Monday, August 2, 2010

Fat Dog 100

Fat Dog 100

I was privilege to be part of an extraordinary and epic journey of my first 100+ Miles race.
I raced, survived and at the end win my first 100+ miles to tell the tale.

Fat Dog is a race of life time, something i never imagined so hard and pretty. Exposed trails, scorching sun, vast with colourful wildest flowered meadows, true blue sky something you don’t witness so often In Vancouver, clean air, blue and pure watered lakes of the mountain top, patches of snow in the middle of summer, Narrowest meadows the size of shoe and half, mud lands, tall bushes, pot holes and sign of burned Forrest. Small and big stream running from the mountain top to gushing, strong and powerful current at River crossing. Sharing trails with wild animal, dancing of flying birds and bugs excited for the headlamp light and companying you all night long. I drove the distance on the road twice without much of the elevation we experienced in the race and I was tired of it but something inside kept me going during the race. To describe it in 2 simple words, “Just Amazing!”

I knew at the beginning of the year that I was going to run Fat Dog but I registered on July 12.
I wanted to be certain that my body was ready and my race fee wasn’t going to waste, better paying a quarter more than wasting the other 3 quarters.

Before Fat Dog, on May 1st I raced the Elk Lake 100K and kind of predicted the race was going to be my longest run in preparation for this epic race.
I was a bit nervous about entering the race not because of my ability to finish the race but the pace I was going to run it. 95% of my training runs were consists of 7 to 8 miles.
With the limitation of longer runs before the race I estimated that I should run the race in about 18 hours or so and the night run training wasn’t important and knowing the course now it wouldn’t have made any difference, may be a better or brighter headlamp but not training. The trails are technical, narrow, and full of tree roots and high bushes, in the dark I just wanted to survive and come out alive without an injury which I found out about half an hour as sun went down.

This year I arranged our family annual camping trip with my race but I would give it a second thought next time. Worrying about the stay, loading and unloading camping gear and moving to different spot or accommodation is not fun.

We got to the camp ground at Lightening Lake in Manning Park on Monday July 19 and I planned to run to Frosty Mountain on the same day so I would give an extra day for body to recover before the race however getting late to the camp ground and my laziness won the battle of the debate and postponed the training run to the next day. We sat around the camp fire, had a great meal and everyone told funny storied and jokes. The evening was short, practice an old saying “early to bed, early to rise”. Early to bed came but no show from early to rise. I decided to run to Frosty about noon, I took my arm warmer and a single handheld.

I thought I could run all the uphill’s but it was difficult and I kept thinking about fresh legs for the race day and I realized the morning before the run that I had forgotten to take my puffers with me on the trip. Further I climbed, breathing got harder. Got to a trail distance marking so I kept hiking the trails and time myself each kilometre, I was very surprised time was running a lot faster than I thought, I tried even more power walk but time kept running faster than my legs, by this experience I knew I was up to a battle with the 3 mountain climbs described in the course of Fat Dog. As I got to higher elevation about 6500 ft, a light rain started following with hail and as I climbed further the hail became the storm and was hurting the skin, and trail now is all rocks and snow.

I reached the sign of highest point in the Frosty Mountain race and here I saw an 8 year old boy who climbed the mount and he was already 16K into the hike. I was very excited to see this. I was climbing up but the boy and his dad were coming down, I gave the way and I wanted to just stop and enjoy the moment. How many times I was going to witness this again in my life. How often I would be able to see a child their world consumed with electronic gadgets wanted to celebrate his 8 birthday hiking 25K of gruelling mountain. I told the Boy he was my hero and Mountain would love him for ever and he should not forget to come back. Air became a lot cooler and started to feel really cold and it was hailing harder now and I was debating whether I should still continue to the top of mount frosty, thinking about the race and finishing I was determined to go to the top and turn around and get down as quick as possible, last thing I wanted to catch cold before my race, worst thing for asthmatic person to catch cold or chest problems.

After reaching to the top immediately turned around and running fast down, I knew I would pay for this but also I heard about the race there are downhill’s worst than frosty so I didn’t mind to test my quads and give them some practice. After 2:45 min I was at the Lightening Lake, soaking my legs then off to the campground about another 2 K run which is almost the same distance from River crossing at the race to the aid stations. This was the longest and only run 7 days before the race. Next day I took my family for a tour and show them the aid stations area where they would be meeting me during the race, driving from campground to Keremous was very tiring, pointing some of the climbs to my family, they wished me luck when car was coughing the climbs on the paved road.

