Whistler Alpine Meadows 100M

Whistler Alpine Meadows 100M

I signed up for the Whistler Alpine Meadows (WAM) 100 miler in the spring. I saw it was back from a two year Covid hiatus was now a Hardrock 100 qualifier. With almost 9000m (29k feet) of vertical gain, this wasn’t entirely a surprise. Even though I would be in Montreal for the summer — and would have to train — I knew the course well from the 110km race in 2019.

With as much hiking as running involved, WAM is my kind of race. Plus, it would be an excuse to return to Whistler, somewhere that has become rather special to me in recent years. Anne and lived in the village for 6 weeks last year, only minutes from the Blackcomb Ascent trail. It’s also where we had our first unofficial date. I was excited to return.

In June, three weeks before the QMT 100, I reached out to Ridgeline Athletics for full-time coaching. I’d wanted to hire a coach for a while, but the timing had never been good. Full time nomadism has its perks, but it can make scheduling difficult and commitments a challenge. But with Anne and I taking a break from the road and staying in Montreal for the summer, I knew I could commit to doing the training.

I reached out to their team and was connected with Andrew Miller. He’s young and relatively new to coaching, but has a ton of ultra experience (including a win at Western States). I’d already been looking for a coach, but hadn’t found someone with the right philosophy. During the initial phone call with Andrew, however, I got a really nice vibe and decided to pull the trigger. We got started right away.

Over the summer, Andrew helped me dial in my workouts to make sure each one had purpose. He also helped me work through some niggling injuries and improve my leg and body strength. Under Andrew’s guidance, I felt strong and fresh and ready to face the steep climbs and descents at Whistler.

Pre-race Chaos

Two weeks before the race, I was in Montreal, getting prepared to drive across the country for the race. I needed to get the van to the west coast for the winter anyway so the timing made sense. That week I made the dumb decision to visit the nearby skate park a friend. I took a benign fall while doing a very uninteresting trick and smacked my hand against the concrete. It was painful at first, but I kept on skateboarding, not giving it another thought. I didn’t know at the time, but I’d actually fractured one of the metacarpal bones in my right hand and sprained the ring finger. It ballooned up later in the evening, but it took another week for me to click that I should probably get it checked out.

During my week long drive to BC, my hand had not been healing as quickly as I’d hoped. When I landed in Vancouver, I went to the local ER to get it looked at. They took x-rays and was bounced around the hospital until a doctor sat me down and said “well, it’s definitely broken.” My heart sank. I’d never broken a bone before so I didn’t know how serious this was. As she prepared a splint for my hand, she said it looked generally fine but wanted a surgeon to decide if they’d need to operate. Operate!?

I was sent to see a plastic surgeon at a different hospital where I had to tell the same story to at least five people before they understood why I was there. “Skateboarding. 10 days ago. Just got x-rays. No, no, I already have a splint. Can I please see the surgeon now?”

Fortunately I was told surgery didn’t make sense but I’d have to wear a splint for 4-6 weeks and “no more skateboarding”. That was a given, but what about running? “I have a race on Friday,” I explained, carefully omitting the length and details of said race. “Can I still run?” I was given a soft okay as long as I was “careful.” That’s all I needed to hear. In my mind, WAM was a go.

Broken hand
Hand in a splint

The evening after the hospital visit, I went for a night hike up BCMC with Gaelan. It was his last weekend before the Long Souls 100k. I showed him my sexy splint and we chatted about our respective races. I tried hiking with two poles, but found my right hand was more or less useless. I concluded that using only one pole was more practical. It was awkward and I couldn’t get much leverage on the steep climbs, but it was doable.

Derek arrived in Vancouver the next day. We hung out in town until Wednesday when Anne arrived from Montreal. We picked her up from the airport and then convoyed directly up to Whistler together. Derek and Anne would be sharing crew duties over the weekend. There was lots to prepare but we had a nice AirBnb to relax at and get everything organized.

