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Baffins Blog

The Golden Ultra – GD’s Race Report

by BAFFINS FIT CLUB

The Golden Ultra – GD’s Race Report

So, as my time in Canada comes to an end I find myself sitting in an airport lounge contemplating the

last week, and what a week it has been! To come to Canada is pretty special, I had not been here

before and so just to experience Canadian life was pretty amazing. Wildlife, endless miles of vistas,

mountains, lakes, great beer, great food and cool people… Not to mention my good friend and great

runner Dave (funnily formally known as Fat Dave)…. But I wont bore you with all that stuff, this is a

running report after all!

So the day after hiking 1000m up a mountain and sleeping at the top we drove the 4 hour trip to

Golden, and found ourselves in a parking lot of a brewery where race registration was happening..

who says beer and running don’t go hand in hand!

Quick aside: Golden is a town in southeastern British Columbia, Canada, located 262 kilometres west

of Calgary, Alberta and 713 kilometres east of Vancouver. Much of the town's history is tied into

the Canadian Pacific Railway and the logging industry.

Okay, back to the story, and the car park…. The race organisers were so welcoming and one of them

immediately recognised me from Instagram, “hey it’s Ginger Dave”…. You get the picture… I was

given 3 race numbers one for each of the three days, 110 (the number of percent I pledged to give!).

We picked up a few other bits, T-shirt, hats etc and went and had a quick beer in the brewery. Then

it was time to get some food and rest ready for the next day.

Day 1 – “The Blood” – Vertical KM

Woke up to find it cold and wet, it apparently doesn’t rain much in the area, so this was something

new for the event… of course cold and wet means snow at altitude. We could see the mountain we

were going to ‘run’ up and it was covered in snow, this was not in the brochure! We chilled and ate

and then in the afternoon made our way up to Kicking Horse Ski Resort for the start. Okay, I’d never

done a Vertical KM before, and had no idea what to expect, other than I knew it was 1km of climb

over a horizontal distance of just under 5km…. To put this in perspective, we started at the bottom

station of the gondola and would finish at the top station of the gondola…. Yes, that’s right, a

gondola, that’s how most people do this journey! So, rain was coming in hard, but my spirits were

dampened, I took myself to the start line and chatted to a few other people, 5 minutes later we

were starting. So the gun sounded and off we went… straight up the mountain! I ran about the first

200m and then it was so steep that it turned into a power hole (with poles). The first 2.5km were

actually not too bad, quite even terrain, mainly a grass hill (a ski slope in winter) imagine a steeper

buster hill if you will! Then we took a service road for a few hundred meters, to an aid station, I did

not expect what happened next! The route went straight up a rock fall, it was mental, just rocks and

boulders, and when you’ve got 2 more days to go you don’t want to be twisting an ankle, so I took

that bit quite carefully, loads of people overtook me, but I didn’t care! After 400m or so the rocks

ended and we turned on to a trail that rain straight up the mountain ridge to the peak. This bit was

great! Rock steps, steep slopes, and yes… snow and ice! By this point I’d caught people doing the

shorter race option and was starting to chase down people who had just overtaken me, felt

amazing! I was using my watch in altitude mode and counting down the meters of climb, with about

100m of climb left I gave it what beans I had left and pushed to the summit, crossing the finish line in

1h08m31s, by slowest 5km ever! There was a hug from a race organiser, but no medal (WTAF!!)

instead I got a lanyard with some bath salts, not what I’d expected, but I didn’t care! Quick photo

then in to the gondola to go down. I rode the gondola with a Canadian guy called Mike, we laughed

the whole way down at how mad what we had just done was… The gondola down seemed to take

ages, but we were able to see people still coming up the route we had just ‘run’ up…. Mental! I ran

to the car, got warm, and changed then grabbed a beer and some tacos for dinner with other racers.

My mate came second by the way in just over 45 minutes, he was beaten by a guy just there to do

the VK, so Dave was the overall race leader for the three days… but that’s enough about Dave, lol!

Day 2 – “The Sweat” – 58.5km Ultra Marathon – about 2300m of climb

So this was the main day I guess, the big one. 32km of climb to the peak we had climbed yesterday,

and a 26km descent, but this time we were starting at a lower altitude in the town of Golden. I had

slept well, the legs felt good, and I managed to get breakfast in. I loaded my race pack in to the car

and we drove to the start. I didn’t have much time to mooch about, as it was cold and raining (again)

we got there as late a possible. I said hi to a few guys that I had met previously (A German Guy called

Stefan, and a Canadian Guy called Jan) and set my watch up and then the race pretty much started.

