It's significant that I didn't refer to this as a 'race report'. I feel that there was just so much happening over the weekend up in Squamish, that my own race was just a small chapter in the amazing Squamish50 weekend. Gary, Geoff, and their ENTIRE team have created one of the best weekend/festival/races that I have ever been a part of. With a film festival, 50 mile, 50km, 23km, and a kids race, the Squamish50 has evolved into a pretty special event, one which I thoroughly enjoyed. So...here is how the weekend unfolded from my perspective;
Friday morning, Jodi and the girls and I headed up to Squamish (we have the luxury of staying with my best friend Will and Cristina whenever we are in Squamish). I managed to get out for a couple of light shake-out runs (yes, two), while keeping my feet up for the most of the day. That evening, Will and Eric Carter put together their (now) annual pasta dinner at Will's house. It's a fun, low-key get together, which also happens to usually include many of the top finishers of the next days events. This year, along with Nick and myself, Mike Foote and Jeremy Wolf also swapped stories with us and had a few laughs over dinner . Some friends of ours from the Island, Norm Thibault and Wendy Simms also had time to swing by. Their kids (Tycho and Tessa), and my girls really added to the entertainment that evening...
Saturday morning I woke up ready to race. Will (crewing for me) delivered me to the start line, and before the sun came up we were all sent off to tackle the 50 mile course. As expected, the first 15km was very casual. Running with headlamps for more than the first hour, there were probably 6 or 7 of us that arrived into Alice Lake together (me, Nick, Mike, Jeremy, Chris, Felipe...). I was feeling smooth and strong, and was really enjoying the company as we weaved our way towards the Corners Aid Station. Nick and I had been casually alternating the lead through some slightly over-grown single track, and I just happened to be at the front when it happened; I kicked something with my right foot and immediately hit the ground...HARD! I just didn't see it. I was sort of fiddling with a water bottle in my hand, and I obviously wasn't watching closely enough, I slammed flat onto my right side, with my right elbow tucked between the ground and my ribs. I hit so hard that both Nick and Mike stopped to make sure I was ok. After a few gasps to try and get my breath back, I slotted in behind the two of them as we continued on to Corners. I was scraped up, but adrenaline was blocking some of the damage, and I wasn't about to lose focus on the task at hand.
We stuck together for the next loop, ending up back at the Corners aid station (second time through) where we all refilled on supplies. At that point, four of us (Nick, Mike, Chris, and I) started to pull away. We all hit the big climb up Galactic together...but that's where Nick just immediately disappeared up the trail. I kept my effort controlled, sticking to my own plan, as Mike also went past me up. My plan was to match my splits from last year up to Quest, then to really start racing and finish stronger than last year). Following Nick and Mike just didn't make sense, so I had no problem with letting them go. Chris was with me to the top of Galactic, and for a good chunk of the descent too. I felt smooth and controlled running downhill, and knew that I was catching back up to Mike, but I was also becoming a bit more aware of some sore spots from my wipe out, especially my right big toe and my ribs
And then it happened...again. As the route transitioned onto a fire road (before Word of Mouth), I hit something with my right foot...again!! UUUGGGHHH. I went down on my right side...again. This time I was bit slower to get back up, but Chris was close behind so I couldn't lick my wounds for too long. The next few kms were sort of foggy (my head, not the weather); I was pretty sore, but still running quick, and I managed to pull away from Chris and to catch Mike. It's here where I feel I made a tactical mistake. In hind sight, I probably should have tried to put some time on Mike before getting to Quest, especially knowing how strong he was climbing. Instead though, once I caught him, I put in it in neutral for a bit. My logic was that I could take some time to recover from my falls, but I think the opposite happened. When I took my foot off the gas I became more aware of some of the damage. Plus, that's also where I began to fall off the pace from last year.
Mike and I came into the Quest aid station together, but he left just ahead of me as I took some extra time time swap shoes (thinking ahead for racing the 50km the next day). Similar to the Galactic climb, he pulled away from me as I took it at my own pace. I knew that Nick was gone off the front (unless a major incident), so now I was just chasing Mike. I had made up some good time coming down into Quest, so I assumed that I could make up the deficit again when we dropped down to the Far Side aid station. Unfortunately, my body had a different plan than my brain. As I topped out on Climb trail and started down AM, I began to feel like I had been hit by a car. I had lost all of my usual DH flow; I wasn't seeing the trail very well, and I was guarding my right side. Somewhere on STP I took another small stumble, which took any remaining wind out of my sails. By the time I strolled into the Far Side aid station I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and had given up the fight for 2nd place. I had switched into 'damage control', thinking ahead to the 50km the next morning.
Then...Just what I didn't want to hear, but really what I needed to hear...Will (and Eric) told me that Chris was taking some time back on me. I had no idea if it was true, or how close he was, but I turned my focus back onto the race that I was currently in. I began to run strong again. I put in a really solid effort for the next hour, and only took my foot off the gas with about 2km to go (turns out that Chris struggled a bit at the end and I had a bigger gap on him than I thought). I crossed the line in 3rd, more than 30 minutes behind Nick, and about 9 behind Mike. There was no way anyone was beating Nick...he put in a world class performance. I would have liked to have stayed mentally strong and had a better battle with Mike, but it just didn't happen that way. Even without my crashes, who's to say the outcome would have been any different. I wasn't willing to admit it beforehand, but knowing I had 50km to run the next day took some of the sharp edge off how I would normally attack a race.
I've taken more than my share of crashes while on the trails. Most of the bad ones have been while pinning it downhill on two wheels. I'm actually quite adept at the old 'tuck and roll' move. When I hit the ground (for the first time) on Saturday, I did no tucking and no rolling...I just packed it straight into the dirt. It's amazing how hard the ground feels when you aren't able to convert forward momentum into angular momentum (i.e.. rolling out of a fall). I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon in a fair bit of pain, but I hadn't given up on starting the 50km until early Sunday morning. It was actually a conversation with Will the previous evening that made a real impact. I have a history of doing things (for various reasons, which we don't need to get in to here) that are truly self-sabbotaging. When I was hobbling around at 3:00am Sunday morning, feeling like I had been hit by a car, I realized that there were very slim odds that anything good would come from me racing the 50km. I made the right choice, and stayed on the sidelines for round two.
One of the positives of not racing though, is being able to enjoy watching and cheering. Cristina (Will's better half) was tackling her first 50km, and I was really excited to help crew for her. I have been coaching Cristina for about the last 6 months in preparation for this race, so I was definitely emotionally invested in how it went for her. Will and I hopped around the course throughout the morning, and witnessed Cristina execute a pretty much perfect race. She hit a home run, nailing both her nutrition and pacing, and steadily worked her way into the top ten women. It was really fun to spend some time at the finish line too. I got to see a lot of friends come across, and to swap stories about how things went out there. Jodi and the girls and I packed up and headed home mid-afternoon (avoiding most of the traffic). Both of us were totally wiped, but thoroughly satisfied with the weekend. I really can't overstate how great the entire Squamish50 weekend went off. Thanks so much to all the volunteers that put in time to make it happen. I'll be shooting Gary an email, once the smoke clears, to sign up for next year. My girls have sent in a request too for next year...a longer kids race (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree).