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Here we go! Let’s wake this website up…

First and most importantly, I want to congratulate Dave and let everyone know he is back running strong and feeling good.

He’s overcome a lot of challenges these last few months. It was inspiring to see his outlook through those times when running wasn’t an option. He stayed calm about it and got the help he needed, educating himself on the causes of the breakdowns in his body. I’ve asked him to write a piece about his experiences with the running injury as I think it would be a very good read. Cmon Dave!

So now that we’re both running strong and healthy, it was only natural to choose a few more long and beautiful footraces to challenge ourselves with. My next big one is a hundred miler on April 19th in Utah. The Zion 100. I knew I wanted to get back on the 100 mile horse sooner than later after my Leadville debacle, this meant an early season race. I also knew I’d like my next 100 miler to be closer to sea-level, so as to eliminate the highly volatile altitude variable. The Zion course looks absolutely breathtaking. Lots of running through desert valleys and on top of mesas. The photos from the course look other-worldly, something like Mars. I’m running 100 miles on Mars. The race is 5 weeks away and I’m very excited to say the least. To go to Mars.

Dave chose a later season 100k race for his next “big one”. Smartly he is giving himself lots of prep time and opportunities to run “shorter” 50k and 50 mile events before tackling 100kms. His race is the Ultra Race of Champions in Vail Colorado. Sept. 28. We ran in this area on our trip to Leadville. The trails are incredible. This race promises to be as scenic as they come. He also gets to toe the line with a who’s who of Ultra Running talent, as UROC is an unofficial world championship race. The best of the best will be there. I think Dave is suicidal a tough SOB tackling another race at high altitude. If anyone can get it done with a smile, it’s Dave.

Soon I will post a recap of some recent 50k winter races that I’ve taken part in. We’ve had a winter full of great people, great running and of course great FOOD. Spring is coming, I think it’s fair to say bring on the sun, singlets and sandals!

We’ve also been doing a lot of filming so look out for more videos emerging from the Project Talaria Laboratories.

That’s all for now. The trails call…

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Yaar, time for an update!

Technically it will be the end of the 2012 running season for me. It feels a whole lot more like the start of my 2013 season however. In one week I’ll be running my 6th ultra distance race, Rainshadow Running’s Deception Pass 50k. Looks to be a beauty of a course. Lots of single track, much of it along the ocean.

It’s been a bit of a strange ride the last few months. I had abdominal surgery in October which sat me down for three weeks of recovery. It’s never easy to stop running entirely but this break was planned, making it a little easier to process. I like to think my legs were due for some “real” time off anyway after my first season of Ultrarunning and the corresponding increase in mileage.

Dave has been having lingering knee issues since dancing with the cruel mistress we call Leadville. After a few tough months I’m so happy to report he’s back out on the trails. After Deception Pass we’re both planning to be at the start line for the February gem that is The Orcas Island 50k.

Last year my focus was running more and being injured less. A simple target. For the most part I accomplished both by including more rest in my schedule while targeting specific hard workouts each week. My game plan for 2013 is similar but with the addition of some distinct phases of training, each with a unique focus. This plan will culminate with my next 100 mile race, The Zion 100, April 19th in Utah.

I’ve never known much about running except that I love it. This ideal has been magical though for me it hasn’t come without its share of injuries. Having never been coached and being late to the running party I feel I’m lacking some fundamental knowledge of physiology, training plans and the like. Lately I’ve trying to fill those gaps by reading books by running legends, attempting to soak up their knowledge en masse. One book that really hit a home run for me was “Daniel’s Running Formula”. I now find myself right in the middle of my first ever “base building” phase. You know what? I love it. I’m more focused on training than ever before. It feels great to have a game plan, believing in the training I’m conducting. An increased understanding has made it easier for me to relax and build slowly, trusting the process.

This week I will again try to perfect the art of the race taper. I’m eager to test myself against what will surely be another tough course courtesy of Rainshadow Running. Dave will be filming all the madness from the sidelines. You know what that means… Another forthcoming  masterpiece from the Project Talaria video labratory!

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Bigger Than Buckles – How much fun I had DNFing my first 100 miler.

To: Everyone. Our life is a reflection of those we pass throughout it. I feel that our accomplishments are reflections of those who stay with us. So I thank you all for staying with me and I hope you can enjoy this ride as much as I did.

This ride started a long time ago. For those of you just joining us, thank you for coming and I hope you have a few minutes to see what a group of friends is willing to do when they have the opportunity to help out a worthwhile cause. Grab your Water bottle and Salt pills… This is an ultra-marathon and you best stay hydrated!

By 2:25am we were in Lauren’s car and headed for a start line in Leadville, a brief 45 mins away from our base in Breckenridge. My little brother Jim had flown in a day ago marking the first of my support crew to arrive and this was the thing I was most excited about, what I envisioned continuously as we drove the winding highway with the plan of meeting Matt at the start line. I had read and heard a lot about 100 mile ultras from many many sources from which I had formed a theory months ago. A 100 mile trail race across arduous terrain at elevations reaching 12,600ft. lasting potentially more than 30 hours and requiring every once of focus, determination and will you possess sounds really really hard. I chose to look at it as a party in the mountains with my little brother and dear friends running spectacular trails through that were littered with friends, high fives and coca-cola breaks. This kind of event felt far more palatable on the psyche.

