Thursday, August 20, 2009

STORMY 100!

After a half day (Wednesday) of driving from Seattle to Whistler with stops including, but not limited to, Whidbey Island and Squamish, followed by a full day (Thursday) of hiking and adventuring on Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain, Friday morning came early.

(just prior to the start, Rachael probably wanted one last photo just in case)

Rachael & I woke up at 6am with hopes of being on the road by 7am, with an hour of winding, construction worker filled hi-way in front of us, I wasn't willing to take any chances on being on time. All went as planned, and by 8am-ish we were in Squamish with more than enough time to spare. We briefly visited a park on the shores of Howe Sound, located the hotel for future reference, then bummed around near the starting line for a brief bit of time.

(off we go! - photo by one of Thomas Villalon's crew)

At 10am, after a short briefing, I and 29 others (I believe) headed out of the camp ground and down the road. Early on I ran at a very slow comfortable pace, chatting with many as miles ticked off. I enjoyed early parts of the course, especially some of the forest that seemed to completely hide in residential back yards, but for the most part the first 22 miles of so went by quickly and, in truth, felt more like half that distance, I felt fresh and was still raring to go.

(early on with still plenty of (s)miles left... see what I did there... - photo by Bruce Grant)

For the next 8 miles or so, I ran in the company of an alternating group of the same 6 runners, lots of laughs were shared and the time felt less like a race and more like a little jaunt with friends despite the fact that I knew none of them by name. Eventually the little gang did dispersed though and I found my self running alone en route to the Powerhouse aid station. At Power house I once again nibbled and picked on PB&Js, jelly beans, and various other treats, then went off to begin the long trek up 9 mile hill (which in reality is only 6 miles, but still).

(Myself and Thomas, one of 'the gang' easing back down from the University aid station - photo by one of Thomas Villalon's crew)


9 mile hill is 6 miles (I know, I know) of dirt road with plenty of small rock and divots, the majority of the 6 miles is up hill and uncovered, thankfully most of the day was overcast, and thus I was spared by the sun. At the end of 9 mile hill was another aid station, 37 miles into the race, where I was told there would be 'just a little more up hill and then a bunch of down,' as good of news as this was that little bit of up hill sure seemed like a lot more. When the down hill did finally appear the fist good chunk of it was very runnable and very fast but when the Powerhouse plunge came I was forced to pull the e-brake. The plunge is technical, steep, and would scare me to death if I were on a bike (this video does a good job of showing why), though I must admit, with a little more juice in the tank, I bet it was be a blast to rip down it as it was pretty fun still pretty fun some 42 miles in!

As I neared some where around mile 45 or so dusk was beginning to set in and I busted out a flash light. Those first few miles by flash light were a lot of fun but right after the aid station at mile 46.25 I had a moment of dread, it wasn't the dark that was messing with my head, it was the climbing, I was fine with it right there and then but knowing I'd be seeing it again with ~4 miles left made me cringe.

Around 10:30pm I came into the half way point (also the start & finish) greeted by Racahel & a host of wonderful volunteers offering pizza(!!!), coffee(!!!), and a whole other slew of goodies and treats. Rachael fetched my drop bag and filled up my water pack for me as I quickly slipped into a fresh shirt and pair of shorts, I then proceeded to plop down, eat, and chat. After a few minutes Rachael asked me how long I planned on staying, I told her that I knew a few guys were right behind me and that I wanted to wait for them to head out into the dark with. Those two guys, Gilles and John were experienced on the course and great company to run with, we ended up sticking together the entire evening until the sun finally started to reappear. One of the great benefits of running with these two, besides the company, was Gilles wife was working the Perth aid station which meant friendly smiles, Frappuccinos (!), orange juice (!) and many more goodies that I can't swear were available to all runners! I appreciated all 3 of their presence greatly and I hope I made that abundantly clear to them.

I was once again on my own after the 4th pass of the University aid station with nothing of real interest to note between there and the 3rd pass of the Powerhouse aid station. In fact, all I can really recall about those 3+ miles is that at one point I mistook a log for a photographer, Rachael tells me this qualifies as a hallucination, but I think I was just bleary eyed (and that the damn log really looked like a crouched person with camera in hand).

