Sunday, September 20, 2015


British Columbia, Canada, August 14, 2015

Ok, I've been really bad at not blogging, too busy with life but Fat Dog was a race worth chatting about.  So here it is a month later.

After not making Hardrock again, I searched all over for another fun race and somehow Fat Dog caught my attention.  A point to point run, just short of Everest for elevation gain, MOST scenic ultra race in Canada and on the top 9 toughest ultras list by Outside Online!!.  Now that's my kind of race!!

Why would you not want to run here??

So it must have been around February that I signed up for Fat Dog.  I talked my wife, Kristin, into running the 70 miler as she would be recovering from the VT100 just 4 weeks earlier.  Coming off a really busy year personally with very little racing, I hoped that this year I would more time to focus on racing.  But as it turned out this year has been just as busy.  And my training really started in April after running the Rollin Irish Half Marathon and getting a good reality check.  I probably set a personal worst time but more than that, it hurt so bad that I collapsed after the finish line and lied down on the side of the road trying to recover.  I got my butt handed to me that day!  But also knew I had some work ahead of me.

In early May, Kasie Enman literally dragged me down to run a 10 mile trail race on the Merrimack River.  Worst part was I had to get up at 3:00 am to meet Kasie to drive down morning of the race.  I was promised that I could sleep in the car on the way down, but that never happened.  So with only a few hours sleep, I managed to hurl myself on this 10 mile course and did it hurt!

Merrimack 10 miler

The following weekend was the the Sleepy Hollow 10k mountain run.  I ran it the previous year in the deep mud. This year proved to be much drier but still a lot of fun and a great workout.  Next up was the Vermont City Marathon.  I am and have been the pace team coordinator for the Vermont City Marathon for the past 4-5 years and never know if I have to pace it or can race it until minutes before the start.  With the good luck on my side, I was able to race it again.  Pulled off another sub 3 hour again but that margin is getting smaller each year as father time creeps on.

Vermont City Marathon

After that training consisted of Tuesday night weekly trail races at Catamount and once or twice weekly long runs on either Mt. Mansfield or Camel's Hump.  Coming into Fat Dog I was running 100-110+/- miles per week for 2 solid months and finally feeling pretty good.

So Kristin and I are busy packing up and getting ready for our 10:00 am flight the next morning to Vancouver. As I'm trying to print out the boarding passes after checking in, I get a special message from United stating our first flight has been cancelled!!  But they were nice enough to book us on a new flight a day later???  At that point I had enough and went for a run as Kristin took over to try to re-book our flights.  So instead of flying out at 10:00 am we had to fly out at 6:00 am in order to keep us on schedule.  And as usual it was chaotic at BTV.  We knew we were in trouble checking in our bags when the guy whipped out a sharpie and hand wrote our destination on the bag tags.  Then I got word as I was going through security that I had 10 seconds to get to the gate or I would miss the flight.  Shoes in hand, bags dragging behind I ran to make the flight.  Why it is so hard to fly these days??

Next flight out of LAG to Denver we had to run to catch the plane too but worst part was arriving in Vancouver and watching for our bags on the carousal.  Nothing!  We really didn't expect to see them and sure enough we didn't.  Luckily we had the most important items with us, race day shoes and shorts.  We can find the rest hopefully.  So off to the Lodge at Manning Park, the start finish of Fat Dog!

Incredible Views and Trails

Manning Park was awesome, sort of a mini Yosemite atmosphere out in the middle of the Cascade Mountains of BC.  Once we got checked in we were off for a quick run on some new trails.  We had no idea where we were going and got lost but still, we had a great time running under these enormous pine trees.  Next day we did some more exploring and found the start of the 70 mile race, which Kristin would be running, up a 8-9 mile road across from the Lodge.  We did drive up and found incredible trails along the ridge.

Kristin enjoying the views

Kristin was so excited looking at the views that she tripped on a rock and fell hard on the trail, luckily just some minor blood and bruising.

