I decided that I wanted a pulk to pull. Unfortunately, I did not have one so after some research on purchasing a pulk, I decided to make one.

I scoured the internet for the right sled to start from. There are few options and none Canadian, it seemed. Until I found one about 150 meters from my office at the Northern Hardware for 14.99 called the Pelican Mega Snowrunner. I’m certain it was built for running. I knew I would have to modify it, so I picked up two crazy karpets for 2.14 each.

pelicanmegasnowrunner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick stop at Princess Auto for some aluminum and I was off to my brother Dustin’s ridiculously large shop to begin construction. I began by laying out my design.

Pulk1

 

I wanted to make it as light as possible, so in addition to the reduced weight of the aluminum, we drilled it out all the pieces to further reduce the pull of gravity.

pulk2

 

Soon the custom harness connector was built….

pulk3

 

…..custom bending and aluminum welding….

pulk4

…riveting and cutting and it was almost done.

pulk5

 

I weighed my creation. Just about 4 Lbs. Perfect!

it was time to hit the trails!

After 160 meters of breaking trail in about 6 inches of fresh powder, I thought how is this possible!

pulki6

Two hours later, I had covered only 12 km’s. It goes a lot faster on a broke trail. I can’t wait until tomorrow!

This years racing season had an excellent finish with the Mad Moose marathon and ultra-marathon. This spectacular event included a 64 km ultra this year held on the Cranbrook Hill Greenway.

I like to take a few weeks off sometime in the winter to let me mind and body reinvigorate. I went earlier in October this year in place of the usual December and I was rewarded with low key fall running. Before Halloween had come I had at least one -19 C, shin deep in snow run. November has been spectacular. Reid Roberts and I traveled south for a 53 km in the beautiful Chilcotin on almost snow free trails. It’s hard to do better than anywhere west of Williams Lake for trail running.

We have it good here in the north. Frozen fall ground is great. A little (or a lot) of snow adds to the training. Lower pace with a higher heart rate. I especially enjoy running those routes that are soaking in the summer.  My mileage climbs all on it’s own and I am itching to be out on new single track.

Most folks reduce mileage, change to the roads, stop running or switch sports in the winter. I’d challenge you to do the opposite. There  are a few small hurdles to get over but once overcome the rewards are amazing.

  • Run anytime. It’s dark in the winter most of the time anyway. Rather than trying to fit your run in during the daylight like summer, sport a head or handlamp and run anytime. A small amount of light reflects on the snow. Who cares if it is the middle of the night.
  • Get better. First – no one runs in the winter. You are training when everyone else is watching TV!
  • Get fitter. Winter running engages the core and lower legs. Whether your stabilizing on the trail, breaking trail or sporting snowshoes you will have a greater impact on the hips, stomach back and calves. When the snow is deep, it’s real slow but the heart is racing. Very low wear and tear but excellent training.
  • Surprises. One of the most beautiful things is to watch the seasons change. Being out on the trails year round lets you experience the transition of the flora and the fauna. You will be surprised to turn off your headlamp on a snowshoe single track in the middle of the night in December. To enjoy a snowstorm or to watch the animal tracks change with a warm wind.
  • Go mental. Build your mental habits. Run or snowshoe in any weather, in any snow depth – day or night. When spring comes you will be practiced and prepared to run any summer conditions including the mountains.
  • Learn something new. Be careful at first but you will amaze yourself at how good you will become at icy, difficult trail. These skills come quickly if you try and they last.
There are some things to be careful of.
  • Transition and start slow. Winter trail running will tax your legs in a different way. As always ease into it. This can be difficult for high mileage runners as you will want to run the same distance or time as snow free. Take a couple weeks to ease into it.
  • Footwear. Get some appropriate trail shoes. I like goretex stuff for anything under two hours. I dislike overboot spikes as they ball up with snow, are heavy and change your form. Integrated spikes are great or spike up with something like La Sportiva Hobnails. Luggy grip is excellent for unpacked of packed snow.
  • Avoid the streets and maintrails. Often the most dangerous places to run in the winter, especially during freeze/thaw days are sidewalks and main trails. The packed snow of trails or cleared streets develop random icy spots.
As always, take your safety precautions. Let someone know where you are running. Carry safety equipment including a cell phone. It’s always better, safety wise, to run with a partner.

