Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ultra Trail du Mont Albert 100 km Ultra Sky Marathon - my third novel :)

My first novel, the Vermont 100 was a happy ending. My second novel, the TARC 100 described lessons learned in the agony of defeat. My third novel, Ultra Trail du Mont Albert was a combination of both :) It was a long day and then some (literally) - however it is probably the race I am most proud of and an experience I will not soon forget.

UTMA 100 km was not on my running map for the year. It was tentatively penciled in my calendar as a nice to have, but in reality, I knew I would not have the time or financial resources to go. I really wanted to go since there was a large contingent of East Coast runners heading to Gaspe for the weekend Sky Running festival. However, my main event for the year was going to be the Fat Dog 120 in BC. The Fat Dog 120 is a race I have wanted to run for quite some time and it also would act as a qualifier for WS100 and HardRock. I envisioned an epic journey crowned with entries into 2 dream race lotteries.

This year we decided to take a family vacation to BC for 3 weeks. The dates lined up with Fat Dog 120 so of course, my name made it to the start list. However as the start date approached and became closer to reality, my family urged me to not mix epic 48 hour 120 mile runs with our family vacation.  I don't get it either, but I could sense their distaste growing :)  It came to a decision point when they offered me a two for one deal: UTMA and redemption at TARC 100 in exchange for not running Fat Dog. I reluctantly agreed and scrambled to withdraw and prepare for UTMA in less than a week.

My Fat Dog 120 training program had a 100km effort slated for the same weekend anyway, how perfect. In hindsight, however, UTMA is not your typical 100 km effort. It is a true mountain ultra with tough, tough technical terrain, steep climbs and descents, snow capped peaks all coupled with stunning beauty. It would turn out that I would get lots of what I wanted from Fat Dog in the end from a scenery and mountain perspective.

To minimize cost, I converted my van into a camper for post race crashing, booked a hotel room for Friday evening and left Friday morning for Gaspe, Quebec.

If you have never been to La Parc Nationale de la Gaspesie, you need to put it on your list of places to visit. It is the most beautiful park I have ever been to, with the exception of Lake Louise in Alberta.

I was born in Campbellton, NB - so the drive was a fast trip through memory lane. The entrance to the park also routes along the Cascapedia river with loads of Salmon fishing along the way - which reminded me a lot of growing up in a boat fishing salmon on the Restigouche and Matapedia with my dad and grandfather. I even saw a moose and deer on the way to boot! This was going to be fun!

I drove 6.5 hours straight through. I was surprised to have gained an hour on the drive which allowed me to register upon my arrival. So, I was completely bilingual upon graduating high school, but have not practiced speaking French in years after living in Halifax, Saint John and Moncton. I quickly realized I would have to give it a go since 90 % of the runners and volunteers spoke one language. I was very hesitant at first, but by the end of the weekend and during the race I was even thinking in French - it was pretty cool.

I checked in to the hotel but realized there was no cell service. I could get WIFI near the hotel and race start/finish (Sky Village) but cell service was reserved for the mountain tops. This made it hard to stay in touch with the other East Coast runners who were scattered between camp grounds and hotel rooms. I ate alone and met up with others at the start of the Vertical KM course. It was good to see some familiar faces (all wearing NS Trail Running trucker hats) which made finding them in a crowd much easier.

I could not sleep the night before travelling as my mind was racing wondering if I had packed everything I needed. This I knew was not good as I never sleep well the night before the race which meant this night should have been my good night sleep.

I was tired and decided to try and nap before the mandatory race briefing at 6PM. I was almost asleep and realized I had forgotten my Altra Lone Peaks at home. The shoes I had planned to wear for the entire race if possible. Luckily I had 2 other pair with me for drop bags, but still not a good start to the weekend. That rush of distress ended my attempt at a nap. Time to hit the race briefing. I noticed Jodi, Karine and Nancy from our Maritime contingent dining at the bar and joined them before the briefing. It was good to talk to someone. It had been almost 11 hours of solitude till then.

