The uneasiness about my first race of the 2018 season started well before the start line. In the elevator of my building, as I was leaving for the ferry to Vancouver the day before the race, I ran into one of my neighbours.
I had a bunch of stuff in my hands – clothes, shoes, Gatorade, water, and my running vest (or the “Braseer” [pronounced BRA-ZEER] as one of my closest friends mockingly refers to it), basically supplies that could only help you nurse an unbearable hangover, or essentials for some sort of outdoor adventure. Anyways, it’s no wonder my neighbour felt compelled to ask, “Where you off to?”
“I’m doing a 25k trail race near Vancouver,” I replied.
My neighbour, unsure of what to do with that surprising piece of information looked me up-and-down and replied, “Wow, that’s impressive. A guy your size, and you’re good at running?”
“I guess we’re going to find out,” I replied sheepishly.
To be fair, my neighbour had a point. When I tell people “I run” I’m used to the skepticism. Almost two years ago I did a grueling 11-km trail race on Salt Spring Island – one of the first serious physically activities I had done in a very long time – and after the race, while consuming several well-deserved beers at the local bar, I got chatting with a local. When I told him about the race it took me several minutes to convince him that I had, in fact, done the race and hadn’t been slamming shots of Jameson and chasing them with PBR all afternoon.
What I’m saying is that I just don’t have the typical build of a long distance runner. Someone once told me I looked like “a fat Matt Damon”, which as far as insult go, isn’t so bad. I’m 6’3 and depending on the time of year, my weight fluctuates from 230-lbs (beach-bod condition) to 260-lbs (I have no self-control because it’s Christmas time). My heaviest was almost 280-lbs (I have no excuse, this was a dark time).
So it’s no wonder when people find out I run they can be surprised (although lately, minus the elevator neighbour, I seem to be met with less-and-less skepticism, which must be a good thing).
Digression aside, until that comment in the elevator, I actually felt pretty good leading up to my first race of the 2018 season. The race I chose was a 25K trail race called “Run Ridge Run”, which is the first race of the Coast Mountain Trail Series and loops around two lakes – Sasamat and Buntzen Lake – near Port Moody, not far from Vancouver. I considered this my tune-up run before my 35K race in May, and the first stepping stone towards my goal of finishing the Squamish 50K in August.
I thought I had a reason to feel good, too. Just last fall I did my first half-marathon trail race in less than two hours and completed a 20K trail relay race as a solo contestant. Training in January had been slow to start (my lack of discipline over the holidays may have contributed to this), but I had a handful of good runs in early February (race date was Feb. 24), despite the bender that was my 30th birthday weekend. Okay, so maybe I should have been a little concerned, but I was trying to be positive.
But as I started the car and turned on the radio I heard the weather forecast for the next day: snow. Well, technically, it had already started snowing. Something that I was anticipating, but given my experience with snow on the west coast, I didn’t think it was going to last, let alone be a major course factor on race day. I mean I’m from Ontario, no offence to you south Islanders, but you freak out and suddenly don’t know how to drive with an inch of snow on the ground.
However, I wasn’t completed fazed, I had trained, and I had even set a goal. Finish the race alive, and unhurt, in less than 4 hours. Given my previous times, it seemed like a tangible goal. Well, a tangible goal for a supposed overweight Jason Bourne look-alike.