Free registration for a 3 day race in the mountains of British Columbia is an opportunity you don’t want to pass up. So I went to great lengths to make it happen. And even though so, so many things went hilariously wrong…or maybe because they went wrong…this is a trip I’ll remember well. Hopefully you read this and want to try your luck at the Golden Ultra next year.
The Golden Ultra (Relay) is of three days of running. You can do it solo or as a team.
Day 1: 5K Vertical Kilometer straight to the top of the the mountain (3,200 ft gain)
Day 2: 55K over all the mountains (over 8,000 ft net gain)
Day 3: 20K of (I was told) nice trails that were considerably more runnable.
Scramble: To gather together in a hurried or disorderly fashion.
2/3 of a Team
After I found out that I could have a FREE relay team for the Golden Ultra, I tried so hard to put one together. I would run the first race so I needed two more runners for the 55k and 20k. I lucked out with blogger Amy Bodnar but another bloggerwhowillremainnameless was unable to commit to the 55k so…our team was incomplete. Oh well. Doing it anyway.
Where is my passport?
I was SO stoked to be joining Jamie King’s road trip crew to the race. We were meeting in Portland, heading to Seattle to pick up Amy and then to a hotel across the border in Canada. Of course I left my passport at home. The good news is I realized that before we left. The bad news is it was during afternoon traffic and going to home to fetch it cost us 3 precious hours.
No sleep road trip.
So three dogs and five runners arrived at a hotel at 2 AM and didn’t sleep a wink. We needed to get on the road by 6:30 AM on Friday morning to make it to Golden by 1PM. The first race started at 4PM. Bleary eyed, we tumbled back into our awesome van and promptly fell asleep. Our poor driver (sleep deprived with no phone service or navigator to help) took a wrong turn. That “scenic route” would cost us another 3 or so hours. Would we make it to the race on time?!
Scramble: To mix or throw together haphazardly.
SCENE: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, normally a ski dream in winter, is now a steep mountainside of mud, rocks, and some bike trails. The main gondola leaves the lodge and heads straight up to the very top of Dogtooth Range at 7,700ft. It takes 12 minutes to ride this thing to the top.
20 minutes late.
Our van arrived at Kicking Horse at about 4:05 PM. We still had to check in, get our bibs, and change into our running clothes. So I scrambled like I rarely ever bother to scramble. I’ve never started a race 20 minutes late before. I don’t recommend it.
However, I did not come 700 miles and deal with a barfing dog in a van to miss out on the race I’d signed up for! I still had about 2 hours before the cut off to make it to the top of this damn mountain, so I changed in a flash, pinned my bib on upside-down, and took off ahead of Jamie and Jackie. I knew they’d catch up to me real quick.
No watch. No chip. No clue.
Unfortunately I went so fast I left some important things behind. Like my run fuel, Nuun, my Garmin, and oh…my timing chip. Apparently I was supposed to get it from someone at the start line but…no one was there when I took off, save some guy winding up a cord who said, “Good luck!” So I believe I started around 4:20 ish with all the clarity and energy of someone dehydrated from a 9 hour car ride and zero sleep. I might as well have been high.
Scramble: To move or climb hurriedly, especially on hands and knees.
No trails, just flags.
Armed with nothing but a water bottle, I took off determined to stay ahead of Jamie and Jackie for as long as I could. I followed little red flags up a zig-zagging road with a few steep pitches, and immediately could not breath. Elevation. Exhaustion. Crap. This might have been a bad idea.
I came to the end of the “road”, passed a volunteer, and then went the wrong way. I was supposed to follow the FLAGS straight up the side of the mountain…and NOT the mountain biking trails that zig-zagged in and out of the forest. Granted, I would’ve known this if I’d been at the start and heard the directions. I should’ve guessed it. But when I came across a trail I just naturally took it. It was probably a good 5 to 10 minutes before I realized this was getting me nowhere and I needed to head back to the flags.
“I’m a mountain goat.”
Back on the absence-of-path, Jamie and Jackie were now not far behind. They had also taken a temporary trail detour. We picked our way up the mountainside through tall brush, rocks, and mud; basically, the steep clearing in the forest that was made to accommodate the gondola from which runners who had already finished were cheering us on as they floated back down to the lodge and warmth and safety.
It was so steep I wanted to use my hands and crawl up. I could reach forward and touch the ground in front of me with little effort. Let me be clear. There was NO running at this point. Just a system of 5 big steps up and then 5 deep breaths. Thought I might slip a few times. I tried to summon my inner mountain goat, but I’m afraid that is just not my spirit animal. I thought, “if my husband could see me now, he’d think this was a bad idea.”
For some time, Jamie helped motivate Jackie and I. She’d say things like, “Let’s run this flat section.” What she really meant was, “I’m going to run this part that’s not as steep as the other parts.” So I slogged out a shuffle jog once or twice for the camera.
“Snow trolls live here.”
After at least an hour, we reached the height of the mountain where grass and forest yield to boulders and a sparse collection of heartier, mangled trees. Up until that point I’d been warm from effort but the wind at this elevation was crisp. Teeny, tiny snowflakes began floating around like mountain dandruff.
Amid the boulder field, a staircase presented itself. I imagined some snow troll had carefully carved out steps in the rocks, leading us through the ridge line and the summit. I could identify the path for about 10 steps ahead before the it got lost in the grey field of rocks. I took my time, knowing I had just about a half mile to go and at least 45 minutes before the cut off. I felt a bit off balance once or twice, I’ll admit, and stopped to… appreciate the view. I thought, “I’m so glad my husband isn’t here to tell me this was a bad idea.”
I think I finished in around 1:45 ish? Longest 5k ever. 3,200 feet of elevation gain.
Reaching the top did feel great and the ride back down the gondola felt like a high soaring victory. The next two days I’d get to relax and cheer on the other runners and mind our pack of
Would I do it again?
After seeing what The Golden Ultra is all about and the massive mountains you must conquer, I have to say I’m not so sure I’d tackle all 3 races solo. The 55k ended up being closer to a 60k by many runner’s devices. The 20k closer to 25k. I think it would be great to get a full team together next time, but give someone else the chance at the vertical kilometer portion.
More fun photos:
Jackie and I take on a push up contest in our Sweatpink hats. I won granola bars.
Moxie and Abbie were nearly inseparable. I think we need another dog.
Almost the end of the trip. All three dogs in one photo and our spacious van in the background.