Showing posts with label FatDog120. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FatDog120. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fat Dog Race Course Profile - Updated for 2017

I just wanted to post an updated version of the Fat Dog race profile that I had made a few years ago (posted here with the GPX course files). The new version has crew access points added and some changes to various aid stations. Notably, Heather Aid Station is now 2km from the Bonnevier/Heather Junction on Bonnevier Trail. This is 2km closer than the original location at the junction, and several km closer than the location in recent years at Buckhorn Camp.

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (major/minor) and crew/pacer access points. T40/T48 times based on Ultrasplits pace chart. C times represent hard cutoff times from the Fat Dog Race Guide

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (major/minor) and crew/pacer access points, without all the pace or cutoff times.
 **Updated Aug 7, 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Runners Tale - When Life Gets in the Way and Doesn't Even Give You Lemons

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of classic 'life got in the way' moments, which I'm sure you've gathered from the fact that our posts ceased to exist after February 2015. This year I've got 100 mile dreams, and I want to be able to share the experience with you! But before I go big, I need to step back and walk you through a thing or two:
1) My introduction to trail running and my glorious 'rise' to a solid middle of the pack runner.
2) The reason(s) why we disappeared in 2015, complete with legitimate excuses for not running a 100 miler sooner.
3) Highlights of some of our recent adventures.
Bonus Track: The injury that has plagued me for years, that I liked to pretend didn't exist.

In 2011, I ran my first ever trail race. It was only 12k. What did I learn? You can fit a surprising number of evil hills in such a short distance! I remember flying down each hill feeling super human, and walking up every hill sadly out of breath wondering "Why on earth am I doing this". I would proceed to cross the finish line, forget the pain, and eagerly sign up for the next race vowing to train more.

For the next few years the pattern was very similar.
1) Sign up for race, planning to train ridiculous amounts
[Optional: 2a) Start out strong, train really hard for two weeks, get injured. Stop running.]
2) Realize the race is in a couple weeks and you really haven't trained. Start taper.
3) Run race, feel pain, vow never to do it again
4) Cross the finish line, feeling elated! That was AWESOME! Forget pain.
5) Eagerly sign up for longer race, vowing to train more...
6) Repeat steps 1-5
That, ladies and gentleman, is how to be a solid middle of the pack runner.

The calm before the pain! MOMAR 2016
By August of 2014, I middle of the packed myself all the way through the Fatdog 70 miler. After completing it, in true middle of the packer fashion, I signed up for the Sinister 7 100 miler in July 2015. In March of 2015 my job took me up north to Yellowknife and beyond, where I worked 12 hour days on a 2 and 2 rotation. It took a bit of getting used to, and my days were typically eat, sleep, work, repeat [insert wicked techno beat here]. My two weeks off went by so fast I rarely got any good training in. By June I knew there was no way a hundred miler was an option. With high hopes of more time to train, I deferred my entry to 2016.
The Bucket of Blood post MOMAR

2016 didn't exactly go as planned either (for me, or a number of celebrities). We decided to try our hand at adventure racing, and got all geared up to mountain bike. Which by the way is TERRIFYING. I mean, I love adventure. However, learning to mountain bike at 26 years old on the North Shore mountains isn't exactly the easiest task in the world. Then I went up north for work again, which means training (as per usual) was nearly non-existant. By the time we got to the race, I had been on the mountains maybe three times (One of which we had a chance encounter with a cute little bear). Three times DOES NOT prepare you for trails named "Bucket of Blood". It does, however, prepare you to become a bucket of blood. Luckily we went with a team of four with various strengths and weaknesses. This meant I could successfully run the downhills with my bike without getting behind... which for the record I DO NOT recommend. I had bruises on my legs for DAYS. Not to mention the bushwacking (orienteering) through thorns to finish the race that added some nice fresh blood to the disaster in the making.

Not all things were bad, I married the amazing man that got me into this crazy trail running madness (On the same weekend as Sinister, so deferred that again to 2017). We went on a glorious honeymoon to Iceland, and would 100% move there if the weather in July stayed all year round...

The real fun, however, came near the end of 2016. I signed up for the BMO half-marathon so that I could run with my brother (Okay, fine I signed up for the full marathon and dropped to the half because I failed to train, yet again). We then took on the Cultus Lake 30k, which I've signed up for for the past two years but conveniently been away for work so never actually had to run it. This race is great. I forgot about all of the crazy hills, and as always was ill-prepared. Halfway through I got a bug in my eye that the lovely aid-station people managed to get out! Thank you! Then my calves cramped like never before and I could barely jump over puddles, or logs, or anything. I contemplated rolling down the hill to the finish. I crossed the finish line second in my category, but there was only a handful of people in my category to start! The Phantom 24k in November went as well as can be expected on very little training. I nearly didn't run the race, and wasn't sure I could even going up to the start line. I figured worse case scenario I drop at half, which is conveniently the start/finish.

This next part of my story is hard for me to write about, which is why I haven't. Here's the part where if you don't want to get to know me too well, you should pick up a novel, or turn on the tv, or go for a run (I love running)! But for someone, somewhere this may be relevant.

So, taking a step back in time to the winter of 2014... I went into emergency at VGH because 'things' were bleeding and I was in a whole lot of pain (excruciating, can't sleep, or move, WHAT HAVE I DONEE?! kind of pain). I know "things" doesn't really help much, and I bet you're sitting there wondering how many places I could have been bleeding from that would take me to emergency. I'll leave you in suspense until we get to the diagnosis in 2016. After all, if I had to wait nearly 2 years, you can wait a few minutes. For now, lets just say this pain led to a team of gynaecologists staring at me, sending Chris out of the room, and repeatedly asking if I was sexually abused.
Dr: Have you been sexually abused?
Me: No, I just run really far and play a lot of sports.
Dr: Are you sure you haven't been abused, this is very typical of sexual abuse victims.
Me: No, I just run really far. Like farther than marathons far. Often.
I basically spent my entire day explaining this to multiple Doctors. At the end of the day I was told to rest and bathe in Epsom salts and to take it easy. I left frustrated that there was no solution or diagnosis, especially considering I had been feeling pain/discomfort off and on before this. The follow up appointment was made slightly more bearable as the Doctor was genuinely excited to meet someone so stupidly active.
Luckily I survived through the rest of 2014 and 2015 running like a wild person without too many hiccups! The only race I had to cut short was my first ever attempt at the Vancouver 100 where I felt great at the 50k mark, but certain 'things' weren't so pleased with the distance.

In the spring of 2016 I was still feeling pain on and off, and by this point the pain had been affecting my running and biking and life more and more. I decided to see what a different doctor at a walk-in clinic thought. She recognized it right away and recommended me to a urologist (yay?) who only had a six month wait (double yay?). When I finally saw the urologist he said I had a urethral carunkle... WTF is a urethral carunkle? (Do NOT google this. You do not want to know.) It's basically a common ailment in older people where your urethral lining is hanging outside where it really shouldn't be. Just so happens that in 2014 it was so inflamed/bruised/bloody that nobody knew what they were looking at (triple yay!). Turns out every time I ran or biked really far in the previous 3 years it would get inflamed and hurt or bleed. So now it's 2016 and we finally know what it is. Phew. Now to fix it. Step one was a rather awkward and uncomfortable cream that did nothing. Step 2 was surgery... AHHH!

