Aid Station #3 – Edith Lake
10 am start – Such a luxurious way to begin an ultra. As Bruce and I pulled into the start/finish area, the runners were milling around, talking about the weather, checking out the unknown faces, catching up with old friends. It is a scene that I love. Collectively, the runners represent such determination, preparation and mental fortitude – and that is simply what they bring to the start line.
With a few short words about flagging and drop bags, RD Wendy Montgomery sent the 23 runners on their way. As soon as they had gone, the area began to buzz with activity. There was much to do to get those 8 aid stations equipped. We packed up the car with cookies, fruit, chips, pretzels and other goodies. We jotted down the names of runners and their numbers. We made arrangements for Brian to drop off a tent and water jugs at our remote station. We picked up the radio and batteries. And we headed down the highway.
Edith Lake is a little bit west of Alice Lake, off hwy 99. Our destination was simply a junction of trails near a lake. As the course is a 50 mile loop, our aid station is at 16 mi and at 66 mi into the run. The BC Parks operators had unlocked a gate so that we could drive up the 5 km dirt road. From the end of the road, we would have to pack our supplies in about 300 m. We expected the first runners to arrive around 12:30 and there was a fair amount of work to do before then.
With Brian’s help, we were able to unload the car, set up the tent and get water ready. Over the radio, we heard that the first runner has already gone through the aid station#4, the one which comes after ours. How did we miss him? We were here the whole time! Did he fly by while we were making trips to the car? Did he manage to get any fluids? We eventually got answers to all of these questions. Jason Loutitt had indeed flown by our station as it was in the process of being set up. We must have been shuttling gear from the car when he made his brief appearance. Luckily, he is a minimalist runner and didn’t need anything from us. He was ahead of record-setting pace!
After that initial confusion, the rest of the runners came in steadily. Most didn’t require much food or support at this point. Many were excited to see treats like green olives and pickles on our table. Within an hour, all runners were accounted for and we were done. Because of the popularity of the trails, we had to dismantle our whole aid station when we left the area. We didn’t want riders, hikers, off-leash dogs or bears to help themselves so we put everything back into the car, except for the water jugs and event tent.
We headed into Squamish and met up with Ken and Janet at Howe Sound Brewpub. They were working the Alice Lake aid station which came immediately before ours. We enjoyed some lunch/dinner and a tasty brew. On our way back, we stopped in at Perth Road station where George and Gail Forshaw had set up The Bistro. Runners would pass this station twice on each loop. There, they would be treated to espresso, ravioli finger-food and home-made bread-pudding. We dropped off a bottle of beer for them and said good night.
We approached the BC Parks gate, we discovered that it had been locked. We headed down to the campsite entrance and had about an hour of stressful negotiations with a handful of park operators. Bruce handled the situation so well and eventually managed to persuade Ben to unlock the gate until noon the next day. The issue had to do with poor communication between different offices and bureaucratic paperwork. It was really the only wrinkle in our whole day.
The set-up went much faster this time, since we had a clear plan for the site. I even had time to head down to check on the reflective course-markings leading to our station. We made up our turkey-avocado wraps and PBJ wraps and set them out with pickles, olives, tomatoes, grapes, bananas, oranges, chips, pretzels, chocolates, gatorade, pop, nuun and water. We had hot soup ready in a thermos and hot water simmering for warm drinks.
Jason arrived at 8:40pm, having maintained his lead in the race. This time, he grazed at our table and seemed pretty wiped. It was just becoming dark and I asked him if he had a flashlight in a drop bag at the next aid station. He simply showed me that he was wearing an e-lite around his waist. Now, I have a similar one-bulb led attached to my keys. That light will help you find your front door keyhole, but it won’t be much good in the heavily forested trails of Squamish all night long. Within a few minutes, he had reloaded and scooted off with a sigh. What an amazing runner! He went on to win the 100 miler in 19:11 – lap 1 in 7:32; lap 2 in 11:39. I heard that he wasn’t able to move as quickly in the second lap, partially due to lighting issues.
More than two hours later, the second place runner, Matt Daniels, came through our station. For the next few hours, our station was quite busy with eight of the 100 mile runners and their pacers. Although it was a warm night for running, there were many requests for soup. The turkey/avocado wraps were not as popular this year and cookies were the food choice of many. It wasn’t until 1:40 when the rush died down.
Around that time, we received a phone call from Ken. Two of the runners had not shown up at the Alice Lake aid station yet the final runner and the sweepers had arrived. He wasn’t sure if the missing runners were off-course or if they had snuck by his station when he briefly dozed off. Sure enough, around 3:55, the two missing runners and one pacer came to us. They regaled us with tales of being lost for over 3 hours and missing the previous aid station. They had somehow skipped all of Alice Lake and had come up the Mashiter trail instead. They were so relieved to finally be back on course and to have some refreshment. Knowing that they had lost their way, they were very concerned about being disqualified for not doing the whole distance. The option of sending them back to the Alice Lake station seemed unfair, since it would put them way behind cut-off schedules. Instead, Bruce suggested that they add an extra loop near the finish to make up for lost miles. After they were refueled, we sent them on towards Perth Rd and promised that we would get advice from the RD on making up the distance.
An hour later, the final runner and the two sweeps arrived. Everyone was accounted for. With no hesitation, Bruce and I crawled into our tent at 5 am and dropped off to sleep. We managed to get one full hour of zzzs before the cell phone rang. Wendy wanted to know what supplies needed to be restocked before the 50 milers and relay runners came through. Minutes after that, three volunteers arrived to spell us off. We jumped right back into the mode of preparing food and drink. Since most of the aid station equipment was ours, Bruce and I couldn’t really leave and expect the new volunteers to clean up after us. So we stayed and helped.
At 8 am on the nose, the first relay runner blazed in, tagged off and sent his teammate on his way. The station became quite a hub of excitement for two hours as relay runners and 50 mile soloists came through. Finally the turkey wraps were getting eaten! We helped runners tape their feet, fill their hydration packs and get nourishment. After a long slow night, this action was constant. The “Stormy Vollies” relay team arrived and, with a few quick introductions, Bruce headed off to run two legs of the relay.
The craziness lasted until about 9:15 and then the waiting game for the final runners took over. After the last runner at 10:00, we dismantled the aid station and loaded up the cars. We were just about to head back to the start/finish area when the sweeps, Jackie Muir and Mike Palichuk, arrived. They dropped off flagging ribbon and signs and picked up the last of the wraps and water.
After checking in with the Perth Rd station and dropping equipment off at the start/finish area, we were done. Bruce and I headed for home. It would have been a treat to stay and watch the final 100 milers come in, but we were exhausted and had a family celebration to attend that night.
This is such an awesome course. The wide variety of trail types offers something for every kind of trai runner. Congrats to all the runners and especially to RD Wendy for such a well-organized race. See you at the same time and same place next year! Come and try those famous turkey wraps!