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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2022
    Posts
    121

    Race report; WAM 2022, my first 100-miler

    sorry for another report not about skiing. given WAM is no more thought id share my experience running it in 2022 AND it took place at a ski hill so...ya know...

    Tale of the tape: 161km, 9050m vert, 46ish hours

    I wanted to attempt a 100 miler for the same reason folks want to become astronauts: so they can hold it over their friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. In retrospect, with this in mind, there are likely easier races. But this one is close to home and I like the challenge of logging all that vert in one push. So three years ago I signed up for the WAM 100 miler. And after a few COVID delays, on the morning of Friday September 9, 2022, I find myself shivering at the start line because I checked my drop bag with my jacket in it too early.

    Starts of events like these are my least favourite part. It’s crowded. People are much too jazzed. I have just a bit too much time to think of all the ways I should have been better prepared. The gun goes off and I secure myself mid pack at a pace I can almost certainly not maintain. For every person I pass I think to myself, “Wow, you should’ve come better prepared friend.” And on the flip side, for every person asking if they can “float by” I think to myself “Okay but you’re for sure going to blow up.” The correct pace is right here, folks! Don’t you know that?

    In order to make this race mentally manageable for me, I divided it into three sections: the first two climbs of Blackcomb and Whistler, the odd meandering middle bit, and the second round of summits of Blackcomb and Whistler. I feel confident in the vert and so the first and second summit rounds don’t worry me, but I already know that middle chunk will be the most difficult part. As my goal is just to make sure I finish, the plan is to climb confidently, nurse any downhills, and suffer through the middle bit over night. If I am able to get through that middle bit, although two summits lay ahead, they seem doable on tired legs.

    As we make our way up Blackcomb for the first time, I enjoy catching tid bits of all the conversations happening around me and repeating them in a judgy tone in my head.

    “The first 20 miles can really make or break your Western States”
    “It’s actually better to have a little flick of the wrist as you bring your pole back”
    “…I hear what you’re saying but actually that’s what people don’t understand about crypto…”

    With that said, out on course I try to be quite chatty as this is a nice distraction for me. I sidle up to a few folks to try and spark some conversation and this is successful. Up and down Blackcomb go off without a hitch and 30km in I’m feeling fresh. From here it’s 20km up to the top of Whistler via Singing Pass, a trail that though I’ve been on many times, I don’t think I have a happy memory of. But I latch onto someone else that seems to be going around my pace and she drags me up singing pass before taking off. I search for my next victim. I find two and this is enough to get me to the top of Whistler. One big descent and it’s on to that ‘meandering middle bit’.

    I will caveat this by saying, though I had a general sense of going up and down both Whistler and Blackcomb, I had not looked at this middle bit in detail. But it’s around 50km and I’m confident I can suffer through it. One thing about this course is it seems the organizer took every opportunity to make it more difficult or challenging. “Why would we only go to the top of Blackcomb and back when we can add in hilly loops over dusty choss?” “Yes I’m sure that descent goes smoothly and directly, but over here is one that is less direct and more challenging”.

    As I head into the middle section, night falls. I have collected one schlub that mentions he might DNF. This is annoying because he is way fitter than me and if he DNFs it means I will almost certainly also be DNFing. So I say let’s hang out. As we both tread into the darkness, we start seeing people in the race coming back the other way (meaning they’ve reached the end and have turned around since the entire course is an out-and-back). My watch distance is not functioning so I only have elevation to go by, but from what I remember, I think it’s a quick out and back here. When someone recognizes me and stops to say ‘Hi’, I ask how far this next aid station is. In the most polite way possible, he says “It’s a little bit still.” But his face said “Lol omg dude you have no idea”. His face was right, I had no idea. This next aid station would mark the halfway point so that would be a big win. It was about 9pm when I ran into Ross, and I would not make it back to this point again until 630am the next day.

    I suffer by headlamp as I make my way up, down, up, up, up. I did not catch this climb in the profile. “Wait, if we’re going up and over it, does that mean we have to come back up it?” I’m starting to realize how far away from the aid station I am. As soon as it got dark, my gait slowed to a hike, and this is all I can manage on this terrain. I’m starting to feel the hurt. I’m playing the game where I’m trying to decide what part of my body hurts the most. I think it’s my calves, except for every time I stub my toe…in those cases it’s definitely my toes (at the time of writing this the day after the race, my three middle toes are still numb). But on the plus side, no cramping; I’ve been taking in food and fluids consistently every 45 minutes. This is sustainable, I’m just hitting a low and I need to keep moving. So I do. Very. Very. Slowly.

