Another Knackering Experience – Stormy 2008

It had been 25 days since my first ultra-marathon experience at Knee Knacker and I was about to embark on my next. This time it was to tackle the 50 mile Stormy Ultra Trail Race in Squamish BC, about 50 minutes nth of Vancouver. The race had not been in my initial plans, but hanging out with trail runners can be infectious and I had started to contemplate it in the lead up to KK. I was going into new territory, so my goal was to first and foremost finish and secondly try and go under 10 hours.

After some indecision, mainly mine, we decided to head up to Squamish on the Friday evening. My in-law’s, Barry and Yvonne, were in town and about to experience first hand the world of ultra-running. On arrival in Squamish we were able to pick up my race kit at Brennan Park (the finish line). Our timing was spot on and got to see the first 100 mile runner (Gary Robbins) come in under 8 hours for his first 50 mile, a really quick time. I thought if I looked that good after 50 miles, I would be a happy man. We checked into the hotel, feed of pasta , race kit preparation, last minute race day instructions for Tanya and Barry and then collapsed into bed.

Again our timing was good in the morning and we got to see Gary finish the 100 mile race in a time of 17 hours 39 minutes, smashing the course record and looking like he could run another 50 miles (he’s a freak).

By the time I had caught up with fellow trail runners, said my goodbyes to Tanya, the 10 second countdown was on. A bell started us off and like sheep most of us followed the leaders down the wrong road. After some shouting and change of direction, the long day had begun. My focus was on Aid Station 1 and with the help of an internal voice chirping away at me that there was along way to go, I settled into a comfortable pace.

In comparison to Knee Knacker, Stormy is more of a true runner’s course as many of the trails aren’t as technical. This along with the mere fact that is is also 30km longer, I had my work cut out for me.

Normally I find myself running alone (maybe there is a reason for that!), but today I caught up with Dave (a fellow Knee Knacker participant) and ended up running close to 25km with him. It was great having company and it takes the focus off your aching muscles. You have some engaging chats out on the trails and learn a alot about people and their previous lives before running, always interesting stuff.

From my previous traning runs in Squamish and talking to other runners, I knew the loop from aid station 7 to 10 was going to be a tough leg. It was 22km in length, a 6 mile (10km) climb up 9 mile hill (also known as bonk hill) and a long gradual downhill on Ring Creek Rip Trail (which seems to go on forever).

I got into aid station 7 in good spirits, quick change of shirt and socks, stuffed down as much food as I could stomach and was on my way again. I was feeling good and making good progress up 9 mile hill, mixing up running and waking. It was about 3 miles up that I started to struggle and the hills seemed to get steeper and my progress slower. Negative thoughts started to creep in and I started to feel a little sorry for myself. It was then I ran into a 100 mile runner, who at that stage had been out there for over 24 hours, what did I have to complain about! I snapped out of it and started to focus on positive things, Tanya of course, fellow trail runners, the beautiful scenery, anything but how much I was hurting.

I made it to the top, chatted to a lovely couple at the aid station and headed off on Ring Creek Rip trail. As I said it seemed to go on forever and every corner brought another long stretch of trail that looked exactly the same as the one before. There were 3 old abandoned old cars evenly spaced out along the trail, so used those as my targets. Even though it was all runnable, I allowed myself 1-2 minute walking breaks, taking time-out from the constant pounding.

To say I was relieved to see Tanya and her parents at aid station 10 is an understatement. It is amazing how much it can lift your spirits seeing friends and family. Also being on the homeward stretch helped immensely.

The last 11.2km section comprised of a lot of ups and downs, just to ensure you are completely buggered when you finish! I normally love downhills, but 8 hours or so into the race, they were not my favourite pastime. The constant jarring and stress on the quads and joints was not pleasant. I was even cursing out loud the downhills, anyone that might of heard me would of questioned my mental well-being.

Anyway, I pushed on and hit the last 2km stretch along a nice flat forest trail. Even though it was a long 2km, the thought of crossing the finish line and not having to run anymore kept me going. I ran solo for the last 38km of the race and that’s how I crossed the line. Having everyone cheering just for you was quite a humbling experience. I stopped the clock at 9hr 18, coming in 11th out of 57 finishers.

Every endurance event I take part in, I learn a lot about myself and completing 80km was no exception. It seems to bring out both the worst and best of me and dealing with self-doubt is one of the most challenging things I had to face. I aways surprise myself though at how I can push through the bad times and somehow gain a new lease of energy and solider on (kind of like life I suppose). A great day out!


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