Three weeks ago, on December 14, I had surgery to get it removed! I don't wish this on anyone. For the first week after the surgery I couldn't do much other than sit on the couch (in pain). By the second week I could walk, but I am still far from running. My hope is to be able to start training again at the end of January. The best part of the surgery was when they injected the general anesthetic. You can feel burning/tingling/crawling up your arm, and then you breathe it out like fire and fall into a deep sleep. I'm not sure what my super power is yet, but when I figure it out I'll be sure to let you know!

So 2017 brings with it the hope of finally running pain free! A chance to train (or not train) and run some fantastic races that I've put off for a couple of years!

It's time for running to get in the way of life, forget the lemons.

Happy Trails!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Surprise! Bonnevier trail is beautiful

Along the forestry road section!

In doing the FatDog trail race for the last two years, I have never had the chance to see Bonnevier Trail in the daylight. All I’ve ever seen is a bright patch of trail with a pair of feet plodding away up the hill. This weekend I finally got my chance to see just what I’d been up against.
The turn onto Bonnevier Trail

On Saturday, Jenna’s mom dropped us off at the bottom of Bonnevier Trail just east of Manning Park, and planned to meet us up on Heather Trail at the top with her grandma.
Beautiful single track near the top of the false peak (Kandahar Peak)

After the initial forestry road section, we turned onto Bonnevier Trail proper, and, surprise! It’s beautiful! The trail is a nice single-track, that gently winds upward, with a few downhill and flat sections. Having climbed through super dry areas, lush forests and swathes of deadfall, it seems like you’ve reached the top of the mountain. Of course, this is part of FatDog and that would be too easy! So next comes a significant downhill section that drops about 200m over a couple kilometers. The good part is that it’s totally runnable! Too bad I’ve always been too tired to run it.

Gorgeous views of the surrounding valleys and mountains!
After the drop, the trail continues switch-backing upwards, eventually reaching open alpine meadows with beautiful vistas of the Three Brothers peaks and the surrounding area.

View of Big Buck Mountain and the First Brother in the distance
One thing that didn’t differ from the race was how long the alpine meadow section felt! It’s only a few kilometers, but it feels like it goes on forever!
Running through the meadows
Reaching Heather Trail we caught up with Jenna’s family and hiked out to Blackwall Peak, concluding our adventure for the day.
Hiking out to Blackwall Peak with Jenna's family

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Less pain, more fun, and my love of aid stations

Even before the race I knew things were going to be different at this year's FatDog120. Training was going really well, we managed to get out for a number of runs on the course, and we put in some really long back-to-back days through July. All that training gave me the confidence to go into the race without a pacer or crew, plus I knew that if I went really slow my dad or Jenna would catch up to me, so all was good.
On Thursday the pre-race briefing in Manning Park was a real eye-opener... there was five times more people than last year, so many that they were spilling out the doors! And thanks to Peter, (assistant RD) they all knew I was 'the guy wearing the silver skirt in last year's race video', yay...
Hoards of runners at the start line!
Anyway, we stayed the night at Stemwinder campground near Keremeos, and somehow managed to get a full 9 hours of sleep!
The morning of the race we were greeted by throngs of people! We had two bus-fulls driving to the start, which I thought was a lot, but arriving at the actual start was something else entirely. Vehicles were lined up all along the small dirt road by Lakeview Creek Campground - We're definitely not in Kansas anymore!

At 10:02 AM on Friday, the gun (bear banger) went off and it was time to hit the trails. Things went fairly smoothly up the first climb to Red Mountain through Cathedral Park. I wasn't having any foot or shoe problems like I did last year at this time so I was hopeful! Also, it only sprinkled on us for about five minutes before clearing up for the rest of the day. Thanks to Sam for the company on this section!

Pano of the top of Red Mountain in Cathedral Park! (Sam in the left corner)
Coming into Ashnola, the first major aid station, I was right on track for a 40-hour finish according to my pace chart from UltraSplits. The second climb up to Trapper Aid went well and I got in a few minutes before my pace schedule. From here I ran up to Flattop Mountain with a fellow from Victoria - the people are great at these races. Near the top I was warned by another runner that if I wasn't careful I'd take off 10 hours from last year's time. All I could think from then on was that if I was careful I could take off 10 hours from my time!

Calcite Aid Station was in a slightly different spot this year which was a little confusing, but it had some really great food nonetheless - salted potatoes, cheese quesadillas, and some sort of greasy fried bread... so yummy!
On the descent into Pasayten River I saw the first hint of sun all day. It was just the motivation I needed to run the final bit to the river crossing. The water felt so good I could have stayed in there for hours, but instead I had to settle for a refreshing rinse off. At this point I was half an hour ahead of schedule, uhoh!

Reaching Bonnevier Aid, I was pampered by the volunteers offering all sorts of foods and drinks as I changed my socks and shoes and got my night stuff ready (bear bell, music, headlamp, shot bloks with caffeine, etc). I probably should have taken them up on the offer and eaten more at this point because by half way up the climb to Heather Aid I was feeling extremely tired. From 10pm to 12am, it was all I could do to keep moving and not fall asleep on the trail! Luckily, there was another runner that I was able to tag along with for a little extra motivation. The real motivation though was the cheese quesadillas waiting at Heather Aid Station! And trust me, they didn't disappoint!
I tried not to stay long at Heather because it was rather chilly - we were in the clouds and there was a breeze over the alpine meadows. However, I did end up staying for nearly 15 minutes while drinking hot chocolate and eating.

Running towards Nicomen lake was certainly an adventure! The mist from the clouds made it hard to see more than several feet ahead on the trail. The only good part about the clouds was that they kept the day's heat in, at least when the wind wasn't blowing. The final descent into Nicomen Lake was the most treacherous part, given the rocky, scree-like nature of the trail and a slight lack of flagging for the misty conditions. At times I truly wondered if I was on the right trail at all! I did pull out my Suunto and reassure myself using the navigation functions that I was on the right track a couple times.
Finally at Nicomen, I enjoyed the most delicious piece of bacon I have ever had!! It was exactly what I needed at that point. Somehow I spent 10 minutes at the aid station, what could I possibly be doing for that time?! Continuing on I was feeling great, if not a little worried that I was still going too fast as I had reached Nicomen Lake 50 minutes ahead of schedule!

The descent into Cayuse Flats seems to take forever. Fortunately, my feet were still mostly intact (only a couple tender spots), unlike the fellow that I ran part of the descent with. I changed my socks at Cayuse and told myself I had to get them taped and fixed at Cascades if I didn't want to hate myself for the rest of the race. It was great to see Tim's mom helping out at Cayuse (she makes the best jam squares in case you were wondering!). Skagit Bluff Trail, and all of its glorious hills, wasn't nearly as long this year as it was last! Clearly, our training was paying off.

I managed to reach Cascades an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, yikes! But then I spent 45
Hanging out at Cascades aid station
minutes at the aid station drying my feet and getting them taped (thank you!) and eating everything I could! Potatoes, broth and watermelon are seriously fantastic!
Back on the road, it was time for the second highway section, which I managed to run at a reasonable pace and gain back some of the lost time from my prolonged stay at the aid station.
A quick stop at Sumallo Grove to use the bathroom and I was off and running. Yes, actually running! Not fast, mind you, but I'm fairly sure I did 11 or 12 minute miles for several miles. All this was spurred on by the fact I (momentarily) thought I could make a 36 hour finish. All I had to do was run the 10 miles from Sumallo to Shawatum in 2 hours, then the next section to Skyline in 2 hours, and that would leave me with 8 hours for the final 20 miles from Skyline to the finish. It sounded doable... until I got tired of maintaining a 12 minute mile pace halfway to Shawatum. Maybe 36 wasn't quite so doable, but sub-40 was still a possibility. It was at this point that I got passed by one of the 50-mile racers who encouraged me to run with him... yeah right!

