After considering it carefully for a few months, I mailed in my registration form and $73 cheque for the STORMY 50-mile race held on trails around Squamish on August 8.
The main reason for my hesitation this year was the same as it was last year: my key goal as a runner is to get closer to that elusive 3-hour mark for the marathon. And I am not sure if running 80km on trails will advance my progress towards that goal.
I was also unsure about training on the trails as I typically run alone or with my dog Luka.
However, as is often the case, I received a few `signs' that I should do the STORMY, held seven weeks before my main goal race of the next four months: the Bellingham Marathon on September 26.
Ten days ago I took Luka for a 90-minute easy trail run. On the way home we ran into a poodle and her owner who told me they'd been running for almost three hours along the trails in preparation for the STORMY, also the 50-mile option (there is a 100-miler for those keen to do two loops of the course).
We ended up running for another 40 minutes or so together and exchanged emails and phone numbers at the end. Her preparation for this 50 miler, with her furthest race so far a half marathon, as well as her joy and focus in her training inspired me.
Five days later she took me on a 90-minute trail run around the Alice Lake trails, which I don't know well and are also part of the STORMY course. It was a great run, both in terms of the trails and our chat.
Then I went to a BBQ where I met a 70-year-old fellow Squamish resident who has run more than 100 marathons including 11 Bostons, the Western States 100-mile race, has raced the Ironman World Championships five times and is an age group world champion. To top it off, two years ago she became the oldest woman to race the Comrades Marathon, just to name a few accomplishments.
With our host wearing his shirt from the STORMY for the occasion, I gave in to the temptation and filled out my registration form the very next day.
Sometimes the signs are crystal clear - if you'd like them to be.
So far I've done two ultras. Most recently, I did the Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia in 2006. This 45-kilometre course climbs about 1500 meters (and actually drops nearly 1800 metres).
In Six Foot Track, I took the advice from a legend of this race to walk the uphills and was fine...until it was time for the final 2km that are steeply downhill. These were complete agony for my squads and took me something like 20 minutes.
A year earlier I walked the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker in Sydney, in just under 24 hours. With a month's notice I had joined a team to replace an injured guy so my preparation had been limited.
Still I had not anticipated how incredibly sore my body would feel. By then I had done five Ironmans and didn't think a long walk would be that much worse.
I was wrong:-).
In any case I am excited to start my preparations for the five races I am planning to do in the next four months and cannot wait to explore more of the Squamish trails on weekends.