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20 Years Ago This Weekend

Enzo finishing the 1992 Western States 100-miler

June 27-28, 1992 - finishing the Western States 100-miler in 25:33:26, 83rd of 230 finishers

The 39th running of the Western States Endurance Run is only hours away (5:00 am PT start on Saturday June 23). This granddaddy of North American 100 mile trail races takes runners from Squaw Valley, California, to Auburn, California. Along the way, the route climbs a total of 15,540 feet and descends 22,970 feet.

20 years ago, I had the privilege of participating in and completing this event on the weekend of June 27-28, 1992. Amongst the 230 finishers were 3 friends from the Lower Mainland – Ean Jackson, Greg Crompton and Bev Brezik. Little did we know that for all 4 of us, this would be our first and only finish at WS100 – at least as of this writing 🙂

Western States was not my first 100-miler, but it was definitely the one that inspired me back in the mid-80’s when I learned that that people actually ran distances longer than the marathon! The race was featured a couple of times during that period on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I knew I had to give it a try someday when I saw the glorious mountain trails and vistas that runners got to “enjoy” for anywhere from 16 to 30 hours 😉

So cutting to the chase, I entered the lottery for the 1992 race and got in on my first try! After the event, I wrote up a race report for Ultrarunning magazine. Remember this was 1992 and most folks did not have this Internet-thingy. What follows is that written report from almost 20 years ago.

 

No Crew, No Pacer at Western States? – No Problem

By Enzo Federico

 

This is the story of a naive, young foreigner who arrived at this year’s Western States 100 without a crew or pacer.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not really all that young, more ignorant than naive, and my qualification as a foreigner is that I reside north of the 49th parallel  – but all that is beside the point.

 

So what is my point, you say?  This was my first attempt at WS 100, after successfully completing the Leadville Trail 100 last summer.  For the LT 100, two of my closest friends flew down from opposite ends of the continent to help me out as crew and pacers.  I graciously accepted their tremendous support and encouragement and feel that it was a major contribution to the success I enjoyed that day (and night).  I will always have fond memories of losing my 100-miIe trail “virginity” in the presence of Nick and George.

 

Well, this year was another story.  I didn’t really want to impose on these guys again.  Another friend who offered to pace me suffered an injury a few weeks before the race, so I decided to head down south on a solo mission.  No problems, I thought, since I was now an “experienced” 100-mile trail runner.

 

Now, I’m sure I’m not the first one who’s shown up at a race without a crew or pacer, right?  What I didn’t fully realize was that this was the Western States 100 and not just any race.  As most of you already know, the race is put on by Norm and Helen Klein and an army of 1,300 volunteers spread along the spectacular 100-mile course from Squaw Valley in the Sierra Nevada to Auburn in central California.  What you may not know is what will happen to you if you try to do this race on your own, as I recently attempted.  Right from the start through to the finish, you will find that each of these 1,300 kind-hearted and generous souls becomes a part of your own personal crew, even if for just a brief pause at an aid station en route.  I was truly overwhelmed as I was adopted at many points along the course, and just wanted to share with you my story of a few of the many individuals who made the weekend of June 27, 1992, a very special one for me.

 

The first hint of things to come was at the Duncan Canyon checkpoint.  Although there were many aid stations in the first 24 miles, this was the first to which crews had access.  I had met Gene a few days prior to the race as he was out flagging the course, and we chatted for about five minutes.  On race day, I became known as “Mr. Vancouver” to him, as he offered me a friendly smile and words of encouragement at many points from Duncan Canyon onwards.  There were others like Ed, Baz, Barbara, and Laura, many of whom I’d met in the week leading up to race day.  These people really go out of their way to remember you, and ensure there are plenty of friendly faces to greet you throughout the race.

 

Of course, some of the friendliest faces on race day belong to the enthusiastic volunteers manning the aid stations.  The 30-mile checkpoint at Robinson Flat exposes the runner to a major flurry of activity.  Not only is this the first medical checkpoint, but almost every runner has crew and/or drop bag awaiting them.  Seeing that I had no crew, one of the volunteers decided this was unacceptable, and proceeded to take care of my every need from the moment I entered the aid station until my departure.  This pattern would be repeated many times throughout the rest of the day and night, at any aid station where I would spend more than a minute or two.  While I do not remember all their names, the faces and generous support they offered me will not soon be forgotten.

