Squamish 50k 2019: That One Perfect Day

In running, it's really unusual for everything to perfectly fall into place on race day. Getting to the start line healthy is hard enough, never mind how your training block goes leading up to the race. Even if those pieces both align, on the day itself there are myriad factors that are out of your control that can throw a wrench into even the best-laid race plans: weather can be awful, trails can be in rough shape, your stomach or legs or mind can rebel on you. 

The Squamish 50 this year was that rare ... dare I say, unicorn of races for me. I had my perfect day, and I am honestly still trying to process everything that happened.
For 3 years I have said (quietly, and only to Brendan and a couple close friends) that if I had the perfect race I was sure I could run 6:15 on the Squamish 50k course. I've experienced so many setbacks training for this race over the last 6 years, but in the 4 years I have managed to run it, I've improved my finish time each attempt by quite a lar…

Chuckanut 50k 2019: Snow, Mud, and Mastering Weaknesses

This was my third time running the Chuckanut 50k, and it never gets any easier (or any less fun). Chuckanut is a different breed of course, as ultras go - the first and last 10k are relatively flat running along the Interurban trail in Bellingham, which leaves all of the 1500+m of climbing in the middle 30k of the race. There is only one technical trail: the Chuckanut Ridge trail, which is a really fun, rooty and rocky ribbon of singletrack that, as the name suggests, traverses a ridge with great views of Mt Baker on a clear day. There is one abominable dirt road that climbs relentlessly for about 4k (the dreaded Cleator Rd), and one mile-long steep but mostly runnable climb trail called Chinscraper. Apart from that the trails are smooth, flowy up and down switchbacks and wide rolling double track. In other words, there is LOTS of variation, which keeps it really interesting and evens the playing field in different ways - there aren't that many runners who excel at all of those di…

WAM 110k 2018: DNF (Do Not Feel sorry for me)

I've read a lot of "DNF" (Did Not Finish) blogs over the years. Lots of soul-searching, introspective, sometimes regretful, tales of understandingly heart-wrenching decisions to call it quits on a race. 

This is not one of those blogs. More of a comedy than a drama really, with some blood, sweat, snow, rain, and mud, but no tears. 

Just to be clear - I did call it quits on the WAM 110k, at about 60k into the race. But not even a little piece of me thinks it was the wrong decision. This was one of those rare instances that my friend Tory calls "the Happy Drop". Let me explain.

For the first half of this race, I ran well. I was taking it very easy, eating regularly, drinking plenty, and having fun despite fairly terrible conditions. It was raining, although mercifully not at the start - it started drizzling about 2-3 hours in and then got progressively heavier for the next few hours. Once we passed the snow line on Whistler at about 1800 metres, it was essentially s…

Squamish 50k 2018: A Finish Line 5 Years in the Making

The Squamish 50 is my favourite running event of the year, and holds a special place in my heart. Two days after I moved to Squamish in August 2013, I went on my first run on the trails and ended up in the middle of the 50 mile race by mistake. Intrigued, I looked up the event and decided to have a go at the 50k race in 2014. I ran that race as my first ultra, despite my life being upended by a breast cancer diagnosis and the subsequent surgery 3 months before the race. I came away with a time of 7h12, a huge, instant love for the sport and the trail running community, and the drive to improve on that time.
I trained hard through the next winter and spring, after undergoing and recovering from the final step in my treatment, a bilateral mastectomy. I was feeling great for the 2015 race, until I broke my wrist and did some soft tissue damage to my knee in a bike crash in late July. I barely ran for the 5 weeks leading up to the 50k, and was unsure whether I should run it with a broken w…

Follow the Yaks: Trekking the Langtang Valley in Nepal

Brendan and I have returned home from a month of travels, the highlight of which was an eight day hike in Nepal's Langtang Valley. Only 120 km from Kathmandu, Langtang is a lesser-known trekking area, as compared with popular routes like Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Circuit. Despite its proximity to the capital city, the drive to the trailhead takes 6-7 hours, owing to the road being essentially a one lane, muddy, deeply rutted jeep track that winds up and down mountainsides. The valley is remote, but is still a "tea-house" trek, meaning that the trail goes through tiny villages where mountain lodges can house and feed you for the night, so there is no need to carry camping gear. We planned a fairly aggressive hiking itinerary, hoping to cover a lot of ground in the somewhat limited time that we had available, while still making sure to enjoy the journey and leave adequate time to acclimatize to the altitude. After some back-and-forth, we convinced our wonderful gu…