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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Squamish 50: Race Report

Aug 10 - 2013

I'm gonna jump right into this one . . .

5:30 am :
We're lined up at the start area and Gary Robbins is counting down to GO! except he forget the order of the numbers when counting backwards (which is hilarious). Somehow he gets to ONE and we're off!

That's me on the far left of the frame in blue throwing up the shakalaka

Darryl and I keep pace as Lucien gives us high fives!

Darryl and I set into a rhythm early on keeping a low six minute pace per kilometer in the beginning, which is perfect for the game plan I have set out. Speaking of which, here's my game plan (which aside from the actual arrival times, is very similar to Mike Murphy's):

1. Keep an easy effort until Quest (km 53) ETA 1:30
2. Walk the hills
3. Take it easy on the downhills (don't wreck the legs)
4. Once I get to Angry Midget, push with whatever is left
5. Eat, Drink and Be Merry all day!
6:15 am:

Darryl and I both take a pee break (not together, but at the same time - don't get all weird - it's trail running people).  Little did I know it would be the last time I would pee in the race. Not a good thing, since I normally pee a lot on runs and hate the time it eats up in doing so. Well, wish granted, consequences to come.

A girl comes out of the woods on the other side, and says, "Ed! It's me . . . Lisa!" Except she didn't say Lisa, she said Linda, and I'm thinking wow, she looks like Linda, but she said Lisa. Weird. We start to run together, and a dude named Pablo keeps pace with us for a bit. I ask Lisa if she's run the course, and she says, "Umm, yea, I was flagging yesterday . . ." and I very tactfully say, "Yea that's what I meant!" realizing that it is in fact Linda and not a doppelganger. These things happen when you wake up at 4am. Sorry Linda. Anyway, we have a great chat about life and love (she's engaged to Gary) and come into Aid Station #1 together.

Linda Barton (aka Lisa, aka soon to be Linda Robbins) and I
6:36 am: 

I'm feeling great. I'm running a steady pace with low effort with some great people. My wife and boys are there and I do a shoe change amidst some superb signs they made. Why a shoe change so quick? Well, I sprained my ankle five days prior and the North Face Ultra Glides are way better for flat running than my Salomon XT-5's. #strategy

Shoe change and my awesome kids

This is what's inside my left foot.
KT Tape for the win
A bunch of us leave Aid Station #1 together and we hit the Coho Trail heading into Debeck's hill. Gregan, from We Run Mas, had some fun signs up, but I have no pictures sadly. 
An odd thing happens and I catch myself before it turns against me: I have dropped Linda, Darryl and Pablo on the trail. This is not a good thing. They have all run multiple Ultras. I have run ZERO, but have done Ultra distance in training (read as: not the same thing). I pull back the effort and they catch up on the climb. #strategy

A whole gang of us reach the top together and we're ready to drop into the 1st descent. At this point, I have just a hand bottle and gels. Even when I'm taking it easy, I have a hard time going slowly downhill. Not because I'm being foolish, but I tend to roll my feet if I'm not moving with some sort of dance-like momentum. Linda lets me pass and reminds me to save my legs, which I always appreciate hearing from the pros. I catch up to Carolyn, and zip past her also. I'm sweating a lot. More than normal. First sign that something inside my body is malfunctioning. I've run harder and more aggressive than this, and I'm purposely keeping it mellow since 80k is a long way to go!

I feel fresh outside of the intense sweating. I run into Alice Lake. Aid Station #2 . .  . 18k complete

8:15 am:

Running into Alice Lake feeling GREAT!
The Aid Station is awesome and my boys have more signs.
I'm WAY to sweaty at this point. Hmm . . .

 Linda, Darryl, Carolyn and Pablo all converge as we take in some fuel. I grab my pack and ditch some weight, since I now have a sense of how much fuel the stations have. I also dump half my bladder sleeve to drop weight.

Dumping fuel. Carolyn surveys the buffet.

Mmm, food. Awesome stations by Gary and Geoff (RD's)
One of my goals was to not spend more time at Aid Stations than is necessary. I'm right on schedule according to my estimates, and then I see the pros all leave. Woah, let's get going!