 

The last major checkpoint buzzing with human activity lies in the town of Foresthill at the 62-mile mark.  It is at this point that most runners pick up their pacers for the remainder of their journey on the WS trail.  Race management even goes to the trouble of providing one for you if you arrive in need.  Of course, I hadn’t planned on needing a pacer, but at this point most of my plans were going down the toilet which is precisely where I headed to take care of one of my problems.  Now, the four-foot-high stall doors of the elementary school restroom do not offer much privacy, so next thing you know, some stranger looking for an empty stall asks me if I have a pacer.  When I answered in the negative, he told me I sure looked like I needed one, and offered his services as such.  Determined to “go it alone,” I turned him down at first.  Fortunately, Will persisted and we shared a wonderful 38-mile walk/jog/run through the night and into the next morning, as we made our way to the finish line on the track in Auburn.  While I may still have finished the race without him, Will’s companionship and expert knowledge of the trail made for a much more pleasurable ride along the way.

 

Throughout the race, but particularly in the latter half, one also gains an appreciation for the outstanding work done by the medical staff to keep you in the race.  The doctor at the California Street #2 aid station (70 mi) already had her hands full when I arrived shortly after sunset.  My nausea had returned, and I threw up for what seemed like hours on the side of the trail.  For the next 20 minutes or so, she provided me with all the compassion and TLC I needed, as well as some antacid and hot soup, after which point I was feeling much better, but still wanting to get taken care of (who doesn’t?).  When I asked her if I should stay a bit longer, she sensed what I was trying to do, and gave me what I really needed – a stem reply telling me to get off my fat butt and get moving on down the trail.  We both smiled knowingly as I got back in the race, and she turned her attention to other runners in need of compassion and TLC.

 

Another big part of the medical team is the podiatrists. These folks are incredible – how would you like to spend your whole day looking at, handling, and smelling 300 or so pairs of the ugliest, dirtiest feet in the world?  My first visit with a podiatrist was at Devil’s Thumb, but my greatest need was after the Rucky Chucky River crossing at 78 miles, as big blisters on both heels needed attention. I was placed in a chair, and the podiatrist proceeded to take off my shoes and socks, remove the old dressings, dry off my feet. pop the blisters, apply new dressings and Vaseline, and put some clean socks and shoes from my drop bag back onto my feet.  If this wasn’t enough, another volunteer kept going back and forth to the goodies table to take care of my nutritional requirements.  Talk about being waited on hand-and-foot!  Now the fact that both these wonderful volunteers were female was not lost on the three of us, and this led to some great kibitzing among us about the roles of men and women in today’s society.  Besides taking care of my feet and my tummy, these ladies really lifted my spirits as I continued my journey through the night.

 

I could go on and on telling you about people like C. J. with his boundless enthusiasm at Green Gate, or the Devil at Brown’s Bar, and many others.  I’ll leave it up to you to experience it for yourself when you do Western States.  I just want to say many thanks to my whole “crew” of 1,300-plus down in California, from number 126.  Sorry I can’t buy you all a T-shirt.

 

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It’s not about the weight…

…or is it?

Don’t know about you, but my weight has always gone up and down throughout my adult life

  • rock-solid 190-200 lbs while playing rugby in my early 20’s
  • much softer 200-210 lbs when I no longer played a few years later
  • a lean 170-180 lbs when I took up running in my late 20’s and through most of my 30’s (although I took an unhealthy anemic dip to 158 lbs for a very brief time)
  • back to a softer 200-210 lbs when I took a break from running in my early 40’s
  • hovering between 190 and 200 for most of the next decade as I got back into regular aerobic exercise and a healthier diet/lifestyle
  • ballooning to a lifetime high of 242 lbs in January 2010, a month after turning 53

This had to stop! I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and the last 30 months has been a roller coaster ride on the bathroom scales as I looked to shed the excess pounds I was carrying around. Here are some pictures to illustrate the point:

Here’s another way to look at my weight progression of the past 30 months in a graph:

So, today I celebrate the fact that I have dropped 50 lbs over the past 30 months! I am extremely thankful and appreciative of all the support I’ve had from family, friends and others along this journey to get me to this milestone.

But, is it really about the weight? I think not, at least in my case. The weight I carry at any point in time is dependent on many factors, and not all of them part of my physical being. It is also influenced by other aspects of my being – mental, emotional, financial, relationship, career, … With this increased awareness of how all these aspects affect my weight, I am hopeful I can get off this roller coaster ride of many decades now!

Time to put away the bathroom scales 😀

 

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Home after 5,000+ “Naughty-cal” Miles!

