In May at the finish line for the Lost Lake 25km in Bellingham, I was chatting with a loverly lady named Lena. She asked what my next race was, I replied with having nothing lined up. I returned the question and she mentioned about being registered for Volcanic 50 and proceeded to explain it. I had known about the race, but wrote it off as being a 50 miler and didn’t feel ready to run a 50 miler at that point but when she told me it was a 50k, I just had to check it out for myself. A couple days later I was registered. How can one turn down the opportunity to run supported around this remote and stunning (active) volcano?! I also took this race as an opportunity to raise money for multiple sclerosis, if you would like to donate the link is here, it will be open for donations for about another week. At the time of writing this I am happy to say I have raised $560 towards research. 🙂
This race was absolutely surreal, and I am really happy that I was able to toe the start line. The following ramblings are somewhat of a race report, written in a half asleep post race glow, which I am still in two days later. Thats how good it was.
So here we go,
September 2nd rolled around, I got to leave class at noon, proceeded to pick up some last minute gear in the city at Distance Runwear and headed south. All was fine until Lynwood and then it was stop and go traffic all the way to JBLM which is south of Tacoma. This is nearly 60 miles. On the drive down it gave me a lot of time to jam out to the radio, and reflect on how poorly I was feeling due to catching a bit of a sickness earlier in the week. My throat was sore and my hamstrings were achey. I was worried about how race day would go. I left Vancouver at 12pm, pulled into the parking lot at Marble Canyon Sno Park just after 9pm. From there I scrambled to get my pack a bit more organized and pulled out my awesome sleeping platform, made by my friend Stephane. Had a beautiful sleep in my car with my alarm set for bright and early for package pick up. In all the fuss I managed to forget to eat dinner.
Race day, Sept 3rd 2016
My alarm goes off at 5:30, I do a check in to see if I’m still feeling sick. Everything surprisingly seems okay. I scramble to awkwardly put on warmer clothing in my car… I drive a kia rio5, its tiny. Then collect my pack to get my mandatory gear checked (light jacket, emergency blanket, whistler, 40oz water capacity) and pick up my bib number (222, how easy is that), grab a couple stickers and head back down to finish organizing my gels and needs for the day and get dressed in my running gear. For some reason I thought the start time was 7:30, so managed to also not eat breakfast. 0/2 at this point. Shoved a honey stinger waffle in my mouth at the start line, not ideal to start my day of fuelling but it seemed to be fine. It was overcast and slightly rainy, my perfect race conditions.
The countdown begins, and the race starts. It starts with an incredibly steady climb, plateaus out into a boulder field and then drops towards the first aid station. Somewhere in this zone I bumped into Lena who recognized me from Lost Lake, we would yoyo for a good chunk of the race and it was amazing to have a familiar face show up at the perfect times. In the boulder field I met Dikesh, another Canadian. Our paths had crossed at FatDog when he showed up to my aid station with a big bag of chips clothes pinned to his running vest, it had made my night. We chatted for a bit, ran together for a couple km and then yoyo’d for a good portion of the race. After aid station 1, the trail drops significantly into aid station 2. I LOVE DOWNHILL, so I was a smiley, prancy lady the entire way down through the most beautiful forrest with massive old growth trees. The time frame between station 2 and 3 though felt like it was forever. I didn’t have the distances written down and in my head I had decided that they were all 10km apart. That was not true for the 3rd one, but when I got there I was pleasantly surprised. The entire aid station crew was dressed like astronauts, dancing and laughing in the middle of nowhere, it was amazing. From there on, another massive climb up steep, rocky, loose footed slopes, some flat and undulating terrain weaving towards the 4th and final aid station. A mere 4 miles, but the climb at the start made it feel a bit longer. I happily made the cut off time with an hour to spare.. ecstatically knowing I was going to finish I bounced out of there. The last 12kms were a mixed bag. A beautiful mixed bag. Steep, sandy sections, beautiful loam blanketed forest, another massive boulder field and a sure footed descent to the finish line. At the finish you are handed a pint glass, and directed towards the beer… which even at my scenic pace was still flowing!! There was also a bbq and a huge spread of food.
As for my personal overall feelings during this race, more for an account for myself for the future…
I’ll start with the bad because there wasn’t really much of it.
1. About 10km my right adductors (inside leg) started to feel off, I’m thinking I must have done something to it in the boulder field, being a bit too excited. It nagged the entire way, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t deal with.
2. I ripped off a callous, and got two insanely bad blisters on the inside of my heels. Didn’t notice the left foot until 42km and then the right foot until about 48km. They both popped, it was incredibly painful but then since they weren’t there anymore they were fine!! A little bit of tape fixed the ripped off callous.
Now for the rest.
Other than the two issues mentioned above, everything felt great. Head to toe. My low back and left foot tend to give me issues after about 30km but yesterday they were all great. Muscles felt solid, everything was grand! I was wearing Altra Olympus’ for the first time on a long run and I think my feet enjoyed the stack height. I had absolutely no gut problems, and I was able to stay sufficiently hydrated. I did slack on nutrition a bit, but solely because I couldn’t get myself to chew. I tried my best to take in as much as I could, and while it likely wasn’t enough… it was enough to sustain my pace and needs at that time. A good learning experience and I think I’ll have to switch to liquid calories in future, or at least have them for an option.
I was still running flats and downhills of this race all the way to the end. I tend to power hike a lot, but this race I felt strong.
Emotionally, I didn’t hit any big lows. I tend to get into a low spot where I question what I am doing, and doubt my ability to finish. I didn’t get there in this race. Anytime I felt myself slipping down that road I reminded myself that I was running around a friggen volcano and that it was amazing! What an amazing opportunity. I also thought of my fundraising efforts, and running for those who can’t run which gave me even more power. All and all I was 99.9% smiley and happy the entire day.
I highly recommend this course to anyone (although the pre req is a prior 50 because its remote and tough) and if it fits into my schedule for next year I will definitely be back, and if not next year then in years to follow.
There is something really special to be said about the trail running community, it is a beautiful, supportive group of people from all walks of life. I met some amazing people at this race. I would like to throw out a big thank you to Lena for telling me about this race, Dikesh for the good chats at the start, Grace for yoyo’ing with me for a good chunk of the race and then realizing we had Lara in common, the man I believe named Kevin for your distance PR and putting up with my chatting with you every time we passed, all of the amazing volunteers, the race directors and all of the support from friends and family I am honoured to receive.
Heres a dump of photos. Details about them are viewable by hovering. 🙂
I have 2 more races this year, leading up to my potentially over ambitious goal race in Feb, Black Canyon 100… but hey… go big or go home right?
Thanks again, and please enjoy all these photos! I didn’t take a ton.. and the summit didn’t come out to say hi but the clouds were very welcome. ❤
Notes to myself : Bring a camp chair… you’ll want to sit down at the finish and the ground is too far away :p, start training with liquid calories just incase you can’t chew anymore, also start training with eating more solid foods while running, moleskin these problem blister spots at the start, or right as they begin to develop.