North Vancouver trail runner Gary Robbins is on a bit of a hot streak of late – including a win at the H.U.R.T 100 miler in January in Hawaii, a 6th place overall at the prestigious Western States 100 mile Endurance run, and speed records for two of Canada’s most popular and rugged trails, including our very own West Coast Trail. The two speed record attempts are a part of his efforts to raise money for the Right to Play charity foundation, which provides funds for under-privileged children to get involved in sports. Gary’s goal is to raise $5,000 and he is almost there. To contribute click here.
For those that are not aware the West Coast Trail is a rugged former-rescue trail along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The trail is 75 kilometers long and typically takes hikers 7 days to hike. However the trail has seen a number of trail runners attempt to set speed records over the last few decades, with the most recent record standing at 10 hours, 14 minutes. Following is Gary’s account of his attempt to break this record.
Written by Gary Robbins
The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968)
Just organizing this one proved to be a bit of a nightmare that somehow turned into a dream come true. I come from a big extended family in Newfoundland and though the years have passed the bond still remains tight. My Mother is the only remaining sibling, of eighteen born (yes you read that right) that still resides in Nfld. For years when I went on BC road trips and relayed the stories to my parents it would be followed up by, you missed aunt and uncle a-b-c-d and cousins e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-m-n-o-p, in towns q-r-s-t.
A few years back a wedding reunited me with this long lost side of my family tree and it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know them all over again. In the end, I could not have pulled this one off without their direct assistance and it would simply be unfair of me not to start by specifically thanking everyone who made this possible for me.
Dean Neville, Nanaimo ferry terminal to Port Alberni, and morning drop off at Frances Barkley boat ride from Port Alberni to Bamfield
Aunt Karen, Uncle Bob, place to crash and great conversation on Monday night
Sarah Logan, friend of this side of family. Place to crash in Bamfield on Tuesday night and drive to trailhead at 5:20am Wednesday
Randy and Roxanne Neville. Pick up in Victoria, dinner, change of clothes for journey home, drive to ferry in Tsawassen.
Ryne Melcher (Montrail family) and his GF Kristin Ohm-Pedersen, drop off at ferry on Monday evening and pick up from ferry on Wednesday night.
As mentioned, just getting to the trail head was a journey in and of itself. Thankfully the scenery upon BC Ferries is second to none, and by the time I arrived in Bamfield itself, on Tuesday afternoon, I felt like I’d been off of work for days, even though it was but 18hrs since I had clocked out.
On the running side of things the weather could not have been better, and given that it rained just 36hr after I came off the trail I’d wager to say that I had the best day of the year for my speed attempt. In hindsight I’m fully relieved I was not able to attempt the trail in May, as was originally planned, because it would have been a complete waste of my time, money, and energy, with a definitive do-over necessary. In the end it most certainly all worked out for the best!
After a relaxing afternoon in the tiny hamlet of Bamfield I’d felt like I’d stepped back in time, though not having phone reception for a day was actually kinda nice. After packing my gear I headed out for a quick test run, as I’d never actually run with this new pack before (”do as I say, not as I do!”) Ahem, don’t try anything new in a race! Speed attempts are different don’t ya know!
At 9:30pm I downed a couple of melatonin, as I would never be able to sleep otherwise, and I was out within minutes.
4:30am is early, no matter how you slice it and no matter what time you may have crawled into bed the night before.
5:15am Sarah and I depart for the trail. It’s a ten minute drive and for the first five minutes I find myself making jokes and trying to wake us both up. As we approach our destination though, I go noticeably silent. It’s almost go time. The gravity of the situation is starting to sink in.
It’s still completely dark outside, and there won’t be anyone else around when I arrive at my starting point. There will not be any other runners to share this experience with, or to create that wonderful nervous excitement that inevitably precludes daunting tasks such as these. I won’t have a Race Director there to send me off, and there won’t be any well stocked aid stations along the way. I’m completely on my own, and competing against nothing but a clock and thirteen years of history. I can’t help but notice that I’m more nervous than I was while lining up for the Western States 100 miler back in June. This attempt is so black and white it’s scary.
10h12m or better, success…10h14m or longer, failure.
I have no one to pace off of, no idea of what my ‘splits’ along the trail should be, no way of knowing at any point in time if I’m genuinely going fast enough to pull this thing off. Due to this fact there will not be a single mental break for the entire duration of the run. I have to get my mind locked in, for as much as some of this might prove to be enjoyable, it’s about time to get down to business.
I didn’t pack a headlamp so as to save on weight and we had to wait a few extra minutes until I could sufficiently make out the obstacles of the trail. At 5:34am, I asked Sarah to give me a ten second countdown…
To continue reading the rest of this story visit Gary’s blog here….