I almost always write my race recaps “late;” it often takes me a few solid post race days to properly digest everything that happened over all of the miles and then put it into words. Trust me, its no easy feat when you’re running ultras and have 30+ miles to talk about.
So its no wonder that a 3 day stage race with an ultra mixed in would take me over a week to digest. So here goes. Well, day 1 anyway.
I first heard about the opportunity to participate in the first ever, Golden Ultra from Sweat Pink’er (and long time social media friend) Nikki Scott. She had contacted me about participating and of course getting some additional Sweat Pink’ers out there. So naturally, I said, yes. And naturally, I also said yes to doing all 3 days. And another yes to getting more Sweat Pink’ers to join in on the fun.
And after doing a little research, I realized that it was ultra badass (a true lady boss), Magi Scallion who was putting the event on and I knew I really had to be there. I knew Sweat Pink had to be there. And we really had to show up. Like bring it in a big way.
It was easy to convince Tiffany to join in on the fun. Almost immediately after receiving the opportunity to participate, she was hustling to put together a relay team for the 3 day event. We decided we’d caravan up to Golden, B.C. so we could bring our pups and of course bring on some extra adventure. Not long after, Tiffany had recruited another Sweat Pink’er, Amy (a good friend plus former Ragnar teammate) to join her relay team. She also had another Sweat Pink blogger who was interested and likely in for the 55K (though at the end of it all, said blogger opted out…).
After convincing Tiffany, I worked on my husband and my good friend Jackie. And boom, both were convinced. Jackie was doing days 1 & 3 and Casey had decided to bite the bullet and sign up for day 2 – his first ultra (more on that to come). We rented a sweet van, locked down our accommodations and the trip was in motion.
The roadtrip plan…
On Thursday afternoon, we had planned to leave Portland around 1:30/2 in the afternoon and get about half the drive over with – to Chilliwack (yes, that’s a real name of a real city in B.C.) which would put us just across the border and give us plenty of time to make the 4 pm starting line on Friday afternoon in Golden.
We really had the best intentions…
And then things started to go wrong.
After packing and exercising Abbie in the morning, we were running about half an hour behind schedule which I had originally anticipated.
Casey and I left to pick up the van around 2 while Jackie and Tiffany held down the fort in Portland with the two pups. And just when we were about to start loading up, I made a comment about passports, and Tiffany quickly realized she didn’t actually have hers. No bueno. She had to drive all the way back in the opposite direction in rush hour putting us another 3 hours behind schedule. Oops.
To kill some time, Jackie and I went to get beers while Casey took a nap with Moxie and Abbie and we let Amy know that our Seattle arrival time was going to be slightly delayed.
We got on the road around 8pm (3 runners, 2 dogs) putting us in Seattle just before 11 to pick up our final runner and dog and braced ourselves for a late night arrival.
We arrived in Chilliwack just shy of 2am all hoping to catch a little sleep before our early morning departure. Only the dogs had a different idea. They hadn’t really had any time to get used to each other and decided it would be way more fun to make sleep difficult for all of us. 5:45 am rolled around quickly and we were back on the road headed for Golden.
The 6.5 hour drive quickly turned into a nearly 9 hour drive when Casey unknowingly took a wrong turn. We had a rather beautiful (and long!) drive to Golden on the scenic route but were pushing our arrival time just a little. With about an hour to spare, I had resigned myself to the fact that we weren’t going to make the start.
I just didn’t say anything. At about quarter to 4, Casey was optimistic that we’d make it just under the gun. I laughed realizing that neither Tiffany, Jackie nor I were dressed and ready to run. We weren’t going to make it in time. No way, no how. Wasn’t gonna happen. So I stopped feeling anxious and decided whatever would be, would be.
When we finally made our way to the parking lot, it was about 10 after 4. We had to change, check-in, and of course pee before getting out on the course. Tiffany somehow managed to check-in long before Jackie and I and she sailed to the starting area about 15 minutes before us. When Jackie and I got to registration, they were packing up the tables (literally carrying the tables) and heading out. They were nice enough to check us in anyway and hurried us along to the starting area since we were now a good 40 minutes behind the other runners. Oops.