Crashed and burned but ok

After that we were back at the Lodge looking for our lost luggage and still no signs of any recovery or even knowing what country they might be in so we had to find a running store.  Not the easiest task out in the middle of nowhere.  But with a little luck we drove 90 minutes to Chilliwack and found a running store:)  We got most of what we needed there and then found a Dollar store for more goodies like drop bags and other odds and ends.  And then back to the Lodge to pack up drop bags as I had to have mine in order for the next morning.  Kristin had an extra day but still needed to get organized too.

Thursday morning I had to drop off my drop bags and we both decided to sign up for the research project which meant about an hour of "lab" work which included cognitive and other physical tests before the race.   The hard part would be to participate in these tests right after we crossed the finish line to compare results of these tests.  Then we had to drive up to Princeton for the pre-race briefing about an hour away which is where we would be catching the shuttle the next morning to the race start another hour+ away.   Being a point to point out in the middle of nowhere creates some scheduling challenges.

Next morning I found a ride to the start with Greg Veltkamp and his crew/pacer Joe so no need for the shuttle :) We drove over hill and dale and eventually found the start.  Saw some cool mountain sheep on the way.   A 10:00 am start is perfect in my book as I'm definitely not a morning person but it was warm, too warm.  And right at the start we began to climb and climb and then climb some more.  I was feeling good but had to back it down a bit as I knew I would be in trouble with the heat and cramping.  I was running in 20-25th place and had settled in to a good pace.  After about an hour I did my first electrolyte pill.  Aid stations in this race are spaced farther apart than in many other races so you had to be prepared for the longer spans.  I carried with me a 1.5 liter bag plus two 17 ounce bags of fluid.  That seemed to work well as I never ran out of fluid.  Aid stations were well stocked with food and gels too so plenty of ways to get calories in.  I was right on schedule coming into the Cathedral aid station.  Next up was Ashnola at mile 18, I was a little behind but not bad.  But after that coming into Trapper at mile 22, I was starting in with signs of cramping so had to back down and increase the electrolyte supplements  Cramping is something I have always had to deal with.  Some races I have no issues, others it drops me down hard.  I was hoping that the colder temps would be coming in to help and they did come in during the run to Calcite, the next aid station but intense cramping was already occurring as I crossed the summit of Flattop which stopped me dead on the trail probably 8-10 times.  And during that down time on Flattop the rains had kicked in along with hail, wind and lightning.  As I sat there totally locked up on the summit waiting to be struck by lightning I was thinking, this really isn't fun anymore and why am I up here and I'm so done!!  I was counting how long the thunder came after the lightning to see how close it really was and it was right there.
Fog and rain along Flattop

Finally another runner came by and asked if I needed any salt pills.  I said I had some but my hands were frozen and couldn't get to them.  He opened up his pill pouch and offered me some but still, my fingers couldn't grab anything so he put four pills in the palm of my hand, thank you!!  So over the next 15 minutes I managed to put down three electrolyte pills (I dropped one and couldn't get to it) which was enough to get me off of the summit and slowly moving downhill to the next aid station, at Calcite somewhere around mile 31.  This last section really took it's toll on me.  I went from being in 28th place to well over 100th place and losing some serious time.  Heading down to Calcite I knew I was in trouble, soaking wet and exposed to driving winds along the summit I was beyond shivering.  I started giving myself the self test for hypothermia.  Been there before and not a good place to be so I knew to check.  Well, the shivering had stopped which sometimes puts you in the later stages so I started to talk to myself out loud.  I tried to say my name but all that came out was some unrecognizable slur.  I was seriously slurring all my words.  Not good!!  I knew I had to get some warm clothes and warm up if I even thought about continuing after the next aid station and truthfully I was fully prepared to drop with every excuse in the book to justify it.  Still, it didn't sit right.  I once DNF'd at a 100 miler and felt like a slug and loser and didn't want to do that again.  But I also wanted to finish this race alive and not end up frozen in the woods somewhere.  Just before Calcite Joe Holland, a friend from the East came by and was looking good.  That helped me mentally wanting to move forward but still needed to get warm.  Once at Calcite I found a warm fire pit with a number of other runners who had already dropped and were trying to get warm before they had a ride out of there.  As I was attempting to warm up, another friend, Bogie, came in.  He saw me in trouble and offered me a dry fleece he had in a drop bag there to get me to the next aid station 10 miles away where I had a complete change of clothing and would run with me to make sure I got there OK.  That truly saved me.  I got warm dry clothes on, some warm food in me and off we went, slowly but moving forward.  After about 30 minutes I was able to speak fluidly again without slurring so I knew things were improving.  My earlier goals of  finishing in 30 hours or so now turned to just finishing and staying warm.