 

The best thing about an ultra is all that one is forced to learned. This was especially true at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

After several years of training and a heavy 2012 racing season aimed squarely at UTMB, with the help of Falcon Drilling and Queensway Auto World I found myself in Europe running the alps at altitude. As someone who runs for the love of it, it’s an excellent place to enjoy technical mountain trails.  One evening while running from Les Houches over a pass to Saint Gervais, I was on a small mountain trail and I found myself in the middle of now where at a cheese store. Where in the world but the french alps would you find a homemade cheese store on a narrow hiking trail?

Mont Blanc reminds me of  the Canadian Rockies, perhaps like Mount Sir Alexander Mackenzie. However, in every pass, valley, ledge and slope there are houses, restaurants and bars. Additionally, there is a 12 km tunnel under the mountain and a distinctive lack of mosquitoes.

I do have some experience running North American ultra’s. There is amazing comradeship, help, politeness and trail etiquette. This changes a bit as you run closer to the front. Let me tell you, Europe is very different. Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

In order for my crew to make it to the first two aid stations, they dropped me off in Chamonix at the race start about an hour and a half early. I sat very close to the start and watched runners bully there way to the front for spots. 2600 runners lined up. No one spoke or made eye contact. The fellow next to me urinated in a pop bottle down his pants so as not to lose his starting place (yes – I took a picture, after all this is France). He casually tried to drop it but it sprayed over some other runners. I’m positive someone defecated in their pants.

The 168 km/9600 meter gain race had been changed to a 104 km/6000 meter gain race due to severe weather above 1800 meters. Everything changed. This wouldn’t be a slog, this was going to be fast and furious. Everyone new it and prepared.

Then something magical happened. The new winner of the CCC race set a course record and crossed the finish line at our start, a couple minutes before the UTMB. The crowd gelled and cheered him in.

And instantly the crowd went back to business. As the countdown neared, I took a video, trying to capture some of the energy.

And then – we were off, fighting to stay vertical, runners pushing and jostling for position. Cameramen moved backwards on roller blades, people cheered and cowbells ringing.. Runners were going down left and right. I tried to avoid sharp pole points and I was amazed by the thousands cheering. I ran for several kilometers not able to see anything but cheering spectators and runners front and back trying all their tactics.

Soon I passed the aid station in Les Houches, cheered on by Karen Rutherford. We turned off the road and started the climb up the mountain. I had wondered why everyone had poles, especially on the modified shorted course. And then I understood. These weren’t for climbing – they were for tactics. Placed crossways across single track, the pursuing runner could not pass. Runners paired up side by side and double poled to not let anyone pass.
On the single track, no one gave trail for oncoming passing runners.

The depth of field was amazing. Efficiency and capability was everywhere. I watched everyone navigate the trail with expert precision. The runners here were serious. No giving way or being nice. It was everyone for themselves and every trick they could think of to keep the runner behind in his place – and that didn’t mean by running faster.

Things were moving very fast. My watched averaged 4 minute 30 seconds/km almost 10 km’s in but contrary to usual, I played it smart. I held back – I had a long way to go. I held my heart rate under 90%  ready for most of the front runners to burn out or drop. I would not push the beginning of this race. I would make my move later.

I went over the first mountain, playing it smart. I climbed slow and downhilled fast in the dark making some moves past other runners in the dark, fog and rain. I learned a new trick – come up from behind using the light of the runner ahead and then pass turning on my light. It worked in the steady stream of rain.

The trail was steep, muddy, narrowing and technical but I was quickly running the streets of St Gervais. Marja-Lisa directed me into the aid station and Chantal handed me gels and helped with a quick sock change. I very quickly left the town and into the pastures moving up the valley. My reserved climbing payed off and I made moves past runners. We soon hit the single track in a steep cut along the river. Every once in a while, we would hit heavy fog patches in the ever increasing rain.