Got to the camp ground realizing there was a thunder storm with heavy rain and almost everything got wet and forecast was all sun I guess they call it lightening lake for a reason.
Thanks God the kids stuff was dry but everything on wife and my side was wet and full of water.

Thankful to a good neighbour for throwing a tarp on top of our tent to reduce the damage otherwise we would have been flooded; a good old red Shiraz made them pretty happy for their reward. So we quickly started the restoration project, got the water out, dried the tent, started drying our mattresses and sleeping bag and clothes, no Laundry service in the area so the fire was the only solution. My arm warmer and calf sleeves were pretty Smokey, yummy I thought was running with smoked salmon during the race.

I usually try to have good sleep 2 nights before the race but the restoration went on until 12:00 AM. I kept praying to not rain over night but thunder and rain had already made their mind and they were not going to make it easy for me. The next morning got up earlier knowing more restoration was ahead, had breakfast with family and had to pack everything as we had to leave the camp site to cabin as previously arranged. Lucky enough we were able to check in at the cabin early so I could help out with unloading the stuff from the car to the cabin and felt good knowing my family had comfort while I was out. Got all my stuff ready early in the day and completed the rest at the cabin for 3:00 PM departure with the bus from Manning Park Lodge to Keremous where the race briefing was scheduled at 5:00 PM. As we got to the lodge I met Suzanne and Julie who I was going to share my accommodation at Keremous and then met a few more of the runners.

During the bus trip I met a couple of runners from abroad and we shared a few experiences and by the time we reached Victory Hall in Keremous, Heather Macdonald Fat Dog race director was about to finish her briefing. I met a few friends in the hall including Darin Bentley my Canadian Teammate from Commonwealth championships in UK in 2009.
Then off to the scale and blood pressure testing that was preformed by folks from UBC whom apparently done these test previously at WS100.

After briefing Suzanne, Julie and I headed to Elk Motel where we were going to stay. Keremous was a gust town on Thursday night, it was quite windy, and almost the only thing you could see on the street was truckers or the driving tourist. We made the decision not to eat out and stick to what we had brought with us. Later in the evening, visiting Peter Watson showed us his taping techniques and wisdom that he had learned during his epic journey to WS100 and then Nicola shared her part. I was lucky to be alert and absorb what the two of them were telling us.
We set our alarm at 2:00 AM and good nights and off we went int to silent, but noooooo. Apparently I was snoring and these 2 girls were laughing, I could hear everything but my own snore, I didn’t want to say anything, If I started there was no ending so stayed silent and quite. At 1:10 AM woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, I took my pill that helps my metabolism to do its work and 2:00 AM everyone was up.

Let the Journey begin:

I had a banana, peanut butter bar, vector serial for breakfast. Then I went ahead with rubbing SportsSheild in the sensitive chafing area, and my foot, put on socks, shoes, cap, head lamp and my nutrition vest with carbo-pro powders bag for 2 aid stations. About 3:00 AM we headed to Victory Hall where bus was waiting to take us the race start.

The bus ride was about 30 min and then Peter Watson announced that we had to walk about 400 yards in the trail to the start. At 4:00 AM Peter started the count down. Darin and I started the race at the back of the pack. After a while of utilizing some wider section of the trails in the dark we made headways to the lead pack and by about 40 min I would say we met Brian Morrison and he told us there are couple of runners ahead goateed the hills up. I don’t think I was pushing the hills to hard but Just shortly after meeting Brian I felt a very sharp pain in my lower back and spine, the exact feeling when I try to climb Grouse Grind which I haven’t done for a long time.

This is not a good feeling for me; all the catching up from the back of the pack is now giving me this pain. The further we went ahead the climbs started to get steeper.

Pain and drama continued, and I was thinking to myself if I was suffering on the first climb how my body was going to coup for the next 2 climbs further in the face. I never DNF in my races however dropping the race was creeping in. I usually don’t talk much when I am running, just trying to focus on my own thing. Rather than thinking too much to my pain, I tried to engage myself more in conversation with Brian and Darin.

Soon dropping thoughts faded away. About an hour in the run we run into Ryan Conroy another accomplished runner and after a while of run with him we were back to the Trio again. After 1:45 min of climbing we reached the first aid station at 12K. I waited at stations, Thanks to the 2 ladies there, they filled my bottles with Carbo-Pro powder I was carrying with me and a few sip of coke I had at least a couple of min catching up to Brian and Darin.

More climbing ahead, in order for me to catch up I tried less walk, and run more, every time they started walking I power walked or move a bit fast and finally I caught up to Brian at the highest point.

