Mighty Quail Trail 100K
|Pre Race Selfie Attempt|
It was probably August 13. I was sitting in my chair, reclining after a successful Canadian Death Race, when a text message appeared on my phone. It was from my buddy Tom Coveney. It simply asked 'do you have any September races planned'? I had the Lost Souls 100 miler at the beginning of the month, but then a 7 week break before Javalina in October. I was intrigued, so Tom sent me the link to The Mighty Quail Trail.
Tom and I have a race history. He has a knack for picking great (terribly awful/no one needed to ever run them) races, and earlier in the year got me to do Diez Vista 100k with him (great 50k loop, doing it twice?? That amounts to torture). The Quail Trail was going to be much nicer, better scenery, hopefully not pouring rain, and....free beer at the end!! Because I wanted to run an even 15 ultras this year, and I'm a sucker for free beer, I agreed to go with Tom for some type 2 fun.
Fast forward to Friday the 28th of September. I left Fernie, to pick up Tom in Creston on the way to Penticton for the race. I had never explored the West Kootenay area, so it was amazing to get to see some new places. It was a warm mid twenty degree day as we rolled into Penticton, and went straight to check out where the race would start. The area could best be described arid, with ponderosa pine, and lots of sand and dust. I love this type of terrain, and that got my trail stoke very high (If I only knew what was coming...).
|Barley Mill Pub|
6am rolled around, and it was a balmy 5 degrees out. Headlamps on, we headed out on the race. It began with a 1.5km road climb to the trail network. The first 15km leg was a slow climb on the gorgeous trails Tom and I had checked out the day before. We climbed through rock walls, and over some pretty amazing hills. The views were spectacular. My trail stoke was 12/10. If this was what the course was like, this would be the worlds best pub crawl. I had to give this leg a 5 beers out of 5. We rolled into the first aid station feeling great. I grabbed a handful of the chia seed gels that were provided for the next leg, drank and refilled my bottles, and merrily went on my way with Tom. What a great day!
Leg 2 is 32km with an unmanned water station 24km in. This is where the climbing would really begin in earnest. I love the climbing in ultras, because they always reward you with amazing views. There are exceptions to every rule. The climb was probably about 1000 meters. We hit one false summit, dense trees. We hit another false summit, dense trees. We hit the true summit, dense trees. I wont lie, I was a little gutted to not get a view, but the descent was on. I popped a chia gel (my fifth one that day) and we descended into a forest that had had a cleared path at one point, with a big trench in the middle of it. Great if you have small feet, hell if you have size 14s. We jogged along, trying to not roll an ankle, but not being able to fully see the trail through the growth. I think I crushed several thousand pine cones. This too shall pass though, and we were dumped out into a cut block (a deforested area) where it kind of looked like someone may have walked over it a few time to kind of make a trail. Good times.
We hit the unmanned water station, which was a relief for us, and we encountered another group of runners. They commented the same thing as we had been discussing about feeling a little gutted about the climb through the dense forest with no view. To keep up my spirits, I kept the pounding gels every 45min (they were free, I'm Dutch, there is a correlation). The orienteering experiment continued for the next 8km as we slowly worked our way to the aid station on a forestry road. The flat surface with trail shoes made my right foot tendonitis flair up to a solid 6/10, but road is road, gotta run it. On the way into the aid station, we both agreed, 1 beer out of 5 for this leg. I was able to change my shoes here though, and put on my pair with a rock guard to prevent further damage to my foot. The aid station had a fire (praise be), and it felt good to be warm. The sky was threatening rain, and the sun didn't even want to show up for this madness.
Leg 3 is 24km with a manned water station at 10km. Because all good races need a long road run, we were treated to 4km of road at variable grades to start this bad boy. Trail stoke was down to about a 4/10. Luckily, we hit some mountain bike trail, and were treated to a pretty excellent 6km. Possibly my favourite part of the entire race. It gave my foot a chance to calm down, and we could make time continuing our chill pace. We were treated to some excellent views of the valley, and of Penticton. I kept pounding chia gels. Life was good as we rolled into the water station at kilometer 10. This would be the last time I would feel this way.
