Des­ti­na­tion Race

The Squamish 50/50

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Brice Ferre

If you run trails, like to suf­fer and are look­ing for a great sum­mer race in Bri­tish Columbia, then Squamish 50 is the one for you. And if you feel like an ad­di­tional chal­lenge, the Squamish 50/50 op­tion is al­ways on the ta­ble – 50 miles on Satur­day, fol­lowed by the com­par­a­tively gen­tle 50k on Sun­day, guar­an­tee­ing that you’ll spend your Mon­day watch­ing Netf lix.

Di­rected by Gary Robbins (an in­cred­i­ble ul­tra­run­ner him­self and our cover ath­lete, read his pro­file on p. 46), Squamish 50 is a re­mark­ably hard race. It’s typ­i­cally very hot and hu­mid on race week­end, and the course it­self is rocky, muddy and steep. It’s de­signed to make you hurt and push your lim­its.

And yet, year af­ter year, the race sells out in just a few hours. And here are a few rea­sons why:

All of these painful shenani­gans take place in what many con­sider to be the out­door recre­ational cap­i­tal of Canada. You are go­ing to spend the day run­ning on some of the most beau­ti­ful sin­gle­track trails North Amer­ica has to of­fer. Sure, it in­cludes the dreaded “Galactic Scheisse,” with a climb that seems to go on for­ever, and the fa­mous “Legacy” (right af­ter the half­way point) that you must take on, in the mid­day sun, with­out shade. Luck­ily, the race it­self is or­ga­nized to make you feel as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble.

The race starts at Alice Lake, right af­ter sun­rise. The for­est is quiet,

moody and the views are spec­tac­u­lar. If you’re a lo­cal run­ner, chances are you will know most of the peo­ple rac­ing around you. The trail run­ning com­mu­nity of Van­cou­ver and Squamish is fairly small, and it’s al­ways a great plea­sure to race sur­rounded by friends. And if you’re trav­el­ling to the re­gion for this spec­tac­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence, you’ll find a few new run­ning pals by the time you come off the trails.

One of the high­lights of the race is def­i­nitely Quest Univer­sity (near the third aid sta­tion). It’s pretty over­whelm­ing. Af­ter run­ning by your­self for a while, you even­tu­ally exit the for­est to cross the cam­pus, where you’re wel­comed by hun­dreds of peo­ple cheer­ing, and some of the most ef­fi­cient vol­un­teers I’ve ever seen. (All of the race’s vol­un­teers are next level at what they do.) They spot your bib num­ber be­fore you ar­rive and as soon as you show up, they hand you your drop bag. Some­one im­me­di­ately comes to you, grabs your packs and asks you what you need put in or taken out. Most of the vol­un­teers are used to rac­ing and know how im­por­tant it is to send you back out as quickly as pos­si­ble, and they all do a fine job at it.

Af­ter a few more hours in back coun­try, the last great ob­sta­cle you need to con­quer is Moun­tain of Phlegm, and that’s where you re­al­ize how cruel a man Gary Robbins is. Just as you think you are close to the top, the trail goes back down and around for an­other bru­tal stretch. And it goes on and on, un­til the point where you are ready to cry – and just then, you fi­nally reach the top.

This is when you know the race is in the bag. Since Phlegm is the last climb of the day, no mat­ter what state you’re in, you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be able to push through (or crawl) the last four kilo­me­tres of down­hill and the f lat stretch lead­ing you mer­ci­fully to the fin­ish line, where Robbins and his ma­jes­tic beard are wait­ing for you with a big hug and a medal.

Squamish 50 will chal­lenge you. It is an in­cred­i­ble race, although not rec­om­mended as a first ul­tra, but it will al­ways give you a tremen­dous sense of ac­com­plish­ment once you cross the fin­ish line. No mat­ter how long you took to get there.

Get­ting There

Most ma­jor air­lines f ly to Van­cou­ver daily. Then you have to drive the ridicu­lously scenic Sea to Sky High­way (be­tween ocean and moun­tains) for an hour to reach Squamish.

Where to Stay

There are many op­tions, from camp­ing to ho­tels and Airbnb, but make sure to book well in ad­vance, as Squamish is not a large city and the race is very pop­u­lar.

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