Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It’s been a while

Mt Cheam. Nov 2014 - Photo by Aran Seaman.

My last official event was Mountain Madness Hallow’s Eve ½ trail marathon in October. I did it leisurely with friends, as a perfect way to wrap-up the trail running season.

I like to ramp up for the cross country ski season in early November. I took a few weeks completely off in October, then started working with a power lifting/Oly coach, Michelle Ford from Peak Power (Fraser Street Run Club), once weekly. I was lifting weights three times and trail running twice weekly, up until it finally snowed in mid-December.

Hallow's Eve Trail 1/2 Marathon. The start with Aran. Oct 2014.
- Photo by Jackie Muir.

Ugly Sweater Christmas Run (fundraiser for NSR).
Doing laps with Pascal. Nov 2014 - Photo by Jay Klassen.

Golden Ears Summit. Off my adventure wish list!  - Photo by Pascal Gray.

Now, I will be running only once weekly up until the beginning of March. Cross-country skiing is the main focus culminating to a single race at the end of February. But it’s a big one and it scares me.

I will continue to Oly lift throughout the winter as I’ve noted benefits in terms of strength, improved mobility and better body control. I just feel more ... athletic. I have also begun taking downhill ski lessons in hopes of adding ski touring (AT) to my playlist, purely as an indulgence.

 Manning Resort. Making my alpine ski debut. Dec 2014 - Photo by Pascal Gray.

Reflections and predictions

Looking back, I’m satisfied with this past race season. Although my performance at Knee Knacker was demoralizing, it didn’t overshadow other solid results and all the joyful adventures. I hit a lot of the peaks on my wish list and remain so very lucky to have the best training partners, such amazing friends.

Looking forward, I can’t imagine how I wouldn’t have another fun-filled season. I had a gait analysis done at the Fortius Sports Training Centre. Mostly to check for misalignments, long-term problem areas or information that might shed light on why I’m so prone to tumbles. It turns out my biomechanics were fairly efficient (despite noted trauma). A recommendation of increasing stride frequency by 10-15% would help with overall injury prevention and efficacy. As for the tumbling, I’m plainly just a klutz. This was a useful exercise, I received a complete analysis report and valuable suggestions to heed going forward. The centre itself is well worth a visit, pertinent services at reasonable rates.

Fortius Sports Centre. Motion cameras on a treadmill. Dec 2014 - Photo by Matt Thompson.

Fortius Sports Centre. Watching my gait in 3D motion. 

I pondered on applying to companies for a sponsorship or becoming a brand ambassador, though decided against it in the end. I’d be proud to represent, however the responsibility of promoting a product, or an image, is something I can’t fairly commit to at this time.

With events filling-up fast and lotteries opening so early, there was pressure to make quick decisions about the 2015 race season. I sat down with one of my training partners and we mapped out the races we wanted to train for together, and signed-up from there. I was successful in my lotteries and no longer need to think about what to do, I have the list.

Something that kept me smiling last year was the group adventure runs. Therefore I’ve included choice destinations to my season’s schedule. I’m not restricted to these and am staying open to invitations. 

First skate ski of the year. Whistler Olympic Park (Callaghan). Dec 2014 - Photo by Munny.

It's all about Nordic now. Coach Munny in the background. Dec 2014.

The Payak, 50K freestyle xc ski, Whistler Olympic Park, Feb 28 - registered
Gorge Waterfalls 50K, Cascade Locks WA, March 29 – registered
Vancouver 100, 100k (the double Knacker), June 6th - planning to register
Broken Goat 50K, Rossland, July 17-18registered
Angels Staircase 60K, North Cascades WA, Aug 8 – a big maybe
Fat Dog 70mi, Aug 15 – registered
Sky Pilot 22K, SQ, Sept 20 – planning to register
Adventure Runs
Mt Assiniboine, Wonderland Trail, Juan de Fuca Marine trail

Flint + Feather, absolutely my favourite weekly run/scramble. Look forward to more in 2015!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Athlete's Corner: The Rut 50K with Nick Elson

Race report – The Rut – Skyrunner World Series Ultra Final

When: Saturday September 13, 2014, 6am start
Where: Big Sky Resort, Montana US
Distance: 31 miles / 50K
Elevation: 10,000 ft / 3,040 meters of vertical climb and descent
Time limit: 12 1/2 hours
No. participants: 500 max

Race results (here)
Nick finished in 10th place overall in a time of 5h56

Chloé: You are well known in the ski mountaineering (skimo) and alpine community, though a relatively newcomer to the ultra-trail running scene. You're coming-in hot with much promise already. When did you get more into racing ultras, was there a defining moment?

