First off I have to admit that this is probably the longest I have gone without blogging in the almost four years that I've been doing this.
Long story short, there have been some life changes as of late. I don't currently have an actual place to live as finding somewhere in North Van that allows dogs can be challenging to say the least. Life is still good. I have very little to complain about, though I have no current routine and no at home internet. I'm sure things will work out for the best in due time.
This past weekend was the inaugural Fat Dog 100k, 100miler, and relay in Manning Park. I know a lot of people seemed to be under the impression that this was 'my race' simply because of the fact that I talked it up so much in the last six months. I was/am simply a volunteer who insisted on taking the final aid station of the race. I wanted to be there when people were at their worst in the hopes that I might be able to make a difference to some people's races. Outside of setting up this aid station I had no influence over the race whatsoever. It would simply be unfair to all those involved to imply that I did more than this.
I just want to start by saying this. I had volunteered for races before, but I had never donated my time to help out at a 100 mile event. You simply have NO IDEA how much work goes into an event like this until you see it all first hand. The logistics involved in getting a race like this off the ground are simply mind boggling. My hat goes off to Heather Macdonald for her amazing ability to take a conversational idea and build it into reality in under twelve months. Had I been in charge we'd still be working on the permits! (and I'm really not exaggerating too much on that one)
There were over 70 volunteers who dedicated their entire weekends to this event. I will briefly entail what my experience was, but I would like to state that there were numerous people who did two and three times as much as I personally had to. Again my hat goes off to these selfless individuals.
From North Vancouver you arrive in Manning park in under 2.5hrs, and that's in a vehicle that is quite honestly impossible to speed in! My 81 Suub has done me no wrong in the almost two years that I have owned it. It's quite simply the best $1,000 I've ever spent! Ditching a brand new leased Nissan was one of the best decisions I've made in the last few years, but that's another story altogether.
I left North Van on Thursday night and camped out in Manning for about 6hr of sleep. Most people were up and gone at 2-3-4am. I had the luxury of 'sleeping in'. I loaded my car and headed out to my aid station, which was another 2hr away. Upon arrival I hiked all of my supplies, including a 70lb generator, to a trail intersection 1km away. It took me nearly two hours and ten kms to do so. I was sweaty, exhausted, and being eaten alive by mosquitoes, but I knew it was nothing compared to how the runners would be feeling.
After another 2hr I finally had the station set up and looking somewhat enticing. I was expecting the first 100km runner anytime after 2:30pm. Some people said maybe closer to 5pm but I wanted to ensure I was ready to go in case we had underestimated the pacing.
The great thing about an excursion into Manning Park is that there is no cell or internet service. It's like a cleansing of sorts...except of course when you are organizing a 100k/mile running event. An hour passed, then two, then three. I wanted to sleep but was on edge wondering what might be happening down the trail. At about 5:30pm recent Canadian Badwater finisher Lorie Alexander appeared. She had contemplated running the race, being the nutbar that she is, but instead settled on helping me out. Honestly I would not have been able to do it without her. Thank you Lorie for everything that you contributed to the event and my own experience!
Lorie brought with her relayed news that runners were still nowhere near us. I had also been awaiting my water to show up (I had 20L with me, but 200L more had to be utilized) and this would have entailed an additional 90+min of hucking the stuff around. Since the runners were still nowhere near us, and since the location really wasn't sufficient by any definition of the word, I made the on the fly decision to utilize the now three people to pack up my current location and add an additional ten minutes of running to the race.
My rational was this. I was manning the final aid station, the most likely place to see people pull the plug. If a runner had to drop at least this way we were already at the road and would have access to cars, heat, and immediate transport to deal with any possible emergencies. Even 1km is 1km too far if you are dealing with a serious medical incident. On top of that the location was crew accessible and a relay point, which meant there would be a decent amount of traffic throughout the night. In the first location I literally had to kick over bushes and brush to fit in the chairs, table and tent. If any crew decided to show up they would have been huddled in the trees playing 'who can donate the most blood to the bugs' for hours on end. This way they too could nap in their vehicles. Finally, this decision saved us an additional 6hr of take down effort after the race.
We had managed to fully erect our station with plenty of time to spare. It was getting late and we still had not seen a runner. Slowly but surely, one by one, they eventually found their way to us. The stories were consistent. A course that was unfortunately long, a few sections with flagging issues, and a race that was billed as runnable when in fact it was very technical. It was readily apparent the frustration upon peoples faces. Some hid it well, some did not, yet all but a few managed a smile and a laugh before they tucked in for the slog on to the finish.
I witnessed some unbelievable efforts out there this weekend and even though I took three days off of work and drove almost 800km return, I would not have had it any other way.
To the 100km runners: Every single one of you was faced with a challenge far greater than you anticipated. To those who finished, I can say with confidence that you are ready to pursue your first 100 miler in 2011 if you so desire. To those who made it to me but no further. I was closer in distance to your 100km marker than the actual finish line. I meant what I said. You could have and would have finished just about any other 100km race on the planet this past weekend. Be proud of what you accomplished because I for one am amazed at the tenacity you displayed and the toughness you possessed.
To the relay runners: Most of you were trail virgins...welcome to our world! You and your crew kept things lively and interesting all night long. I hope you either decide to pursue a bigger distance yourself next year or organize another team. You added an element of fun to a race that was taking its toll on those around you.
To the 100 mile runners: What can I say? I only saw 15 of you and every single one of you continued on to the finish line, even when I explained to you that the final '26km' was going to take at least six hours and probably upwards of seven to eight. A disproportionate number of you were 100 mile virgins. Do you really understand what you tackled this past weekend?? There isn't a 100mile course that I know of that could stop any of you. Know that and do what you will with that knowledge. You are all champions in my books by every definition of that word.
To those who dropped: I can't imagine the mental struggles that must have ensued early on when distances were proving long and sections were difficult to navigate. I hope you experienced enough of the course to take away some of the natural beauty with you. I am confident the Race Directors will do everything they need to to fully dial in this event in 2011.
The Fat Dog 100 will go down as an epic event in its inception year. The course is amazingly stunning and the people involved in organizing the race are completely passionate about what they do. With time and luck on my side I'll be back to serve up some hot bacon, dogs, pizza, soup, and Newfie Screech again next year, and I sincerely hope to see all of you there again!
In the meantime, if you ran this race and have some free time, please drop RD Heather Macdonald a line. Let her know your thoughts on the event and the experiences you had, both good and bad. The only way a point to point mountain run of this kind can succeed is with the genuine feedback of the participants. I think it's incredible what Heather and her crew were able to accomplish this year and I know that with a few simple yet relevant tweaks this race can and will become a classic.