Race Review: Diez Vistas 50KM Ultra 2017

The Diez Vistas race is challenging because it is so early in the season. It doesn’t give runners too much nice weather to train in. As a result, a lot of this training is in the rain. This year, all that rain training turned out to be helpful.

As race day approached I was constantly watching the weather. I use the Wunderground app on my phone which I find very accurate. The percentage chance of rain on race day fluctuated from 100%, 60%, 80% and then finally 100% as the days got closer. Amount of rain fluctuated from 4 to 23mm. However, it also showed Sunday as a beautiful sunny day. So maybe, just maybe the wind would blow the Sunday weather into Saturday. Could I be that lucky? Unfortunately no.

I showed up at the start line at around 7am as I like to get there early so I can eliminate any panic or surprises. I had my drop bag, my after race bag and my race gear all set from the days before. For this race I knew I would need more protection from the elements. The Buntzen lake area is damp and cold this time of year. If the weather looked bad in the city I knew it would be even worse at the lake.

This year I also spent a lot of time planning my nutrition. I started with my liquid nutrition which is Trail Winds. I just put this in my water and it delivers all I need without having to force down any solids. I also took some soft candies from the Running Room which I won’t do again. While I used to like the sugar they delivered I found I no longer like this sort of snack. At the aid stations I added some Coke to my water bottles for the last 25km to give me a bit of sugar. This definitely helped to give me some fast burn energy. As an experiment, I took a Nutella sandwich. Again not something I would do again. Every time I reached into my pack I found this so I ended up nibbling on it and eventually ate it all but the texture was very dry. Good news is it made me drink fluid. One treasure I found was the Hammer Bar. I threw it in my bag for some reason but during the race thought it would be too heavy. Near the last quarter I became super hungry for more than liquid and so I grabbed this and ate the entire thing in a few moments while running down hill. It was delicious and the texture was super easy to eat. I am now a huge fan of these.

I also spent time perfecting what I need for medical. I took a zip lock back with salt pills, Tylenol and Ibuprofen. I only took a few of each so paced out my intake. I believe fighting the inflammation helps and the salt tablets helped with cramping. I took one at a time alternating each hour.

As runners started collecting around the start line I began to inspect what everyone was wearing. Many had water proof jackets with hoods. The intent looked like they wanted to stay dry and keep warm that way. Many people told me they were just going to wear their synthetic athlete shirt underneath that. My approach was different. I knew we were all going to get wet. Very very wet. I needed to stay warm while being soaked. The only thing that does that well is wool. I am a huge fan of the IceBreaker wool products and recommend anyone who plays outside to invest in this. I wore my Coquitlam SAR wool toque, a 200 level IceBreaker longsleeve wool shirt, a super thin Arctryx shirt shell and a Arctryx water “restistent” wind breaker. I wore my normal running shorts, IceBreaker wool socks and my new Hoka ATR2 shoes. I also wore my $4.99 wool fingerless fishing gloves.

My core temp never got too cold. I could feel the cold in my feet and hands and when we were running on the Academy trail the wind chill really blasted me in the face but overall, I was good. Wool is king.

I have to also wonder how much my cold water training had made my body resistant to the cold. Lately I have become a huge fan of the Wim Hoff method and as a result I do cold showers on a daily basis and enjoy hot sauna then cold shower repeats. Hard to quantify if this helped but considering he holds 22 world records for being submerged in ice, I am guessing it didn’t hurt my performance.

I found my groove behind my friend and SAR teammate Steve Chapman. In training posts on Strava I knew that we were pretty close so if I could just draft behind him then it would keep me honest. I wanted to save my quads for later as last year I blew them out on the downhill coming off the Diez. This was going great until Steve stopped to eat and I either had to stop or go around. I reluctantly passed Steve. Now I needed to find a new person to help me pace. Very quickly I became jammed up with a group of four. The speed was pretty good and we got into some good conversations. While I don’t prefer to be in a group like this, I thought it was a good idea to make me go at this pace.