The View Fantastic, I should have taken the camera with me. I didn’t take the camera because of weight concern but is all worth it, next time. As the descend part started, Brian stopped to tie his shoe laces but it took a lot longer than previous one and this was the last time I saw him during and after the race. Now I needed to catch up to Darin, I wanted to run with or close to someone, a bit faster on some descends I was behind Darin and soon we were running with Peter from a relay team. Shortly after the trail widen, peter disappeared, as much as I liked to chase him down but he was about to finish his run but mine was just beginning.

About 30 min before the next aid station, my foot clipped on a taller tree root, trying to balance myself in narrow trail I pulled my hamstring, and then my quad started to cramp, it was quite painful. A loud scream, pit stop to pee, quickly assessed the situation and again dropping thoughts reappear. I said to myself run the next 30 min to see how it goes; as the time went by with the workaround I felt less pain and soon I was on mission to catch Darin. We reached the second aid station after crossing a little bridge.

I envy and thankful to the folks at the aid station, how could they stand those bugs. The pain from the mosquito bites were with me all day. Rune Melcher was kind to fill in my bottles and a few sip of coke and a few seconds of wait for Darin to take care of some foot issues and we went off. At this point, I knew I am going to finish the race and nothing was going to stop me including the bears.

About half kilometre after aid station I felt the heat from the exposed trail and I wasn’t going to risk more sweating. There was no point of going back to the aid stations to drop my shirt and arm warmer, so I stopped and changed and pack my clothes where I was keeping my Carbo-pro power since just little left. Then tried to run a bit faster to catch up to Darin but he was also peaking up the pace. We were heading a windy forestay road soon Darin disappeared and I figured I should see him in a longer stretch and continued the hill until Darin screaming on my Right, Trail was the other way further up, so quickly turned around and followed him up and seeing the marking made me more comfortable. I was chasing Darin but then I saw him running toward me, he realized there were no marking ahead and started back tracking. Now we are both tracing the trail. Finally after loosing 10 min or so we found the trail and in the right direction, we continued the journey with another climb.

So this is our third climb already in the run and we are not even at the river crossing. We reached to the top of the mountain, we were in the burned Forrest area and this was supposed to be the flat and runnable section of the run however soon we found out, it is technical, mud land and full of high bushes. To survive a free injury run we stuck to walk, hike and watch our footings. Here we realized how hard could be organizing this race, how difficult must have been for the folks to mark the trail, how on earth even they knew where to put the trail marking in those mud land and trail headed. After the race I found out despite all the difficulty they had to avoid the private property in the mean time. My warmest and heartily thank you to Heather Macdonald and her Volunteering crew.

After walking most of the flat section we reached a blue watered lake, blue sky, only hearing the birds. The view indescribable, you just have to be there, forget about the race, lets just camp here over night. Soon we realized we were following the trail straight ahead but no marking, back to old back tracking. Darin and I stayed in distance from each other so we could communicate if one of us found the trail, no luck so we got together this time and back track further and soon found the trail in blind spot and continued the journey up the meadow. Every time we saw a hill ahead we knew the trail continued the top :). We were now about 5 hrs in the run, we were in completely exposed area and there was no water station and no stream to be safe to drink water from and I was getting short of fluid. With the further Climbs ahead I took the lead. And as time went on the gap started to grow a bit and soon I was out of fluid, earlier noticed Darin had his camelback and spare bottle. I knew I was in trouble, so my goal was to get to the water station as fast as I could but this went on for an hour and 20 min in the scorching heat.

I was so happy to see Amber and another girl at the Calcite aid station, Fuelled myself with water, Gatorade and coke then waited until Darin arrived, we are 7:10 into the run and when I heard we just covered 42K in the course distance, I knew we are up for a battle, 18 hours finish was out of the door, 24 hours may be. Darin mentioned he was familiar with a bit of the trails ahead to the river crossing as he was there for the trail maintenance a few weeks back but by this time bushes really covered most of the trail.

Between Calcite and River Crossing both Darin and I had a foot incident, I broke a branch in half sticking to my foot, Thanks to my Saucony ProGrid Xodus shoes protecting my right foot, after a couple limp I shook it off and I was ready to go. But Darin’s was way worse than mine, stick went right between his toe’s. I am still wondering how the heck he finished the race, not may people would continue 120k or so of the torture. We both knew the river crossing was ahead and we were both looking forward to soaking our feet in the cold river water. The river was cold, rocks were extremely slippery, and we managed to cross the river without injuring ourselves further. We posed for a couple pictures at the crossing and soon I was greeted by Ean Jackson reminding me that my family were waiting at Bonnevier aid station for at least 3 hours, he reminded me of the pain of being late that was already in my head for a long 3 hours or so.