I woke up shivering next to the river in the dark. After a few minutes of orientating, I walked the overhanging bank. It took me a bit but I found a tree that went down the ten foot bank and then went about forty feet up a scree slope back to the trail. I had some pretty good cuts on the hip and elbow and a goose egg on the head. My coat and shorts were shreds. Muddy and bleeding, I forced myself to warm up by limping up the trail. Strange – I never slip on that kind of trail.

I wasn’t sure how much time I had lost but the runners had thickened. I made my way slowly, in pain, to the absolute insanity of a French run, 2600 runner aid station. I felt like I was shopping in an over-packed Gap store in the middle of the night.The techno blared.

My crew knew before me. I was out but I couldn’t admit it. I had come this far and I did not want to stop. I was over a third done a race that I had run over ten thousand kilometers training for. I had an excellent position and I had played it smart. I was cut, bruised and my hip barely let me walk. My memories of the future didn’t have this scene.

I swore. I swore again. Then I smiled and I laughed it off.

I don’t suppose everyone can say they fell down a cliff in the streaming rain of the night in the French Alps while running the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

Until next time….

 

 

 

My UTMB crew…



In less than 24 hours, I will be at the starting line for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

This is a 168 km running race held at altitude over rough mountain trails in the alps of France, Italy and Switzerland. The course has 9.6 km of vertical gain (32,000 feet) and the equivalent in loss. Much of the course is over 8000 feet and the current weather forecast is for rain, snow, sleet and down to -10 celcius with high winds.

The enormity of this race has sunk in after the last number of days running sections of the trail and driving to some of the aid stations. The amount of climbing and the type of terrain is hard to explain.

I sat down this evening for dinner with my crew and discussed how they will manage the high mountain roads with the forecast of snow and subzero temperatures. I have never looked for snow chains in August before.

I feel very prepared and I am looking forward to the run. If you are interested in following this event, there are some online resources at:

Televised at http://www.ultratrail.tv/en/

Follow me on twitter @runningthenorth

Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jeff.hunter.9822

Live runner tracking

http://utmb.livetrail.net/

http://utmb.livetrail.net/nexxtep.php?course=utmb   Runner number 3182

and  http://www.nexxtep.fr/UTMB/FR/Reperages/UTMB/ Runnber number 3182

I’d really like to thank Falcon Drilling and Queensway Autoworld for their support with UTMB and the 2012 racing season. There is no way I could be here without them.

 

 

Sinister 7 2012 – 148 km (92 miles), 17,454′ cumulative gain, 17,569′ cumulative loss, held in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

The last year has been great running. The frosty fall trails led into great winter running and snowshoeing. The challenge of physically breaking trails through the winter was matched by the mental desire just to keep them open. 5 inches of fresh snow can make rolling hills the heartfelt equivalent of steep summer climbs.

I trained hard right through the winter. Races are great to have planned in the future. They give you a target to constantly train for but the truth is that the training is what is enjoyable and important. It’s hard to explain the combination of effort, enjoyment, will and satisfaction that comes with this kind of continuous training. Running in the dark with a headlamp in the snow while everyone else is sleeping, miles from home on soft powder trails with only a cylinder of light and your own thoughts.

One of the joys of multi-hour outdoor runs every day (or night) is that you get to watch the weather and the seasons change. You have to adapt what you are doing to make it work. More than the cold or the snow, it’s really the daylight that marks big change for me. After many months of straight headlamp and handlamp running, I was able to start the runs without one and then gradually finish them without external light. Less clothing and equipment makes the running free.

Later in the winter, I eased into this years racing season with three 50 km races – The Dirty Duo, Gorge Falls and Yakima Skyline and then transitioned to longer training runs patterning for Sinister 7 and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Lots of long days, an 87 km solo in the Chilcotin and then an 80 km fun run for a friend.

I was ready for Sinister 7.