On Thursday evening, we went into town to pick up my race packet at the Salomon store in town where we ran into Kabir, a friend of Anne’s. We made some jokes about the following morning and then said goodbye. When we got back, I began organizing all my drop bags and my crew bag and cooler. As usual, I underestimated how much time it takes to prep everything, but Anne and Derek stepped in and helped me get everything sorted. We went to bed at a reasonable hour, but as I lay there, I started to get butterflies. I knew this one was going to be tough.

I woke up at 5am. I was awake and ready to go. I’d slept better than I usually do the night before these things, and unlike at QMT, I’d also banked good sleep all week. After coffee and breakfast we drove to catch the shuttle bus to the start line. We saw Kabir there and we chatted with him and some of the other runners on the bus. I was chatty and my nerves from the night before were being replaced with excitement.

We arrived at the start line and waited around in the cold for Gary to give his pre-race talk. All the usual stuff. A survey of hands revealed that this would be the first 100 miler for many runners, a detail I parked in the back of my mind for later. “Everyone’s probably going to go out too fast,” I thought to myself. A few minutes later, at 7am, I said goodbye to Anne and Derek and we were off.

Section 1: Blackcomb (0 to 30km)

The first kilometre was flat but I knew it would go straight up soon. My pack was full and kind of bulky as the race has a fair amount of required gear. My right hand was wrapped up and covered with a compression band. In my left hand was my single hiking pole.

We started climbing and I fell in with a guy from Virginia for whom WAM was his third attempt at the 100 mile distance. I didn’t really understand why he chose a significantly harder race than his previous two attempts, but the logic made sense to him. He was also chatting with the woman ahead of him, a local who’d been out of the ultra game for a few years due to injury. I enjoyed the conversation but eventually pushed past to create some space.

The trail was steep and slow, but time flew by. By 8:30 we had cleared the trees and reached the first aid station. I grabbed a cookie and checked my watch. I was ahead of schedule.

We walked up a service road on the front of Blackcomb mountain. It was easier travel than the trail, but still surprisingly steep. I found my own rhythm, passing some runners and letting others pass me. It was early and we had over 1000m to climb so I was in no rush. I snapped a pic of myself and sent Anne and Derek a quick update.

I was soon at the Rendezvous restaurant at the top of the Blackcomb gondola where I soaked in the views. The morning was perfect — blue bird skies, but still nice and cool. I turned onto the groomed trail towards, passing a lake as we began cruising down towards the 7th Heaven aid station.

I was running well and fell in with a group of four other runners. I was just thinking how well I was moving when the women ahead said, “have you seen a flag in a while?”, I said “no actually”. In Gary’s races, there’s a flag every 30 seconds so this wasn’t a good sign. We kept going — no flags. Marieve, the unofficial leader of our group, was convinced this was the right way, but I was sceptical. We passed runners going the other way on the loop but they didn’t know whether we were on track or not.

We passed under the 7th Heaven chairlift where two guys were fixing something above our heads. “You guys are going the wrong way”, they called out. Marieve tried to explain we had already done the loop, but I had a feeling these guys were right so I turned around. I soon discovered our mistake and turned down the hill passing a crew of runners I hadn’t seen in couple hours. As annoying as this was, I didn’t let it phase me. The day was young and I was still ahead of my 27h splits.

When I arrived at the aid station, Ellie Greenwood — famed runner and WSER 100 course record holder — was there in a blue wig telling everyone to chill out. I was surprised at the general pace, so it was reassuring to hear her remind everyone we were running a 100 miler, not a 100k. I saw Tory, the chatty woman from earlier was talking to Ellie as if they were old friends. I milled around for a couple minutes then left behind her on the service road back towards the Blackcomb Ascent trail. 10 minutes later, I passed a volunteer who’d been talking to Tory. “You’re in good company with Tory!”, she told me. Who was this girl? She was the most popular person out here.

The trail flattened out and then took a turn down into the woods. This section was going to be steep. My strategy — as discussed with Andrew — was to take these early descents extra easy. I needed my quads for later, so I let a few runners pass me on the way down while I walked.

Near the bottom of the descent, I felt some hot spots on my feet. We were only about 4.5 hours in, but I was pretty sure I had blisters. I was annoyed. I’d specifically chosen the Altra Olympus for this race because of their beefy padding. I’d done an 8 hour trial race/run with them and had no problems, but here we were, only a few hours into WAM and my feet were already an issue.