The first volunteers we met were at the saddle. A friendly face yelled out, “Hey Rob!” Coquitlam SAR members had already setup camp in the woods. Julian had setup a small but comfortable camp at the saddle.

Julian as a lot of experience setting up quick camps. He looks way to comfortable. Photo cred: Julian.

The puddles were getting larger and larger as we got to the top of the ridgeline. For the first while we were dancing around puddles thinking we could stop the inevitable cold feet but everyone quickly lost hope after our shoes would fill with icy cold water, drain and then repeat for dozens of times. I am glad at that point I didn’t know what was yet to come.

The pools of water or mud are also the trail we need to run in. Photo cred: Mechthild

As we near the decent my other friend and SAR teammate Steve Zubick came up on me. It was great to see him as I was wondering where he was. I started some silly chatter and I told him all about my Body Glide application and nipple band aids. He asked for me to stop talking about those things. As we made the decent it was like running in a stream. The cold water was draining from the mountain and using the trail to do so. Whenever possible I would run on the shoulder to get out of the cold water.

Near the midpoint of the DV decent, I saw some more smiling faces. Mechthild of Coquitlam SAR and two other race volunteers were camped out there. This had to be the most remote area of the race but very high chance of runner injury as the rocky trail would be very unforgiving to anyone who stumbled. It was very comforting to see them there.

Camp Mechthild. Photo cred: Mechthild

Mechthild is always prepared. Photo cred: Mechthild

Zubick and I stayed together for a while. He is a stronger runner than me so I was struggling to keep up with him. We ran up to McCombe Lake together which was aid station 2. It was great to see the smiling faces of other Coquitlam SAR members there. As Zubick and I came back to the suspension bridge (which I never normally run on) I lost my footing as I stepped onto the bridge. Such a lame place to bail. As my body began it’s decent I reached out and grabbed a cable to try and stop my fall. I knew I was not going to be able to recover but if I could slow my speed I stood a better chance to reduce injury of impact. Unfortunately, I felt the muscles in my arm tear and then the leg on the same side also took damage. Then I hit the deck of the bridge with my body. Ouch. That hurt. Damn it. How could I be so careless?

I slowly got up to assess the damage. Am I done? Did I break anything? Any blood. Hand is bleeding. Arm is hanging at my side. Leg feels cramped up. What does this mean? Need to determine injury level before I move. Then I heard the voices of the concerned ladies behind me who had seen the entire embarrassing maneuver “are you OK?” I heard my annoyed voice snap back, “yes, I am ok.” They looked at me like I was in denial and said, “you don’t look ok.” Their voices had concern in them and I know the sound of my impact was likely alarming but I had no patience for this. “I am ok!” I repeating and looked ahead for Steve. Steve hadn’t noticed my fall from grace and had kept running on. I needed to walk for a bit as the right side of my body was hurting. I walked for about 5 minutes.

A dog owner was on the opposite end of the bridge. Even though all the signs say to keep your dog on leash she had decided a smart thing to do would be to have her large dog running around with hundreds of runners moving fast on the trail. While I am sure there are a lot of responsible and smart dog owners out there, this was not one of those. She was trying to figure out how to get her dog to stop standing across the bridge which was blocking traffic in both directions without putting the leash on it. She was flustered as more people began to pile up behind her. I stepped over her dog and carried on.

I pulled into aid station station 3 and looked at my drop bag. My brain wasn’t working well so I needed to slow down and figure out what I wanted to achieve. Took my gloves off and replace with a new set. Some people were doing a complete change of clothes. Even in my mentally challenged state I thought this was a bad idea. As I stood still I could feel my body cooling. Not good. I grabbed a cup of hot soup and left that place as fast as I could. The soup was good. Needed to get the engine fired up again to reheat myself. One step in front of another…

The out and back on the logging road was an easier run than doing the east side of Buntzen lake trail which was closed. The east Buntzen lake trail closure was one of several regular route changes this year. However it was boring and made you see everyone in front of you. Also allowed all the runners to give encouraging words to others. “Good job,” “looking good,” and “keep going” was the standard phrase used by all as we passed each other. Everyone was super positive and encouraging at this point. Things were about to change however.

