Viewing entries tagged
Ultra Running

Barkley, A Long Form Race Report


Barkley, A Long Form Race Report

Credits : Des bosses et des bulles

Almost a month on from when I toed the line at The Barkley Marathons and I am literally still unable to feel most of my toes. The scars from the briars have mostly recovered and my energy levels slowly return to normal, though I do swing between feeling near 100% and knowing I still have a ways to go to get back to 100%. 

The Barkley, quite simply, was the toughest race I've ever attempted, and although I did come up just short in the end I was able to take away nothing but positives from the experience, at least after I'd slept on it a few days and come to terms with it all. 

The Barkley documentary that recently made its way to Netflix certainly affected things this year, most notably in the media coverage during and especially after the event. To speak specifically to the documentary on Netflix, having now experienced all that Barkley is I can say that the doc does a pretty good job of capturing the essence of The Barkley, with its quirkiness, unique characters and appeal on all levels. Where the documentary falls flat on its face though is in showing how difficult the Barkley really is. In hindsight I believe the documentary softened my expectations of the purely physical challenge of the event and as such the very first words out of my mouth after my first lap, to Laz were "This is WAY harder than I expected it to be. I'm enjoying it mind you, and I kinda like what you've managed to piece together out here." 

Beyond all the things that makes The Barkley a near impossible undertaking I like to sum it up like this, I know track running and what happens in Frozen Head State Park could not be more diametrically opposed but bare with me here. Consider the sub 4-minute mile, for many years it was considered impossible and at the outer reaches of human possibility, but since Roger Bannister became the first to break the barrier in 1954 the record has dropped by almost 17 seconds and high school runners have since broken the mark. Take the sub 4-minute mile and after every single runner breaks four minutes tack on another 50 meters / 50 yards to the distance, but keep calling it a mile.  This is The Barkley.

Lap 1 - Let's Get This Thing Started Already.

I had been warned that Jared would take it out hard, at least in comparison to what you'd expect a "60-hour" pace to consist of. I decided that I would hang with Jared and the lead pack for the first thirty minutes, no matter the pace, and then assess from there if it were sustainable or not. I thought we'd see a bit of a false charge, or a "scraping" of people as soon as possible. When I veteran makes a move to drop a virgin, it is referred to as scraping them. 

Sure enough just a few minutes in and we were running the first climb. The grade was nothing serious and you'd run it without question during a shorter endeavor as it was a maintained trail, also known as a "candyass trail", but to assess this as a 60-hour pace or not would certainly return with only one answer of "oh hell no." Thankfully, and as expected, once we'd established our lead group of seven the pace eased ever so slightly to a more reasonable clip. Our group consisted of Jared, John Kelly (so local that one of the hills/mountains is named after his family), Andrew Thompson (2009 Finisher), Adam Lint and two french runners. Not a bad group to find yourself with this early on. 

As a virgin I knew the only shot at success was to latch onto a veteran and attempt to learn as much as possible while not getting dropped. My intent, if I did get scraped by Jared and co. was to immediately stop and await the next group of runners to catch up to pair up with them. I did not know Jared in advance of the race beyond a one hour phone call we'd had after I reached out to him asking him if I could run a few questions by him. The main piece of advice I took away from that was, "follow a vet for two laps, ideally someone who is slower than you and take on as little stress as possible while learning as much of the course as you can." We never once spoke about the "what if" of if we would pair up together, but it was always my intent to stick with Jared for as long as it made sense to do so.

We rapidly veered off the candyass trail and through the forest towards our first book. Once we located it I became jubilant, my first Barkley page! On the way into Frozen Head State Park there is a house just before the turn with a small sign for self defense classes and a rather large red sign on the roof of the building simply saying "NINJA". I told Linda I would celebrate each and every book along the course by simply saying NINJA when we found it, whether out loud or to myself I did keep this promise and it helped to keep my spirits light as the race progressed.


As I was celebrating people were pulling pages passing the book along and then darting out of sight. There's no "I" in team and there are no teams in Barkley. As the last person to pull a page I now had a gap to Jared and co. at the front. As we started down our first off-trail descent we were forced through a pinch point in some rocks. I lept forward, caught mud at the bottom and was thrown to my butt for a slide of about ten feet. My backside was covered and people continued to peel away from me. I found myself with AT, asked him about his course knowledge and he said it'd been years since he'd lined up and he was in fact not 100% confident in his nav skills for this new course. He himself was following the leader and we were both about to get scraped. I immediately leaned into the descent and rather recklessly went about attempting to make up ground before the leaders were in fact out of sight. One of the french runners was between myself and the lead pack and he was all that kept them in sight initially. 

Me to myself, "This is NOT a sensible pace right now Gary." "Thanks Captain Obvious, how bout ya shut the hell up and focus on not throwing our race out the window before book two?" "10-4"

At about this time the reality of the Barkley starts to unveil itself. The terrain underfoot is steep and buried beneath organic material, mostly leaves. Every footstep crunches like you're on a early morning winter frost, and every footfall breaks through into something unknown beneath. A patch of mud, a tangled root, a slippery rock, you are constantly being thrown about and often to the ground only to have to pick yourself up time and time again. It is glaringly obvious that the number of ways for your race experience to end prematurely are all but infinite. The Barkley is thrashing me about and I'm not even an hour in, picking myself up off the ground again and again. Thankfully I am closing the gap and by the time we find ourselves at a river crossing to step back onto some candyass trails I'm up in the lead group of four again. Heads down, moving militantly up the second climb, I look down the trail to see AT working hard to catch back up. One French runner is gone and I realize in that moment that there's no messing around here, this isn't an easy stroll in the forest, we're racing.

On the now off-trail descent to book two I am all but attached to Jared at the hip in the two spot. Jared sticks to what he knows which is kind of a two step approach to the book, follow this ridge to this rock, then take a bearing straight shot, while John Kelly opts for a direct line. It would be the last we would see of John until the beginning of our third loop, while going counter-clockwise and we would later learn that as he was heading towards the book he became entangled in a briar patch. The briars took him down and wrapped around his neck and John would end up looking like he'd escaped a cougar attack. 

Book one had been fairly straightforward, but book two would be all but impossible to find as a complete virgin. Jared hit it straight on and all of us doted appreciation on him as we realized how vital he was to our success in that moment. 

We started the near 2000ft off-trail climb away from book two and another member of our group started to falter. As we topped out on some candyass connectors the pace quickened once again and you could hear the scraping sound. We were down to four, Jared, AT, Adam Lint and myself.

As we collectively approached book three, a newly added book for 2016, all but Jared started searching the rock features for where it might be hidden. You are given instructions as to how the books are placed, things such as, and I quote

"If you go to the exact juncture of the two creeks, and cross over to the west bank, there will be a steep earthen embankment directly in front of you. Go left, downstream, until you see the path climbing onto that earthen bank, and turning right to go up the crest. This is only about 30 or 40 feet. Climb up the trail until you are directly above the juncture of the creeks. You will be standing next to a Beech Tree with a Hollow at the bottom. Inside the hollow is book XX"

The instructions mostly make sense if you hit your target spot on, and can kind of make sense for the 101 ways you can slightly miss your target. 

Jared goes straight for a rock on the ground while saying, "I think Laz would put it HERE." Bingo. Slow clap. Ninja.

Onto book 4, standard stuff. From book 4 towards 5 AT tells us stories of how he sat in a mudpit in this area on the 5th and final loop years back squishing mud into his toes for over an hour. He was so delusional he had no idea where he was or what he was doing anymore. He obviously did not finish that year. 

Book 5 involved a short but steep descent and once again we all relied on Jared's precision to save us valuable time. 

Somewhere between Rat Jaw (shown below) which is book #9 and book #12 AT fell off the back and it was but three of us, Jared, Adam and me. We actually waited a minute hoping AT would catch up before turning and continuing on without him. Such is the respect level for a previous finisher of the race. Jared continued to show us the ways of The Barkley and collectively we made haste towards the end of the first lap. 

Photo Credit Keith Knipling

In the clockwise direction the final four miles are candyass trails and they are after you've collected the final 13th book. As we ran down those 2000ft to close out the lap we started talking transition. Adam straight up said he was not continuing at our pace and as I was thinking Jared might declare twenty or twenty-five minutes of "interloopal" time when he spits out,

"Ten minutes?"

Excessively long pause while I process the influx of emotions that came with this tidbit...

"Sounds great...."

Woohoo, camp! Our first lap time was 8:01:19. The conch blew at 9:42am for a 10:42am start time. It was now 6:43pm with a sunset time of just after 8pm and a sunrise time of just before 7am.

Me to Laz as he's counting our pages, "This is WAY harder than I expected it to be. I'm enjoying it mind you and I kinda like what you've managed to piece together out here."

To Jared, "See ya in ten."

To my amazing support crew who consisted of my beautiful wife Linda and our then 7.5 month old son Reed, a buddy from highschool in Newfoundland who now lives three hours from Frozen Head, Shawn Martin, Ethan Newberry (aka The Ginger Runner) and his lovely wife Kimberley Teshima, and finally Matt Trappe...


If I could insert a GIF of the Tasmanian Devil spinning in circles it'd be perfect. Ten minutes later,

"Oh hey Jared, that was fun wasn't it, did you sleep? I thought about it but figured it best to focus on breathing for fifteen seconds."

Lap 2 - Second Verse Same as the First.

Into the night. 

As Laz is handing us our new bibs he reminds us that once we take the bib our crew and camp is off-limits again until either dropping or completing another loop. "Make sure you've got everything you need."

Two headlamps, three batteries, 12+ hours of food, waterproof breathable kit, just in case, cold weather gear as the temps are expected to drop to near freezing, etc, etc. The pack is loaded, weighing maybe ten pounds. We grab our bibs and are off, attempting to cover as much ground as possible before needing to turn on our headlamps. It is now down to just Jared and me and we move remarkably well up the first climb to snag book 1.

At book 2 we come across Canadian Rhonda Marie-Avery, the runner with 8% vision. We are on loop two, somewhere around nine and a half hours in and Rhona, along with her guide, are still searching for the second book. You want dedication? You want resolve? You want inspiration? Look no further. They were within throwing distance of the book and yet they just could not locate it. To their great relief Jared helped them out, I gave her a hug, and we were off again. There was no downtime, there was only focus.

The sun set on us shortly after this and we next lapped runners at book 4. From book 3 we could see a light at book 4 and when we arrived there about thirty minutes later the light was still searching. Starchy, someone I've met at the HURT 100, was going in circles looking for the 4th book. Again the runner was all but right on top of it, but at night the navigation becomes even trickier. We all grabbed a page, placed a rock atop a cairn memorial, and as Jared and I proceeded on towards book 5 we came across a group of maybe five runners. The group was a mix of "get me the hell out of here and back to camp" and "please, please, please just help us find this one next book."

We attempted to convince everyone to come with us towards book 5 but a few were so shell shocked that they were hearing none of it. The group split and Jared helped the eventual group of three, Kimberly, Brad and Starchy, who would go on to set the new longest first loop record of, are you ready for this, 31h59m. We were directing them to book five on their first loop, and we would pass them again on our next loop. I said this afterwards via the Barkley message boards, they, along with Rhonda, were my "heroes of the weekend". No one leaves camp with 32 hours worth of food on them, and very few depart with 32 hours worth of fight in them.

Jared and I had gotten to know each other pretty well by this point and we were clicking along like a well oiled machine, right up until we ourselves got lost in the night. Being very experienced at getting lost in adventure racing I have at least learned one thing over the years, small mistakes become big mistakes and limiting those loses is key. Jared and I were attempting to figure out where we were, while thinking we were perilously close to the one house on course in which the pre-race instructions clearly stated "DO NOT got to this property for help as the owner is entirely likely to shoot any and all trespassers on site" when Jared says,

"East? How are we going east? We should be going west, can you reference your compass here." 

Yes, we were that turned around. At this point I said we needed to sit our assess down and talk this out. In under five minutes we were in agreeance with where we were and just a few minutes after getting up and proceeding in the agreed upon direction we found ourselves back on course. I had helped with something! I felt just a little bit less like a deadweight at that moment and I celebrated the knowledge that we were in fact working as a team and we were most likely in this together until we both made it to the 5th lap.

We proceeded through the rest of loop two without and major hiccups to close our our second loop in 11h01m.

Jared, "Ten minutes?"

Me, "Ya know, an extra five would be dreamy right now."

Jared, "No worries, sounds good."


As I was packed up and ready to head to the gate my bladder seemed to have exploded on my bag. Shit! Thankfully I had packed two of every essential (pack, bladder, compass, poles, etc)

Me to Jared, "My bladder exploded, just need another minute."

"No worries" as he proceeded to the gate and hung out with Laz for a bit. I was not being scraped, we were a team and a damn fine one I might add with how well we worked together and how there was an unspoken bond between us. We got to talk about anything BUT how we were feeling, how we were doing, what our time looks like or how much pain we're in, etc. We can ask questions of each other as long as they don't pertain to these items, and we can randomly spit out any stories that pop into our minds as we go. We were less than 24 hours into this thing and we pretty much knew each other's back stories, kids names, how we each met our wife, etc. It was rather quite pleasant. 

Lap 3 -Counterclockwise.

Photo Credit Kimberley Teshima

I tried to go the wrong way while leaving camp. Nope, it's counter-clockwise time now. About thirty minutes out from camp John Kelly came running down the candyass trail looking strong. We had no idea his story at that point and hadn't seen him since book 2 on loop 1. It was nice to be going in the opposite direction so that you could interact with the rest of the runners who were still in this thing. 

As we were honing in on book 2 in this direction I stepped on a rock that was about a square foot in size, it rolled back and as I slipped behind it it slammed into my left shin. I crumbled to the ground while writhing in pain. Jared was ahead of me and he stopped to ask if I was alright with a bit of a look of what the heck just happened to you? 

On my final long training session leading into Barkley, the overnighter I posted a video about, I'd managed to injure myself. I knew going into that training session that I was in "gravy time" with training and I felt no need to push things, so I agreed to shut it down at any point that night if anything felt off. Nothing did, it went great and I celebrated the training session as I was driving home for breakfast. As I arrived home I stepped out of my Xterra and could not walk without significant pain in my lower left shin. What the hell? Where did this come from? 

Throughout the night of the training session, on one small section of trail, I was postholing through a thick ice crust while coming down the upper parts of the snow covered mountain. The first time this occurred I remember thinking, holy crap that feels terrible, but nothing more than that so I proceeded lap in and lap out to posthole and ignore this discomfort. It would take three more days before I learned that I was suffering from tenosynovitis, initially diagnosed as a tendinopathy. Basically the postholing through an ice crust created an impact injury on my shin in which I'd damaged the tendon sheath, caused an inflammation and could not walk without significant pain. There were 15 days till race day when this first occurred and I was told that the only true remedy was time and rest. Things that could help with recovery included a topical anti-inflammatory, massage, ART work and cold laser therapy.

The following week, with less than a week to go until we flew to Tennessee I was driving all over Vancouver, North Vancouver and Burnaby getting as many treatments as possible. I spent over $400 on sessions and have never been so stressed while leading into a race before. I was unable to do much of anything in the taper phase, which is certainly not ideal, and on one particular day my quads nearly shut down on me while out on a short steep walk working on my compass skills. I had gone from 60 - 0 in training and you just can't apply the handbrake while cruising the highway and expect things to go well. I arrived home after that compass session and declared this was all for naught, I had not purchased refund insurance on our flights so we were heading to Tennessee and if things managed to recover enough to allow me to even start I'd see if I could make it at least a few laps. 

I did not talk about this to anyone who did not need to know about it because I didn't want to believe it was happening, and I could do without the sympathy, support or condolences which would only make it more real. Linda did manage to make me laugh but once when she said,

"It's as if Laz is a wizard and he could see how confident you were in your training so he cast a spell on you just to see if you could handle it."