So, on the eve of the race when Lauren, Sarah and Pete arrived it was difficult to stay calm in the excitement of what was to come. I had dubbed them Team Awesome (Jim, Lauren, Neeraj, Sarah and Pete. Matt’s crew was Team Excellent!) and so we had Team Awesome craft time; stitching, ironing and drawing up some team shirts and hats emblazoned with the LiveIt! LoveIt! Foundation logo and our Eload sports nutrition patches. We prepped the race food, salt pills, clothing changes, shoes, lights and those other fine details until the hours were late. Very late. This may have been the first red flag: With less than 2 hours to go before we had to get up, I was in the bathroom shaving a mohawk into my little brother Jim’s head. In terms of being rested for a colossal effort such as running 100 miles, this didn’t fall into the realm of sane. I still maintain that it was the right choice and I feel you will agree when you see the photos. Moving on..

There were 800+ people trying to remain calm and cool on that start line and though the 3 degrees Celsius was helping with the cool bit, the remote controlled flying camera helicopter device was definitely at odds with the calm. Like many, if not all of the others around us, Matt and I had spent most of the last 12 months in various states of planning, training, day dreaming, product testing, night terrors and romanticizing about this morning and what it would hold. The result of this nervous energy was an almost audible hum of like minded focus, visualization, determination….and that crazy robot flying camera thing that looked like it belonged in a James Cameron movie. Familiar faces in this crowd had made the same journey down from British Columbia. Mike, Torbin and Moe The Eagle were a generation apart from Matt and I but our generations had common themes. We hugged each other repeatedly, wishing each other the very best, the years between us bridged by boyish excitement. The traditional shotgun blast rang out signalling 4am and declaring these maniacs be let loose upon this carnival ride of a race course. A sea of headlamps flowed forth as from a levy no longer fit to hold its quarry and cascaded into the darkness of the early morning.

Runners were making their way through the first 10 miles of the course as if it were the last 10. We were wiser, we knew the errors of such behaviour and made responsible pacing choices. Didn’t we? All I can say for sure is that we knew what we were doing, even if we were doing it too fast.I had seen so many videos of race starts in the dark and the images of the ghostly trail of head lamps floating along through the woods. I was in it now. Like twinkling stars weaving along the lake side, up into the trees and back towards the now distant glow of the start line.

Matt had made his way up into the ranks as I chatted with the good people around me on the trail. Aglow from the beauty witnessed on the trail I ran into May Queen Aid Station vibrating with excitement after only 13.5 miles. My friends were the loudest, happiest friendliest people out there and I felt overjoyed to have the kind of friends that everyone wants. I felt like cheering for them as much as they were for me. On top of that I learned that Matt was running strong up ahead and feeling good from Team Excellent who was just packing up to go meet connect with Matt at the next Aid Station.

The sky was glowing to the East as everyone exited the aid station without there headlamps and warmer layers and began the first climb up the amiably named Sugar Loaf. The views opened up, complimented by the sun, as we climbed more than 1000ft. before descending down Powerline (named so creatively for its power lines). On this climb is when my stomach became an issue, sharp pains with each foot fall are something that can hold back the fastest runners of which I am not one so this wasn’t encouraging for my time goals. Most of the runners I talked to mentioned the same issues. It seemed to come and go but I reminded myself to stay focused on keeping hydrated and fuelled until the Fish Hatchery Aid Station (yep it’s a fish hatchery). I was carrying a bottle of Eload Endurance Formula to keep my electrolytes up and large reusable tubes of Eload Gel to get my calories and save on the usual 6-10 wrappers that often come from a 3 hour section of trail running. I’ve recently become very conscious of the trash my running produces and feel really good about this system. Earlier in the race I had unwittingly dropped a wrapper on the trail somewhere and had decided to pick up the trash I came across to make up for it.

The descent down Powerline claimed a few victims with badly stubbed toes and full on bails. I was not immune to this carnage and in the blink of an eye found myself in some kind of ninja turtle rolling maneuver in the dirt. I managed to recover and didn’t think too much of it when a runner in passing mentioned he was amazed I was still running. I decided, as always, that it looks worse than it feels. This was not the case today once the “as it feels” began to match the “it looks”. I was moving slow due the pain in my belly which was masking the building pain in my knee. I was just excited to get To Fish Hatchery and see everyone again though and due to the number of runners dashing in and out of the woods I felt kinda of normal. Normal is one of the last words I had ever thought of during our preparations of the last year. Happy, fulfilled, excited, dedicated and appreciative are the most prominent ones that spring to mind. But normal wasn’t on that list, nor was it on the list of words that seemed to come the everyone I knew. And at that moment feeling normal was really unpleasant and something I figured would pass soon.

Fish Hatchery was another amazing high-five/hug festival and one of my favourite memories of the whole event. It, at 23.5 miles, was the first time, as I came into an Aid Station, that my little brother Jim met me right at the beginning of the crowd and ran with me to TeamAwesome’s spot. It was hard not to cry at that moment and each one following. Jim and I had planned these moments for the last 6 months, talked about the race, the scale of it, the accomplishment it would mark. But at the root of it we had both been most excited to share these very specific and priceless moments as brothers celebrating together. The realization of this long anticipated high-five and seeing Team Excellent as well as friends crewing the rest of the Victoria gang served as great renewal of my mind and body going into the section I was least looking forward too which was all road running with traffic. I’m pretty sure I have a block about that section apart from how proud I was of myself for running the whole darn thing. I was glad to get off of it, I remember that through all of the things I was thinking about to take my mind off of my stomach pains and the slow searing that was creeping into my knee. Getting to Treeline crew area was amazing again and I was stoked to see Neeraj who had joined up with the crew and would be pacing me from the turn around point. His experience with crewing in previous editions of this race was invaluable as he talked me through how to deal with the problems I was having on top of being as amazingly supportive and stoked as rest of Team Awesome. No matter how I felt coming into those stations I always ran out full of energy and excitement and appreciative of having amazing people in my life. The next section was long, mixed with old roads and high single track trail with a lot of climbing. I bumped into a few familiar faces along the way, the good folks from Arkansas Po Dog and Paul Turner were vets with the disposition of school boys on a treasure hunt, wild eyed talking a 6 minute mile.