We hit the mandatory briefing. It was good to catch up with a boat load of maritime runners. I think we had 13 runners from the region there! The briefing really hit home as it talked about wild life encounters and the remoteness of the course. There were only 2 major aid stations, otherwise it would be Park Ranger or helicopter extract if things went south beyond those 2 points. I was also quite worried about the 24 hour cut off. I didn't care about the UTMB points, but I did want credit for finishing if I crossed the line. A fast and hard runner from NB, Nat Couture was the 2nd of 3 finishers from last year's 100 km course and he was just under 18 hours. He is fast. To put it into perspective, I think his Vermont 100 mile time was pretty close to his finish time here. He also ran an 80 km course earlier in the year in under 7 hours if I am not mistaken - I pushed it and it took me 10:20! I was very concerned with the 24 hour time limit. I asked Nat what took so long, he said it was just the terrain - its a slow course. He also said it would be tougher than the VT100 - the toughest test I would face to date. The RD assured us that if we crossed the line we would get a medal and be recognized as finishers, but would not get UTMB points or Sky ranked - neither of which I cared about - cool. It was all about finishing. I did not want another DNF after the TARC 100 last year.

As usual, I did not sleep well race night. I only managed about 4 hours totalling 8 hours over the past 2 nights. The forecast looked good, high of 18 and sunny for both Saturday and Sunday - perfect running weather. Turned out to be much hotter. I heard 26 degrees from someone afterwards - I don't know for sure but it was cooking in the forest with no breeze. Ridges and peaks were a bit cooler but exposed to the sun.

My plan from the start was to go out easy, 11 hours out, 13 back? I figured I would try and stick with another NB runner named Bruno, he is typically faster than me in long events. Usually about an hour or more, however I figured I could hang with him for a while to pass the time. That lasted less than an hour along the Cascapedia river. My heart rate was up too high too early. I backed off knowing I gotta start slow.

I was immediately stunned by the beauty of the course. It was rugged. I was stoked to get above tree line for the first time in my life. Also to cross a snow capped peak. I could not stop taking pictures of the surrounding mountains, rivers and lakes. It was astounding! But I knew I had to stop taking pictures - I needed to have my phone through the entirety of the race for emergency as well as a clock. My Garmin would die in about 10-11 hours. As beautiful as it was the terrain was tough. I could immediately see why this course would take a while. The rocky rooty terrain morphed into boulder hopping and eventually to a snow capped peak traverse. It was awesome! All I could think about was how cool it was going to be if I could make it back here in the dark to see the stars! It would be like being on top of the world with my head poking up into the universe. The stars would become important to me later in the race :)

I felt good on the plateau and was moving well. I met another runner from Montreal doing his first 100km course. He picked a tough one! I realized it was my first 100 km race as well. I had done 50 miles and 100 miles but never 100 km.

There was very little flagging along this section and I knew it would be hard if we crossed this again in the dark to find our way. Luckily the RD said he would be dropping glow sticks after dark to find our way back. I noticed Bruno ahead in the distance, I was catching up - maybe I would be close enough to him that we would be at the aid station together and I could run with a familiar face again for a while - however I wasn't going to get my heart rate up high again to catch him.

I ended up running for quite some time alone once we descended back into the wooded forest. There was really no where to take a wrong turn but there were no markers whatsoever in this section. After running for an hour or so I started to think I might be off course. I waited a few times in hopes another runner would appear behind me, but nothing. I contemplated turning back until I noticed a red shirt up ahead. I was very relieved! I passed this runner and was moving now with confidence I was on the right trail. I spotted a group of 3 runners ahead, as I got closer I realized Bruno was one of them. We ran together to Cacapedia - our first crew access and drop bags. I had no crew, but was very hungry - so the aid station and drop bags were a real high.

I wanted to get in and out fast, but at the same time there weren't many aid stations - so I vowed I would be sure to get everything I needed and to take the time to take care of myself before continuing on. This was a turning point in the race for me as I was very hungry and I ate too much. I downed a Boost, a donut, a bunch of chips and pop and other stuff too that I can't recall. Bruno and I left together, but shortly after I stopped to snap a picture and told him to continue on as I felt I was pushing too hard too early again. That is the last I would see Bruno.

I am not sure how much further I went but it wasn't far when I started to feel very nauseous. Also my back was very sore from either the weight of my pack or heavy use of trekking poles on the climbs. I found a lookout area and had to get my pack off. It was too early to be feeling this bad! I took off my pack and I laid flat on the ground. I was only 22 miles in and I was in a bad state already. I decided I would have to take a couple tylenol to see if I could shake the back pain. My pack was heavy since the list of mandatory gear was long. I needed a shell, hat, mitts, headlamp, poles spare batteries and foil blanket. I also opted to have a warm long sleeve, bug spray and sawyer mini in case I had to drink from streams as well as a 2L bladder. I didn't lay down too long - I got up and continued on. Shortly after that we hit a really nice trail along a series of cliffs, it was wild to see other runners ahead snaking along the cliffs - the views were fantastic! It was a section of trail you would see in a trail running magazine.

