Looking back to August 10th 2013, I see it as one of my biggest accomplishments in life. I will never forget the day my friend Dayna convinced me it was somehow a good idea to sign up to run a 50km race. I only had one marathon under my belt, and had only been really trail running for about six months. But Dayna’s infectious smile and enthusiasm convinced me that yes, 50km would be an awesome plan. Having only just began distance running, it was still difficult for me to comprehend what my body and mind were capable of. Our training for this race found me on many runs close to, or over the 40km distance. It boggled my mind to be running well over a half marathon, and darn well close to a marathon almost every weekend for months. These training runs started putting it all into perspective for me. Over the past year I had become so much stronger than I ever thought I could. I think this is why we stress so much on Run Like A Girl that you can truly do anything you set your mind to. A year ago if you told me I would be running a 50km, crazy trail race, I would have told you that you were crazy. Now it looks like I am the crazy one!
After months of training for this race we made our way to the start line. Courtney and I took the early start, due to the heat forecast… 28 degrees Celsius. The start line was bursting with energy. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces, new friends we had met along the way through training, and even people from our community! We took photos, shared our fears and our excitements, and then headed behind the giant Arc’teryx start line to listen to the race briefing. The race started at 8:00am sharp and we ran through the start line and out on to the epic single track I knew lay ahead.
My goal for the race was just to finish. I started off easy through Alice Lake campsite, but the trails felt so good and so familiar that I started running quicker than I had anticipated right off the start. I told myself I had a VERY LONG run ahead of me and pace myself, but the excitement and nerves had converted me into a little ball of energy and I went dancing down the trail with a smile on my face. I saw my friend Spring ahead of me, and we paced each other through the four lakes trail. It was wonderful to run with a friend for the first part of the race. We had done a few training runs together on these same trails and it really helped calm my nerves. These trails are fantastically flowy, and great to get to a good pace on. I felt so good, my legs felt fine, and I was so happy. The weather could not have been better with the sun glimmering through the trees. I could feel the energy from the other runners, from the forest, from nature. I felt good. I tackled the first climb with strength and came to the stop smiling as I headed Ed’s bypass and Cliffs Corners. I let go on the corners, pretending I was on a mountain bike, ripping it up along the berms. I came to the first aid station and had my first drink of flat coke. Dayna had told us prior to the race: “my best advice for a 50km is to drink the Coke at ever aid station.” So I listened, and it was delicious.
I headed down the logging road at a steady pace, still with Spring. I kept telling myself that epic Scheisse climb was approaching. I knew what I was in for. I had done it before. It was about 5km of constant uphill, not so steep that you could not run it, but long enough that if you did not want to crawl across the finish line, you’d pace yourself. On a downhill section of the logging road Spring took off, she pounded her way down the hill and was gone. I was so excited for her, I knew she was a strong runner, and I figured her time climbing mountains would allow her to get up Scheisse well. Part way up the climb I ran with two girls, one was Sarah from Calgary who I had met that morning. We had been messaging each other back in forth on Run Like A Girl in anticipation of the upcoming race. We stuck together for a long time. I turned my music off, and got into a groove. Once we started our decent from the epic Galactic Scheisse, the trail reminded me that downhill isn’t always easier. Upperpower smart is a very challenging decent, it is technical and steep. I took it easy on this section, cautious not to roll an ankle.
After another aid station, I knew my favourite part of trail was ahead, Fred’s and Word of Mouth. I kept my music off and smiled my way down the soft cedar trail. With all the wood bridges, and epic trees, it felt like I was on Endor. I pretended I was on a speed bike escaping from Storm Troopers. (Okay, secrets out… I am a huge Star Wars geek) I then realized how close I was to Quest, and how close I was to half way! I was ahead of my anticipated time, and quickly texted my boyfriend to let him know I was only about 15 minutes away.
