow Running series –  An absolute stunner of a course – The 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 50/100k.

Thanks so much to Cam Penner for donating his wonderful music to the project! Please support Cam by purchasing some of his music.

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Kelly Nakatsuka and Jo-Ann Roberts were kind enough to ask me on the radio for an interview! We chatted about my experience at the Fat Dog 120. Here is what happened…


 


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Busy times, busy times.

In almost simultaneous fashion, our days were brimming with… things. I really hate to say it because even when busy, we pride ourselves on not being very busy, at the busiest of times.

Fear not, we’re on top of the situation and are working to better it – in a relaxed manner of course. We need more time for friends, making silly movies, and of course, running around in the woods. Our apologies to any and all waiting on videos for the Yakima Skyline 50k and Winthrop Road Marathon. Trust that footage looks great and they will be completed shortly.

A quick update on what the summer has in store.

Near on the horizon is Dave’s running of the White River 50 Miler this weekend in Washington. 2 weeks after that I will be running Angel’s Staircase 60k, which Dave will also be filming.

The following weekend we are both very excited to announce we will be filming the legendary Fat Dog 120 mile race, from Keromeos BC to Manning Park! We have been hired to produce a longer film documenting this race. It could very well involve some fastpacking/remote camping on location with our film gear. Stories to follow…

Beyond that it’s the Meet Your Maker 50 mile race for both of us. September 1st, Whistler BC. This promises to be a grueling yet beautiful run, complete with a ride in the peak-to-peak gondola mid-race!

Following that Dave will be in Colorado running UROC 100k, September 28th. Finally, and just added to the list is another 100 Mile run at the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama, November 2-3. I’m registered for this race and I’m patiently waiting for Dave to join the fun! Dave?

Looking back on this list it doesn’t seem like we’re doing a very good job of being less busy, but this is precisely the type of busy we are aiming for!

 

For now I wanted to change pace a bit and show a few still photos from our recent spring/summer adventures.

Chez Project Talaria on Vashon Island

Fueling Up

En Route to Winthrop

Pachena Bay - Pre West Coast Trail

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Running Lights

Here we go guys, an attempt to recap one of the greatest experiences of my life… It’s long, but so is 100 miles! All photos by Christopher Cecill

You know those ads that pop-up when you try to read an article or watch a video on youtube? We’re going to start with one of those as well, except this time it’s something worth paying attention to:

The Zion 100 is an absolutely incredible event! I know that this race will start drawing some huge numbers after the success of this year (and surely more reports gushing over it). Race director Matt Gunn deserves all the recognition and praise that is coming his way. He deserves 10x that. This man worked his tail off to make every runner feel like a personal Zion welcome mat had been rolled out for them. His team of volunteers deserve the same credit. Wonderful people, supportive, energetic and organized throughout. Decisions were made to support local businesses and artists every step of the way. Everything had a mind towards sustainability, right down to the amazing composting porta-potties by Eco- Commode. We’re talking wood fired pizza made to order at race package pickup, bountiful aid stations with burritos, pancakes, grilled cheese and… whiskey! Post race dutch-oven potatoes with scrambled eggs and bacon. Plentiful local micro-brew beer at the finish. Free burgers at the awards ceremony. Custom, 1-of-a-kind hand made belt buckles featuring flowers and foliage harvested on the course. Custom metal-work trophies for top 3 male/female finishers in both events. To top it all off, a complimentary tube rental for a float down the river! All of this plus the most well-marked course I’ve ever run, set in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

All I had to do for all of this was run 100 miles. This folks, is what I call a deal!

I want to thank eLoad for their support. I fueled 95% of this race with their Gels, Sport Drink and Carb Fly with zero stomach issues. The new berry gels are delish!