I did manage to run the last couple miles into Shawatum, though this was really only possibly because walking was hurting the calluses on my heels - I thought those things were supposed to help?
Coming into Shawatum I was 1h20m ahead of the 40 hour pace, but I again spent a bunch of time at the aid station. Over 20 minutes, in fact, while I had my toes re-taped. This did give me time to refuel and rebugspray.
The next section to Skyline seemed to actually take forever, even longer that the part into Cayuse! I just wasn't going very fast; my feet were starting to get sore and the hills (I forgot that they were there) just weren't expected. I also may have been getting a little tired and delirious as I mistook a couple different stumps/bushes for people on the trail, oops. I was still doing 20 minute miles, so it could have been worse!

34 hours into the race, still looking fresh!
Skyline aid was a very welcome sight. Here I took the time to dry my feet and get them taped properly (thanks guys!) and change into my Altra Olympus shoes, a recent addition to my collection. I also took the time to devour some exceptionally delicious food. Really, it was heavenly! There was bacon and eggs and hashbrowns and smoothies! This really got me fueled up for the climb to Camp Mowich, which was fairly uneventful. I managed to reach the top in 3h15m, the same as when we hiked it in training! And the best part was that the sun didn't set till I was just out from the aid station.

My attempt at photographing one of the two owls I saw on
Skyline 2 trail. The two bright spots in the middle are its eyes.
At this point I was still an hour ahead of my 40 hour schedule, and I was still feeling fairly fresh. However, sitting at aid stations was starting to feel a little too good, I never wanted to move. On the trails the only thing that was bothering me were my feet and it was only really the downhills that hurt. I could still truck along on the flats and ups without any discomfort, but heck, whose feet wouldn't be a little sore at this point.

Peter and Nicola at Sky Junction!
After a seemingly long hike from Camp Mowich, I could finally hear familiar voices emanating from Sky Junction up through the trees. Things really started getting going at this point - I kicked it into high gear and ran (I think it was a run...) up the final switchbacks to Sky Junction aid station. I was greeted by the wonderful sight
and heckling of Peter (from before) and Nicola (also extremely involved in FatDog). These two are seriously awesome!

Fed and ready to go, I hit the trails. With only 8 miles left I could sense the finish line was getting close. And being nearly 4 hours ahead of my 40-hour schedule was a great feeling. Downhills still hurt a bit, but that was subsiding, surprisingly! I know some of the other racers were complaining about the last sections, but it seriously felt like I flew up some of those false peaks!
Coming down through the burnt out forest I could see there was potential to come in exactly 9 hours ahead of last year's time ie. do a 39h01m, and darn if I wasn't going to try for it! At about 2 to 2.5 miles from the finish I really kicked, getting down below 8 minute miles for the final portion around the lake.
There's not much better than that final 'sprint' to the finish of a race. Everything that you've done to get there, whether it's in training or during the race, sort of culminates in a final hoorah! and that just feels plain amazing!

I finished in 39h02m, 1 minute after my goal time of 39h01m, according to my watch that had been going since the second the gun went off so very long ago. (The finish line clock showed 39h04m)
Unfortunately, there was basically no one at the finish line since it was midnight. But after a little bit I look up from my seat by the propane heater and see my mom has come to cheer me in... Her and my sister finished the 30 mile distance several hours before and had been sleeping in the car, so you really can't blame them for not being there when I finished. Thankfully they brought clothes for me to change into
Post-race relaxing!

Post-race celebrations included a delicious midnight bacon cheeseburger from the wonderful volunteers at the finish line, and the awards ceremony at 10am the next day, from which I got a watermelon (score!) and a free trail race entry (double score!)
Overall, much more fun was had at this year's FatDog120 trail race! And turns out, I spent over 3h20m in total at aid stations!!! I think I know where I could shave off a little bit of time in the future...


Thursday, August 7, 2014

FatDog120 Course Maps

These maps of the FatDog race course may be of some help during the race. I've included aid stations etc so you know what to expect at each location. Some portions of the course (Leg 2 specifically) didn't have trail maps available so I had to use satellite/topo maps.
Major Aid stations have approximate checkpoint times (hours, time of day) indicated by T40 (for a 40 hours finish) or T48 (for a 48 hours finish). Hard cut-offs are indicated by C.
Each image below links to a higher quality one you can download.
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 1 trail map from Lakeview Creek Campground to Ashnola River Road
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 2 route map from Ashnola River Road to Pasayten River; potentially wet and squishy around Trapper Lake

FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 3 and 4 from Bonnevier to Heather to Cascade Aid Station
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 5 trail map from Cascade to Shawatum to Skyline 2 trailhead. This is the buggiest section.
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 6 of the FatDog120 race course from Skyline 2 trailhead to the finish at Lightning Lakes Day Use Area

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fat Dog 120 Race Course GPX and Profile

The following links are to gpx files of the Fat Dog 120 race course. I found them super helpful last year using my Sunnto Ambit2 when I wanted to double check that I was on the right course, especially up by Trapper Lake.
I believe they are fairly accurate, though the total distance may be less than 120miles. They were recorded by Ed Sargisson a few years ago, so my greatest thanks to him! The course is split into 6 legs, but I also have it where it's split into 9 legs (for the relay) so let me know if you want me to upload those too.

For those using Movescount, you can search/see the Fat Dog course segments in the Routes section.

Below I've also included a profile with approximate locations of the aid stations, and where pacers are allowed to join. The pacer spots are also places that crew could have access in the latter part of the race - keep in mind Heather aid is 5km from the parking lot.

Leg 1 from the start at Lakeview Creek Campground to Ashnola River Road

Leg 2 from Ashnola River Road to Bonnevier

Leg 3 up Bonnevier to Heather Trail

 Leg 4 from Heather Trail to Cascade aid station

Leg 5 from Cascade aid station to Skyline 2 trailhead

Leg 6 from Skyline 2 to Lightening Lakes Day Use Area

GPX file of full Fat Dog course

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (approximate locations).
*Bonnevier Aid is just before the first uphill section as indicated by the arrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Advice for the Fat Dog 120 Trail Race

I received an email from a fellow on the east coast asking about FatDog, here's his questions (in blue) and my response - hopefully you'll find some helpful advice in it.

1. How would you describe the surface? I live on the east coast and our trails are very rocky and rooty, which tends to be very hard on the feet and ankles. I've run Leadville and I consider that surface to be pretty mild throughout (except heading downhill into Twin Lakes)

The surface is mostly single-track trails with minimal rocks/roots. There are a couple sections that do have a rockier surface, specifically at the top of Red Mountain in Cathedral Park, a steeper section coming into Nicomen Lake, a section along Skagit Valley, and the final descent into Lightening Lakes. The softest sections are coincidentally also along the Skagit Valley. If the weather keeps up the way has been, the trails will be quite dry and dusty, and likely a little on the hard side, but certainly nothing compared to the rocky/rooty trails you are used to.