I quickly found Anne and Derek setup at the Base II aid station. It was nice to see them. They offered me sausages and other treats while I gave them a recap. I was still ahead of schedule so I sat down and took off my shoes. Sure enough, I had three sizeable blisters. Damn it. I popped the skin and dried them out while Derek cut pieces of Leukotape for me to apply to the tender areas. It was slow work. Following my instructions, Anne was keeping track of my stop time and wanted to get me out of there. I wouldn’t see them again for another 5-6 hours, so I assured them an extra 5-10 minutes here to get everything sorted would be worth it later.

Once I’d finished treating my feet, I replaced my socks and put on some Altra Superiors, my comfortable but minimalist alternatives. I’d put in an extra “rock plate” which I’d hoped would minimize the beating to my soles. Once sorted, I ate some more food and then finally stood up to leave. I checked my watch. I’d been stopped for 15 minutes. Perfectly reasonable.

Section 2: Whistler (30km to 65km)

I’d estimated it would take just over 3 hours to get up to Whistler Peak. It’s a long relentless climb that starts gradually and then gets rather steep towards the end. I alternated walking and running the flatter sections. I felt sluggish, but my feet were comfortable which was a relief. A guy in a yellow shirt passed me, moving quickly, but I didn’t have it in me to keep up.

I felt better as the climb progressed. About an hour later, I’d caught up to some of the runners ahead of me, stopping to chat to each one for a while before I eventually left them. There were streams flowing alongside the trail so I filled up my bottles regularly with the fresh, cold water.

Once we passed the Russet Lake trail turn off, the trees began to thin out and we began to get glimpses of the incredible terrain nearby. Snow-capped peaks were visible in every direction. It was stunning and I took as many photos as I could knowing the next time I’d be up here would be in the dark.

Looking back at Singing Pass

We were treated to a few rocky downhill sections which were a nice break for the muscles before the final ascent. I continued to get stronger as the trail got closer to the peak, passing a couple more runners in the process. On the final steep section before the summit, I caught up to the guy in the yellow shirt who’d blitzed past me three hours earlier.

I got to the Whistler Peak aid station in 8h40m, still 30 mins ahead of my 27 hour pace. The crew there was lively and I chatted to the aid station chief for a while about how fast the pace was. He said the same thing, that everyone was ahead of their splits, half of whom would probably pay for it later. I was in 28th place, but the leaders were only an hour and a half ahead. I was a little surprised how many people were ahead of me, but I had taken a long break at the bottom.

After finishing some miso soup, I thanked the crew and set off down the front side of Whistler. I moved well on the steep technical section passed and few more runners, many I’d seen before on Blackcomb. It was nice to be going downhill again, but it was really steep and technical. I quickly realized my splits were rather optimistic. I made it to the Kashmir aid station in 1h15m, a little behind schedule.

The air was warm and I suddenly felt really low on sodium. I ate as many chips and pretzels as I could handle and then texted Anne and Derek to bring more salt tabs to the Jane aid station. I was clustered with a couple other runners when I left. Three of us ran together for a bit, one of whom asked me if I’d changed my shoes. Apparently he’d noticed I wasn’t wearing the Olympus any more and teased me about how my shoes wouldn’t last the race. I took it as a challenge.

The sassy Altra guy went ahead and I fell in with the other guy wearing a bright green hat. His name was Pawel, though he first told me it was “Paul”, the English equivalent of the name in Polish. He lived in Squamish and he was funny. When I told him my name, he said I “looked like Ross.” I enjoyed his company and we ran together until the Jane aid station. I told him how much I was looking forward to a fresh shirt and some real food. I was growing tired of all the sweet gummies and gels.

I couldn’t believe how hot it was atet bottom. I later learned it had been almost 30C (90F) that afternoon. It took less than an hour to run this section, but by the time I arrived, I was fried. I’d been popping salt tablets all day but still felt low on sodium.