Jackie and I had decided to run together since there really wasn’t much left for us to do other than make the cut-off time (mostly so we could ride the gondola down the hill). Plus, we’d been preparing for this climb together a couple of days before with our partner BOSU burpee workout (haha!).
We grabbed our timing chips from the volunteers who were smirking at our late-ness but proud of our let’s do it, anyway attitudes. Who cares if you’re dead last, right?
And then things started to go right.
The first day of the Golden Ultra, THE BLOOD, is a 5K with 3200+ ft of gain. Basically, straight up the face of the mountain. Basically running under the chairlift. Running up the very same hill I’d likely be contemplating my route down, or finding little jumps come winter time while Casey looked for groomers off to the side that would take us to the same place (ie, the bottom). Oh, to go back to Golden for some snowboarding…..another post though… 😉
Jackie and I started running up the hill, immediately feeling the altitude and wondering if we were overdressed. We both shed our outermost layer (thin rain jackets) and continued charging up. Given Jackie is an experienced triathlete and road runner, but hadn’t done much in terms of trail running before this weekend, this 5K scramble was an entirely new experience for her….that she took like a total champ. As we made our way up to the even steeper parts of the hill, we caught up with Tiffany. We were happy to see her as we wanted to make sure we were all running with someone…you know, just in case.
The hill just continued up, up, and more up. Every so often, I’d peek at my watch and then say something like, ok, we’re going to run this flat section here and then we’ll quickly hike the next section. Nothing was really flat. But there were parts that weren’t completely straight up. So we’d “run” those parts. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the girls were on to me. Laughing at my loose interpretation of flat and charging ahead, anyway.
Mountain goat. Mountain legs. Mountain lungs.
The middle of the course was a scramble. There were no trails. Just rocks, plants, more rocks and a bunch of vertical. At one point Jackie looked and me and said are all trail runs like this?
As the vertical scramble continued, we just kept putting one foot in front of the other. At this point, the most important thing would be for us to keep moving….and to keep moving fast enough to make the cut-off. Since there was no trail, we also had to do our best to keep our eyes out for little orange flags as we traversed our way to the top. I did my best to keep everyone moving, playing trail cheerleader and encouraging the girls to “run” the “flat” sections. Ha!
Somewhere along the climb, our jackets were back on. Little snow flurries started to surround us and while beautiful, the air was getting thicker, colder and windier. My fingers were starting to feel frozen and I was suddenly glad I had remembered to pack my gloves.
At the top of the scramble section, we met up with another runner (we weren’t dead last, after all), and took a quick mental snapshot of the sweeping views and beautiful Fall colors. And it seemed that all of the heavy breathing, burning lungs and legs were totally and completely worth it.
We weren’t dead last. Almost to the top.
We were making pretty decent time by the time we got to the nicer, more runnable part of the trail. We were surrounded by bright oranges, reds and greens. Oh fall. And we were moving at a nice steady clip. With about half a mile to go, Jackie and I decided to press on and make sure the gondola was still going to be there. We saw the volunteers and the finish line in front of us and crossed together. We went back down the trail a bit to cheer Tiffany in to the finish and then loaded up on the gondola for a sweet ride back down the mountain.
Wah. I’m too tired.
After the race, Amy, Casey and the 3 dogs were waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. We hastily checked into our room, unloaded the car, threw dry clothes on and then made our way to the pre race briefing and dinner. I was both starving and exhausted given I hadn’t slept more than two hours in the last couple of days. I was practically asleep on my giant plate of food and trying really hard not to look or sound too cranky. Other bloggers and familiar faces joined us like Pavement Runner, RunEMZ, & Craig and eventually I had to excuse myself for some puppy snuggles, a shower and SLEEP. Of course I ran into Jorge on my way out…and wished him well (like he would need it…). 😉
Day 1 unofficial watch time: 1:09.
Day 2 was going to be a beast and Casey and I were going to need all the SLEEP we could get…
Stay tuned for days 2 & 3….and as always…
Stay sweaty friends!