Hey, wait for me . . . I'm a white belt at this sport!!
Carolyn and I run pace together along the lakeside and she mentions that she thinks her pace is going too quick. When we hit the road leading to Stump Lake, she pulls back and I'm loosely following the Linda, Darryl, Pablo team, plus a couple other runners, with Carolyn close behind. I see Emma Lee marshaling and we high five (she sadly had to drop last week due to a knee injury).

Stump lake section is good, and we hit the memorial trail. My HR monitor is bothering me. It's not actually the strap, my chest is tightening, I just don't know it yet. I fiddle with for a few kilometers to no avail. I keep taking in gels to stay on top of nutrition. We reach the switchbacks that head up to Corners (Aid Station #3). As we climb up, Carolyn passes me as I pull a hamstring cramp. Manageable, but I stretch it out to prevent it from getting rough. "One of many issues that'll happen today, " Carolyn says. Indeed.

9:15 am: 
I pull into Aid Station #3 and it's like a scene in a movie where the bay doors open and there's space ships and vehicles and service crew all over the place, It's got a ton of food: coke, drinks, gels, with drop bags organized in rows, photographers, support crews, volunteers and of course runners. I feel like a pilot on a mission as I wheel in. Carolyn offers some cramp relief and finds a trigger point in my leg which relaxes the hamstring cramp. She then takes off. I hope to catch up with her soon. It doesn't happen.
I eat some oranges, watermelon and drink up. Replenish the hand bottle. I feel like I'm doing everything right. Taking in salt, watching pace, basically running a smart race.

I thank the volunteers and tell 'em I'll see them after doing the Edith Lake Loop. Now for some reason, in any training run I've ever done on this particular trail, this loop hates me, no matter what distance I started at. Things weren't about to change.

Problem #1: I pull a calf cramp on the way into the loop.
Problem #2: I get bit by something, again! (deja vu from previous blog post)
Problem #3: I feel nauseous.

Life is about solutions so here goes:
Solution #1: Massage and stretch the calf. Take two salt pills.
Solution #2: Threaten the bugs
Solution #3: Drink water.

9:50 am: I run along the lakeside before the climb to Entrails and see my family for moral support and cheer squad goodness. Simone says Darryl and Carolyn just passed through maybe ten minutes. That's a good feeling. 

After some quick hugs, I head up the climb. That's when Problem #3 from above evolves into Disaster #3. I'm almost at the top of this short but reasonably steep climb when I lurch forward and start vomiting. Okay, I think. This is normal for Ultra running. It's getting warm, I'm hot and exerting energy, just clear the stomach and let it out. Nothing comes out but fluid. Two female runners come up the trail and ask how I'm doing. "Stomach I say . . . need a reset." They offer me some chewable salt tabs and I run with them for a bit. Not wanting to vomit on anyone's shoes, I let them get a bit ahead, stop and let go another round. I catch up to them just as we start to descend Entrails and once again I get in front and start skipping down the trail. Entrails is very precarious with some big steep drops, so I slide down them and jump and run the rest. I feel another one coming on . . . resist it and take a salt. Small sip of water. Keep descending. Almost there. I reach the bottom and I get that full body vomit sensation that radiates up from the legs. My salt friend gives me three more discs to carry for later, and they slip out of the trail and kick out onto the climb back to Aid Station #3 (we hit it twice for 50 milers).
Two more runners come up and pass me on this section. I feel myself struggling. Chest is tight. I think it's because of throwing up (it's not, but it's all I can think of), and loosen the Salomon pack straps to relive some pressure.
I monitor my heart rate and keep it sub 150 bpm on the climb back to Corners. I chat with a redheaded fireman from Alberta, but he's about ten feet taller than me and I can't keep his stride. I see him at Corner's and Scheisse approach later on.

I reach Aid Station #3 . . . kilometer 38 complete.

11:10 am: 

I'm about 20 minutes behind my ETA for this section, but that's survivable. I need to fuel. I know I lost some energy in my vomit sessions, so regaining that is key to the next session, which has a big climb (3000 feet) , a major descent, (10k of steep downhill) and then post Quest (Aid Station #5) another climb (2200 feet).

I take in watermelon, some sweets for sugar, and drink coke and water. Normally by this time I would have peed, and I am now conscious of the fact that I haven't. I'm perplexed why this is happening, as I've been smart with my run, understanding and accepting odd things can and do happen, but it's still odd. 

