All About Angela

Monday, August 31, 2015

Squamish 50

I cannot recall how I found out about the Squamish 50. All I know is that it called to me. Much like a whip calls to a sadomasochist. Immediately upon registering, my stomach did a nauseating flip....Apparently, it understood the ramifications of that impulse decision.

The Squamish 50 is notoriously known as a difficult 50 miler....Perhaps "difficult" should be replaced with "torturous".  I'm no stranger to elevation gain....I LOVE hills....I have legs that were designed for climbs. My husband once said, "Your legs are like Redwood trunks." And this course promised 11,000 feet of ascent....Just my cup of tea......but it also promised an equal amount of descent....and every step would be a technical masterpiece requiring the balance and grace of a ballerina. When I was a teenager, friends nicknamed me "Grace"....and it was one of those ironic nicknames if you catch what I'm throwing down.

I knew that finishing was the ONLY thing that mattered. I had absolutely no delusion about where I'd be placing - I knew that I would be lucky to be nestled somewhere in the middle.

Honestly....the entire race exists as one giant blur....

In an ultra, time is weird....I have friends that cannot believe how long races last and how that doesn't become a mental mindfuck. "How can you run for that (insert time) long?!?" That's a question that I get asked A LOT. When I'm out there....time simultaneously slows down and speeds's hard to hold onto....minutes turn into hours that seem to escape within minutes....

I was not comfortable for a single second of the race. The only "easy" miles are the first six. However, even those presented a challenge due to navigating via headlamp. I was born with cataracts in both eyes. Even after corrective surgery, I have terrible depth perception in the dark. 

The ascents were a breeze....It may make some of you sick but climbing is fun....and it's always a welcome break from the repetitive motion of running. My one problem is that I tend to enjoy the company of others so I'll often slow my pace down in order to stick with someone that I'm conversing with (especially if that person is struggling) rather than charge ahead. Looking back, I could have knocked a good hour from my finishing time had I been more focused.

The descents were a cruel joke. I'm confident in the assertion that Satan had a firm hand in making those trails. STEEP. TECHNICAL. DROP-OFFS.  Need I say more? I cannot tell you how many times that I had to resort to getting on my ass in order to slide down. Thankfully, I read enough race recaps that I was mentally prepared. During one particularly challenging descent toward the end, I clocked in a 30 minute mile....30 minutes!!!! I could literally crawl blindfolded faster than that. Let's just say....I know that I need to work on this.

(Not Me) 

Let's talk about the wood bridges. When I first looked at course pictures, I was like..."Look at those quaint wood bridges in the forest that I get to run across!!!!" Yeah....NO.... These bridges were rugged. All of them buckled underneath your body weight, making this ominous cracking sound. Some of them were lifted several feet off the ground which proves terrifying when one's legs aren't exactly the epitome of stable. I walked precariously, like the baby that I am, across every single one of them.

Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy 
Around mile 40, I began to break.... I was becoming increasingly frustrated that so much of the course seemed un-runnable for mere mortals (or wimps like me). When I saw my husband about 1/4 mile from the final aid station (mile 43), I began to bawl....I complained that I was hurting....I threatened to drop....I told him how terrified that I was about finishing in the dark. I begged him in the most passive aggressive manner to tell me that it was okay to quit. He refused to give in (THANK YOU JEFF).

The volunteers at the aid station were INCREDIBLE. They convinced me that the final stretch would be like a pleasant stroll in the park.  Before I knew it, I was throwing back on the headlamp and sprinting into the forest. I'm so thankful that the next couple miles were truly was like I'd been waiting all day in order to utilize my legs in that fashion...

And yes....I finished!!!! 16 hours and 24 minutes later, I crossed that finish line and hugged the Great Gary Robbins.

I was one of the last to finish. 177 individuals came in before me. 12 came in after me.

I believe around 60 people did not finish for one reason or another.

But I finished. And I am so fucking proud of myself.

The ugly "AFTER" ...Double-fisting melon 

*I want to mention that this was quite possibly the most organized race that I've ever ran. The course marking was superb....I was immensely grateful for this during the few miles that I had to navigate in the dark. Each volunteer was amazing....especially those volunteers that had to hike into isolated areas and sit there even after dark. I am so touched by the kindness of others that I experience in races.