I’m just getting ready for my first day of skiing up at Whistler tomorrow, having just returned from 3 weeks in South Florida, the Bahamas, and and the Caribbean. The majority of that time was spent on 3 separate cruise itineraries, covering over 5,000 nautical miles.

The highlight was the first 4-day cruise that I shared with my buddy Kevin – the very first Rock Legends Cruise. Eighteen bands were on board to keep us entertained almost all day and all night. These included some of my favourites – George Thorogood, ZZ Top, Steppenwolf. And, also many, many other talented Southern rockers.

I’m still sorting out many photos and video clips I shot, and will post them shortly. In the meantime, I came across an interesting video posted by the event organizer’s official photographer. It was a blustery day on deck the last full day of the cruise. The band playing is the Artimus Pyle Band. Artimus was the drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd in the 70’s. This was their encore, the classic, timeless “Free Bird”:

In the first couple of minutes, you may be able to spot me in the upper left-hand corner. I’m wearing a black t-shirt and a beige cap, standing to the left of a guy in a bright yellow t-shirt. I’m using my point-and-shoot Canon to snap pictures and shoot a couple of my own videos. Here is one that I took, from my perspective and position, of their final song before the encore – “Sweet Home Alabama”:

There are a bunch more videos from the cruise on YouTube – just click here to get a list.

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50 Ultrarunners Tackle 50 Miles in Whistler

The inaugural Whistler 50 Relay & Ultra took place on Saturday November 5, 2011. Participants had the option of running the 50 miles (~ 80 km.) as part of an 8-person relay team or tackling the entire distance in the solo ultrarunner division. Approximately 50 runners choose the latter option, and I was on hand to help out as an “ultra volunteer”.

This event took over the calendar spot vacated last year by the Haney to Harrison Relay & 100K Ultra. BC Athletics moved the location of their season-ending event to address safety concerns due to traffic congestion along the busy highway which was the route of the previous event. The only traffic concerns in Whistler this year were the bears near the course, especially around the Nicklaus North golf course 🙂

The ultrarunning community is rather small and close-knit, so this was a good chance to get caught up with some old friends who were either running the race or volunteering. Our 2 aid stations were located less than 100 yards apart, at about the 8km and 16.5 km points along the ~20km loop that would be repeated 4 times by the ultrarunners. The cool weather was pretty ideal for the runners, but the vollies had to keep hopping to generate heat as the temps never got much above freezing. We did get come welcome sunshine by late morning and for the rest of the afternoon. Have a look at my pics at http://enzo.smugmug.com/Sea-To-Sky/2011/Whistler-50-Relay-Ultra-Nov-5/. Many thanks to fellow ultra vollies Ron, Cathy, Wendy, Brian and Gottfried – you made the time pass by quickly and most enjoyably!

As far as the competitive aspects of the race, both men’s and women’s races were very close – Chris Downie of Burnaby winning by less than 3 minutes in 5:52:55, and Jenn Segger of Squamish (yeah, Squamish 🙂 ) winning by 6 minutes in 6:31:20! Overall the race had 52 starters and 47 finishers. Full results can be found at http://www.raceheadquarters.com/results/2011/run/W50M2011OA_U.html.

Just want to close off on a non-running note, as the conditions in Whistler this past weekend were a reminder that this is expected to be another awesome ski season with La Niña back for the second straight winter! Here are a couple of pics of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, and both look ready to open before their officially posted date of November 24 🙂

Whistler Mountain

Whistler Mountain

Blackcomb Mountain

Blackcomb Mountain

 

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First snow of the season on Grouse Mountain

Yesterday marked the first snowfall of the season for the mountains on the North Shore of Vancouver. I had the privilege of hiking up the BCMC trail (parallel to the Grouse Grind) on Grouse Mountain, and was greeted by the following wintery scene as I neared the end of my hike:

 

End of the hike up Grouse Mountain

End of the hike up Grouse Mountain

Snow-covered trees on top of Grouse Mountain

Snow-covered trees on top of Grouse Mountain

Snow at top of Grouse Grind

Snow at top of Grouse Grind

 

Grouse Red Skyride out for maintenance

Grouse Red Skyride out for maintenance

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Good To Be Back Home Again

From being “On The Road Again” (Willie Nelson – on YouTube), it’s now “Good To Be Back Home Again” (John Denver – on YouTube):

Shannon Falls from below

Shannon Falls from below

Whistler Olympic Park (at the top)

Whistler Olympic Park (at the top)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The West Coast of British Columbia welcomed me back with a few days of wonderful weather earlier this week. I took advantage of it with a combination of hiking/jogging/biking in the great outdoors. Complete sets of pictures at:

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Pictures from 2666 Km On The Road

Shannon Falls from Nexen Beach

Shannon Falls from Nexen Beach

The picture to the left is from just a couple of km down the road from my home in Squamish – looking at Shannon Falls from Nexen Beach. I hiked to both the bottom and top of those falls today, and will post pictures soon.