2. Wondering about your shoe choice. I'm a Saucony Xodus fan (its like a road shoe but with a lugged outsole), but I use a few others too. Was even considering using a well-cushioned road shoe. Thoughts? What did you use?

This year I'll be wearing Altra LonePeaks for the first 40miles, then after the river crossing I'll be switching to Altra Olympus. I think your choice of shoe should be fine, you really won't need too aggressive of an outsole given the trails. In fact, a road shoe might not be such a bad idea for between Cascade and Skyline 2 aid as this is the most runnable of sections (nearly flat for 20+ miles). Last year I had some issues with shoes rubbing (wore some Salomon ones), but I think I've got that figured out now.

3. Temperature. Is it hot during the day? What about nighttime? I don't have a crew/pacer and am considering just carrying a lightweight fake-down jacket to keep me warm at night.

Typically, day time temperatures are upper 20's or low-mid 30's. This, combined with the exposure of the course, can mean fairly warm conditions. That being said, a storm could very well roll in and we would get rained on all day, so who knows! Nighttime will get chilly though - not terribly cold so long as you're running, but if you stop you'll freeze. For nighttime I added a light jacket, a moderately warm toque (winter cap) and compression socks in addition to the shorts and tshirt I wore through the day. I ended up having to wrap a space blanket around me for the last portion along Skyline ridge as it was breezy through the night. I don't recall whether I used gloves or not.

4. As for a pack, I've looked at the video and Ive seen a range of what people carry. One woman was using handhelds (which is way too minimalist for me), others seem to have small camelbaks that don't have much storage space for anything more than water and a few snacks and others have bigger packs. My thought was that it should be big since I need to carry lots of water, extra clothing, lights and food. How big was your pack?

I used a Nathan Synergy Pack (only a single bladder though) as it had enough space to carry my gear (jacket, head lamp, hat etc) for when I wasn't using them. Definitely use something with space for a couple liters of water - the course will be bone dry by the race if it keeps up like it has, so that means the only water will be at aid stations. Last year I carried my bladder with approx 2L (can hold 3L) and a small 500 mL flask as a back-up so that if I sucked the pack dry I knew I had at least a few sips to keep me going. I didn't have to use the flask for myself, but I did give it to another runner that ran out before Trapper aid station. Just make sure you refill at the aid stations, especially at Trapper and Sumallo.

5. What would you say was the biggest challenge of this race? Why? Could you have better prepared for it and how?

Three of the large climbs come in the first 50 miles of the race, then you're expected to be able to 'run' the next 50 and follow that up with another large climb with several false peaks. Once you add in the distance/time between aid stations the race becomes challenging. I have increased my overall volume this year and included more hills and am hoping that, combined with fixing the shoe problem, will give me an edge over last year.

6. Did you use poles? I was planning to just go without

I didn't use poles, and don't plan to this year. If I were going to though, I would put them in my drop bag at Skyline 2 for the last 20 miles. There are a couple parts that traverse steep scree-like slopes and the added stability at the end of the race couple be helpful for some. As well, the final downhill into Lightening Lakes could probably benefit from poles, but it really depends on how you think you'll be feeling at that point and whether you'll be bounding down the hill or needing poles to lessen the load on the legs.

7. Obviously the elevation gain/descent is the big part of this race. Are the hills super steep or just very long and plentiful?

Very long and plentiful... The first climb is somewhat steeper than the others, and so are a few of the false peaks near the end of the race. The descent just before and after Nicomen is steep as well, then sort of levels into a constant descent. Overall though, the climbs are just quite long.

8. Feel free to share anything you think may be helpful. I've complete 10 100's and multiple other ultra-races. I'm not new to this, but Fat Dog seems to have this mystique. Aside from the elevation gain/loss and the 120 mile distance, what makes it top-10 most difficult ultra?

I think the real test comes at mile 100 when you begin the final ascent to Mowich and you're into that next level of challenge, having already completed what would be a tough 100. If you plan each section carefully in terms of food, water and clothing, and minimize carrying of needless items (headlamp during the day, sunglasses at night etc) I think you'll see a lot of success.

Other tidbits:
Compression/tall socks will help keep the foliage from brushing your legs in the last 40 miles and help keep you sane.
If you have a mosquito head net, it's a good idea to stick that in a drop bag for the section from Sumallo to Camp Mowich. Bug spray is good too!!!

Good luck to everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

2 months of Running (and other busy-ness)

If you're reading this you probably noticed that we haven't posted in almost 2 months, and there is a reason for that... We've just been too busy running!

Over the past 2 months, we've done some really cool and amazing (and really long) runs! Here's a recap:
Jenna running along Blue Gentian lake, off the BP trail

May was mostly comprised of several recon runs along the Baden Powell trail in preparation for the Vancouver 100 in June.

May 25: Jenna and I both ran the Iron Knee 24km trail race from Cleveland Dam Park to Deep Cove. The 'highlight' of this race is that it goes up and over Powerline trail, a ssolid ascent of over 1100 ft, this of course is after the first half of the race where you climb from the start over 1000ft to the top of the BP trail near Dempsey Rd. Overall a great day though, as I placed 9th overall with a 1h55m finish and Jenna came in at 2h36m, in the top quarter for the women.

June 7: This was the day of the Vancouver 100, or what was supposed to be 100 anyway. It was a hot one! At 5am when we started we were only wearing shorts and t-shirts and we were already cooking. By midday, it was even hotter! Athough I should have known better, I went out fairly hard, keeping up with Daniel Goddard (a darn fast runner!), not a good idea. I ended up becoming extremely dehydrated by the second half and had to drop at kilometer 74 - things weren't looking too good. Good news was that my feet looked beautiful, not a blister or hot spot, thanks to my Injinji toe socks and my Altra LonePeaks!
Jenna was feeling an old injury by the halfway point and decided to call it a day. Still a good 50km all in all.
Big thanks to Hasan and Mike for meeting us at the halfway mark! You guys rock!!

June 14 weekend: We went backpacking in Manning Park with my family for the weekend and didn't get in much running, but the weighted hiking probably wasn't so bad for training.

June 21 weekend: This was really good training weekend in Manning Park as we got to run some of the FatDog course, parts Jenna hadn't seen yet that she would be facing in August. On the Saturday we went from Sumallo Grove to Shawatum Day Use and back, for 21 miles. The next day we did Cayuse Flats to Cascade Rec Area and back, then a little bit up towards Nicomen Lake for a 12mile total with some good hills.

June 28 weekend: This weekend we were camping in Clearwater/Wells Gray Provincial Park with Jenna's family. We managed to get in a couple runs over the weekend including a 17 mile day during which we got absolutely poured on!

July 5 weekend: This was the weekend of 24 in the Forest, our little event here in the UBC forest. We ended up seeing about a dozen runners come out over the two days, less than had signed up, but more than I expected - the weather may have deterred some people as it was overcast and threatening to rain the whole time. On the Saturday, I got in 10 laps of the course (51.8 miles) and Jenna did 9 (46.6 miles), then on Sunday I did another 7 (36.2 miles) while Jenna joined my sister for a lap. A most successful training weekend by far!
Camp Mowich, mile 107 of FatDog

July 12: We decided to do a day trip to the Skagit Valley to run from Skyline 2 trailhead to Camp Mowich and back, with the intention of going further at the top. We made it Camp Mowich in 3 hours, but decided to turn around at that point as battling with mosquitoes and spiderwebs on the way up was more difficult than imagined. Also, it's a lot farther up the mountain than expected. For anyone planning a training day, make sure to go for a swim in Ross Lake, it's glorious!