I am one lucky runner! As soon as I signed up for this race I had an all-star lineup of family and friends signed up for the adventure. My dad, brother and his girlfriend Jen were on board. It was very special for me to be able to share the experience with them. My brother is a wonderful photographer who captured some real stunners throughout the trip. My girlfriend Alex would pace me for 36km, an experience I will never forget. Sharing those miles with her was something so unique, yet felt so wonderfully normal in the moment. My good friend Myke would pace me out for the final 40 miles. He bit off a big chunk knowing this would be a demanding section of course, coupled with the possibility of dealing with a grumpy Matt Cecill! My dear friend Kyle (of Leadville crew fame) booked time off work as soon as he knew the dates. His presence and experience crewing 100 mile races are starting to become that of legend. Plain and simple, this guy knows how to get it done! Makes my life a whole lot easier knowing he’s running my crew. A heartfelt thank you to all of you for taking time out of your lives to help me achieve a goal, and for contributing to some wonderful memories and stories. Speaking of stories…

This race was a big one for me. I prepped my body with as many training miles as it would allow me. I heat acclimated my body via 10 days of Bikram Yoga and dry sauna sessions. I was disciplined with my nutrition and put in a good taper. I was determined to give myself the best possible chance of a strong 100 mile finish. I knew I was as ready as I could be. Still my Leadville death march lingered in my mind, reminding me of how sour things can turn in a race this long. Pre-race was smooth. The whole crew flew into Vegas on various flights. Incredibly, no one was delayed. We took the Vegas strip by storm in our rented mini-van before making the 2hr drive to Hurricane, Utah where we would set up shop for the week. We rented an old character home, saved a bunch of money. This worked out great, except for Kyle who drew the short straw and “slept” on the couch.

Before we knew it, race morning was upon us. I always find the early morning stir of the house quite special. Nervousness and excitement in the air. I had a good breakfast and went through the motions of getting prepared. Having done this once before really helped calm things down for me. I was quiet and confident, eager to get moving and execute my game plan.

This game plan involved running slow. I was going to over-exaggerate the relaxed start. I remember hearing Ms. Ellie Greenwood talk about about relaxing into the distance and letting the body naturally warm up. I liked all of these words. Since we could all benefit from being more like Ellie Greenwood, I decided to give it a try. I learned at Leadville just how much time there really is in a 100 mile race to “make a move”. The time to do this is certainly not in the first 10 to 15 hrs. These hours are better spent having fun, eating sugar and chatting with the good folks of the Ultra-Marathon world. I embraced this strategy wholeheartedly.

Virgin Dam AidI worked my way through the first 10 miles, mesmerized by the sunrise and the beauty of the area. The temperature was brisk but not cold. I will never forget how peaceful it felt in those early miles. I met Mark Tanaka, great guy who’s Ultra resume is staggering. I met some good folks from Boston, Flagstaff, Las Vegas and a local runner, Justin Nelson. I was friggen happy. High on running life I rolled into the first aid station. There was my brother filming me, my dad and girlfriend cheering me on, and Kyle with the buffet spread all laid out on towel and some fold out chairs. A beautiful scene to be sure. I informed them that the old diesel engine was just getting fired up.

Goosebump AidThe next section involved some rolling dirt roads at the foot of a mesa that we all knew we had to climb. The course seemed to taunt us, drawing us near to the steep face before pulling back in the opposite direction. Inevitably we climbed. I knew I had prepared well for the short but intense climbs that this course offered. Gooseberry Mesa delivered. One of the steepest trails I’ve travelled. To my surprise though it was over sooner than I expected. I felt great on the climb and used the opportunity to engage some new muscles and further my warm up. At the top we moved through the aid station before heading out on a notorious loop around the top of Gooseberry Mesa. The views up here are world class. Much of the trail was right on the mesa’s ridge. The terrain up here is like nothing I’ve run before. Rolling rock that doesn’t really involve a trail. Runners follow white dots painted on the ground. Swooping, climbing, dropping and turning through rock formations. The footing is tricky as the surface is like sandpaper. Easy to catch a foot and tweak something. I had been warned about this section sucking the life out of runners. I now know why. These miles are hard-earned and somewhat labrynth-like, everything looks the same, is it the same? Am I going the wrong way? Finding a rhythm is nearly impossible. Again I focused on relaxing through it and holding no tension in my body. I had no idea what position I was running in, and I was happy about that. Though starting to work, I still felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Eventually we ended up at the far edge of the mesa. I can’t describe this view, it’s too much. Go to Gooseberry Mesa, run or hike or bike to the far edge of it and look around, 360 degrees. Then you will know. During my visit to this place there was an older cowboy-ish fellow standing on the rock at the edge. He marked my hand with a red sharpy and wished me well. I honestly took a moment here to make sure my alarm had gone off and I was indeed running the race. The route carried on along the other rim of the Mesa, winding it’s way back to the aid station to complete the loop. More of the same rock running, more of the same GREATEST VIEWS I’VE EVER SEEN. It was warming up when I came back to the aid station. I ditched my jacket and gloves and picked up my ipod. I was 50k in at this point. I knew I had a big flat dirt road section coming up. I genuinely like these types of sections. I was riding high and I wanted some music to cruise to.

