Monday, September 7, 2009

Walk In The Park - 54km - My 27th Ultra!

Sunday at 2:15AM the alarm went for our 3:15AM departure for Kamloops to take part in the 54km run called Walk in the Park. This is our 3rd time participating in this event and the 3rd year we have left in the middle of the night for the 7AM start. What a crazy thing to do...but kinda fun! On Friday Andy emailed saying he was not feeling well and wouldn't be joining us. Andy won the event last year and was looking forward to the course again. Too bad as Andy also makes the journey very interesting with tales of the latest from the dairy farm and the latest adventures with the 5 kids! Late Saturday night we learn of a new passenger in the car - I had invited Ean Jackson to join us for the ride. Ean lives in North Vancouver and would have to be up even earlier than us to meet up with us for the journey. Crazy idea Ean thought - but kinda fun! We met Ean outside Tim Horton's in Abbotsford where he left his vehicle. Ean was ready for the journey with coffee and doughnuts to share for the ride. Only one pit stop along the way at the regular spot on the Coquihalla Highway. The 3.25 hour journey passed quickly with great conversation and good laughs despite it being the middle of the night. I could tell that Ean was quite amazed he was doing this. He usually goes to Kamloops the day before and stays overnight like most people would do. This crazy tradition started with the "guys" having this practical approach despite me trying to convince them of a nice hotel the night before. We watched the sun rise as we entered the Thompson Valley where Kamloops is located at the base of the valley. A week previous I was really doubtful that I would be running this event due to the heavy smoke in the valley from the surrounding forest fires. The weather gods were with us and the previous days rain and wind helped clear the air. The skies were very clear when we arrived at 6:30AM. Ean commented that he could smell the smoke in the air when we got out of the car. It had me a bit concerned but I was determined to start and give it my best. Chris the race director greeted us with great enthusiasm that we had made the journey from the coast to his race yet again. Chris is a great RD - he always remembers the first year I did this event, Marla and I got terribly lost. The second year I did it I was a little lost for a few moments and wow did he do a fantastic job of marking it this year! Neil was also with me this year to keep me on route. At the briefing before the start Chris mentioned he had 3 aid stations along route but could only put any gels/food at the one station with volunteers due to the 2 bears living in the area. I had a vision of the bears sucking back the Double Espresso gels!! or crunching down the chips/crisps!
The course is an 18km loop and you do it 3 times for a total of 54km. The route is amongst many trails on the mountain that is very desert like with very dry dusty trails. The trees are thin and many plagued with death from the Pine Beetle that has devastated the trees in this area of BC. It is a very hilly route with some very steep ups and downs. Bears, deer and rattlesnakes live in these hills. We only saw 1 deer, 3 piles of bear scat and heard a few rattles in the sage brush. It was a beautiful morning. As we set out for our final loop the threat of a storm started to blow in. Dark clouds, high winds and light rain. The temperature dropped and we had nothing but the short sleeves and shorts we were wearing. Thankfully the storm just gave us a big scare and moved on further up the valley. I learned on-route that a few of the runners had dropped due to various reasons. Reg from Chilliwack hung in there and finished despite not feeling well. I improved my time from last year by 37 minutes, 8:14, so I was pleased with that. Funny thing about a loop course. On the 3rd loop I said to Neil a few times...I don't remember this section! =:)Despite having been there twice very recently! Once done we enjoyed a hot dog from the barbecue and had a quick stop at Starbucks to grab a coffee to go for the ride home. We dropped Ean off at his car in Abbotsford @ 7pm with a 7:30pm arrival home. Now that's a good days work!!
Thanks for a great journey Ean and Neil!

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