Nick: Although I’d run for many years and even competed a bit at university, until recently climbing had always been my primary focus. In the spring of 2012 I started up a massive alpine ridge in Alaska with one friend and no rope. After only a few hundred feet of climbing I realized that I just wasn’t good enough or bold enough. It was a difficult failure (usually you can at least blame the weather or something out of your control) and it led me to take a bit of a step back from serious climbing. I realized that my own mortality had ceased to be quite as abstract a concept as it once was. However, I still enjoyed spending time in the alpine and I soon discovered that running in the mountains provided plenty of opportunity for challenge and adventure - some of the things that had always appealed to me about climbing.
While I’m generally a pretty laid-back (possibly even lazy) person, running appealed to my well-concealed competitive streak and before long I found myself entering some trail races. Initially I wasn’t particularly interested in running ultras; the thought of shuffling along for hours on end didn’t seem all that appealing.  Eventually, however, I succumbed to the hype that surrounds ultra-running these days and entered the 2013 Kneeknacker.
Prior to the race, I was very fortunate to get out running with guys like Gary Robbins and Adam Campbell from whom I learned (and continue to learn) a lot about running ultras. Unfortunately, there are some things you can only figure out by doing, and the Kneeknacker was quite educational for me. Three-quarters of the way through the race I was leading and thinking that maybe ultra running was not so hard after all when my legs suddenly decided they had pretty much had enough. As a result, the final miles of the race involved some significant physical and mental anguish. Turns out running ultras isn’t easy, but perhaps that’s why I’ve stuck with it.
Nick Elson acclimatizing for The Rut 50K on Grand Teton
Chloé: Well, you still managed 3rd place (in 4h44) behind Gary Robbins and Mike Murphy, so not too shabby a début. Coming off your recent win at this year's Squamish50 (mile), how were you feeling going into The Rut? Tell us about your preparation leading up to race day

Nick: This summer I raced three ultras, each one month after the other. In doing so, I gained lots of valuable experience. However, one month isn’t a long time to recover from one race and then prepare for the next one.
One of the things that I really like about ultra and trail running is that because each race is so different from the next, and each runner has such different strengths and skills, there can be no generic formulas for how best to train.
My training is loosely structured. I try to keep the demands of my goal race in mind and plan certain workouts and long runs each week that are specific to my goals. However, I give myself some flexibility to adjust my training based on how I’m feeling and also to take advantage of good weather and conditions in order to get out in the mountains.
After the Squamish50, my first priority was to recover well, which actually requires quite a bit of discipline when you have another race looming. Two weeks before The Rut, I travelled down to Wyoming with my girlfriend Karina. The plan (aside from having a fun road trip) was to spend some time at higher elevations in order to acclimatize for the race (which takes place between 2,300-3,400 meters). We had a great time checking out Yellowstone and climbing and running in the Tetons. However, I think the results were mixed. I certainly gained some acclimatization, yet the long stretches of driving, camping in the cold, hiking with a heavy pack, plus the running and the altitude, all contributed to wearing me out. Thankfully I came to my senses and we got a warm hotel room in Bozeman for a couple of nights which allowed me to bounce back a bit before the race.
"Grinding up one of the many non-technical ascents"
Chloé: Was The Rut a goal race? What were your key objectives and strategies for this run?
Nick: The Rut was definitely one of my key races this year. However, against such a strong field and without knowing the course, I didn’t have any firm goals with respect to time or place.
My strategy for the race was to stay relaxed and not push too hard through the first 20km which were relatively smooth and fast. I then hoped to be able to move up through the field in the middle of the race, where the running became technical - as this is usually where I’m strongest.
There were four aid stations on the course so I opted to carry a single hand-held bottle which I refilled with water. I also started with a half-dozen gels which I planned to supplement with gels from the aid stations so that I could eat approximately three per hour. It was below freezing at the start of the race so I wore tights and also a wind-shell, buff and gloves which I later took off.
"This trail was aptly named. It also managed to crush my spirit"
Chloé: How did it go?