For now, I have a few SmugMug galleries to share from my recent road trip to Calgary and Lake Louise to visit a dear friend who I had not seen in 20 years:

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Break On Through…

…to the other side – in keeping with the theme of Jim Morrison & The Doors 😉

 

The "Other Side" of Little Whistler Peak

The "Other Side" of Little Whistler Peak

Whistler is at the high point along the Sea To Sky Highway from Horseshoe Bay to Pemberton. From the Village, there are ski lifts to take you even higher up both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. During the peak of summer, lifts are operating on both mountains taking hikers, bikers and tourists even higher into the alpine.

Alas, summer has drawn to a close and operations are gearing up for the upcoming winter season. In fact, snow was reported as early as September 17 at the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain – good sign for another La Niña winter 🙂

The upshot of all this was that options were more limited for me on the first weekend of October. Saturday was a bit of a washout from a weather perspective, but Sunday provided a small break between storms. Time to head up to Whistler/Blackcomb for some alpine hiking, and the Whistler Village Gondola provided me with a bit of a “cheating” start to get me to the Roundhouse Lodge at 6,069 ft 😀

Whistler has always had a very special place in my heart since my first visit in 1978. Upon graduating from University Of Toronto that spring, Vancouver and Whistler were the launching points for me and 3 buddies on an adventure that would take us on a road trip down the West Coast – all the way to Tijuana and back. Now that’s a story for another time! But for now, below is a picture showing one of the old gondola cars that I took up the mountain from Creekside (I don’t think that name even existed at that time) in May 1978 for some wet spring skiing.

Old gondola car at Garibaldi Lift Company

Old gondola car at Garibaldi Lift Company

 

Now, here I am 33 years later heading up the Gondola from the Village that was just starting its transformation from a garbage dump in the late 70’s. (Note to self – compare that to my own personal transformation over that 33 year period).

The alpine was cool and occasionally blustery as I stepped out of the warm gondola car after the 25-minute ride from the Village. I shared the ride with a couple from Langley and we were treated to a wonderful scene with a Mama bear and her cub firmly planted in the middle of the main trail used by downhill mountain bikers. As bikers made their way down, Mama bear stood (actually sat) her ground while her cub sought the protection of the trees to one side of the trail. The bikers made their way down the trail coming within 15-20 feet of Mama bear, who did not move but kept her eyes on them and her cub at the same time. The bikers made a wise decision to go around Mama bear on the other side from where her cub was hiding in the trees 🙂

I’m not going to post all my pictures from the day here, but if you want to see some of this action and more of my pictures they are available here on my SmugMug site.

Given how late in the season it was, the Peak chair was now closed. This did not allow me to easily get to the highest point on the mountain – Whistler Summit at 7,087 ft. I say easily because I could have hiked/scrambled up there, but I chose instead to follow the Pika’s Traverse Road that took me to Little Whistler Peak.

Little Whistler Peak and Harmony Hut Tea House

Little Whistler Peak and Harmony Hut Tea House

The road climbed 885 feet in just a mile-and-a-half to reach the Harmony Hut Tea House (closed for the season) that you see on the right. This is also the point from which the picture at the top of this post was taken.

From here, the route finding was a little tricky as the crew had already started taking down some of the trail markers, especially on the Half Note Trail that I was attempting to follow to it’s junction with the High Note Trail. Fortunately, there were plenty of footprints to follow in the fresh snow left from the storms over the past couple of weeks.

The High Note Trail markers were still in place, making for a less stressful passage and the opportunity to take in some spectacular scenery with views to Cheakamus Lake and Black Tusk to the south. The trail itself is actually just across the border from Whistler into Garibaldi Provincial Park. It eventually meets up at a junction with the Singing Pass trail that can take you all the way back down to Whistler Village on foot – about 22 km in total! I met up with a group of hikers who had done the hike from the bottom up, which brought back some good memories of doing likewise back in the late 80’s myself – at about the time I was really starting to get interested in trail running and ultra marathons. Coincidentally, this was also around the time when Shane Collins and I met, leading us to start up the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run in 1989 😀

Ah yes, many good memories from a relatively short alpine hike in a very special place, with many more being made all the time. I concluded the hiking portion of this day with an easy 1-mile Alpine Walk on Blackcomb Mountain after a quick 11-minute ride on the breathtaking Peak-2-Peak Gondola. After the walk, it was a return trip on the gondola across Fitzimmons Creek valley to Whistler Mountain. Then it was back down the mountain via the Whistler Village Gondola.

