Grunting up a ridiculously steep mountain on unresponsive legs. What the hell was I doing? Every laboured step I cursed and questioned my life choices. I also wondered how other runners were putting time on me — we were all hiking!
Such was my day at Trailstoke, a 50km ish mountain race in Revelstoke. This was a true mountain race, exactly what I “wanted.”
Throughout, I questioned why I subject myself to such self-induced brutality. Then I recite things about how I love the challenge, I love pushing myself to the point where I question quitting.
I’m extremely stubborn
My stubbornness carries me forward. That and thinking of how embarrassing it would be if I quit.
All of you reading this and supporting me are a huge part of what carries forward. I feel as though I’m expected to perform, and I take every race as an opportunity to do so.
I’m still trying to piece together why I didn’t feel as great as other races. The logical answer is that this course is a beast. It chewed me up physically and emotionally to the point where I was spent upon finally walking across the finish line.
Instead of a monotonous blow-by-blow, I’ll start with a few positives from the day. I was able to eat and hydrate well. My day kicked off with a couple of KIND bars, and some peanut butter slathered on bread while we sat in Josh’s car waiting for the sun the rise.
During the race, despite getting sick of gels, I forced them down the hatch — my stomach cooperated. Eating has never been a an issue.
I’m also satisfied with my ability to ‘grind it out’ and put in a good effort on a day where I may have not felt at my best. Perhaps the pace was a bit of a shock to the system as well. All a learning process.
The quicker I get off this mountain, the quicker I’ll warm up
We worked our way up a monstrous 20 km climb boasting 6800 feet of gain. I generally like long sustained climbs, but I couldn’t get my usual rhythm going on this beast. The pins felt heavy and my stride laboured.
Alas, I’m too stubborn to mail it in. I tried my best to keep up with the lead group but was eventually dropped on the steep stuff.
I settled in with Ed for a bit, but could tell he’s stronger on climbs. We hopped and skipped through a wet sloppy bog, almost losing a shoe but keeping positive and looking forward to the gorgeous ridge running I’d heard so much about pre-race.
Said ridge did not come as advertised. More of this wet bog situation and sidehill maneuvering through rain and frigid conditions. I questioned my wardrobe choice. But decided the faster I get the hell off this mountain, the faster I’d warm up.
More steepness up toward the high point of the course on Mt. Mackenzie, just about broke me. I trudged on, and luckily no cameras were up that high because it wasn’t pretty.
You don’t know what you want
Done with climbing, I welcomed any downhill — even if it’s on rocky access roads. I grinded through a seemingly pointless 3 km out and back and through the final aid station.
My wish for more contrast came true… to the tune 12km of quad destroying downhill to finish this beast. I figured to be 5 minutes back of Aaron (4th place), and wanted to try and catch him. I hammered.
I finally caught a glimpse of him just as the trail breaks into a final 50 meters of downhill pavement running to the finish. He beat me. It was a bit demoralizing coming that close.
He walked the final 25 meters in with his two children, and I had no choice but to stop and walk in behind them.
I came up short in this sense, but ultimately am satisfied with finishing 5th.
Hindsight is easy, I destroyed my quads trying to catch up and pass him. I didn’t catch him today, but given the same situation again, I’ll go for it every time.
After that, I clearly didn’t know what I wanted. Or what was good for me.
I walked across the finish line battered, humbled, destroyed. Was I hoping to perform better? Absolutely. High expectations bring disappointment when things might not go completely to plan.
But competition is what I came for, ultimately I got it. Progression is the main goal, and now I know how I stack up against some top runners in this crazy sport. For some reason I can’t get enough of it.
The satisfaction of completing a physical and mental goal, no matter how big or small it is, is worth it.
All the temporary discomfort, the mental battles, the pain, the suffering pale in comparison to the thrill of accomplishing something you deem important.
Thanks to 5 Peaks for a great race, to KIND for feeding me with delicious bars and granola, and to Distance Runwear for all the support. I’m also thrilled to be a part of the Distance Runwear Project, but I’ll fill you in more on that soon!