A photographer named Dave massages my right calf out, which relieves the cramping there. Thanks Dave! I grab some gels for the climb and leave after about a ten minute break. 

Off to Scheisse! I am overwhelmed. My chest hurts, I'm having troubles breathing, I am sweating profusely, my stomach is revolting, and everybody is being so damn nice! People are awesome, They genuinely care. Perfect strangers are massaging my leg and feeding me food. I send this text to my wife as I depart Corners. 

She is THE best!!
I have to get my mind off this curveball I've been thrown. Remember, the goal is to FINISH! I pop in the headphones, start my playlist and start to sob. No tears, just sobbing. 
I reach the Base of Scheisse. In I go. It starts to rain. For about two minutes. Darn, that would have felt great!

11:30 am:

Climbing this mountain is hard. I had a superb climb up it three weeks ago on a 34k training run, but today is different. I can't breathe. A half breath is all I've got. Standing upright causes my chest to seize. I'm reduced to a snail's pace. The ironic thing: my legs are fine. Sore, of course, I've just gone marathon distance, but fine. Functioning, responsive, minor but manageable cramps, arms are good, no headache. I just can't breathe. I try to eat. Vomit. That's  puke number five if you're keeping count.

I grab a stick and use it to keep me upright. Two runners pass. I lean against a tree with my arms and close my eyes. Another runner comes up. She's struggling, asks if I need anything. And carries on. Another runner comes up. I'm taking three steps, and then a breath. A stop, three steps, and then a breath. Stop. All the way to the top. Garmin reads 3200 feet. I take my heart rate monitor off. With my chest constricting, it's the last thing I need.

I run down to the water and start cooling off. Wet my hat, splash my shirt and shorts and carry on. 
Just before the descent starts, I take an Espresso Hammer gel. I keep it down! Awesome, maybe I'm coming out this slump.

1:00 PM:

I start down the hill. I stop to stretch the legs and there are flies everywhere! Keep running. They bite and they hurt.
I reach a corner and there's a photographer there! Cool. I rip off the hat, beam a big smile for the shot and turn the corner of the trail. Smile disappears. Down Powersmart I go, steady but slower than normal. My legs can carry me, that's not an issue. Cramping is not so bad. I just can't breathe and my heart is pounding. Three weeks ago I came down this section very fast with Charles Yuen (who is doing Fat Dog next week - go Charles!), and maintained an even 150 bpm. The thudding in my chest says that's not the case today.
Regardless I hoot and holler down the trail. Might as well have fun in agony.
I really wanted to reach Quest by 1:30 pm, but I know I'm off pace and slowing down. That's fine. Expected. Carry on.

I reach Aid Station #4  . . . kilometer 48.

1:15 PM:

There's a very fit looking runner there! Yes. I can run with someone to help me stay focused, I come in and ask how his race is going. He says it's rough and that he's beat up. I concur and despite the volunteer saying I look good, I feel like a bag of crap. I stand there and try to breathe. Drink water, eat a gel (only get part of it down),  and ask when he's planning on leaving. That's when he says he's not running: he's dropped for the day. My heart sinks. Shit, how am I going to run solo into Quest with this breathing issue. That's when Kelly and Eric arrive. They're a mountaineering couple, and are looking decent. I ask if I can run in with them to Quest, and we do so. Eric gives me some Honey Stingers Berry flavor (delicious!)
Kelly is a trail running cheerleader! She's yelling out words of encouragement as we traipse down the trail. I'm distracted by their stories, and let it just flow. On the flats and downs, I'm doing okay because the pace is steady and slow, so it doesn't burden breathing too much. 

Then we hit the last little climb and that's it. Vomit number 6. I know I'm done. Kelly and Eric disappear with a fading "Keep going Ed!". The sections to come are very familiar to me, including Garibaldi climb to Angry Midget (exposed, hot, and hard on a good day, let alone with no oxygen intake). Something is going on that I can't manage. I've never experienced this issue on any training runs at all. Breathing has always been a strength. I don't get side stitches. My posture is good. For some reason, despite all my efforts, something inside is out of sync and I have to play it smart so I can run another day. 