View of Ross Lake from near Camp Mowich
July 13: I ran to Grouse Mountain to meet Jenna and her cousin to do the BCMC. Following that, Jenna and I did the GG proper with her mom and aunt. As an added level of difficulty we, at times, hopped up the grind - that's how you get fit!

This past weekend's adventures included a 33.5mile trail run with 3000m of climbing on Saturday, followed by a 16mile, 1400m ascent/descent, day on Sunday. Definitely one of the best training weekend's thus far! On a side note, if you ever get hungry when you're running in/near Deep Cove, check out Deep Cove Pizza for a snack. Call ahead 15mins and you won't have to wait.

Monday, March 31, 2014

From One FatDog to Another: Preparing for FatDog 2014

Tim and Chris, both previous finishers, discuss this year's FatDog 120 mile trail race, and provide insight into their training and preparations for the race, as well as a detailed description of the course and the things you need to know.

Hey Chris looks like the FatDog Race is filling up fast. I see most of your family are coming out this year! What's that all about? Are you going to post a race report from last year?

Hey Tim, this will definitely be a big year for FatDog. Last year there were only 31 racers signed up in the 120 division, but now there’s 175! I think this increase is really a product of the success that Heather Macdonald has had with the Mountain Madness race series and how great of a race FatDog really is! Adding to that is the fact that it’s now a qualifier for Hardrock 100.
Last year my family crewed and paced with me, but this year it seems they’ve caught the bug as they’re all racing some distance of it! My dad and girlfriend are planning for the 70 miler while my mom and sister are going to do their first ultras in the 30 miler. It will be quite the weekend for my family!
Speaking of lot’s of people doing the race, what do you think about the increase in racers this year? Do you think the aid stations will be able to handle that many participants?

Tim is a previous finisher of the FatDog 120mile race

The race will be different for sure. The last couple years I’d arrive at an aid station and there was always a chair I could grab for a few minutes while I ate. Not so sure this year. Those of of us returning should be prepared for this. There’s plenty of parking for all the support groups (except maybe Bonnevier) but I don’t have a support crew so I’ll probably sit on the ground. The relay teams usually hang out at the aid stations for a while so Heather and Peter may have to manage that.
Heather has a lot of experience dealing with that many runners at her other races and she’s split the volunteer coordinator job in three. Side note: they need lots of volunteers. I’ve been emailing friends and family encouraging them to race and/or volunteer.

That’s a good point Tim, the race will need a huge number of volunteers this time, especially if they want to have a repeat of the amazing aid station service we received last year. The aid station volunteers were definitely one of the highlights of the FatDog race. That’s reason enough to come back, never mind that the course is stunning, almost all on trails and passes through four different parks!

I love the race. It has more single track (as a %) then any 100 mile I know. And an awesome finish area. I was looking around for other 100 milers with as many mountains and single track but didn’t find much. Let me know if you find one. A lot of them say ‘trails’ when they mean a combination of single track and jeep road. I think death race and sinister seven are mostly jeep track. From a safety viewpoint it makes sense to use jeep tracks, but the running isn’t as enjoyable.
I have less time to train this year and I’m worried about that. Last year I was putting in 100km weeks with lots of elevation. This year I’ll focus more on quality elevation runs and hope to find enough time.

I definitely agree with the idea of quality over quantity when it comes to training. This year I’m hoping that I’ll be able to increase my training to be better prepared for the hours-long uphills that FatDog is famous for.
What are your plans for race day?

Not much yet. A couple years ago Randy gave me a tip to put my drop bags in waterproof bags. That way I am guaranteed that the gear will be dry when I get there. As much as I trust the volunteers to take care of it, you never know.
I’ve also been thinking about small things, like when to carry sun glasses and sun screen. Since I wear a hat, I’ll only want sun glasses between Ashnola and the river crossing. A big to do item is to figure out shoes. I’m currently running in Salomons and Hokas from NSA (NSA is a big sponsor of the race). I need to buy more pairs of both.
Food planning will come later but I know there will be plenty of salami, fried beets and V8 juice. I get pretty sick of sweet stuff about halfway through the race. If I know anyone at the aid stations then I’ll ask them to bring hard-boiled eggs and sausage. I also like kale chips. Last year I tried doughnuts and chocolate coated bacon; they were both too sweet. I plan my own food and do the spreadsheet thing to count the calories. I ended up with lots of leftover food as I didn’t account for all the good aid station food. I’m now going to assume I eat at least 100-200 calories at most aid stations. How about you?

In terms of food, I’m very much the same way as you Tim. I prefer to go for some of the more salty and savory foods early on in the race, saving the sweet stuff for when I need that kick. Although I don’t think I’ll be eating salami during the race, I really do enjoy cheese quesadillas, so fingers crossed they’ll have those again (thanks Andrew Knowles for making those at Heather aid!). I’ve also been experimenting with making my own energy bars which have had positive results so far.
Planning drop bags for FatDog is definitely not an easy task. With the limited number of spots for drop bags along the course I found myself carrying gear for quite a ways before or after I finished using it (e.g. sunglasses after dark or headlamp before dark). There’s really not much a runner can do about that though, other than plan and pace accordingly.
Figuring out shoes was my number one priority after last year’s FatDog race. Having sustained massive blistering on my toes by about the 90 mile mark, I was reduced to a slow march for the remaining 30 miles (all the glorious details in my FatDog race report part 3). So this year I’ll be using Altra shoes with Injinji toesocks. I think this combination will give me what I was lacking last year - space in the toe box with adequate tightness around the heel and midfoot. Plus the toe socks should stop the toes from rubbing against one another.
The blister issue gave rise to something else unexpected. The pain and the resulting pace meant I was out on the course for hours longer than anticipated, and that meant I was getting more and more sleep deprived. 36 hours into the race I was completely exhausted and had to take a 15 minute nap on the trail (not recommended due to bears/cougars). I had to repeat this at Camp Mowich and Skyline Junction aid stations. This year I’m hoping that with better shoe/sock choices and more training I will be able to avoid the whole sleeping thing altogether. What’s your take on sleeping during a long race like FatDog?

Is that why Ultra signup is predicting you'll come in 10 hours faster than last year! Interestingly, it also predicts that I'll come in 3 minutes slower than last year.
I’ve realized that I won’t sleep in a race, so I’m not going to try. As long as I get a good sleep the night before.
It’s good that you’re planning to avoid the naps, though we all loved the silver-superman look you were sporting at the end last year. (to the reader - you should check out the video from last year)
What’s your favorite part of the race? I love the four mountains we go over and the views are wonderful. Looks like it will be a week after the full moon so we won’t have much moonlight.

My favourite section(s) of the race is the alpine meadows for sure! As you go over the mountain peaks the variation in trail, flowers and views is spectacular. Also, the Pasaytan River crossing was refreshing and surprisingly fun since I hadn’t done that before!

Yea, the crossing is pretty easy and last year Don had his BBQ going on the other side with hot dogs. Hey, we should probably talk about the route as there’s a lot of people coming from out of town. Some of the blogs do an ok job but you and I may have a different take on it.