Nick: It was cold and dark at the start but there was excitement amongst the runners and spectators. I tried not to get too carried away when the gun went off. I settled into a comfortable pace up the first climb at the back of a long line of guys. Before long, the sun rose and we descended to some rolling hard-packed trails. I caught up with Adam Campbell and we ran in a group with a few other runners.
Unfortunately, I began having stomach issues which was not something I’d experienced before.  I eventually decided I’d better make a quick stop, after which I felt considerably better. By this time, the trail was ascending steadily at a runnable grade and I pushed a bit in an effort to make up for lost time. This brought me to the open, scree-filled bowl which led to the Headwaters Ridge section of the course. For the first time, I could see all the runners ahead of me (actually I think Kilian and Sage were already out of sight) and although I was a bit dismayed by how many there were, I was feeling more confidant now that we were on more technical terrain.
Power-hiking up the loose scree was not especially pleasant but I was finally feeling strong and passed a few people. I felt even better on the ensuing descent despite all the dinner plate shaped rocks that were flying up and lacerating my ankles. I arrived at the out-and-back to the Tram Dock aid station having moved up to 8th place and feeling optimistic that I could continue to move through the field.
That feeling didn’t last long. The road up to the aid station seemed to be right at that awful grade where running is vastly more efficient than hiking but maintaining a run requires more effort than is perhaps wise at the halfway point of an ultra. This effort, combined with the altitude and the fact that my fueling had been a bit thrown off by my earlier stomach issues left me feeling very weak as I began the long climb up Lone Peak. Before the race, I’d hoped that this steep climb and technical descent would play to my strengths. Instead I found myself tripping amongst the loose rocks and trying to limit the number of people that passed me as we climbed to the 11,000 foot summit. My stomach was once again rebelling and I could no longer take in any calories. I clawed my way up and over the peak and stumbled deliriously down the other side where I was surprised to pass a few runners. This, combined with the ever-thickening air, managed to lift my spirits a little – that is until my legs started to cramp on the next uphill.
By this time I felt I’d been running for quite a ways and ready for the whole thing to be over. My GPS, however, was still showing a worryingly small number under “distance”. My fears were then confirmed by a volunteer who pointed at a distant massive mountain when I asked how far the next aid station was.
In shorter races, you can count on the fact that you’re only going to feel worse as the race progresses. In ultras there’s always hope you might actually start to feel better. Unfortunately, I’ve never personally experienced this “bouncing back” phenomenon though I did manage to keep moving steadily in the last 15km of the Rut.
I have rarely felt so happy as when I ran down the finishing straight. There were many spectators cheering and I was proud to have finished in the top ten of such a competitive race. Mostly, I was happy because I would soon be able to stop running.
Not quite the run I’d hoped for, though overall The Rut was a positive experience. The race was well-organized, the course had an interesting mix of terrain in a beautiful setting, and it was fun to line up against great athletes like Kilian and Sage. I went into the race hoping for a good learning experience and it certainly was.
Nick crossing the finish line in 10th place
Chloe: What’s next for you?
Nick: I’m taking a short break from structured training and racing. Then soon will start training more specifically for ski mountaineering with the 2015 World Championships in Switzerland as my main race goal for the season.

Other Links
The Rut (promo video)
The Rut men’s race preview from iRunfar (article)
Ellie Greenwood's The Rut 50k race report (

Montana Trail Crew, more on The Rut (website) 

Skimo Racing & Adventure Touring (website)
Read Nick's: Blog. Follow him on Twitter

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Race Report: Sky Pilot 18km

Photo by Scott Roberts

Date: Sunday, Sept 21st, 2014
Distance: 12.5km and 18km
Location: Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, BC
Full results and photos (here)

About a month ago, I volunteered to join Eric Carter’s crew to help cut and clear “Plan A” of the Sky Pilot long course. It was only a glimpse, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun and terror this race was going to be. Beyond excited.

Then, a few things happened out of the organizers’ control. They were quick to adapt and draw-up an excellent “Plan B”. Still excited.

The week of the race, a rain deluge affected the course’s safety. And “Plan C” was now in effect. Less excited, but trusting it would be challenging enough.

And it did not disappoint. I enjoyed the entire course so much, likely because I was prepared for this type of terrain, with all my hiking and scrambling as of late (see: last post).

