This is not a how-to. There are a lot of people who have more experience, knowledge, and instructional sense in this particular arena. I’m not one of them. But if you want a glimpse into the potential ups, downs, and sideways of crewing, then by all means cross the yellow caution tape.
“How do you spell kung fu?” asked Marie. We were enjoying some down time before race day in our little rental house on the island. I spelled it out for her.
“Is that one word or two?”
“Two. Kung and eff you,” I replied. Cue ironically placed rimshot.
I usually reserve my acerbic wit for people I’ve spent way too much time with in outlandish situations. Meet Marie. I figured my flippant remark was a little payback for talking me into this little adventure after I survived the Squamish 50k back in August. The gales of uninhibited laughter that followed let me know I didn’t offend any tender sensibilities. We were here with Karen who was also part of the Squamish Conspiracy Group. She ran Orcas last year and was looking to find a little redemption of her own. If she’d asked me to spell out a word I’m sure I would’ve come up with something equally as caustic.
After I DNF’d Pine to Palm I did not want to do another race. The only thing left in my year related to running was the interminable wait to see if I got into the Boston Marathon. I didn’t. Once the dust settled from the two week long registration process the magic number was revealed. If you were 2:28 under your qualifying time you got in. I missed it by 28 seconds. Receiving the rejection letter two weeks after Pine to Palm felt like pouring salt on a still open wound. It was polite and encouraging but it also made me angry. It sugar-coated the only message it could give – you are too slow, get faster, try again next year. I would have preferred that rather than the paragraphs of words to soften the blow.
My finish line interview with Devon Yanko, the 2015 Javelina Jundred Women’s Champion and 2nd overall. Her 14:52:06 time broke the course record by 48 minutes and gave her the 3rd fastest women’s trail 100-mile time.
We talk about doing scary things, her remarkable rebound from a 30-mile rough patch, the wonders of coffee, and firing herself from the night shift at the bakery.
It’s Sunday and I’m at Louis’ Restaurant at Land’s End eating breakfast. It’s become something of a tradition for me to eat here the morning after a local ultra. I can’t sleep, can’t eat (or eat much) after a race so I’m usually wide awake at the crack of dawn and starving so I hobble the few blocks over. It’s nice to enjoy the ocean views when it’s quiet before the hordes of tourists descend on the area.
Pine to Palm is a trail race that traverses west to east through the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon. It starts in Williams, dips its toe into California then ends in Ashland. All told the course contains 20,000 feet of vertical gain going from below an altitude of 2,000 feet to above 7,000. Or as my friend Ace put it – big ups and big downs. The words rugged and beautiful are often used to describe the race. After Javelina I thought I was ready to step up to the next challenge. But it turns out I wasn’t. I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) Pine to Palm.
I knew going in that this particular event was way outside my comfort zone, a mountain point to point with long, sustained climbs and descents. I’m a terrible climber and I can train really hard to improve to be a bad one. On the other side of that, I’m a decent descender and that’s usually where I can make up ground. There’s nothing like choosing a race that emphasizes your weaknesses to instill fear into your heart. I remember telling my friend Noé that I was doing Pine to Palm and that it scared me.
“Good,” he said, “it should.”
The last time I was in Vancouver it was 2012 when I was running the SeaWheeze Half Marathon. While there I learned a trail race was going on at the same time just north of us in Squamish. I had driven through that part of coastal British Columbia several times, mostly on my way to Whistler, and it’s drop dead gorgeous. I really wanted to run that race one day.
It turns out that had been the inaugural running of the Squamish 50. It’s evolved over the years dropping the relays in favor of 23k, 50k, and 50 mile races. It’s also become a two-day event. The 50 mile is on Saturday and the 23k/50k is on Sunday. Those who want even more fun can sign up for the Squamish 50/50. One guess what that means.