Section 1, Start to Ashnola: The climb is straightforward enough. There’s a couple boggy sections so don’t get your feet wet. Then you pass the first aid station (only water available in Section 1) and you quickly reach alpine and you’re running on boulders over the shoulder of Red Mtn. The descent is pretty smooth with a nice grade; overall quite runnable - just don’t push it. This whole first section is single track of varying width, with some short portions of jeep road at the very beginning.

Section 2, Ashnola to Pasaytan River Crossing to Bonnevier: Leaving Ashnola it looks grim (logging road) but the climb improves and you end up in a very cool, burnt-out forest complete with babbling brook and lots of wild flowers! It’s 7km up to the Trapper aid station, then 23+ km to the Calcite station. After Trapper aid the trail is well defined until you get close to the lake, then you need to be very careful looking for markers as you make your way around the left side of the lake. Here the trail becomes less defined as it passes through a boggy section - careful or you’ll soak your feet. Once you get to the far side (~30 min around the lake) then the flagging is obvious again and you soon reach the second high point, Flat Top Mountain. The descent from there is long and has some sustained steep bits where you can use up your knee muscles if you’re not careful. There is a creek 4-6 km before Calcite, so fill up a bit if you want to. Tim is usually hot at this point and rolls around in the stream. After the creek, the descent is very mellow all the way to Calcite aid station. Last year Terry Bremner, owner of the outstanding juice company Bremner’s Juice (and a runner himself), was there to greet you and you know he had juice and fresh blueberries for us!
After Calcite it’s really fast down to the river and across then only a couple km to Bonnevier. This is the first of the 2 road sections.

Section 3-4, Bonnevier to Cascade: I group these two sections as it is the longest stretch between drop-bags. Stock up on gels and food at Bonnevier! You start climbing very slowly on a logging road then suddenly you turn left onto a trail and cross a creek (Tim filled up) and you start climbing. No more water (creeks or otherwise) until you get to Heather aid station at the top. Things are pretty minimal there; you can have a good bite to eat but don’t expect to take too many gels away. Then it’s night-time running through alpine meadows (narrow single track) with a gentle downhill for a while. The crew do a good job marking it and you’ll soon get to a cliff with lots of flagging. This is a steep, rocky descent down to Nicomen Lake (and the most remote aid station). Matt Barry will be there to greet you, feed you some chips, possibly heckle you (if he knows you), and kick you out. From Nicomen Lake it’s a long run to Cayuse Flats (you cross a few creeks along the way) and the trail is wide and nicely graded. Cayuse Flats is a good rest stop, but you should try not to stay too long as there’s a roller coaster section up next that takes you to Cascade and another drop bag. This section is surprisingly difficult following the long downhill from Nicomen, so be prepared. Cascade has lots of parking and will have lots of people to cheer you on.

Section 5, Cascade to Skyline: This Section has two aid stations along it (Sumalo Grove and Shawatum). Leaving Cascade you cross the highway and run along the pavement a few km to Sumalo. From here the trail gets pretty flat with a few ups-and-downs (one is quite steep, but short) as you follow the meandering Skagit River all the way to Shawatum. At one point you leave the side of the river and the running gets really flat. There is one water drop a few kms before Shawatum (Update: this is being removed for the 2014 race). This is where a lot of runners have their low point in the race (note the double entendre). Don’t get stuck here, just a quick stop and plan to take your rest at Skyline. The trail has a bit more variety between Shawatum and Skyline (even though the road connecting the two is dead flat) and there is one creek crossing a little ways before Skyline. The trails through this section alternate between the usual single track and some wider paths, all quite runnable if you’ve got the energy. Carl and John will be at Skyline with stacks of food. They are two very experienced 100 milers and they’ve been talking about having a stove with eggs, sausages, burritos...
You’re almost home!

Section 6, To the end: This starts with a long gradual climb. It’s technically runnable but the climb starts at mile 101 in the race so chances are you may not be up to running. The trail is in great shape. As you get up to alpine hopefully you can see the surrounding peaks so long as it isn’t dark yet. After the first peak you descend into Camp Mowich aid station (another remote aid station with chips and water). You climb up from Camp Mowich, then do an annoying drop and climb (following the ridge) up to Peter at the Skyline 1,2 junction aid station (chips, water, bananas). When you get to Peter you’re (almost) smiling cause you know it’s shorter to go to the finish line than to go back or hike out. Now it’s a few more ups and downs along the ridge until you crest the final sub-peak and it’s all downhill to the lake. This downhill starts steep and rocky, but soon turns smooth and very gradual (annoyingly gradual!). No matter what time of day, you’ll know when you get to the lake, and then it’s a short run around the lake to the finish. If you made it this far, you know you’re a FatDog!

Good luck to all aspiring FatDogs!

*****A big thanks to Tim for his amazing contribution!*****

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our 2014 Race Calendar

After much debate and indecision we have finally decided on a tentative race calendar for the year (or at least until August). We've updated our Race Calendar. and I are both doing the DirtyDuo 50km on March 8th in North Van. It'll be Jenna's first
attempt at this race, and my third. This a two-loop race through some very technical trails in the LSCR (Seymour) area.

We'll then tackle the Vancouver Sun Run 10km on April 27th as some speed work.

The following week will be the North Shore Enduro 6 hour race (a ClubFatAss event). This one is also in the LSCR/Lynn Headwaters area and will feature some tough hills stairs! and a mix of technicality.
From there, our next race will be June 7th when we attempt the Vancouver100 (CFA event) a 100km race from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay (technically Nelson Canyon Park) and back along the Baden Powell Trail. This will be Jenna's first time at this race and only my second attempt. The consistent level of technicality of the trail and the possibility of snow at Hollyburn and Cypress makes this a difficult race for sure! Plus racers need to be self sufficient or find their own crew. Even then, access points are minimum every 15km for a very dedicated crew, or 25km for a "normally-dedicated" bunch. Nonetheless, lots of fun to be had!!

The next big stop will be FatDog in Manning Park on the weekend of August 15th. Jenna will be attempting the 70 mile option, her longest yet, and I am hoping for some redemption with the 120 miler.

If you're interested in any of these races, want to find out more, help out as a volunteer or as crew, either click on the images above, or send us a message via Facebook or as a comment on here.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 FatDog 120 Race Report - Part 3

Welcome back to the continuing saga of my FatDog experience. I left you last time just after Shawatum aid station. At this point it was just my dad and I as Diane Van Deren had run ahead. This section of the race will be the hardest to blog about for a couple of reasons. The first is that I was in incredible agony because of my feet, and the second is that I simply don't remember all of it. So, this post will be fairly brief.

I'll sum up the run from Shawatum to mile 98 as an ever increasing struggle to overcome my increasingly sore feet. At mile 98 I lost. I simply couldn't keep going, and as much as I don't want to admit this, I cried a little. Diane had warned me that ultras make you, and everyone else around you, emotional, but I don't think that was the reason I broke down at mile 98. Sure I had been up for the past 36 hours, and ran the last 33 of those, but I don't think that was the reason either. The reason was that I wasn't sure if I could finish. In fact, for a moment there I totally didn't think I could. And that was when I got to thinking about everyone who had put in so much time and effort to either run with me or to cheer me on. I thought of Jenna who hiked in and froze her butt off for 5 hours before running with me through the night, my mom for organizing everyone, cheering and keeping my pacers alive, and my dad who was right there beside me doing his best not to break down with me. I thought about how I had been looking forward to finishing this race for the last two years. I also thought about how much it would suck to be stuck at the Skyline aid station seeing as it is in the middle of nowhere! But mostly it was how much I wanted to finish so that everyone-else's effort wouldn't be wasted. So, with only a few hundred meters to Skyline aid station, something clicked and I pulled myself together. I'm not really sure what happened, but quite suddenly I was as determined as ever to finish.