The aid station was Quest was fantastic. The volunteers were amazing and so helpful. One grabbed my hydration pack to fill it, another offered me a cold cloth. I mowed down on watermelon, chugged Coke, and then I was ready to tackle the last 25km! Sarah and I were still together at this point. We walked up the logging road together and headed towards the start of the Legacy climb. I knew that I had a long ways to go because I had done this part in a training run, but I didn’t realize we were going up the entire Legacy climb. At this point, my friend Kelsey was with me. When we crossed the logging road instead of going down it, I started swearing. I realized we would be doing the massive climb I had done in June at the CMTS survival of the fittest. Kelsey said to me “You’re scaring me!” And then, all of a sudden, like Christmas morning, or 1000 puppies, a Nesters Market truck appeared in front of me, with a man handing out FREEZIES. This might have been the happiest moment of my entire life. I smiled and giggled like a kid as I sucked the sweet, frozen sugar out of the wrapper. Suddenly I was not that upset about the Legacy climb! The first part of the climb was beautiful. I ran up and down rolling hills and over bridges in a beautiful forest. Then the trail emerged from the forest and the real climb began. I was faced with switch back after switch back. I got passed by a few of the 50 mile runners and we eagerly gave each other “good jobs” and “way to gos”. At the top of the switch back section, the sign for one of my favourite mountain bike trails “Full Nelson” was in front of me, and I desperately wished I had my mountain bike! At this point I was starting to go a little crazy. I had just seen a Gardner snake, and I am terrified of them. I then proceeded to “see” two more snakes, although they were only sticks. Luckily for me I caught another runner and we pushed each other up the never ending legacy climb. He told me his legs were really starting to cramp up, so I shared some of my electrolyte chews with him. Then, suddenly, there was a volunteer standing slightly ahead of us. She had a clip board and a smile on her face. I asked her desperately “Please say this is the top!” She smiled and said, “you’ve got one heck of a downhill section ahead of you!” Me and my new friend were ecstatic and went flying down angry midget with a renewed sense of energy and passion for running. We raced each other down the trail, navigating the technical downhill with confidence. The trail then spat us out onto a logging road. I bravely asked how many km we were at… about 34km. Awesome, only 16km left to go! The next aid station was full of runners. I downed Coke, munched on watermelon and splashed ice cold water on my face. Then I was off.
I was really familiar with the next section of trail and was able to get up Bonsai faster than I had expected. The heat of the day was really settling in and I knew the faster I climbed, the faster I would get back into the trees again. Somewhere Out There was an awesome section of trail, but at this point my IT band was really starting to hurt. I started cursing myself for running a marathon 6 days before. But honestly, the trail was just far too epic to be bitter on. It was flowy, with awesome wood fixtures, and the forest was beautiful. The trail then dumped me out onto a logging road. As soon as I get on roads, I feel I slow down, I have a lot of trouble running on straight, flat surfaces, so the road was a struggle. A truck drove passed me and tore up dust and dirt and I got very frustrated. Then, out of the dust I saw my dog Charlie, my boyfriend and my friend Adam! I was so amazed and happy to see them. I ran right up to Jesse and wrapped my arms around him. He then held my hand and power marched up the logging road hill with me. He was so amazingly encouraging and kept saying “Way to go babe, you are ripping it up!” At the aid station, he was even more amazing, as were the volunteers. I dumped cold water on my head, loaded up on watermelon and Coke and chatted with my friend David who was volunteering. He told me I only had 10km left and it was all downhill from here. Oh, if only he had been right.
Far side and farther side seemed to last forever. I started talking to myself, and my music. It was a total mental head game at this point. My IT band was really tight and my glutes were sore, but I just kept chanting to myself “Continuous forward motion”. My friend Liz had this written on her at the start of the race and I swear it is what kept me moving. I felt like I was moving so slowly, but all the matter is that was was moving forward. Anytime I passed, or got passed by another runner, we were instantly best friends, offering each other support. Finally I got to Mtn of Phlegm, the last big climb of the race. There was a strategically placed photographer at the top and I am sure he got a lovely photo of me just loving life. At the top was a beautiful view of Squamish, but I didn’t take the time to take it all in, I kept moving down Summer’s Eve and towards the Smokey Bluffs park. There are really, evilly steep stairs in the Smokey Bluffs, and they were very difficult to get down with my legs quivering like leafs every step I took. The trail out of the park took us to a road, and I walked. I could not run anymore. I knew I was close to the finish line, 2 kms close. But I could not run. I walked all the way down the road and to Rose Park. I then saw my friend Leslie, and she said that she had gotten so lost and had done the Legacy climb twice. She said “Hailey, lets finish this together, come on!” I had to tell her to keep going, I wasn’t ready to resume running. As she darted away from me, I dug deep. I had just ran 48km, I had to find something in me to keep going. I ran under the bridge and headed into town, finally running. I could hear the sounds of the crowd at the finish line and the announcers, but I knew I was still about 1 km away. I kept the emotions at bay and kept moving forward. The last stretch of the race was straight down a road along the train tracks. When I saw the crowd, my boyfriend, my friends, my dog, I started to run faster. The finish line was along the grass into a park with ribbons and then finally the big inflatable Arcteryx finish line. I literally screamed with joy, I threw my hands up in the air and sprinted across the finish line and into my brothers arms. He had surprised me at the finish line and he was standing there with a bouquet of flowers. (Major brownie points little brother!) It was my most emotionally finish line. Gary Robbins, the race director came and gave me a huge hug and told me he loved my energy as I crossed the finish line.
For the rest of the day I waited at the finish line as the rest of my friends crossed their respected finish lines. There were so many hugs and tears that day, the true essence of running was captured. It was amazing.