But there is one last hope . . . maybe if I just refuel and sit at Quest I'll be good. . . . 

2:05 PM:

I come into Quest. There's a small dirt slope just before the gates. That little "obstacle" takes me almost two minutes to get up. Let's do the math - 30 feet / 2 minutes = 15 feet a minute. This is not gonna happen.

I see the course marshall at the gate into Quest. "How's it going triple 7?" he yells out.
I can barely speak. I just shake my head. Apparently over the radio there was word of a runner with breathing and stomach issues. Well, that runner was me,

I climb the stairs to the Aid Station #5  . . . . kilometer 53.

Lucien looking worried. I'm moving zombie slow.
One of the volunteers is running over to me with a coke and a water in hand. Another is grabbing ice packs. They have chairs set up in the shade.
My wife and kids are looking at me and I shallowly squeak out I can't breath. 

I sit down. My wife, Sean, one of my running partners and close friends (and husband to Elaine Fung who rocked the 50k course), and the volunteers start providing assistance. I have ice under my arm pits, in between my legs, on my neck. I have food options, and drink options. I'm telling you, people are amazing when it comes to moments of duress.  

I look to my wife from the chair and say thats it. "I'm done. I can handle . . . everything else. Not breathing  . . .  is game over. " 

Medical is called. I'm in a car within fifteen minutes to Squamish hospital. A couple of hours later, it's over the St. Paul's via Ambulance with flashing lights. Four IV bags and a ton of blood and cardiac tests later and I am kept awake and tested on until Sunday morning. Looks like my kidney was failing, causing the heart to stress and breakdown, in turn causing the kidney to fail even more in a vicious cycle. 

Finally got home and had a chance to bathe, stretch, massage and rest by late Sunday morning. To be honest, I'm not sure what I could have done to prevent it. I welcome any and all suggestions or links or resources to help for next time. Post a comment below! I'll dedicate my next race to you.

Regardless, I will persevere. Do some more smaller, less intense races and push my hand at a couple of 50k's to develop some more distance skills. My legs and feet are standard sore having run 53 kilometers but other than the kidney/heart issues, I feel good today.

Like Charles Yuen messaged me on facebook, "You have done all the preparation you can for the race...some things are just out of your control. I will remind you to pack extra internal organs into your drop bag next time." 



  1. Love the write up Ed. I am in disbelief at what you accomplished. It truly blows me away. I have run just far enough to be able to comprehend what you have succeeded in doing over the last year. Staggering. I started running purely for fitness. It was your stories and the I Run Mas posts that got me thinking there must be something more to this, these people seem to think this is fun! I've kept at it and have found the passion you talk about. Thanks for sharing Ed. Keep on moving forward and I'll do the same!

    1. Hey Jerome,

      The journey has been and will continue to be the real reward. Of course, I would love to get an Ultra finisher's medal, so setting the path to the next goal is key.

      See you on a run my friend!

  2. Ed I am so proud to have had the chance to run with you. I know that you were not feeling up to par, but a trip to the hospital was not what I was expecting. You are amazing! Both Eric and I had a wonderful short run with you on Saturday and hope you feel better soon. It is a good thing they give you two kidneys!

    1. Hi Kelly,

      You and Eric literally saved me on Saturday. I can not thank you enough. You both should be very proud of your finish, and if you kept that strong energy up the whole way, then I'd love to bottle your spirit into an app and carry it with me on my next Ultra!

      I hope to see you guys on the trail, and if you're on facebook or twitter @eddyquik, look me up

  3. I can't understand it as I am sure you are wondering you got into a deficit so early on. As I recall, it was a bit cloudy and not exceptionally warm for the first few hours of the race. It reminded me of the other week. You were saying you never felt so hot in your life after that run. It was funny at the time but it probably wasn't.

    At those times of stress, I know that I start to make excuses or find some reason for the madness I am deep into. I also like to think I can walk it off or turn it around at some magic moment. I guess at times, it does happen. I like this part: "Just before the descent starts, I take an Espresso Hammer gel. I keep it down! Awesome, maybe I'm coming out this slump." Ed, your story is insightful and funny because this crap happens to all of us to a varying degree. We are all glad you came out of this one OK. Your next challenge awaits you. Mark Aug 8, 9 & 10 down on your calendar. Everyone knows you need a warm up and a cool down for a 50 miler.