Warming up at Camp Mowich. Great photo...
At Skyline aid station I had part of a cheese quesadilla, drank some gingerale and had a coke to go. After this things get fuzzy, but keep in mind that the last 20 miles of this race include some of the toughest climbs in the whole race. Anyway, the next thing I remember was undergoing what I'll call an involuntary gastric reinitialization. Not fun. After that I remember curling up on a space blanket on the side of the trail. I slept there for about 15 minutes according to the flat portion on the elevation profile I posted in Part 1 of this race report. After that, the next memory is of reaching Camp Mowich aid station as there was a nice little fire and hot chicken noodle soup. I'm pretty sure the soup was actually burning hot and I couldn't drink it, but that might just be a hallucination. Next up was Skyline Junction, the last aid station. Upon reaching here I instantly fell asleep on a mat they had there. Supposedly, a few minutes later someone looked over at me and asked my dad, "Is that your son sleeping face-down in the dirt?" To which he replied that I was probably fine, an opinion he quickly changed once he looked over too. What's more, even after righting me, I rolled right back into the dirt!

Thank you Ken!
I do remember some of what happened once the sun was starting to come up. The sweep for that section caught up with us somewhere after (or shortly before) the last aid station. Ken was truly fantastic and kept me moving forward, and eating! A big thanks to him.

The final descent into Lightening Lakes is a mean one given the rockiness of the upper section. Reaching the valley bottom I looked at my watch and saw that I had exactly 15 minutes to get in before 47 hours (the cutoff was 48). This triggered an all out sprint to the finish. The final result was a 47h01m finish, my first DFL (dead last). Though only 18 of 31 registrants complete the race.

I was greeted at the finish by my mom and Jenna, who apparently didn't really sleep at all the last night since they were hanging out at the finish area worrying about me the whole time. So with that, a big thank you to my family and all the volunteers for their tremendous support throughout the race! It really wouldn't be possible without them.

Jenna's Follow-up Comments:
This race report would not be complete with my two favourite parts of the weekend:
1) After Chris finishes the race, we head back to camp to get some well-earned rest. After about an hour of sleep, we both got up out of the tent to use the washroom. As we get back to the tent, I start to crawl in when Chris says "What are we doing?" (As if an hour of sleep was enough after being up for 48+ hours) to which I respond "Well I'm going back to sleep!" and I start to zip up the tent. Slightly irritated, Chris reluctantly climbs back into the tent. Of course, he falls asleep immediately... on my side of the tent!
2) After the race, we went to talk to Peter to thank him for making sure Chris got out alive. I'm so glad we did, because this is the best thing I heard all weekend. Peter was helping out at Skyline Junction - I don't remember exactly how he said this, but it went something like this. "At one point I heard these strange sounds coming through the forest, and I thought to myself : SHAMU IS COMING." Turns out it was just Chris.

As a follow-up, Christine Blanchette wrote this Article (or alternately available here) profiling my FatDog race attempt which appeared in the Sherbrooke Record.

Go to parts 1 or 2 of the FatDog120 Race Report

Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 FatDog 120 Race Report - Part 2

From Calcite aid, Diane and I continued running down toward Pasayten River. At the river crossing, the Pasayten is about 50 feet wide and 2 feet deep and has a very helpful cable strung across it to hold on to as the rocks can be slippery. The water was surprisingly refreshing, and exceptionally clear - when we looked down with our headlamps we could see clear to the bottom. After wading through the river I changed my socks and shoes and had something to eat courtesy of Don and his wife (we basically run through their backyard)! Next came the first road section. It was along this section that we started contemplating the uphill that was coming. It was to be our third large climb, and would take about four hours. Upon seeing a mileage sign for Vancouver, Diane and I joked that we should just keep running on the road; the 233km to Vancouver couldn't be nearly as hard as Bonnevier. I still think it might have been easier...

Reaching the bottom of Bonnevier, we were greeted by Diane's husband, a familiar face by now as we had seen him at Ashnola and Passayten aid stations. With a quick stop here we were off again, this time going uphill. Bonnevier isn't terribly exciting, it's logging road followed by tree-covered trail and, given the nighttime conditions, you can't see a whole lot. After a couple of false peaks and four and a half hours of hiking uphill we reached the Heather aid station.

Heather aid was definitely a highlight, primarily because Jenna was waiting for me there! And, to put Jenna's dedication into perspective, Diane and I arrived at about 3:30am on Saturday, whereas Jenna hiked in while it was still light out!! Anyway, when we got there, Peter's family cooked us up some very tasty quesadillas. On that note, I think quesadillas have to be one of my favourite ultra foods. They're crispy on the outside, hot on the inside and the cheese just hits the spot during a race, plus I haven't had any issues digesting them. If anyone RD'ing a race is reading this, please include more cheese quesadillas at aid stations!

2013 FatDog Race Report - Sunrise on Heather Trail
Sunrise from Heather Trail
2013 FatDog Race Report - Nicomen Lake
The absolutely stunning Nicomen Lake
Diane's pacer, Ward, also met us at Heather aid, so the four of us headed out into the darkness along the single-track Heather trail. Three hours later, with the sun just rising, we came down into Nicomen Lake aid station. The steep and rocky descent here brought about the realization that my feet were starting to hurt, mostly the balls of my feet, but also the toes. Nicoman aid was an interesting experience. Food and water was limited given the hike required of the volunteers, so all we had for breakfast were some Pringles. If anyone is free next year and wants to hike in with a stove and eggs and hash-browns we would all really love you! Just to be clear though, I do really appreciate those who hiked in to man the aid stations! The people sleeping on the ground were  amusing too since they had their space blankets pulled over their heads, causing their feet and legs to stick way out the bottom. It was quite the sight!
After Nicomen Lake there is one of the longest descents in the race and it was at this point that Diane and Ward took off. Jenna and I continued on, though we were going slowly due to the increasing pain in my feet and the fact I hadn't eaten much recently. At about the two-thirds mark on that descent, Jenna and I started singing while we ran and oddly enough I started speeding up. Singing, at that moment, helped lift my spirits just enough that we were able to catch up to Diane and Ward just before Cayuse Flats aid station.

Cayuse Flats aid was my next big surprise, this time because of my family. Everyone was there! My aunt and uncle, my mom and dad, even my sister made it out. The best part for me, and probably them too, was that they had made huge cardboard signs saying Go Chris! Although we didn't linger at this point, it was good to see them, and we knew we would see them again in a few miles.

Most of the family at Cayuse Aid Station, complete with signs!
Getting back to the grind, the section between Cayuse Flats and Cascade Aid Station was unexpectedly hilly and definitely a little painful! Don't let the elevation profile fool you, after going downhill for hours, these uphills are killer. Nonetheless, the first runners doing the 70M passed us along this section. Coming into Cascade aid station, my family was again waiting for us, signs and cameras in hand.