Sea-to-Sky Gondola platform area. Gary's pre-race briefing.
Awards with Gary's parents, happy with 3rd place. Photo by Scott Roberts

Much was said during and after the race, how great it all was, including: the course design, the marking, the marshalling, and the racer communications through-out. We were well-warned along with a hefty waiver sign-off. There are many people to acknowledge for this successful event (for better details read blogs: Mike Murphy, Tom Craik).

Nearly perfect

Oddly, I mixed my electrolyte drink too strong and it was making me gag. My legs were starting to cramp, so I took many salt pills and gels to remedy. But without water to wash it down, the cramping persisted. I ran steady and smoothly on the first section of the course, passing many on the climbs and holding my position on the descents. I followed one guy off course down the “sticky rocks” section. We both realised pretty quickly because there were no flags and because it got overly sketchy.

My body goaded me to hammer hard. But having no knowledge of the new “Plan C” course, and mindful that returning cramps could finish my race, I was forced to keep my pace in check. At the aid station going up into the second double-back section, I didn’t realize this was THE aid station where RD Gary had insisted in the pre-race briefing that we stop there, and fill-up with a mandatory 2L of liquids. My pack was already full, since I wasn’t drinking my nasty electrolyte mixture. So, idiot, it didn’t register that I could simply exchange the sweet-swill for fresh water. Instead, I ran past the aid station in a dumb fury.

After my first tumble, feeling a bit crampy. Photo by Mayo Jordanov

Anne-Marie Madden, mountain goddess. We could be twins ;-) Photo by Mayo Jordanov

Up up and up it went. I picked-off more runners and tagged-on to Astrid and another fellow. We chatted in our triad, comfortably sauntering through the boulder field. Then my calf seized and I hit the ground in a flash. The fellow quickly grabbed my ankle and pulled my leg straight, then yanked me upright. Astrid gave me a sip of her water, there off we went. Silas, The Murph, Anne-Marie, with Tom in chase all ran by, so we figured the turnaround to be somewhat near.

Astrid said she’d be cautious on the boulders’ descent, inviting me to step ahead. I thanked them both and enthusiastically jetted off. (Later, I was very sorry to hear that this fellow badly gashed his leg in the boulder field and that Astrid sacrificed her race to provide him aid, then in turn tumbled and punctured her leg.)

When I fall, I fall so far. When I fall, I fall so hard

Unaware of the drama behind me, I pushed hard in the technical trying to gain where I was apt, knowing Astrid would be stronger in the final runnable Ks. I was in second place and all was well, anticipating the aid station and water within reach. Except ... both legs seized under me. I flew and bounced as if thrown out of a speeding train. I wriggled like a fish in a net trying to take control of my limbs. Pat Malavi and Mike Thomas ran by “are you alright?”. Shock and frustration erected me, I shuffled to the aid station, yelling “liquids!! I need liquids, I’m DYING here!!”.

The water saved me, the adrenaline carried me into Gary’s famous finishers’ hug. “I loved it so much!!!” I said, then the cramps took-over. 

Gary feeding me electrolyte pills, medics wringing seized muscles. Photo by Scott Roberts

"Yup, it's a pebble". Photo by Scott Roberts

Turns-out cramping and crashing (repeatedly) takes a toll. I’m banged-up and slow to recover. Taking it easy until Hallow’sEve Half.

Looking forward to next year’s "Plan Awesome" Sky Pilot!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ultra luxuriating

Howe Sound Crest Trail. Photo by Spring McClurg

Eight weeks

Eight wonderful weeks of over-luxuriating, indulging in excessive mountain miles and post adventure catnaps on the couch. The alpine … it got in my skin, in my core. When not on the mountain, everything else was just ‘waiting’.

My last key race, the Knee Knacker was quickly followed by a relay-team appearance at TrailStoke, and then every weekend afterward was filled with ambitious play. Starting with three full-days running the South Chilcotin mountains. The weekend after that was a Whistler extravaganza (Singing Pass, Russet Lake, Musical Bumps, High Note, Cheakamus, Wedge …). And then, I check-marked surrounding Classics such as: Coliseum, Black Tusk, Hanes, the HSCT (blog) (blog) (video), and Crown.