It almost goes without saying that it is NOT difficult to picture Laz wearing a wizard's hat.

I started the race with nothing but uncertainty, but I also knew that I'd never been so mentally dialed into an endeavor before and I believed deep down inside that I had a chance, even with this obstacle. I asked my practitioners before departing BC what the worst case scenario was and I was told that a lengthy recovery period was the worst case, if I were even able to continue to push through the pain and swelling to get it to that point.

The rock took me down. Jared asked if I was alright.

"I will only speak of this once. I started this race injured, I've been ignoring pain since mile one and my downhills are seriously compromised by this injury (I couldn't remember the word tenosynovitis at that point so I simply said) called a tendinopathy. (As I picked myself up) I'm fine."

Jared, "I've had that before, it really hurts."

And that was that, back to business.

Through book three and four and while going for book five, up Rat Jaw we came across Kim, Brad and Starchy...they were still going on loop one....we were closing in on the halfway point of the 100 miles.

A few hours further along and I asked Jared what his preferred direction of travel was. There is no way in hell that I would have had any shot at this thing without his assistance and it was just a bonus that we were enjoying each other's company along the way. Jared said clockwise and I said great, you go clockwise and I'll go counter when we both get to our fifth and final loop. 

If you don't know, the first two laps are clockwise, the following two are counter and on the final lap is runner's choice, but if multiple runners make the fifth they must alternate direction so that they can no longer work together. I actually really like this rule and believe it adds a wonderful dynamic to things.

We were still on three but now Jared forced me to lead while he instructed me as to what to look for along the way. We were pretty much doing this all along, but now he placed me in front so as to ensure I collect every bit of knowledge to ideally succeed on my final loop by myself. There was absolutely nothing more that Jared could have done to set me up for success and without him this race report would have ended long it is JARED'S FAULT that this F-ING RACE REPORT is so F-ING LONG ALREADY! Thanks Jared!!

As we neared in on the end of three I was pushing up against the longest I'd ever been on my feet continuously. I have completed expedition adventure races before with the longest taking me and my team nine days to reach the finish line, but those are multi-sport and at a slower overall pace. The combination of not sleeping the night before the race, being on foot for over 30 hours, now having covered nearly 39,000 feet of climbing and descent, and then realizing that we were only 3/5ths of the way through this thing lead to my own armour showing chinks. My mind, the number one tool in any Barkley attempt had been my greatest asset up until this point in time, but now it was thinking things through. I was doing math, I was extrapolating pain and thinking it forward, I was losing absolute focus and struggling to believe I could or should go on past this third loop, the Fun Run. I had no interest in a Fun Run (three loops in under 40 hours) and not once had I told myself I'd be happy with this. There was no reward for me in only doing 3/5ths of what I trained so diligently for and what I knew conclusively that I could accomplish, yet here I was, completely entrenched in doubtsville.

We agreed to attempt to sleep after this lap and that we'd spent a total of 90 minutes in camp. Sleep as much as you can in that amount of time but don't be late getting back to the gate. As we thumped down the candyass descent of 2000ft feet at the end of loop three I started a chant in my head, 

"Just keep your feet moving. Just keep your feet moving. Just keep your feet moving."

Nothing else went through my head for the final twenty minutes into camp. Nothing else was welcome there.

We arrived after an elapsed 31h27m. They call this 60 miles, but the true distance is at least 78. Those first three laps at Barkley stand up as being tougher than any 100 miler I've yet to compete in, without question. I believe Hardrock will eventually prove to be harder than three laps of the Barkley (when I get in via the lottery), but the HURT 100 is not and UTMF is not. 

Laz actually looked impressed and the glint in his eye showed a hint of excitement. He knew he'd at least have some 5th lap runners this year.

Matt Trappe Photography

I announced to the team that we had 90 total minutes and that I needed to try to sleep. I fell into my chair, removed my shoes and socks and attempted to eat some real food before laying down. I had onset of trenchfoot but it was not yet full blown. As I was cramming food into my mouth, and rubbing a topical anti-inflammatory across my injured shin, uncontrollable tears started to slowly trickle down my cheeks. I did not know how to go on. I did not understand how this thing called Barkley was in fact possible. I was embarrassed by these tears and yet I could not prevent them. I crawled into my sleeping bag and asked Linda to sing to me. I requested the song we sing to our son when we put him down at night and the uncontrollable tears continued behind my sleep mask.

It was evening in camp and camp was active. I had in ear plugs, I had on a sleep mask, and I had a comfy sleeping pad on a flat surface, but sleep would not find me. Dogs were barking, the bugle was tapping people out and I think a car alarm went off once. I was all too aware of the fact that my 55 minutes of actually laying down was about to expire, and all at once I was up and getting dressed again. 

I did not, for one second, hesitate. I was robotic in my movements while still telling myself to just keep my feet moving. I was up against the wall of The Barkley and that wall was constructed by a master of drystone masonry. I could not conceive of how to get through this wall and as I walked up to the yellow gate with Jared to collect our bibs for the 4th time I passed on through the wall as if it did not exist, for in fact it didn't, it was all a construct of my mind. As we departed the campground on lap four I felt a surge of energy. Before even getting to the first climb on lap four I now knew I was going to make it to lap five. The first crux of the Barkley had been negotiated.

Lap 4 - Who Is This Guy In Front of Me?

Matt Trappe Photography

We were heading into the night, our second. Night nav is incredibly difficult at The Barkley, night nav after being awake for two straight days takes on a whole other challenge. 

As we proceeded through the fourth lap and through the night we made small error after small error. Every micro-error leads to lost time that won't come back to you, and as Jared and I both dealt with hallucination issues we did express that we weren't leaving ourselves much room for error on the fifth and final lap.  

At one point during loop four I'm following Jared through the night and I realize I have no idea of who is in front of me. I start a mental roll call of who it could be, is it my high school buddy Shawn Martin? I almost laugh, nope Shawn is a wonderful friend and we've shared some fun adventures but he is not a runner. Is it Andrew Thompson? No, I don't think I've seen AT since we departed on loop two. Is it Eric Carter? (Eric is an adventure buddy and my partner in our coaching business, no I did not just put him in here to work in a plug for our business I swear) It can't be Eric, he's not on skis and I haven't seen Eric in running shoes in over six months. Who is this guy in front of me? OH, is it Jurgen? I think his name is! I then repeated the name Jared five times in my head before speaking out loud.

"Jared, I'm struggling to remember who the hell you are right now!"

His response, with a bit of a laugh, "I'll be whoever you need me to be, let's just keep moving forward."

Our micro-errors were adding up and the hallucinations were increasing. There are two water drops on the course and as were were closing in on the second water drop over halfway through the lap Jared mentioned being tired. I knew we were both struggling but was aware of the fact that sleep would be challenging, even in our depleted state, as it was a windy and chilly night. The water drop was in a bit of a sump so my hope was that it would protect us from the wind. 

I had, up until this point in the race, not carried a watch. There was simply no point really as you're not allowed a GPS, and time of day could reasonably be deduced given our nice weather pattern over the weekend. I did not know the exact time of night, but I did know we were likely a few hours from sunrise. 

"Do you have an alarm you trust?"


"We should sleep when we get to the water drop, how does fifteen minutes sound?"

"Sounds like a great idea!"

We trudged down to the water and filled our bottles. We knew that upon waking up we'd be freezing and we'd need to get moving immediately. I put on every additional layer and piece of clothing I had in my pack, but I wasn't carrying pants at this point and I had on knee high socks and a spandex short under a running short. I grabbed an empty gallon water jug, depressed a head sized pocket into it and I plopped myself down in the dirt. We set an alarm for seventeen minutes, to allow for two minutes to fall asleep and fifteen of actual sleep.

"Sweet dreams."

I did find sleep, though about twelve minutes on I started shivering from the wind catching my knees and in hindsight I should have pulled apart a box that the water was transported in and created a blanket out of it. I lay there shivering for a few minutes, knowing that Jared was asleep and not wanting to prematurely end his seventeen minutes of bliss, but alas my stirring lead to standing so as to attempt to stay warm and Jared awoke when he heard this. 

"Time to go?"

"Not quite, but I'm shivering so I have to move a bit."

Up he popped and we simultaneously turned towards the slight incline away from the water drop and got straight back to work on the task at hand. The alarm sounded as we were ascending away from our five star accommodations. No wifi, but all you can drink bottled water.

The sun seemed to arrive all too early and we started feeling the pressure of the 60 hour time limit. A new hallucination began as any and all flowing water now became group conversations in my head. I could not discern words, just that I was hearing voices. Given how many water crossings there are on a Barkley loop it was one of the less pleasant hallucinations I would deal with. As we snagged the final book in the counter-clockwise direction and approached the candyass descent back into camp I felt the need to push the pace a bit. Jared had been dealing with his own knee issue for over ten hours already and collectively we made quite the site of hobbled runners. I should have removed a strap from my pack and tied our bunk legs together to create the first ever three legged race in Barkley history. 

I arrived at the gate about a minute ahead of Jared, feeling like this was beneficial to both of us since it would allow Laz to count out pages seperately rather than collectively and thereby save each of us about thirty seconds. Yes this is a preposterous thought as I write this, but that's how up against the clock it was all starting to feel in the moment. In the end Laz showed his own sleep deprivation by restarting my page count no fewer than four times, and just enough for me to start worrying that I'd somehow lost or forgotten a page. In the end Laz counted our pages simultaneously and Jared and I headed into camp at the same time. We had taken 14 hours to complete the fourth. 

My crew surrounded me in prep to get me set and the campsite was a buzz.

"Let's get me outta here ASAP!"

We were efficient, I knew what I needed and I was pumped. I was making it to the 5th lap! Jared described the fifth as a euphoric experience and adrenaline was surging through my body. 

2012 finisher John Fegyveresi offered congrats and words of encouragement saying I had plenty of time to get it done. I responded by saying that I hadn't accomplished anything yet as I was all too aware of the fact that in the last 75+ hours I'd slept about 90 minutes. I knew I had the physical capabilities to close this out, but did I have still possess the mental wherewithal to figure it all out?

Coincidentally Jared and I walked right into each other in the campground as we were heading to the gate to collect our final bibs.

Me to Jared, "I've got an idea! Let's go to that gate, collect bibs and then head off in opposite directions. Let's high five at the exact midpoint on course and both meet back here before the 60 hour cutoff!"


The bibs are handed out and the bell lap is announced with gusto.

Lap 5 - Can I Get A Timeout Please?

In the counterclockwise direction the first mile or so is flat with a slight downhill before the climbing begins. It's about 10am, sunny and the day is promising to be the warmest yet. It's Monday. We started running on Saturday morning. There are film crews everywhere and cameras follow me until the grade kicks up. I'm lucid, focused, happy, and I'm running, like actually running. I reach the incline and continue to push the pace, climbing faster than I have yet to do in the counterclockwise direction. I know the adrenaline will wear off shortly but I can't stop my mind from going to what it'll feel like to hit the gate and close this thing out. I get excited, too excited and I quickly tell myself to "Chill the F out. Keep your focus. You haven't even collected a single page yet." I then go through waves of excitement that are followed by chanting "CTFO. CTFO."

I turn a corner and the trail heads down for a bit. All at once everything feels entirely foreign to me. Have I taken a wrong turn? I look for the green blazes on the trees to confirm I'm still on the right trail, and I know inside that there are no other trails off of this one. Yup, green blazes, this is right, but it all looks wrong. Shit! Did I accidentally turn around at some point? Am I heading back towards camp or away from it? A long pause as I attempt to recall if I've stopped to pee. No. The adrenaline has dispersed and all I'm left with is complete and utter sleep deprivation and confusion. I make a pact with myself that whenever I stop to pee I have to take my trekking poles and place them on the ground pointing in the direction of travel so that I don't make this critical error. My mind is crumbling.

Book one is a near gimme in this direction and I find it without issue. From the first to the second book is fairly complex. I have a new mantra now. "Take a bearing, check a bearing, follow a bearing. Trust your compass." I start chanting this out loud to myself as I align compass to map and begin my descent. I am aware of the fact that I have little to no room for error now. I can make this happen, I can finish the Barkley in my first ever attempt, I just need to get everything right. 

I look downslope to align my bearing and I see a vivid image of an industrial sized water container, the large white things that are the size of a transport truck trailer.

"Ok, shoot for that water container...wait, I've been through here four times now and I'm pretty sure there's nothing on this slope. Ok, I wonder what this'll actually be once I get to it."

I was at least still with it enough to recognize what was going on in my own head. Sure enough once I found myself in the clearing that was suppose to hold a water container there was nothing even remotely resembling one, not even a tree that I could believe had contributed to this illusion. 

"Take a bearing, check a bearing, follow a bearing. Trust your compass."

The river came into sight, the confluence came into sight, the incline came into sight and the beech tree came into sight. HOLY SHIT, I DID IT! WOOHOO! Ninja.

Water. Voices in my head. Talk out loud to drown it all out.

"Take a bearing, check a bearing, follow a bearing. Trust your compass."

I triple checked before I made a single move. Down across the river and up towards book three. I peered up through the forest and I spotted a number on a tree, then another, then another. Clear as day, no doubting that my mind was seeing numbers on f-ing trees. I looked down, I saw faces in the leaves. Anything with two puncture holes became a face. Leaves everywhere = faces everywhere. I avert my gaze, my eyes pan across a pile of small rocks and I see my brother's face on a pebble the size of my pinky nail. "Was that Bryan?"

I try to reason with myself, to talk myself out of this malfunctioning mindset, to regain the necessary focus to continue error free. I again peer up slope and I spot two mule deer prancing through the forest. The deer are far enough away that I process no sound from their movements and all at once they are gone. Was that a hallucination too? Why does this feel like one of the most beautiful experiences of my life right now?

I topped out on my climb and I did not hit my target. The map came out as I started to piece together where in fact I was. My mind felt as though I must have continued too far north, when in fact I was too far south. I started to make the map match my mind rather than the other way around and I decided to move, rapidly, down a ridge in the hopes that I would all but collide with my intended point. I started jogging, then running and then all but sprinting. I was bleeding time but I could limit that by moving rapidly now. Before I even knew what had happened I'd dropped far too much elevation and I was intersecting with service roads. Another challenge of the Barkley is that a lot of gravel roads you cross or utilize on course do not in fact show up on the map. 

As I was trudging one service road I caught my toe and wound up on my face before my deadened senses and reflexes could even respond. It was the harshest fall I'd taken all race and I lay in disbelief for about five full seconds before peeling myself out of the dirt. I quietly murmured "Fuck you Barkley."

The clock never stops.

One hour became two and for the first time all race I lost my cool. Success at the Barkley is predicated on keeping a cool head and dealing with any and all obstacles along the way as part of the challenge you've undertaken. Picking yourself up off the ground time and time again is par for the course. Briars ripping the flesh off of the back of your legs, where the knee bends, is standard fare. Getting lost is just part of the game. For over 50 hours I had slogged away at this thing and not once had I even so much as even flinched in anger, but that was over now, I was all but out of time to make up for this error. I stopped moving, through my arms up, and yelled from deep within,


After two and a half hours I finally located book three. I briefly told myself that maybe I could push past this, that if I found yet another reserve of energy somewhere that maybe I could make up for my mistakes. I dropped towards book four, at the prison, ended up in the wrong gully, came out north of my target and had bled yet more time. This wound was fatal. 

"Well I might as well climb Rat Jaw for the fifth and final time."

I had run out of water and the sun was beating down on me now. I was in full slog mode, no stopping, suffering every step of the way, my mouth becoming drier and more encrusted in salt with each agonizing breath. To stop is to only prolong this discomfort so just get to the top and the water drop. With maybe 1/4 of the climb to go you come into sight for any would be observers from the water tower. It is one of but two points on course where non-runners are allowed. To my joy and dismay a crowd had gathered and they started cheering. I wanting to vocalize something in response but my mouth was all but dried shut. I eventually topped out, went straight to the water table and collapsed in the shade beneath it. There was not enough time left to finish this thing and everyone knew it, especially me. I knew it was but impossible for me to get much further at all without some form of sleep, ideally at least three hours of it. 