I quickly found Anne and Derek at the aid station. While I was giving them an update, Anne was quick to tell me they didn’t have any sausages and had forgot to bring my Skratch drink. There wasn’t any real food at the aid station aid either, plus Derek wasn’t able to find the salt tablets. I’d also forgotten to pack my short sleeve shirt. I was gutted. I always try my best to be as graceful as I can when people are helping you, but this was the first time I failed to maintain my cool. I was annoyed and cranky. I towelled myself off and put my sweaty shirt back on and then changed my socks. I grabbed my bag of fuel for the next section and set off again, feeling rather low.

Anne helping me at the Jane aid station

Section 3: LSD Loop (65km to 103km)

Pawel had left before me, but I figured he wasn’t too far ahead. I took my phone out and left a voice message for Derek and Anne, thanking them for being there for me and apologizing for being moody. I also requested some pizza for when I returned to this aid station later in the evening.

After a brief section of smooth well maintained trail, we turned onto a rocky service. I came up behind the Marieve, the woman I’d briefly ran behind back on Blackcomb. I said hello and chatted with her for a bit. I didn’t know where Tory was, so I figured she was the female leader. She was still moving relatively well, but was struggling a bit mentally. Like me, she’d hoped there would be real food at the Jane aid station.

I hadn’t run this section of the course before so I asked her a few questions about the course. Being a local, she knew it well. I later learned that she’d won the 100 mile event in 2019 too. I pushed ahead of her while I was feeling good and soon caught up to Pawel. We quickly fell back into the rhythm and continued where our conversation had left off.

Marieve caught up to us a few kilometres later and then pushed ahead by herself. I was fading and so was Pawel. He’d drank too much electrolyte drink and I was starting to overheat.

The trail finally turned off the road onto a spongy single track in the trees. I heard Tory’s distinctive voice behind me and she soon appeared along with a guy with long hair. I decided to push and catch up to Marieve. I like company, but I don’t like getting bunched together.

This section was pretty, but slow and technical. I walked a lot of it, chatting with Marieve. By the time we reached the road, my watch said we should be at the aid station but we still had the long descent down on the road first. Pawel, Tory and the long-haired guy joined us and we ran down the road together as a friendly unit. We soon saw the lead runners, John and Ihor coming towards us. They’d already competed the loop and were making incredible time.

It was 8pm when we arrived at the LSD aid station, and the sun was close to setting. We were at 80km, halfway done and my split was about 13 hours. Volunteers were dressed in animal costumes, including a friend of Pawel’s. And they had quesadillas! The vibe was excellent. The aid station crew said our pack was probably in 12-17th place which I was pleased with. If I was going to make the top ten, I needed to be within striking distance.

I picked at salty food on the table and got ready to go. Pawel was sitting in a chair. “Ross, when are we leaving?” I told him he one minute, and sure enough, a minute later, we were back on the road together.

The sun had mostly set at this point, so we both had our headlamps on. The long haired guy and the girls had left a couple minutes ahead of us. The road was flat but I knew we were going to be sent straight up any moment. We passed a couple trail marshals and then took a turn off onto a dark trail. I had finally cooled down and felt good so I picked up the pace. Pawel wasn’t far behind me, but I was moving faster than him on the steep stuff and soon created a gap.

I was actually enjoying the terrain despite how steep it was. I fell into a rhythm and unfortunately couldn’t see Pawel’s headlamp behind me. We climbed fairly high before finally dropping back down to the road. I caught up to Marieve again at some point but didn’t stop to chat. I was more or less on pace this section but my watch was starting to track extra kilometres, so it dragged on a bit.

When I finally arrived back at the LSD aid station, it was even more of a party than the first time. A cluster of runners were about to begin the loop I’d just finished. I recognized a few including one I’d run with earlier on, so I went over to stay hello. I picked at the table for a while, chatting with the aid station crew and preparing for the long trek back to Jane. The quesadillas were long gone, but I they had miso soup and pickle which were nice. I said goodbye to everyone and continued on a few minutes behind Tory.

On the climb on the road, I started to encounter runners coming down the hill going the other way. I said hello to everyone and we exchanged words of encouragement. At the top of the hill, cut back into the trees and I was back on the technical trail section we ran before sun down. Every few minutes another faceless headlamp would appear and we’d repeat the same routine. “Nice job.” “Looking good.” “Way to go.”