To this point I had been up 20 mins of my goal pace (which should have been a waring sign in itself) but along this particularly long section I could find no respite from my tummy troubles and was making trips to the woods every 60 to 80 mins and walking all but the slightest down hills. I had adopted the run, walk, run which was useful for many aims. The most prominent at that time was, run until you can’t handle how bad it hurts then walk and feel relief for long enough that you can handle the pain of running again. It was kinda ridiculous but it allowed for lots of social time with other runners and sharing stories of hometowns and the appreciation for the common place our very different lives had brought us.

I heard it in the distance, at the base of that mountain, well below me. The roaring crowd, the clang of the bells and the wonk wonk wonk noise of the loudspeaker that brought to mind the voices of the adults in the Charlie Brown
cartoons. Team Awesome was at the bottom of that hill. Food and water were at the bottom of that hill. Porta-potties were at the bottom of that hill! Regardless of who or what was down there, my perpetually uncooperative stomach was opposing any increase in pace and my knee was quickly jumping on board. Despite these mutinous acts I hit the approach to the Aid Station at a run. I was more that keen to get my stomach sorted out and spend time in the company of the modestly named Team Awesome. Team Excellent was also there and gave me an update on Matt’s progress, relating that he was facing some oppressive stomach issues  in a big way and that he had thought of waiting for me, which was both heartwarming and sad at the same time. By this point I was beginning to chalk it up to the altitude which was the only common theme amongst dozens of the other folks afflicted.

I spent a long time in a porta-potty hoping life would turn around. I decided though that time was better spent with Team Awesome and their incredible energy. I relayed my issues but couldn’t be the least bit melancholy with their wonderful vibe surrounding me. Hugs all around and I was off again. As I ran out, a guy running next to me commented, with a hint of animosity, that I had the most amazing crew and that they were so happy and energetic. I agreed with him with a grin and revelled in the thought that I might be remembered by someone simply for having the most awesome friends in the world. Kudos Team Awesome!

As the road out of the Aid Station turned to single track through a grassy meadow I was well behind any time advantage I had made up in the first stages but was never too concerned with the splits anyway. I thought of Matt and his goal going into the race and sincerely wished whatever needed to happen would do so for him. I knew that once he was over Hope Pass he would meet Jed on the other side and that it would be a much needed boost.

Winding through the meadow and across the river, I was more than a little overwhelmed but the panoramic beauty of the valley we had all descended into at Twin Lakes. Ahead of me and a few runners was a string of mountains and passes who’s names I’ll never know save for Hope Pass, but I had No idea which one it was so I took the wise Italian mans advice from over my shoulder and stopped searching for suffering while surrounded by beauty.
If you run this race, you may likely see someone holding a sign that reads “hope Pass is my Bitch”. Pay no attention to this sign. Hope Pass has been around a lot longer than you and like every mountain, there is nothing in this world you can teach it and everything in this world that it can teach you. Hiking up those lush trails through tall thick timber I was reminded of home. A group of 4 of us climbed together, every now and then sparing enough oxygen to chuckle about this monster we were grappling with and attempting to make lighthearted comments but it felt as though the runners ahead had already used up the scarce bit of oxygen on this mountain. Two by two the race leaders made their way by us each with a pacer. The racers focused as we cheered them, the pacers calmly reciprocated our encouragements.

Hopeless Aid Station, as it is known, is a magical place. I can only describe it as amazing and intimidating at the same time. Just when you feel like your lungs are about to rebel and your legs might forfeit all control to gravity, the
now shorter, stalky trees open into an alpine meadow with a gypsy encampment as a centre piece. The amazing people responsible for this O2 oasis pack everything in on lamas year after year and are one of the spectacularly unique things that has built up the mystic and legend of the Leadville 100. They serve food and fluids, first aid and fist pumps all to the tune of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits. I searched and searched but was unable to find the cotton candy that would have made this a legitimate circus. I wish to thank these people one by one some day.

Making my way over Hope Pass itself offers a whole new level of vistas that can make for a dangerous descent down the narrow, loose and technical path to Winfield Aid Station. The traffic coming up causes a lot of congestion on the trails and my complete inability to run downhill left me struggling to find room on the non existent shoulder giving way to runners in both directions. My right knee was swollen and throbbing. The points at which the muscle attach from the thigh to the knee were tightening rapidly on the descent and creating a sharp and fiery pain that was beginning to concern me given that I had not quite made it half way through this run.

Reprieve and repair were waiting for me at the Aid Station I told myself. There was only 5 miles to go until I was back in the good company of Team Awesome and the skilled hands of Dr. Lauren Wills who has a history of fixing me when I break and is a vital component of the team’s awesomeness. Navigating the dust, vehicle traffic and hoards of spectators made it hard to find the correct path into the aid station but Jim and Neeraj navigated me to the right people and places for weigh-ins and washrooms. As soon as I was with the whole crew again Lauren went to work immediately to quell the pain I had described in my knee. I was standing there being handed drinks and high-fived and acupunctured at the same time. People glared in envy and admiration of my team who went above and beyond again and again to be the best damned crew that ever graced the events history. Again, Team Awesome, you are not the just the grease that kept the wheel rolling, I would argue that you were the spare wheel that replaced the broken one and permitted that broken down cart to keep going.