Yes, I bundled some back-to-back epics in there, sprinkled with weekday after-work jaunts up local staples including: Flint & Feather, Sky Pilot, Diez Vista, Lynn Peak, and Swan Falls, some more than once or thrice. If you saw me volunteer at SQ50 or at a couple of the 5Peaks races, there certainly were bouts of running in there too, including the Cypress Enduro course, twice.

The Chimney on Black Tusk. Photo by Joel Payeur

The view from Crown Mtn

Mid week Flint + Feather with the men

The boulder field of Hanes Valley. Photo by Erin Donnelly

Sky Pilot. Photo by Ben Reah

Top of Swan Falls

Cypress Bowl. Photo by James Marshall

Dance upon the summit like a flame

I watched an iRunFar pre-race video interview about The Rut 50k with Anna Frost, where she commented that since her last key race, she had been playing on high peaks and enjoying “a lot of picnics in the mountains” … then declared that race morning would be somewhat of a shock, standing at the start thinking “oh my gosh, I’m actually racing”.

I can 100% relate, as I’m now trying to get my head around racing Sky Pilot next Sunday. In fact, I’m unenthusiastically signed-up for three races.

I’m under-motivated not because these races lack lustre, that’s absolutely not the case, I'm excited about running these great courses. It’s just … it has been a while since I’ve toed the line. I’m not burnt-out. I’m just coming down from a very steep high. I’m played-out yet so satisfied, already daydreaming about snow and thoughts of rekindling with winter activities and playmates. In my head, I’m done with this running season.

But since I’m already signed-up I may as well use these short races to springboard into the xc-ski season. And, I bet have fun in the process.

Mystery trail from Top of the World to Cheakamus Lake. Photo by Jackie Muir

Wedge Lake with Jackie

South Chilcotins. Photo by Glenn Cameron

Mid week Flint + Feather, all by myself

Skirt of Tusk Chimney. Photo by Joel Payeur

Morning fog, summit of Coliseum. Photo by "Irish John"


Russet Lake

Next up: Sky Pilot Race Report

Friday, August 22, 2014

Athlete's Corner: Squamish50

Squamish 50/50 race reports 

from Marie Boucher and Andy Healey

Squamish, BC, Canada - photo from Squamish50 FB page

Race Concept: Cumulative times for the 50 mile and 50 kilometer events on back to back days.
When: Saturday August 16 (50 mile), Sunday Aug 17 (50 km), 2014
Where: Squamish, BC, Canada
Distance/Elevation: 130 km, ~ 6096m / 20,000 feet of vertical climb and descent
Time limit: 16 hours (50m), 11 hours (50k)
No. participants: 75 max
RDs: Geoff Langford and Gary Robbins
50/50 Results: here  Full results and iRunFar race coverage interviews: here

Marie finished in: 21:37:44 and Andy finished in: 21:37:00

Marie Boucher
Andy Healey - photo by Carolyn Kelly-Smith

Chloe: You have been racing ultras for some time now, including up to the 100 mile distance. What was the appeal with this 50/50 event? 

Marie: Squamish 50/50 was my goal event this year, and I have been excited about attempting my first “stage race”.

Andy: I have yet to tackle the 100 mile distance, but ask in a month and I should be singing a different tune. I wanted to do this race for a couple different reasons. First and foremost, I love the Squamish 50. The race directors, the volunteers, the people who run in the race and the people who come out to support everyone are all the best. I've got a tonne of friends who were planning on running various distances and/or volunteering, so I knew it would be the party of the summer and I would have been a fool to miss it. This was my third time taking part in the race, I've done the 50 miler for the past two years and when the option of the 50/50 was announced, I figured I had to do it. It was a big challenge, it was ridiculous and I love trying things that I'm afraid of.
Shortly after registering for Squamish, I found myself signing up for the Pine to Palm 100 miler in southern Oregon and I realized, that as absurd and potentially pretentious as it sounds, the 50/50 would be a perfect training run. Last but certainly not least, was the hat. I've been coveting those sweet CMTS trucker hats all year and the lure of a super rare limited edition 50/50 finisher's hat of my very own was too strong to resist. I suppose I'm a sucker for a sharp looking accessory. 

Chloe: Did you feel ready, how did you prepare for this?

