It started (to me, at least) as a joke, or perhaps a compliment on the part of those who encouraged me to sign up. The idea of running a course that would make four very good day hikes in less than 16 hours seemed mildly absurd.
I know that ultra-running is an established sport that is steadily growing in popularity, but surely it is something best left to seasoned marathoners. Friends (many of whom had already run the SJS50 at least once) allayed some of my fears, and a sensible-looking training schedule sealed the deal. I signed up online and committed to months of hard work with the click of a mouse.
December 2013 had already been a period of intense bursts of activity. I'd ventured deep into the wilderness on snowshoes on several occasions, but that wasn't going to be enough - not even close. I blew the dust from some old fitness books, studied online forums and websites dedicated to running, and tried to recall my old training methods. Within days, I was on a cycle of snowshoeing, skiing and running (with a day off in-between).
My 'official' training schedule didn't begin until February, but I wanted to hit the ground running - literally. Unfortunately, I didn't see the signs of over-training creeping up on me. They hit as January drew to a close, and suddenly my participation was in doubt.
A muscular injury was a poor way to begin the month. Not only could I not run, but hiking (my raison d'être) was painful. After a very long week of inactivity, I finally sought the help of a physical therapist (Trent at Heights). Half-expecting to be told to drop out, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my back-country snowshoeing coupled with general over-training was the most likely cause of the problem (snowshoeing in deep snow involves unusual and stressful leg movements). There is no quick fix to this type of condition, but the healing and re-training of muscles is essential.
An ultra-marathon requires a great deal of planning on the runner's part. Unlike the 10K that I'm more familiar with, every piece of equipment must be a perfect fit. A simple blister might be annoying for anything up to a half marathon (13.1 miles), but it could be a race ending problem over 50 miles. With a carefully researched shoe choice, I could finally begin a sensible training schedule. There would be time to learn about hydration, nutrition and everything else as the days and weeks passed.
My attempt at the SJS50 is partially sponsored by Alpine Animal Art.
To see images from the various sections of the SJS50 race, click here.