2015 Squamish 50k Race Report

the chiefOn Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 I finished my first ultra marathon, The Squamish 50k..

Back in November of last year my boyfriend signed up for the Squamish 50 mile and so I clicked the button for the 50k without really doing much research, I just knew I wanted to run a 50k sometime at the end of the summer. I also ran my first marathon this summer, the Leadville Trail Marathon.

We arrived in Squamish on the Thursday before the race to do some exploring around town, drove to Alice Lake where I would be starting my race and went swimming at Brohm Lake further up highway 99. It was a great rest day but I could already start to feel the nervousness coming on. I ran the Leadville Marathon at the end of June, and didn’t do a whole lot of training for the 50k, besides a handful of mountain runs.

Alice Lake Provincial Park
Alice Lake Provincial Park
squamish campsite
Campsite at Klahanie Campground

Friday night we attended the Trails in Motion Film Festival with a lot of the other runners. I won a lifestraw for my birthday being on Monday after the race, which was awesome because I have been really wanting one. The films were very inspiring and I was really getting excited to get out there and run.

On Saturday morning Matt started the 50 mile race at 5:30am  and I watched him start in the dark and met him at the three aid stations I was allowed to go to. He did amazing and it was really fun to watch him and the other runners coming through, looking great and sometimes not so great. I was still feeling nervous but also excited to get out there and run!

Matt at the starting line of the 50 mile race
Matt at the starting line of the 50 mile race

Finally, Sunday morning came and I woke up early, ate my favorite race breakfast of pancakes and get ready to go. We drove to Alice Lake for the start and walked almost to the start line and I realized I forgot my watch in the car. I ran back to get it and made it back to the start just in time to line up. I felt really flustered and very very nervous for the day ahead. But as soon as I started running it all melted away.

The first three miles were nice and runnable. It was a great warm up for the rest of the day. We ran by a couple of lakes and the trails were beautiful through the mossy forest in the morning light. At mile 4 the first climb of the day began, and gave me an idea about the trails in Squamish. It was a steep climb up a small hill with tight switchbacks. On fresh legs it was a piece of cake. The top of the hill was more fun runnable singletrack to the first aid station. I ate a Honey Stinger Gold Gel, some watermelon and potato chips and kept moving.

1st aid
Just before the 1st aid station

The next mile was on a gravel road and I looked up at the large mountainside ahead knowing that was my next challenge. The next 3 or so miles was a huge, steep, relentless climb on a trail called Galactic Scheiss. My legs still felt decent and climbing is my strong suit, but it still sucked the life out of me for the last mile of the climb. I felt a twinge in my knee that I was very concerned about but I kept moving hoping that it would stretch itself out. Luckily, it did.

1st hill climb
On the way up the big climb on Galactic Scheiss
view from galactic
View from the climb up Galactic Scheisse

The next 3 miles to the second aid station were all just steep downhill over roots and rocks. I couldn’t believe people actually biked on this stuff! I felt like I was moving slower on the descent the ascent. Any of the people I passed on the ascent were now passing me, but there was no way I could move faster. Just before the aid station I ate another Honey Stinger gel, and then at the aid station I ate more fruit, potato chips and a Kate’s bar. Trying to be helpful the aid volunteers let us know that we had an “easy by Squamish standards” 5k to the Quest University aid station where Matt would be waiting for me with Shea.

trail overgrown
The trails were so beautiful!
Lots of cool bridges
Lots of cool bridges

The next 3 miles were anything but easy. It was a constant roll up and down, but it was through a really cool section of forest that I really enjoyed. My legs were already so trashed from the big climb but I knew I wasn’t even halfway yet so I just tried to ignore it and keep moving. Most of this section I ran alone with no one around and it was really peaceful. I felt like I was just out on a run by myself.

At Quest there was a big crowd and lots of delicious aid station food. It was starting to get hot so I went over the shady section and was too afraid to sit down because I figure I would never get up again but I added some more fuel to my pack that Matt had, gave him my longsleeve shirt and headlamp that I had started with and ate a ton of food. The salted potatoes were a favorite and I never thought pickles would sound good at an aid station but boy were they tasty! Matt reminded me that the next part of the course was the toughest and that the switchbacks would eventually end. I left feeling great and ready for the next climb. I wouldn’t see Matt again until the last aid station.

Looking worked at Quest Aid Station
Looking worked at Quest Aid Station
shut up legs
Yes. This sign definitely made me smile.

The next 5 or so miles were the most physically and mentally demanding of the entire race. The first part of the climb I felt great, I ate a couple more Honey Stinger gels and was cruising uphill. I passed some people climbing up with strong legs to a runnable section for maybe a half mile through the woods and then I hit the lowest of lows. The second part of the climbing was relentless switchbacks that seemed like we were climbing to the moon, they were never ending. I actually put up my middle fingers a few times and said out loud “f**king switchbacks” quite a few times. When it finally ended at mile 19.5, I was so happy until I started heading downhill into a steep, slippery mess. My mental state crumbled and I just wanted to cry because my legs hurt so bad. I was basically just hobbling downhill to the aid station.

trail
Before the evil switchbacks!

At the next aid station I ate a ton of food and used a sponge to soak my neck in cold water. That felt great and just the rejuvenation that I needed. I ran as much of the next section as I could but my legs were still in so much pain that I had to take some ibuprofen. The course was never flat, constant up and down. I felt good on the climbs but the descents were kicking my ass. I couldn’t wait to get to the final aid station and see Matt again.

sunny section

I crossed the bridge to the last aid station and was so happy to see Matt and Shea. I told him that the switchbacks almost killed me but I somehow survived and was ready to tackle the last 7 miles to the finish and be done. I ate a ton of food at the aid station, and wet my neck with the cold water again which was glorious and then took off.

last aid shea
So happy to see Shea!
The best watermelon of my life
The best watermelon of my life
awesome bridge
This was the best bridge

The last 10k of the race continued to be relentless up and down and but knowing that I was so close to the finish I found some energy to run when I could and walk quickly up the hills. I met another runner and stayed with her for awhile and the talking really helped to distract me from the pain in my legs. On the final climb to the top of the last hill I surged ahead. The final steep descent whopped my ass too with stairs at the bottom that I could barely walk down without gripping the railing very tight. We came out of the woods by the Smoke Bluffs climbing area and I made it a goal to run the rest of the way to the finish. It was flat and the sun was hot but I ran my fastest miles since the first few in these last 2 miles to the finish.

Officially an ultra runner!
Officially an ultra runner!

At the finish I was so excited to be done running, and also to officially be an ultra runner! It was a tough, dirty, beautiful race and I am so glad to be able to say I ran it. I met a ton of really awesome people throughout the weekend and will definitely be back to run in Squamish again someday!

fergies

The day after the race was my 25th birthday, so we went out to breakfast at Fergie’s which was so delicious!! Then we decided to go check out Whistler/Blackcomb for the day. We got beers and apps on the deck of a restaurant right in front of the mountain and then camped for the night before heading back to the states in the morning.

Celebratory Beers!
Celebratory Beers!
birthday carrot cake
Birthday Carrot Cake!