|Photo by Jay Klassen|
In the week leading up to Sun Mountain, I adhered to my taper regime, running only a couple of times. A surplus of sleep and a twinge-free body would have been welcomed but I’m convinced our minds play tricks before key events inventing ghost pains and ills, jeering us subconsciously “you don’t have to do this thing”.
But I was so ready.
I can sleep late at night. Come to me baby
Earlier this week, someone pointed out how odd it was that my legs and hands were wound-free, since, he said “you seem to be running up a storm”. I replied “I changed my shoes and haven’t crashed or lost a toenail since”.
Is that not the best testimony ever? Thanks to members of the Salomon Flight Crew Jeff Pelletier, Tom Craik, Munny Munro, and Andy Reed, whom each advised me on shoes. And now I alternate between the sLabSense Ultra 3 and the Mantra is perfect for 50 miles!
I’m also really grateful to The Murph … but that comes later.
|Sun Mountain 50 mile. Start and Finish atmosphere - Photo by Jay Klassen|
But I can’t wait to see you, So I run like I’m mad to heaven’s door
Sun Mountain is much praised for its prettiness. A scenic course, combined with Rainshadow event atmosphere gives the assurance of a fun-full day. With these distractions, I felt zero pressure at the 7am startline, and eased my way up to the lead women right from the gun. Since it was my first go on this course, I gathered info from those running near me. Meredith Cale said it was wise to gain ground early in the race, as there would be traffic in the singletrack once the 50K racers started at 10am. At which point we caught glimpse of Joshua Barringer moving well, and so Meredith decided best to ease-back the pace (she later dnf’ with hip flexor issues). Myself, felt comfortable and pressed on moving alongside a fellow who was aiming for an 8h30 finish (he did 7h53). I was aiming to complete under 9 hours, so continued to hustle regardless.
|Dave Melanson of Project Talaria|
|Josh and Matt pinning-on their numbers just so|
Mon amour, You’re divine
Since my feet never touch pavement, I found the continuous sections of gravel roads quite punishing. Watchful of how efficient my competitors were moving, I persevered on the ‘running’ sections by focussing on form and coaxing myself forward with thoughts of upcoming meadows. Then, I was startled by Matt Barry sauntering past me, flowers in his hair and arms out like a coasting hawk (he dnf’ mid-point, monitoring a tenacious foot injury).
I forget the middle. I was in the zone, interspurted by postcard-like images flickering between aid stations and more sections of ‘road’. I recall the climbs were like heaven and the heat divine, it could have been hotter my love - bring on the hot steep race.
My new tactic was paying off. After reading Ed Kumar’s blogpost on a clinic led by Mike Murphy, I modified my approach to downhills. I’ve believed that saving my legs by playing descents conservatively would bring me success in ultras. This time my method was to giv’Er until there was nothing left, then push some more. I completely surrendered to gravity. And then … I saw Josh again.
|Forgetting the middle - Photo by Jay Klassen|
|Jackie looking strong despite a really rough day - Photo by Jay Klassen|
|Matty enjoying the ride - Photo by Jay Klassen|
|Joshua rolling out those long legs - Photo by Jay Klassen|
Don’t be afraid of me, Don’t be ashamed. Walk in the way of my soft resurrection
He was sitting in the shade of the final aid station, loosely holding a piece of mellon. My first thought was “oh no … poor Josh despising this heat”. My “??” expression or perhaps the simple shock of my arrival sparked Josh to his feet, and we left the aid station together (he finished quicker than last year despite stomach issues, though not the desired raceday). There was more carnage along the way. I ran past Bob Welbourn (elite cyclist doing his first 50K) and heard that Jackie Muir was having a terrible day. I spotted numerous Vancouver faces at the line (all dnfs) as I landed into James Varner’s finishers hug.
|Finish line beer and pizza goodness|
|All day entertainment|
Didn’t anyone ever tell you, It’s OK to shine
To my immense surprise, Gary Robbins came over to congratulate me on third place. I was skeptical of this news because I had counted three women in front of me and had ran scared the whole race, fighting to hold that position. I actually did finish in 4th place not 3rd, but nonetheless thrilled with the kind cudos' and with a well-earned finishing time of 8h12.
I recommend this race as an introductory ultra. The terrain is not technically difficult – if you are a solid climber and good road runner, this race is for you. The heat and open ground can be a challenge, though the frequent aid stations and cool breeze do counter this, plus there’s the darling views.
Next up: training continues ...
*Title quotes/Lyrics by Lana Del Rey