I asked my family the day before to be at the spot at 8:45 so they are ready for my 9:00 AM arrival but this is 3 hr 30 min late already. 8:25 into the run we arrived at the aid station.
I was very happy to see my family, hug and kisses, never been sweeter before.

Everybody was helping to change my shoe, feeding me with what was at the aid station, Potato, coke, Gatorade, fill in my bottles and off we went.

Shortly after we left, Darin asked me if I needed my cap, ooops I left it with family, he was kind waiting for me and I sprinted back to the aid station to get my cap.
About 3k of running in the exposed forestry road we were greeted by a lady from relay team that she wanted to go ahead and soon the gap grow and my guts feeling wanted to chase her down but Darin had no intention.

I thought Darin and I going to company and finish the race together but after a few climbs he was hiking slower and didn’t want to slow me down, I wanted to stay with him we could pull and push each other to the finish but he wanted me to do my own race and not to wait. I went ahead and soon it was just me and the vast mountain hills and the scorching sun. After 3 hours of climbing and multiple back tracking I reached the Heather aid station, by now I already climbed 5 mountains in the race. Too many bugs at the aid station, they asked me if wanted Chicken soup, first time ever in the race for me. Chicken soup with noodles, yummy, more water, water melon, Gatorade, coke and chips and off I went.

My head was very hot; I was dehydrated in the exposed trail. My favourite section of the race with flats, stream and snow patches. 360 degree view of the mountains, meadows of wild flower, too many streams to remember, running on snow in some section. Along the way anytime I saw snow patch, I filled my cap to cool me down, I think I repeated that about 8 times Then I reached the descend part which I thought I was at the lion’s east and west, then a few kilometre further I was at Nicomen Lake where was the unmanned water aid station, I drank as much as water my stomach would accept and refill my bottles but I had only a scoop of Carbo-pro left. I used it and for more energy I still had 2 Gels left which I kept it for emergency. As I was filling my bottles I saw Johnnie from PRR who was in relay team and he mentioned that he passed Darin about 2K before water station. I was running the downhill’s fine from Bonnevier aid stations to that point so Darin was doing better and I hoped that we could meet again at Cascade for our night run.

As we left the water station I was trying to stay with Johnnie but him with fresh legs, soon he disappeared in the dust and I needed to save my legs for more climbs ahead and the night run. About an hour I saw Johnnie moving slower because of calf cramps. I took the lead and soon we ran into a 100K racer who was using a wooden stick and hobbling, greeting and ask if he was ok, if he needed help. He said he wanted to walk on his own and should manage to the aid station. We were approaching the Cayuse aid stations at 100K in the course. Just before the Cayuse aid station, Scott one of Darin’s crew asked how far Darin was, may be 20 min. But later I found out Scott’s mission was actually helping the injured runner.

At this point of the race I am reaching a distance milestone, 100K was the longest run ever for me, by this time I already ran 6 hr and 30 more than my longest time in my life, I promised to myself that I would scream as soon as I get to Cascade Aid station which was going to be at 106K. Quickly I filled in a bottle and couple of gels from aid station and I was 7k to Cascade aid station. This run started gentle, where I could see the cars on the road and the next moment I could see the ridge of the mountain across, huge elevation change in a very short time. After almost 1 hr and 10 min of up and downhills once again I was extremely happy to see my family. My daughter reminded that I was late, how could I do this twice in row!

This was the last time I was seeing my family before the finish line.
I spent a quite a bit of time at the aid stations to ensure I had anything to survive overnight and get me to the finish line, ate quite bit of water melon, chips and drank coke and water at the aid stations. Changed my clothes and took spare jacket in the case I needed in cold, change to new shoes. My wife filled my camelback with Coke, 2 bottles of Gatorade and lots of Gels and salt pills and I was ready, and when my family heard about my screaming mission, before I open my mouth they did it on my behalf.

Then I headed for my night mission, I had to run along the highway for 3K or so to the next aid station, where I met Nicola and Peter. Nicola offered me couple of chicken soup cup and a bit of chips and she told me the trail was runnable, and Peter guide me to the trail, off I went. The trail may be runnable in day light but not during the night unless I had multiple head lamps.
Still managed to run about 20 in the day light.