It’s wonderful to have friends and family attend an ultra and cheer you on. At the Sinister 7, I was lucky to have my wonderful wife and children, Reid and Laura with their kids, my brother Devin, his wife Kristy, their two kids and my newest crew member Bob Rutherford.

We started at 7:00 am on the main street of Blairemore. As always it was an interesting mix of runners.

The Start – Some random relayer obviously proud of his country

We cruised out of town rather quickly and made our way through the boulders of Frank’s Slide and around the back of a mountain. Fresh in the cool morning air, it’s easy to motor. The mind was still fresh and I made the most out of what I knew was to be a long slow decline in cognitive and physical capacity. Some technical single track led me into the first transition point where I clocked the first 16.5 km and made a quick resupply.

Leg two started with switchbacks up through an old burn. The sun was getting higher and hotter and once I went over the ridge, the lack of tall vegetation made it drier than a mormon wedding. There were a lots of downed trees making an obstacle course breaking up the continuous stride to some leaps and jumps.

Leg Three was hot and tough. It includes some good climbing and with lots of it high up. They were plenty of streams so I quickly dipped my hat and most of my clothing at each creek crossing. This helped to counteract the heat.

At about the 45 km mark, I felt dizzy and slow. Contrary to popular belief, the greatest danger in an ultra-marathon is over-hydration and/or a low sodium condition (hyponatremia). I was being vigilant to avoid this by sticking to my regular routine of water and salt intake and adding extra salt to compensate for the heat. Low sodium causes your cells to take on water and swell. Fine and dandy, except for the brain which is confined to the skull. To compensate, I cut my water intake a bit and added more salt. Things seemed to clear up but the truth is that with everything going on in an ultra you just never know.

I finished the loop and as I headed down the hill into the aid station I had massive cramping in my quads but on the inside, then the calves and then a bit in the hamstrings. What an odd configuration for cramping, I thought. The heat must be taking its toll.

My thoughtful five year old son Liam performing his own version of a meditation. He did this at the third aid station to send me his energy.

The cramping continued at the aid station and I power hiked the first hill into leg four. I crested the top and ran for a few kilometers degrading into an abysmal mess of cramping. I couldn’t run so I power hiked and then I couldn’t swing my hips. I stopped. I couldn’t even move.

What the hell? I’m only 65 km in. This is way off. What’s going on?

I searched my brain and mentally checked everything. Water, electrolyte and food were all on like clockwork. I’d even compensated for the heat with extra salt, perfectly I thought.

Wait a second. It’s hot but I’ve been wet most of the last 4 hours from creek water. I’m also heat acclimated from sauna running in preparation and I’m better trained than I’ve every been. I tasted my sweat. It wasn’t salty.

This is what we are built for. Humans are almost unique in our ability to sweat. We are designed to run during the hot day.

I’ve been so worried about low sodium, I’ve over done it and I’m sodium heavy – hypernatremia. The cramping is from dehydration. This is bad! It’s the quintessential race ending condition. Now what?

I’ve got to think on the fly here. I need water and lots of it. The solution is dilution. But what about this cramping? I can’t move.

Yes – you will. Roll if you have to.

Torture. I moved like a wounded animal down the trail and mercifully there was a creek close and a big one. Just as I neared it, I had severe cramping in my feet. Have you ever had muscle cramps in your feet? It’s a real party.

I laid down in the creek and the cool water helped. I guzzled water like an African animal at a waterhole. I was holding second place but two soloists passed. They offered to help but I waved them on. I took amusement in all the folks losing shoes in the mud on the far side of the creek. I drank more water. And then some more. It felt like a gallon and it looked clean enough. Time to go.

I power hiked out of the creek and up the hill and then for about thirty minutes. I ate a gel and barfed it back up all over the trail with some now transformed creek water. I passed a checkpoint and ate a granola bar slowly. It tasted like plaster but I held it down.

