Here it is… my third Coast Mountain Trail Series race, Survival of the Fittest 18k. I am mostly familiar with this course as it follows some of the Squamish 50 23k course and I ran the orientation run for it last year. I knew it was going to be a challenge going in. In addition to that, we had to top off our mileage to make it 25 km. As if it wasn’t hard enough, the forecast called for rain. I was hoping it would change but that wasn’t the case. Here’s how it all went down.
The Survival of the Fittest 18k course
You know it’s serious when the first half of the race includes a 7 to 8 km (runnable) climb followed by a steep technical downhill. After that it’s a mix of flowy undulating single and double track. It’s a mix of slabby trails, fast mountain bike runs that you can fly down on, and an uphill finish back up to the finish at Quest University. If you’re running Squamish 50, this is actually a nice preview of some of the trails you’d be running on for the 50k and the 23k races.
It’s not an easy course, it’s a Gary Robbins race after all. In the summer, it gets dry, dusty and slippery with lots of rocks to slip on. On race day it was very wet, which made the course even more sketchy. Navigating through thick, slippery mud and puddles is not ideal for me but adds to the challenge.
How did I do?
Let me explain why my Strava activity says 25 km. Our training plan required Cuski and I to do 25 km that same day. We decided to do a 2 km warm up before the race and then a 5 km cool down afterwards. It sucks but you gotta do what you gotta do. My head space was more in survival mode, not race mode. I wanted to be able to finish the run I set out to do without burning out. From the start, I knew I wasn’t climbing as well as I did last time I was here, so I just kept moving forward. The Climb Trail was relentless but familiar to me so I at least knew what I was getting myself into.
The descent was a different story as I had only done Angry M. once before. I hugged one tree after another then, and I did the same thing this time around. I was trying my best not to slip and fall, which was difficult to do on account of all the mud on the trail. Add to that the pressure of not letting the sweeps catch up to me. Thankfully I managed to pass these two women at the end of the descent and made ground heading into the only aid station for the 18k.
After grabbing a handful of chips, I was off to tackle the second half of the race. I cheered on the back of the pack 35k racers as I passed them. There was another short but still painful climb that we had to do. When I made it to the top, I was so relieved to hear the course marshal say, “it’s all downhill from here.”
Volunteers are the best!
By the way, I need to give a shout-out to all the volunteers, especially at the aid stations and the course marshals. They spent hours there in pouring rain, under a canopy, probably freezing, waiting for all of us runners to come through.
I basically completed this second half of the race alone. Thank goodness it’s well-flagged. Based on the results, the people behind me were about 4-8 minutes away. I’m glad I kept moving forward. In hindsight, I should’ve pushed a little more. I knew I had a bit extra to do so I decided to run cautiously and stay injury-free. That almost didn’t happen as I almost rolled my ankle on a flat part of the race. Naturally. The uphill finish was a struggle. It was a run/walk for me and the 35k runners who were finishing alongside me cheered me on, which inspired me a bit.
Gary greeted me with open arms and a big hug. I told him it was so muddy and slippery. He asked if I came back with blood, I said no, just mud. It turns out there were people who were sent to hospital due to broken face, rib or foot. More evidence that the course was extra sketchy. I survived with a time of 3:34:41.
The real finish line
My work wasn’t done. I still had to run another 5 km. I decided to take it out on the road thinking it would be easier but clearly my mind wasn’t working. Quest is at the top of the hill so it was hard to avoid ending on an uphill unless I went towards the Climb Trail once again. Heading back up the hill to end off my run was a slow process but I was so glad when I was done. The good news was that my legs were still functioning that night. Squamish 50 training is definitely on track.
In other news…
Meanwhile, Cuski crushed his race even though he intended to “take it easy.” He finished in 2:26:10, a solid effort, as you can tell from the photo.
Shannon carpooled with us and ran strong, beating last year’s time by 10 minutes and finishing 7th female. Her time was a blistering 2:09:49.
Thanks Shannon and Cuski for waiting for my slow ass in the rain 😛 Shannon also introduced us to Mag’s 99. These enchiladas really hit the spot. We’ll definitely be back after another Squamish field trip.
What can I say that hasn’t been said before? The race was well-organized, flagged to the nines, and the volunteers helped you with smiles on their faces. With a name like Survival of the Fittest, it has to live up to its name, which it did. The only thing that put a damper on the event was the weather… but just barely. When they can make it fun even in a downpour, you know you’re in good company. It is worth sticking around as they gave out tons of prizes and had a potato sack race. As for swag, you don’t get a medal unless you podium but you do get a pretty sweet looking souvenir beer glass. Gotta collect them all, right? You also get awesome free race photos courtesy Scott Robarts and Ty Holtan. It was fun and I look forward to another CMTS race. I’m still thinking about Buckin’ Hell but if I don’t make it there, I’ll definitely be at WAM.