Photo Credit Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson, John Fegyveresi, Heather Anderson, Billy Simpson, Nicki Rehn, along with others were all cheering me on while also seeming to derive some sick pleasure from witnessing someone so close to the brink of extinction. This group of people are some of the most accomplished you'll find anywhere and my respect for them is off the charts. They would not let me stop and eventually they kicked me outta there. Again the adrenaline surged a bit and as I descended Rat Jaw I harbored illusions of maybe finding a hidden gear. I did my best impression of a runner and was grasping at straws to keep my race alive. It was like a diesel engine that had run out of fuel, I kept cranking away hoping a spark would catch, but I'd only managed to roll myself onto a down slope and was utilizing gravity while it was on my side.

The terrain flattens and you take a left onto a service road. The adrenaline had worn off and I was struggling to stay awake. I needed sleep, there were no two ways about it, my eyes had to shut for a few hours. I didn't have an alarm I trusted and I was scared to put my head down for twenty minutes as I figured I'd wake up three hours later after the sun had set and I started shivering. I believed Jared might be an hour away so I sat down, removed my pack and was about to lay down, knowing Jared would wake me up when he came by...but then he literally appeared as I was about to go prone. 

Jared to me, "What the heck is going on?"

I explained my plight and that I simply could not go a step further on no sleep. Jared looked sullen, he was genuinely saddened by learning that I would not become a finisher this year.

Me to Jared, "You're doing amazing man! Get on out of here and close this shit out! First ever three time finisher!"

Jared reluctantly departed. Not a minute later two people magically appeared while coming down from the lookout tower. I had gone through so many iterations of what to do next and in the end I was worried that Linda would be worried about me. I could either sleep for three hours, waking once the sun set, and then continue to grab books all night long, or I could accept my fate, ask for a ride back to camp and go listen to the bugle play me a song. I came to Tennessee to attempt to finish the Barkley and the Barkley had won. Nothing I could do in that moment would change this. I had failed and I had accepted it.

It took more than a bit of convincing to get the two people to take me back to camp for as they put it, 

"We don't want to be the people who drove Gary Robbins off course."

"Well it's either you or the first car that picks me up hitchhiking once I drop down to the road crossing."

And with that we proceeded back to camp. I told my ride to drop me outside of the campground so that they wouldn't have to take any flack and I dragged my sorry ass up to the yellow gate. 

Taps played. Danger Dave is not very good at playing taps which makes it sting all the more. 

Barkley 1 - Gary 0

For 55 hours I gave myself to the Barkley, heart, soul, mind and body. I was all in. Nothing else in the entire world mattered for three full days, and I loved it. I did not reach the finish line of the Barkley Marathons but I got pretty damn close. As I mentioned leading into the race I knew it would challenge me in new and unforeseen ways and boy o boy did it ever. During the race I feel like I unlocked a door in my mind that led to a room I'd never entered before and in that room existed a near perfect version of myself, devoid of ego, free of judgement, removed from life's minutia, steadfast in purpose, distracted by nothing, heart wide open with a complete inability to overreact to any obstacle that stood in my way. I wish I could be that person more often.

To be continued.


This race report is ridiculously long so if you've made it this far I commend you, this probably means you could finish the Barkley since you're so dedicated to the process.

Thank yous - couldn't have done it without yous:

Jurgen Campbell - The ultimate badass and an incredible person to boot. Congrats on making history as the first ever three time finisher. I'll pay your entry fee if you line up with me again next year

Linda Barton-Robbins - my rock

Reed Robbins - my inspiration

Shawn Martin - best burgers in interloopal history

Kimberley Teshima - Reed is in love

Ethan Newberry - has a long ways to go on that new beard of his

Matt Trappe - master bladder filler

Lauren Eads + Jason Eads -  don't sell your home in Nashville we want to come visit again in 2017 and we need to borrow your camping supplies

Georg Kunzfeld - a secret German spy

Lazarus Lake - the wizard

Keith Knipling + Keith Dunn + Raw Dawg - save my campsite for next year please

Frozen Ed - thank you for writing the definitive guide on the Barkley, it should be considered mandatory reading by those hoping to apply 

Danger Dave - try playing taps more than just 39 times per year would ya

The end.

Matt Trappe Photography

Image thanks to Melanie Boultbee



Video Interview with UTHC

I recently did a video interview with some people who work behind the scenes for Quebec's Ultra Trail Harricana. It was a fun interview covering a bit of everything, and conducted by two industry professionals who work for CBC as their full time gig. I hope you enjoy it. Here's a link to the full French version of their write up about it.

Just one error worth mentioning, when I was asked what my favorite running book was I said Born to Run and was actually thinking Once A Runner. Cendrix was on the same page as me and we continue to talk as if I had said Once A Runner as I'd meant to, which is kinda funny really. I would also like to thank Cendrix and Frederic for there time and commend them on such a great job.



Finding My Way, at the Cascade Crest 100


When I signed up for the Cascade Crest 100 miler it was with the full knowledge that attempting to run 100 miles just six days after directing three trails races over two days, plus a film festival component was never going to be easy. The Squamish 50 is my baby and I’d never do anything to compromise the race day experience, so I went about business as usual and waited until the show had concluded on Monday to take stock. Nine hours of sleep was what I’d managed over the three days of the race and in all honesty that was more sleep than I’d expected and right in line with what I was hoping to pull off.

The week leading into Cascade involved unavoidable daily naps flanked by pulling course flagging and attempting to tackle all the post-race logistics. Our very close friends Eric Purpus and Kelly Bolinger had rented a cabin (house) in the forest just fifteen minutes from the starting line of Cascade Crest and on Friday Linda and I drove down to Easton, WA. Around dinner time I realized I hadn’t run at all in four days and thinking that couldn’t possibly be good prep for running 100 miles the following morning I hopped out the door to run up and down the service road for twenty minutes.

“That should just about do it. Alright body, you ready for this?”

“Not at all.”

“Perfect! Nothing could possibly go wrong.”

Cascade Crest is a race that Linda’s been trying to get me to do for quite a few years now. The only reason I hadn’t yet targeted it was due to the timing surrounding UTMB. Having gotten sick in France last summer and failing miserably in my attempt at a top ten finish I was starting to wonder if it were possible to direct a high level and highly stressful event just a few weeks before a big goal race. Cascade Crest was an experiment in timing as much as a test of fitness and resolve. Given that the start/finish is all but a six hour drive from our door in North Vancouver there was little to lose, at least in terms of the financial investment surrounding international travel.

Race morning came early, though with a 10am start time it’s quite a civil environment. The CCC (Cascade Crest Classic) has a strong family feel to it, especially for us given that Linda is from Washington and has run the race herself before. The RD, Rich White was in Linda’s wedding party and most of the aid station captains and volunteers are good friends of ours. We arrived on site about an hour early and simply got wrapped up in social hour, which is quite pleasant in contrast to the stress that normally prefaces such endeavors. In hindsight, I realized that I only drank a few cups of coffee prior to the 10am start, as in no water, no other fluids and a very slight breakfast. Fatigue and dehydration were about to become the themes of the day.

That National Anthems were sung and off we went. A competitive field had gathered which included pre-race favorite and recent 2nd place Western States finisher Seth Swanson (15h19m!). In all honesty, my goals going into CCC were to shoot to better the course record time of 18h27m (Rod Bien) while also recognizing that barring injury, Seth was sure to better this mark himself. Secondary goals included shooting for sub 18 hours and attempting to be within fifteen minutes of Seth with twenty miles to go.

Go Time

After a few flat and easy miles the race climbs over 3000ft through Tacoma Pass. I told myself going into this race that I’d be certain to start off slow and easy and I’d successfully done just that over the first sixty minutes. Seth was leading away with Matt Hart in 2nd and myself, feeling comfortable in 3rd. A pack of runners including Phil Shaw (former winner), Jeff Hashimoto and Andy Reed trundled along just behind us.

Two and a half hours passed without issue. I’d let Seth and Matt pull away slightly as I stuck to my “take it out super easy strategy” and I found myself running alone in 3rd. We started into what appeared to be our first sizeable descent and it was evident very quickly that things were off, way off. My legs started cramping up. It was a warm, sunny day with temps getting up into the thirties, but it was also the end of August and I’d been running in these temps all summer long. It was mid-day and the sun was beating down, but this was very abnormal pain. I started the self-assessment, where had I gone wrong? What did I f#$k up already? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I hadn’t take it out too hard. I was on top of my calories and fluids. Was it just pure fatigue from the weeks leading into the race? I had no idea, but I went about rectifying it in the only way I could, I slowed down further and ate more.

By three and a half hours in it had only gotten worse as my legs were fully seizing up on me. I’d only had this happen to me during a race twice before, in the 2009 Western States 100 and the 2011 CSP115 in Spain. At Western I was 80 miles in and at CSP I was half way to the 115km finish line. In both instances I sucked it up and walked my ass to the finish line. In both races race day temps were pushing 40 degrees.

I was now forced into a full walk on any downhill terrain as my legs were completely tweaking out on me. I could power-hike uphill just fine but could not run uphill. Flat terrain was runnable but not without shooting pain in my quads. WTF was going on?

Stampeded Pass is at mile 33 / kilometer 55 and I was death marching my ass there with what seemed to be a certain DNF awaiting me. This angered me to no end. I had DNF’d UTMF back in April with a foot injury and UTMB one year prior after falling sick on race day. Prior to that I’d never DNF’d a 100 miler in my life and for a brief period in time I was convinced I never would quit on myself in a 100 mile race, yet here I was, about to quit for the third time in my last four 100s. There wasn’t a monkey on my back; there was an ape that had me in a headlock. How could I be so weak? What has happened to my resolve? Who am I and what’s happened to character I used to know as being stubborn and tough enough to finish anything no matter the cost? Why, just why?

As I slogged my way towards Stampede runners started streaming past me. Canadian Andy Reed was first to do so and I patted him on the back and told him to have a great run and to make Canada proud. The towel had been tossed. My day was done and the self-loathing had already begun.

“I’m done with this sport. I suck at this. I’m too old for this shit. I’m a quitter and I’m okay with it.”

“Are you Gary? Are you really? Does any of this sit well with you?”

“F#$K no, of course not!”

“Then find a way. You used to be really good at just finding a way.”

“The finish line is still over 110 kilometers away.”

“How much time do you have left to get there?”

“All damn day, 24 hours or so.”

“Then let’s go just go for a walk and see what happens. You can do that right?”


 “Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us.”
―Lewis Gordon Pugh

I had to let it all go. Ego, expectation, hope, every single goal I’d had for CCC save for one. Just to finish.

As I approached Stampede Pass good friend Phil Kochik from Seven Hills Run Shop was out cheering runners in.

“G-Rob! Yeah man, good stuff!”

“It’s not my day Phil.”

“Sure it is! Still lots of race left to go buddy!”

I stumbled into the Stampede Pass aid station. my crew consisted of my wife Linda Barton-Robbins, Justin Jablonowski (5th CCC 2013), elite WA based runner Maxwell Ferguson who was to meet up with us later in the race, and Ben Gibbard who ran my SQ50k race in 2013.

This was the second time my crew had seen me, and even a few hours earlier they knew that my day was not progressing as we’d all hoped. As I arrived plenty of friends were cheering me along, but I stepped aside to chat with my crew and I asked to sit down. Aid station captain James Kirby looked at me in disbelief,


It was the tough love that any great aid station captain should deliver, but Linda gave him a solemn look and he understood immediately.

“What can we get you Gary?”

“I don’t know, watermelon I guess.”

Ben darted away only to return a few seconds later with the lowest chair in the history of mankind. I sat down all of two inches from the ground and questioned if I’d ever get out of the thing under my own steam.

I ate, I drank, I sobbed internally and maybe even a bit externally. Runner after runner came through, spent less than a minute on site and continued on. Linda, Justin, Ben and now race director Rich White were all gathered around attending to me. Time stood still for me but not for anyone else and twenty minutes had passed before they were all attempting to get me out of there. James Varner of Rainshadow Running came over in his coconut shell bra and frilly grass skirt. James has been a good friend for years.

“What’s going on Gary?”

“I don’t know, my legs just aren’t working; they’ve seized up solid over the last few hours. I can’t run at all and it’s gotten to the point where even walking downhill is painful.”

“What have you eaten? How much fluid have you consumed? How’s your electrolyte intake?”

“Lots. Lots. Not much actually.”

“It’s pretty hot out here today, here take four of these electrolyte tabs now and two more every thirty minutes for the next little bit. What’s the worst that can happen right?”

James’s words rang out like an air raid siren in my head. Had I really made a rookie mistake like this? I know electrolytes are a “hot topic” of debate these days, but on a personal level I’ve always needed a regular consumption of electrolyte tablets to race cramp free, especially during hotter races.
James Kirby came over to check on me and give me a nudge that it was time to get out of his aid station. He saw what was going on and had heard everything I’d said. He asked me point blank:

“Do you want to finish this race?”

I looked at him, “Hell yeah I do.” And I did. I didn’t care how. I just did.

While I was downing my electrolytes and going over things in my head my crew were up in my face mocking me to no end, in that loving “you need to get the f#$k outta here way.”

Justin “Do you need to poop? Maybe you just need to poop?”

Rich “I always feel better after I poop. You should poop.

Linda “Don’t poop your pants?”

Ben “Pooping your pants would be bad, you should poop.”


Having the right crew saved my ass, from poop. They got my poopy pants off and got me moving again. I walked outta Stampede in 8th or 9th place, but at least I was moving again and I now knew that no matter what, I was going to finish the damn race, even if I had to walk the damn 110km to get there.

Maybe the heat was getting the better of me. Maybe fatigue from race directing the week before had taken it outta me. Maybe my lack of actual water consumption prior to the race had dehydrated me. Maybe I just gaffed on my electrolyte consumption. Core body temperature can also be a factor in cramping, so on top of adding in regular electrolyte consumption I started detouring to every water source on course to get myself cooled down.

Go Time - Take Two

Within thirty minutes of departing Stampede, I started to rally. I had honestly given up on much of a turn around and was just content to continue working towards an actual finish, but all of a sudden the seizing ceased. My legs started to work again. The damage had been done, however. My quads were fried. I felt every single step in each quad muscle, but something wonderful was also occurring: it wasn’t getting any worse. I started to up my cadence a bit and shortly thereafter I passed a runner. This simple act of passing one person completely triggered my compete level again.

“Maybe it’s not over just yet.”

Mile 38 and I passed Phil Shaw who was also suffering from what appeared to be cramping. I offered up what I had but he said he was “fine” and he cheered me on as I ran past. Gotta love the comradery of ultra running.

By mile 40 I was feeling better than I had all damn day, minus the quad tightness, but again, it had gotten no worse. I resolved myself to the fact that I’d feel every step all the way to the finish line; however, not only would I reach the finish line, I would do so while competing and attempting to salvage my race.

At the mile 40 aid station I congratulated Ultra Pedestrian Raz on his then recent accomplishment of a fully self-supported traverse of Washington State, though in the moment the details eluded me and I spit out something along the lines of,

“Raz, congrats on your, uh, thingy-mer-bob. Nicely done and stuff.”

To which of course he laughed. My crew were here including my dog Roxy and I went about my new mission of eating each aid station out of soup. After about five minutes I was politely ushered out.
At mile 47, Scott McCoubrey of Seattle Run Co. and White River fame was taking care of business, as he does every year.

“You look great! You’re in sixth. Second through sixth are all within ten minutes of you. Second looks terrible and is likely gonna be the first to falter.”

“What! Really?”

“Yeah man, they’re all within striking distance.”

“What about Seth.”

“Off the front.”

“Figured as much.”

