Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Whistler 50 Ultra Race Report 2015


I ran the Whistler 50 mile race in 2014 and was pulled at 45 miles for being 8 minutes too slow.  I randomly ran around Whistler for 5 more miles just to prove to myself I had 50 miles in me.

This year my goal was to run the 50 miles and cross the finish line without being pulled.

The Whistler 50 consists of four twenty kilometer laps on a mostly flat course on paved and graveled trails.


What’s the last thing you want a few days before the big day?  How about a hamstring strain?  That’s what I managed to do.  I had taken my six year old to speech therapy and was running down the corridor and Ping! went my left hamstring.  Not good.

The next day I went to see my sports masseuse and she worked on it as best she could but it still wasn’t right.

The day before the race I went to a physiotherapist in Whistler and she also worked on it, but it still wasn’t right.  Bugger.

For the week or so prior to race day, I got up half-an-hour earlier each day so that my body clock would be in synch for the 4 am wake up for the 5am start.

Race Day

The big day came and I woke up naturally at 3:30 and immediately wolfed down some Quinwow, a Scott Jurek recipe that has the perfect ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins for a pre-race meal.

And just before I started race, I downed a Acai Berry Pre-Workout Energizer smoothie by Brendan Brazier.  This contained a mix of berries, pineapple, coconut water and a serving of the Vega Pre-Workout Energizer.

I decided to take the earlier start of 5am.  I figured with the extra hour and increased fitness (though - rather annoyingly - not decreased weight), I could get my finish line that I was denied the year before.

My lovely wife Megin accompanied me to the finish line and helped me carry my race day items.  She snapped a few pics and gave me a hug and a kiss to send me on my way.

About ten others runners lined up with me.  There was a Ready, Set, See you Later and we were off.  I set my iPhone GPS off to record the race, clicked on my heart rate monitor, switched on my headlamp and locked into my forever pace.

My hamstring didn’t feel great.  My plan was to either run until I reached the finish line or my hamstring became too painful to continue.  Thankfully the pain subsided after about an hour or so into the race.  This might have been a combo of adrenaline and/or my hamstring growing bored of being constantly ignored.

My fueling strategy was to carry two bottles of water mixed with some Tailwind Nutrition and consume two gels per lap with extra hydration coming from each of the water stations spaced about 5 km apart.

A week or so prior to the race I listened to this fascinating interview with Prof. Craig Heller on the Rich Roll Podcast.  Prof. Heller claimed that the biggest limit to endurance wasn’t lactate acid build up, but rather your body’s core temperature.  He also claimed that the best way to cool your body temperature was to cool the hairless parts of your body, namely your face, the palm of your hands, and the souls of your feet.

Prof. Heller developed a glove that passed cool water over your hands in conjunction with a light vacuum with about as much pressure as you could exert sucking through a straw.   Prof. Heller documented some remarkable improvements with his test subjects.

This was interesting enough for me to douse my head and hands with water at each aid station.  Did this improve my performance?  Dunno.  It felt like it did so I persisted with it.  Plus it felt good!

Lap one started was in a moonless pitch black darkness for the most part.  I had done many miles in darkness with my headlamp so this was not in problem. Except for a short section of trail that took me down a single track.

Unbeknownst to me and un-illuminated by my headlamp, some mud was hidden on the track and my feet sunk up to about my ankles.  Apart from a little mud and relief that I didn’t roll my ankle, there were no serious problems going forward.  Subsequent laps saw me gingerly navigate the mud on the surrounding grassy areas.

Lap one went smoothly enough.  I walked through the aid stations and up the only steep climb of the course.

It was especially good to see my wife at various points along the course.  She was running the 50 miles as part of a relay and was responsible for a 7 km leg, which she nailed!

The people at the aid station were especially good.  The filled my water bottles and mixed in the Tailwind for me while I was dousing myself with water and downing some gels.

Lap two was a repeat of lap one.  I looked into my groove, fueled well, hydrated well and got through another 20 km.

On lap three things started to get hard.  With a marathon already in my legs, each aid station seemed a little bit further away and each hill seemed a little steeper.

To make matters worse I managed to kick a big stone with my right big toe.  It hurt.  The toe has subsequently turned black and is likely to fall off soon.

Things really started to fall apart at the start of lap four.  Megin was running at this point so there were no friendly faces to cheer me on.  I remember tears welling up in my eyes and saying “I’m so tired.  I’m so tired” under my breath.

The mental challenge had begun.

I decided to forget the fact that I had 60 km in my legs. I decided to forget that my big toe was throbbing.  I decided to forget the constant aching in my body, most notably in my shoulder for some reason.

I decided to run to the next aid station.  It was about 5 km away.  I’d run 5 km plenty of times.  So I locked into the best pace I could and ran to the next aid station.

I made it to the aid station, slurped down a gel, doused myself with water, walked for a minute or so and then repeated my tactics to the next aid station.

Along the way I saw a guy shuffling along with a pronounced limp.  I asked him what the matter was and he said there was something wrong with a bone in his foot.  Yikes!  I said I had some pain relief in my drop bag and he was welcome to it.  He said he had his own and so I wished him luck and went on my way.

I got to another aid station and then another.  I was really beat up by this time and needed some support.  I rang my wife but she didn’t answer.  Damn.

A few seconds later she pulled up beside me on a bike.  Yay!  There was obviously nothing she could do to support me physically, but she helped me a lot mentally.

There was still another 10 km to go.  I was physically spent and had to walk up the hills as best I could.  I ran down the hills despite my quads and my big toe screaming at me.  The flat sections were the easiest.

With her help, I managed to get to the last aid station. She went ahead of me to get my stuff read, and then - rather mysteriously - she took off.  I later learned that the race officials had warned her that if she rode with me, there would be a chance I would be disqualified.

So the last three km were going to be all me.  I took a deep breath, made a commitment not to stop, and started running again.

I was counting down the kilometers to get to the finish.  50 miles is about 80 km.  80 km came and went and still no finish line.  Ditto for 81 and 82.  It wasn’t until 82.6 that I saw the finishing line.

The expected surge of energy did not come.  What did come though was my six year old.  He grabbed my hand and we ran the last 100 meters together.  After we crossed he gave me hug and said, “I’m so proud of you Papa!”.  Reliable witnesses inform me that a few people starting tearing up.

Post Race

I got my finish line and completed the 50 miles.

I was suppose to go to a dinner party with my wife and her relay team, but I just couldn’t do it and collapsed in a heap in my hotel room.

Everything was fine the next day except my big toe, which continued to be painful for the next few days.

Bring on 2016 and the next Whistler 50!


  1. I feel a lot more people need to read this, very good info!......
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