Bogie and I made it down to Pasayten, crossed the river which felt great and ended up at the Bonnevier aid station around mile 41 where I had my drop bag.  I gave my dry fleece back to Bogie and changed into my own dry clothes.  I also added a hefty bag to my wardrobe.  My rain coat was great back at UTMB in 2011 not so great at the TDG in 2013 and now was worthless as far as repelling rain.  So I added the custom plastic bag to wear under my rain coat.  I took my time getting warm and dry and eating as I knew there was a big climb coming and about 12 miles until the next aid station.  I continued to lose placement in the race but it just didn't matter at this point.  Survival and staying warm was priority as I still had 80 miles to go.

Back on the trail, warm and dry I was slowly feeling better.  Little by little I was passing runners heading up to the Heather aid station on the top of the next peak which would be another 4 hours away.  Nearing Heather we would be summiting another peak with full exposure to the elements once again.  Rain and fog continued so it was just miserable along this ridge.  Finally made it to Heather, mile 53, around 1:30 in the morning.  There was a rather primitive tent set up barely holding on with the high winds and rain.  Inside it was like a war zone with runners huddled under space blankets trying to stay warm.  Some had warm water bottles on them to keep their core warm.  And included was Joe Holland who was having some difficulties and was regrouping himself.  Despite all the challenges, the volunteers were truly amazing there, helping in any way possible.  My hands were frozen and of no use to me but a volunteer helped me get warm food, change into some other dry clothes, and put on my gloves for me.  And then sent me on my way with a warm Quesadilla to go.  Then it was supposed to be downhill to Nicomen Lake, mile 62 or so but it really wasn't downhill.  It was more like rolling terrain for most of it still in the exposed elements.  Along this stretch I came across Bogie who I hadn't seen since Bonnevier.  He was just cruising along.  Finally I dropped down and arrived at Nicomen Lake Aid Station around 4:30 am.    The rain and wind had let up.  There really wasn't much at this aid station on the side of the mountain but they did have tequila:)  They claimed no one had partook in the tequila yet but were looking for takers so I volunteered.  They do it at Hardrock, why not at Fat Dog.  So I started a new tradition at Fat Dog, they even got a picture of it but I haven't seen it yet.  So onward to Cayuse, another 11 miles away but mostly downhill.

I ran a lot of this section with Bogie, the rains had let up some and it was warming up as we were heading to lower elevations.  Everything was starting to feel better except daylight was starting and it made me more tired.  I needed food and drink.  Finally 3 hours later I rolled into Cayuse, mile 73.

Almost dried out, but not for long.

