Located close to Vancouver and en route to Whistler, Squamish is dubbed the "outdoor recreation capital of Canada". I can remember passing through this small town many years ago and being impressed with the huge rocky crags that sit at the edge of town.
Stormy 100 starts at the recreation center in Brennan Park and comprises of 2 x 50 mile (80 km) loops that have you running on all sorts of terrain. The race is 97% trails or forest service roads and 3% paved road and has 6000 feet of elevation gain per loop.
We started the race at 10.00 am (the original start time is 12.00 noon which seems extremely late in the day if you're a crack-of-dawn type of girl like me). Luckily, the recent heat wave had started to drop and the temperature was perfect. I was surprised at how fast everyone bolted off from the starting line. With 100 miles (160 km) to run, what's the hurry? Steve and myself stayed at the back for quite a while but knew we would inevitably catch up with some of the folks who had gotten sucked into the fast start. Funny how that happens ... I made that mistake when I first started racing and learnt the lesson well after being totally spanked on a local race.
The nice thing about this race is that you get to run on such varied terrain. The paved sections were short enough to enjoy and the single track was the sweetest, technical single track that I've ever run on. It was a blast! I felt like a 5 year old running through some of the most amazing forests with ferns and plants bigger than me. I like the technical stuff ... it's like mountain biking without the bike and is pure fun. The other thing I enjoyed was running with Steve for the first 30 km or so. He's a much faster runner than me so it's natural that we eventually lost sight of each other.
Also on the course were sections of forest service roads and the 2 main ones were nothing short of evil. The first one, called University, had us climbing up and up (and up!) and then finally we were back onto a single track section for the descent. The other gnarly section is another forest service road called 9 Mile Hill. Yep! it's 9 miles of super steep up on a gravel road but a nice descent on single track.
During the first lap, I tried to make a mental note of the course as I knew I would be running most of the second lap in the dark and even though it was very well marked with flagging tape, we all know how easy it is to zone out and miss a turn. I was amazed at how much I remembered!
The race director for Stormy is Wendy Montgomery and it was obvious that she had put in a lot of work into the race and had a wonderful team of volunteers also putting in a lot of hours to make the event a success. There were plenty of aid stations en route with fluid and nibblies and there was no problem with being able to drop an aid bag at the bottom of 9 Mile Hill (which is a life saver if you enjoy running without a crew or pacer).
The other nice thing about this race is that it's a low key event. The volunteers and the crews of other racers do a great job of cheering you on at the aid stations but otherwise, I found it to be a pretty quiet race. And with only another 29 competitors on the course, you get to spend lots of time running by yourself. This might not be some people's idea of fun, but I love being able to spend time inside my own head and tend to be a bit of a loner when it comes to racing so it definitely suited me.
I had a great time at Stormy; I thoroughly enjoyed the race and kudos to all the people who work so hard in making this event a success.