Business TimeBefore I knew it I was coming into the 65k crew station where Alex would join me for some pacing. After running solo for a long stretch it was refreshing to have such great company to run with, I could tell she was excited and feeling good and that made me excited. We climbed up to Eagle Crags aid station, the legs were starting to get heavy at this point. I saw my buddy and fellow B.C. boy Jeff Hunter as he was flying down in the 100k race, always nice to see a friend. At the top I ate my first solid food in the form of canned peaches. They tasted good and digested well. I was fueling strong with Eload gels and drink mix, plus Coke to this point. We descended the dirt road from Eagle Crags surrounded by more spectacular rock formations. JB Benna (Unbreakable) was on course doing some filming, as a wanna-be aspiring filmmaker I thought that was pretty neat. The course leveled out into a few road miles. I was now starting to deteriorate somewhat. My controlled pace didn’t feel so controlled anymore. Things were getting tight. We passed the old Grafton Cemetery before starting the climb up Grafton Mesa. I felt hot for the first time. We kept moving steadily but climbing was a chore. Alex was amazing, offering unwavering support and encouragement, keeping me focused. We topped out on the climb, I hoped the aid station was near. It wasn’t. Instead it was more difficult moon-rock running with curves every which way. I kicked a cactus and had a spine lodged in my foot. Alex to the rescue! Pulled that sucker out in one fell swoop. I was no longer just a kid on Christmas morning, I was now a kid on Christmas morning with a scotch hangover who just realized Santa forgot his house. I was approximately halfway done and I was now officially running a 100 mile race.

 

Halfway - Le Tired

Eventually the aid station came. I dumped a few cups of water over my head. This felt amazing. I really wanted Watermelon, but alas, none to be found. I ate more peaches. I sat down for the first time and took a moment to gather myself. The next section was the same long dirt road, but in reverse, back to Gooseberry Mesa. Alex and I started out on the road and before long we saw a sight for sore eyes coming the opposite direction. Lori and Randy from Victoria were running towards us! Ultra Marathoning’s Barbi and Ken, the king and queen in my eyes. These folks are a huge part of the why I’m even involved in this sport. Toughest people I know. We just stopped in the middle of the road, hugged and chatted. I love this sport. We’re in a “race” but just stood and had a chat. This was refreshing on many levels for me. Physically I probably needed the extra break, but mentally it got me back in the game and reminded me of all the amazing people I’m surrounded by. We continued on down the road and passed a few runners. I was coming back to life with more water and gels. We made our way through Goosebump aid station fairly quickly and were staring down the same steep Gooseberry climb I had ascended earlier in the race. As soon as I started down the climb something went wrong on the top of my left knee. It just locked up. I had never felt this tweak before. The trail was ruthlessly steep and took me about the same amount of time to descend as it had to climb it earlier that morning. Finally at the bottom I hoped flat ground would alleviate the pain but the mobility wasn’t there. It was time to suck it up and remember that everyone hurts during 100 mile races. The sweet and ever-supportive Alex assured me that it would let go if I stuck with it. She was right… eventually.