I delved into the soup and spent far too long at the aid station, but I knew that my body was still fickle and the best way to ensure success over the final 53 miles was going to be utilizing the aid stations and not rushing through them.

“Time for you to go Gary!”

“Yeah yeah.”

Hyak Lodge is the virtual mid-way point of the race at mile 52. You arrive at Hyak via a decommissioned rail tunnel that’s two and a half miles long! Hyak was but five miles away and the pack were about ten minutes up on me. I wanted to get back on board while I was feeling well and I told myself I’d close that gap now before it became too late and in case things started to truly go sour again. I pushed harder than I had all day, a little too hard however for as I was clicking out the flat miles through the tunnel at slightly under seven minute mile pace my entire left chain, from calf to hip, completely lit up. I hadn’t experienced pain like that since my first 100 miler at Stormy back in ‘08, but I didn’t even care. I felt like I’d already been through too much to give it a second thought and I grimaced as I plowed through. I knew that the flat running was brief and it seemed to be aggravated by flat more than anything.

Hyak Lodge, the mid-way point. My full crew in attendance including Max as he was now ready to jump in and pace me. They erupted.

“You look amazing! One guy hasn’t left yet, he’s still sitting in a chair. The rest have only been gone five minutes and they all took their time getting out of here. You definitely looked the strongest coming in just now.” (minus Seth who for all intents and purposes won’t make an appearance in this write up again until the finish line, much like on race day :)).

I took this with the grain of salt that a parent compliments their child, but outside of the shooting pain in my left side, I did feel great. My head was in a wonderful space and I was 100% back in the race and shooting for 2nd, 1st if Seth faltered at all.

“Okay, headlamp, soup, electrolytes. Let’s GO!”

I had scouted the CCC course with RD Rich White in early July and knew what lay ahead. Fifteen miles of service road with a few thousand foot climb at the apex. I thought there was no way I’d have the legs to run this, but with my music in one ear and chatting and singing with Max we collectively lay into this climb. We picked off a runner after about twenty minutes to put me in 5th. Ten minutes later we caught good buddy and my former teammate while I ran for Montrail, Matt Hart. Matt definitely looked rough and in that moment I didn’t think he would finish. I said hey and cheered him on as we ran past but he said little in response. Post-race he says to me,

“I had so many things I wanted to say to you there, most of them really funny, jokes, but my brain wasn’t fast enough and you were gone before I knew what’d happened.”

Post-race I say to him “Nice work on toughing it out. You looked like you were in a rough spot when I passed you.”


Max and I pulled into the Kacheelus Ridge, mile 60 aid station just as Jeff Hashimoto and Andy Reed were departing.

“Hey guys.”

“Gary! Nice rally.”

Max to me: “You just ran the fastest split for that section in the history of the race.” (1h27m) (at which point we did not know that Seth was faster still 1h20m)

“You’ve gotta be shitting me!”

“We’re crushing it, man.”

I had just made up an eleven minute gap (splits from aid station to aid station), in eight miles. Game on! The sun had since set and after taking down another half-liter of soup, we were outta there and chasing two beams in the darkness.

I dialed it back a notch on the descent into Lake Kachess aid station. Lake Kachess prefaces The Trail from Hell. In my pre-race course scout this was the one section where I knew conclusively that I would outpace everyone else. The Trail from Hell is a five mile stretch in which the fastest times in the history of the race are all about ninety minutes. It’s non-stop undulation with short steep climbs and descents that are littered with highly technical roots, rocks and natural obstacles, and it’s run at night after 70 miles are already on your legs. In my scouting run, I’d knocked it off in 45 minutes. I hit the aid station at mile 68, continued on my soup mission and after another five plus minutes, Ben and Linda were pushing me outta there. I walked the road through the campground while finishing the cup of soup I took to go, then I looked at Max. After my soup consumption mission at Kachess and my walk through the campground 2nd was 10+ minutes up and 3rd was 7+ minutes up.

“Whadaya say we go about getting back into 2nd place right now?”

I devoured the trail, dropping Max three times in the process as I danced through the nastiest bits of the route. Max would push hard on the less technical to catch back up and by the half-way point we caught up to Andy and his pacer Simon Donato.

“Nice work, Andy.”

“Great job, Gary.”

And then a perfectly timed high-five from Simon as we flew past, into the darkness and into 3rd place.

Jeff Hashimoto was no slouch on technical apparently and it took right up until the final mile heading into Mineral Creek to catch him. Turns out Max knew him and they started chatting as we all hit Mineral Creek collectively. Two miles from Mineral Creek you’re allowed to have your crew drive in to meet you. I was switching pacers here between Max and Justin, so we simply tagged the aid station and continued up. It was the horrible grade in which you’d run if you had the legs and you know that others around you are running it and gaining time on you. I’d put forth the effort I’d hoped to on The Trail from Hell and bettered the fastest times by over ten minutes at 1h19m, and I even gained ten minutes on Seth in the process, not that that was going to change anything in the running for first though :)

As I walked the two miles up the road to my crew, Jeff cruised on past like it was nothing. My brief stint in 2nd lasted about twenty minutes but I still held hopes of regaining it again before the finish.
Max and I reached the crew and I decided to sit down for a minute to get some hot fluids and calories into me. This proved to be a terrible idea though as the warm day had given way to a very cool evening and within minutes of taking a seat I started to shake, eventually violently. Shit, I thought, this is bad. Linda and Ben threw a blanket on me as I took down the final calories. Max’s pacing duties were done and Justin was in. He was sporting a blue wig I’d worn to pace Linda at Grindstone and a crazy mish-mash of brightly coloured clothing, including some insane print tights. I put on every layer I was willing to carry to the finish and as I shakily stood up to depart, I turned to Andy Reed’s family and crew, teeth fully chattering:

“Be sure to tell Andy I looked like a million bucks when I left here, okay? :)”

Justin and I headed out on a painfully long six mile uphill walk. I knew that the final 20 miles are almost all single track while going over what are known as the Cardiac Needles. Smack dab in the middle of that you reach your highest point on the course, Thorpe Mountain at around 8,000ft and there is a 4,000ft descent into a flat final four miles to the finish. Like is the case in most 100’s, the race doesn’t even really begin ‘til mile 80.

Seth was gone and he was all but guaranteed to smash the course record. Jeff had passed me before I sat down so he was likely closing in on a ten minute gap ahead of me and Andy was just minutes behind me. It appeared that I was fighting for 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. I really wanted 2nd, but also really didn’t want 4th, so I started playing a bit more defense rather than offense.

Up, up we went. Justin almost begging me to run.

“I need this. I’ll run the final 20, promise, but right now I need the physical and mental break until we get to No Name AS.”

Good friend Laura Houston manages No Name year after year and this year another good friend, Besty Rogers joined her. Less than a mile from the top there is a quarter mile long sweeping switchback in the service road. All of a sudden my light was shining directly down towards Andy’s, him being all of a few minutes behind me now.

Hi to Betsy and Laura, more soup and more soup to go and Justin and I were out. It was now back to offense for the remainder of the race and I got my mind locked solidly into catching back up to 2nd place.

At Thorpe Mountain there is a one mile out and back. I crossed paths with Jeff just as he was completing his out and back and Andy crossed paths with me just as I had completed my own. We were all about evenly spaced in ten minute intervals. This meant that I had made up a few minutes on both Jeff and Andy over the last few miles.

French Cabin is the second to last aid station on course and Eric Purpus told me that if you’ve got the legs, it’s less than two hours from there to the finish. I arrived in about 17:03. Sub 19 hours was somehow still in range and that became my only goal. If I could close out in under two hours I’d happily take whatever position that gave me, whether it was 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

I absolutely thumped down the final 4000ft descent with a complete disregard for the now excruciating pain my quads were suffering through. Nothing else mattered and I simply cranked up my music and let gravity do its job. I still held illusions of catching 2nd as I knew I was moving incredibly well.

Along with Justin, we came screaming into the final aid station. I didn’t even ask for splits I just grabbed some chocolate and started in on the last four miles to the finish. The barn was near, the result all but certain. Neither Jeff nor Andy were anywhere in sight, but I wanted this thing over, and I wanted my sub 19 hour finish time.

Justin to me: “If I knew we were start sprinting for the finish at mile 95 I would have packed my track spikes.”

I felt no pain, only pride. Some twelve hours earlier I had my head in my hands, anger in my heart and my butt in a really low chair. The finish line wasn’t just in doubt at that point, it felt like mission impossible, yet here I was about to snag 3rd while closing out with a faster pace than I’d sustained all day long. We made our way through Easton and the finish line came into view. Emotions swelled up inside me and I damn near sprinted across the line.

18h54m. 3rd place and the 7th fastest time in the history of the race, and somehow, all of this after facing demons, doubt, cramping, crying and having my crew use the word poop no fewer than a dozen times. It’s a funny sport this ultra running. Just when you think you know something, it’s time to step back and remind yourself that you know nothing. No two days are alike, no two races are alike. Show up, put your heart into it and don’t quit on yourself. Sometimes you might just surprise yourself with the outcome and the resolve you find.

Race Director Rich White handed me my belt buckle and almost immediately it lept outta my hands and onto the rocks below, getting dented and scratched all to hell in the process.

“Shit, do you want me to get you another one?”

“No. It’s perfect. Just like my race.”


Some Splits

Gotta throw a huge shout out to the best crew ever.

Linda Barton Robbins, Maxwell Ferguson, Justin Jablonowski and Ben Gibbard. I honestly have no idea how I would have finished this race without all of your contributions to it. Thank you so much for helping to make this race such a special experience for me.

Sponsor Shout Out:
Salomon – Sense Pro / S-Lab Adv Skin 5 / S-Lab Light Jacket / Start Tee / Trail Short
Suunto – Ambit2
Princeton Tec – Apex rechargeable
Hammer – Bars, gels, endurolytes, seat saver
Drymax – Maximum protection trail running
Moveo Sport and Rehab – for keeping my body from breaking down on me and allowed me to start these races in the first place.



HURT 100 - Follow Along

If you're interested in following along during this Saturday's HURT 100 here are a few useful links:

My Twitter Feed that Linda will update through my first 80 miles (she'll be pacing a friend after that)

My 2013 Race Report via IRunFar

My 2010 Race Report

Personally, I'm busting at the seams a little bit right now. I'm excited to lay one out there this weekend and I feel like even though I came down with a chest cold at what I thought was the absolute worst time, right at the end of November, I managed to get past it at just the right time, near the end of December. My training through the back half of December and into the first week of January was flawless and going into this weekend I am 100% fit, healthy, rested and without excuse. It's time to race!

A few of my favorite pictures from the last few months of playing outside




Finding Motivation

The rains are back in these parts and with that comes decreased motivation to train along with the coinciding increased personal guilt trips to get my body to move out the door.

Today was the first truly wet run that I've embarked upon in months, in fact I struggle to remember the last real weather challenged run I had to overcome. Off the top of my head it was likely a pre-UTMB exploration in France, though there was no lack of motivation to run in the Swiss Alps on that day.

So the question I'm posing is, where do you find your motivation? What are the most challenging days and/or weather conditions that you have to overcome to get your sweat on?

One of the biggest things I've learned over the years is that lack of motivation can come in many different shapes and sizes, though the vast majority of a lack of motivation exists entirely in our own heads. Being mentally fatigued is far more difficult to get past than simply being physically fatigued. As an example, if you're fired up for a run, let's use the Grand Canyon as an example, you're going to make that run happen no matter what your body might be physically telling you. If however you find yourself at the peak of your health and fitness but are not excited by the terrain you're covering that day you're run is going to be a challenge to complete. The mind controls what the body will and will not do more so than the body controls the mind.

Back in 2005 I was training for my first ever expedition adventure race, that being the 2006 Primal Quest, Utah. I was then residing in Squamish, BC, the aptly named "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada." I was months into my training for a goal that was so daunting that the fear alone got me out the door each and every day. I wasn't feeling necessarily physically beaten down, but everything just became more of a challenge to complete. Day in and day out for weeks on end was an absolute slog. My motivation was nearing zero, I wasn't having all too much fun and I started to wonder if I was experiencing some underlying health issue.

Seven years on I forget what lead me to the following recognition, but as I assessed my training routine I came to terms with the fact that it was exactly that, a routine, completely repetitive. On my scheduled three hour ride day I'd take my mountain bike out on the three hour route I knew. On my two hour paddle day, I'd lug my kayak to the river and paddle down into the sound and back. A two hour run was always completed over the same known two hour route. There was a 90 min loop, a 60 min loop, etc. The adventure was gone and the whole reason I had even been enticed by the sport to begin with was because it was called ADVENTURE RACING.

I metaphorically threw out all of my known, set routes and went about exploring and embracing the unknown wilderness surrounding me. Like an overdose of caffeine, I was wide awake again within days. I started paddling the waters further south of town and quickly discovered hundreds of years old native rockwall art on the sea exposed cliffs near Furry Creek. On foot I found a whole new access point to get up The Chief via a gully scramble. On my mountain bike I learned new trail linkages and started discovering old logging artifacts. I couldn't wait to get out the door and to see what I'd find next. I had to remove the structure to do so though. I had to embrace the unknown and keep the adventure within what I was doing. I met one of Canada's most experienced adventure racers at the time and I was asking him for some training tips, he responded with,

"Training? I've never trained a day in my life."

"Excuse me?"

"I play everyday, but I never go out to train. I go outside to play in the woods and to interact with nature. When I stop enjoying it like play then it becomes work. Work, no matter what form it may take, will always feel like work."

So as I sit here after a successful run on a day that's calling for 80mm of rain it is with an awareness that I consciously went onto a trail system I am less familiar with. I woke up early and was struggling with the mental image of where I wanted to run today. I started rifling through areas in my head and as soon as I thought my way to a trail access point that felt like it excited me I packed my bags and headed straight there. My run, and day of play was salvaged because of this.

Tracking back to the point of this posting, here are a few things I realize I use to motivate me when I know it is nothing more than my own head that's preventing me from getting out the door.

1) Remove The Blinders: The aforementioned day of exploration. Remove all expectations from your day and simply take every new trail turn you can find. Your current favorite routes were once completely unknown to you. Never lose sight of that.

2) Socialize: Training partners are great at keeping you honest. Like most I embrace running as a primarily solo pursuit, but there's nothing better than a planned group run to prevent the snooze button and to make the miles fly by underfoot

3) Mission Possible: In the true doldrums of our longest months which contain the least sunshine I create mini-missions for myself. Taking last winter as an example, we experienced an early and unexpected low snowline that refused to recede. One of my mini-missions was to grab my snowshoes and run from home to the snowline on Mountain Highway. I'd then start snowshoe running up to the tracked high point in the snow and go about breaking trail for 1/2 - 1km further uphill. The snow usually being hip deep while doing so. Once I completed my mission I'd turn around and retrace my steps home. By the end of this I'd have been on my feet for multiple hours, climbed 5-600 meters in elevation, and most importantly not once thought about the run itself. Creating a mission for yourself removes pace, distance and elevation expectations and allows you to go through the motions without over-thinking the going through the motion process.

4) Music, Podcasts and Audiobooks: My necessity for noise distraction to overcome lack of motivation goes in this order. A) no noise, I like to run in my own head as much as possible B) music, nothing distracts my mind on the 'I'm about to over think this running in the rain' days quite like music C) podcasts and audiobooks, on the days when I know I need an entire distraction of the mind to get out the door I fire up a good book or my favorite podcast. I haven't looked for research saying so but my own anecdotal experiences tell me that having to actually listen to a voice and process what it is saying, rather than just humming along to a song, takes the mind into a deeper state of distraction and concentration. My worst weather training days have a great audiobook on standby to conquer them. It has yet to fail me.

5) Dream Big: Throw down for that big race you've been dreaming of. Just because you aren't fit enough to attempt it today does not mean you can't and won't be ready to do so in eight or nine months time. A big-ass scary-as-shit goal will make short work of your alarm clock. I used to be the captain of the under-motivated, then I signed up for the biggest adventure race in the world in 2005, for the 2006 event, and my life has never quite been the same for it.

