Have you ever fancied doing a trail race abroad? CocoPro ambassador Sophie Adams recently visited Canada to participate in the Squamish 50. The Squamish 50 races are tough, truly unforgettable trail running experiences, with the 50 mile race including over 11,000 feet of climbing amongst beautiful scenery. Read her account of the race…
Squamish 50 Race Review: 23km
After 9 months of planning race day was here. We caught a taxi up to the Squamish 50 23km start line at Quest University, which also doubled as an aid station for the 50km runners that day. The weather was pretty much perfect. After a previous few hot days spent in Squamish, race day was mild, cloud covered and not too high in temperature. I had already picked up my race bib the day before so there wasn’t too much to be done when we arrived at the start other than warming up correctly and saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to some familiar faces. We all crowded round whilst a heart felt race briefing by race director Gary Robins was given and then we were off!
The start of the course leads you out of Quest University and up the road onto a dirt track incline until you hit the tree line plunging into the forest and onto the trails. Once in there, you are greeted by a lengthy section of switchbacks winding their way further up through dense vegetation which is mostly uncovered from the sun; I would imagine it would get pretty hot on a less cloudy day. By the end of this section my calf muscles were screaming and I was already feeling the burn. I started to doubt my training and if I had prepared enough for this terrain. Soon the burn would wear off as we passed down another dirt road and onto the first aid station at 4.5km. I decided not to stop here and continued on back into the forest where what could only be described as a steep, undulating, single-track took us back down a technical descent. I had run nothing like this in training but could relate some of the terrain to that I had experienced in Transvulcania last year, you had to just go, go, go there was no way of stopping, you had to just keep chasing your feet down and down through the sand and rocks.
Relief came when we hit the bottom and emerged into the sunlight again, winding our way between more vegetation and up the other side into another climb. One thing I loved about this race was how undulating it was, the climbs weren’t massive and didn’t destroy your legs all in one go if you played it right and hiked at the appropriate times. The next part of the race seemed a fast blur full of rocks, branches and the craziest wooden mountain bike obstacles I have ever ran across! I kept behind a group of two girls for the remainder of the way (mainly due to being scared of being alone with any potential bears in the area!) – this also provided great encouragement and spurred me on further.
I pushed a little harder on the familiar terrain and overtook a few people on the dirt road leading down to a bridge over the most beautiful rapids and up to the second and last aid station at 12km. I briefly stopped here to refill one of my water bottles and quickly set off again. I was surprised by how little fluid and nutrition I had taken on at this point but I felt good and stuck to my plan of one gel an hour and sipping water as needed. At leaving the aid station my legs and body felt good and I was gutted I wasn’t able to push it more due to my on-going ITB issue, the same one that had made me drop down initially from the 50km, but knew I needed to be sensible if I wanted to race later this year.
The next stage of the course took us up through the rainforest, gradually taking us to the top of Mountain of Phelgm where there were 180 degree views of the surrounding area which were amazing and also sadly the only vantage point on the whole of the 23km course. Flowing down across large rocks and wooden stairways you emerge from the bottom of Smoke Bluffs and see climbers scattered across the rock face as you run by. You can hear the megaphone from the finish line, which spurs you on for the last 2km as you hit the road. Here my ITB kicked in and I had to hobble the last section in discomfort. I got overtaken by quite a few people as I couldn’t get my legs to go any faster without pain, although I still managed a sprint finish and overtook a few runners to race for a hug from the legendary Gary Robins at the end!
In conclusion, was Squamish 50 what I thought it would be? I’m not sure. It could have been due to dropping down and having to take it easy, but this course felt a lot easier than I anticipated. Even with ITB issues and taking it easy I still finished in 2hours 52mins, which is a good 25/30mins faster than the average time. Technically this course was brutal, but elevation wise it didn’t seem too harsh. The surroundings were as stunning as I hoped but lacked those breath-taking high views I have experienced in sky races. You cannot fault the Squamish 50 team and all the effort from the organisers and volunteers. I have never felt so welcomed and humbled to take part in a race and to be part of one of Gary’s creations!