The saying of the day… WHAT THE F!!!
Well, Angela and I did it! We found out what was worse than Horton miles… Canadian miles!!
Angela convinced me to sign up for this point-to-point 100-miler in Canada – the Fat Dog 100. This course is run on “non-technical trails” in remote mountain settings outside of Vancouver. They gave runners 38 hours to go the distance, a time we were led to believe was very attainable… especially since the course ascended and descended 17500’ a piece. I’m in!! We got our passports, convinced Brian to join us girls on another trip, and headed for the border.
Unfortunately, that border delayed us long enough to miss the mandatory race briefing and bag drop off. What was supposed to be a relaxed meet n greet with our fellow runners, while methodically packing our drop bags turned into a frantic stuffing of bags (hopefully the right stuff in the right places!!) while the contents of our suitcases were spilled all over the side street. The RD, Peter, and volunteers were so patient with us, which gave us a great first impression of the people we’d come in contact with over the next few days.
The race started on a narrow wooden bridge at 4AM on Friday, to the sound of what I thought was a firework… but in actuality was a bear bomb. We were off!! After a few run steps, we were soon reduced to a hike up, up, and up some more. The first hour or so was in the dark, but we were soon greeted by the appearance of the sun over the mountaintop. It was a beautiful sight. We ran on tree-covered trail, we ran on exposed mountainsides, we hopped over mini-streams, we slugged through mud pits, we hopped over large rocks… just about all the way on singletrack. There were muddy sections, which I tended to always find, regardless of how hard I tried to avoid them.
The knees took a beating early on as we headed down a long downhill leading to the 27K aid station. The trail was on a slope with soft dirt that seemed to give way when you tried to run… so I was constantly twisting my knees.
The river crossing was such a sight for sore knees. We crossed this rushing river, with crotch-deep, cool and refreshing water. As we made our way across the rope, we had to fight the rocks and the current that tried to push you down stream.
After crawling out of the water, it was along Hwy 3 to our second drop bag at 54K. The time? 3PM!! 11 hours to go 54K!! What the F?!?! Angela and I each got a nice pick me up at this aid stop… as Brian was patiently waiting for us to help us continue on our way. After filling the camelback and letting me pose for a few pictures, I was on my way with a little extra spring in my step.
Unfortunately, that high didn’t last too long, as I totally bonked along the next 16K. I was dead man walking up the climb to the next aid station. No energy and pretty nauseous, I tried to eat and drink at the remote 70K aid station. Some soup, some Coke, and a nice rock to sit on was much welcomed. Still feeling like death, I continued on… knowing I would eventually come around.
The setting sun and cooler temps did the trick. My motivation was to see Nicomen Lake in the day light, since the picture on the website reminded me a lot of this serene lake (Waterdog Lake) that Brad, Cassie, and I got to hike to in Colorado. I just made it to the area overlooking the lake as the sunlight faded to the west and the near full moon rose to the east. The scenery couldn’t have been more perfect! Despite how bright the moon was (I was continually mistaking it for other runners headlamps), when I turned my light off in the woods… I could not see my hand in front of my face. Man, did I hope the batteries in my flashlight held out!! Hearing the highway in the distance was a welcome sound… something you will rarely hear me say – but it meant that I was getting close to the point I got to pick up my tough pacer, Brian. 106K in 22 ½ hours! What the F?!?!
Daylight came a few hours later… which meant a new lease on energy – but more heat of the day. Lucky for us, the next 30K didn’t have too many nasty climbs… so Brian and I ran/walked along. The quiet of the trail was so refreshing. The only sounds you heard were the birds, my heavy breathing… and the intermittent yelps from Brian each time we came across a pile of bear crap on the trail.
We were so pumped to see the last manned aid station at 136K… meaning we had about 16 miles to go. Unfortunately, those last miles were mostly climbing and it was taking people 6 – 7 hours to get through. OK, no problem… we made it this far. What’s one more climb???
This climb was the mother of all climbs. We were told that a water drop would be at the halfway point… so it gave Brian and I something to set our sights on. The switchbacks were constant and killer… and you did not know what direction the course would take you, which pass the trail would take you over… so you could head to the lake at the finish. You thought you knew the way, but then the trail switchbacked away from where you thought. The sun was beating down on us, the climbs got steeper, the curse words became more frequent, Brian and I were both seeing some crazy stuff on the trail (from Schwann’s trucks to guys laying in the middle of the trail to guys sitting on lawn chairs on top of rocks… from bears to bighorn sheep – all of which ended up just being rocks or stumps once we got closer). We were 5 ½ hours into this 8-mile segment, with still no sight of the supposed water drop.
We came across a group of hikers who cheered us on and informed us that the water was “only” 30 minutes away. Thirty minutes away?!?! What the F!! Thirty minutes was still a long way, but at least we had an idea of where that water was. We turned a bend around the 30-minute mark, when AAHHHHH…. WATER!! We filled up our water, I made Brian get up from his nice shaded seating area… and we were off for the final stretch.
Unfortunately, the trail still had a few more inclines for us. The trail HAD to take us up each of the remaining mountainsides overlooking Lightning Lake and the finish line. The final downhill section started off pretty rough, with steep descents along loose rocks and dirt… but eventually gave way to a nice pine-lined, soft-packed trail with a smooth descent. Ah, relief!
We come out at lake level, ran around Lightning Lake, and were greeted by the applause and cheers of Angela, the RDs, the volunteers, and fellow racers. It was an awesome way to finish… with the Peter (the RD) there to congratulate you with a hug and lots of praise.
What an experience… what a tough experience… but what memories! We were taken care of so well by all the volunteers, some of whom had to hike in several miles to set up their aid stations and deal with countless bugs. All the volunteers spent way more time than anticipated to tend to all us runners. The RDs were such motivation each time we saw them, and were at the finish line to congratulate you by name. Total strangers were extremely generous with advice, good cheer, and Canadian loonies to park at certain aid stations. What a great bunch of people! You couldn’t ask for a better experience. We definitely got our money’s worth for this race… as it is estimated to be around 30K over the 100 miles advertised. Phew!
Swollen feet, swollen tendons, swollen calves, swollen knees, blistered toes… but I still have a smile on my face! Who’s up for this next year?!?!