It was getting very hot - I knew we were well over the 18 degree high we were supposed to hit. The heat was starting to take its toll on my stomach. To top things off I took a very hard fall on some rocks and roots. I didn't stay down - I bounced back up before I could fail any pain and kept moving. A good fall or near fall always gives you a temporary adrenaline boost :) I recall being very tired when I hit the next minor aid station that had only water. I filled up and headed along. I was hurting but still moving. Somewhere shortly after the aid station, I saw a mother moose and baby. The element of the baby worried me, but I was a good distance away, they made eye contact and stayed put. I banged my trekking poles together and they ran down the hill away from the trail. I am not sure how long I was getting to the next aid station but I started really feeling sick and not moving well. I was still probably a few miles away from the next full aid station - Lac Thibault when I pretty much had made up my mind I was dropping at the turn. I was going to get my drop bag and lay down. I hadn't eaten since Cascapedia and didn't feel like eating or drinking - I was tired, weak, dehydrated and sick. It had been a long while since I had drank anything significant. I was hoping I would not see any other runners I knew dropping here as I thought it would make it easier for me to do so as well.

When I arrived at the aid station I had already made up my mind I was done. I immediately heard a familiar hello from Jodi Isenor, a good friend and runner from NS. He said he was going to wait for his wife Karine and her friend Nancy to see if they made the cut off. If they did, he would continue with them. We were both blown away by the difficulty of the course. He was very helpful in getting me some cold soup and my drop bag. He also helped me cut my timing chip off my shoe so I could change all my clothes and shoes. We both took a bed at the cabin. I feel asleep and didn't set an alarm - I was done and didn't care when I woke. I don't think Jodi slept as when I woke he was outside. I don't recall how long I slept but I was a bit chilly so I went outside to lay in the sun next to Jodi and some others. Lots of people were dropping here. I laid down to nap some more in the sun and somehow an alarm went off in my head. I don't want to end here. I want to see the stars on top of the mountains. I hadn't laid down for more than 5 minutes when I popped up, filled my bladder and off I went.

I was quite proud of myself since during the TARC 100 last year I was in this state (albeit much worse) at an unmanned aid station where I didn't have the luxury of taking a bed and quick nap to gather myself. I thought had I had the opportunity to do so I could've got myself together and pulled through. Here I had the opportunity and managed to fix myself up somewhat - at least enough to continue.

I was glad I continued as the trail was much easier for a long stretch - pretty much ATV trail. However, I was not an hour down the trail when again I figured I was lost due to very few trail markings. I thought to myself that there had been no where to turn but it has been a while since I had seen a pink flag. I convinced myself I had seen a UTMA white sign on the road earlier - did I miss a turn? I decided to turn around and back track to the sign. There wasn't one - my mind or my eyes playing tricks. I had now just added at least a km back and now I need to turn around and re-run another - adding 2 more kilometers total. Great! To top it off about 5 minutes after getting back to where I started, my stomach decided it had had enough and turned itself inside out. A waterfall of cold soup, water and dry heaving. Well, I did feel better. Time to start moving again.

I looked forward to the next minor aid station as I knew I was now running on total empty and would need to get a full bladder to make it to Cascapedia before dark. When I reached the Pic De L'Aube (?) where the minor aid station was on the way out, was not there on the way back. I did recall an ATV rolling past me on the trail with what looked to be an injured or runner who had dropped being driven back to Lac Thibault. However, I would have expected at least water to be left there for the taking in the mean time. Not sure why this station had closed so soon. Anyway, I was not drinking a whole lot - I figured my 2L bladder would get me through to Cascapedia at the rate I was consuming water - infrequent sips to wet my mouth. I continued on.

It was this point in the race where I became quite confused with the remaining distance. I was told that Lac Thibault was more than halfway - 55 km. I continued on for what seemed like forever and only arrived along the cliff I recalled running along earlier in the day at sunset. It was beautiful, I stopped to take in the sunset and rest for a bit on the ridge. I was quite tired and recalled I still had quite a hike to get back to Cascapedia, it was going to be close getting there before dark. I remembered there was a bunch of technical up and down terrain and then I would get close to some flat smooth running near the campground. It took a long time to get there, I had to turn on my headlamp as I was approaching the campground. I had a wave of exhaustion come over me as I walked through the campground. Families were relaxed around camp fires and tents roasting marshmallows and hotdogs - and I had been running for about 17 hours - I wanted to crash at a campsite for the night badly. I couldn't recall seeing markers and wandered around the campground for a bit looking for the aid station. The washroom shower building looked to be about the same size and location as the aid station did in the daylight, but I couldn't seem to find it. I was confused. I was about to start yelling where is the aid station out loud when it appeared around the next corner.