6) There's More To Running Than Just Running: IE cross-training. Having recently gotten past some neck and back issues I'd been dealing with I've really attempted to get to know some of other sports that I love once again. Primarily this involves gym work, squash, skiing and likely some hockey again, albeit the floor version instead of the ice version, but I find all of this exciting, and fresh and familiar all at once. This guy had it right, way back when.

There are very few people who can train in such repetition so as to pound out the miles five, six and seven days a week, week in and week out, month after month and not suffer through injury in doing so. Personally I am fortunate to be able to log heavy mileage without the standard issues a lot of people attempting high mileage may encounter, however there is not a single one of us who wouldn't benefit from cross training in the form of gym work, cycling, etc. You know that guy Kilian who seems to be a pretty decent athlete, he uses a road bike as cross training, in fact most European mountain runners spend a decent amount of time road cycling. It's interesting to me that we don't see that same mentality on this side of the pond. When you're mind and body start to feel the impact of the pounding of repetition, mix it up, stay healthy and continue to get stronger instead of being forced to the sidelines.

7) I Do Not Want To Suck: For me at least, I find motivation in competition. This is touched upon in five, but that's more in reference to the fear of not being able to finish a certain goal. Whether your goal is a podium finish or a personal best time, competition can be a great motivator. I attempt to pick the most competitive races I can find so that it keeps me honest. There is nothing quite like day dreaming about the best ultra runners in the world and how hard they themselves train to help me get past my rolling mental excuse list.

8) Talk It Out: Conversations ongoing in my head;

"I don't wanna." and be sure to say this in the most childish pout mouth you can.
"Why not?"
"Cause it's wet outside."
"You've gotta be kidding me."
"It's weally, weally wet outside." an Elmer Fudd voice will suffice here
"Yeah that's called rain, it does that here sometimes."
"It looks poopy outside."
"Listen are you injured or severely fatigued here?"
"No. It's poopy outside."
"Yeah, I'll pack a diaper for you, get you're ass out the GD door you pansy."
"But, but, but...."
This is where I put myself in a headlock and it becomes incredibly violent until the stick a soother (Salomon flask bottle) in my mouth and get on with it.

Giving it a voice can give it meaning. Most of our excuses not to do things are entirely trivial and they feel even more trivial when reviewed internally or even spoken out loud.

9) Give It Twenty: That's it, give it twenty minutes. That's my only rule on the days where I'm really in doubt of if running is a good idea. By the twenty minute mark things usually make sense again and I can't believe I fought so relentlessly with myself to begin with. I think in all the years I've been enforcing the twenty minute rule I've only turned back once at twenty five minutes. That day it was the absolute right call, but the other 100 times I've instituted this rule on myself I've ended up with some of my best, some of my longest and certainly some of the most rewarding days of my year.

10) Give It A Rest: Seriously, shut it down for scheduled maintenance on an annual basis. Training/playing creates stress on your body. As runners/athletes we become incredibly efficient at dealing with this stress and seeing it as positive stress. On a cellular level though your body is just dealing with stress and trying to keep you healthy. Your body does not differentiate between what we know to be healthy and unhealthy stress levels, it just knows a stress response.

Ultra running specifically has grown into a twelve month a year pursuit for many runners. With large money events now taking place in September and December there is little downtime to be had unless it is specifically structured in at the beginning of your year. In 2013 I lined up for seven ultras, three of which were 100 miles in length. All but one of those races went as close to 'according to plan' as could be suggested. When I sat down to plan my year I structured in the downtime and then stuck to that plan. Following each of my three hundred mile races I enforced three weeks of near downtime. Doubt the validity of my statement? I've posted all of my workouts this year to my MovescountStrava feeds. I was not injured following any of these races, I was embracing forced recovery.

Following each of HURT, UTMF and UTMB I shut it down in a big way compared to my regular training loads. Even following UTMB in which I only made it twenty miles I shut it down following the event. Why? The physical and mental stress of the training leading up to a big race is what really takes it out of you. In a five week span while training for UTMB I logged over 1,000km, almost all on trail and while averaging nearly a vertical kilometer of gain per day. Whether I made it to mile 20, 50, or the finish, my mind and body needed the break. Without structured downtime the best of the best have two years in them. By the third year there's inexplicable issues that arise either through injury or over-training. Schedule in downtime and enforce it or your body will do so for you, and it won't coincide nearly as nicely with your personal racing goals.

Newton's first law of motion, though not scientifically applicable certainly rings true when jigged to state that 'objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion.'

The less you do, the less you'll want to do. The more you do, the more you'll want to do. So get out and do something and make it habitual. Whether your goal is to win a race, to finish a race, or you're just attempting to get/stay healthy, your body desires movement. Don't let your head get in the way of that.

My challenge to you. Go and run a completely new route this week. Take one day, one run, one hour and find something new out there. You'll be thankful you did.


So how do you motivate yourself to get out and get after it?



Knee Knacker - Battle Royale

The 25th anniversary edition of the toughest 50k* (30 mile) trail race in Canada had attracted one of the deepest men's fields in the history of the race. The starter's list, though short a few key names due to injury in the end, was still five deep with guys who could legitimately push the pace at the front and potentially challenge the stout course record of 4h39m52s, held by good buddy Aaron Heidt.

In planning out a much more streamlined year of running which is designed to allow me to train more successfully I have only registered for six races this year, three 50k races and three 100 milers. My last race was a 100 miler in Japan at the end of April, and once I'd taken my requisite three weeks of downtime I laid into my training harder than I ever had before. My body has responded better than I could have hoped for and in the 42 day stretch prior to KK week I'd managed a full 1,000km / 621m of running. Almost all of my training has been on trail and it was capped off by a near 200km / 120m week with 9,000m / 30,000ft of climb and descent. My week of KK plan was to still get forty miles in advance of the race so that I could hit eighty miles on the week which would keep me at 200 miles through the first two weeks of July, in the hopes of eclipsing another 400 mile month of training. It's a numbers game leading up to the biggest race of my year, that being the UTMB in France on August 30th and although the KK was a goal race for me I have found it impossible to focus on anything other than the biggie in France. As such I was consistently pushing aside thoughts of "this isn't smart for the KK" and "you're gonna be pissed if you have a bad KK next week". As has been the case when I'm 100% focused on a big race goal it usually takes an injury to slow me down.

I knew I'd been toeing the knife edge of injury for a few weeks with a constant dull pulsating pain in my left hip. Since this specific pain is nothing new to me I successfully pushed it aside day in and day out. On Wednesday however I awoke to an acute pain that was only bearable while standing or laying down. To sit was completely excruciating and like nothing I'd experienced before. I was nearly certain I'd be one of the causalities of training and forced to the sidelines with a few of the other pre-race favorites. The disappointment of this seemingly inevitable outcome was nearly unbearable for me, especially after I'd dnf'd the Knacker just twelve months prior with an ill timed head cold that wiped out most of my July. On top of this, Linda was attending a family wedding in Minnesota in which I'd been granted a 'hall pass' because of just how much the Knee Knacker meant to me this year. I headed straight to Moveo and thankfully they were able to squeeze me in for not only an ART treatment but also an acupuncture treatment and I spent the rest of the day on my back while stretching as much as I could tolerate.

Thursday was promising as the intensity of the pain had subsided but it warranted another full day off. On Friday Geoff and I headed to Squamish to place signage on the SQ50 course and the time on my feet did me a world of good. I covered 20km but at a hike/run pace which not only got the blood flowing in my legs but allowed my mind to refocus on the task at hand. One more Moveo ART treatment after package pickup that night and I was confident that this '24 hour injury' would have zero bearing on my race outcome. These '24 hour injuries' are somewhat common when you're knocking out as much mileage as your body can handle and thankfully I have experienced a few of them now and I can talk myself off the ledge pretty quickly. In the end this was likely the best thing that could have happened to me on race week as I lined up on Saturday morning with fresh, trained legs that were ready to lay it all.

The Race

The Knee Knacker starts off with a near 4,000ft vertical ascent of Black Mountain up and into the Cypress Mountain ski resort. This is just one of the things that make this race such a classic, and so hard to nail your best time on the course. Come over the top just a few minutes faster than you physically should and you'll suffer the consequences all day long, come over the top a few minutes slower than you should and you'll be playing catch up all day long. It's a fine line and after our group of four let local mountain goat Shaun Stephens-Whale get off the front I settled in with Canadian Skimo racer and recent training buddy Nick Elson and road speedster Graeme Wilson (31min/10k). The guys were letting me lead and as I continually fell back into a power hike over the steeper terrain I was expecting them to pass. I sometimes underestimate my power hiking abilities and when we came through the first aid station in 1h19m45s it was not only a few minutes faster than I thought I could crest the climb, it was a few minutes faster than I'd hoped to crest the climb. I had intentions of challenging Aaron's CR but I knew I'd need to improve upon his second half time as his first half time seemed at the upper limits of my climbing abilities. IF I were able to push his CR I knew it would be by mere seconds and not minutes. The fact that Aaron set this time on a snow year and with no one within twenty minutes of him at the finish is another story. He attributes it as one of his best ever ultras and it's not hard to understand why.

Shaun was exactly one minute ahead of us as we entered Cypress and as a group of three we managed to close that gap in under ten minutes. From Cypress Mountain down into Cleveland Dam is a highly technical stretch (not that any of the course really isn't) and we could see Shaun's limiting factor exposed over this section as we eventually spit him out the back of our pack. I knew Nick would handle the technical downhill through here with ease but I didn't expect Graeme to be holding tight with us. He was a faster runner than both of us, but after a recent 3rd place finish at the Iron Knee (pretty much half the KK course) I'd assumed the technical trails would slow him down a bit more.

Coming down Hollyburn Chutes was fun for me because after all the early race stress of pushing so hard up and over Black Mountain, and slightly questioning my pace the entire time, I'd now fallen into the groove I'd hoped to. I kept preaching my same mantra that I stuck to during the HURT 100 in January, "don't judge your race on the uphills Gary, only assess how you're feeling and how you're doing on the descents".

I was on a descent, I was cruising along nicely, and I was leading the race, I felt great! I honestly had no expectation of leading the race at any point prior to the final stretch as I thought the strongest climbers would have their way with me early with my own endurance and pacing catching them late. I was mentally prepared to be fighting from behind all day long, yet now that I was in the lead and with two other less experienced ultra distance, though maybe more talented runners than myself, I had to play with some strategy. I knew I had another gear on the descent and I was fairly certain it would not take its toll on me later. The hope was that it might put the hurt on these guys earlier than they'd anticipated and as such I kicked it up a notch. I created a small gap which they quickly closed and together we went careening down the mountain together.

My own strategy nearly backfired though, for as we crossed the creek further down and were confronted with the steep staircase on the opposite side my quads flared in pain and started to seize. "Unbelievable" was all I could think to myself. I'm f#@king toasted. How the hell could I be cramping this early? It's not a super hot day, it's been nice for weeks and I'm as trained as I've ever been.

I had in fact cramped in this exact spot during the 2009 Knacker which I raced after death marching my way to a sub 24hr Western States finish just fourteen days prior. I never should have lined up that year yet here I was four years later on what should have been fresh legs and I was facing the same issues. I finished the 09 KK in 5h22m but in that moment four years prior, on those exact stairs I thought I was heading for a DNF. Experience is a wonderful thing and it's amazing the strength we can draw from the lowest moments we've come out on top of. I'd been here before. It was all too familiar and although I now seriously doubted my ability to win the race I simply accepted what was happening and attempted to work through it in a rational manner.

The one thing I'd made a pact with myself over in advance of the start was that I would not quit on myself at any point in the race. I promised myself that I'd not succumb at any point to the self doubt that can pervade while you're pushing yourself to your limits. All the way up Black Mountain I had successfully kept this at bay and now on these stairs all I wanted to do was to pull aside and wave the guys on. If I did this my race would be over and I knew it. I would spend minutes recovering from the effects of letting these guys go and even if my body manged to rally it'd be too late to get back in the mix at the front again.

Fake It Till Ya Make It

I've been training with Adam Campbell on a fairly regular basis this year and besides just being a fun person to run with he's really helped me to realize that I can push much harder earlier in a run than I ever thought I could handle, while still holding strong hours later. A typical run with Adam would have our day starting with a 3,000 - 4,000ft / 1200m climb in which I'm barely hanging on, yet time and time again as our long runs progressed hours later I'd still have reserves and the ability to push the pace on the descents. Adam said something at a presentation we once co-hosted along with Nicola Gildersleeve and Ryne Melcher. "In the end we're all just collecting data on ourselves. I have over 20 years of data on myself so I know what I can and can not do" or something to that effect. My 2013 has been about not only collecting data on myself that I have not yet possessed but also about rewriting some of that data that I had held tight to over the last 5+ years. I'm a different athlete than I was five years ago so I need to let go of some of those beliefs that I can't do some things as well as I'd like. This was new data. This was what I came for. The challenge of figuring out the rest of the day and managing my body had officially begun.

Calories. Electrolyes. Fluids. I was already on top of my nutrition but I'm continually learning that more calories can fix almost anything in ultra running, so I started choking back what I had on me while continuing to lead our group of three down into Cleveland Dam. I had managed to rally my quads in under a minute. A minute that had I let go of it would have had me off the front and in no position to catch the leaders. The cramping had been pushed aside just as rapidly as it had appeared and we continued our pace down into Cleveland Dam together.

The three of us arrived in unison in a time of 2h18m49s just eleven seconds slower than Aaron's CR pace. I knew that none of this really mattered just yet though, for the real race was about to being and as Aaron had pointed out before, he'd reached the Dam in sub 2h20m three times before, but only once had he managed to hold onto his pace all the way to the line.

My awesome one man crew of James Marshall was here to hand off another loaded and ready to go S-Lab 5L pack though I knew that Coke was now going to be integral to my day. I detoured to the aid station to down a few cups and while doing so Nick pulled into the lead and Graeme charged on just behind him.

I could see that Nick had already gained a minute on me while we climbed the 200 vertical meters over one mile up into the Grouse parking lot, and Graeme was pretty much perfectly splitting our gap in half. Once again I was prepared to lose some time to Nick over this section and I forced myself to not assess my race, instead I focused all my energy on calorie and electrolyte consumption via Hammer gel and Endurolytes. A mouth full of gel washed down by a mouthful of water, repeat, repeat, repeat until 100 calories at a time I was topping up my deficit.

From the Grouse parking lot the trail gets steeper still and is rife with rocks, roots, bridges and obstacles. It was near the top of this approximate twenty minutes of climbing, since departing the Dam, that early race leader Shaun ran past me while saying,

"C'mon, let's push hard and catch the leaders together"

He had the right fighting spirit, but I knew if I was going to win this thing it was going to be on the downs and not the ups. I stayed patient and once I crested the climb I managed to bring Shaun back to me in about five minutes. Just a minute further along and I passed Graeme and I was now back in 2nd place again. I was approaching the most familiar parts of the course for me. Living just down the street from here. The stretch between the bridge across Mosquito Creek and the water fountain at Mountain Highway is the one section of the course I'd run more than anywhere else. In training I can knock this section out in under twenty minutes, in the race I managed 22m30s and when I hit the aid station on Mountain Highway I knew I was moving well and that I was right where I needed to be.

The Last Quarter

Staying focused and pushing hard I came into the aid station near The Gazebo (the 3/4 mark of the race splits) and James told me I was 1m45s down on Nick. I was slightly more flustered than I had hoped to be as I scrambled between grabbing my pack from James and attempting to get more Coke and now watermelon into my system. This is about the time that people started relaying information ahead that "Gary is looking rough". Accurate to say the least. I was three minutes off of Aaron's CR pace. Could I do it? Could I really run the last section three minutes faster than his 1h14m44s? Could I even catch Nick for the win? Could I make it to the finish without seizing up completely? Could I stay on the podium? Could I please just shut up and run...yes, yes I can do that. Thank you brain now please go back to just asking me for sugar and stop wasting your time on actual thinking, something you struggle with at the best of times.

