Last Saturday, Tim, Dario and I joined a couple dozen other Fat Asses on the North Shore for the Skyline XTC. Not an easy 50k route, Skyline XTC is a T-shaped out-and-back route which combines climbing, technical trails, climbing, non-technical trails, climbing and even a taste of asphalt up and down Nancy Greene Way. There’s also a lot of climbing. With the Scorched Sole 50-miler a couple of weeks away, a tough 50k probably wasn’t what my body needed, but I was lacking trail miles and the event gave me a good opportunity to try out a few things before heading to Kelowna.
Like all Club Fat Ass events, the run itself isn’t really a race, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get a little competitive. Tim seemed especially frisky and Dario never shys away from a little bad behaviour. After running the opening Mosquito Creek stretch with Ean Jackson, Bill Dagg, Des Mott, Dave Crerar, Sadie the Ultra Dog and her boy, Scott, the three of us were soon on our own.
Going into XTC, I’d been nagged by pain in my upper left hamstring, the occasional pain and stiffness in my arthritic right hip which seems to affect my upper right hamstring as well, and the odd flare-up in my right achilles. In addition to testing my existing problems, XTC offered up the perfect setting for a dance party for misfiring muscles in my legs. Starting with twitches in my right calf, the fun moved on to a crazy inner right thigh cramp that ran from just behind my knee up almost to my groin (my Anatomy Coloring Book suggests that it is my sartorius). The butt/hamstring problems in both legs may have hindered my push-off up hills since I spent a lot of the climbs relegated to the back seat behind Dario and Tim. One bright spot was that despite 50k worth of pounding, my right hip felt surprisingly good.
Most of the run is under cover of trees, but it felt muggier than usual, and by the time we hit the base of Grouse and the Powerline section on the return trip, the sun was high and hot. Between sweat and dew from the shoulder-high vegetation on the ‘Dog-Leg’ section of the route, I was drenched early and on the verge of losing my bandaids so I took off my shirt and ended up chafing the crap out of my lower back as the Camelbak tapped out a funky beat hour after hour. Chafed back vs shredded nipples? Not such a tough call if you ask me.
It’s true what Frank Shorter says about runners forgetting their last marathon before they can prepare for the next one, because clearly it’s been long enough since Chuckanut that I had forgotten what trail ultras are supposed to feel like. No offence to the marathon, but my body has never come close to the kind of inner struggle I often face over longer distances on dirt, roots, and rocks. Skyline XTC was a useful reminder of the kinds of challenges I can expect during a trail ultra, but it also gave me a glimpse of what else is out there since it was a tougher course than any 50k I’d ever run.
XTC allowed me to work on some fuelling and hydration strategies and finally try out my Montrail Mountain Masochists on a real run. They felt good and surprised me how quickly they drained through the wet and muddy sections on the long out-and-back on the Skyline Trail in West Van. I thought they might end up like bricks after some of that muck, but they shed it quickly.
Dario was slowed with quad cramps in Capilano Canyon, so Tim and I finished together. It would have been a fitting ending to a great day on the trails, but the real fun was just beginning. Tim wasn’t feeling that great when we headed into the William Griffin Community Centre to change. Probably not the wisest thing to do, we hit the hot tub for a bit and then caught a ride to Moquito Creek Grill for the post-event wrap-up. We had some food and a beverage and after event host, Ean Jackson, handed out door prizes, Tim got up to stretch a cramp and then crumpled lifelessly to the floor. It seemed like he was out for 15-20 seconds, but it was probably more like ten. It was pretty scary. Luckily Tim went straight down and didn’t hit his head on the tables on the way. Ean’s wife Sibylle was quick to get to Tim and called out for someone to dial 911. Tim was back a little after that, with a smile on his face. “What’s going on? What did I do?” Seeing that smile was a huge relief. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Tim got his first ever ambulance ride and spent a few hours with an IV at Lions Gate Hospital. His wife Maureen was thrilled.