There was only one volunteer when I got there. At this point I had not eaten anything since I was here the first time earlier in the day - other than the cold soup I had thrown up from Lac Thibault. That is a long time to go without calories and only a bit of water while hiking through mountains and technical trails for this length of time. I was tired and weak. All I wanted was ice. I asked for ice - none. I asked for ginger ale figuring it might settle my stomach that was feeling like turning inside out again - none.  I tried some 7 up since it was somewhat cold. I needed to lay down and take a quick nap. I asked if there were beds inside like Lac Thibault - nope. I laid down on the ground and asked the volunteer to wake me in 20 minutes if I fell asleep. It was much cooler now, I started to shake. I had been hypothermic before after Vermont - scary feeling. I jumped up and put on a long sleeve from my drop bag, my long sleeve from my pack, my shell from my pack, my hat and mitts and even my tights. I was still shaking, I took out my foil space blanket and wrapped it around me. Man, those do work well - first time using one. Reflects 90% of your body heat back at you. I covered myself in a blanket, drank some hot broth that another volunteer who appeared from nowhere brought me. I laid down again with all those clothes, foil blanket, sleeping bag and another blanket and a sleeping pad that the volunteers gave me as well. These two ladies were very helpful and kind. When I laid down this time,  a tall figure appeared and mentioned my name, it was another runner from NS - Kris Syliboy. Its odd how just seeing someone remotely familiar can give you a boost - it was nice to see him. I remembered him from a few local races and asked him how he was doing, and how his race went. I remembered he said he hurt is leg in his half marathon earlier that day and was not sure if he could run the marathon tomorrow. He must have been camping at the campground. I asked them to wake me in 20 minutes and tried to sleep. I was done .... again!

In 20 minutes, which felt like 5 minutes, they asked if I was ready to go. I responded that I was most likely going to drop since if I continued on from here there was no way of getting off the course other than the Park Rangers or helicopter evac. If I went hypothermic again I would be in trouble. Then something very odd happened. Two other men were standing over me and offered to run with me if I continued. Huh? Two runners hanging out at an aid station in the middle of the night offering to run with me to the finish. I thanked them but explained I was about to throw up again. Not wanting to throw up on the blanket and sleeping bag the volunteers had given me to warm up, I walked away from the aid station and throw up for a long time. I threw up to the point of dry heaving and nothing at all was coming up. Ultra running volunteers are a special breed, they didn't shy away, in fact they all came over to help me throw up - wow. In fact, the two dudes who volunteered to pace me to the finish asked if I was feeling better and ready to continue. Well, I was up now, I was not shaking and my stomach did feel better, but I had not eaten or drank anything that I could keep down in about a day. Since mid day really - and it was approaching 11PM. Wow, the body is an incredible machine.

I remember explaining to the volunteer when I first arrived that all I wanted to do was see the stars on top of Mont Albert - as I laid down and began to shake. She said I would. I really really wanted to see the stars from above tree line. A wave of hope shot through me and I figured all I had to do was get my butt out of this aid station and I would have no choice but to finish. Don't quit! I said to the guys if I could get down 3 small cups of water I/we would go. I got 2 down and told them to go get ready! I paced back and forth waiting for them to return for fear of going hypothermic again. I managed a few more cups of water. They returned and we were off.

I took the lead and we moved swiftly, we chatted and got to know each other. Although, we weren't 5 minutes up the trail and I had to stop and strip off all the layers I had put on to keep warm now that blood was flowing again. The runners were Pierre-Luc (I hope I got that right) and Francois from Trois Rivieres. I think they were the RDs for La Chute du Diable. An ultra running event in the region. Francois wanted to speak english to practice but Pierre-Luc spoke in French. They felt I was moving well for someone who had been running all day. They had run the half marathon earlier in the day. My guess is they had not slept yet and would now be up the entire night. They were very generous - so typical of the ultra running community. A sport like no other. We soon passed another runner, who was moving quite slowly but seemed fine. Francois chatted with him a bit and figured it was a good idea to split up. He would hang back to ensure the other runner made it in and Pierre-Luc and I would continue together. It was not long after this, and maybe even before that I stopped again to throw up all the water I had drank at the aid station. Not good! It is a horrible feeling when your body rejects water. I can understand it rejecting food, salt tabs, caffeine pills, etc - but not water.

