You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘scorched sole’ tag.

Or “I’ve Been Here Before”

I recently came across this little gem which I wrote on paper in 2008, after I had an operation. Now five years later, I find myself in the exact same situation, having just come out of an unexpected surgery which will lay me flat for a few months. I find the message here very motivating. If I was able to summon up the courage to set the goal of a 50 miler back then, surely I can do it again. Enjoy!

“You will require eight weeks off to recover from this surgery,” my doctor told me. “Eight weeks with no work, no lifting and no exertion.” It felt as if a heavy fog had rolled into the examination room while I tried to absorb this latest piece of information. It was surprising enough that I was a candidate for surgery, but unbelievable that I would be out of commission for such a long time. This was going to impact every aspect of my life.

“You understand that this means no running either,” she added emphatically, giving me a knowing smile.

On all accounts, I am a healthy person, living a healthy lifestyle. I eat my greens, recycle as much as possible and run just enough to allow me to truthfully call myself a runner. Cutting running out of my regime was not going to kill me but I knew I would miss it. Although I regularly met up with friends early on weekend morning to run in the rain and frost, my purpose was to socialize, always looking forward to warming up with the apres-run coffee.

It's the social life that keeps me truckin'.

It’s the social life that keeps me truckin’.

Luckily, my surgery was scheduled for the middle of November, just after the clocks fell back one hour. I often look at the end of daylight savings as the beginning of winter hibernation, so it was fitting to begin my recovery then. I followed doctors’ orders to the letter and did close to nothing for eight full weeks. As time went by, I was granted permission to go on short walks in the neighbourhood but, in all honesty, those walks wiped me out. I spent hours wondering if I would ever be back to normal again.

On the seventh of January, I had my last appointment with my surgeon. Officially, I was healed, fixed, recovered and was given my life back. It was thrill to simply go back to work. I even enjoyed shovelling snow day after day. There had been so many little things that had fallen to the wayside during my recovery.

But, what about running? I was so hesitant to begin training again. I know how hard it is to get past the one hour mark, after taking a break from running. I know that hill climbing is the first skill lost when not practised. I need a  concrete, attainable goal to help me get back into the groove. But I also want a challenge to work towards that will take me far beyond the level of fitness I had before.

My sights are set on the STORMY 50 mile ultramarathon in Squamish, BC. A fifty miler is a substantial goal and I will have to work hard to achieve it. I have run on those fabulous mountain bike trails many times and I know that their beauty will offer needed distraction during some of the gruelling times. I am keen on supporting a local race and racing alongside some of my training buddies. I also know that the race director puts her heart and soul into making this run a destination event.

In my preparation for the fifty miler, I plan on working up to the Scorched Sole 50 km race in Kelowna, BC. Again, this grassroots race is put on by a dedicated team of acclaimed runners who know exactly what racers need to succeed. I look forward to the help and motivation they will provide at the 25 km mark as they send you off for another loop of Okanagan Mountain Park.

I am looking forward to spending a lot of time on my feet and literally running away from my surgery.

I have run away from surgery before. I can do it again.

I have run away from surgery before. I can do it again.

Addendum: In 2009, I built myself back into fitness and achieved both goals. I completed the Scorched Sole 50 km in 5 hr 30 min. I went on to set a PR of 10 hr 4 min at STORMY 50 miler later that summer.

STORMY - 200m to go.  It ain't gonna be pretty.

It ain’t gonna be pretty

But it will feel good when it's over!

But it will feel good when it’s over!

Scorched Sole 50 miler

In June 2009, the RDs of Scorched Sole extended their race repertoire to include a 50 mile distance.  At the time, I considered signing up for it but ultimately decided to run the 50 km.  I wanted to save my 50 miler comeback for Stormy 2009.  As I watched the 50 mile runners cross the finish line, I decided to sign up for the 50 mile course the following year.

A year later, I toed that same start line.  We headed up through Okanagan Mountain Park and west towards Lost Lake.  No sooner had the run begun when Wendy and I, in a moment of inattention, saw some sweet single-track and unintentionally headed off course.  It took us some time to recognize our mistake and retrace our steps.  When we were finally back on track, we discovered that we were last.  Even though the field was only 37 starters, it was a little disheartening and we both seemed to change our focus from Race to Run.  We eventually caught up to a few runners, including George Forshaw, as we hiked up Little White.  The 50 km runners began to overtake the three of us, having made up the hour difference in start times.  We counted them off and told our tale of woe to Bruce as he flew up the trail.