Changing into some Merrell Mixmaster shoes (never again, I gave them away after the race), and getting a quick massage on my right hip flexor, we continued on to the second road section. This section wasn't anything special, though we did manage a fairly quick pace. At Sumallo Grove Jenna switched out for my dad as he was to pace me the last 40 miles of the race. Ward also left Diane, with the plan to meet up again at Skyline aid station. After getting everything sorted out pacer-wise, Diane had went ahead and left my Dad and I to catch up. It wasn't for a couple miles that we did catch up, but only after asking a couple hikers how far ahead she was and getting some ridiculous answers (>10 minutes ahead, I think not!). Between Sumallo Grove and Shawatum aid station, there were a couple notable occurrences. The first thing was a rather steep, 200ft climb just before the the curve of the Skagit River. This 'hill' wasn't visible on any of the the elevation profiles, but, believe me, it hurt! The next thing was that I ran out of water a mile or so from the water drop. This was unfortunate as it was quite warm in this section! The third thing was sort of an ongoing problem - my feet were getting progressively sorer. It was obvious that I had some major blisters forming, and that they were slowing me down significantly. I think the first one popped just before Shawatum. If you've never had a blister pop while running, it's pretty much excruciating for the first bit, then it settles down into a dull stinging. Sounds like fun right?!

The Trail Effect FatDog Race Report - Fun in the forest!
Fun in the forest!
Anyhow, Shawatum aid came and went and we started running through some rather dense, almost tropical-like sections. Then the mosquitoes started getting bad! Thankfully, Ward gave us a couple head nets to wear to keep them from biting. I'm not sure what we would've done without them! Somewhere along here Diane left us again since I was clearly just going too slow. She is sort of a pro after all!

I will leave it at that for now. So until Part 3 comes out, happy running!


Go to parts 1 or 3 of the FatDog120 Race Report

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 FatDog 120 Race Report - Part 1

Well this is a few months late, but since we only just started The Trail Effect, I think it's excusable.

FatDog120 by Mountain MadnessFor anyone unfamiliar with the FatDog120 Trail Race, it is a 120 mile race along trails snaking through Cathedral, Manning and Skagit Valley Provincial Parks as well as the Cascade Recreation Area. It starts near Keremeos BC and finishes at Lightning Lakes in Manning Park. There are four main climbs in the race and a total elevation gain of 8672.7 meters (28453.7 feet). In 2013 the FatDog120 was named one of the Top 9 Toughest Ultras by Outside Online. If you're the type that needs company on a run, this is probably not the race for you; the number of non-race related individuals that I saw on the course was no more than 3 people (not including vehicles on the road section).

First, a little bit of background on the rest of the year. Things didn't start out so well this year. In switching from running mostly in minimalist shoes to Salomons, I developed some patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) in my left knee. This started in January and with high hopes of doing well in the DirtyDuo in March I was somewhat devastated. After seeing a physio and doing the quad exercises she gave me I was feeling somewhat better, though not cured! I still ran the DD, but seeing as I really hadn't trained all that much I finished an hour slower than the previous year. The PFPS was on and off for the next couple months after that and it definitely limited my training at times. In May Jenna and I went to the Big Island of Hawai'i and didn't run nearly as much as I would have liked, though we did do some crazy hikes (maybe that will be another post). Anyhow, on June 1st I undertook the Vancouver100, a CFA event that runs the length of the Baden Powell Trail twice, starting and ending in Deep Cove. I finished under 20 hours, but only by a couple minutes. Nonetheless I was fairly happy with that performance, given the snow on the western sections of the trail. I made the mistake however of agreeing to run the BP trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove with Jenna only a week later. That's when the PFPS came back, just when I thought I had got rid of it! Training was again limited for the next little while as I iced, stretched and did whatever I could to stay sane. So needless to say, I was going into FatDog somewhat less trained than I had hoped to be, but I figured I would just see what I could do and could pull-out at at any point and no one would really fault me for it.

Jenna and I arrived in Keremeos BC the Thursday before the race, as the race start was Friday 10am and the pre-race meeting was that night. The pre-race meeting was somewhat intimidating since the average age was probably twice mine, plus the basic message from Heather (the RD) was simply don't die out there! We camped at the Stemwinder Provincial Campground 15 minutes west of Keremoes for the night, probably not the smartest idea (it is right beside the highway), but it was better than the over-priced 'cozy' hotels in town. Race morning I started with a bowl of oatmeal and some Gatorade. We took down camp and drove into town for 9am so I could get on the bus to the start area. Jenna would meet me in Manning park later that night.

Start of FatDog120 at Lakeview Creek Campground
Start of FatDog120 and relay option
The start of the FatDog120 and relay options takes place on the wooden bridge at the Lakeview Creek Campground. Just before 10am, Peter, the assistant RD, said good luck and set off a flare to signal the start of the race. Despite being nervous, it was somewhat anti-climactic given that the race starts directly into the first uphill and almost everyone walks it. From the start it was just under a three hour hike, if you will, to the first aid station and the peak of the first mountain. Check out the profile at the bottom of the post for an idea of the elevation changes - keep in mind the x-axis is time, not distance. Just before the first aid station, I had my first foot issue; my heel was rubbing. I decided to be proactive and stick in a large piece of moleskin to cushion it, though it wasn't all that successful in the long term. Just as I was getting going again another runner caught up with me and we started running together. Turns out it was Diane Van Deren, the exceptionally talented North Face-sponsored runner, and we ended up running together for 60+ miles of the race.

FatDog120 alpine section
There is a trail here somewhere right?
The top of the first peak is almost desolate, except for the small grasses that grow there. Running through this section was both fun and challenging since the trail was non-existent and flagging was tied around rocks on the ground. After crossing the moon-scape and running along several board-walks through marshy meadows, the trail descended steadily until it reached Ashnola River Road and the second aid station. From here, it was back up the other side of the valley to the Trapper Lake area. At some point on the way up, Diane and I came across a runner going the wrong way! We got him straightened out and continued on. The next hiccup came when Diane ran out of water somewhere before the aid station. Luckily I had brought a small flask with an extra ~500ml as a precaution. Trapper Lake aid station, though not actually at the lake, was quite fun seeing as the volunteers had music playing and it was nice and sunny with only a light breeze.

Trapper Lake along the FatDog120 course
Trapper Lake
The boggy section by Trapper Lake was so beautiful we decided to wander around looking for the trail markers for five minutes or so. We did end up finding them after a bit, but not before getting our feet good and wet. From here we headed over Flattop Mountain through a very beautiful alpine meadow. The single-track trail was quite grooved in compared to the sides and was difficult to walk in. After Flattop came another long descent! Then, at some point, it was my turn to run out of water. Thankfully the water drop (read: water collected from a stream) was only a little way down the trail and I was able to refill there.

Just as it was almost dark, Diane and I started to hear music coming through the forest. At that point we knew we must be getting close to Calcite aid station, and we were, but we were still a surprising distance away. The volunteers there had their shelter decked-out in Christmas lights and they had fresh picked, homegrown blueberries for us! So good!

I think I'll stop at this point and leave the rest to Parts 2 and 3.

FatDog120 elevation profile
Elevation profile of the FatDog120. X-axis is time. The three flat sections at 36h, 40h and 43h are sleep breaks.

Go to parts 2 and 3 of the FatDog120 Race Report