I came up to a couple runner while negotiating a narrow trail. As we passed, I realized one of the headlamps belonged to Kabir! I’d only met the guy 24 hours earlier but I felt an odd kinship with him. His watch was malfunctioning and could only track elevation gain, but he was in good spirits. We said goodbye and I soon rejoined the road.

I began the endless descent down back to the Jane aid station. It dragged on forever and and the rocky terrain was tenderizing my feet. I passed Tory at some point, but the long-haired guy had pushed ahead of us both. I was moving fine, but I felt drained. I wanted to see my people and eat some real food.

I finally arrived at Jane for the second time around 11:30pm, 30 minutes behind 27 hour pace. The temps had dropped by this point and most of the crew people were wearing jackets and hats. It was quiet. Anne and Derek were there, and they had brought everything. Anne gave me a slice of pizza while I tried to remember all the things I was supposed to get done at this stop. The first slice of pizza went down quickly and I started on a second. They remarked I was looking good compared to others they’d seen come through.

After refreshing my fuel stores, I exchanged my headlamp for one with a fresh battery and changes my socks. I also changed out of my shirt into a thicker long sleeve for the exposed Whistler Peak section which I figured would be chilly. I was happy that to have Skratch Superfuel to drink for the next couple hours as break from all the sweet running food. I don’t know how long I stayed with A and D, but I enjoyed their company. I wouldn’t see them until morning so I savoured the time with them. When they finally kicked me out, I was wearing a jacket and gloves.

Section 4: Whistler Peak (103km to 138km)

I saw Tory up ahead of me. She had once again arrived at an aid station after me but left before me. My crew stops were very inefficient, but today it didn’t bother me. Tory and I ran together for a while. We quickly realized we were overdressed now that we were moving again and we tore off our warm layers. I had decided to walk the entire climb up to the peak while Tory ran some of the flatter hills. We arrived at the Kashmir aid station at the same time, shortly followed by a guy named Mike that I hadn’t seen before.

The crew there was small but supportive. I snacked on some salty stuff but didn’t linger. The three of us left around the same time. Mike passed me while I chose to stick to my walking plan. We left the road and went back into the trail for the steep and technical climb through the trees. It was slow and relentless. I soon started to overheat in my long sleeve shirt and I fell back behind Tory and Mike. It felt like I was bonking, but I’d been no top of my nutrition. The was different.

I caught up to Mike who had stopped to take off his shirt. I was relief to see that I wasn’t the only one who found the night oddly warm. I wanted to take off my shirt as well, but I didn’t feel like stopping to redress. That kind of thing was cumbersome with only one functional hand. But when I felt my pace slow again, I realized I need to do something. I stripped off the long sleeve and put my vest back on my bare skin. I was worried about chafing, but it was a relief to be out of that shirt.

It didn’t take long before my body started cooling off. My pace quickened and I started enjoying myself again. When I made it above the tree line, I braced myself for a cold breeze, but the air was rather pleasant. It was 3am and I was shirtless at 7,000 feet. When I was here in 2019, I was wearing gloves, a hat and almost everything from my pack. What a contrast.

I could see a pair of headlights up ahead of me and I was gaining on them. I caught up to Tory who was impressed by my pace. The two of us passed another runner who looked completely fried. I talked to him to make sure he was okay, but he was mostly unresponsive. We was close to the top, so we went ahead. Two hours since leaving Kashmir, we were once again on top of Whistler Peak.

The aid station crew were bundled up in big jackets and had hot soup ready for us. Tory and I were both rather chatty and enjoying the unique experience of being at the top of Whistler in the middle of the night. Mike left ahead of us, but Tory and I decided to stick together. My body temperature had dropped quickly, so with some assistance, I put my shirt back on along with a jacket. Bundled up, we set off on the long descent back to down to Blackcomb Base II.

