Monday, July 2, 2018

2018 Tenderfoot Boogie 50 Miler - Race Report

The tenderfoot boogie was not on my bucket list by any means, it more or less fit my time/distance requirements in training for the FatDog 70 mile in August. I didn't know anybody that had run this race, so I really didn't know what to expect. The course looked fun on the map but I was in uncharted territory, sourcing info from old race reviews from runners in previous years. I spent the week before carefully planning out my drop bags and figured I had everything I would need to make it to the finish. I spent most of the night before panicking as I read through less than positive race reports from various different blogs and web pages, playing out different scenarios in my head. The race start was at 5am in Squamish so bedtime came early. I had no more time, I was packed and ready to go and the rest would have to be left in the hands of fate.

Race day morning 
-3am- loaded the car and drove from Vancouver to Squamish (~1 hr), eating breakfast along the way. We followed directions right off the website and found several people with bags and gear sitting at the steps of a closed coffee shop. I asked someone if this was the start of the 50 mile and they replied "I hope so" then a couple people showed up with a table and started setting up a place sign in. A few more runners were rolling in by then. I signed in and put my drop bags in their piles.

-4:30am- I needed to use the bathroom; I asked around but it appeared that there was no facilities. It looked like people were going and using the bushes across the road in the park so I followed suit. 

-4:45am- the race director gathered everyone in the street and spoke about some recent changes to the course and how to navigate through the first section. It seemed pretty straight forward, the course was supposed to be flagged with orange and black ribbon at every're thinking "how hard can this be? Right?
Tenderfoot Boogie Elevation Profile
-5am- The race started and everyone (about 26 racers) took off down the road.
Now, this is the longest distance race I've run so I was unsure about how to pace. All the big hills were at the end of the course so I figured I was best to just settle in at the back and take it easy. This worked well as we made our way through the streets. I chatted with another runner who had run the course before. He seemed to know all the hidden corners and we went on about 5 miles to a spot where he could have sworn the course went through the previous year but there was no flagging anywhere. We wandered around looking for a flag, by then about 8 people were all around this intersection trying to decide which way to go. I tried to use the gps map I had downloaded into my Suunto the night before but another racer informed me that the course had been changed last minute and none of the maps online were accurate anymore, and to not follow it. I tried to back out of the navigation but ended up cancelling the trail run instead. I then had to restart my watch, knowing that my time and distance would be off for the rest of the race. By this point some of the other runners had taken different roads and kept running, trying to find flagging. A girl on a mtn bike came flying down the one trail informing us that the ribbons had been "taken down." We ran up the road and yelled back to the other racers that we had found the proper route. We then continued on this route until the first aid station. By this point I was mad because all the reviews I had read had indicated the course was very poorly marked, and they were not wrong! Was this going to be my whole day?

Aid Station #1 - As I approached I saw a small table with not much on it - a few pretzels, 6 or 7 cookies, 2 or 3 pieces of  fruit (banana/orange), a bowl of candies and a 10L jug of water. The man behind the table almost didn't even seem happy to be there, I had lots of water and food in my pack so I just grabbed 3 candies and went on my way. Shortly after there was a section of overgrowth that no one bothered to clear out and a huge road deactivation to climb around. The trail then bacame a PowerLine cut that was overgrown and looked more like a garbage dump in places than a trail. It was barely flagged but there wasn't anywhere to get off course so I just pushed on.