Hugs all around. Winfield marked the turn around and by far the hardest point to part with my friends on that run so far but also the long awaited time that I would run with Neeraj all the way back to Fish Hatchery. I cautioned him that there would be little if any running for a while until my knee could let go and the pain subsided. Neeraj is one of the best people you could ever ask for in this situation. He understood and did everything he could to get me moving as quickly and painlessly and possible including fashioning a pair of walking sticks of some large branches from just off the trail and doing repeated muscle activation and massage techniques to try to get the right muscles working and relaxing to allow my knee to move properly. He did more than I believe anyone else could beg for let alone be offered on our 2500ft high hike up and back over hope pass inbound to Twin Lakes. With his coaching he got me using the right bio mechanics to hike at a pretty respectable pace…for having two trees in my hands and hardly any use of my right leg.

We were optimistic, Felt great aside from the occasional, almost blinding pain in my right knee and figured that we had a system that would carry us on the finish line. After 3 more hours and another brief scanning for the cotton candy at the Hopeless Aid Station the descent proved to be a real obstacle. The extra energy used in my new gait took a toll and my hopes for a finish began to sink with the setting sun. Together we made our way awkwardly down the mountainside both now experiencing stomach issues but even as my pace dwindled more and more, Neeraj remained a constant companion and made no complaints and accepted no apologies when I offered them. We talked about many things, getting to know more about each other and what makes us do these things. I tried to tell him enough times how much I appreciated his friendship and companionship along one of the hardest journeys I’ve ever made and although he obliged I suspect he, like the rest of Team Awesome are still not fully aware of just how powerful the event had been for me and what a positive, joyous and heartening ride it was.

As we walked across the meadow on the final stretch back to the Twin Lakes Aid Station, well outside of the cut off time and beyond any chance of being allowed to continue we paused and turned off our headlamps. Staring up at the moonless night sky we both agreed that we saw the most incredible sky either of us had ever known in our lives. I was taking it all in, nothing I had planned had gone right but everything I had hope for had come true and more. I was crying, in the dark night, staring into the endless starry sky and life was perfect. I thought of Matt, where we had come from and where Project Talaria could go if it had lead us here already. I thought of Team Awesome and Team Excellent and what they had put off, put up with and put themselves through for this moment. I hope that there’s was as perfect as mine, I can only assume that it could have been nothing less. My family and friends, who have done so much, said so much and given so much to something and someone they believed in. I thought in an instant of everything I had regretted in life, resented in life and accomplished in life and I was thankful for it all and for it all bringing me to that beautiful moment as the stars shining with reckless abandon reflected in the the joyful tears slipping down my cheeks.

We continued in the dark, we talked about running for the first time in a while. I asked when Neeraj needed me to crew him for his 24 hours race and we envisioned other adventures to come. As we crossed the river we met a woman with no headlamp who had heard she might be able to make an extended cut off but had no way of seeing the trail so Neeraj, being the noble gentlemen he is, ran with her to the Aid Station in the hopes of extending her race day. I appreciated the solitude only because I was re-living the connection with Jim at the Aid Stations, the hopeful conversations on the trails, the cheers, the helping hands, the hugging arms and uplifting smiles of Team Awesome.

I wanted to find Matt and I wanted to be his crew. Team Awesome had inspired me in the most amazing way and I wanted to be on Team Excellent and return the favour. Neeraj came back along the trail to find me and shortly after I saw a glowstick-crowned Mohawk in the growing lights of the town. Hey brothaman! It was every Aid Station combined to see my brother again, both of us embracing the other in excitement and relief. I told him we needed to find Matt, he was on top of it and had been communicating with Kyle. I found Lauren, Sarah and Pete with the usual fare of hugs, smiles and encouragement. We all knew that finding Matt at the next possible Aid Station was the next step and we made good time on the roads for May Queen where he would have 13.5 miles remaining around the lake and up into town. He was with Jed and I was indebted to Jed for how important that partnership was, on that course, under those conditions.

We found Kyle at May Queen setting up for Matt and Jed’s arrival as Robyn and Lynda caught a few moments rest in the car. Kyle is a monster, and unbelievable crew chief and one of the most solid guys I know. He lead Team Excellent unflinchingly through that whole event with a smile on his face, truly impressive and admirable. As runners came and went we huddled in the cold night and cheered them in and out of the tent. Seeing Matt coming into the light was amazing and inspiring. I tried to be encouraging and be what Team Awesome was for me. I wanted to tell him what it meant to see him go so far, pushing so hard and drawing every last drop from the well. Unfortunately, if there are words to express that, they are in a language I don’t speak so I just gave him a hug and the usual way to go man keep it up, dig in, you’re gonna do this. Jed still looked very strong, he was in good spirits and was doing an incredible job of keeping Matt safe and moving. They made their way back into the night with one final 13.5 mile stretch until the finish line. I was so excited Matt had made it happen, pulled together things that I’m sure he never knew existed in him and turned them into foot steps. Jed had gone with him through experiences I can’t imagine and walked by his side.