We put some distance between us and the other runner with Francois. We actually got to a point where we thought we were on the wrong trail yet again. Pierre-Luc thought we were heading back to the camp ground but I was somehow sure we were heading toward the Grand Traverse. It was hard to tell without markers again. I remembered this stretch where I thought I was lost earlier in the day and explained to him that there were no markers here. After a period of time though I thought too that we were lost for sure. I thought my day was done, we woud soon arrive back at the campground. I was frustrated in a way since I rose from the dead again only to take a wrong turn and would not be able to do this all over again. However I was so tired, if we hit the campground again, I had tried and it would give me a good reason to quit. In fact I think I welcomed a bear attack as a reason to quit at this point :)

We arrived at another intersection and there were still no markers. I wanted to go one way and Pierre-Luc wanted to go another. I thought I was right, but couldn't be 100% sure. After a long hike, I started to think we might have to turn back. Jodi had convinced me to buy a map and put it in my pack night before the race - I bought one just before leaving the hotel for the start line that morning - I had noticed it on the desk. Pierre-Luc took it out and had a look. The good news was we were on the right trail, the bad news was we had 15.5 km to get to the plateau to go down the mountain. We had been moving for what seemed like and I believe really was 3 hours and we still had 15.5 kms to go to the plateau.

This is again where I was very confused about distance. They told us when we left the aid station we would have 25 km to the finish but I don't think that was accurate. We must have had about 35 - I think. We were also supposed to hit another minor aid station that was open earlier in the day (Lac Menard) but had now since closed for some reason. Not sure why they did that for the second time. I was devastated that we still had 15.5 kms to the plateau - it was a real downer - but there was no way out but to finish - and at least we knew we still had a shot and weren't lost. Off we went.

The moon was brilliant, but I soon realized the stars I wanted to see on the plateau would not be there. I can't recall how many times I threw up after this, but it was frequent and starting to get painful. Eventually the dark dissipated and it started to get light out. We were getting to the plateau - yes! Downhill from here. I could not climb anymore! I could move well on the flats and downs but not on the climbs. We could see the RD Matt Nelson the top of the plateau waiting for us. He must think we are the last runner since he was going to lay glow sticks as far as the plateau and sweep the last runner to the finish picking up the glow sticks along the way.

He said - Hello Blair, you are the man I have been waiting for. You are one tough dude. How are you feeling? I said I was very tired and dehydrated. I explained the pacer situation. You weren't allowed pacers but I said I didn't care about anything other than finishing. He said he knew about them leaving with me and that it didn't matter. We did explain though that we had passed another runner and he would be sweeping him in. I asked if it was all downhill from here. I knew we would be going down the vertical km race course, not the same way we ascended so I knew it was at least 5.6 kms. He said there was still 11 km left and 1km was uphill - the last climb, but it would be a tough one. I wasn't sure I could climb anymore.

We went down for a bit into the valley below, it was at this point that I could see the flagging going up the mountain beside us - Mont Albert. I asked Pierre-Luc if that last climb (1km) was all the way up Mont Albert. He said yes, he had done it on the half marathon course. Again, despair. I could not climb it, it was straight up, rocks and boulders. There was no other way out. I think I threw up again about mid climb. I was astounded that I was still climbing. There were many false summits. You would think you were at the top over the next set of boulders, but then there were more. I sat down to take a break a couple times. We could see Francois, Matt and the last runner climbing now behind us.  We eventually made it to the top. It was without a doubt the hardest think I have done physically in my life. Pierre-Luc congratulated me at the top of the climb. I felt relief that there was no more up, only down to go. A peace settled over me. There was a very long board walk to the summit, the sun was rising and there were 3 caribou on the summit to the right - it was one of the most beautiful sun rises I have ever seen. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the way I was feeling and what I had just accomplished. I walked slow to take it in. This was the first moment I knew I was going to make it to the finish.

We eventually arrived at the top of the vertical kilometer course. There was an aid station with water and 2 volunteers - this was not mentioned on the course map or briefing. My mind and eyes were playing tricks on me again as I was convinced it was Jodi and Kris who came out to see me finish. I yelled their names and they even waved and yelled back, but as we got closer I realized it was not them. I asked to borrow Pierre-Luc's water bottle to drink from - for some reason drinking from the bladder tube was making me sick. The other group of Matt, Francois and the last runner were catching up. I am not sure when but I just decided I needed to get off the course and finish. Pierre-Luc and the other volunteers were chatting and I think the others had reached the checkpoint. I just waved and started to descend. I figured they would catch up shortly.

