Elevating Expectations

I've been in BC for 8 months now, and am fully immersed in trail running. True to the expectation I expressed in my last post (which was - ahem - 8 months ago), my road shoes are gathering dust in the closet and I have committed to running the Squamish 50k trail race in August. I live about 100m from a trailhead that opens up into a never-ending network of trails through Western Coastal Hemlock forests and rugged mountain scenery. Since my first exploration run on these trails last August, I have ventured increasingly further into the wilds, running on single track mountain bike trails with hilarious and often daunting names like Entrails, Angry Midget, and Icy Hole of Death. On weekend long runs, I try to run sections of the race course to prepare myself, at least mentally, for what is to come. One trail, fittingly called Climb Trail, is a series of switchbacks that gains 500 m in elevation and takes me around 45 minutes to run up - this is hard enough at the beginning of a run, but the catch is that this trail comes after the halfway point of the 50k race. And, this isn't the big hill of the race - that would be the one that gains 700 m of elevation over a distance of 5 km. I can't train on that trail just yet, because the top sections are so high that they are still snow-covered. Here's the elevation profile for the course (that top peak is at 1000 m):
Yikes.
This trail training and ultra distance is a whole new ball game for me. I'm running more slowly than I ever have; my time goal for the race is to dip under 7 hrs, which sounds insane even to me. The mindset for a race like this is quite different from that for a road marathon - I always consider the last 10 km of a marathon to be running on sheer guts, but I have a feeling this entire race will be like that. It's completely a test of endurance, toughness, and tenacity: three attributes I like to think I possess, but which have never been tested quite like this before. In the long run, it will be another opportunity to learn more about myself and how I handle challenges - while running through 50 km of this beautiful and rugged landscape. A pretty good way to spend a morning, as far as I'm concerned.

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