We waited on the Boulevard as runners slowly conquered the last 500 meters of their 160km journey. Finding a place of triumph in what was once only a destination. We all wanted to cover that final 500 meters with him but I couldn’t walk fast enough so was happy to just observe the final few strides as he, from I can’t imagine where, pulled out a run to cross the finish line in the fashion of pure grit and courage that I recognize as Matt Cecill.

Congrats Matt and Team Excellent. My most sincere thank you and congratulations to Team Awesome for sharing the best experience of my life. An extra special thank you to my little bro Jim for really making it all possible. Thank you to the friends family and influences in my life that cause me to make these amazing choices of wonderful people and places.

Thank you so much to Dr. John Douglas for your diligence, mending and maintaining us throughout. To Anne Boschman RMT, CBP for keeping things balanced. Thanks to Eload Sports Nutrition for fueling the fire with the elements we need to keep moving. To All Sports Recovery Club for all your help and teachings in fixing and preventing the wear and tear, teaching me how to recover right. A huge thanks to the LiveIt!LoveIt! Foundation for giving us inspiration and giving so many folks the chance to LiveIt! And LoveIt!

Love to you all, I am indebted to your kindness and awesomeness!

Your friend,
Dave

(What you Love Doing) x (For A Really Long Time ) = (Joy And Fulfilment) x (A Really Long Time)

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Where do I begin? I know… my pacers and crew. Jed, Robin, Kyle, Lynda (plus the support of Dave, his crew and pacers). Without you guys I might still be staggering around on that course. Your dedication, caring, selflessness and uncanny ability to stay awake are what allowed me to cross the finish line. Not a chance I would have made it without you guys on this day. You were awake every hour that I was. The belt buckle and finishing medal are as much yours as they are mine. Thank you! Big thanks also to all of our sponsors for getting us to the start line! Eload Sport Nutrition, Bikram Yoga Saanich, Dr. John Douglas Chiro and RMT, CBP Anne Boschman. This whole endeavor was in support of and inspired by the Live it! Love it! Foundation. Thank you to all who have donated and continue to donate to this amazing cause.

First hundred miler. *Warning, this report is neither quick, nor pretty! This race experience became something I never could have imagined it would be. Everything I had expected, planned and trained for went right out the window at the 30km mark. I’ll back things up a bit to set the stage.

Myself, Dave and Crew Chief Kyle had an amazing time in Breckenridge and the surrounding areas during our 10 days before the race. Nothing better than a road trip with 2 of your best friends. The goal was to be there long enough that we wouldn’t be at a major cardiovascular disadvantage going into the race. It was working, gradually I felt better physically excerting at 10,000ft. One of my greatest skills as a runner (for recovery) is my ability to sleep, A LOT. I’m a master of the mid-day nap. I was off my game at altitude however. I couldn’t string together more than about 7hrs of sleep and most of that sleep was broken. Napping wasn’t working either. I imagine with more time to acclimate, my body would have sorted this out, however I never quite got there during my time at altitude.

We ate like kings (very healthy kings) and generally took really good care of ourselves. Went for a few nice runs and hikes but overall were quite disciplined with our tapering. Making sure to arrive at the start line with fully charged muscles, ready for the workout of a lifetime. It was hard to hold back as the trail systems were more robust than anywhere I’ve ever been. Stunning peaks in every direction with well groomed single-track trails criss-crossing through each hill. Beautiful weather to top it off. A trail runner’s paradise. Curiously we saw very few runners. Thousands of mountain bikers, but very few runners. To summarize, I ate good food, tried to sleep, stretched a lot and worked on my tan burn for ten days. Not bad.

We made a few trips into Boulder, CO. The amazing people at All Sports Recovery Club granted us access to their facilities. Compression boots, low level laser, ice baths and even a trip into the hyperbaric chamber were on the menu. This place is incredible. Pro-level equipment for the amateur athlete. Victoria could take some notes here.

Fast forward to the eve of the race. Kyle and I drove into Denver to pick up Jed, my pacer (long-time friend and tough-as-nails trail runner) from the airport. We got stuck in some nasty traffic on the way back to Breckenridge due to an accident in a tunnel. Not the ideal way to spend the night before a big race. Arrived home around 10pm and straight to bed. Ended up getting about 2hrs sleep before the 1:30am alarm went off. Quick breakfast, gather belongings, jump in car, off to Leadville. Feeling relaxed and confident at the start line. Had some nice moments with the Victoria crew in the start corral. The energy was memorable. They cranked “For Those About to Rock We Salute You” just before the start. One of my favs, got me all jacked up! Big hug from Dave, shotgun blast, and the race was on.

Dave and I ran together for about 10km. Nice comfortable pace as the course starts on some gradual downhills out of Leadville before narrowing into single track around a (big) lake. We split up while still in the dark. It was busy single track running around the entire lake. Everything was going to plan. I was relaxed and controlled through May Queen aid in about 2hrs. Started the climb up Sugarloaf and felt strong. It wasn’t until the descent down the powerlines that I started feeling a little off. I hit the road and came into Fish Hatchery right on schedule, but not feeling 100%. I had been taking gels and fluid well up until now, couldn’t really figure out why I’d be taxed so early in the race. I decided to eat a Bonk Breaker out of Fish Hatchery (something I trust and have used with great success in both training and racing). Things went wrong in a hurry from here. My stomach just locked right up. (In hindsight my stomach was ready to go off regardless of what I ate) The pain was intense, so bad that holding a 6min km pace on flat road became a chore. I was trying to keep it together coming into Treeline crew area. I saw my crew and let them know things were going off track. I still didn’t fully realize what was happening as I just felt ill and generally bad. The next section (Treeline to Twin Lakes) was a struggle. Downhill running was actually worse as the pain in my stomach didn’t like the impact. I walked large portions of this section and watched my km splits fly right out the window, very disheartening. I was having a really tough time continuing as it felt that this just wasn’t my day. At one point I saw an ATV on course and thought pretty hard about dropping out and ending the suffering (it’s not good to be suffering 40km into a 160k race!) I kept walking past it despite feeling as though I had given up on the race mentally. Made my first stop in the bushes at this point.