I now had a time. I now knew what I had to do to win this race. There is another aid station just fifteen minutes away and after a torturous climb that feels about ten times as long as it actually is I got another split from Nick's good buddy Eric Carter (thanks for the great race pics btw) "You're pretty much exactly sixty seconds behind Nick"

Alright I thought, that's it, he's cooked. He's a better climber than me and I just made up nearly a minute on him in fifteen minutes of running predominantly uphill terrain. Just keep doing what I'm doing and I should see him by the Seymour Grind.

I had had my music in since the half way point and was now focusing on completely zoning out and keeping everything else at bay. As I was approaching another aid station ten minutes later I took out one ear bud and started listening...cheering...time check...push on...45 seconds is the gap. Patience.

This aid station actually kinda blew my mind. I had my game plan in place which was gonna be to fill some water, down some coke and watermelon and sprint on outta there, then they said the magic words

"You want a Mr. Freezie?"


Mind = BLOWN

No water, no coke, no watermelon but I had a Mr. Freezie and I was about the happiest creature on this green earth. I think I even peed my pants a little in all the excitement, though my bodily functions may have been shutting down on their own as a means of self preservation.

I was in a state euphoric confusion, what with the Mr. Freezie coursing through my glycogen depleted veins, the sugar rush in full affect as it was lighting up my cerebrum, and this song on my playlist when a figure appeared in the forest. He looked strikingly familiar and was cheering me on, saying something like "your cadence is great, you're looking strong and killing this" to which all I could muster was "Adam?"

For a very brief moment I thought I'd dreamt him into being, but I didn't have time to figure that out. My brain needed sugar, me legs needed distraction and my friend Nick needed to be caught before he crested the Seymour Grind. You can smell the finish line from the top of this climb as it's less than thirty minutes away and almost all downhill. Funny things can happen to our bodies when we effectively smell the barn and I knew it was in my best interest to have a gap on him before the odour managed to rally his legs.

Sure enough and right on time I spotted Nick just as soon as the trail steepened. Slowly but surely I picked away the distance and on the flat bit near the top I put in a push and got my gap. Nick asked me if anyone was with me and I said no, I hadn't seen anyone since Mountain Highway, some sixty minutes earlier.

In all my training runs that had involved the Seymour Grind, which is a 400 meter / 1300ft climb less than 10km from the finish of the race, I had envisioned catching the leader, whoever it might be in exactly this position. Now it was unfolding just the way I had dreamed and hoped it would. I crested the top and laid into the descent that would take me to the finish in Deep Cove. A quick reference of my watch told me that Aaron's CR would stand at least another year and somewhere in the process of determining this and knowing that Nick was on the ropes I managed to shut it down ever so slightly. Instead of killing myself I was running 'conservatively hard' under the guise that the race was all but over. My mind had started to accept something that hadn't yet occurred, and inevitability that was not yet inevitable and in that minute degree of letting my focus slip everything started to hurt again. I was grunting and groaning my way down the trail, allowing the suffering to have a voice that it had thus far been denied. I turned up the music to drown out my own weakness.

I crossed Seymour Road and snagged a piece of watermelon from the final aid station. I knew the finish was less but fifteen minutes away. Just around the corner from here as you proceed to drop elevation through the forest there is one switchback that's longer than the others. With my music thumping I had zoned out, yet something inside me told me to look back up the trail, just to be sure. What I saw nearly brought tears to my eyes. Mike Murphy was coming in HOT. Mike is such a damn talented runner and when we ran the first half of the course together just a few weeks prior he had mentioned to me that his plan was to stay conservative early and simply hammer past people late. I had not seen Mike since about half way up Black Mountain, almost four hours prior. I had all but forgotten about him and simply assumed he'd played it too conservative on the day, yet here he was, noticeably out pacing me and just seconds away from blowing my doors off and leaving me to pick up my own emotional pieces from the dirt beneath my feet. Getting passed like this so late in a race, and completely unexpectedly is near impossible to recover from. By the time the hunter catches and passes the prey, the prey is left with a soiled diaper in a state of confusion as to what exactly just happened.


That was all I could think to myself as I pushed my chest forward and leaned into the descent like I never had before. I'm either going to cramp up and fall flat on my face, or I'm going to win this race, but I am not conceding anything yet.

We popped out onto Indian River Drive together. This is a downhill stretch of about 400 meters of pavement less than two miles from the finish, and as such fewer sections are more painful. I absolutely knew that Mike was right behind me and pushing as hard as he could, and the only thing more challenging than how deep I was pushing myself was in fact forcing myself not to shoulder check. To even turn my head a degree towards the rear would sacrifice how hard I was driving away from him. To turn and acknowledge your hunter is a sign of weakness. It is to concede to yourself as much as to them that they will indeed catch and pass you. I have caught people out like this before and when they turn their head towards you it's all but over for them. I was being haunted by a Medusa, and my legs would turn to stone should I so much as glance in his direction.

I hit the trail post to take us off the road and back onto the BP and I simply unleashed into the terrain. The next quarter mile stacks up as one of the most technical quarter mile stretches in the full thirty miles. There's a pile of rocks before a staircase and as I thumped my way through this I had a brief recognition of the fact that if I bailed I might not make the finish, as there were major consequences to being so reckless. The Medusa trumped all of these fears and afforded me temporary reprieve from my lactic laden limbs.

There is an open stretch of trail just past here known as Quarry Rock. As I stammered through here, limbs flailing in all directions just to keep me perpendicular I implored myself to look. I had a gap and I could feel it, the Medusa's gaze was no longer searing into my veins. A microsecond flinch of my neck before focusing on the rocks that seem to arise from the vegetation encroaching upon track below. I had my gap.

For a downhill finish the final mile of the Knee Knacker is not bashful in its attempt to extend your suffering just a little while longer.

Stairs, roots, rocks, downhill, bridges, uphill, roots, rocks, hikers, tourists, down, up, down, up, me yelling


In my head, 'Please move. Please God move. MOVE PEOPLE, MOVE ASIDE DAMMIT!"

With one group it was like I was a running back attempting to break through a defensive line. Thankfully most people were too astounded to move and they simply became pylons in my obstacle course to the tape.

The last descent appeared now and I rolled through it like a raging river. I hit the stairs at the bottom and took them two at a time. I was spit out onto the road where the volunteers were directing me to my right but my momentum carried me further left and in doing so I ended up with an impromptu hug from good friend Kathy McKay. She apologized and if I had time to laugh I would have, I put my head down and cranked up the tiny incline towards the finisher chute. I finally let myself accept what was now, finally, inevitable...

Mike ran the fastest closing 1/4 in Knee Knacker history. I ran a 1h13m37s split which would have been the fastest ever, but Mike laid down an astonishing 1h11m38s final leg!

I've never been tested like this in an ultra before and when the top three guys finish just 2m39s apart it's pretty obvious that there was zero room for error on the day. Congrats to Mike and Nick who were both making their Knee Knacker debuts and are surely poised to stand atop the podium in this race in the coming years.

As always, thanks to the incredible volunteers and race organizers, and congrats to all who toed the line on Saturday. We are so truly blessed to have the Knee Knacker in our community and to be such a driving force towards inspiring people into trail and ultra running for two and a half decades now!

Last but not least, I was incredibly fortunate to have numerous good friends make their way out onto course to help cheer me on throughout the day. You know who you are and I hope you truly know how much I appreciated it. Your energy always inspires me to push harder in those moments.

Salomon Sense Mantra
Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5
Suunto Ambit2
Hammer Nutrition
Drymax Socks

Full run stats via Movescount

CR splits: 1h18m01s / 1h00m37s / 1h06m30s / 1h14m44s = 4h39m52s
My hope: 1h21m / 58m / 1h08m / 1h12m = 4h39mXXs
Actual: 1h19m45s / 59m04s / 1h09m04s / 1h13m37s = 4h41m28s

Full Results



For Shits and Giggles - WS Podium Predictions

Looks like it's going to be a barn burner down at Western this year, both literally and figuratively as the mercury is set to climb over 100 for the first time in numerous years. "The Real Course" as many would call it, is about to be run.

Many have asked me if I'd return to WS after my 6th place finish in 2010 and the answer is a resounding YES, but not for at least a few more years as I'm really looking to focus my energy and finances towards big mountainous races in the next few years. I'll be putting in for the Hardrock lottery this year and we'll take it from there.

SO, given that the heat will play a MAJOR factor in tomorrow's run. Here are my picks for top three men and women.


1) Mike Morton - living in Florida, knocking out sub 13h30m 100's like it's nobodies business, smashing the US men's 24 hour record, and having won the race once before in a staggering sub 16hr run before most of us knew what ultra running was. The story lines are too intriguing to not be pulling for him. I think he takes it and it becomes one of the stories of the year in the ultra scene.

2) Timmy Olson - hard to slot Timmy into second, especially after a great year to date in which he also showed he could handle the heat with a stout 4th place finish at Transvulcania last month. The course record holder will have his hands full with Mike and in the end I think Mike's living in the heat full time will be the deciding factor.

3) Hal Koerner - everyone overlooks Hal even though he's won it twice and both during hot years. Like Hardrock last year he's managing to fly just under the radar this year. I think the heat works to Hal's favor and we end up with the first ever podium full of previous champions, a story in and of itself.

Guy hardest not to pick for top three: Rob Krar


1) Cassie Scallon - Cassie was injured for almost all of 2012, but right before she went down with a stress fracture she was crushing records in 50 mile or under distances. Cassie runs FAST and she's in top form this year as evidenced by her annihilation of the CR at the recent Ice Age 50. She bettered a 15 year old women's record by 18 minutes and in the process bettered 2nd place, previous winner and competitive runner Denis Bourassa by over an hour!

2) Rory Bosio - Very, VERY difficult not to pick Rory for the win after all she's done on the WS course in the last few years. Rory is also a very smart runner so expect to see her make a late push while others are fading in the heat.

3) Emily Harrison - Speed is what wins WS and Emily displayed this in spades while pushing Ellie Greenwood to a new CR at the JFK 50 late last year. Emily was testing the waters then with it being her first 50 miler as she will be now with this being her first 100, but as she's coached by the legendary Ian Torrence, I'm fairly certain she'll have a proper race day strategy in place and she'll be hard to beat if she runs a smart race and handles the heat alright.

Woman hardest not to pick for top three: Amy Sproston

What say you? Who are you picking for the podium tomorrow?

Best wishes to everyone for a safe and successful race!



The Numbers Don Lie V2.0

Back in Sept I posted a blog called "The Numbers Don't Lie". It ended up being more of a self justification as to why I hadn't done better at UTMB, and throughout 2012 in general. I seemed to find resolve in reminding myself of just how little I was able to run in the nearly full year that I was sidelined.

Through further reflection however I realized that I was also making some race day nutritional gaffes along the way. I've since addressed these via the handful of races I've run since Sept. Primarily this involved not consuming enough electrolytes during my races. Yes I've heard of Tim Noakes, yes I've read his electrolyte theory, yes he's much smarter than me, and no his theory does not work for me in particular.

After returning from UTMB in early September I was carrying a bit of a hip/glute med injury around with me that pretty much shut down my running for the better part of three weeks. I was however able to hike, and since the fall in the Pacific Northwest is usually the best time of the year we enjoyed plenty of stunningly beautiful treks. Such as this:

and this:

By October, and thanks to Moveo, I was finally back to running again and I've been on a bit of a constant progression since then. In fact this December goes down as the single biggest running month of my entire life, and by a decent margin. Factor in that we had some of the earliest low level snow that I've ever experienced in my nine years on the coast, and a decent chunk of the running was completed on microspikes and/or snowshoes.

As I sit here tapering for the HURT 100 miler in just two weeks time it is with an air of confidence that I simply have not possessed in three full years, since exactly this time in 2010. There are of course absolutely no guarantees with racing, especially 100 milers, but I've put in the work and I'm ready to wear my result come race day. 

By the numbers. I ran over 1000 miles / 1635 km between October 1st and Jan 1st.

I managed to eclipse 3000 miles for the year, with a very late push. 

After the first five months I had covered less than 1000 miles as I was strategically worked my way back from injury.

In December (well technically from Dec 2nd till Jan 1st) I managed over 450 miles / 730kms. Included in this were two 50km races. At my first, the Deception Pass 50km on Dec 8th, I managed my first ultra victory in nearly three years. I ran under four hours in setting the new course record, during a 92 mile week. I was very happy with that. 
Photo Credit Glenn Tachiyama
To close out 2012 I knocked down 300km / 185m of running in just nine days time. From Christmas Eve until and including New Year's Day. 

I ran the NYD Fat Ass 50k, a 'fun run' that always seems to draw a pretty fast crowd near the front. Again I was very happy with my run as I shaved the better part of thirteen minutes off my best time at this event with a 3h47m06s effort to snag 3rd place. 

In 2012 I was only allowed to run 10k on NYD. In 2011 I 'ran' 10k on my crutches. In 2010, leading up to HURT Hawaii, I ran 3h59m55s after knocking down 300km in ten days. I really like where I'm at right now. I haven't felt this strong in, well...ever.
Photo Credit Mike Palichuk
The numbers don't lie and hopefully this means what I think it means come race day on Jan 19th.

2012 as a whole

x 320 individual runs, not running specific days, of which I have no real idea
4835 kms / 3005 miles
661 hours
168,000 meters / 551,000 feet

x 68
1650 kms / 1025 miles
78 hours
25,000 meters / 115,000 feet

Running by month

Dec - x 31 / 730 kms / 80 hours / 24,000 meters - feeling fitter than I ever have before
Nov - x 27 / 490k / 68h / 19,000m - feeling like finally back to peak fitness
Oct - x 24 / 415k / 64h / 17,000m - getting back to good again
Sept - x 31 / 300k / 68h / 12,000m - hip injury forced mostly hiking
Aug - x 23 / 461k / 76h / 21,000m - utmb
July - x 24 / 261k / 52h / 10,000m - sick + back to back dnf's
June - x 34 / 650k / 73h / 22,000m - one of my best ever mileage months
May - x 27 / 376k / 48h / 15,000m - allowed to start back on mountainous terrain
Apr - x 25 / 363k / 36h / 10,000m - still following strict mileage limits
Mar - x 30 / 361k / 45h / 9000m - building consistency
Feb - x 23 / 265k / 33h / 6000m - slow controlled build
Jan - x 21 / 163k / 18h / 3000m - fresh off of injuries




BCMC Descent FKT - 15m52s

It's rare that I have a run where I celebrate it like I've just won The Stanley Cup. Today was one of those very special days.

With perfect conditions on the local BCMC trail, which is listed as a 3.3km / 2 mile trail that loses 853 meters / 2800 feet over an average grade of 25-35%, I leaned into it and held on (stayed upright) all the way to the bottom in less than sixteen minutes.

Just last week I ran a 19m29s descent in which the conditions were a bit more complex, and I commented afterwards that I thought I could break nineteen minutes. That was my goal today. That was all I expected to see when I clicked the lap counter once I'd reached the gate at the bottom. Seeing a time of 15m52s sent me into a flurry of leaping around like an idiot.

Now this run will certainly have to be noted as a snow assisted descent, though you still have to cover the terrain underfoot. By perfect conditions I mean that there is a decent snow pack over the top portions of the route so you can really stride out over what is normally very technical terrain. The mid portion however is a bit of a slushy slip and slide and my downhill ski experience certainly contributed to keeping me upright as I slid as much as I ran through this section.

The bottom was a mix of snow, ice and then the normal rocks and roots. I managed to rip my microspikes off my feet in about six seconds flat and refused to pause my watch for any reason as I didn't want to compromise the GPS file.