    1. Hey Charles,

      It's perplexing to me also. After a few days, I think I need a mix of both salt caps AND more electrolytes in my fluid intake. At the very least it will help get the hydration into my blood stream where I need it and not sitting in my digestive system waiting to be puked out.

      With the profuse sweating and the lack of hydration leading to dehydration DESPITE drinking fluid are intertwined I think. I learned a lot and that will only help for next time.

      As far as warm up, I'll sign up for a few shorter trails runs (Enduro to Halfs) and a couple of 50k's to train for next year. I WOULD like to conquer this 50 mile distance at Squamish. It's like a Dragon waiting to be slain.

      Can't wait for our next run together and looking forward to see you push through and succeed at Fat Dog in a few days!

  4. Howdy friends and family,

    Just want to assure everyone that I'm all good post race. Dehydration was the crux of the problem (body wasn't absorbing what I was putting in). Saline and kidney flush got me up and running (pardon the pun) pretty quick. As of Tuesday night, I feel great. Legs, muscles and feet are all good. I have no blisters, or other physical issues going on at all. Breathing issues were brought on by the low kidney function and the heart having to work hard to compensate.

    I really did feel and was prepared for the full 50 mile (80k) distance, and basically had a curveball tossed my direction with the hydration disaster. Why do I feel I was well prepared? Because my physical recovery is great after having gone 53 kilometers. I'll be running this weekend. I have some smaller races set up from September to October (half marathons etc) and will tackle another Ultra distance in the beginning of 2014.

    Thank you for all your messages, posts, signs and cheerleading support before, during and after the Squamish 50 event. It was hard. I will slay the dragon . . . just need to sharpen my blade a little more.


  5. Thanks for the write-up Ed, and so sorry to hear about your day. No idea what went wrong for you, but I do know that it's probably a good idea to build up more slowly and give your body a larger chance to adjust to this crazy ultra running thing we do!

    Maybe start with an easier 50K? Like Baker Lake or Sun Mountain?

    Best of luck in whatever you decide to conquer next.


    1. Hi Solana,

      I definitely pushed the envelope on distance increase, especially being a noobie at the sport. At the time of registering for SQ50 I was (mildly) panicked with the development of my movement disorder, and felt that the window of time to accomplish something epic was potentially small as we had no idea on how quickly it was going to progress. We still don't, but I know running keeps the symptoms down, so that's a great reason to run a lot.

      Of course, as time has gone on, I feel that I have come to terms with those issues, and have a more moderate (relatively speaking) approach to the next few races in the next 12 month cycle.

      I have a half marathon, and the 5 Peaks Buntzen run for races coming up in September, and a few long runs thrown in (Hanes valley etc) for good times.
      Next year, I have Chuckanut 50k, Diez Vista 50k and Squamish again as bucket list, although I will likely register for the 50 kilometer course and attack the 50 mile distance of that race in 2015 after having some more experience at the shorter distances.
      I know I can do 50k, even in a state of crash and burn!

      Is there the hope to get 50 miles as my standard distance? For sure. Heck, even a hundo would be great in a few years, but you're totally right on a slower more adaptive build phase.

      Thanks for following the blog (yours rocks too) and I hope to see you on a finish line soon!!


  6. Glad you're feeling better, Ed!

    I'd highly recommend the book "Waterlogged" by Dr. Tim Noakes. He's done a lot of primary research on what happens to us when we compete in endurance events.

    Check out this article on which kinda introduces some of Noakes' work in "Waterlogged"

    Hope you continue feeling better and get out there for a great run on the weekend.


    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the Noakes links! I have listened to a couple of his podcasts, and follow him on twitter also, but have yet to read his book. Despite that, he's a large reason I went to water as the primary fluid versus an electrolyte mix, but I do obviously need some more work in that department!

      I also follow Phil Maffetone's methods for aerobic base training, which has shown great improvements in a short time for me personally, especially with inflammation prevention and energy useage, although I do miss my pasta!

      Thanks for following the blog, and hopefully, with continued progress, the arc will grow into raging successes! That's the plan anyway. :)