I immediately noticed how difficult and steep the descent was. Jodi had won the vertical km race the day before. It would have been an excruciating climb to hike let alone run. It was hard to descend. I was going at at snails pace. It went on and on and on. It was getting hot again. I had to stop and throw up yet again - absolutely nothing was coming up - my stomach was just convulsing. I stripped naked and took off my tights - that would have been a sight had the other group caught up :) I didn't care much, I was hot and needed to get cool.

I started contemplating what I was going to do when I finished about my state of dehydration. I could not drink much without throwing up, but my mouth was like glue. I thought about getting someone to take me to the hospital to get an IV - that would probably be the smartest course of action. I was worried about my kidneys. However not long after I stopped to pee and it was not 'coffee'. I had peed darker in other races. The body is a strange thing indeed. The balls of my feet were now getting blistered from the steep descent and from being wet for most of the day. I kept seeing the bridge that would take me across the river to the finish around every corner, but it was just trees criss crossing over each other in the woods. I came upon another large moose, it moved along as it heard me descending. The descent went on and on and on. It was frustrating as I could see I was still high up on the mountain and knew I had to reach the very bottom to cross the river.

Eventually it was the real bridge, I didn't believe my eyes until I was actually on it. This meant I was less than a kilometer from the finish. I wondered if it was shut down. I knew I was well over the 24 hour cut off. Maybe there was nobody there. To my surprise (although I didn't care if there was anyone there at all), the clock was still running, there were volunteers and people around. I crossed under the finishing arch - they gave me a medal. They thought I was the last runner as well since I was the last to leave the final aid station. I explained the others were all coming together shortly behind me. I asked for ice again and this time they had some! I was so happy. I sat by myself for a long time and cried with my face in my hands. I had never cried at a finish before. The volunteers were amazing, they offered me everything but all I wanted was ice.  Must have been quite a sight, my physical state sitting there crying with a mouthful of ice.  :)

I hugged Pierre-Luc and Francois and thanked them from the bottom of my heart - without them I would not have continued and finished. I congratulated the last runner. A volunteer was kind enough to go to my van to get my bag of dry clothes. I changed and laid down on a cot with a sleeping bag and slept for about an hour and half as the black flies feasted on my face and feet. I would wake every so often to hear a race brief of some sort for the marathon starting later that day. That must have been a sight as well -  a dirty, dehydrated corpse laying on a army cot beside the seating area as the race briefing went on. I think they may have mentioned me at some point as I heard chuckles and saw them looking my way. I was amazed that my body was fatigued but not at all sore. Even the blisters on the balls of my feet were just hot spots - not full blown blisters. I am truly amazed by the human body coupled with the human will. I had not eaten or drank anything significant that I had not thrown back up in about 18 hours. After hydrating for a day and a half, I weighed myself at home and I was still down about 11 pounds - I am guessing I was down at least 15 pounds or more upon finishing. After checking into the hotel to sleep, I went to put on my underwear after showering and they fell off! My wife said I looked like a bobble head :)

Advice to pass along to anyone wanting to run this race:

Be in 100 mile shape for this race, not 100 km shape.
Bring trekking poles.
Be prepared for heat.
Be prepared for the cold.
Be prepared for rugged terrain.
Be prepared for wild life.
Be able to support yourself.
The beauty is stunning.
Take time at the major aid stations to care of yourself
Course marking could've been much better.
The volunteers are awesome!
This event is going to grow exponentially - it will sellout next year.
Don't quit, have a strong will and the body will follow- you will make it.

I am extremely proud to have persevered and crossed the finish line. Hats off to the super human winner that was sub 14 hours! Hats off to those who finished sub 24 and to anyone else that toed the line. It was a epic adventure that I will never forget.

Huge thank you to Jodi for fixing me up at Lac Thibault. Extra huge thank you to Pierre-Luc and Francois for pacing me in. And of course the biggest thank you to my wife and family for supporting all the training and worrying about my well being while being off the grid for 25 + hours in the mountains of Gaspe. I love you and I know its a hard thing to understand but just know somehow it makes me happy and brings peace.

I told my family I would take the remainder of the summer off. I would be lying if I told you I wasn't already thinking about redemption at the TARC 100 in the fall :) Sorry family, it was part 2 of the Fat Dog 120 swap after all ;) Only time will tell.

Happy Trails