The BuffetWe rolled into the Dalton Wash Crew Station. This was where Alex would bow out and Myke would come on to pace me for the remainder of the race. It was emotional leaving Alex as we had such an awesome run together. I was excited though to start a new adventure with Mr. Labelle. I knew he was like a dog waiting to get off the leash. I picked up half a PBnJ and we started off hiking up the dirt road to Guacamole Mesa. The sandwich did not sit right. It took me about an hr to get my stomach in check after eating it. Back to straight sugar calories for me. My knee was getting worse as the climb went on. We traded off between running and hiking all the way up. Myke did a good job of keeping me calm and focused. Just before the Guacamole aid station I felt my legs starting to cramp. I saw a big jar of pickles at the aid station and decided to give the old pickle juice remedy a try. Within 5 minutes my cramps were gone and never returned. I’m now a believer. The next section was a 9 mile loop of Guacamole Mesa before returning to the same aid station. I felt like hot garbage. The sun was getting low and the views were again spectacular, I was having a hard time appreciating them. I was a mess and the knee was still stinging. Myke was a huge help at this point. He was incredibly positive and motivating. We were now walking large sections of run-able terrain, I felt terrible about this. He told me I was being stupid and to shut up. This man knows how to pace! 3 runners passed by including lead female Jennifer Benna, who compared to me, looked like she was running a 10k race. Guacamole felt never-ending and I thought at numerous points that we had doubled back and were going the wrong direction. An amazingly intricate and beautiful section of trail… that I desperately wanted to be done with. Gradually we started running in longer bursts and moving faster. After 5+ hours I was finally feeling the knee start to loosen up. I rode this wave by upping my gel and water intake. I was coming back to life, again. We rolled back through Guacamole aid station and gunned it down the road back to the crew. The Sun was setting, the mood was amazing. We were having a blast

Dream TeamBack with the crew, I had been eyeing a can of Starbucks Double-Shot Espresso all day in my buffet spread. To this point I had avoided caffeine (minus the odd cup of Coke) in fear of stomach problems. I decided now was the time. I pounded the can of coffee drink and it tasted GOOD. Myke suggested we trade our hand bottles for hydration packs. Great advice. It was now dark, we stashed cold weather gear in the packs and turned on our headlamps. I now had tons of calories and water on board and felt my confidence soar. My crew informed me I was in 9th place. We took off running. I was experiencing the famous: paced-first-half-of-race-responsibly / knee-finally-stopped-hurting / just-drank-a-s#$!-tonne-of-caffeine trifecta! Armed and dangerous. Soon we arrived at the mile 83 aid-station. I checked in and this place looked like a party, complete with whiskey and jello shooters. No time to party! We passed a runner in the aid station and started out towards the infamous Flying Monkey climb to the top of Smith Mesa. The biggest climb of the day, a nice little 2200ft dinger situated at mile 85. We saw headlamps ahead in the distance, this got me even more fired up. It was finally time to race. We passed 5 runners on the climb in a span of about 30 minutes. I’ve never experienced anything like it. My legs and energy level quite honestly felt like I was back at the 50k point in the race. The feeling was magic. Myke did a good job of keeping things in perspective and not allowing me to blow myself out too early. We climbed hard but controlled.

I was determined to hold on to 3rd place. Not for myself, but solely for the thought of coming into the final crew station (mile 98) and catching my crew completely off guard. As far as they knew I was still in 9th place. I wanted to give them something back after all they had given me throughout the long day. The 6 mile downhill road section was a tough slog. My quads were beyond shot and my knee was angry again. We held a decent pace and saw no headlamps emerge in the distance behind us. Kyle let out a very satisfying “HOLY S*%$ IT’S YOU GUYS!!!” when we arrived at the crew station. We ditched our packs and Myke grabbed a handbottle. 2 Miles of desert running and I could finally sit down. Eventually we crossed the highway and the crew was waiting. What a feeling to run down the road to the finish with everyone. Huge smiles all around. I think I yelled quite a bit. I crossed the finish line in 3rd place in 18:42:22. A time beyond my wildest dreams or expectations. Everything I had was left on the course. Jubilation soon turned to nausea, shivering and full body cramping, I could barely choose my belt buckle. Apparently this is how I roll when it comes to finishing 100 milers. Once again my amazing crew to the rescue. Got me home safe, took off my shoes and socks to reveal some of the most horrendous smelling feet imaginable, plus a dead big toenail complete with blister that looked like a super-sized red jelly bean. The dedication of these people! An incredibly awkard bath later and it was off to bed with a protein shake and banana in my belly. Seemingly this is just another day at the office for 100 mile Ultra Runners. A group with whom I’m honoured to be counted.

Done

 

The day after: It didn’t take long for me to fall in

Ice Bath

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Start LineGetting a Feel for Distance Again

The pre-travel, travel to Victoria has become a smoothly integrated slap dash, last minute part of every race for me now. But I’m getting better.