The next section went back onto the highway. Finally there was flagging, an arrow tied from a pole to the bottom of the cement barrier that looked exactly like it was indicating to continue on the highway, so I did. About 500 meters up the highway I caught a glimpse of an orange ribbon in the bushes now down about 20 meters from the road. I continued up the highway scanning the ditch until I saw another flag off to the left that looked more like a trail so I had to jump the barrier and descend the embankment through the prickly bushes and jump a puddle to get back on track. I thought to myself "minor setback, no need to stress", but 3 minutes later I found myself once again searching for the elusive black/orange flagging tape. I followed the trail right back to the highway, finally turning around and heading back only to find more people coming my way. I asked them if they had seen a ribbon lately, but we found ourselves once again searching the trails for markings. I could go on forever about non existent trail markings but for the sake of not having a very long post, I will simplify it for you:
- If you don't know this course be very prepared to get lost 
- There are lots of sections with inadequately spaced flags or hard to see flags (some even tied on pebbles on the side of the road) which is confusing when you are trying to keep a pace and pay attention to a trail. 
- There are sections of the trail that are more like orienteering where you have to stop, take bearings spin around in circles and find the next flag, then you walk to that one and repeat.
- After the last aid station the course goes through a mountain bike system with trails everywhere and not a flag to be seen. To top it all off, for the last 3 km they not only had spacing issues but decided to change the color of the flagging... WHY?!
- The flags they used are the same color as old construction flagging in places 

Okay, now that's out of the way we proceed into the first nice section of trail to run. It was a great single track path that had some elevation to it - that was a nice change as most of the race so far seemed like it was on the road. We then got to a section that looked like an old blast site. I scaled over all the boulders looking around trying to make sense of where the trail went all the while trying not to trip and die. There was even one section with an old steep wood staircase missing 4-5 of the steps so you had to jump down and try not to break your ankle. I made a joke to another runner about how I forgot to pack my rock climbing gear. Just as I finished my sentence, a helicopter flew over, and he didn't miss a beat replying "there goes the helicopter, still searching for last year's DNFs." We both laughed as the trail popped out on yet another road. I'm going to pause here to talk about the road.

Sections of this course are long stretches right on the side of the sea to sky highway. They have no volunteers handing out safety vests, or even signs letting traffic know there is a race in progress. You are left to run yourself down the side of a major highway with cars whizzing past at 100km/hr+. You have the option to try to run the narrow soft shoulder behind the barrier or just suck it up and hammer on right down the highway. Pair that with a serious lack of flagging, sounds incredible, Right?

Aid Station #2 - This aid station had our first drop bags! I made the decision to change into different shoes, they were softer and better for on the road. This was the probably the best decision I made all day. As I was changing my shoes one of the volunteers went to fill my water but informed me they could only fill it with a bit as they were running low on water. WHAT!? I couldn't believe it, they told me that the next aid station was only 10 km away though. This aid station had the same limited stuff as the first one, good thing I packed my drop bag with lots of goodies! The volunteers here were amazing and helped in every way they could! All fueled up, it was back to the trails! Or in this case a long gravel road. Then highway again... it was a pretty boring stretch.

Aid Station #3 - As I rolled into this one, I ran into some of the runners that I was chatting with at the beginning. They asked me how I got behind them and if I had been lost. I laughed and said "I'm not even sure how I made it this far, I've been lost so many times" and laughed.  I asked for a water refill and the man behind the table looked horrified and asked how long I had been without water. I explained that the previous station was running out of water. He filled my water back up and I headed back out. My stomach was acting up now, I needed a bathroom. I had hoped one of the aid stations may have an outhouse but as it turns out there is only one bathroom on course and its 50 km into the race. Normally I would have resorted to the woods but the next section was up the side of a cliff and didn't have anywhere to even go... then it was more of you guessed it... Highway! Where are you supposed to use the washroom on the side of a highway?! It was an uncomfortable run to the Brandywine Falls aid station. 

