In mid-March, when the threat of “the virus” hit Canada and the United States, public gatherings and events were cancelled in droves. In the sports world, it began with the professional leagues — NBA, NHL and so on — eventually trickling down to smaller events like trail and ultra races. Many of us in the ultra world were eager to follow The Barkley Marathons, a March staple that never fails to add to the lore of endurance running. Sometimes these are of stories of success, but more often than not, they are stories of spectacular failure.
“What are you doing to us, Gary!?” These were the first words that left my mouth as I crossed the finish line. “We’re just making you stronger, one race at a time,” Gary replied as I accepted his congratulatory hug. 17 hours and 43 minutes earlier I’d set off in the middle of the night, along with 100 or so others, on the second annual running of Gary Robbin’s 110km mountain race in Whistler, BC. This was my longest pure race to date and by far the most challenging.
It was still raining when we woke up. Ella had slept in her tent and came to knock on the door of the van. It was around 8am. In two hours, the Outrun Backyard Ultra was going to begin. I’d slept terribly, not quite sure if I’d actually been sleeping or just lying there. We made some coffee and ate some breakfast and then prepared for the start of the race. I was wearing rain pants, a rain jacket, a garbage bag over my torso, and a wide brim hat to keep the rain out of my face. The trash bag was Ella’s idea. We called ourselves “Team Trash ‘n’ Dash”.
I was bit by the ultramarathon bug in 2014, and ever since I’ve wondered what it would be like to run 100 miles. Like many others, my gateway into the world of ultras was the book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. The book is an exciting exploration of human endurance featuring the Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico known for their extraordinary running ability, a mysterious American man named “Caballo Blanco” who would disappear into the canyons of Central America for months at a time, and many other ultramarathon legends like Scott Jurek and Ann Trason.
I’ve long resisted writing about my travels and adventures. One of the primary reasons has been the burden of starting something (fun!) and having to maintain it (ugh). Another is the feeling that few people would be interested in reading about my hikes, race reports or other inane ramblings. There are many other people already writing about much more impressive outdoor pursuits, so I haven’t felt that mine were noteworthy enough to write about. None of these are good reasons, but they’ve been reasons all the same.