Once back down (both literally and figuratively), I took a stroll through the Village. This led me to the northern end of the Village and the former site of Celebration Plaza during the 2010 Winter Olympics. It has now been redeveloped and branded as Whistler Olympic Plaza, with many symbols from the Olympics and Paralympics adorning the grounds. Just 3 weeks ago, this was also the place where 7,000 lycra-clad cyclists (myself included) celebrated after a 122 km journey from downtown Vancouver in the second annual Whistler GranFondo. Yet another story for another day!

One thing that I missed seeing on that day just 3 weeks ago was a memorial to a fallen athlete from the 2010 Olympic games – twenty-one year old Georgian luge athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili. His untimely death came in a tragic accident on Opening Day, and I wrote about it here. On this day, it was once again a poignant reminder of how fragile and precious life is. I close this post with a picture of the permanent memorial and tribute to young Nodar.

Memorial and Tribute to Nodar Kumaritashvili

Memorial and Tribute to Nodar Kumaritashvili - Whistler Olympic Plaza

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Coming Soon – The Next Chapter…

It’s been almost 12 months since my last post, and I will soon return to more regular musings on this blog!

I have moved it to enzofederico.com (from 2010.enzofederico.com). The year 2010 has come and gone long ago, as have the Winter Olympics. Accordingly, I will use this space to share my thoughts, pictures and videos with a focus on the Sea To Sky corridor (and sometimes beyond, depending on where my travels take me). My plans are to post here at least once per week. If you don’t want to keep checking back here, you can always subscribe to my RSS feed by clicking the little orange thingey on the far right side of the menu bar which will take you to http://enzofederico.com/feed/ .

“There are things known
& there are things unknown
& in between are
The Doors”

– Jim Morrison (aka Mr Mojo Risin’)

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Grand Canyon Rim To Rim – Afterwards

Enjoying a double scoop after R2R crossing

Enjoying a double scoop after R2R crossing

What better place to start my story than at the end 🙂

I had just spent 8 hours and 37 minutes (including breaks and warm-up power walk) on the trail crossing the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim. This is a total of about 24 miles (40 km. for you young metric folks, but this is the last conversion I do for you), descending about 5,800 feet down to the Colorado River in the first 14 miles or so on the North Side. I then crossed over a bridge to the South Side of the river and ascended about 4,500 feet to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail.

Many thoughts (or visualizations) went through my mind as I slowly walked the last few miles, climbing a couple of thousand feet on the Bright Angel Trail, in the mid-afternoon heat of Tuesday October 12:

  • must have ice cream 😀
  • must have beer 🙂
  • must have head examined for doing this 😉
Made it to top of South Rim after 8+ hours!

Made it to top of South Rim after 8+ hours!

Of course, the ice cream thought won the battle to be my first priority upon reaching the end of the trail. It was helped along by the fact that the Bright Angel Lodge ice cream parlour is one of the first places I saw with my glazed eyes as I finished up on the South Rim. It is literally within spitting distance of the Canyon, although I did not confirm this fact myself.  

Prior to indulging in my ice cream reward, I also had to get an obligatory picture to show I made it to the end of the trail! I asked the first tourist I saw to take a picture of me at the trail head, using my iPhone. He admitted it was the first time he had done so with this type of device, which shows with his fingers partially covering the top of the lens in the picture to the right.

Enjoying fine meal at El Tovar later in the evening

Enjoying fine meal at El Tovar later in the evening

This last picture on the left is a few hours later in the day – after I checked back into the Bright Angel Lodge, washed up and had a nap! I was still famished and had not yet fulfilled my second visualization of a post-hike beer. I had the foresight to have previously made a dinner reservation in the fine dining room at the El Tovar Hotel. The picture is of my ribeye steak dinner and beer, part of a wonderful 3-course meal to celebrate my Rim To Rim (R2R) crossing earlier in the day.       

More details of the actual crossing itself to come later – stay tuned! In the meantime, I have uploaded data from my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS unit that I used during the R2R crossing. The output is here – lots of data, pretty charts and maps! Although I am skeptical of the overall stats for total elevation and distance, as they seem to differ from the published stats.

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