First lesson learned. When you have to travel on Good Friday, DON’T. Go the day before, you won’t regret missing 12 hours of grid lock traffic. Nonetheless it was a beautiful day and we had the most pleasant exchange with our border guard yet.

When Matt, Alex, Fiona and I arrived in Oregon and drove into the Menhimenin’s, the venue for the pre-race party and Trail Running Film Fest, we all kinda felt like we’d crossed into another world. The entire place is amazing, highlighted by an onsite brewery, distillery AND winery as well as multiple venues to enjoy each accompanied by a meal of anything from fine dining to burgers and fries.

The Film Fest offered all of these in the comfort of the in-house theater while watching some of the most gripping and relevant trail running films of modern times such as  “Roll Out”…. and a few other ones by some guy named Kilian and another by Krissy Moehl….

We retired to the cabin we rented at Bridge of the Gods Motel and RV, which was a really nice set up if a little bit pricey, and began another time honored tradition, the “stay up waaay too late on the eve of the race” game. Still, the morning began with exuberance as we rose to the sound of bird songs and the slowly expanding glow of sunlight through clear blue skies. It had the feel of a perfect day for a good long run… around water falls.

The race start as always was full of familiar faces and an array of expressions from anxiety to intoxication. After catching up with some friends I found my own little place to get my mind and body ready for it’s first +30k run since August of last year.

James Varner came by with some maps and info to pass on to Matt (who was filming the race) and a pat on the back and a “good luck, have fun”. From all that I had heard of this course, the fun was in the bag but according to my body at that moment, luck was not in the cards.

Almost all at once, every pain I had had since last summer was visiting me. As I joined the wash of runners flowing towards the race start I thought, “we’ll just see how far I can run, then we’ll see how far I can walk, then we’ll see who I can convince to carry me”. I filed in with the middle of the group as James Varner gave us the safety goods on the course and wished everyone well. I rubbed my quads, ITs, calves glutes…. everything hurt. Neat. We were away, along the grassy start and then across the bridge and along the lake and I felt….. amazing! Pure joy somehow replaced all nagging pains and as we made our way to Metheman falls I was quickly filling up with uncontainable gratitude and enjoyment for where I was and for all the help I had getting there.

Feeling absolutely phenomenal… with 40+ km to go… I was well aware that there was more than enough time to mess it all up with a foolishly placed effort on a course I had no intention of racing. That being considered, I did feel REALLY good and that first +/- 2000ft climb was VERY run-able. But so was the downhill on the other side.  I was realizing, as I (my perception) flew down the decent,  just a hairsbreadth from unrestrained, that for the last 4 months of running, this was pretty much all I did. UP and Down. Up and Down. And I loved it. With the sun spilling it’s golden light through the trees the entire world around us all became surreal. The colours were intensified and the striking contrast of the rushing white water against the lichens, ferns and moss-covered rick was almost transfixing.

I am seriously astonished on a moment to moment basis that I managed to stay upright throughout the run. I almost couldn’t tell you what the trail bed itself was composed of. Even the Columbia river, with its intensely rouge and copper coloured rock faces looming above, seemed excited for the warming spring weather as white caps danced along its surface. I heard Matt shout from down in a hollow and stopped to give him the papers James handed me earlier and said a lot of stuff that I’m pretty sure made no sense but probably got the point across that I was having a good time.

Further into the run everyone gets to run underneath Pony Tail Falls and if I could describe that feeling I’d probably start crying again. Of course Glen Tachiyama was on course to capture that moment. Thanks Glen!

Ponytail Falls

I fell into a rhythm and a great conversation with John Bittle from Arkansauce who knew (as I  am beginning to expect does everyone else in AR) Paul Turner and Robert Vogler AKA  PT and Po Dog of Leadville race report fame. We got to talking and the km’s slipped beneath us as we shared our ideas and passions in life, joined by another good egg Cory, who was in the midst of his first ever 50k.

We slipped out onto the road section, the only part I was not looking forward to, but the conversation and camaraderie delivered a short sweet trip up the road to the last aid station.