*My ONE suggestion would be to hire a photographer that ensures all runners have at least one picture. Out of the 548 pictures posted, not a single one had me....not even lurking in the background. It's quite obvious that the race photographer fixated on the front runners. I cannot even spot a single person that I ran with at any given point; that is extremely disappointing. With a race of this scale, I understand why following elite runners might be prioritized. However, we all paid the same registration fee and at the very least....have someone at the finish capturing each runner coming through should have happened.

And now, I've been doing A LOT of this....

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mount Spokane 25k

Excuse the blog absence, I've been having an off month....

The end of July, I did complete my first race repeat - The Mount Spokane 1/2. Last year, I was hesitant to register for this race. Even though I felt comfortable with the distance, I'd only had one experience with trail running prior, which could be considered rather tame (non-technical forest roads). When I received an e-mail from the RD disclaiming / warning that the distance was closer to 25k and that it was the most challenging run of their State Park Series, I was TERRIFIED (drastic understatement). The race was quite the was HARD....3000' of elevation gain was like torture for this novice road runner. On the final climb, I was miserable and doubting whether I'd ever attempt another trail run....But then I reached the summit...Words can not describe the view that I was rewarded with. I'm still surprised that my heart did not explode. That was THE MOMENT....I was forever changed as a runner...maybe even as a person. And just so you know....I was so sore the following day that I literally fell on my face when attempting to get off the couch.

There wasn't much notable about the 2015 running. Because I had turned 30 days before the race, I had celebrated with  plentiful cold beverages and indulgent food. The weight of my choices haunted me...I could feel every ounce of the bacon cheeseburger that I'd annihilated the night prior. It wasn't that I felt BAD....just not LIGHT. Additionally, I was still traumatized by my recent brutal fall; this caused me to be overly cautious on the descents. I stopped counting how many people that I allowed to pass on the downhill sections....I lost so much time being a giant wuss....BUT I still beat my previous time by 10 minutes!

A couple weeks later, I participated in a non-supported running adventure called "The Seven Summits"....The plan was to tag seven peaks in 48 miles with 10,000' of climbing.

This adventure could not have been further out of my comfort zone. Because the organizer wanted everyone to be accountable for their own safety, the course was not marked and limited aid would be provided (along four checkpoints each with a generous cut-off). We had to rely on this navigational app called ViewRanger to follow the designated route. I'm no directional wizard...I used to joke that I could get lost walking to the mailbox and it was only a slight exaggeration. I was TERRIFIED that I'd be lost in the wilderness and consumed by some wild animal. I'm adventurous but still aware of my limitations....I won't be traveling alone to remote destinations no matter how glorious they may be. Well....I managed to score a running partner who knew the route and had no crazy time ambitions because it was her first 50 miler....I was STOKED and EXCITED! We started running at 5 AM (ouch ouch ouch).
Far Right - Lime Green Tank 
Photo Credit - Sandee McKinney 

Almost half of the elevation gain occurs in the first two sections (totaling seventeen miles). Needless to say, we were not booking it....And then we got lost! At this point, we had picked up another was like an unspoken agreement that we'd stick together. We reached the first checkpoint with only 30 minutes to spare. I was feeling physically strong... I mean, we hadn't really done much running at this point.... But making up time was proving difficult. There wasn't much flat....There were uphills and downhills....I'm a strong climber but I wasn't able to bomb the steep, technical descents. The condition of the trails right now is terrible. Due to a lack of a moisture, the dirt has turned into slick sand...Rocks that were once planted in the soil now set on top like marbles waiting to bring about your untimely demise. We reached the second checkpoint with only 15 minutes to spare....I quickly realized that I needed to stop anchoring the other women down. I didn't want to be the reason that they would not reach a checkpoint in time. This adventure was more important to them....Squamish was less than two weeks away and I'd already received plenty of grief from my husband about participating. It had taken us FIVE HOURS to trespass 17 miles....I can probably run a road 50k in that same time...The positive aspect was that I was not sore AT ALL....I even ran a few recovery miles that evening. My husband ended up getting sick with a stomach flu upon arriving home so I'm glad that I chose not to continue. My husband is the type of dude that would have drove around all day in order to be there for me while sick....and he never would have let me know until I was finished.

A taste of the terrain
Photo Credit - Dave Dutro, The Trail Maniacs