The first two km were flat, and along a road to the foothills of the mountain, over the river we went,

and then the trails started. So, trails in Canada are not like the ones we have in the south of England,

they are mental! Narrow mud tracks, with rocks, and trees every where, so you cant see much. I’d

decided not to run with bear spray (yes you should run with bear spray!) so the not seeing thing was

kind of scary, but I made loads of noise whooping and shouting so bears and cougars would hear me

coming and hopefully run away, I didn’t see a bear or a cougar so I think this method worked! The

section up to the first aid station was ok, runnable in fact, despite climbing constantly, but I dialled it

right back and hiked all the steeper climbs, a mountain ultra is not a sprint for most people! Got to

the aid station, cant really remember it, but grabbed a coke I think and some fruit and cracked on

straight away. The next section things started to get real! It was literally straight up, very little

running, just kilometre after kilometre of relentless climbing on muddy slippery slopes and rocks, so

many rocks! Poles were a must here, I’d say 75% of the field were using them. I tried to get a rhythm

going but this section started to hurt me, I realised any idea of time was out the window and I just

told myself to keep going. I ate gels, gummies, clif bars and drank loads, I was overtaken by quite a

few people (including Mike and Stefan) but I didn’t care, I just wanted to get to aid station 2 (approx

23km in). It was raining, and cold and the views were non existent, but the beast kept on going, but

then there was a clearing, and a marshall and next thing I know I’m running almost flat out to an aid

station! Lots of people were here, some already struggling, I felt good, go ate a slice of pizza

(Hawaiian one of my favourites), drank a coke, filled up my bottles, grabbed a few snacks and set off

again. I actually ran again for a bit, there was a reasonably runnable section of about 2km, this was

just what my legs needed! It didn’t last long…. I was now out of the foothills and well and truly on

the ridge of the mountain. Due to the weather you couldn’t see much other than the trail, which was

actually quite fortunate, because when the trail is 1 foot wide rocks, ice and snow, you kind of what

to be concentrating! I followed the little orange flags that marked the route for what felt like hours

(actually it was hours!), I was pretty alone by this point as the field had spread out, but I kept putting

one foot in front of the other, there was no other option. You can’t just pull out of a mountain race

at any point, because you’re on a mountain! It’s basically only possible at aid stations, that’s more

for you to think about than anything else, I was not quitting!… At each station you have to make a

decision on whether or not to keep going, is your body ok, are you in the right place mentally, do

you have another 2 hours in you? Anyway…. After a while I started to hear cow bells and shouts, I

was getting close to the summit…. An then after a clamber up some rocks and a sketchy ridge

section there was a race Marshall on the summit! He was amazing, stood out there for hours on his

own, cheering everyone on, and he’d built a snowman! I hugged this guy and high fived him and he

took his gloves off to take my picture with my phone as I stood on the summit of a mountain after

running 30km next to a snowman, in the snow… looking back on it that’s quite mad! I had another

few km to go to the next aid station at the gondola top station, so go on with it and arrived there

after pretty much 6 hours. So, I had a drop bag here, but didn’t really take much from it, I was

wearing a waterproof jacket, a polar long sleeve and a t-shirt and as it was cold I didn’t want to

change my top, and my jacket was holding up well so didn’t bother swapping that for a dry one that I

had in my drop bag. I grabbed some gels, stuck them in my pack, had a coke, a few crisps, and then

found myself leaving to start on the way back down. The first few hundred meters were icy rocks,

but I was still going down them pretty quick, overtaking people in fact, then I was literally on snow,

which I kind of ran and slid and skied down, I was glad I still had my poles as they saved me several

times, I pretty much ran the next 3km like an idiot, too fast, quite dangerous, but I was having fun! I

remember overtaking people and shouting ‘yeeee-haaaah’ as I continued past them, they probably

thought I was being a knob, but I didn’t care, I was having fun! Then, just like that the snow was

gone, and I was back on to steep trails, actually mountain bike trails, and the running (although

down hill) slowed a little. With lots of switch backs its hard to maintain a pace, hence why my pace

looked so slow, but I was running, trust me! I came across a guy who had fallen (a British guy) he was

really hurt after slipping on a rock and smashing his back. I checked on him, and he insisted he was

okay, so I carried on. We were less exposed there as essentially we were on the ski hill so I was

happy he’d be okay. I kept running, I got hot, so took off my coat, and put my poles away, not far to

the next aid station. I went past kicking horse resort and entered the trees and single track trails, it

was actually quite nice! It had warmed a little, and the rain had stopped. I looked down at my watch

and next thing I know I’ve tripped and fallen over. Luckily apart from a cut knee nothing was broken

or hurt, so I got up, brushed off the mud and kept going. I decided that the weight in my pack was

making me clumsy, so made the decision to dump it at the next and final aid station, there was only