My mojo started to come back and I broke from a death march into a run. I started moving faster and soon I hit another big deep creek. I drank deep as I crossed and hit another checkpoint. I barfed another gel but I kept running. I knew the lack of calories would catch up with me but maybe I could outrun it for a bit. And I nearly did. At the end of leg four I started to crater again. This time at least I knew the cause – no jamb. You have to take in about a third of what you need in calories as some pretty simple sugars or you can’t make the rest from fat. I downed a chocolate gel and it came back up. Ok – just power it forward.

I stopped running about a kilometer from the end of four. Bob was waiting for me at the top of hill and we ran down to the aid station. I dipped my timing stick and sat down. My crew was well organized and they remixed my drinks to be almost salt free but calorie heavy. I ate almost two bowls of noodely soup and I headed out in four wheel drive, hiking poles working, slowly up the big climb for leg five.

Bob escorting me into the end of leg 4 – Kilometer 99.5

My feet had been wet all day and I had changed my shoes. Dry feet and some food in the belly was heavenly. A few kilometers in there was a major creek crossing. And then another. And then another. About 15 crossings later, the climbing got steeper. I went into the saddle before the Seven Sisters and then hit a checkpoint. Over the top of the ridge and down the snow on the far side. I hit the the end of leg five running decently. I could feel the weakness in my legs both from not fully recovering from the cramping and the previous 120 km.

I hit leg six in the dark and ran as fast as I could – it was slow but it was all I could manage. Steady then at least.

A dampness fell and it was dusty. My headlamp reflected the particles and it felt like I was on Jupiter in a space suit. More vomiting, dry heaving, blah, blah blah.

I hit the end of leg six and I couldn’t find my crew. Everyone was very helpful, especially the teams from Prince George. They frantically searched for my people while I ate watermelon and oranges as fast as I could. A few minutes passed. Rhonda and Bob came in with a fresh shirt and Tim Horton’s coffee. Yea-haw! Sheer pleasure for a dollar fifty.

I venture out onto the last leg climbing. At the top, the trail veered onto steep downhill single track. Late in a race, downhill is so much harder than uphill. My quads were liquid and I had no solid muscle to break the descent. More single track, another mountain side and then some side hilling.

It was late. I was tired. It felt like the skin on the bottom of my feet had come off but I enjoyed the foot pain as it distracted my mind from my cramping muscles. Then suddenly it hit me.

Run – and run hard. I’m not sure why but I started cruising. I was running as fast as I could. I started passing people. My GPS watch was dead and I had no idea where I was but I was moving! I passed a soloist and downhilled through to the edge of town. I man yelled that I was 2.5km from the finish. I passed a relayer and I could see a headlamp in the distance. I ran hard, I was breathing heavy and on the crest of hill I caught the light. It was another soloist. He tried to match me on the downhill but I was hell bent for leather. I just kept running as fast as I could go, lubricated by blister juice.

I passed another relayer on the last uphill and then I got lost in the trees. I yelled and saw some light, orientated back on course to hit the finish line in 19 hours 14 minutes and 12 seconds in 5th place.

Really, this was slower than I wanted but I felt good. By rights, I should have dropped but I didn’t. In fact, I never even considered it.

Good thing too. My next race is 20 km longer and has double the climbing. Just for fun, it’ll be at altitude on another continent.

 

Special thanks to Falcon Drilling and Queensway Auto World.

 

 

 

 

 

Five of us left Otway at 7:00 am on Saturday morning. Geoff and Aaron had graciously planned to join us on the first 30 km through some hilly single track.

OK – so technically I was responsible for route finding but good conversation and excitement had our first diversion to the ditch on North Nechako road. The wrong ridge at the top of Pidherney, a new fence at the dump and we found Dick and Bob waiting for us. One more small course correction and back down Pidherney. Fresh bear tracks and other steaming sign led us across Foothills to the Hart Scales.

Things started to get interesting. Sherri, ready to tackle the 50 km,  was in need of a bit of the hair of the dog that bit her – not hot sun and pavement. Geoff and Aaron were in good spirits as I had been  slipping them double caffeinated gels all morning. They decided to tack on 8 more km to LC Gunn.

