Frosty 50, 2017

Manning Park is a wonderful little escape from Vancouver. Only 40 minutes past Hope (the home of Rambo… for real… check it out), it doesn’t take long to get some good mountain running in a completely different setting. While the flagship race is, and always will be, the Fat Dog 120, there is another race, less well known, but with a strong cult following among the “old-hands” in the ultra-running field… the Frosty 50.

My good friend Sean “How Many People Can I Piss Off Today” Lavin has described the Frosty as his favourite 50km ever… strong recommendation, indeed (Sean may have run “more than one” ultra!) I had also wondered why it was called the “Frosty”. The first and obvious reason was that it goes over the peak of Frosty Mountain… but I was to discover another reason.

Ultra Pup was excited to get out of town, and was doing all she could to help me pack the car (it only took a hair over twice as long with her help!) Soon we were topping off the tank, checking the tires, and straightening the curves down the Sea to Sky. We pulled into a dodgy alley in the West End, slowed to 60, and Tamara jumped aboard. The Blue Brothers would have been proud as we spun our tires to pull out … and into traffic crawling through Langley. Eventually the traffic thinned, and we were cruising towards the mountains. We topped up with food and fuel in Hope and pulled a right-hand onto the Crows Nest Pass.

We wound our way up the Pass, discussing cage fighting mostly, until we pulled into the Resort. In the lobby, we found Gottfried sitting next to the check-in table with a Scottie dog, exhausted from a few hard days of course-flagging, asleep on his lap. Race numbers and a couple bags of ice in hand, we headed off to claim a camp site.

As the evening progressed, the cider levels dropped and the conversation veered towards comparing the different branches of Buddhism (Tamara had spent quite a lot of time living in monasteries in Nepal, so had a first-hand knowledge of subject). Eventually the temperature dropped enough that we repaired to the tent to take an international tour of chocolates.

The next morning, we woke at 6:30, packed the tent, and drove over to the start. It was at this point that we discovered the other reason the race was called the “Frosty”… it was cold! We brewed up coffee, checked-in, and chatted to friends while we waited for the races to start. After seeing the early 50km starters off, I pinned my bib to my shorts, finished my coffee, and got ready for my high-performance start… meaning walking down the trail with my friends, while we watched the rabbits disappear in a blaze of dust down the trail.

My finger nails hurt as I started to jog down the trail. I found myself wishing for my big camera as the sun filtered through dust being kicked up by the runners. We followed easy double-track up the side of the mountain, and the cold gradually eased as blood started to move through my extremities. Ultra_Pup was as excited as you would expect – running up and down, making friends.

Before too long, we were in the tree-line, and started to get views into the northern Cascades. It was about this time that I started to feel the altitude. It became harder to maintain pace, and it was taking longer and longer to catch the people ahead. Ultra_Pup, however, didn’t seem to be having any such difficulty, and she kept having to wait for me.

We arrived at the top of Frosty to amazing to amazing 360-degree views, and a major conference of trail runners. We snapped photos of each other, Ultra_Pup had a snack (thank you Clif Bar for the support!) and we started down. As usual, we diced it up with other runners on the downhill… maintaining an easy, steady pace, we passed runners on the rocky technical ground at the top, to have them catch us on the mellow, non-technical sections lower down.

Pretty soon, we saw Lightning Lake below us, and next we were coming into the aid station. The hazards of drop-bags we on show… as we came in, the runners who had passed us were digging through their bag; we took a relaxed 4 minute stop to re-fuel, Ultra_Pup had a dip in the lake, and we started to jog along the shore… while the others were still deciding what to take and what to leave.

After a couple easy kilometres, we started climbing Skyline Ridge. I was dragging my ass, and while we were stopped drinking from a spring, the two drop-baggers hove into view. They continued to gain on us; at the second last aid station of the race, a couple kilometres before the end of Skyline Ridge, they pulled in just as we were leaving. This lit a fire-cracker up my butt, and we carried on pushing pace as best I could (of course, Ultra_Pup kept having to wait); I kept expecting the chasers to catch us at any minute, but apparently they were enjoying the views too much.

The last aid station hove into view, and we found we had 7km of easy rolling terrain to the finish. While most people would have bean happy to hear this, it was not welcome news… easy terrain doesn’t suit Ultra_Pup and I – we tend to clock the same pace on almost any terrain, while others struggle more on harsh terrain and speed up on mellow terrain. This meant that we were under greater risk of being caught, and had to commit ourselves to the chase.

It wasn’t long before we popped out onto the grass. With 200m left to the finish, I looked over my shoulder to confirm we didn’t have a sprint-finish on our hands, and we settled in to enjoy the final yards, and Tamara waiting for us with beer!

We spent the next hour or so hanging out, shooting the breeze with friends, new and old, and enjoying tasty beverages. Eventually, it was time to head home… another fun run under the belt, and another medal for the Ego Board….

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