15km to go after that station so was sure that given the terrain and how I felt I could do it without

water and just bung a few gels in my pockets. I came in to the aid station after about 7h00m since

the start, dumped my pack, ensured them that despite my knee bleeding quite a lot I was fine, I

grabbed a coke, downed some electrolytes, and ate something. Then I was off on the last leg! The

challenge, in my head at least, was almost over. Or so I thought. It turns out that 15km on tired legs

after running up a mountain and descending it isn’t easy! I can run 15km in just over an hour on a

good day, on hilly trails maybe 1:30 tops, so I was hoping for a sub 9hr finish time… but as the hills

kept on going and the kilometres went past so slowly I knew that just finishing was the new goal! I

caught up with two guys with about 10km to go, one of them, Jan, I’d met the day before. We all ran

along together, chatting and laughing. I needed water and the thought of drinking from a puddle

didn’t appeal to me. This is where Jan saved my bacon, he gave me a drink! I was so grateful, and

because of this, I stayed with him. I could have gone past him, I was stronger and faster, but I didn’t

want to. This guy helped me, so I wanted to help him. He was a local, and was telling me stories

about the times he’d spent in these trails, and we had a great time. I chatted about BFC, running in

the UK and before we knew it we were out of the trails and on to the 2km flat road that would take

us home! I think I could have run sub 8 minute miles at this point, but Jan was hurting and so we just

jogged it in, still under 10 minutes for the last mile… then there it was.. the finish! We crossed

together, laughed, hugged and high fived, and my mate Dave was videoing us (he incidentally won

the day and finished in just under 6 hours!). We got given a lanyard, this time with a scrunch cup on

it (still no medal!) but at least this was something I would use, most races are going ‘cupless’ so

these are becoming a must have for runners who don’t want to carry water. I got changed, had a

beer, and a burger, and the sun came out so I could see the top of the mountain I’d now run up

twice, and down once. We chilled out, watched some ice hockey and had an early night.

Day 3 – “The Tears” – 23km ‘Half Marathon’ – 750m of climb

I was worried about day three. My legs had taken a pounding and I had no idea how they would feel.

I was actually concerned I wouldn’t make the cut off time as I was struggling with walking! But, put

my kit on (opted for compression tights to help my legs out) this time needing just a t-shirt. I was

considering not taking pack as the aid stations were every 5km but I hate stopping in short races so

decided to lightly fit my vest and be self supporting. I got to the start and saw a few people,

including Jan, with poles…. I ran back to the car to get mine! I lined up at the start, set the watch,

and then I was off…. My legs felt good! I was running, actually running, quite fast in fact! I was

overtaking people, even on the first climb! The trails were ace! Really nice flowing hilly single track in

the forest. The hills were runnable, although I used my poles to power hike a bit. I went through 5km

in around 30 minutes, 10km in just over an hour… I was loving it! The next 10km were fun, I was

generally running solo, but I had the biggest smile on my face, at 15km I heard someone shout, “how

did you get in front of us GD!”, it was Stefan and Mike…. I tried really hard to fend them off but Mike

caught me, and then we laughed and chatted as we ran down the last section of trail on to the 3km

flat finishing straight. I let Mike go as I was cooked, but the run along the river in the sunshine was

lovely, painful, every step hurt, but lovely… I crossed the road into the town, and made my way to

the famous kicking horse pedestrian bridge in to the square where the finish was.. this is when

Stefan came bolting past me, telling me to keep up, but I didn’t care, I was happy breathing it all in! I

crossed the line, and finally got given a medal and this time a pint glass! My mate had finished

second (1 st overall for the three days) and he didn’t realise that I’d finished, he was amazed how

quick I’d done it! I was amazed actually! But I’d finished the Golden Ultra, 4 UTMB points in the bag,

and an experience I’ll never forget.

I was super stoked for my mate Dave (who is also from Southsea originally) he’d smashed it beating

a really good field, and he’d won $1000!!! We stayed around for a beer, got pizza from a petrol

station, and then drove to Banff for some rest, relaxation and partying!

I think 85 men registered to do the 3 day event (about 160 total), about 25 of those didn’t finish, or

chose not to start. I finished in 32 nd place. That’s not bad, considering I live on a flat island in the

south of England. Time is pretty irrelevant unless your at the top, but I came in with a total time of

just under 13 hours which I was stoked on. The race director said the conditions were the toughest

ever, which for me helped make it an even more epic experience and achievement. I made friends, I

had laughs, and despite the struggle on day 2, I’d found it pretty much in my comfort zone.

I’d recommend this race to anyone, but it is hard! You have to train right, plan the race right and be

physically and mentally up to the challenge….. but if I can do it, anyone can! Next up… well, I now

have the qualifying points needed for the UTMB CCC so that could be a contender… That will make

last weekend seem like a walk in the park! Watch this space!

Thanks for all the love, support and messages….. they all made me smile and made the whole

experience even better as it felt like I was sharing it with you all. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading

this, and if you have any questions or want to know more, just ask!

Peace out, GD xxxx