LC Gunn had Dick, Bob, Shar and Dennis with smiling faces. Geoff and Aaron decided to up the ante and tack on even more to make it a full on marathon so we hit the shade in the trees, ran the trail, crossed to the other bridge, through the graveyard and onto Cowart Road. With over a marathon down and enough to make a full ultra out of the extra  and the way home, Aaron and Geoff parted ways with us. I think that was double the longest distance Geoff had ever run. Gumption!

Twelve happy runners greeted us at Blue Spruce. Enthusiasm was high. We ran then sunny gravel until we hit the shade of the fir trees.  The company pulled us along to UNBC parking lot where the group  grew to 34 brave souls. There were many more waiting at Takla. It was hot, but the energy in the group was astounding.

Queensway Auto World had refreshments, cake and pizza at the finish. Dick was there blowing his horn! Family and  friends greeted all of us runners.

What a great day. Thank you to everyone for coming out and making this such an enjoyable time. Almost 1300 total kilometers run.

Thank you to Queensway Auto World for everything.

Photography by Bob Rutherford.

 

What did I learn on this race? Only red neck runners get a heart rate monitor sun burn.

The Yakima Skyline Rim 50 km has some climbing. In fact, have a look at the profile below, you see that one is pretty much uphilling or downhilling the whole race. 9263′ positive cumulative elevation gain.

 

One of the nice features of this race is the total lack of warm up with a transition of 200 flat  yards over the bridge across the river to a 5km, 2300′ climb that takes you to the top of the first mountain. I ran this way too fast hitting 97% maximum heart rate. This is about the worst thing you can do in an ultra as it’s impossible to hold that kind of effort. Whatever, I thought. I deal with that later.

At the top, I was rewarded with views of mountains all around and perfect blue sky. Mt Rainier stood out to the west. I traversed the ridge and  had fun dancing my way down a rocky, well overgrown piece of single track  all the way back to the river. On my way up the second mountain, I could see forever and a few guys chasing me about 300 yards back. We played, closing and opening the gap for a long time.  As I descended to the river for the turnaround, I could really feel the heat. It was 25 c and I’d been running on snow all winter. The sun pounded on my back as I returned up the mountain for my third climb.

At the top of the climb, I dunked my head quickly in a filthy stock tank and a runner passed me. Determined, I  re-passed him and gained the lead  again but he stayed behind me until I lost sight of  him on the way down the next hill. I crossed the valley bottom and on the transition up on the last climb  I looked back and Adam Hewey came out of nowhere and flew past me on a very steep up slope.  I climbed after him, redlining in the punishing sun.

Here and there between the sage and the open grass, a few flowers were blooming. The landscape was barren and beautiful but I didn’t lift my eyes to look at the top of the mountain. I needed my little zone of comfort. Serenity in the 12 feet in front of me and a buffer from thoughts of continuing the climb at pace. If I could only reach the river at the end, I’d dive in it and all this heat would instantly vanish in the cool water.

I made my way across the top of the mountain running into many people from the 25km race and some tourists. I caught the winding trail down and about half a mile in I snagged a foot and hit the brush at breakneck downhill speed. Back up as fast as I could, I kept heading down into the steeper terrain onto the rocky sections.

I sprinted the bridge and crossed the finish line in 2nd place with a 5:36:04.

The technical trail, beautiful terrain and massive climbing make this race sensational. Rainshadow running puts on a great event.

 

 

I read an article a while back about how it’s good to forget stuff. The theory was that if you let the meaningless little things slip from your mind you will always have room for the new and important things. I’m not sure about that idea but  apparently my sub-conscious mind can remember what I have missed. The night before the DirtyDuo, I had strange dreams of my last race. I’m pretty sure it was my body’s way of questioning my intent for the next day.

The Dirty Duo is held in North Vancouver. The course starts in Lynn Valley and goes up to Rice Lakes, past the Seymour River and up onto the mountains following trails like the Figure 8, Old Buck and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Much of the race is on very technical mountain biking trails. It’s a mixed event for both mountain bikers and runners with 15, 25 and 50 km divisions.

