Diez Vista 50k
Running far is a humbling experience. A long race strips the runner down, leaving the runner exposed, vulnerable, and bare. I have ran farther and longer than Diez Vista 50k, yet the race was still an exposing experience.
I entered the Saturday race on tired legs. Diez Vista 50k was prep for a three day triathlon I was racing in August called Ultra520k Canada. On Thursday I swam 8,000 metres and cycled 100k. On Friday I cycled for five and a half hours, during which I froze my ass off descending from the snowstorm at the top of Cypress Bowl Road…I finished the ride on the indoor trainer. And Saturday was the 50k trail race which included a ton of rocks, mud, tree roots, and 1,800 metres of climbing.
At the start, my expectations were low. Family stress had been high in recent weeks. In part, I was just happy to be at the race. But still, my cocky attitude—that attitude that tells me I can do anything—came out. Winning was out of the question, but running sub 5:30 and finishing top ten was possible.
The race started.
The skies were dry as I ran around Sasamat Lake. I glanced down at my watch and saw that I was running at 4:15/km pace; it felt effortless.
On the climbs I ran; my steps were small, and I moved slightly quicker than a walking pace. The effort on the climbs was comfortable. I planned to start conservative and finish strong.
At the Diez Vista Ridge I powered up the technical terrain, and even ran a few uphill sections. The race was young and I was gaining on the runners ahead of me.
At the view point, I avoided looking at Indian Arm; I was focused, in the zone, intent on racing.
On the descent I glided; the pace still felt effortless. I passed another runner and decided to push the pace. The trail was covered with wet rocks and hazardous tree roots…oh, and the mud! The faster I finished this section, the better.
Moments later, my quads felt tight. Common sense failed and I continued my fast pace. My ego had taken over and it wanted to stay ahead of the runners I had passed.
At the bottom of the descent, my stride was short and awkward. I ran across the bridge that spanned Buntzen Lake. I turned left up the gravel service road that lead to the second aid station.
I was way ahead of schedule, but my legs hurt. The gravel road was easy yet I struggled. At the turnaround, my pace slowed. My reality was settling in. Despite all best intentions, I had started too quick; I was 15k into the race and had 35 more to go.
I entered a funk. I was mad at myself for starting too fast. I was angered at my subpar fitness. I had been training steady since the middle of October, yet here I was in April getting my ass handed to me. It was humbling to suffer, to feel pain. Testing my limits knocked me back a peg. My cocky attitude washed away, leaving a petulant child in its place.
I thought of Ultra520k Canada, and what running a double marathon after two full days of racing would feel like. Would it feel better or worse, harder or easier than what I am experiencing now? I wondered. My brain was distracted; I was imagining a hard situation (Ultra520k Canada), while absorbing an already challenging scenario (Diez Vista 50k). This makes no sense as I was making the race harder than it needed to be. The present is the only reality. But in the heat of the moment, clear thinking fails.
At 23k I saw my lone crew member: my mom. We changed my shirt and shoved a full bag of dates into my running belt I left, still in a funk.
At 33k I saw my mom again. I had instructed her to have a water bottle ready for me, but she forgot. I handed my empty one to the aid station volunteer. My mom’s forgetfulness had cost me thirty seconds, but at this juncture, it was pointless. I was not running to race, but running to finish. I left, irritated, and still, in a funk.
Three and a half hours into the race, the funk finally lifted. I shifted my thoughts away from the outward result, and instead thought of inward positivity. I was grateful to be in the race, and to be fit enough to run 50k. I gave words of encouragement to the racers I saw running opposite to me, as well as to those who caught me. “Way to go boss,” “Stay strong,” and “100 kilometres, yahoo!” became my favourite things to say. In short, I got my head out my own ass, took myself less seriously, and made the race about others.
I began the final climb of the day. My legs hurt and I wanted to be done; it is amazing how far six kilometres feels when you have already run 44. I tried to push it on the climb, but I was not on the pain train, but in gratitude land. Maybe I was making excuses, but I had enjoyed the last hour of the race and it seemed a shame to waste it by beating myself into a pulp.
I reached the top of the climb and began the descent. The trail cascaded with water and was littered with rocks. I splashed and stomped like an uncoordinated Sasquatch.
At the shores of Sasamat Lake I hung a right and ran toward the finish. Seeing the black finishing arch was a relief. The race announcer commented on the awesomeness of my flow. I pulled off my buff and did a hair swirl as I crossed the line.
Diez Vista 50k was exposing. Underneath my competitive, cocky attitude, is a spoiled child who wines when things go poor. Underneath the child is (regrettably) an asshole. And underneath the asshole is a man who is grateful. What is beyond that? I am unsure. But that is one of the reasons why I keep running far.