I pretty much turned myself inside out on this run. I made but two missteps in the snow which cost me a few seconds and had just two hikers who refused to relinquish the trail and forced me into the knee deep snow on the sides of the trail. All in all people were incredibly accommodating, and I attempted to give them as much heads up as possible with friendly "hellos" as I approached. The run really couldn't have gone any better. My only regret is that I wasn't wearing my GoPro for the whole thing:)

What really makes this an extra special run is that I've been training my tail off in preparation for my first 100 miler in two and a half years, that being the HURT Hawaii on Jan 19th. With 115 miles / 190km in the last six days I don't get much more tired than I've been as of late, but thankfully the body has stayed strong and my mind is simply being strung along for the ride right now.

Enough blogging, it's time to convince my mind that it wants to go for yet another run already.



The Bee's Knees

It's been over a year and a half since I met Leon Lutz at a running conference in Utah. I was impressed by his dedication to his beard, he was impressed by my dedication to my running. We hit it off and shared a few drinks over the course of the weekend.

Leon asked if I'd mind doing an interview regarding my injury and recovery process following my initial broken foot, and I happily obliged. Neither of us could have ever guessed it would take the better part of 18 months to finally piece this together, but then again neither of us could have dreamt that I was in fact nowhere near the end of my recovery process when we first met. Au contraire, I wasn't even at the midway point since the second broken foot had yet to actually occur.

I have to admit that I get a touch emotional as I read Leon's take on my story. I believe he's done a great job in really summarizing what the last few years have truly been like for me. It's not been easy. It's not been without its constant self doubt and frustration. I think the reason Leon nailed this one, outside of his writing skillset, is in essence because he kind of lived it along with me. Leon became personally invested in my running successes and failures after we'd befriended each other and agreed to conduct an interview on the premise that I was already fully recovered from a jones fracture (I still can't even type that word without a tinge of anxiety hitting me).

As we leaned toward making that initial interview a reality everything went sideways again. I never would have believed that a full recovery could take nearly as long as it did, and Leon didn't even broach the subject again until he knew that I felt it was finally behind me. Eighteen months along and I find it was actually worth the wait, because although one's story is ever evolving, we hope and believe that this lengthy chapter has finally been put to rest.

Leon's blog is titled "This Bee's Knees" and here's the link to his interview. I hope you enjoy it.




Taking The Stage

I have very little experience in the realm of public speaking, though I do love attempting to engage an audience. A month back Sean Verret from FEAT Canada (no this has nothing to do with jones fractures thankfully) contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in presenting at The Centennial Theatre, which is only a block away from my house.

FEAT standing for "Fascinating Expedition and Adventure Talks" and was first held in South Africa one year ago. In all honesty the premise of it scared the crap outta me and I instantly dreamed up a dozen reasons to say no. This of course meant that I had to force myself to get past my fears and step up. I've had an undertone of excited stress ever since, and on this coming Tuesday November 15th I'll take the stage with eight other presenters. Here's the official write up, I hope you can make it out.

Inaugural FEAT Canada comes to Vancouver's North Shore

FEAT, an evening of adventure sport-themed talks, has crossed continents and the Atlantic Ocean to land in Canada for the first time. The first FEAT Canada evening will take place as a part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) Fall Speaker Series in mid-November.
Fascinating Expedition & Adventure Talks (FEAT) was first held in South Africa a year ago. In this time there have been three FEAT events, presented in the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Created by adventure racer Lisa de Speville, FEAT invites speakers from a range of adventure disciplines to talk on recent accomplishments and expeditions. It’s a fast-paced, slideshow-based presentation format where each speaker has only seven minutes to tell their story. Far removed from a formal speaking platform, FEAT is social and fun and the audience is encouraged to interact with speakers; ooohhhs, aaaahhhs and laughter colour the theatre.
FEAT Canada’s line-up of nine speakers includes Jen Olson, Kevin Vallely, Megan Rose, Nicki Rehn, Paul Gleeson, Philip McKernan, Scott Frandsen, Gary Robbins, and Sebastian Salas. They’ll speak of adventurers and expeditions in the disciplines of rowing, cycling, mountain climbing, ultra-distance running, skiing and mountain biking.
“It's fantastic to have so many great speakers from the lower mainland, Vancouver Island and Alberta,” says Verret, who has enthusiastically leapt into the adventure of presenting FEAT Canada. “We truly are lucky to put together a line up rich in record holders, adventurers and motivators. The night will be a magical and inspirational.”
FEAT Canada will be held on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 at The Centennial Theatre in Lonsdale, North Vancouver, British Columbia. Tickets are $15 and they can be booked by contacting (604) 984-4484. or online here
FEAT Canada is made possible by the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF;
You’ll find FEAT Canada on the web at There’s the speaker line up as well as links to videos of talks from the FEAT South Africa events. FEAT is also on Twitter (@FEATCanada) and Facebook (FEATSA).
CONTACT: Sean Verret, sean@featcanada.ca604-365-7326



Musings From The Sidelines - Weekend Ultra Story Lines

A couple of big races took place this past weekend and as always there were many story lines that emerged. A couple that stood out to me

(Hope Pass)
Ryan Sandes's 100 Mile Debut

South African Ryan Sandes won the Leadville 100 miler with the 3rd fastest time in the race's 28 year history. Yeah, that little race in Colorado that attracts one of the largest fields of any North American 100 miler. The race with a low point of 9,600 feet, and a high point of 12,620 while cresting Hope Pass...twice. That little race where the two fastest times ahead of this 100 mile rookie's performance are Matt "The Lung" Carpenter and Anton "My Bones Heal Faster Than Yours" Krupicka.

It's not like Sandes is inexperienced by any stretch of the imagination though, as he's the only person to ever sweep the Racing The Planet stage racing series. That does little to diminish the shocking caliber of his 100 mile debut however. And, if you happen to be keeping tabs, yes that another Salomon victory this year, and yes that's the 4th major US race to be won by an 'out of towner' since December.

NF 50 Champs - Heras
WS 100 - Jornet
Hardrock - Chorier
Leadville - Sandes

Can a U.S. runner finally snag victory at the most competitive race of the year, starting in France on Friday evening? (and yes my heart bleeds just a little bit every time I think about missing out on that starting line)

Dave Mackey Back Atop UROY 2011 Voting?

Dave Mackey got back to form again on the weekend by breaking yet another course record. This time at the Waldo 100k in Oregon. This one is summed up nicely right on their homepage: It is not a beginner-level ultra and participation in the race should not be taken lightly.

Dave shaved just over four minutes off of Erik Skagg's 2009 effort, in which you may recall he ran himself straight into the hospital, which thankfully he eventually fully recovered from.

After Mackey finished 8th at Western States he seemed to fall out of favor with the UROY chatter, even though his 8th place finish was a pretty damn solid 16h36m effort.
It will be interested to see what the voters think come year’s end, though there is still a lot of racing to go. I'm curious if we'll see similar to past years, where there seems to be a weighted voting process associated with the distance of the runs upon one's resume. Though it's pretty hard to argue the stats:
-1st CR Bandera 100k
-1st Amercan River 50m
-1st Miwok 100k
-8th Western States 100m
-1st CR Waldo 100k

Canadian Back In The Mix

Canadian runner Chris Downie broke onto the scene a few years back with some impressive results, before seeming to disappear for about a year. Well it appears the BC native is back with a vengeance as he pulled off a very impressive 4th place finish at the above mentioned Waldo 100k on the weekend. Downie finished just ahead of Oregon's own Yassine Diboun, who is a highly regarded ultra runner, and all around great guy period.

I believe Chris's next race will be another Oregon gem, the Pine to Palm 100 miler in mid September, and I'll say right now that I'm picking him for a podium finish. Chris has shown nothing but success over longer distance runs while winning his first 100mile and 146km races.


So whatdaya think? Is Ryan Sandes poised to become the next great 100 mile runner? Is Dave Mackey your pick for UROY through 2/3 of the year? Have you ever raced against Chris Downie and come away shocked that a man who looks like a football player can be so damn fast?




215km Of East Coast Trail, The Perfect 35hr Family Vacation!

I had been on my feet for over 24 straight hours,

and I had covered over 100 miles of ground for the first time in my life. The sun had risen on my second day only to reveal terrain that was completely overgrown and impossible to run. Navigation was not an issue, but I was down to a bushwhack hike of about 4km an hour. I was wearing running shorts and my primary thought, outside of reaffirming every curse word I'd ever learned before, was that I only wished I had enough foresight to pack a pair of running tights. Every step through the harsh overgrown Newfoundland brush was like grinding on a heavy grit sandpaper, and I truly wanted my legs to bleed more than they actually were so that I would at least have visual justification for all the frustrations I was dealing with.

To add to the anguish I was suffering through I had under budgeted my food and fluids for this section and I had completely run dry hours earlier. My left hip, which had been an on and off issue for months on end had started flaring up after just the first hour and a half of my journey and since then had gone completely numb. As painful as it was it had not spiked in pain in hours and I felt like the worst of that issue might be behind me. Over the years experience had taught me that if you ignore your own body's sensory perceptions they will eventually start to questions their own sanity. Which is of course directly in line with the conversation you will inevitably have with yourself at some point as well.

"Listen I've been telling him for hours that he's all messed up but he just ain't hearing it."

"Really? You sure we're right about sending out those pain signals?"

"I dunno. I just do what what comes naturally but if the big boss man is telling me to shut up I guess I might as well listen to him. He can deal with the consequences himself later."

Truth be told, had I registered for any race on that same weekend I would have pulled the plug, DNS (did not start) without question or any feeling of remorse whatsoever. Since early summer I felt like I was just hanging on. I managed a successful Western States in June yet I still had two major pursuits on the schedule that I'd made very public in March. There was a fundraising campaign for Right To Play that was gaining momentum and I had somehow been able to fight my way to a slightly better West Coast Trail time than ever before, just two weeks prior. Though three quarters of the way through that West Coast Trail attempt I found my mind on the opposite side of the country, in Newfoundland. I was wondering how in the hell I was going to pull off a 215km run just fourteen days after running the 75km WCT. Those thoughts lasted all of a few minutes before I realized I had to be present in that moment in BC before shifting my sights towards the next run in Nfld.

The weeks between runs had evaporated and I now found myself in a whole other world of hurt. I had once covered 200km in a weeks worth of training and it completely shattered me. I had never attempted a distance greater than 160km in one go, and I had never had the 'good fortune' to run into a second sunrise before. This was all new terrain for me, and none of it was going according to plan.

Ray Zahab had been kind enough to send me fourteen maps that made up the entire route, and in hindsight these maps were integral to our success as a family. Though the terrain had now slightly eased, at least in terms of the overgrowth, I found it impossible to run more than a few steps at a time. I would guilt myself into a trot of about a minute before my body would shut down on me. I continually repeated this process like a scratched LP stuck in a record player. Over, and over, and over again. Try, fail, walk, try, fail, walk, try, fail, walk.

I knew the direction I wanted to travel and I couldn't help but notice that I was getting farther away from my next town and what would end up being my saving grace of seeing my family and their rolling support vehicle again. It was already four hours beyond my predicted arrival time and though the sun was now shining bright upon a beautiful Sept day I was being bombarded by coastal winds that would leave my face wind burned by the end of it all. I pulled out my maps, careful not to let them get caught in the breeze, and I confirmed that I was indeed still on course. It just happened to be the long way round to my next intersection. It was blatantly evident why the trail meandored out to sea and not towards the safe haven community of Petty Harbor. The scenery was endless and this trail was designed to take in all the fantastic sights and sounds that help make the route such a rare gem. I however, no longer gave a shit about the sights, sounds, and vantage points, and in fact I was actually starting to loath all of it. My two cameras felt like dead weights that I had to carry to document the damn trek and I was sick of feeling the need to stop and capture beauty on film.

I glanced into the distance and could just make out what appeared to be the end of the inlet I had yet to turn towards. My next 'aid station' was all too far off and I very literally had thoughts of just laying down and shedding a few tears. I was a defeated man, completely deflated and devoid of motivation to continue onwards. I had always wanted to find my breaking point through my endurance pursuits and I was now being confronted by something I had never truly dealt with on such a low level before. I wanted to quit. I just didn't care anymore, about anything. Knowing that quitting simply was not an option was all that kept me moving, one step at a time. Then it happened, I started to hallucinate.

As I crested a small knoll I thought I could see my brother off in the distance. Part of the beauty of The ECT is the solitude of the experience, and after covering nearly 185km, and being on my feet for over 29 hours I'd seen but two other people. One was camping in the night as I ran past, and the other was enjoying breakfast (while I still had food and fluids) many hours earlier, and nearly fifty kilometers away from the first hiker.

I blinked a few times to get a grip on myself and when I rubbed my eyes open I could not believe what I was seeing. My brother Bryan had hiked in 4km to find me and he had huge smile on his face and simply extended a handful of tinfoil towards me,

"I thought you could use some breakfast."

I found those tears I fought back just minutes earlier now starting to form by means of sheer amazement and excitement. I felt like he'd saved my life, and more importantly, my run...and for the second time in the last twelve hours no less.

East Coast Trail 215km

The first twenty nine hours of the run had itself brought many a high and low, and much in the way of mental anguish and doubt, but all in all my Father's rough time estimates were proving to be incredibly accurate.

The biggest issue that I simply had not prepared for was that of being completely wet for nearly the entire effort. Though we did not really get rained on too badly at any point, it did rain fairly hard the previous night and with so many overgrown sections of trail I rarely went more than a few minutes after changing into dry clothes without getting soaked again. In fact in the first 24hr my feet were dry for fewer than two of those hours. At one point my Brother even utilized a laundry mat in a small town we crossed through to 'refresh' my clothes for me and it took him nearly an hour to remove all the moisture from everything

I was also not expecting The East Coast Trail to have so many steep climbs in it. This may sound foolish to say, but it is a coastal route and there are no mountains in the region. This did not stop my GPS from recording almost 20,000 feet of climbing, and that's after the data corrections have been applied to the file. I'm always weary of inflated elevation data from a GPS watch, but I'll confidently say there was over 15,000 feet of climbing for sure.

I had expected and was prepared for the mud upon the trail to be worse than it actually was. This is not to suggest that the terrain was not atrocious because it most certainly was. Mentally though I had told myself I'd swim through quicksand like bogs and ford surging rivers if I had to. Instead I simply felt like a child on hockey skates for the first time in my life. There were hours upon hours that passed where every singular step I took was a fight to stay upright. I had my fair share of tumbles with the worst landing me elbow deep in a mud bath that smelled like a barn yard. I unleashed my anger and frustrations into the universe only to be on my ass again not a minute later.

The trail was turning out to be a lesson in humility. It was not the clear shot run that I had dreamed of and I felt more like a speed hiker than an actual runner at times, yet the goals of both are always the same. Relentless Forward Motion. One step at a time, baby steps if the trail demanded, and all the way from Cappyhaden to St. John's. There would be no stopping until I reached my home, my true home, the city in which I was born 33 years earlier.

The number one concern I had going into the speed attempt was based around my hip injury. It had been bothering me for months and even on the nine hour flight across Canada I would have to continually walk around and stretch off the impending numbing of the area.

I took my first steps upon the trail at 6:15am on Friday August 20th, and by 7:45am that same morning I was locked into a war of wills against my own body.

"This really hurts"

"No it doesn't"

"Umm, yeah, it totally hurts right now"

"Like no it doesn't!"

"Like yeah! It totally does like, really, like, freaking"

Yes, I have the internal dialogue of thirteen year old kid.

"Alright fine, it hurts, but you knew it was gonna hurt coming into this thing so how bout a little suck it up princess"

"But I still have over two hundred kilometers left to go...."


"I just started this thing. There's no way I can ignore this much this early...."


"I'm ninety minutes into what will likely be a 36hr run..."


"I hate you"

"I know"

"I'm not talking to you"


"You'll pay for this!"