The sky was beautiful and clear. I left a voice message for Derek and Anne giving them a quick update. Tory and I ran together down the steep service road, but once again has to strip off our warm layer. I asked Tory to help me put my jacket back into my pack and continued down the road. When we reached the flatter section, I once again started to overheat. Ugh. This was getting annoying. I stopped and took off my shirt again managing to stuff it back into my vest.

With my shirt off again, I caught up to Tory and we fell into a rhythm. We swapped war stories from other races we’d done and enjoyed the night. There were a couple steep climbs before we made it to the meadow where the long descent really begins. I felt good and ran ahead of Tory.

At the trees near Singing Pass, I caught up to Mike who’d stopped to take a nap. I felt wide awake and it was really nice to be actually running again. Half way down the trail, I passed a runner who was walking and appeared to be injured. We exchanged a few words and nods and I continued on.

It was about 6am when the sun started to rise. I was 135km into this thing and feeling surprisingly good. But my legs were tired of all the downhill. I was ready to get to the Base II aid station. Near the bottom, I pulled out of the trees and turned onto the steep road near the base of Whistler. Suddenly Mike came zooming past me! I guess his nap had done the trick. I tried to keep up with him but I wasn’t feeling as fresh as he looked and let him go.

The sun had fully risen when I finally made it Base II. It was just after 7am meaning I’d been on the go for a full 24 hour day. Everyone there was bundled up and Derek and Anne were a little surprised to see me without a shirt on. It was supposed to be a very hot day, but I changed into a lightweight shirt. Derek load up my water bottles with Skratch while Anne fed me some left over pizza.

I lingered longer than I should have but Anne kicked me out once I’d changed my socks. Only 26km remained between me and the finish. I was on pace for about 28 hours at this point, right on my B splits. I just had to continue to execute for a few more hours.

Preparing to go back up Blackcomb

Section 5: Blackcomb (138km to 163km)

I knew the Blackcomb Ascent trail was going to be rough. It’s steep and tiring even when you’re fresh. As usual, Tory had left Base II before me, but I quickly caught up to her. She was struggling a bit so we didn’t speak much when I passed. I figured I’d see her further up the trail anyway.

I started to run into day hikers and runners from the 25k race. I made small talk here and there, but I was pretty tired so I avoided any any extended conversation. Towards the top of the 6k climb, I came up behind three women from Ontario. I was struggling but the lead woman was so enthusiastic and encouraging, I had to indulge them in some chit chat. They had flown out to Whistler as part of a yearly pilgrimage to play in the mountains. She used to run ultras so we talked for a while about racing before I finally peeled away. She’d lifted my spirits and I was grateful for the attention.

Near the top of the climb, the lead pack from the 100k race came thundering down towards me. They were moving quickly and I enjoyed the front row seat. When I reached the service road at the top, Jeff Pelletier and his girlfriend Audrée were there directing runners. I only know them from his Youtube channel, but it was still nice to see a familiar face. They sent me along the road back toward the final aid station back at 7th Heaven.

There were lots of 100k runners on the road, and one particularly friendly one told me there was bacon up ahead. I couldn’t imagine anything better than warm, salty bacon. I was starting to feel the weight of the day under my feet but this was good motivation to keep pushing.

The station was swarming with runners when I arrived. Fortunately the rumours were true and I helped myself to a couple pieces of bacon. It was marvellous. I refilled my bottles and left quickly. I was too close to the finish to dawdle. I could see Mike up ahead of me too. My goal was to try and catch him and stick with him as long as I could.

The climb was steep and the day was heating up quickly. By the time I reached the top, I was worn out. I looked back down the trail expecting to see Tory, but she seemed to have fallen back a ways.

The next section was actually runnable but all I could muster was a walk. I ran passed some more 100k runners and then out of the trees popped another 100 mile runner going the other way. He confirmed that we do the Overlord loop the same direction as the first time instead of in reverse. I thanked him and pushed on, but I was fading. I only had 15k left to go but the scope of the task was feeling more and more daunting.

I reached a fork where I marshal pointed towards the Decker loop. I trudged along until I reached the river at the far end of the trail. I dunked my head in the water and cherished the immediate cooling effect it had. I refilled my water bottles from the stream and laughed to myself that heat was the last thing I thought I’d struggle with in Whistler.

