One aspect of racing ultra marathons that drives much of my motivation is the months-long anticipation, mental preparation and race strategy that comprises the lead-up to a goal race. To me, this has provided much needed motivation to make this sport sustainable for myself. Visualizing the journey and results of a season’s hard work is just as rewarding as the physical process of training and racing.
This race was different. This race was a celebration. I was healthy enough to toe the line three weeks after a very tough race, and I felt confident that I could run another strong 100k. There were no serious goals, other than running confident and enjoying the experience. I had gone through so much at Lost Soul and felt I was able to leverage what I learned and apply it while it was still fresh in my mind. Overall, I am very happy with how this turned out.
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the race organizers, as they offered me a spot in the sold out race. I sent them an email two weeks out from the race, explained how I had just moved to the Okanagan and thought it would be a great way to get a feel for the local trails. What better way than through some seriously uncomfortable fun…
I was so impressed with how well the race was organized, especially considering this was the inaugural year and how remote the course turned out to be. Course markings were plentiful when they were needed, but limited where they weren’t as important. This kept me on my toes throughout the race. The Mighty Quail was the toughest and most beautiful course under 100 miles I have ever ran. For anyone considering this race, it is not for first-timers. The cutoff times were quite aggressive to get everyone off the course by midnight (18 hours). For an average 100k ultra, 18 hours is reasonable, but when you throw in 4000 meters of climbing and some fairly technical trails, there’s not much room for error. The finish rate was about 60% and conditions were near-perfect. With the steep and technical climbs approaching 3000 meters within the first 20 miles, a year with poor conditions will undoubtedly break most runners well before the halfway point. Finishing this race is a HUGE accomplishment for even the most seasoned runner.
I’d also like to thank Shayne and my parents for coming down to crew me. This race was quite the change from Lost Soul’s many crew station stops along the way – I was only able to meet my crew a few times, and there was a 6-7 hour period in the middle of the day where I had to be self-sufficient – crewing wasn’t too involved, but still so important for a successful and enjoyable race. A runner’s crew always plays such an important role yet the interactions seem so fleeting. It’s hard to express the gratitude felt when you come into a transition after several hours on the course. And to be honest, the biggest support is not food or water, it’s having friends and family to remind you what it’s all about – providing the foundation needed to thoroughly enjoy and benefit from the experience.
I was initially planning on writing a full report on every stage and detail of my experience, but it didn’t seem appropriate for this race. After thinking about how the race unfolded, there’s a few main themes that dominated my time on the course.
Fitness will always be overshadowed by nutrition and hydration in races over 50km.
When you’ve been running for five to six hours in the mountains, and you haven’t even made it half way, it doesn’t matter how fit you are. Your perceived physical condition and mindset will be based on how you feel. For me, this race was about keeping on top of my fluids and calories to support my goal of enjoying the race. I have discovered that my body has been flushing potassium very quickly with very little symptoms until a very noticeable deficiency is present. This deficiency shows itself by a severe shortness of breath. I experienced this at Lost Soul, so I was ready for it this time. I was successful with keeping potassium in my system by popping extra electrolyte pills when needed and my mental and physical performance never came into question like it has in the past. I was positive and happy throughout the day.
How do I know potassium was the ticket and that I didn’t just have a good day? I had an IT band that locked up ten kilometers into the race… yep, one tenth of the way in and I very easily could have thrown in the towel right off the bat. I knew I was going to be dealing with a painful knee for a good 12 hours at least. Fortunately, I had the mental fortitude to not only push through, but enjoy the day because my nutrition and hydration was dialed-in. If my nutrition was out of balance, I would have had a much more difficult day that could have easily ended in dropping out or failing to meet the time cutoffs.
Discomfort is not an excuse for mediocrity.
Getting to a point of discomfort can seriously affect your mindset and perception of success. For me, this discomfort can become an easy excuse to not push myself, mentally or physically. This experience is self-inflicted; what gives me the right to use discomfort as an excuse to lower my bar of success? Physically breaking down throughout a day of racing is part of the experience. Acknowledge it, accept it, and move on.
You are not alone on this uncomfortable journey.
On top of an invaluable and supportive crew, I had the pleasure of running a considerable majority of this race with Andy Wight among a few other individuals along the way. We were all hurting at points through the course and I’d bet each and every one of us can pick out a handful of times where running as a group allowed us to finish stronger than if we ran alone.
One section that stood out to me was within the last 10 km of the race. Andy was setting the pace for a few kilometers which gave me some time to lock onto his pace and let my mind wander. Next thing I know, we are running at half the speed we were just moments ago as fatigue started taking over. After an entire day of running, your body and mind want nothing more than to curl up in a ball and sleep for an eternity. Fortunately, the time I spent locked onto Andy was enough to recharge my mental focus and I took off ahead of him. Sure enough, Andy was able to lock onto my pace and we dropped the next several kilometers swiftly. After some time following behind me, his mental strength came back just as mine had and conversations between the two of us started sprouting. At many points throughout this race, group running allowed us to become stronger than the sum of our individual selves.
Strength in groups requires strong individuals
About halfway through this race I realized the impact that my own personal strength can have on others, which in turn boosts my own personal success. I was having a great day, felt strong, and yet it seemed I found myself at many points wanting to run with people who were having a tough time. Andy and I were both running strong and positive, which seemed to be contagious. Seeing others bounce back from low points gave us even more energy to run stronger ourselves. This positive feedback loop was an enormous benefit and something I haven’t experienced as clearly in the past.
We are always looking for new sources of motivation for training, racing, and really for all struggles in everyday life. There is something to be said for becoming mentally and physically stronger not only for yourself, but for those moments where your strength may help someone else in need. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, running is a selfish sport. Incorporating some selflessness into our motivation and goals is always a welcome addition.
A few last thoughts on the race:
- The lack of detailed route information and last-minute route changes turned out to be a welcome aspect of the race. There was a certain allure to this that I found very attractive.
- This is NOT a beginner’s 100k. If you want a serious challenge, this is it. If you’ve got Fat Dog 120 on your mind, this is a GREAT physical and mental test to see if you’ve got what it takes to train for that beast of a course.
- Overall, I see this being a seriously popular race in the future. Great location, incredible scenery, AMAZING trails, and well-organized. Be a hipster and run this race before it’s cool.