"I'm ok with that"

The first 100km of the trail took around thirteen hours to complete, and I fully recall hours seven, nine, and eleven being the most painful to accept. At the eleventh hour, and around 80km, my body screamed at me louder than it had all day long,


It was a brutal sixty minutes in which I stopped a few times to try to stretch out the pain, but to no avail. I noticed my stride was being compromised in an attempt to alleviate the issues, but again this wasn't making things any easier. I had my first true doubts about my ability to endure, and the mental math nearly debilitated me.

"Eleven hours, eighty kilometers in. Still 135 kilometers to go. Still at least a full day of running left to get me through this thing. I still have twenty four full hours to, just how is all I'm asking you?"

"Honestly I don't know ok. I just don't know. I'm sure you'll figure something out, and besides when you see your family again I know you're going to come around, so deal with it."

That eleventh to twelfth hour on the trail was the most painful I've ever experienced from that specific injury, or any other injury for that matter. By the time I'd hit 90km mark though, it was as if the pain sensors had hit a steady state and simply started cancelling each other out. The hip would no longer make it to the top of my 'reasons to quit list' upon the run. I'd won a small battle, one of many that were waged along the way.

As the kilometers rolled by we got into a pretty smooth rhythm as a family. My Father (Fred), Mother (Gerri), Brother (Bryan), Niece (Kayla), and Brother's Girlfriend (Heather) were all along for the ride, in the form of two rolling support vehicles. The East Coast Trail has fairly regular intersections with small coastal communities and on average you spend about four kilometers running roads through small towns for every twenty or so kilometers you cover upon completely isolated trail.

These communities became our intersection points and my family would continually leap frog me throughout the entire process, always awaiting my arrival into each town. Every few hours I'd pop outta the trail to big smiles, hugs, cheers, and a rolling buffet. From time to time family members would hop outta the car and run with me to the next trail head, or until we hit the first wee bump in the landscape that created a bit of a climb. These moments were pure magic for me. Completely spontaneous and fueled by love. I felt no pain when I was with them and without my family the run would have been completely impossible on so many levels. They had even gone as far as to make signs that they hung on the car while they drove between towns.
In one community a rather large gentleman started chasing me down the road. Survival instincts kicked in and all I could think was,

"How in the hell am I gonna out run this guy right now!?"

Then I noticed he was waving money at me. He was donating to Right To Play!! When I stopped to accept his generosity he just looked at me and said,

"Get going already! Don't stop for us!"

How could you not be moved by something like this. How could you possibly not finish what you'd started. How could you not draw energy reserves from this the likes of which you didn't even know you previously possessed. I felt like I floated on air for an hour after this encounter, feeling no pain whatsoever. Such a simple human interaction, yet so powerful at its core.

Gettin Ruffed Up

As nightfall was approaching, and we were running through yet another small town, my brother hopped out of the car to join me while the rest of the family drove on ahead to find the next trail re-entrance sign. It was to be a ten minute jaunt at most. A 'hey howya doing, keep digging, you're doing great' pep talk run.

We were just passing the second to last home in the community of Brigus South when out of nowhere an overweight Golden Lab came screaming out of a driveway at us. It was brandishing its teeth and left no doubt as to its intentions. The dog gave chase, but unlike every other scary dog encounter I'd ever experienced this beast meant business. He was on our heels in no time and as we turned to face him he leapt up and grabbed my Brother by the leg! The owner was now sprinting down the road after all of us which eventually turned into the three humans yelling at the one dog until he finally cowered behind his master. Bryan was obviously now pumping with adrenaline and for a second I thought I was going to have to prevent him from biting the owner of the dog himself. After a brief screaming match and a multitude of apologies from the dog's owner we were on our way again, my Brother now hobbling a bit from the impact of the bite, which turned out to leave a mark but not break the skin. He'd eventually walk it off but I'm not convinced I could have fended off the dog on my own at that point. We were laughing about it by the time we caught up with my family again.

The funniest thing I witnessed during the run was about six hours later at 2am. As I came off of another section of trail and into the community of Witless Bay we awoke another angry mutt and up he got and at me he came. My Dad immediately positioned the car between the dog and I, as I watched in shock as my Mother threw open her car door and started positioning herself to defend her first born at all costs.

"I woulda tackled that dog if he'd come at ya ya know!"

"Oh I know you would have Mom, you left no doubt with me or the dog that he didn't stand a chance of getting past you!"

Once the adrenaline from that scare wore off I found that I was completely and utterly drained. Physically and mentally I just needed a break. At 2:30am, after covering approximately 135km in twenty hours of running, I simply came towards my parents car, now set up at the trail head ahead of me as an aid station, and said,

"I need a nap"

They were so focused on the task at hand and our end goal that no one even processed what I'd said. They were straight into filling bottles, offering up clothes, and changing headlamp batteries.

"I need a nap"


"A nap. I'm done. Someone wake me in fifteen minutes please." I then looked at them with a serious expression which was to convey that though we all knew I needed more sleep that this, they were not allowed to let me go beyond fifteen minutes.

Ten seconds later they placed a blanket over me in the back seat of the car. I didn't anticipate needing a nap for the run, but having flown clear across the country and into a four and a half hour time change on Wednesday, arriving in Nfld at midnight, shopping for supplies on Thursday before driving the two hours to our starting point, and only getting five hours of sleep the night before the run began on Friday morning, I just had nothing left. I've done numerous 36hr adventure races and without fail a 15-20 minute nap had always gotten us through.

Nineteen minutes later, after my parents had let me 'sleep in', I was back on my feet. It was a lot like peeling myself out of a self constructed coffin. I didn't really know my name for a few seconds before grabbing my gear and hitting the trail again. Ten minutes later as my mind finally joined my body I found my legs moving better than they had in hours. The power nap had worked wonders. I now just had to make it till sunrise and my body's natural circadian rhythms would take care of the rest.

For the most part this strategy worked well. The sun rose a few hours later, right on time even, and I was awake. But the trail had thrown us for a loop and our time guesstimates for the longest non intersecting section of trail, 32km, proved grossly under estimated. It took a full seven and half hours to clear this section, yet I had carried sustenance for three and a half hours. If my brother had not unexpectedly shown up with the food and water I'd probably still be out there waiting for someone to drag my ass back to civilization.
My savior Brother had lifted my spirits and ripped me from the dead when he showed up with that tinfoil breakfast and two full water bottles. He started running to pace me, asking if he should go faster. I hadn't actually run for the better part of four hours and the fear of loosing him was all that propelled me along,

"No, this is good! No need to go any faster Bryan!"

He helped haul my ass back to my family, still four kilometers away, and upon seeing them a funny thing happened. Their smiles, cheers, hugs, and laughter seemed to caress through my body like pure energy, with it removing every singular bit of doubt, fatigue, and exhaustion that I still carried with me. I knew I'd overcome the worst the trail could throw at me. The worst my mind could throw at me. The worst my body could throw at me. I knew I was going to beat this thing. I knew WE, as a family, were going to succeed. It was noon on my second day of running, the sun was shining bright though it had forecast heavy rain, and I had but thirty kilometers of trail standing in my way. Thirty kilometers between me, beer, and sleep.

Those final thirty kilometers of the run were a bit of a blur,

not because I can't remember them now, but because I was fried and just going through the motions. I very literally had an hour of full on hallucinations, with everything from ski resort chair lifts, to road construction signs in the middle of the ocean and I was almost enjoying the distractions to be honest.

As I hit Cape Spear, The Most Easterly Point In North America, I was finally in my own backyard. I was on familiar ground, playing in my home rink, and that familiarity picked me up as much as the inevitability of completing the task at hand.
My parents called the local news network and gave them a finishing time of 5:30pm. I glanced at my watch and I thought I could do better, but like every good ultra runner I had completely forgotten just how tough the final section of the trail actually was, it being the only real part I had any previous experience upon.

As those final kilometers started to tick away I realized I was really going to have to dig deep to finish by 5:30 so I told myself I was going to leave it all out there.

"No use holding back now Gary, let's see what ya got in there?"

I effectively destroyed the final 15km of my 215km run along the coast. It was very near the strongest I had run at any point on the entire trail in the day and a half that I was out there. The climbs in this final section are long and steep, with technical footing, and rarely an easy or flat step. I ran the entire section minus the one obscene and endless scramble/climb in the middle of it all. I think I would be hard pressed to run all of this terrain on completely fresh legs. I have no idea exactly how this all worked, whether it was adrenaline, the need to be done, simply a newfound focus and motivation, or maybe a bit of all of the above. Either way I felt like a runner for the first time all day and I ended up finishing just two minutes behind my Dad's perfect guesstimate, at 5:32pm on Saturday August 21st.

A news crew, family members, and even some high school friends had turned up to welcome me home. I'd made it. Thirty five hours and seventeen minutes to complete two hundred and fifteen kilometers of incredibly challenging terrain. But beyond that, I'd had conquered doubts the likes of which I'd never experienced before, pain the likes of which I hope I never have to deal with again, and nutrient deficiencies that I will never subject myself to in a racing environment. After all of this I still managed to persevere. I came out on top, I didn't say uncle, I didn't listen to the quit now demons in my head, and I continually fought past all obstacles that were presented to me on the day.

In life it is rare that you will feel 100% prepared when faced with a new challenge, but you can ALWAYS give 100% of what you have in you on that day, and more often than not, that's plenty good enough to get you through

Way back in March when I decided to propose this project dubbed 'Conquer The Coasts' I really had no idea what to expect or exactly how I intended to pull it all off. Sitting here now in November I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to say that I achieved all I'd set out to over nine months ago. 

-The West Coast Trail Record now sits at 10h08
-The East Coast Trail Record now sits at 35h17
-An ECT film is being worked on
-A combined trail film will be completed as well

Thank you to everyone for their continual support and kind donations towards Right To Play. None of this would have been possible without you.

Special Thanks

My Family. Every single one of them were integral towards the success of this project, right down to my beautiful niece Kayla who took care of all of the twitter updates and found most of the nearly impossible to locate trail heads during the night.

Trevor Richmond. I don't know how I would have afforded to pull this all together without your assistance with flights. Your generosity is unmatched and I knew there was a reason I still talked to you after all these years!

Erik Nachtrieb. For offering to take all my raw solo shot footage and to make it into something worth actually watching!

David Papineau. That fantastic logo is compliments of Mr. Broadway Run Club, thank you!

Ray Zahab. Ray was more excited than anyone about my proposed runs this year and he provided me with plenty of insight about The East Coast Trail and the aforementioned invaluable maps

North Shore Athletics. Any other employer woulda fired my ass long ago, yet somehow you still keep me on payroll. Thanks for approving the time off necessary to pursue these things.

Drymax Socks. Of course all sponsors deserver their props but Drymax deserve their special mention here. I have run 4x100 mile races, and in each of them I have battled significant foot blistering over the final 20miles/30kms. I have never run more than a dozen hours without some sort of foot issue. I've learned to accept it and thought it was just a part of the game. Then Bob from Drymax spots me some socks, telling me they're bound to help. 'Yeah Right'. A sock is a sock is a sock. I'd tried no fewer than a dozen kinds so how is yours gonna be any different?


Even my Father, having seen me at WS 09 was completely speechless. These socks are the best. PERIOD!

Sponsor Shoutout


Mountain Hardwear

Princeton Tec Sport Lights


Moveo Sport Rehab

Curb Ivanic Strength & Conditioning



Game On!

I guess it's taking me a little bit longer to get back into the blogging swing of things after the holidays, and although I feel I've already fell behind on here, I am definitely off to a great start in my build up to Western States.

On New Years Day, as you may have seen in the video, I ran 50k and hopped in the ocean. This is now the 5th year in a row that I have completed this run and although I am puzzled as to how, it has become a necessary tradition for me. When I initially ran it in 2005 it was my first ever 50k ultra run, so I guess it has a certain sentimental appeal to it now. This was my 17th ultra, meaning that almost 30% of my experience has come from this one event alone!!

The course this year was an even mix of slush, ice, snow, and pavement. It consists of an out and back 25k and has virtually no elevation gain as most of it follows the very scenic Sea Wall in Vancouver's Stanley Park, and the beaches that splay out from there. In the four years prior to 09 I had brought my time down from 6h37m to a course record 4h04m in 2008, getting consistently faster annually. 2009 ended up being the first year that I drifted backwards in terms of my finish time, but given the course conditions, the holiday weight I was carrying (11 Lbs since MM!!), and the lack of training in the last two months, I was quite pleased with how my 'race' went. In the end I finished third in a time of 4h27m. As implied, this course definitely favors a road runner, something I have never claimed to be. In fact if not for the nastiness we had to endure upon the day I am sure that the top two runners, Ryne Melcher 4h12m and David Papineau 4h17m, would have eclipsed the magic four hour barrier.

In brief, The Good:
-No cramping, which in this race is a first for me! Thank you Thermolytes and CP 1200!!
-Didn't take a single wrong turn, again a first for me (no course markings in a 'Fat Ass' event)
-I have a great running base to work off of right now as I felt amazingly good in the days following the run
-I finished much stronger then I had in previous years and physically felt really good throughout the entire run

The Bad:
-I'm carrying way too much additional weight right now and it's time to focus on training and racing again
-That's it really. Overall I took nothing but positives away from this run

The Days Leading Up To New Years

When I saw the digits on the scale staring back at me, after my fifth annual x-mas re-wrap party on Dec 27th, I said then and there that it was over. Party time was over, I had consumed more food and alcohol in the eight weeks since Mountain Masochist then I did in the six months prior, or something close to that at least!

Mon 29th 15k skate ski up on Cypress Mtn. I tried skate skiing for the very first time last season and was instantly hooked! I loved it so much that I bought my own gear this fall and then fell into a corporate after 3pm (open till 10pm) seasons pass was just $135! This was my second time out this year and it's one hell of a workout, especially when you have ZERO technique!!

Wed 31st I headed out for my longest run in eight weeks, 17.5k with a set of Kahtoola Microspikes on my feet, a necessity upon the day. These things are phenomenal for traction in frozen icy terrain. I was literally holding pace on two inches of slick frozen ice. I loved it...Roxy on the other hand did not seem to be having as much fun as I was!

For New Years Eve we decided to snowshoe up Mt Seymour and in the process we actually found an igloo!! It was just big enough for four people and one cute puppy. We cracked some wine, had a countdown to midnight and hung out inside for about 45min. From there we 'shoed' up to 'Dinky Peak', a mini cliff of about 15-20 feet, which is perfect for snowshoe cliff jumping! After half a dozen loops we did some deep powder bush whacking before coming across a younger crowd who were packing 'crazy carpets' and sliding over a small jump. We commandeered their gear for an additional thirty minutes of fun before finally heading back to our friends truck. We called it a night at 3.30am, with one exhausted puppy snoring on a pillow next to the bed!

Thurs 1st Happy New Year, now go run 50k! By the time we returned to bed that night, on just 3.5hr sleep, we were both absolutely toasted, and Roxy hadn't moved an inch all day!

As mentioned the two days following the 50k were surprisingly good for me, no 'Robbins shuffle' whatsoever, and although I did not run, I easily could have had the motivation been there!

Sat 3rd While watching one of the most RIDICULOUS FINISHES in Canadian Hockey history, I improv'ed a great home workout...adrenaline goes a long way when pushing yourself!

Sun 4th My Montrail teammate Ryne Melcher and I headed out for what ended up being a snow run, in up to knee deep powder at times! I forgot my camera which is a shame because it was a gorgeous morning to be out playing in a completely silent, snow covered, forest canopy. Minus snowshoes, it took us a full 2h35m to cover a very intense and tough 22.5km

ALL IN ALL, a solid week 'back at er'. 105km and feeling great so far...Western here I come baby!!

Oh yeah, my adventure racing teammate Todd Nowack and his girlfriend Kim are moving to Norway for a year!! Here are a few pics from their visit over the holidays as well. Looks like I'm gonna have to learn how to read a map finally!!