|Knee Knackering 50K race start|
So if you've told me that it would take me almost 6 whole hours to run a race that wasn't even 50K long, I would have scoffed. If you'd suggested that it would take me over 31 minutes just to run a single mile, I would likely have slapped you. And if you'd had the audacity to hint that I would finish outside the top 20 overall, I would have rolled my eyes and told you to lay off the drugs.
"What the hell have I gotten myself into," I mutter to no one in particular as I sit down on a rock and let twenty or so others runners – including a half dozen women – stream past me. I’m only four miles into the 2015 Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run, a point-to-point 50K(ish) race that traverses Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains along the infamous Baden Powell trail. I say 50K(ish) because, according the website, the race is actually only 30 miles long. My GPS measured it as only 28.4. Canadians and their silly metric system.
|Finally some fucking downhill!|
photo by Clement Cheung
I’ve just ascended straight up the side of a mountain, climbing over scree, talus fields, and giant boulders. At no time did I see anything that even remotely resembled an actual trail. Perhaps there was a trail there once… Before it got buried under several tons of rock by an avalanche (Note: one US ton equals about 907 kilos for all you metric fans). For comparison, this climb was by far, much harder than anything I encountered at Hardrock.
"Remind me to kill Riccardo," I grumble, adding his execution to my list of things to do later that afternoon – preferably after showering and getting drunk (though not necessarily in that order). I'm of course talking about
|Runner enjoying well-groomed section of ttrail|
photo by Ron Nicholl
Just 12 hours earlier Riccardo and I had been sitting around drinking craft beer and talking smack, entertaining his girlfriend Tanya and her friends Claire and Jessica with stories of our ultra-running exploits. Now here I was, slumped over on a rock with my head between my legs, sweating like a junkie in the midst of a detox. "I'm fine. Move along, move along. Nothing to see here," I say with a wave of my hand, assuring the other runners that I'm not going to die.
"Fuck, I’m dying,” I mutter quietly. “It must be this damn humidity. It has to be the humidity," I repeat, reassuring myself that I'm probably not actually experiencing a combination of myocardial infarction and acute renal kidney failure. "It's just the humidity. You suck in humidity. It's your kryptonite. It's like peanut butter flavored Gu. That shit will kill anyone."
|Riccardo carefully descending|
photo by Clement Cheung
In retrospect, looking at my Strava data, I now see the fucking problem. Or at least part of the fucking problem. Mile 3 has nearly 1000 feet of elevation gain, followed by mile 4 with almost 1,500 more feet of elevation gain. Add to that my apparent humidity intolerance (the initial climb begins on the windward side of the mountain directly next to the ocean) and you have a recipe for a spectacular implosion.
"Just keep moving and get over the peak. Hopefully things will be less humid on the leeward side of the mountain,” I proffer optimistically. Finally, after cresting the peak and heading down the descent I start feeling better and begin passing a few runners. When I hit the first spectator-friendly aid station and see Riccardo’s crew – Tanya, Claire and Jessica – It's obvious that I am still pretty far back in the pack. Although they smile and try to sound positive, they have that "why the hell is he way behind so many women and old dudes" expression on their faces.
|My brand new shoes got "knackered"|
Finally, I emerge from the forest into a residential neighborhood and sprint down toward the finish line. I see
All-in-all this race was quite a humbling experience. I came into the race thinking that if I had a good day I might be able to finish in around 5 hours and crack the top 10, or maybe even the podium. But instead, I got “knackered” as they say. I ended up finishing 21st overall in 5:57:46, barely good enough for 3rd in my age group.
|Done at last. Thank God almighty, done at last!|
photo by Mike Jones
You might need a little luck getting in though as the race is so popular among the folks in Vancouver that there's a lottery. Take a look at this amazing video and you will see why! And here's a bunch of great photo albums if you want to see the suffering in more detail.
And be sure to stick around for the post-race BBQ and beer garden. I probably shouldn't admit this publicly, as the race organizers might not invite me back ever again, but I think the race actually lost money on me as I ate several hundred dollars worth of sausages (Canadians apparently call them "smokies") and brownies at the BBQ. Oh yeah, and you very well could run into ultra-running celebrities like Ellie Greenwood or my buddy Sammy Hassan Lotfi-Pour, who I hadn't seen since we both nearly died of dehydration during the Tahoe 200 Mile last September. Ah, good times.
Ok, here are the official race results, and here's my Strava data.