The rocky section on the other side of the stream was slow and tough. Once I’d finished the climb, I descended down an exposed technical section before dipping back into the trees. I bashed my knee on a rock in almost the same spot I did the 2019 race. What were the odds?

While nursing my knee, I felt a strong wave of fatigue hit me. I needed to close my eyes. I fought it off for a while until I found a nice tree to lean up against and treated myself to a one minute “nap”. The sleepiness had diminished when I opened my eyes. I’d bought myself some time.

At a fork, race marshals directed me towards the lake. 25k runners were everywhere and I no longer had the energy to respond the the words of encouragement. I mostly nodded and waved as they went by. It was a beautiful day, but I was bonking hard. Passed the lake, the trail flattened out I started to run again. I passed more people in silence and reminded myself the rest was mostly downhill.

I was running slowly, counting down the minutes to get back to the Rendezvous restaurant. When I finally crested the hill above the Jersey Cream chairlift, I could feel my mood improve. It was truly downhill from here all the way to the bottom. My watched show almost 28 hours. I wasn’t going to hit my original goal but I was okay with that. I just wanted to be done.

I ran past the Rendezvous and back towards the Ascent Trail. I got a short boost of energy here and managed to run at a decent pace. I popped out of the trees at the spot where Jeff and Audrée were stationed. This time I was sent in the opposite direction towards the service road. “I’m told it’s less than 10km to the finish”, Jeff said. “Are you sure?” I joked. “Because my watch says I should be done already.” I told him I was teasing and thanked him for the info.

The service road was a nice relief for a while but it was steeper than I remembered and my quads were nearing their limit for the day. Every step was painful and I was forced to walk. I was melting in the sun and annoyed to be walking such easy terrain. I tried to run for brief spurts, but eventually gave up.

Mountain bikers would pass by occasionally often with a confused look on their faces. “Is there a race going on today?” I heard one of them ask another. I just smiled and walked past, too tired to make conversation. I felt defeated moving so slowly and thought Tory might come flying by me at any moment, but I didn’t see her. I inched closer and closer, watching the minutes fly by. Even 29 hours was looking optimistic now.

The road cut back into the trees after a while and I started to hear music in the distance. I couldn’t see anything yet but I knew I was close. It was noon and it was hot. I wanted a cold drink and to stop moving. The trail finally dropped me back onto a road and I saw a sign for “100 mile finish”. The music got louder and louder as I walked around the final bend. I could see the finish line up above me and Anne in the distance cheering me in.

I walked across the finish line as a 25k runner whizzed past me. I seemed to have caught Gary —the race director — off guard and suddenly a microphone was thrust into my face. “Was it worth it!?” He asked as he awarded me with my WAM 100 belt buckle. I chuckled and muttered a feeble “yeah.” My final time was 29 hours 21 minutes. I was fried but happy.

Anne and Ross

After the race, I hung out at the finish line with Anne and Derek who took care of me and fetched me food and drinks. I chatted with Marieve who told me she had feet problems and dropped at 105km. About an hour later, Tory arrived taking the first place female spot. I went over to congratulate her when the time was right, but she had that 100 mile stare at that point and so we kept our conversation brief.

My finish was so anti-climactic and left me on a bit of a low, but as I reflected on the enormity of the day, I started to feel better. I’d just run a very difficult 100 miles over two large mountains (twice!) and I hadn’t let a broken hand get in the way. And despite a difficult final few hours, the majority of my day was enjoyable.

Not only had I covered some incredible terrain, I’d met some really cool people out there. My body had performed when I need it to and I’d came out mostly unscathed. My time with Pawel was a highlight during the mid section. Running over Whistler peak with Tory was another high for the day. Sharing this experience with Anne and Derek, however, was the biggest highlight of all. They were such an amazing crew, supporting me for almost 30 hours. This felt like a team effort and I’m forever grateful for them being there.

Ross Noble's Picture

About Ross Noble

Ross is a software developer, ultrarunner, podcaster and van dweller with a passion for the outdoors.

Vancouver, CA http://rossnoble.net