Marie: I ran White River this year and finished third in my age category, so I felt confident my training was sufficient. My training was not without many visits to my physiotherapist but it was consistent. I ran three to four days per week, with one or two long runs. All of these runs were with my running mates and trusty dog Marlee. I biked to work twice per week and went to several spin classes. I also lift weights four days a week along with core-specific training. I changed my diet just over a year ago, leaning towards a vegetarian plan and juicing. This change helped to provide more energy and nutrients; it took two hours off my 100 km time.
I was forced to change my footwear to Saucony from Asics because they changed the model I was previously using. Paul Slaymaker, the owner of the Runners Den in Port Moody helped me with this decision and the fit.
Gail Forshaw, an accomplished ultra runner whom I’ve had the pleasure of training with for years, has taught me how to endure distances from 50 km up to 100 miles and helped me prepare for this 50/50.

Andy: I've felt good about my training all year, with everything falling into place. I'd been ramping things up since winter, first with DiezVista 50k, then the Vancouver100 and now the 50/50, all leading up to Pine to Palm. I've avoided injury and stayed super consistent with my training. I don't follow a traditional training plan - I realized years ago, these just add stress to my life, so I simplified.
My work and parental responsibilities allow me two full-days a week (during the school year) to run as much as I want, and I can sneak-in a long run early Saturday or Sunday. My long runs are anywhere from three to six hours, with the occasional all-day peak bagging or backcountry mission. Lots of hills, and quick shorter runs here and there. I don’t have lofty race goals other than just doing it. If I was more competitive or something, I'd change things up but as it stands, I'm happy to continue as is.
In terms of preparation of my nutrition and fueling, my mainstays are always almonds and dates. Along with that, I packed some avocado, a couple Eat More chocolate bars, a couple granola bars and I had a burrito in my drop bag at Quest for the fifty mile day.
For the 50k day I just ate aid station food and my granola bars. The first day, I had mostly just water in my bottles and the second day I started with watered down mango/carrot juice and topped it up throughout the day with everything from aid station Heed to creek water. Like most people, I drink Coke at aid stations but never in real life.
On the 50 mile day, I wore my old school Nathan double bottle belt, and on 50 km day I had a single handheld bottle and a smaller bottle tucked in the waist of my shorts that I used for dumping creek water on my head. I planned to wear the shoes I had been training in, but they had a critical failure and blew apart on a peak bagging mission to Mount Capilano a week before the race. So I wore a brand new pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.0's straight out of the box. It should have been horrible, but it was great! You know the old saying, "Nothing new on race day... except for the most important piece of gear."

Chloe: So, how did it go?

Marie: Race day was only one sleep away and I was lined up, to get my race package and it was that moment I felt nervous for the first time. I started doubting myself and questioning my training and fake injuries were popping up in my legs as the line moved forward. This happens all the time pre-race and funny thing is each time these fake injuries seem so real. I wondered if I'd get blisters, if my IT band would hold, if my ankle would swell again etc... it would be interesting to know what goes on in all runners heads in the package pick up line.
So back to my hotel to eat my pre-race meal of steamed yams, parsnips, sweet potatoes and carrots with some BBQ chicken and salmon. I slept well and was at the start line with no (real) injuries. I put myself at mid pack as usual and let the speedsters go. I knew what was ahead and wanted to conserve my energy for the first big climb of the day.
The weather held up and gave me hope that the blisters would not get me. As we all ran through these incredible trails of Squamish I began running with a woman who was attempting her first 50 miler. We ran together for most of the day and exchanged stories which helped pass the time.
Lots of roots and rocks to climb or jump over which made this course to me extremely difficult. At the second last aid station, I ran with a different woman who had travelled from Arizona. I always find it more memorable to run "with" someone in any race. I simply called her Arizona as we tackled the rest of the day. She pushed me on the flats and I helped haul her butt up the hills. It seemed to be working for both of us. As we finished the 50 miles we made a promise to both show up the next morning for the 50 km.
The 50 mile day went as well as hoped, meeting new people, sharing stories, and finishing healthy. I went back to my hotel and jumped in an ice bath and drank tea. After 20 minutes of torture in the bath, I forced down my pre-race meal, drank a litre of E-Load and went to bed. Slept like I’d run 50 miles, woke up, oatmeal, peanut butter bagel, and headed to the 50 km start.
There was Arizona as promised, so I knew this day might work-out. We stuck together throughout this very difficult course pulling at each other when needed. It made a real difference having that camaraderie. This was one of the most difficult courses I've ever run. Thankfully the weather was nice to help make the finish line more of a possibility. Arizona (Kristina Sladi) and I crossed the finish together to tie for third place. We were very happy it was over and Gary was waiting with a big hug for both of us.