In the days leading up the event, it poured hard in North Vancouver and the forecast for the day of was rain. About an hour before we lined up to start it stopped. Judging by the rest of the event organization, they probably even changed the weather.

When I left the gate I tried not to overpace. It’s just so easy to, especially with the mixed start. I purposely held back from most of the other runners but I was still pacing at 4:20 km’s – way too fast for a technical trail ultra.  I focused on efficient trail movement, enjoyed the dampness and the fog and made my way along the river. Within a few kilometers the loose lead group moved to a slower rate and I started making moves on the way up the incline sections. I felt lactic in my shins, a sure sign of disaster for a 50 but I lied to myself ‘oh well – just do this for a little while until you get ahead’.

We kept moving fast but drifted apart on the trail as we climbed up and up to the top of the first loop. My heart rate was very high – above 90% – but I felt good. Really good. Well – keep running then.

The trail was wild- big rocks, little rocks, puddles, running water, roots, logs and little streams. Up and down and around I went. By the time I hit the top of the first loop and a little bit of snow, I was in second place. Then transitioning onto Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, I kept my heart rate high but this meant I started really going as it was all downhill.  I was barely holding on going as fast as I could, using the granite boulders for grip under running water. Barely controlling an uncontrollable descent, I passed the leader. He held on behind me for a few minutes but I lost him when things starting getting really crazy.

Humans are amazing creatures, capable of more than what we experience in what we do day in and day out. Moving faster than you can think, eyes fixed on the trail 20 feet ahead so your mind can autonomously direct your foot to precision placement on the last ¾ of an inch of a boulder in a split second and then repeat that 180 times a minute you can glimpse our full potential. We have gained much in modern civilization but trail running reminds you the old, internal skills are not lost – just simply below the surface. It takes letting go and trusting yourself to make this happen.

I hit the bottom of the gnarl and headed up past the Seymour bridge, up along the river and then into some nice slopes back to the gazebo at the Rice Lakes parking lot. I grabbed some salt and gels and bolted up towards the Figure 8 trail. I traveled the mountain bike trail fast – back and forth, up and down ramps and over obstacles and soon I was back beside the Seymour River and then transitioning to climbing again.

On the second loop, I learned a new trick – just uphill as hard as you can until you get tunnel vision. As long as you can still see the trail in front of you then you should be fine. My lack of peripheral vision did cause me to go off course once but I quickly corrected. I hit the second downhill as fast as the first loop with the only difference being fatigue. I didn’t see anyone except volunteers at the two aid stations and back at the gazebo.

When you are advancing on someone you are the predator but while  leading you are the prey. You flee forward without knowledge of those behind, so you run like your hunted. I followed Lynn River and then onto the mud holes of the Diamond Trail. Knowledge that I was close to the end made my movement liberal enough to lose a shoe in the bottom of  a bog. I considered running with one foot shod but thought better of it so I dug elbow deep and squished it back on.

I hit the road for the last 900 meters. It was downhill  and I ran for all I was worth, counting the seconds to try and break the four hour mark. I made the turn and into the finish line at 3:57:09 with a first overall.  Someone later pointed out that this was the third fastest historical time on that race course since the Dirty Duo started.

People were eyeing me a bit strangely. At first I thought it was because I was the only one from Prince George but a few minutes later a lower heart rate and an improved mental state made me realize it was my muddy form and the blood streaming down my leg from a tumble I had taken on some rocks.

I turned quickly to look back as I was intent to see who was in second. I waited and to my astonishment, he passed the line 24 minutes later. It was Matt Cecill from Victoria with a 4:21:35. Colin Miller followed with third at 4:24:40.  Jude Ultra took first female overall with 4:58:27

Sometimes things come together and this was just one of those lucky days!

A great big thank you to  Falcon Drilling and Queensway Autoworld for supporting me with the  Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and the 2012 racing season.