On June 2nd I attempted the 8th running of the Vancouver 100. It is touted as the toughest 100km. It is not an official race, but a Club Fat Ass run. What does that mean? It means no aid stations and no course markings. You rely on yourself, any crew you can rally and all the inner honey badger power you can find to keep going. The Van100 course follows North Vancouver’s Knee Knacker course (which I will be running in July). The Knee Knacker has been called one of, if not THE, toughest 50km race. The overall elevation change is 32,600ft (9940m) over 100km. The Van100 course runs the Knee Knacker route in reverse then returns along the same route as the race. It is a BEAST of a course. In fact, as I wrote this, some people were still working on finishing, some 32 hours after we began at 5am on Saturday morning.
I blocked out the section I decided to not return to (more on that later in this post). My Van100 ended up being a 75km with 11600 ft (3535 m) of elevation gain; total change is 23200 ft (7068 m).
I was fortunate enough to have a TON of support from friends in crewing and pacing. I had to run the first 25km from Deep Cove to Cleveland Dam (base of Grouse mountain) on my own. However, my 25-50km pacer Adam had introduced me to his friend Kerry via email, and I ran with him the whole first section. Kerry was not only running the Van100, he was stopping at 25km to go run another race (the master’s mile), then return to the Van100. INSANE. He was incredible to stay on pace with and we came in to Cleveland Dam under our time goal and feeling extremely fresh.
A friend from my bible study and her 3 kids met me there so I could refuel. Adam joined me and we ventured off to what would be one of the most difficult things I have ever done in trail running. We kept a solid steady pace up the stairs until we hit the snow. It was a slow slog and I gained much more respect for anyone attempting running on snow (Geoff Roes!!).
After quite a long time of this we started the downhill. What could have been a fast descent to the Cypress bowl ended up being a test of my fear of falling through melting snow banks. There were many creek crossings that I questioned in my head whether or not I’d make it out of this adventure unscathed. Thankfully Adam was carrying poles, so we could test the snow of where to step. Some times it seemed like running would be a good idea until we noticed that stepping less than a foot to the left or right would mean punching through all the snow to the ground 2-3 feet below. A few times this happened to me, thankfully with no injury. I did not bother with trying to take pictures, so you can find some here from another runner. It was here that I began to toss around the idea of not returning on this section. I needed to respect that in 2 weeks I would be pacing my friend Jen at Bighorn 100 in Wyoming. She is relying on me to be healthy and injury-free to help her finish out a super tough course. As much as my pride told me to finish the full 100km, my wisdom and responsibility to Jen won out. I thought that this would mean I was done at the end of 50km, but Adam reminded me that I could just get a ride back to Cleveland Dam and finish out the last 25km for a total of 75km for the day. That is what I did. Adam and I made our way down the boulder scramble to finally being able to run towards the end of the route in Horseshoe Bay. There I met up with my buddy Graham and new ultrarunning friend Francesco from Italy. I informed them of my change of plans and we made our way back to the car. Graham and Fra had carried my goods, including a gallon jug of water a few miles, which meant they had to run back with it. They are amazing for keeping up running with so much stuff. Incredible.
We got back to Cleveland Dam where Fra and I would make the last 25km haul back to Deep Cove. Surprisingly I was feeling as strong as ever and we finished in about the same time it took me on the first go round; just over 4 hrs. He was an incredible pacer and impressed with how well I was still running after completing a super difficult 50k. I ended up being out on the course for 14.5 hours but total running time was about 13 hours. I am very happy with my performance and know I made the right decision to not return through the skethcy snowy creek crossings. Apparently my inner honey badger does not like running in melting snow bank conditions. Something to work on for the future. This run was probably the best idea of what I can expect at Wasatch — a lot of climbing and running when I can. I will most definitely be returning to do the climbing portions of this course as my training continues throughout the summer. Learning how to climb efficiently is a skill that every ultrarunner needs to work on because it uses different muscles than running. I was quite happy with how well I was able to stay consistent climbing most of the day; a great sign for Wasatch!
I learned that I CAN run without music. I finished the whole day without pushing play, something totally new for me.
Could I have completed the full 100km? Absolutely. I was feeling physically the best I have in a long while. The day after my legs feel worked but not that sore. That is a good sign for my training thus far. Hopefully next year I will get the opportunity to run the whole thing, but for this year I am more than content with my 75km ‘custom’ run and saving myself from injury for Jen. As I told all of this to Craig at the finish he told me that was wise and that the worst scar he has is on his shin from falling through snow while running. Yup. I made the right decision.
Thanks again to everyone who came out to help me and all the great messages of support I got throughout the day. You are all awesome and I could not have done this without you. Thanks to Club Fat Ass for organizing such a BEAST of a run and to all the other participants for keeping this tradition going.
Keep on my fellow honey badgers.