Winning the Squamish 50/50

How did she know she could take 5 hours off her previous time?
— Alot of people

I didn’t know, but that was kind of the point.

End blog.

;)


All season I told myself not to hold back on the goals I set, or from believing in myself while I run and race. I told myself it is time to do something surprising. Something I am not sure about. On the weekend of Squamish 50/50 I was aiming to do that by finishing with a time that was faster than the prior course record, regardless of whether my time was the new course record or not and regardless of where that put me as a finisher in the race. 

Up until the race I hadn’t told that many people about my goal of challenging the Women’s course record for the Squamish 50/50, so I had only received a handful of questions around it.

Only a few people asked how it compared to my time from 2017, to which I quietly replied, oh...it’s 5 hours faster. 

I saw that this question about 5 hours popped up a lot when I skimmed through the interactions from my interview on Ginger Runner Live and so I wanted to elaborate on the answer. 

I truly didn’t know, but I used evidence from more recent experiences and a whole lot of belief in myself and my training to try and find out. 

MAKING THE GOAL

Back in November when I registered, I knew I was going back for my second 50/50 and wanted it to be my goal race for the year. I felt that a time based goal was more motivating  to me than anything else, apart from, of course, finishing the race and getting my second finish Green hat. It was then that I decided I would aim for the course record, held by Kaytlyn Gerbin.  

I took note of the times from each day and knew I had raced those times before in individual races, so perhaps I could put them together in back-to-back days on the rather relentless Squamish course. Why not?

THE RACES
Squamish 50/50: This event involves completing the 50 mile on Saturday followed by the 50 km Sunday. Racers can register for the 50/50 or they can also choose to do 1 of the individual events. There is also a 23 km race option on the Sunday. 

DAY 1, Saturday, August 17th 2019

50 miles |  3,350 meters gain 

I went to the start line nice and early, about 45 minutes prior to race start. I did a 10 minute warm up, jogging out down the first stretch of the course. Flat, pavement. 

Gear prepped for day 1.  Photo by Matt Bolam

Gear prepped for day 1.

Photo by Matt Bolam

Gary Robbins, gave the pre-race briefing and somehow, just like that, we were off. The start to 130 km over 2 days and some serious elevation. Something I find incredibly funny is to look at my watch right around the 1 km mark and say (in my head of course) 129 km to go! I do this in almost every race, regardless of the distance, we have to be able to laugh a little and if it doesn’t happen in the first kilometer well...you might miss your chance! 

I started off with the rule of not going too fast in the first, flat 10 km, or in the first 20 km even. I held back, chilled, chatted and arrived at Alice lake a few minutes behind my proposed time but a minute ahead of course record. I was happy and ready to carry on. 

I cruised through sections of familiar trail which eventually led to Galactic Shiesse - the trail of course. I had given myself 1 hour to complete this section and I was realizing though I was moving with as much effort as I wanted to given the distance and second day to come, I was off in how long certain sections would take. My pace on my watch was showing my times faster than I remember (from stalking Strava) seeing on Kaytlyn’s, but I wasn’t getting to places exactly on my predicted time. I let it be. 

I knew my strengths on this course and the sections I ran numerous times over summer were still ahead. 

After halfway, I allowed myself to do what I believed to be right for this point in the race. Run everything. Not full steam ahead, just steady, strong, positive uphill and downhill running. “Cruisy running” I’ll call it. I noticed I was catching people, a lot. I thought I was in 2nd or 3rd for women in the 50/50 and with about 15 km to go I was informed that I was in 3rd for women - in the 50 mile race and 1st for women in the 50/50. There was one 50/50 male ahead, who I caught right at the top of Bonsai, again an area I practiced many times. So we ran together right through to Farside. At Farside (the final aid station with 11 km to the finish line and the punchy Mt Phlegm again) myself and the 2nd place female (Catrin Jones) left at a similar time. I took off a little, staying calm but running strong with the goal of getting out of her sight, hoping to avoid over doing it on day 1 with chasing each other in the final kilometers. Thanks to the winding trails I was able to do so within the first few kilometers on this section. I knew Jeanelle Hazlett had taken the win, with all of her training and dedication to this race (her first 50miler) I was already thinking about how big her smile would be at the finish! 

From there, it was an exciting cruise to the finish. All the while, thinking to myself, whatever you ran up today, you are running again tomorrow. Finding self belief that day 2 would feel smooth and strong like day 2. 

Picture by Brice Ferre

Picture by Brice Ferre

While running out of sight from Catrin, I also managed to create some space and pull ahead of the 2nd place 50/50 finisher (1st place male). I held strong on the road, following my plan of hitting the same pace I ran at the start of the race, with a few shoulder checks to see if today would be a push to the finish...but that would come soon enough.

Day 1: 20 mins ahead of course record 

Time: 9:28:15 

1st overall in the 50/50 

2nd place female in the 50 mile 

Photo by Matt Bolam  50mi women’s podium with Jeanelle Hazlett (1st, middle), Myself (2nd, right) and Catrin Jones (3rd, left)

Photo by Matt Bolam

50mi women’s podium with Jeanelle Hazlett (1st, middle), Myself (2nd, right) and Catrin Jones (3rd, left)

DAY 2, Sunday, August 18th 2019

50km |  2,500meters

Starting that hydration early on day 2  Photo by Matt Bolam

Starting that hydration early on day 2

Photo by Matt Bolam

Sunday morning at the start line I was nervous. If today didn’t go well or as planned, yesterday didn’t matter at all.