We headed out on the second part of the leg, and were back out on road and quad trails. From the quad trails we continued steadily down until the worst part of the race, the river crossing. The river crossing was bad, because a) I would have to take my shoes off because I had no desire to run in wet shoes all night, and b) rocks are jagged and slippery. I tied my shoes and jacket to my vest, and crossed the river with Tom. About two steps in, I knew I was in trouble. To stay upright, I had to keep balance. To keep balance, I had to contort my feet. To contort my feet, I had to let my tendonitis flair up. Once I got to the other side, I couldn't even put my sock back on, let alone walk. This was definitely a low point. After biting on my buff, I was able to suck up the foot pain, and get my shoe and sock back on. Now we only had a 7km misery trudge up and around a hill, then down to the next aid station. I've dealt with pain before, and this being my 14th ultra this year, I decided to suck up the pain, and once we completed the misery trudge up the hill, we got our run on into the next aid station. 71km in. Leg 3, rank: 2 out of 5 beers.
The aid station was amazing, and had pizza (and more chia gels). I was running this race blind. We were running it chill to enjoy it, so I hadn't read much about the course other than the elevation profile. I asked around about Leg 4 while we were eating, and got the usual 'it's all uphill and terrible' responses. I wish I had know there was a 6km road climb to start the leg, instead of another trail climb. It was glorious. Trail stoke was pretty much a negative number at this point, but trudging up the road gave me an hour to work on getting my foot under control. We did a Facebook live, and enjoyed watching the sun go down. We followed the flagging to a ledge that led to nowhere at the end of the road. We were dead ended. Tom opened his trailforks app (where the course map was located on) and we could see we were horribly off course. We'd seen a lot of ATV's in the area, and came to the realization, someone thought it would be funny to mess with the course markings. At that point I was ready to abandon all the chill crap, and toss whoever did this off the ledge we'd been led out too. Unfortunately, they were long gone. We retraced our steps back on course, and stood up some of the signs that had been knocked down (there were many). It's always good to waste a half hour. To cope, I pounded more chia gels.
Back on track, we were on a quad trail in the community pasture, which was well forested. We were dodging cow pies left and right, trying to make some time back up before the sun went down. Tom and I had both lost interest in running or even continuing at this point. Any recovery our trail stoke had made, was now gone. On the plus side despite all the bear scat we had seen, no bears! As we took a break to put on our headlamps, the 22 chia gels I pounded fianlly caught up to me. The course had basically been absent of any outhouse facility, so this was bound to happen. RIP my Icebug buff, you died for the cause. The quad trails continued all the way until km 83 and were fairly runnable, albeit a little tedious, and we got a final climb at the end before the 4km mountain bike trail downhill into the aid station. The 4km on the mountain bike trails was fun. Well buffed out with a few roots here and there, but nice to be on trail. We hit the bottom with half a km left to go, and got to do a nice little out and back to the aid station. This was probably my second favorite leg, but that is like saying it's my second favorite torture instrument. Like spending the night in an Iron Maiden as opposed to being flayed. Or, eating Taco Bell instead of Arsenic. No real winners, just losing by less. 4 beers out of 5.
13km to go. My legs felt great, and my foot has been improving steadily since the road climb. I should mention at this point that this is actually fun, despite my nattering. The aid station has more Chia gels for me, because why switch now? and we head down the mountain bike trails for 8km to the KVR, a rail trail. The first 8km is progressively downhill, and enjoyable (again, type 2 fun). We can see the city lights, and spill out onto a road (yay pavement?). From there, we make our way to the KVR for a 5km run into the finish. I can tell Tom is having fun by the 'kill me now' look on his face, and we run distance marker to distance marker on the KVR, slowly chopping away at it. Right near the end, we head of the KVR and run a trail near the lake that is well forested, near the downtown, and looked like a likely place to find hobos, rapists, or ultra runners. This part seemed to go on forever, but finally we could see the finish line. We ran it out, completing leg 5, a solid 3 out of 5 beers leg, and headed right for the kegs.
I could tell Tom was excited to finally get an ice cold beer, by the way he wrapped up in his jacket, and closed his eyes. He was probably savouring it. I took a rather different approach, as this was my last night for 4 weeks enjoying a cold one (or any non meat product, as I'm headed on a four week collision course with the carnivore diet, read about it here). I enjoyed a few pints, and got to see my buddy Clint cross the finish line (his first 100K). That's how I knew it was time to pack it in.
Would I do this race again? That's like asking if I'd eat Taco Bell again. With enough beer, I guess anything is possible (just ask Brett Kavanaugh). It was a great race to take chill and enjoy before Javalina Jundred. I really enjoy being outside, and I'd never been to Penticton. The race was well organized, and aid stations and volunteers were top notch. Running with a friend makes these experiences pretty awesome as well. Oh, and the beer at the finish line was excellent (important things). What did I learn? There are easier ways to get a free beer, and chia seeds are full of insoluble fiber.
Keep it weird,
The Canadian Ghost Runner
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