Saturday morning was the first orientation run of the season for Squamish 50. The guys – Gary & Geoff started doing free orientation runs, open to runners and their friends last year, and they are truly one of my favorite places to be on a weekend.
1) it’s in SQUAMISH. I freaking love Squamish. I love running the trails there. I love the Brew Pub after for yummy hot eats. If you know me, you know I hate long drives, and yet the drive to Squamish always seems shorter than I expect, and not that bad.
2) ALL my trail friends from fast to slow come out to run! I started to count how many hugs I was involved in at the Nester’s parking lot on Saturday morning, and I lost count, because there’s just too many people that I know and love that come out to these events. I joke, but I really wasn’t as excited to run, as I was to see my peeps.
3) The last time I climbed the Mtn of Phlegm was during the 50K race last August, and I was in a bad place at the time. The wheels had fallen off of my bus, and I ended up crying while hugging Rob at the top, feeling utterly defeated. I wanted a redemption of that hill!
These are definitely the top 3 reasons why I was excited for Saturday, so here’s some pictures, and how the day went down.
One great thing about Nikki moving to White Rock from Langley is that she doesn’t have Langley friends to carpool with, and I’m directly on her driving route for runs/races in Vancouver/North Van and beyond. This makes my life easy because she’s super reliable, on time, and it’s a door to door pick up, which I greatly appreciate.
Nikki was at my house nice and early, but I wasn’t ready. My week last week was shit. And it seeped into my weekend. My clothes for the run weren’t dry, and I stumbled around bleary eyed, half asleep trying to find appropriate clothing. The funny part is that all of my thinner, warmer weather long sleeves and capris weren’t clean, so I had to go with a thicker long sleeve and tights. Doesn’t sound funny? It does when you arrive in Squamish to find it snowing. Yes, really. I guess I owe my dryer a big thank you…
After a quick pit stop to pick up Candice and Hilary, we also needed to stop for gas, and since I was really not feeling well, very fuzzy headed, I directed us to a gas station with a Starbucks within 1.5 blocks that had an open time of 6:30am. Well, even though it was 6:55, that store was locked and loaded. Meaning, still closed, and not going to serve me a coffee.
It was just that sort of a day/week, so I just got back in the car, and let being with my friends make me feel better. Before I knew it, we had arrived in Squamish, and there was definitely a light snow falling on our car. We greeted friends, met new friends, organized the car drop, went pee, and signed in. Geoff had brought out someone from SORCA to let everyone know about donating to them, or buying a trail pass. I bought my trail pass, and I suggest that if you’re running in the Squamish trails, you do the same! All info can be found here.
As we drove up to Quest, the light snow got a little heavier, and as we pulled into the parking lot, the snow was actually sticking to the ground. Eeeep.
It was a bit surreal, since this winter has been so lackluster when it comes to winter weather, and I think for most of us, we’ve already moved onto Spring. Oh and not to mention, the first day of Spring was on like Thursday?
Anyways, there was a ton of us out for the run, and I can confidently say I knew about half of them!
It looks pretty miserable, eh?
It really wasn’t. To be honest, light snow is never as bad as rain, and it was actually quite calming to be running while it was snowing. Due to different injuries and just the way schedules worked out, I never actually went running when it snowed in Vancouver. I hit some snow on the trails, but not the actual falling of snow. So, in a way, it was kind of nice.
So, this route is the 23K of the Squamish 50 weekend. I should mention that this is NOT the last 23K of either the 50K or the 50M race. The 23K does not run the Angry Midget trail section of the race, which is a nasty uphill and then downhill section, and it also cuts out some of the gravel road section. Almost everyone thinks that the 23K course is the final 23, and it is for the most part, but the Angry Midget is nothing to ignore.
Anyhoo, we start off on a hill, and then do a series of switchbacks that are mostly runnable, but also kind of suck to start off a run with. I was a bit worried because my calves have been really ridiculously tight on runs lately that have started on a hill. And it’s easy to get wrapped up in the race feeling of having 70-80 people starting off at the same point. I chatted with quite a few people, a few new twitter friends, and people talking about TrailStoke, and of course the usual suspects!