I love aid stations. Can’t help it. Won’t help it. A friend of friends (now a friend of mine) was volunteering at the last aid station and as my comrades smashed and grabbed there way through in good fashion, I lingered and ate and drank and babbled about the vibrance of colours and sounds. I never claimed that aid stations like me but that’s one of the hazards of volunteering I guess.

I’m not a fan of out-and-back sections, but for the record, I loved this out-and-back section. The climb was fast and the waterfall (yes ANOTHER) at the turn around, where you pick up a poker chip to prove you completed it, rewarded your efforts with a refreshing spray as you stand almost beneath it pondering just taking a quick dip in the pool.

Back out on the road section our trio had regrouped and grown to four as we made our way back to the start and I was so stoked to see my friends from Victoria, B.C. on the outbound as we high-fived and whooped along.

Suddenly a car on the other side of the road sped up and swerved in, mere inches from John, laying on the horn in what I can only hope was a disgusting idea of a joke and nothing more malicious. Understandably shaken we slowed the pace a little as we got back into the trail and just fell into a steady and pleasant rhythm as the four of us conversed and commentated on the surroundings.

Matt was filming at the next aid station and ran with me for a good 5-8km as comrades found their own pace and Matt and I caught up on the days events. The entire time I felt amazing, fresh and inspired but also a little weary of the final climb that had been such a fun and fast downhill. This was where Matt turned off on a short cut to his car and as it turns out there was nothing to worry about, nothing a little power-hiking couldn’t overcome anyway.

Away down the final decent to Matnemah Falls and back along the grassy path around the lake where the finish could be seen and heard. It was a perfect day. Four plates of salad and fruit later it was time for pizza and brews, compliments of Rainshadow Running. A good patch of grass to enjoy the sweet tones of The Pine Hearts string band in the sun and cheer on the rest of the amazing finishers. Recapping the race with friends old and new was a treat, to re-live those inspiring moments and congratulate new goals achieved is always one of the greatest highlights of the finish. The celebrations carried on from the finish line back to Mehimenins and as the night wound down it all seemed enchanted.

Woke to another beautiful day and went for a very short run to shake out the legs before the drive back north and enjoyed the quiet of the Sunday morning by the river side. The sleepy morning held the promise of lighter traffic and faster travel times and apparently in the fine print somewhere, running out of gas on a highway bridge… Being from the Island, Matt and I had no real hesitation and did what comes natural. Pushed the car. Fiona jumped in and within a minute or two a passerby stopped and hooked us up to a tow rope and towed us right into a gas station… ****Project Talaria has dug deep into the Karma bank and will be doing our best to make a considerable deposit ASAP**** We thanked the man as best we could (unsure of how to express that amount of gratitude) and carried on. The rest of the drive went on without any further incidents and once back in B.C. my trip ended as is customary. A strong embrace and thanks to my good friends and a parting of ways after another amazing adventure and a ferry ride into the sunset, back to my little island home.

There is nothing cliche or excessive about thanking the Volunteers ever. I truly appreciate all of the amazing work they do and in a lot of cases the distances they travel to do it. With out these amazing people there would be no events like this. Thank you all so much!!

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The camera loves you

Lots of happenings in the land of Project Talaria. We’re happy to report an arrangement with Rainshadow Running that will see us video documenting more of their awesome races in the future! We are very excited to have 3 of our videos featured in this weekend’s Trail Running Film Festival in Troutdale Oregon. They will be premiering our 2013 Orcas Island video as well as the Deception Pass video and of course the cult classic… Roll Out!

Dave will be making his long awaited return to the Ultra-Running scene THIS WEEKEND outside of Portland Oregon at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k. Very excited for him, good luck Dave! I’ll be on the scene as well filming the race. Smile for the camera if you’re running the race.

The Zion 100 draws near, I’ve been training hard and have kept busy running some tune-up races. I’ll give a brief recap of some of the action.

Thanks to Glenn Tachiyama and Chris Thorn for the great photos.