I finally reached Twin Lakes well behind schedule. Gave my crew (especially my poor mom) a scare. I don’t think I looked very good at this point, and all I could talk about were porta-potties. Sorry for the over-share, but basically everything I did for the rest of the race involved a bathroom (bushes) stop at least once per hour. My stomach would come and go for the rest of the race. Allowing me to run for short periods and bringing me to a halt at others. I tried every variety and amount of food. It didn’t seem to matter what I put in, nothing was digesting. I slowly found myself avoiding gels and food. Suicide in a race of this distance. I had a pep talk with myself on the way up Hope Pass saying that I know better than to avoid food, and if I stop or even slow down with my nutrition I will have no chance of finishing the race regardless of my stomach. Kept forcing down calories and hoping things would settle down.

Despite all the bad, I was actually having a great time on the course. I still had my brain and my legs, more than some could say at this point in the race from what I saw. It hurt, but man was I excited to be running Leadville! I chatted with tonnes of people, enjoyed the aid station volunteers, the views, the camera crews etc. Hopeless aid on top of Hope Pass is the coolest aid station I’ve ever been through. Llamas everywhere, a bonfire, Pink Floyd on the stereo with the most amazing vistas all around. Incredible!

I knew if I could make it to Winfield (half way) I would have Jed join me on course as my pacer. He’s an amazing friend and the person I’ve run with most in my life. He knows my habits, good and bad. All I could think about was being able to fill his pack with toilet paper! Winfield aid station was a zoo. People, crews, cars, dust everywhere. It was scorching hot down there. I couldn’t wait to turn around and climb back up hope pass. During the climb I filled Jed’s ear with everything that had been running through my head for the whole race. All of my speculation regarding the upset stomach, my disappointment with my time and the status of the race. He did a phenomenal job of settling me down and putting things in perspective, reminding me what I came to Leadville to do first and foremost. Finish the race. He also made it very clear that I wasn’t going to quit. His confidence helped, as mine was in tatters by this point.

It helped immensely to have someone running with me, and such a good friend at that. We had a blast running down Hope Pass and back into Twin Lakes. My stomach calmed down for a while and we held a decent pace. It felt great to run! At Twin Lakes my Stepdad Robin came on course as my pacer. We had a great time chatting and running the next leg of the course. Something I will cherish forever. My reality at this point was a mix of hiking and running. Robin was very patient and did a great job of keeping me company. Darkness fell on this section of the course. My oh my does the mood of an Ultra change once it gets dark. I found it much harder. It felt quite lonely out there, just me and the pain, and thankfully my pacer. Robin ended up tripping on a rock and taking a hard fall coming into Treeline crew area. He carried on like the warrior he is, blood streaming down his face.

Jed came back on course with me at Treeline. We hiked most of the road between there and Fish Hatchery. Between my stomach and now my legs, it became clear that there would be a lot of walking involved to get across the finish line. We focused on keeping the tempo high as it was starting to get cold. I had gotten word that none of the other 4 Victoria runners would be finishing the race. The news hit me pretty hard as I’m quite close with those runners and their crews, and I know how hard they worked and how badly they all wanted this. I felt a rush of energy from them and it hit me that I had to finish the race. Jed and I re-focused and trotted out of Fish Hatchery aid station.

I’ve heard stories of the dreaded Sugarloaf climb… They are all true! On a good day this climb is significant. At 2am after running for 18hrs and 130kms… It’s horrid. The false summits are the worst part of it. They toy with a fragile runner’s emotions. The trail levels out and you think it must be over, then up ahead (way up high) you see headlamps, still climbing. This happens about 5 times. The challenge here was not to think about how much longer and further I had to go. Jed did a great job of telling me stories and keeping my head in the game. Coming down Haggarman Rd. I was making another pit stop in the bushes. As I was climbing back down to the road, a massive boulder gave way under my foot. It crashed down to the road. The boulder missed Jed’s leg by maybe an inch. Close shave, no harm done. Laugh about it… keep moving.

As we were coming down the pavement towards May Queen I was taken completely by surprise. Neeraj (Dave’s pacer) came running up to me. I was so surprised and excited to see him. He explained that everyone was waiting further down at the aid station. For a long time I had assumed Dave and his crew were all back in Breckenridge sleeping soundly (what any normal person would do after being awake for so long) They insisted on seeing me through to the finish despite all of them being exhausted. I can’t even explain the lift that it gave me to see everyone cheering as I came in to May Queen. The first (of many) tears welled up in my eyes. I still had my wits about me and it was so nice to joke with Dave about how much money we paid to put ourselves through something so ridiculous. I ate some hot soup, left May Queen for one last push to the finish line.