    Eventually, after much up and down and up and up, and a meandering fire road that never seemed to end (not the only instance of this), I see glow sticks and the aid station. My achilles and calves are cooked, I’m limping, I’m groaning, and I have a ways to go. As I reach the aid station, I overhear the crew say “The out-and-back is this way”. Ummm…the what? “Oh yeah, so it’s 5km out, then there’s a climb at the end, and then you come back here.” The anger I have is unreasonable. It really shouldn’t matter if there’s an out-and-back, I’m running a 100 miles and have to get the distance somehow. But in the moment I’m incensed and demoralized. I look at my watch and everyone at the aid station consoles each other by mentioning how far ahead of the cut-offs we are. That’s great and all but that doesn’t change me having to death march this effing out-and-back at 2 EFFING AM. Quesedillas and miso soup curb my ire. I give myself a time limit and on schedule, take off for my low point of the race.

    I am walking, so incredibly slow. “Now that I think about it, this is a great time to do some math. If I keep this death march at this pace…hmmm…okay so that’s like….yeah I’ll be back at the aid station in three hours. That’s not bad right? Totally doable.” It’s bad. This is bad. My body is still moving forward but I cannot picture a world where I cross the finish line. This out-and-back has it all, fire road, steep boulder climb, freezing breeze coming off the river. I have been alone for a few hours at this point. I continue to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I’ll throw my leg on a rock in preparation to step up but instead just pause there for five seconds, staring at my shoe. I try to pass some of the time with my emergency headphones. This is unsuccessful. Woe is me, woe is me.


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2022
    Posts
    121
    Slowly but surely, hour by hour, I continue on and eventually, make it back to where I started (yay…). It really feels like I am at the back of the race. There are only one or two other runners at aid stations but one upside of this is getting a lot of attention from the crew. This was the first time in the race I completely relied on being catered to by the awesome crew and it’s a theme that would continue for the rest of the race. I try to not act like a diva by employing the ‘please’ sandwich but they see through me. “Please could I get water in this one, electrolytes in this one, a cup of miso soup, another cup of coke, a quesadilla, another quesadilla and four gels please?”

    At this point it has been 90km and there are a few hours until sunrise, but any chance of me running another step this race is very improbable. I am resigned to hiking it in. Not a huge deal given the two climbs that await, but there is a 20km descent between Whistler peak and the base of Blackcomb that I could knock out fresh in two hours but will likely take me five in my current state. I catch myself thinking too far ahead as I still have a winding, uphill 15km to the base of Whistler at which point the hard unknown will be over and I can concentrate on hard known. I set into a steady rhythm and start making my way. At this point, I am on the return trip so most of the terrain should be familiar (it isn’t).

    The hike up to Whistler base is uneventful as I rip through the ‘Blowback’ podcast. I am still not feeling great but definitely out of the rut. With that behind me, I can focus on what I have more experience doing: trudging uphill. Though my hiking muscles are twinging in ways they have never twinged before and my achilles are worked, getting into the uphill I start feeling good again. I’m not allowed to completely zone out at this point because the Whistler bike park is now open and every few minutes I feel the ground shake and have to step off to the side to allow a herd to pass. The top of Whistler was getting baked, but I still have not (and would not) worked off the chill I got Friday night so the heat was plenty fine for me.

    At the top, I know what awaits. A long meandering downhill. I stock up on food. There are a lot more people at the aid stations now with the 100km racers coming through and it’s great to be able to distract myself by asking how their races are going while also subtly asserting my authority with my red bib. What I forgot was that a dusty up down, up down, up down, over the musical bumps awaited me prior to singing pass. Even with this, I have a disconcerting amount of energy from the schadenfreude of seeing the 100km racers suffer up to Whistler peak from the other side. This gets me to singing pass where I can once again put in the headphones and start the hike downhill. This is miserable and goes on far too long. I think every corner is the last one. Along the way another racer catches up to me and drags me to the next aid station. I tried to jog bits but my calves are screaming at me each time I do. No point in pushing it. I just need to hike up, around and down of Blackcomb! I submit to the remainder of the hike and make my way down to the aid station at around 830pm as I can hear the Saturday night party begin in the village. I feel strongly the people there have made a better decision on what to do with their Saturday nights.