 

Deception PassDeception Pass 50k – December 2012

Coming off abdominal surgery in October I was excited to get back into a trail race. Deception Pass was a new 50k for me and a chance at an early (or late, depending on how you look at it) season effort. I was happy with my training post-surgery and found my fitness to be returning well after the layoff. I went in with the goal of pacing my best 50k to date. I went out quite relaxed and just enjoyed running some gorgeous new trails. The course is very creative with a lot of little ocean front “lollipop” loop sections. the folks at Rainshadow really milked the most out of this beautiful area. Deception Pass is a fairly fast course with really only one steep climb to speak of. There are a lot of rolling sections but most of it is quite run-able. I knew this going in and wanted to save something in my legs for a strong finish. I had a very steady burn of a race with no real dips. Easily my most controlled 50k effort to date. Props to Vancouverite Colin Miller for cruising past me towards the end with a really strong finish. Congrats to Gary Robbins as well, who had quite a comeback party at this race, running strong to a new course record. My time of 4:23 had me in 7th place overall.

I expected nothing less from Rainshadow Running, but I found a great December 50k quite close to home.

 

Orcas IslandOrcas Island 50k – February 2013

As usual… Orcas was awesome! Such a beautiful setting to absolutely thrash one’s body. The course was updated this year with MORE climbing. I find it hard in Victoria to replicate the Orcas climbs (and descents) in training. This is part of why I love running it, a challenge in the truest sense of the word. This course really tears up my quads, but undoubtedly leaves me stronger in the end. I paced a fairly even race, determined to improve on my complete explosion from last year (first 50k. Hard, hard lessons). The famous powerline climb was situated later in the race this year (32k) and it really delivered, slowing the pace of the even the fastest runners to a literal crawl. It’s hard to describe the grade of this climb. At times if feels like you aren’t really moving forward at all, just up, very slowly.

***Let me take a moment to share the most clear-cut lesson I’ve learned so far in my young Ultra-Running career: When someone uses the term “POWERLINE” to describe a climb on a race course, be it in Leadville, Orcas Island or wherever, you take that S*#T seriously***

After this point in the race it’s a bit of a painful blur. Leg cramps were threatening but never fully took hold. I just bared down and closed it out. I’ll never forgive Adam Hewey for blowing my doors off with 1km to go. Just kidding Adam! Impressive race, veteran savvy. Crossing the finish line at Orcas is a wonderful feeling. A very hard earned and honest 50k mountain race. I snuck under the 5hr mark with a 4:57, good enough for 8th overall on the day. I want to take a minute to thank any and all who are involved with this race. Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s a wonderful thing.

 

Dirty Duo 50k – March 2013

Final ultra-distance race before April’s Zion 100. I was excited going in to really push myself and see where my training had taken my fitness. The course was unchanged from last year and I knew it well. I was focused on taking a good bite out of my time from last year. Jeff Hunter, last year’s winner was going to be there again so I knew there would be some solid competition to push against. Last year I went out too hard and blew up around 30k, suffering to the finish. I was a year older and “smarter” but more importantly my body had been through a few battles since then and I knew I was more fit this time round.

Jeff and I started together at a fairly conservative clip. The field separated in a hurry and soon it was just us, with Jeff taking the lead on the first set of climbs and stairs. I was happy to sit back and let my body ease into the race. The course was in great shape, amazingly dry for this time of year in the North Shore Mountains. The day was perfect; cool and sunny. I caught up to Jeff at the first aid station where he stopped to pick up a water bottle. We ran for some time together after that, chatting happily while starting to ramp up the pace. Jeff is a super nice guy and I’m happy to call him a friend. We shared some laughs while pushing the pace through the early km’s. I knew from last year that Jeff is a very talented downhill runner. I consider my self to be a work in progress when it comes to flying down technical descents. The race played out as I thought it might, with Jeff pulling away slightly when things got more technical. I was however matching his pace for the most part while remaining fairly controlled and relaxed. Again I was happy biding my time and keeping him in sight. We hit the first extended climb of the first loop (the course repeats two big loops), I was feeling strong. We both ran the whole climb. After summiting the climb the course heads down “Ned’s Atomic Dustbin”, a steep and technical Mtn Bike descent that goes on for quite some time. I knew Jeff would gap me on this section. I just focused on relaxing and getting down it as fast as possible with minimal effort. By the bottom he was out of sight. I was starting to worry I may never see him again!