By now it was cold, -1 to be exact and there was a strong breeze coming off the lake. Because I wasn’t able to run, my body temperature was dropping. I could feel the shivers coming on and started getting really worried about going hypothermic. I’ve never felt exhaustion or cold to this degree. My eyes were closing as I was walking. At one point my nose started gushing blood. Basically my body was completely haywire and I was ready to be finshed! The stretch coming into town was the worst of my entire race. It seemingly went on forever. We had a strong, cold headwind and the hypothermia thing was getting worse. Jed gave me his jacket and put my hand on his shoulder and just told me to walk. I knew my crew, Dave, and his crew would be waiting to walk the final mile with me. I clung onto that thought the entire time as we neared town. Eventually we got there. I mustered up a (very slow) run to come across the finish line. As I was coming down the red carpet and over the line, emotion rolled over me like a  tidal wave. Sobbing, I had nothing left inside me to hold it back. The intensity of the finish was a very new experience and I will remember it forever. Looking back at everyone who helped get me across the line, tears in everyone’s eyes.

I’m so grateful to everyone for keeping my centered through such a rough day. Very proud to have finished the race, regardless of my time. It was my crew and pacer’s understanding and support, plus the thoughts of all my friends at home that kept me moving forward. Thanks to you all!

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We had an amazing weekend taking part in the Mt. Washington Snow to Surf relay. Jeff Scott of the Live it! Love it! Foundation closed out the relay with a 5k canoe with his friend Pete. Very inspiring stuff.

Videos speak louder than words so have a look at what I edited down from our in-race Go Pro, super fancy helmet cam footage.

 

 

Huge thanks to our amazing team and to all race organizers and volunteers!

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Despite living fairly close this was my first time running any trails in the North Vancouver area. They lived up to their rep of being muddy, wet and wild!  This was a very cool event, bridging the gap between the trail running and mountain biking communities. Volunteers make these races happen, so THANK YOU to all those who came out and donated their time.

The 50k division started at 8am alongside the 25k relay runners. This made the first few km’s a bit confusing as it was hard to know who was who. I wanted to find a groove early and stick to it. Something I wasn’t able to do at Orcas. I settled in fairly quickly and was running briskly yet comfortably. The trail was wide open for the first few km’s, running alongside a river. Soon after we entered the woods and the course turned to muddy single track with lots of wooden platforms and stairs to navigate. Going into the race I was having issues with the back of my left knee and hamstring. I was rolling the dice a little bit with the race and was hoping things wouldn’t flair up too badly.

I was feeling relaxed and running strong through the first 12k. Chatting with other runners around me and generally enjoying the new trails. I didn’t know the course at all, so I was just taking it as it came. We hit our first real climb around 13km, it wasn’t too steep but it kept going and going. I like this type of climbing as it’s easy to find a rhythm and just put your head down and charge. There was an aid station signaling the top of the climb. The course now followed a downhill mountain bike trail called “Ned’s Atomic Dustbin”. This was fairly technical by trail running standards. lots of rocks, logs and drops to navigate. Good fun!

On the descent I heard footsteps behind me. I was passed by Jeff Hunter (eventual race winner). He was really charging the downhill. We chatted a bit and to my surprise he thought we were the leaders in the 50k race. I tried to match his pace on the descent but it became clear pretty fast that I wouldn’t be able to. I was starting to cramp a bit by this point and the knee was tightening up. To push any harder at this point would have really compromised the rest of my run.

The rest of the race went reasonably well. I continued to fight off cramps with salt pills, an indication that I probly had a bit too much fun over the first 15k or so. My second half was definitely slower than my first, something I want to address in future Ultras. I was able to hold onto 2nd place and finish in a time of 4:21. The last 10k were grueling for me (I swear I’m not trying to make this a habit), as my knee and legs were quite tight.  The course designer saved the muddiest for last. We were run through a mud bog, which I later found out Jeff Hunter lost (and then rescued) a shoe in!

I fixed some of the issues that plagued me at the Orcas 50k, improving my hydration, fueling and pacing. Still have lots to learn in preperation for Leadville, but these hard lessons are better learned now.

Congrats the Jeff Hunter for an AMAZING time of 3:57 (fifth fastest ever on the course) and to Jude Ultra for winning the women’s 50k in a time of 4:58.  Congrats also to ALL the other participants in every category for a great day of racing and biking!

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First off, a HUGE thanks to all of the race organizers and volunteers for putting on an incredible race! James and Rainshadow Running were top notch, with great food, beer and music waiting at the finish line.

We left Victoria mid-day on Friday. A couple bushy-tailed Ultramarathon rookies heading for the promised land. Hopped the ferry over to Tsawwassen and drove across the border (pulled in for extra questioning), continuing on to Anacortes where we took an evening ferry over to Orcas Island. We met up with the rest of the running group at the hotel, had a quick visit and it was off to bed.

