I am four year's into a tradition that is a little less conventional than most for ringing in a new year...running 50km in Vancouver as part of the Fat Ass 50k, and then hoping in the ocean for a polar bear swim (a west coast version, which is to say we have it easy out here!).
When I first ran this event in 2005 it was the first 50k I'd ever run, and just my second ultra. It took me over 6.5 hrs to get through it and on an annual basis my goal is to 1) continue to get through this run and 2) try to improve my time from the previous year.
This New Year's Eve was the most partying I've done in many years. I usually enjoy the holiday's and then chill out on the big eve. I intended to do the same this year, until my roomie decided to have a few people over for fondue and drinks.
At 3am, after 7 or 8 beers, some brandy, some wine and lots of dancing (in our living room) I figured it was time to hit the sack. My party friends laughed, saying there was no way in hell I'd get up and follow through on my 50k run...I doubted it myself at that point.
The alarm went off at 6:30am and I hit snooze without even flinching. I continued to hit snooze for 45 minutes, then peeled my eyes off my pillow, looked at the time, and deduced that if I was out the door in ten minutes, I might still have a chance to make the start of the event. I told myself I'd move until I hit a 'road block', like not being able to find my shoes, not being able to tie my shoes, or just plain getting sick.
I left Squamish at 7:52am and was on the Lion's Gate at 8:34am! No traffic, loud music and a somewhat heavy foot allowed me to temporarily forget my situation. Once I arrived in Stanley Park it was great to see so many familiar faces, and to know that some, like Wade Repta for instance, were much worse off than I! (I could determine the alcohol that Wade had consumed the previous night by the odour of his sweat!)
Once again almost 100 people showed up, including an unusually high concentration of t.v. camera's (must have been the nice weather). High cloud cover and warm(ish) temps presented us with one of the nicest days in the fifteen year history of the event!
We started off in a large group that eventually grew smaller as the distance grew larger. One bathroom break and one small wrong turn later, we were at the turnaround in just over 2hr! About 5km from this turnaround my left knee started acting up. I have not had knee issues in quite some time and was not happy with the pain I was suffering through. It did not seem to slow me, but it definitely added to an already long list of reasons in my head to stop running on the day!!
Normally we socialize and hang out for a few minutes at the half way point, but after about 60sec I looked at the other runner's I was with and simply said,
"I have to go now, or I might not go at all".
We seemed to keep a solid pace on the return trip and I initially decided to pace off with Ellie Greenwood, because she had run the course just ten days prior and seemed to know it inside out. This quickly changed into me just trying to keep pace with her! Ellie is from the UK and has never spent a full summer in Van, having worked overseas during that time and returning here in the winters. She will be a staple on the local running scene this year and I warn you all, if you see her name on the starting list, keep yer head up or she'll leave you in her dust!!
My knee wasn't getting any better on the return run, and at one point, as Ellie and I crossed a paved road between trails, it flared enough that it made me consider quiting on the spot. Once I realized it would just be a long walk back if I did so I told myself to suck it up and just try to keep up with the 'chic' on my left!
Once we hit the last section of trails, with about 15km to go, I figured I should make the most of the cushier terrain and I picked up the pace for a few km. From there we were down onto the road and back along a paved, flat surface to the finish line, which is a fire hydrant that you have to kiss!
I was feeling pretty good until I hit the Burrard St Bridge, at which point it seemed like someone had tied a few bricks to my ass! I had not looked back since the last forested section, having run solo since, but knew I should be caught at any moment.
As I crested the bridge two runner's did indeed catch, and very easily pass me. Ellie, still running like she had just gotten outta bed five minute prior, was one of them. We talked briefly, but it was very apparent that they were out pacing me at that point in time and I could do little but watch them disappear in front of me. It was at this moment, approx 44k (?) into the run, that I did something I had never done before...I mentally gave myself permission to quit. I told myself that it was OK to finally walk and rest my knee, it was alright to trek it back and just take my time in doing so, it was alright to give up...it was over...now I know that this is a fun run, and it's always fun to get out there on New Year's Day and start the year off on the right foot amongst a group of friends, but giving myself permission to quit...that just pissed me off in a big way!
I got angry with myself and said that there was no way I was going to quit now, no matter how much pain I seemed to be in. I decided that I would just try to keep sight of the two runner's in front of me for a few km and see how I felt. As we struggled our way through the throngs of polar bear swimmers in English Bay, I kept bobbing my head up and down so as not to loose sight, and pace with the leaders.
With about 3km to go I decided it was now or never, I had to try and 'get back on'. I pushed hard for 1km and was closing the gap nicely. Just as we rounded the corner into 'Lost Lagoon' Ellie turned and was noticeably surprised to see me again,
"You didn't think I was going down without a fight did ya!" I said with a laugh.
As I caught up to them I just decided to keep my pace as I figured I could hold it until the fire hydrant. I was a bit surprised to see that neither runner decided to follow and continued suffering my way along the sea wall. Last year I had the luxury of following Chris Benn and Tim Weins home, but the year prior, I ran right past the turn up into Brockton Oval and continued on down the seawall! I was very cautious to not let this happen again and had read through the course instructions twice before the run. As I struggled through the final km of the day, I noticed the Totem Poles and then the Harry Jerome statue for the first time, I was almost done.
Just a couple of painful steps up what seemed like a monstrous climb into the parking lot, a kiss of the fire hydrant...and a Global News camera in my face?? I was on the verge of tears and could hardly stand. My friends told me I looked 'real impressive' on the news that night!!
At 4h04m I not only bettered my time from last year by fifteen minutes (and apparently the course is 1km longer than last years version), but I somehow managed the new course record as well! The other two runner's were not far behind at 4h05m and 4h06m. Ellie will be a force to be reckoned with this summer. Keep yer heads up guys, I know she's got me training harder already!!
Congrats to all runner's on the day, many who completed their first ever ultra! Thanks to Ean and Sibylle of Club Fat Ass for another great event, and the numerous volunteers along the course, it was truly a perfect day for to be out there!!
Nutrition: In case you're wondering, I consumed three gels, two packets of Cliff Shot Bloks, one Nuun tablet and one bottle of Carbo-Pro 1200 (watered down in 1.5 litres of water), for a total of about 1700 calories.
I couldn't walk for a few days after the event, but that's pretty normal for me. I managed an easy paced, but painful 35m run on Friday night and 2hr on the spin bike last night. Finally today I am able to walk without hobbling and should be good to go for training tomorrow. I already have floor hockey, a few spin sessions, ski touring and maybe even skate skiing on the list of things to do next week. It has snowed over two feet in the last few days on the mountains...let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!!
Happy New Year!