The course then heads onto the flat and fast Bridal Path. With my road running background I knew if anywhere, I would have an advantage on these sections. A chance to really open it up and get the legs turning over. On the long straights I could see Jeff in the distance. He hadn’t gained too much on the descent, I took some confidence from this. I started to ramp up the pace and narrowed the gap slightly on this section, again happy to run comfortably and keep him in sight. We completed the first lap like this and started out on the 2nd lap. I was starting to feel really good, and thinking the day might treat me well. I was making up ground on the flats, though Jeff was holding me off well. At one point I looked at my watch and We were running 3:20km pace on the flats. I was careful to dial it back a touch and save something for the 2nd extended climb. We turned left off the trail and after about 3 minutes of climbing Jeff stopped and said “I don’t think this is the course”. I had been completely zoned out, just following along mindlessly. I hadn’t noticed the lack of ribbons. We turned around and headed back down the trail. At the bottom we found that we had indeed gone off course. Completely our fault, the turn we took wasn’t marked at all. We lost 6 minutes through this detour.

PursuitBack on course we ran stride for stride through some awesome flowing trails. The pace was FUN. We came to a bridge with some dogs on it. I remember thinking “I hate wet bridges” and then… WHAM! I’m down. My knee hurt like a _______. I sprung up and kept moving, pretending it didn’t happen. Jeff was very gracious, stopping to make sure I was OK. I assessed the damage while running… no joint or bone pain, it wasn’t structural, just really bloody. Keep running.

Soon after this we hit the base of the 2nd big climb. My knee has numbed up by this point and I was confident it wouldn’t be a problem. I could tell Jeff was moving a little slower on the climb this time around, and it seemed his breathing was a little more laboured than mine. I saw a chance to make a move as I was feeling quite strong. I pushed up the climb without looking back, running the whole thing again. I looked back at the top and couldn’t see him. I dove into the 2nd round of “Ned’s” descent, again just trying to get to the bottom as quickly as I could without crashing into something, like a rock or tree. I kept expecting to be caught on the descent. Looking back near the bottom I still couldn’t see Jeff. I’m a bit of a headcase when racing, and I’ve learned I really don’t like being in the lead, at least not yet I don’t.  At one point I had to give myself a talking to.

“Stop waiting for him to catch you and RUN you idiot!”

I was back on the flats now. From here on out I just hammered as hard as I could. Deciding that if Jeff was going to catch me I was going to make him earn it. The course finishes with some tough shorter climbs and stair sections. Careful to stay upright, I navigated these areas as efficiently as possible. My legs still felt relatively good. I spat out of the trails and knew the finish was close. I was relieved to have some gas left in the legs to finish strong. My time of 3:50 was good enough for the win, with Jeff coming in at 3:57. We both added 6 minutes to our times by going off course. Congrats to Nicola Gildersleeve on a great run, winning the women’s race.

One final note. Jeff told me in the days before that he might not run because of a fall he had taken a few weeks back that had compromised his training. Congrats to him for toeing the line despite the injury and for providing such great company and competition.

 

Comox Valley 1/2 Marathon – March 2013

I have a soft spot for running fast on roads til I want to puke. This race really satisfied. Despite being focused on a completely different type of event, I’ve been maintaining some road speed through my 100 mile training. I’ve had this marked on the calendar for quite some time as my last race effort before Zion. Going in I knew my fitness was headed in the right direction. What better than a road 1/2 marathon (my favourite road distance) to use as a measuring stick?

The day offered cold temps, wind and rain. I started off fast but controlled. Determined to pace a smart race and save some gas for the last 5k. My legs felt good from the start. The course is out-and-back with the first half gaining some elevation and slowing km splits. What goes up must come down however, and the back half of this race is blazing fast. I planned for this going in, relaxing through some slower early km’s knowing I could gain it back later. The plan worked well. My legs and lungs held out and afforded me some strong km splits towards the end of the race. I finished in 1:17:17, good for lucky 13th overall. This was a 2.5 minute 1/2 marathon PB for me. Very happy with the result and even more happy with a strong recovery, getting right back into a solid training week.

 

That concludes my binge race reporting. Sincere thanks to all the volunteers and organizers that make these races possible, your efforts are appreciated.

Good luck to Dave and everyone else running Gorge Waterfalls this weekend. See you on the trails!

 

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