As our threesome continued our climb to the summit of Little White, we were still in good spirits and moved at a fairly strong pace.  We passed the aid station volunteers who were still packing in supplies for aid #4.  When we arrived at their destination, we found a number of water jugs but no snacks.  We continued up, up, up to the summit and began to see the first 50 km runners running back to us, having reached their halfway point.  The last kilometre of the climb was patchily covered with spring snow but it wasn’t too difficult to navigate.

We reached the summit and found that there were water jugs, but no aid station.  In 2006, we climbed a similar route and there had been a few hardy volunteers with some food for us at this point.   I had expected the same this time since the map had been marked ‘minor aid’, not ‘water only’.  We topped up our water bottles continued on the 50 mile route, which carried on along the summit ridge before we would descend to the halfway point.  The summit ridge was deep in spring snow.  We trudged along from ribbon to ribbon in calf-deep slush.  This section went on for a long time.  Once again, I had misinterpreted the course description.  I was under the impression that the snow had mostly receded, but the truth was that the route included about 6 km of snow, which we would cross twice.  We came across two rope sections as we headed down.  These would have been quite treacherous without the ropes and we all slid at roller-coaster speeds before running into the tree securing the rope.  This is where our group mindset began to falter.  My shoes were water-logged, my feet were frozen, my hands were rope-burned and I was famished.  I was carrying plenty of gel but I always count on some real food at aid stations.  Those 6 km took a lot out of all three of us.

We eventually descended enough to find dirt and we were able to get some downhill running in.  The trail descended steeply and, although I love a downhill trail more than anything, my negative mindset was stuck on the return trip.  This was a huge descent and the climb back up would be really challenging, especially with all that snow.  Ugh – the snow.  It was George who spoke first, but he spoke for all three of us.

“There better be a pretty big bus at the next aid station to take us all home.”

We all chuckled for a second but then we were silent.  It had been said out loud.  It wasn’t just me who was hating this.  There was an out.  I wasn’t the only one considering it.  The end could be in sight. I was in control, after all.

I have never been down the DNF path before.  I have always wanted to complete what I started.  I wasn’t injured.  I wasn’t cramping.  I wasn’t really even hungry – although a grilled cheese would have hit the spot.  I just didn’t want to do THIS any more.  I was placing blame in all sorts of places.  I felt that I had been misled by the course description, even though I knew that there would be snow, ropes and a big mountain to climb twice.

Ellie Greenwood came into sight.  She was on her return trip up the switchbacks, leading the race.  She stopped to chat, echoing our feelings about the toughness of the course.  She didn’t stop for long though because Steve Russell was hot on her heels, not wanting to be chicked.

We finally hit the forest service road and Wendy and I took off.  I was surprised how well we were cruising along.  I began to analyze the idea of dropping out.  I knew that it was the wrong choice since I was still feeling strong.  I knew that I could complete this run if I could get my brain back in gear.  I knew that I simply needed some real food and I’d be ready to climb out of there.  We rounded a corner and the aid station tent was visible.  I immediately filled my water bottles and emptied the contents of my drop bag into my pack.  I surveyed the table for food but found that potato chips were about the only thing available.  I ate the crumbs in the bottom of the bag and tried to save a few morsels for George.  We told the volunteers how tough the course was and joked about stopping.  The women instantly said,

“There’s plenty of room in the pick-up truck if you want a ride back.  You’re one of the last runners, so we’ll be packing up quite soon.”

And that was it.  It was too easy.  I made one effort to say that I would continue on, but I couldn’t follow through.  I helped put the food away and load the drop bags into the car.  I found a comfy place to sit in the bed of the pick-up truck and we drove about 30 minutes back to the start/finish area.

At the time, I didn’t regret the decision.  I couldn’t imagine climbing back through the slushy snow, using the ropes to climb up to the ridge line.  I knew that my finish time would have been around 13 hours, if all had gone well.  I didn’t sign up for that.  That was the dialogue in my head.  No regrets.  I’ll do a 50 miler another day.

But, I cried on the drive home.  I completely regret not finishing that race.  It wasn’t impossible.  It was tough, but so am I.  The DNF feeling is something I hope never to have again.  It is the reason I started this blog – to remind myself that I don’t want to go there again.

Upon much analysis, I would say that I was overly concerned with ‘the group’.  I was part of a group and that group was struggling.  The group wanted to stop.  If I had been on my own, I would have had the same experiences, but I don’t think I would have quit.  Time will tell.

The Happy Wanderer

My Paths on Strava

Receive instant email notifications of new posts by entering your email address below:

Oldies But Goodies

Currently Reading