Modified Route Map

As I came into aid station 4 I could see the Coquitlam SAR command vehicle. The little devil on my should kept whispering to me. “Rob you have done enough. Just walk over there and have some BBQ with them. It will be fun, trust me Rob…” As tempting as it was, I kept going. I later found out that the Coquitlam Command did have a couple visitors as several runners were brought there with fairly severe hypothermia.

All the snacks I later found in Coquitlam Command vehicle.

The Academy Trail was ahead but first I needed to do the hill to get there. This was the worst area of the entire race and I dread this part. The slog up this hill takes about 45 minutes (for me). It is constantly steep and today was super muddy. Every few feet there is a huge area of mud that sucks your feet in and chills you as your shoes fill with new cold water. This is the area that sucks the life out of me. Eventually, after what seemed like a very long time, I reached the power lines. Academy Trail is a logging road made up of fist size boulders and loose gravel. It is fully exposed to the elements and is terrible to run on. As soon as I got up onto this area I could feel the wind and rain begin to cool me. Had to keep moving. The faces of those coming towards me no longer looked cheerful and encouraging. Those kind words had changed to simple nods of determination. The smiles had turned to grimaces as the rain cut into their faces.

As I pulled into aid station 5 I saw more Coquitlam SAR people. Steve and Robin were there and met me with smiling faces. It was so good to see them. They helped me get some hot soup and hot chocolate which was so good. It was then that I saw all the people in the tent. They were runners who had become hypodermic. Later Robin and Steve told me that there were many runners who had been caught by the cold and at this point in the race had dropped out. The volunteers throughout the race were truly amazing. I could see the look of concern in the eyes though. They had things under control but they also knew things were bad for the runners and likely getting worse. If there weren’t so many well training and compassionate volunteers on this course things could have been very ugly. I can’t thank those people enough.

Now I needed to bring it home. I needed to put my mind somewhere else and let my body do what I knew it could. I started to focus on my breathing. Then I noticed that I was visualizing my self on the map as a dot. I focused on the dot and kept telling myself, “make the dot go faster.”

I got off the Academy and then had to go up the saddle to then come back down to Sasamat lake. The saddle climb was tiring but not too bad. The downhill to the beach was nice as I knew it was the home stretch.

Coming into the finish line was great. Lots of joking around and congratulations. I changed my clothes, got a hot dog then helped Coquitlam Search & Rescue finish our work there. Gary Robbins the new Race Director and legendary ultra runner came to visit us in the Coquitlam SAR command vehicle. Was awesome to see the legend in person. He thanked us for our participation and I think we were all star struck.

I was proud of my team mates at Coquitlam SAR for doing such a great job out there. Between them and the fantastic volunteers I felt like a very special guest. Nice work everyone!

My results were slower this year but I am okay with that. Last year was a nice sunny day. This year’s race has a special place in my heart. The challenge was very special.

2016

123 Robert Sell M 46 8:14:40

2017

Pos Bib Name Time ± Group
128. 278 Robert Sell 08:37:21.3 03:43:23.3 M

Strava Details:

https://www.strava.com/activities/933826691

In summary, I highly recommend this event. With Gary Robbins at the wheel this is very professionally run and very well organized. The flagging was exceptional and there was a volunteer at every intersection. The fact that they could keep runners safe during the most terrible conditions is a tribute to how well they do events. The trail is very runnable with sections that are challenging for every level. The scenery is amazing and the terrain varies. It is early in the season so make sure you start preparing by December (unlike me who started a month before).

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