What if I had over done it? What if something came up that caused me to walk it out for too long, or entirely? 

The mind will create ridiculous scenarios, my mind is very creative. I told myself that shaking at the start line was a waste of energy, and that I knew what I was doing.  I felt good, I was walking normally, and I was excited to get out on course. 

The start took off like day 1, gentle and allowing my legs to shake out a little of day one. We were hitting the climbs soon and I was aiming to hit the same pace as in the 50mile. 

Today quite a few of the 50/50 men were running near or with me during the first half of the day. I was somewhat surprised, because I hadn’t seen them much in day 1 and maybe I had assumed day 2 would be slower for most people. The men were ready for day 2 and pushing for a quicker pace on the 50km. Awesome! 

There were 3 of us (the 3rd and 4th place finishers from day 1) running together up until Quest. Thanks to my amazing crew I was able to do a quick pack swap and head right out. I didn’t see either of the men again. 

Throughout the second half I knew what I was aiming to do, run. Run the same climbs I did the day before, cruise the downhills, and see what happens. My main focus apart from proper fuelling was running smart. It is amazing on trail how a fall, a toe stub, or poor fuelling can change your race almost in an instant. Avoiding these mistakes was my main priority. 

With 15km to go I was feeling strong. I again had no idea where I was in the 50km race but knew I was holding the front spot for the 50/50. I reassured myself that if I ran smart and had some fun the time I was hoping for would show up. 6:51 was the goal, this would be 20 minutes ahead of CR using the time I had gained in day 1. 

Somewhere just after climb trail I caught one of the women in the 50km who told me I was maybe a spot or 2 off of third. Again, my reaction the same as day 1...I don’t think so, but thanks! I don’t think she was uncertain at all, it just didn’t make sense to me and I was so stuck on my goal of the time, not chasing anyone else down. 

Well Farside came again, it was here that I found out I was in fact just shy of the 3rd and 4th place females. “Do you want to know the gaps” - Kyle C. one of the great volunteers asked, “Nope, I’m just doing my thing.” - I replied. I am so appreciative that he asked because I truly didn’t want to know. I was looking to push myself to run the same sections I had Saturday and finish strong and on pace, not looking to mess that up or burn out too soon chasing someone down. 

I caught the 4th place female about half way through this section with roughly 6 or so kilometers to go. As I started the push up Mt. Phlegm, the 3rd place female was right insight. For the first time in the race I told myself, just go, push it to the top. This is literally the last hill (ok, except those 10 stairs after the descent..ya you know the ones!). I used all that great second person self talk stuff, “You’ve got this girl, Go Go, You’re unstoppable”. Again, silently in my head of course. I passed her and repeated the strategy from day 1, run out of sight..but smart and strong because this final downhill is technical as shit. 

Along the road I cruised, aiming for a sustainable pace, which ended up being right around day one’s pace. With just over a kilometer to go I saw the second place female (it was Hailey Vandyk) . Holy crap. I knew in the distance we had left and with her pace I was not going to catch her, but we sure had a fun chase down. Waving to each other when she looked back and then pushing ourselves right across that finish line. 

When I saw Hailey, it also dawned on me that I now knew for sure that it was Tara Holland, another great friend, who had won. The pure joy in realizing it was these 2 ahead was more than I could have imagined. We would share that podium and wow, that was not something I had even dreamed to be apart of!

Photo by Hilary Matheson  Hugging first place finisher, Tara Holland and right second place finisher Hailey Vandyk.

Photo by Hilary Matheson

Hugging first place finisher, Tara Holland and right second place finisher Hailey Vandyk.


Day 2: 

Time: 6:32:18

50/50 1st overall, new course record by 40 minutes

50km: 3rd place female 

Photo by Matt Bolam  The 50/50 Women’s Podium, Myself (1st, middle, Kristin Hansen (2nd right), Lauren Head (3rd, left).

Photo by Matt Bolam

The 50/50 Women’s Podium, Myself (1st, middle, Kristin Hansen (2nd right), Lauren Head (3rd, left).

50/50 Result:  

130km | 5, 850 meters gained

Time: 16:00:33

Something beyond my goals happened out there. 

Fuelling and recovery had been practiced and was effective when I needed it. Running that was strong and a mind that was positive, this too was just as practiced as the fuelling and recovery. Effort that came with a quiet mind and calm deep breaths. Crew and friends that supported me with the same passion I felt towards this goal. Love for the trail community that I find in every place I race. 

Setting a new course record with 40 minutes taken off,  standing on 3 podiums with an overall win in the 50/50...that’s a surprise I don’t think anyone was really watching for. 

Maybe it’s that lesson again that what we worry about isn’t what will happen, and that if you set goals big enough that a lot of people question them, maybe you’ll do all sorts of other surprising stuff along the way? 

Looking for more on this race?

Check out a few write ups from Canadian trail running magazine:
Tips and Strategies from my race - here
Day 1 recap - here

Day 2 recap- here