I had a drop bag there and took my sweet time changing and reorganizing as this was my last major stop until the finish.  I had one more small drop bag with an extra layer later at mile 99 but from here on in I had to be prepared for anything.  Bogie was telling me I could still get in under 36 hours for the "special" buckle and I just couldn't see it but was trying to calculate in my head when I might finish.  I kept thinking I still had 50 miles to go once we hit the next Cascades aid station but once I got there I realized it was only 42 miles and thought if I kicked it in, I might be able to be sub 36.  So after Cascades I put it in high gear and was running at sub marathon pace for quite a while.  That was great for a while, then the rains kicked in again and made running miserable again.  I was totally soaked and kept getting a burning sensation around my legs and couldn't figure out what it was.  The lower prickers with the rain on them made them rub against your shins and it was a constant burn for miles and miles.  There was just nothing you could do but grin and bear it.  So it was a long haul to mile 99 which was the last major aid station before the final summit up and over Skyline.  Just heading into the Skyline aid station I saw another friend Greg Veltkamp who had passed by me as I was warming up at Calcite 70 miles ago.  He was on his way to summit Skyline.  At the aid station I took my time as I was cold and wet and did a complete change of clothing putting on all the warm layers I had including the hefty bag.   Ate some good food and then was off to the next summit.  It was still raining when I left but shortly thereafter before the next climb, it finally ended.  Little by little I was peeling off layers as I was seriously overheating and didn't want another episode of cramping.  Within the next 30 minutes I was down to shorts and a t-shirt and feeling good climbing and climbing.

Rain finally stopped along Skyline.

I continued to pass other runners along the way.  By the next aid station at Camp Mowich, mile 107, I had caught up to Greg and his pacer Joe.  I really didn't know how much time we had to spare but was concerned about breaking 36 hours so moved ahead of Greg and Joe.  This last section had some of the steepest climbs of the race.  Weird thing was that I felt like I had been on these trails before but had never been to BC before.  At the pre-race meeting they mentioned that once you saw the burned trees you had a downhill to the finish.  Problem was we saw at least 4 sections of burned out trees with steep uphills in between so if you run this race, beware of the false burned out peaks, as there are more than one.

Finally it was time to go downhill and down and down you went all the way to Lightning Lake.  And darkness was starting to set in again so on with the headlamp.  At many points you could see the lake but kept switch-backing back and forth not getting there.  Then the headlamp started blinking, low battery.  Just get me to the finish!  Luckily with this new Petzl Nao I knew I had over an hour on low beam to get in.  And this headlamp got me through the entire first night and then this second night too on a rechargeable battery.  Sweet!!

And so it goes, I came in with time to spare under the 36 hours.  35 hours, 19 minutes and 47 seconds, 29th overall and first in my age group.  Not the race that I had hoped for but sometimes you have to change your goals mid race and just run for fun.

Bogie and Jack post race

And then back to the research project.  As runners crossed the line, the runners in the research project were called in to do experiments right after they crossed the finish line.  They did allow me to eat something as I was famished.  But still, I was exhausted after being up for nearly 40 hours and running 120 miles.  It was sort of comical as they gave me the cognitive tests.  I argued with the tester at one point telling him the computer was wrong and that I was right as I kept falling asleep while talking.  The other tests I did lying down and was sleeping for part of it.

Then I was back to check in at the Lodge at 1:00 am to get settled before returning to the finish line to cheer on Kristin who was finishing her 70 mile race.  And she had an incredible race!!

Kristin patiently waiting for the start of the 70 miler in the rain.

Overall this race was AWESOME.  The area is superb with outstanding views.  The mountains are big and steep so don't be surprised at all the climbing and descending.  Aid stations were incredible and volunteers, the best ever.  Just take the time to make sure your accommodations are in order as the logistics can be a bit challenging.  Put it on your bucket list of races!!

Jack, Joe, Greg and Kristin post race. No whiney babies here!

Why run this race??

The Prize !

And the Grand Prize, with tequila :)

Post Race

Equipment:  The Pearl Izumi Trail M2's were awesome.  Wore the same pair of shoes for 120 miles.  Did change my socks 5 times as they were filling up with mud and debris from the torrential rains.  Petzl NAO was the best for illuminating the night sky.  And Body Glide saved more than my butt running in rain for 24 hours.

Pearl Izumi Trail M2 v2 were awesome !!

Some days are better than others.  But in the end you have to be happy with yourself and do what you have to do.  As the shirt says, "suck it up whiney baby".