Andy: I can say it now that it’s over without jinxing myself: I had two completely perfect days.
My friend James Clarke and I arrived in Squamish on Friday night, picked up our bibs, goody bags, and stopped at the jar store for cooking lagers then to Alice Lake and set up camp. I fried up beans and rice, ate burritos, drank wobbly pops and was snuggly in my sleeping bag by 9:30pm. The morning was as customary, coffee blended with butter and coconut oil, a banana and peanut butter for breakfast, though really missing my Vitamix.
The 50 miler start line was dark, I was seated at the back and didn't get chance to see friends or international superstars. Gary Robbins gave our pre-race talk and the man who started ultra running in Squamish, Paul Cubbon, the first race director for SQ50 (originally STORMY) did a strip tease of all the race shirts since 2001.
I intentionally started off slower than what felt right. I trotted along the first 10k or so, eventually catching up to friends, enjoying the easy pace and conversation. Linda Barton-Robbins, a wealth of knowledge and experienced with long races was with me. I knew our normal pace to be similar, so I was keeping her within sight. We passed the first aid station, dropped off headlamps, said hi to volunteering friends and headed into serious trails. I got ahead on the first descent too quick, but dialed it back.
I breezed through sections of the courses, where, last year I suffered and was in trouble with blisters or other issues too early into the race. At Quest, I sat and ate a burrito with avocado. I purposefully took my time fueling up knowing the next section to be brutal. The plan for the 50 mile day was to make it in one piece to the next day’s start.
Things rolled nicely on. Because I did most of the orientation runs and ran the race two years in a row, it felt I had good knowledge of the course.
The only real problem was with peeing, because I wasn't. At aid station seven, I got expert help from the We Run Mas crew, who sat me down and forced me to drink a bunch of water and Heed and ... one large, freezing cold can of German radler! Before I knew it, I was in Gary's loving arms "nice work" to which I replied "only 50k to go..."
The next day’s 50k start was nice because it was light and we could see faces of friends and international superstars. Right from the start we formed a great back-of-the-pack 50/50s group consisting of myself, James, Linda and Paul.
We took it out super mellow, shooting the breeze and laughing at how ludicrous this was. We stuck together until Galactic, where James and I started passing people on the way up and a tonne on the way down. I couldn't believe how great I was feeling. When we got to "SLOW! DANGER!" signs, we pretended they meant that going slow was dangerous so we bombed it and had a blast.
I felt like a champ as I hit the final road section “looking good, only one kilometre to go,” said the course marshal. A couple seconds later, I heard behind me “looking good, only one kilometre to go!” I turned around there was a fresh looking 50/50 runner right on my heels, then passing me. Another quick shoulder check and there was YouTube sensation The Ginger Runner. “No way,” I told myself, “No Californian is getting me, not now...” And so I put the proverbial hammer down and finished my race strong, proud, sore, tired, happy and ready to run a hundred miles in a month.
I gave Gary a second stinky, sweaty hug in as many days and finally got my new hat.

Photo by Elaine Fung 

Chloe: What top tips do you have for others who are considering this race?

Marie: This race was very well run and the volunteers were great. I would recommend this race for sure. I had no down moments the entire race during both distances as I was not afraid to DNF. I didn't over think or become too worried about any one thing. I decided to trust my training and just embrace the day. I respect all courses but this one deserves more respect. I welcomed the challenge and was fortunate that all went very well. This would be my advice for anyone doing the 50/50 race.

Andy: If you are not afraid of demanding, technical, unforgiving days in the mountains you won't be disappointed with the 50/50. Everything about the race is top class. If you're not a cyborg like Michael Wardian, my number one tip is to start slow. There's basically no time for recovery between races. Don’t blow-up on day one or you’ll be part of the 50% attrition rate. Stop and fix problems before they start. Take that rock out of your shoe.
Big thanks to: Gary, Geoff and everyone involved with the race and behind the scenes. James Clarke, my camping comrade and race day co-conspirator. Major hi5s to the We Run Mas crew. I could never do any of this stuff without the support of my awesome loving family Jen and Sam. 

Andy's Blog: