Race Review: Diez Vistas 50KM Ultra 2016

This was my first time doing the DV50 and it was everything I had hoped it would be. I live in Coquitlam so the DV is in my backyard. I train around Buntzen Lake and enjoy the various trails in the area so this race course was pretty familiar to me. Also, I have helped organize the first aid support from Coquitlam Search & Rescue for the last 2 years. This was the year I would be one of the runners instead of watching in envy.

Since the race is so early in the season, I had to start training earlier than ever this year. Training started in December 2015 and involved many runs in the rain and even snow. I remember on one occasion I actually wore a garbage bag over my shoulders as I did laps of Buntzen lake. Needless to say that I got my weird looks from more than one person. I also remember the endless dogs that were off leash and would run under my feet and the irresponsible owners who would either ignore this or feebly call their dogs. Once a dog ran in front of me at the last minute and it was too big to jump over so I had to go through. The poor dog went flying over the bank as I stumbled. The dog owner just said, “whoooo.” I screamed at him that the dog park was at the south end of the park. I love dogs, but have learned to despise dog owners. Vent over… back to the race report.

The weeks before the race I managed to get some longer runs in. Doing laps of Buntzen lake I got up to 30 km and felt really good still. Over the first few months of the year I logged about 300km. Not alot, but enough I figured. I was training on the actual race course which was a huge benefit. The week before the race I tapered right back and just rested and ate. I had planned on started my stretching program but that never panned out.

Race day started pretty well. Up at 5am. Porridge, blueberries, banana and protein mix for breakfast. One cup of coffee and a quick shower and I was good to go. Drop bag and all my clothes were already packed from the night before. The only thing I forgot was my second cup of coffee. While the weather forecast had changed half a dozen times over the course of the week from rain, to cloudy with rain, to sun, to sunny with clouds, the sky was free from all clouds in the morning. Today was going to be a scorcher!

Arriving at Sasamat Lake where the race start/finish around 6:15am the lot wasn’t very full. Because I am on the Coquitlam Search and Rescue team and organized the SAR volunteers for the race, I parked near the start line. I wanted to be as close to the SAR truck as possible. Even though I was running this year I wanted to see what was going on with the team. I said hi to Wendy the Race Director and George and then waited. Mosquitoes were out in full force so I retreated to the vehicles to get gloves and a hat. Within a few moments Coquitlam SAR members: Julian, Karen and Kelly showed up and wished me luck. Was great to see the excitement. Julian was planning to run this year but damaged his calf and couldn’t. I felt bad as I could see the desire to run in his eyes.

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Three Amigos: Me, Steve “the whirlwind” Chapman and Steve “the cyborg” Zubick

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Julian and Robin from Coquitlam SAR are all smiles as they set off on the argo

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George and Wendy during the pre-race talk

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The crowd gathers

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Listening to Race Director Wendy

While I was so used to running in the cold and wet, I knew today was going to be totally different. I knew it would start cool and then spike up to sauna like conditions once we became exposed on the Academy Trail. I wore shorts, thin short sleeve poly shirt covered with a thin short sleeve Icebreaker shirt. I layered so I could pull one off once it heated up which worked well. I also wore my 5 Peaks gloves and arm sleeves for the first 15km. This worked well as I was wearing a running vest and didn’t want to keep taking it off. I had considered wearing a long sleeve shirt but decided against it.

After some joking around and the pre-race speech from Wendy the crowd started moving. What? We are starting? The start of the DV50 is really a great example of the entire style of the race. There is no fireworks, no bullhorn, no loud audio system. Just a bunch of awesome people who want to spend the day in the woods together doing a bit of running. The race is grassroots and low key. No pretentiousness, no show offs, just great spirit and fun.  DV50km embodies the spirit of trail runners everywhere.

The run starts off doing a loop around Sasamat Lake. It is a fantastic warm up and time to socialize a bit more. Most people are chatting and warming up the legs. The elites are gone but us mid packers know we must pace ourselves and keep it in second gear. As we hit the highway we approached the first hill up into the saddle. This gnarly trail is covered in slabs of rock and lots of loose rocks. Not bad going up but I knew I would hate this coming down. I saw one guy slip on this going up which was a red flag. I made a mental note of the area and promised myself to watch for that on the descent.

As we hit the saddle we could see the weather was indeed going to be nice. Robin and Shakuntla from Coquitlam SAR where there and gave me high fives. So uplifting to see their smiling faces. Little did I know that this was going to be an ongoing theme for today’s race.

I was feeling surprisingly good as we hit the switchbacks taking us up to the Diez. I was hanging out with the Zubick brothers who are monsters on the course and Steve Chapman. Steve and one of the Zubicks (Steve) are on Coquitlam SAR as well so it was nice to be grouped for a while. I wondered how long this would last as they are all veterans of the ultra world while I am still considered a noob.

As we plateaued the Diez I pulled ahead of both Zubick brothers and Chapman. I was so proud of this but in the back of my mind I knew they were just pacing themselves and the tables would turn in another few kms. Still, this is where I felt the most comfortable so I might as well get the mileage while I could. The technical descents were typically where I made my time over others. I haven’t had a good wipe out yet so I am still relatively brave on those root covered slippery as snot drops. We dropped down onto the logging road and I ran down to the lake. I was feeling great and my pace was just slightly slower than my training runs. This was going to be easy!

As I pulled into the north aid station I saw Mechthild whose another Coquitlam SAR member. She was all smiles and took some pictures. Mechthild and I both started with Coquitlam SAR at the same time (about 6 years ago). We have shared some good adventures together so it was an honor to have her there today.

Pictures of Aid Station #2 (photo cred to Mechthild):

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Awesome Signage!

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Mechthild is so organized!

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Chateau A Le SAR

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Steve “the whirlwind” Chapman stuffs his face with cookies

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Steve “The Cyborg” Zubick waves to the volunteers

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Walking into the aid station

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Filling my water bottles. Still feeling good

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Making silly faces for the camera. “Cookies get in my mouth!”

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Still smiling

I was looking forward to the run on the west side of Buntzen Lake heading south. This was also one of my strategic areas to make time. I knew the area well and planned to run most of it pretty fast. Legs starting to feel weird now. On the first uphill it happened…. My right leg instantly cramped so tight that it was like a solid piece of wood. I couldn’t even bend my leg for a few seconds. What the hell? At that moment I knew my race was pretty much over. Should I just walk back? I had never had this before so wasn’t sure of the impact. I tried stretching out my hamstring on the incline. It helped a bit. Over the course of about five minutes my leg slowly recovered. I took an electrolyte pill and some Tylenol. Had I not drank enough? Was I going to fast? Neither seemed possible. I hadn’t gone far enough to do much damage. After nursing the leg for a few moments I began to get back to work. My fear was it would lock up on a downhill. If this happened I knew I would lose control and likely get badly hurt.

I slowed down a bit before getting to the parking lot. This is where my day changed again. As I cross over the floating bridge and ran towards the parking lot I forgot exactly how to get to the aid station. I saw some runners up ahead so I decided to just follow them. I looked for my map but then realized I left it in the truck. Oh well, how hard could it be? It was only a km or two away… The runners I was following disappeared. What the hell? Where did everyone go? I wandered the parking lot looking for signs. A guy in a truck drove by and yelled to me, “they are all up there” and pointed up the hill towards the Halvor Lunden train. Hmmm. I don’t remember the course going up that way but maybe it went up to the top lot and then came down to the boat launch? Where were all the flagging? I ran up to the top lot but no one… As I ran down the same guy saw me again and was persistently telling me to run up the hill. I then realized this guy had no idea and was actually talking about the equestrian parking lot where runners go after looping back. I ran down the parking lot and saw the gazeebo. Well, I was in the right place but why were runners coming in from the other direction? I found one of the Zubick brothers and he asked me what happened. He looked surprised and said, “you missed the Energy Trail?” Doh! Now I felt like an idiot. How could I have done that? Then I remember a huge group on my left as I ran by where the turn off is. Did they block my view of the trail marker? While I expect a DQ for the silly mistake, I wasn’t too discouraged as I wasn’t there to win a medal. I was there to have fun and run 50km in my backyard. I measure my success by how well I do in comparison with previous years. Since this was my first run on this course, I was just trying to finish. Next year I would set out to beat my time.

I saw John Simpson sitting in a lawn chair and so had to give him hell for sitting down on the job. John has an injured leg from a motorcycle accident but still came out to help with first aid. I was awesome to see him and gave him one of my sweaty shirts. It was time to ditch the gloves, arm sleeves and wool shirt. I rubbed Voltaran all over my legs in hopes that it would help. Over the course of the day, I used an entire tube trying to fix my cramps. It helped a bit I think.

I was off again and was determined to really watch for the flagging more carefully. I felt stupid for missing the Energy Trail but tried not to dwell on it. I’m here to run, not to get a medal.

As I headed north I felt good but my legs were tight. I knew this part of the trail like the back of my hand so made good time. I was still totally satisfied with my progress. The Lake View Trail was an easy run compared to what I just did and what lay ahead. Then as I came out of the trail onto the logging road to head south I felt the heat of the sun. The morning coolness was now gone and I was fully exposed to the heat on this open road. I wasn’t used to this at all and felt uncomfortable. I ran the gravel road at an okay speed but my legs were both now getting stiff and I was getting grumpy now because of that.

As I hit the next uphill my leg locked up again. A few moments later my friends Julian and Mechthild drove by in the truck. Mechthild and Julian are with Coquitlam SAR and were helping with the first aid as well. They saw the look on my face and knew I was messed up. Mechthild gave me two Magnesium pills which was very kind of her. I knew I wasn’t suppose to take aid from others but I was already DQ from missing the Energy Trail. I put some more Voltaran on my legs and cramping went away for a bit.

As I headed up the Academy Trail the sun really beat down on me. I was going slower now. I could see Steve Zubick behind me now while the other Zubick was now in front of me. As we came down into the equestrian parking lot I could see Jim Mancell and Helena there. Was awesome to see their smiling faces.

The next part was the hardest part of the race. In future years I plan to train more on this section of the trail. The leg that goes off towards Eagle Mountain is gnarly, steep and never ending. By this time my legs felt the worst I’ve ever felt and I was pretty discouraged. It was just a mental battle from that point onwards. Steve Zubick was still within eye sight from me. As we hiked our way up the hill he would yell in a garbled and scary tone, “roooooobeeeeeerrrrt.” It was eerie to hear this in the woods but I think that is what he was going for. Then he switched over to, “Robert! I am going to chew you up and spit you out!” I replied with, “Okay well get your ass up here so we can talk about it!” After a few kms he passed me. 🙂

The Academy Trail is a logging road that is covered with boulders and loose gravel. Running on this is pretty uncomfortable and risky on the best day. It is also fully exposed to the hot sun. My legs kept locking up. How many Tylenol am I allowed to take? I had taken 6 so far and was almost out of Voltaren cream. The aid station at the end of the road is really good and the volunteers grabbed my water bottles and filled them for me.

Thank you volunteers!!! You all make the race for those running. Your kindness and hard work is much appreciated.

I met Kelly at the aid station. He is always smiling and has such a “can do” attitude. Kelly is also in Coquitlam SAR and is an amazing individual. He is super positive and always put out 100% effort. Kelly walked with me part way back up the hill. I was in a bad mood because of my legs but the volunteers at the aid station and Kelly’s smile helped a lot. As I cleared the aid station and began back up the hill I saw Steve Chapman. I knew he was behind me but wasn’t sure how far. He was moving pretty fast down the rocky slope and we gave each other a high five. Steve helped to introduce me to ultra running and has been a huge help to me. We ran the Knee Knacker last year together and did a training run in preparation for that.

The slog back up the hill was slow but steady. Then the downhill began and I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t move as fast as I wanted. Cramping came and went but wasn’t as bad as before. Likely a result of being pretty medicated. I remember smashing my foot into a large rock. At the time it didn’t hurt too bad but I knew the damage had been done. The next day (as I write this) the toe is purple and the nail is dark color.

Only 5km left and I turned around to see Steve “the whirlwind” Chapman behind me. OMG! This guy made up some serious ground to catch up with me. He was moving very well and looked fresher than I had seen him all day. As he thundered past me I almost couldn’t believe it. I realized I was going slow but he made up some serious ground to catch me. I tried to keep up with him but my legs wouldn’t allow that. I slowly lost him as we came down to the lake. The stairs were murder on my legs and just 1km before the finish line my right leg locked up again. This time it was the worst yet. After a few moments I could walk it off and began running again. It seemed this was my legs final reminder to me that they were not at all happy.

Crossing the finish line was like my 12 year old birthday party. All my friends were there to help me celebrate. Hugs and handshakes all around. The smiling faces and excitement was amazing. I felt really lucky to know all these amazing people.

I ate a delicious hot dog and was fed some ice cream and apple cobbler which was super delicious. I changed into my flip flops then chatted with everyone. The BBQ at the start/finish is awesome and the volunteers were amazing. I can’t say enough good things about this race.

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Eating Apple Strudel and Ice Cream right out of the container. The volunteers out did themselves this time!!! Thank you!

 

For next year, I will be bringing some salt tabs to help battle the cramps.

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