After a quick stint at Powerhouse I once again went to begin the climb up 9 mile hill, just prior to heading up a car pulled over slowly on the dirt road and rolled down the window. I recognized the driver as a runner I had been talking to earlier in the run, I said 'Hi' and asked him if he had already finished (which, at least seemed like a reasonable question at the time), he informed me that, sadly, he had needed to drop due to blisters, I offer my condolences, we wished each other well, and then up I went. During my climb I thought to myself, 'wow those blisters must have been bad, I can't imagine how bad they'd have to be to drop; boy I sure am glad my feet are feeling good.' Famous last thoughts, I now know, with in 15 minutes I could feel numerous hot spots and blisters, and, of course, it seemed with each step I was bound to peg one of them. I began moving slower and slower until, at one point, I looked up and saw another runner a few hundred yards ahead of me, I decided to make it my goal to catch up which I eventually did. That runner was Nate who I stuck with, off and on, almost up until the 2nd plunge, once again, his company and conversation were invaluable!

Once I got back to Powerhouse for the last time I requested some Mole Skin in order to help take some pressure off the blisters. Better than mole skin, I was directed to a search and rescue
volunteer who proceeded to to bandage and wrap my feet as best as possible, though the time it took to do this was a bit longer than I would have liked to stay there, it was the right move and I'm extremely grateful for the help, it made the last 7 miles that much more bearable.

(mile 98 - that counts as a smile, right? - photo by Bruce Grant)

From powerhouse to the finish, things went slowly but I was once again moving with determination, picking up my pace when ever possible and taking stock of the entire experience. As I pined for the finish line, there was a small part of me that wasn't ready for it to be over and a large part that was brimming with joy, but then, there were also my feet...

(finally coming across the finish line - 29:53:05, 21st out of 22 finishers, 29 starters - photo by Rachael)

I came into the finish line 'still smiling' greeted by the cheers of many a fellow Marathon Maniac,various others I've meet through running, and many there to support 'their' runners. The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent eating, talking, eating, drinking, eating, and sleeping (with an ice bath and shower thrown in for good measure).

(all I ever really wanted - photo taken from http://brendaontherun-banffandbeyond.blogspot.com/)

In the end, as much as this was a big deal to me, I walked away with the same feelings I have at the end of most ultras, that was great(!), what fun(!), when do I get to do this again!?! The biggest difference to me is now those thought include other 100 mile races!

Extras:
  • Finish time 29:53:05, 21st out of 22 finishers, 29 starters.
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you to Rachael for putting up with all of this and so much more, Wendy the race director and all the wonderful volunteers, and to everyone I shared the trails with, I can't wait to run with you all again!
  • See more photos from the rest of the Canadian trip here
  • STORMY's web site

7 comments:

Bozót said...

Congrats! What an awesome race!
As for your thoughts at the end of the race, I tend to feel the same.
Hope to share a trail some day :)

the sewing chatter box said...

Well truth be told, those goodies were a bit of a secret stash intended for the hubby, his friend and anyone in need of caffeine or extra goodies. You 3 seemed appreciative so you got some both the 3rd &4th time you saw me. It was lots of fun!!!What's next??

the sewing chatter box said...

Well truth be told, those goodies were a bit of a secret stash intended for the hubby, his friend and anyone in need of caffeine or extra goodies. You 3 seemed appreciative so you got some both the 3rd &4th time you saw me. It was lots of fun!!!What's next??

Joanne said...

That is a huge accomplishment and I'm super proud of you! Great pics too - looks like a place we'll have to go some day with our little family...sans the insane running part. ;)

shawn said...

Congrats on your first 100 Nic. See you around for many more. Those pics of your and Rachaels's trip to Whistler beautiful.

Aaron Cunningham said...

Great race report for an amazing race. An awful lot of smiles for having finished a 100 miles. I'm very impressed.

Thomas said...

Way to take the ultrarunning scene by STORM, Nic! Congratulations, you made it look easy too ;) More importantly, I admire you for using this as an avenue to raise awareness for your cause. Good man. I plan to sign up as a BM donor.