At some point during the run I turned my cap around so my head could breathe more and when I tried to reach and turn on my head lamp it wasn’t there. Umm, no head lamp, should I go back another 30 min, and look for headlamp, I will be loosing about an hour time if even I find it. Then I thought, may be Darin might find it and I could give it to me at the next aid station. Then I thought may be someone like Gary would have spare at the next aid station that I could borrow. Then I am thinking about the time my wife was insisting I take spare but I didn’t, cursing myself. So I decided to go ahead without headlamp and see where the Journey would take me.

After I took my camelback at cascade I was feeling a bit of strain on my neck and a bit itch on upper back. I stretched my arm as long as I could and what I find is gold, my headlamp. It had fallen off my cap all this time and was saved by my camelback. Was I ever relieved and happy, I knew the Angels were looking out for me. I ran a bit of flatter and clean section of trail but soon I decided to just walk and hike in the dark to survive the night. I tripped over rocks twice. In one of them knocked my knee to rocks bleeding, face down. I managed to save my face from falling on sharp rock.

Little bit further I could see some lights and was getting excited about the aid station but soon I found it was just an illusion of aid stations. These were from 100K racers headlamps, and saw more of them as I progressed.

After 22 hours I ran into Rob Smith with another runner then headed to Gary Robbins aid station. I met Gary, Lori Alexander and famous ultra runner dog Roxy. A bit of chat and found out Lori had just ran the infamous 135 miles Bad water, congratulated her on her accomplishment, a race that I love to do one day. I was craving for solid food and what I could see Pizza, I figured nothing should go wrong and cheese on pizza shouldn’t bother my stomach so I went for it but soon I realized pepperoni was a bit spicy for me. Gary told me I should give myself at least 6 hours to the finish and I laughed. I ran the same mountain from a different direction but similar climb in Frosty Mountain race 2 years ago in 2:32 in daylight. I knew the course description was saying the same thing but I thought Gary was joking with me. Soon Gary reminded me it was serious and he was right dead on.

This section appeared a lot longer and harder than I imagined. Once again I was late and wrong with the predicted time. At Cascade aid station I told my wife that I should be at the finish line about 5 AM latest but I was there at 8:00 AM.

After a long time of ups and downs about 50 yards to the finish line my daughter and niece joined me to cross the finish line just under 28 hours. Sweetest win by far!
This journey made possible by a vision that Heather Macdonald turned into a dream and reality, months of preparation and hard work by tens of volunteers. Lots of sacrifice on my family part, and hard work preparation on my part.

Soacking my legs to hip in cold glacier water of Lightening lake

I like to thank my sponsor Saucony

for their wonderful clothing and foot gear. ProGrid Xodus, excellent gripping, tough and very flexible shoe for trail running, they saved me and made my day. Thank you to NorthShore Athletics for their continued support. Thank you to Peter Watson and Nicola Gildersleeve for their generosity sharing their wealth of knowledge and experience from WS100 with me. I kept rewinding the tape in my head the entire course.
Thank you to Darin Bentley running at least 1/3 of the course with me and saving me from going off the course. Thank you to all the volunteers for your tremendous and heartily support.
Thank you to Heather Macdonald race director for her support and making a dream reality.
Thank you to all my running buddies specially our Tuesday advance group at NorthShore Athletics for their encouragement and support.
Most importantly thanks to my Family for their love, support and to crew me at this race. By my daughters definition of Fat Dog race, “month before the race I was a fat dog, after driving twice from Keremous to Cascade aid station, the day before the race I was a dead dog, after finishing the race I am a supper dog!

my foot day after the race. more pictures hopefully to come.


Darin said...

Hey Hassan that last picture was the way my feet looked after the race and on the way home! No need to thank me for anything, you did all the work and deserve every bit of the win. Recover well.



Hello! I was the 'other girl' with Amber at the Calcite Aid stn. You had the BEST attitude! (even wrote about you) I could tell you were enjoying the journey. I later got to spend the hours at the finish line with your wife and oh so patient kids. You are amazing! I am glad to have taken a small part in your completion of the FAT DOG 100!!!

Schmidty said...

Hey Hassan,

Would you like to submit a shorter version of your Fat Dog 100 story to Trail Running Canada - Amazing story and great race.

Schmidty said...

Hassan - email me at (Jonathan Schmidt). Cheers!

Karen said...

OMG.....tried to find you over FB but found this instead. WOW, SM you impress me mucho mucho.
Way to go, congratulations.
Love you,

SibbieC said...

Hassan, you are an amazing person in all aspects. I had so much respect for your personal and work ethos already and then this to top it off! Take care, Sybil