Aid Station #4 - Finally a semi-decent looking aid station, paired with a bathroom! I dropped my bag and yelled my number as I ran for the can (probably the fastest I had run in the first 50km). I went back to the table and stuffed my face with boiled potatoes and chips. The volunteers filled my water pack while I grabbed my electrolyte from my drop bag, filled my bottles up, grabbed some candy worms and headed on back out on the trail. This section of trail is actually very nice, there were lots of people hiking that cheered runners on and were quite motivating. Now, I believe that there was supposed to be one more aid station that was removed at the last minute, so this section would be a 16 km stretch to the next station at 64km. It was a nice section of trail, a wide gravel path in most places and easy to run on... minus the obvious lack of flagging and constant "am I lost" sensation growing inside your head. I was having stomach issues again and had to take several bathroom stops. After passing another runner 3 times and chatting about my issues he offered me some Imodium. This cleared everything up (and probably saved my day... THANK YOU!). Time was looking good -  I figured I was going to clear the cutoff for the next aid station, my legs weren't hurting at all and somehow I was still keeping a semi-decent pace. A few more minor flagging setbacks in this section... one even involved a trail that looked like it was a river crossing, but I didn't remember seeing any river crossings listed. I instead opted to hike up onto the highway, playing frogger across 4 lanes and eventually finding flagging on the other side. I climbed back over the guard rail and down the other side to get back on the course

Aid Station #5 - I stumbled upon a table on the side of the trail with people cheering on the side.
I pretty much was headed straight for the table checking my watch to make sure I was still under the cutoff when I realized... Wait! I know these people! It was my sister and her husband. The sun was out by this point and the last couple hrs had been hot, I was a little out of it, but immediately ran over and hugged my sister. They had come bearing more food than the aid stations, with a cooler full of ginger ale and a domino's pizza and even an Iced Cap! The two of them being well seasoned racers sat me down in a chair and grabbed my pack, making sure I had everything I needed while they filled my water and checked my food supply! With a full pack and a full stomach I headed out on the last 10 miles of the race! Now this was supposed to be the "Big Climb" that everyone was talking about which looks intense on the profile but actually is quite a nice trail. My legs were still feeling strong - I even found myself running up sections of the hill. The hill finally crested and the descent was on! This section is in the mtn bike trails of Whistler so you have to watch out for bikes flying around everywhere. The bonus to this being that in sections it is soft dirt and there are berms on all the corners making fast almost enjoyable! I was gaining energy by the minute I knew the end was near, and I was going to make it!

Goofing Around for Finish Line Pics!

Aid Station #6 - I yelled out my race number as I grabbed 3 or 4 candies. I asked the volunteer how far it was and he said under 5 km to the finish. I said thanks and as I started to run he yelled "do you have enough water?" I took off thinking to myself "at this point who cares?! it's 5km" I ran off into the next section of bike park. I passed a few more people in this section enjoying the nice dirt bike trails. For some reason that I can't quite figure out,  they decided to change the flagging color in this section from orange and black to blue and white. By this point I had given up on even trying to find the flags, and I just stayed on what looked like the right trail, eventually popping out on a nice paved path in what looked like a residential area.  I knew I was close now. As I pushed forward down this path, a girl on a bike rode past me and looked back then stopped. I thought maybe I hit her with my pole, until she smiled and asked me if I was running a race. I told her I was and that it had started in Squamish at 5am. She informed me that I was within 2 km of the finish line and asked if she could ride to the finish line with me. I had been running for over 11 hrs by now so I wasn't going to decline! We chatted and she told me all about whistler almost like a tour guide as we wound down the path. As we rounded the last corner I thanked her for talking with me as I took off.

First 50 Mile Finish!
My adrenaline glands must have exploded when I saw the finish line and released a pre-workout size dose of energy throughout me.  I crossed the finish line at 11:32:06. I wandered around with my head spinning in the hot sun, the race director came over and gave me my finisher medal and shook my hand. I thanked him and went over to find my sister, drop my race pack, and jump (I ended up slipping on a rock and falling) into the beautiful cold water. I went to get some food from the BBQ but there was pretty much nothing left.. surprise surprise. I got a burger patty, a smokey, and a bun at least - but all the fixings and drinks had been cleaned out. They didn't even have water left (which amazes me because there was still racers left on course) overall I was just happy to have completed my longest distance run to date and a great training race!

It was sunny and beautiful in Whistler! There are great views from Meadows park and it is a nice place to end a race. I did spend most of the day angry and frustrated as I believe this race needs a whole lot more planning, but at the end of the day it was still a fun experience!

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