Up early and to the chagrin of our fellow housemates, we fired up the old magic bullet and blended some delicious and nutritious treats. We prepped everything for the race, jumped in the car and cranked up Robert Palmer’s Greatest Hits (?) In hindsight this was not a great pre-race album selection. It didn’t matter. What a stellar day for a race it was! Nice cool temperatures and clear sunny skies. This was the first Ultra for both of us and we were eager to find out what the whole thing was about. We rolled into the Moran State Park lodge and checked in for the race, toeing the startline shortly after. This is what happened next…

Matt’s race report:

I was so pumped up for this race! Felt healthy, strong and rested going in after a good taper week. I started near the front of the pack as I wanted to get a feel for what the lead pace would be like. I settled in around 10th place and felt good over the first 15k or so leading up to the first aid station. I made up a few places at the aid station and on the massive climb up Mt. Constitution that followed. Soon I found myself in 4th place and running strong. The course came down the mountain and then flattened out along a lake leading up to the halfway point. Over this section I started feeling some leg cramps coming on. I tried to fight them off by drinking more water but they kept getting worse. I was out of water by this point and still had some running left before the next aid station. Looking back, the cramps weren’t so much a product of poor hydration, but more a product of simply running the first half too fast. Rookie mistakes!  I came into the halfway aid station feeling pretty beat up and thirsty. I refilled my water and started what is a savage climb up the other side of Mt. Constitution. The leg cramps were coming on strong now and I was passed by a 4 savvy Ultramarathon vets.  The views from the trail were incredible, and the sun was energizing as the trail started opening up. I reached the top and refilled my water again, choked down more gels and started the descent. My legs were in and out for the rest of the race, there were good parts and… not so good parts. I finished in 8th spot overall in a time of 5:05.

Overall the race was spectacular. Despite making things difficult for myself by going out a little too fast, it was an awesome experience just being on the course, enjoying the views, meeting new people and testing the limits. I learned a lot and am eager to get back to training and keep movin’ on up!

Dave’s race report:

Pre-race had a pretty exciting feel. There was the familiar migration of dozens of runners towards the  registry, their loud, synthetic running garb hidden beneath their layers of wool and down necessary to keep the morning frost at bay. But the distance the legs were expected to cover that day was more than I had any experience with. I was stoked. With the paperwork done, the safety announcements and aknowledgments out of the way, the line was packed with smiles and excited yips and yowls. 3.2.1…. and it was underway. New territory.

Deciding to stick with Matt proved to be and arduous task and after about 12km I fell into a comfortable rhythm and began to really take in the surroundings and the comrades on the course. The first real descent was a BLAST!!  Wide open trails and a comfortably steep grade allowed a person to really let ‘er buck!

The morning chill was long forgotten but nearing the first Aid station runners found themselves in an open field covered in frost and barred by the tall trees from the rising sun. Though it was a very chilly site I received some very important and appreciated advice from a new friend Rob Bowden who had experience with this event. Shedding my thermal top as advised I soon reached the first REAL climb and immediately felt a deep gratitude for Robs wisdom. This climb was a tough grind and in direct sun the basically the whole way.  Near the half way point I turned to see the good people dotting the trail below and realized that while mesmerized by the punishing ground ahead we had all been missing the spectacular views behind of Mt. Baker and the rest of the all-star line up of the Cascade Range.

Happy to be done with the hill and again making up good time on the wide open downhill I found a rhythm and cruised along feeling a lot of love for this place and opportunity to participate in it. I was excited to hear how Matt’s race was going up at the front.  The only thing that was bothering me at this point was the lack of blood in my hands which was resulting in continuous a dull ache that, from experience, I had written off as part of the game…. but the game was  about to change… After a small handstand-ninjaturtleroll-style bail as a result of trying to use to unusable hands to open and consume an energy gel I was a little shaken but very stirred to continue.

**I want to take a time out to really stress my appreciation for the AMAZING volunteers at this race and just how positive, dedicated and helpful and down right instrumental they all were in making this race a fully enjoyable event**

Back on the trail I came into the third aid station and was approached by eager helpful faces asking what I needed. I explained that because I couldn’t feel my hands I pretty much would just settle for some conversation but one man said no problem I’ll give you a hand-warmer. Expecting him to start rubbing my hands at that moment I admit feeling awkward but when he handed me a little packet of heat and even tucked it in my glove for me I was a little overcome. I’m not sure I said thank you enough before I carried on, but I tried. This magical hand-warmer was like carrying around a little sunshine in my hands bringing my entire body to life and renewing a slightly waned enthusiasm. There were a few simply breath-taking view points on this climb where I just had to stop and take some video to share with you all and also to really let the warm sun soak deep into my body. The Oceans. The Mountains. The Islands. The Sun. And Me. what a life! Matt has probably finished the race by now I figured.

At the top of Mt. Constitution was a throng of excited supporters poised to re-energize the trail weary runners, calling support to them by their race numbers. A youngster with the excitement of christmas eve asked me if he could get me some potato soup. How can a person say no a kid, so clearly thrilled to share his treasure? While a delightful woman refilled my water pack, this vibrant young soul fixed me a cup’o’soup and with soup in belly and pack on back I tried in vain once again to convey the appropriate amount of gratitude.

From this point on I only saw one or two more people as I screamed (literally) down the mountain and negotiated the final climb. With the knowledge of the last decent and no more major climbs to come was beggining to feel the miles stacking up but reached a calm excitement knowing that there was A LOT of food and drink at the end and that Matt must be packed and ready to go by now!

The final 2.5 miles of this race are magical. A flowing trail with small rises and dips around a calm sun-shimmering lake that stir a song in the soul. And then a real song, that honestly almost brought me to tears; an eagle flying along the trail above me singing in what felt like appreciation for what I hoped was an understanding of why we were both here. To enjoy this life.I enjoyed this life right across the finish line and straight into a hug from Matt, hastily followed by  a trip to the apple cider table! I found myself overwhelmed by the energy of the people, the quantity and quality of the food and drinks and the sweet dulcet tones on The Blackberry Bushes  ( theblackberrybushes.com ) a magnificent string band based in Olympia Wa.  It would take some time to really get my head around just what an amazing and powerfully positive experience it had all been.  But at  that moment, all I couldn’t think about, was the next run.

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