    I am able to psych myself up at this aid station. One big uphill of 1000m, one 700m climb and loop around the lake, and then a big descent back and it’s over. I think it’s going to happen. I start to get excited. The racer that helped me down singing pass offers me a redbull and I absolutely accept. At this point, I want to take in as many calories as I can and then get on the Blackcomb ascent route. I know progress will be slow but I have 5 episodes of this podcast series left and I figure this climb will take me three and I will stop to eat and drink after each one. Progress is even slower than I imagine and my legs refuse to turn over. I get passed by (what I thought were) the last three racers. I tell myself I’m on pace to finish and that’s what matters. As we get higher and higher, my pace quickens and I start to feel really good. Maybe it’s the redbull?

    I pop out on a fire road between the ascent trail and 7th Heaven chairlift and I feel born again. Two course marshalls are there to tell me the aid station is just 1km down the road. They were wrong, but it didn’t matter at this point, I’m power hiking the uphills and able to run everything else. I’m surprised I have this in me at this point but I make it to the next aid station. All that stands between me and the finish now is 14km with 700m of uphill and 1700m of downhill with plenty of time to spare before cut-off (or so I thought). I am able to knock off the 500m of ascent at a pace similar to that of when I started the race. But as I reach the start of the 3.5km loop at the top of Blackcomb, my friendly fellow racers inform me that the loop is absolutely terrible and demoralizing. This information in and of itself is demoralizing but I’m looking at my watch and there is a maximum of 500m of uphill left in the race. Time to empty the tank.

    I give’er up this hill and reach the top fairly quickly. The down however is another story. Dark, rocky, dusty, a bit loose. This is no fun at all. I am relegated back to a slow stroll. Looking at my watch though, still plenty of time to finish. It takes me about three hours to complete this loop. But back at the start of this loop, I have less than 10km left in this race. I am told to go up this 70m climb before the route traverses back over to the rendevouz lodge for the final descent. This information is incorrect. The return route instead goes up about 200m over 4km before descending back down (through the ascent trail) to the lodge. At this point, I know I’m going to finish but that doesn’t make this suck any less. I have one episode of the podcast left and enough phone battery to carry me to the finish.

    Coming down the ascent trail sucks as expected. But I make it back to the final fire road. Six kilometres and 1200m of descent between me and the finish. Twenty four hours ago I was in a very deep rut and now I weirdly feel great (horses to the barn). I’m able to slowly jog the downhill without issue. I change over what’s in my headphones to the final descent playlist and as Born Slippy blares through my headphones, I’m able to turn into (what feels like) a full gallop down the hill. I keep the energy high until the final arrows that say ‘FINISH’ and as I go up one final unnecessary hill and down another steep, slippery ascent trail, instead of elation I’m mostly proud of having pushed through. I cross the line, get a hug from the race organizer, get my belt buckle and take a seat. I’ve been awake since Friday now and feel like I’m in a bit of a daze. So stoked to have finished. The course was full on and exactly what I wanted. And I will never do another 100 miler.


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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    11,194
    Amazing! Do you have a pic of the route? (Couldn’t find one online - perhaps they’ve wiped it off the net given the current situation). Sounds like you had the full spectrum of emotions out there. Great write up and great job finishing that!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    SF & the Ho
    Posts
    9,364

    Race report; WAM 2022, my first 100-miler

    Congrats! That was a true sufferfest and a great TR. I was rooting for you while reading and dreading you might come up short. Your writing really captured the scene. Well done

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2022
    Posts
    121
    cheers folks! appreciate you takin the time to read. route pic below.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    London Mountain
    Posts
    1,160
    Great TR! Thanks for sharing
    This sits firmly in the category of things that I will most certainly never do. Sounds fucking miserable.
    Congrats though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    PNW
    Posts
    526
    Fucking Rad. I've never so much as run an organized marathon, but as a trail runner I can't help but think I should do a 100 miler. I'm not sure if this report has helped me decide I should do it or never do it, but it was a fun read regardless.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    11,194
    The function junction out and back zone did appear to have some soul crushing gratuitous elevation! Impressive route for sure.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    The Dirty South
    Posts
    227
    Way to go! Sounds terrible, in all the right ways. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

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