The Squamish50 trail race I will be doing in August hosts four orientation runs to prepare runners for the grueling routes of the 50 km and 50 mile distances. This was the fourth and final orientation run (o-run), however it was only my third as I had missed one.
There were two distance options: 37 km or 47 km. We chose the 37 km distance as we planned to do a long run the next day as well. I had actually run this o-run route a couple weekends ago so I was curious to see how it would go a second time.
After the pre-run briefing, we headed out from the start and end point, Escape Route. Kyle had a pocket full of change jingling around that was driving him crazy. He put it in a smaller, more constrained pocket which helped but didn’t fully resolve the problem. This is important later in the story!
The first half of the run was fairly uneventful. We made it up the first climb and down to Alice Lake and chatted with the other back-of-the-pack-ers. Leaving Alice Lake we lost our momentum on some VERY runnable trails but got our second wind after not too long.
My fuel for the day was not ideal. I had brought a lot of bars and a bag of trail mix. I usually have a lot more gummies, gels, and dried fruit which are nice and light. I find that the bars (especially lots of them) don’t sit as well in my stomach when I’m running. But that’s what happens when you don’t prepare well!
Eventually we made it to the aid station and I stuffed my race full of chips, cookies, watermelon, oranges, and pop. This was the only opportunity to refill our almost empty packs other than a couple creeks along the route. I threw a Nuun in my water to replenish the electrolytes I had been sweating out.
Kyle and I carried on along the gravel road that would take us to the next trail. During our briefing, we had been warned that there was a bike race going on and that they would be on this section. We must have caught the the front of the pack because they were flying by (going uphill)! Every so often we would hear what sounded like a swarm of wasps coming up behind us and would duck off the side of the road to let the cyclists pass.
From there, a pack of us headed up galactic scheisse, a steady and long climb to the highest point in the race. I was in the lead and not to far into the trail I look to the left just in time to see a bear scurrying away. My first thoughts were “Oh, a dog! Wait … Who brought their dog? No, that’s definitely a bear.”
I had what is probably not the best reaction but not the worst either. I (surprisingly) calmly said “There’s a bear up there,” to the lady behind me and we promptly turned around and walked back a few steps to the group. I realized that turning your back on a bear and retreating probably isn’t the best course of action but luckily it didn’t seem to want anything to do with us. Plus, I saw a bear and didn’t sh*t my pants, so I consider that a win!
[Tweet “I saw a bear and didn’t sh*t my pants, so I consider that a win!”]
As I was still processing that event, literally about 15 ft up the trail was a huge wasp nest dangling precariously close to the path. No one had disturbed it which is impressive considering the number of people that had gone up that trail before us. Whew!
We hit up the creek at the top of galactic to cool off and carried on. It was pretty well down hill from here, including some steep and slippery (because it’s dry) sections. Having just been down these trails a couple weeks ago, I went a little faster this time now that I knew what to expect. We caught up to a few people that had been ahead of us since the aid station. My legs were getting tired but I felt stronger this time versus the last.
It felt like we were close to the last road section, but every time we thought the trail was about it end, it just didn’t. Eventually, we got to the road! Most of us were running out of water at this point and were about ready to hit civilization again. I took off down the gravel road for a couple kilometres. A lady in a car passed by and offered us water which was really nice. I thanked her but told her I was okay. I didn’t have much farther to go!
I ran straight into the creek and waited for Kyle who was just behind me. Another couple ladies joined us. After a short break, we hit the road again and came across two girls selling lemonade and iced tea! This was the BEST EVER! My last sip of water was gone and already I was so thirsty! I’m sure we were all super dehydrated at that point, despite having drank like 3-4 litres of water throughout the run.
The girls realized they had hit a jackpot with all the runners coming by and told us they had already made $25. Kyle had some change leftover (yes, the change that had been jingling in his pocket this whole time!) so he pre-paid for the next two runners that would pass by.
We made it back to the store which wasn’t far from the lemonade stand and helped ourselves to water and coke as we sat around for a short while. The two ladies behind us rolled in and were so excited about the lemonade “the shirtless guy” had bought them (AKA Kyle). One said that she was so happy she was in tears because she didn’t have any change on her!
I felt good after the 38.8 km run (according to my watch) and definitely better than last time. I think I could have even gone a little farther – I wasn’t crawling to the finish totally depleted and delirious.
Kyle and I went back to Squamish, this time with Courtney, to tackle the last 25 km of both the 50 km and 50 mile race routes. Early on we ran into another fellow Squamish50-er named Richard. We ran with him for a short time and split up as there was a slight variance to the 50 mile route, which he was doing, and the 50 km route, which we were doing. We ran into him again later where the routes join back up at the top of Angry Midget and ran with him (or a ways behind him) for a while. I’m sure he thought we were all crazy.
We were all feeling sluggish and slow but we carried on steadily putting one foot in front of the other. Sunday was even hotter than Saturday and we really felt it on the open part of the route. I wore my hat (as always) which helped a lot with the sun but I was still in a hurry to get back into the trees.
Once back in the forest, we hit some awesome trails with cool wood mountain bike bridges. We were about 15 km in and trucking along pretty good on the downhill section when my foot caught a little stump or root and I bailed! I ate it pretty hard and managed to land half on and half off a little wooden bridge over a small ditch. Immediately after, I heard Kyle yelling and thought that he had looked back to see if I was okay and then bailed himself. But then I heard … “RUN!!! … WASPS!!!”
I don’t think I’ve ever jumped up so quickly. I started running back the way we came with Kyle on my heels. I was wondering how far you have to run to get away from a swarm of wasps when Kyle stopped. He had just been telling me yesterday about how he had a reaction the last time he was stung and that he may be allergic. Kyle took some Benadryl which he keeps in his pack and described how his legs had been covered in wasps. He had been stung a number of times and was in considerable pain already.
Richard had brought a couple awesome maps with him knowing that the Squamish trails aren’t marked very well. We found a quick route back to the car (only a few kilometres) and Richard continued on what was probably a way more peaceful run.
Kyle was a trooper as we made it back to the car and luckily his bites weren’t swelling up to abnormal sizes. I’ve never been stung by a wasps but it looks like it hurts, especially if you get stung like 10 times! We hit up a charging station for his car while I bought some cold, refreshing Starbucks beverages and then drove home.
It was quite the eventful weekend!