July 27, 2007

Steppin It Up!!

So for next weekend, the B.C. Day Long Weekend, I was initially looking to plan a sky diving outing with some friends. Unfortunately the operation I had contacted did not do the ground school solo jumps, only the tandem jumps and it was ridiculously expensive for these. It has been years since I have sky dived and I always thought that tandem jumping took some of the excitement, build up and scariness out of it...it's not the same if you don't have to climb out of the plane, hold onto the wing and actually let go on your own...so it was out.

Due to the long weekend I have four days off and my mind was working overtime to come up with a solid weekend plan. I can't waste valuable time like this in the middle of the summer!
What to do, what to do...bike to Seattle over a period of a few days(500km), party it up and bus it home...scramble up Sky Pilot, Diamond Head and The Black Tusk, three local mountains, in sequential days...head to Tofino (Vancouver Island) for a surfing and kayaking trip...drive to Banff, catch up with some great friends, hit up some hiking and riding and follow that up with a mass consumption of alcohol...head to Oregon for a biking trip...fly to Wisconsin to surprise my friends who are having a baby any day now (I priced out flights guys, you were actually my favorite option but I just could not afford it)...attempt to run the entire West Coast Trail and Juan De Fuca Trail in one go...find the cheapest flight I could, to anywhere and...hang on a second...run the entire West Coast Trail and Juan De Fuca Trail in one go...hmmm, never been done before, most likely perfect weather conditions, great daylight hours being mid summer, a short ferry ride to Vancouver Island and I would be there...that was it!! This was what I had to pursue next weekend!

The down side of this is that I will no longer be able to compete in Stormy the following weekend. The up side is that this has never been accomplished before, although it has been attempted at least a few times. Oh yeah, the catch...it's over 125km in length, and consists of some of the harshest trails and environment you could ever attempt to run.

The West Coast Trail is an infamous west coast hike and is 77km in length. There is a running record for this trail and it sits at nine hours. The guy who ran the trail in nine hours just ran the Knee Knacker a full thirty minutes faster then I did in 2005, so he's no slouch on his feet!
Last year I ran the 48km Juan De Fuca Trail with some buddies. It took us seven and a half hours to do so and my friend Dom (a seasoned ultra runner) summed it up best,

"I've run hundred km races in less time then that trail took us!"


The very thought of pulling off these trails, back to back, has me popping ibuprofen as I sit here on my computer...I is scared!!

I kinda made the announcement to a few friends before I had really thought through all the details. Honestly I was hoping that a few of them would grab at the hook I was tossing out there and jump on board (a group of us have talked about attempting this at some point in time, maybe this fall)...no one did. In fact I got a very mixed reaction, from obvious support, to comments from the people who know me best that this was not such a bright idea on my part. Someone mentioned the tides and I realized how hasty I had been.

There are numerous points along this trail where you have to run on the beach. This can only be accomplished during low or at least lowering tides. I had not even looked into what was happening around my proposed dates...I feared that I was going to be rescinding my words within twenty four hours of throwing them out there (the very thought of having to do this actually made me sick to my stomach). I tentatively drew up a rough idea of where I would be on the trail, and at what time. I then called the Pacific Rim National Park Office for the third time in two days.

"Hi I was just calling to get the tidal information in regards to the kilometer markings where you have to hit the beach along the West Coast Trail."

"For which days?"

"Saturday August fourth."

"And?" (this is listed as a five to seven day hike)

"Just Saturday please."

"Are you the guy who is hoping to run the entire trail next weekend?"

"Umm, yeah, hoping to being the key words here."

"I told my family about you over dinner last night!"

"HA! Well no matter what occurs next weekend, I'm sure I will leave you with another story to tell them in a weeks time!"

After gathering the necessary info and going over everything three times up and down, I was absolutely shocked to learn that the tides could not have aligned better! This was it, the last bit of fate that I needed to see...I was going!

There are of course the smaller issues that still have to be dealt with, like how the hell am I going to shuttle my own vehicle, my food, my drop bags, carry all my gear while running unsupported...oh yeah, and I failed to mention that the trail sells out three months in advance and although no permits are needed for the JDFT a permit for the WCT is like gold at this time of year. Even though I am not intending to stay overnight, there will be a $200.00 charge for permits and water taxis (across two bodies of water). I have been told that they release five extra permits, each day, on a first come first serve basis, so after work on Thursday I have to drive to the ferry, get to the island, drive to the start of the trail and camp out, in the hopes that at 9am I am one of those five. Otherwise I will plant myself on their doorstep to be one of the five people to get a permit for Sunday the 5th.

I was a little freaked out by what I had managed to get myself into in the last twenty four hours.

I have realized throughout my life that it seems to be human nature that whenever you dream of something big or start to plan something large, you almost immediately try to talk yourself out of it. I mean, the greater portion of people will come up with a wonderful idea and then spend an hour telling themselves why they could never pull it off! I am no different, and this whole thing scares the hell outa me right now, but that excites me more than anything and really gets my blood flowing!

I did end up spending a full sixty minutes telling myself everything that could go wrong out there, why I should not be attempting to do this on such short notice, most likely on my own, and of course that this distance is roughly twice as far as I have ever run before...but one thing I have managed to teach myself over the years is that even if I end up failing in my attempts to do 'stupid' things, I will NEVER, EVER regret having given it a go in the first place. So with that I sent out an e-mail proclaiming my intentions...and then ran to the book store to buy the new Colin Angus book, 'Beyond The Horizon'.

For those of you who have not heard of Colin Angus, he is a Canadian Adventurer who has done some pretty crazy shit in his life. His most recent accomplishment...the first person to ever circumnavigate the planet Earth under his own power! I attended his slideshow presentation in Vancouver last year and it was pretty impressive to say the least.

I read the first eighty pages of his book, realized how tiny my little proposed run is in the grand scheme of things, and started thinking about all of the incredible things that I could experience during my attempt to run 125km of the toughest trails around.

Whether I am able to cover the entire route or not, and no matter what happens to me during this run, there will undoubtedly be a story to tell and an experience that I will never, ever forget!

Wish me luck.



Anonymous said...

Hopefully they'll at least give you a t shirt when you are done!!! Good luck, I'm sure you'll do it, you're too stubborn not to.

Matt Hart said...

i want in on this gary. sounds like you need some company.

matt hart