Surprisingly, I held my own on the long uphill slog, and my legs weren’t hating on me too bad. As I came out to the more rolling part of the hill, I caught up with Chris, and we tucked in together. Chris is new to the ultra world, and luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it) got into KneeKnacker on his first try, and is also reg’d for Squamish 50K. Quite hefty 50K’s for your first and second, but he’s brought in the big guns, and is being coached by none other than Gary Robbins himself.
As you know, I love newbies! I’m still relatively new to the ultra world myself but it’s so amazing how much you don’t know when you stumble into it, and how each run, and each race can teach you so very much. Chris and I had been chatting the night before, and since this was going to be his longest distance thus far and was a tad bit nervous, my game plan was to stick with them. Always better when you’re with a friend.
I’d zip ahead of him on the downhills, and then he’s pass me on the uphills. I ran into Hailey, who did her first stage race in Costa Rica recently, and killed it, so I was chatting with her, and lost Chris ahead of me. When I entered the Valley of Despair with her, I was surprised by how short it felt, and how we were able to run quite a bit of it. At the next turn I lost her, and Hilary had caught up to me during this section, and while I stopped to help a friend with a hydration pack issue, Hilary zipped ahead and I never saw her again. I had to stop and pee, and then I took some photo’s for instagram…
Meanwhile I saw, passed, caught up to, and was passed by other friends, and it was great because it was a bit of a musical chairs of running partners, and I got to see and talk to lots of friends. And then suddenly, I was alone. That’s the funny thing in trail running, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and quite often we can get separated and end up running through the woods alone, and feel SO alone. I was only alone for maybe 10 minutes, but it felt like an eternity!
I knew the aid station was just around a couple of corners once I hit the gravel road, and just before the last corner I spotted Hilary and Chris up ahead. Yay friends! Dianna and Geoff had set up a great aid station, complete with blonde oreos, which since the night time ultra are my favorite aid station snack. Munched a couple of those and waited for Chris to be ready to take off.
There’s a solid little climb after this aid station, and we ended up in a nice little group with Shawn (Jen M’s hubs and a member of the Baker Lake party 2013), and Ashley, who runs Sole Girls – a running group for tweens.
The 4 of us chatted away, and we just cruised. It was perfect training in my mind. Good friends, good convo, decent weather (the light snow was on for most of the morning, but it was never heavy, and it wasn’t very cold, and it’s wayyyyy better than being rained on).
Just before we headed to climb up Mtn of Phlegm, I noticed a 5th had attached himself to our train, and that my friend Emma was just a few hundred meters back. I welcome the new guy, and yelled to Emma to catch up to us and join the train. She did, and we continued in a 6some to the top of the dreaded Mtn of Phlegm. Which I’ll tell you, is not HALF as bad at the 18K mark, instead of the 45K mark!!!
Chris, me, Shawn, Ashley, & Emma :
We took a moment to celebrate, eat, and get back on the trail, knowing we were close to home! And somehow, we were too excited and all of us went right past Bondage Barbie!!! Leave it to Nikki to find her, AND take a selfie with her!
Next time, I swear I’m going to find her.
There was 1 turn that wasn’t well marked, so we took it upon ourselves to make a giant arrow out of sticks for our friends behind. While Gary did a great job of marking the course for fast runners and runners who knew the course, there was a couple spots that weren’t clear, and a couple spots where it actually snowed on top of the trail, and the white chalk arrow was not easy to find at all. Luckily, everyone who got lost, all got turned around, back on the trail, and only ended up adding a couple kms to the day. We’ll call it bonus training!
Back at the parking lot, it was time for a quick change of clothes, and a hot coffee. Mmmm…I swear Starbucks tastes even better than normal after a long run in the woods!
It was great to see so many familiar faces, and chat with so many like minded peeps. The last of the runners came running into the parking lot, and after everyone was changed, our group headed to the Brew Pub for some hot eats and cold drinks. It was the perfect end to a great morning before traveling back to the city.
The crew :
Anyone else know of trail races that do free orientation runs? Best idea ever, right??
Big HUGE thanks to Gary, Geoff, and Dianna! Thanks for everything guys!