Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Squamish Brick: An Ultra Running Experience

Present company excluded, these people are all capable of running very, very long distances.

The Squamish Brick is a two-day event, consisting of consecutive long trail runs in Squamish, Canada, located about 55 miles south of Whistler. Sponsored by Club Fat Ass, the Brick is run on much of the same course as the upcoming ultra- STORMY 50 or 100 mile trail race.

While I've completed 40 something marathons, this was actually my introduction into the realm of ultra marathon training. The close knit ultra marathon community is comprised of a cast of characters the likes I have not met before. Some are what I call competitive. Others are not. The one unique ability they have in common is they can all run for a long time, and I mean a very long time.

Things I learned about ultra-marathoning this weekend.

Never, ever ask "how far do we have to go?" Inevitably, you'll get the answer, "not far", which as far as I know, by ultra definition could be any distance less than 10 miles.

Never ask which way. The answer I got was "it doesn't matter- we'll get out of here eventually."

Walk up the hills. Problem is, they walked so fast I had to jog to keep up.

Never stop your watch. An ultra runner never, ever stops their watch during a training run "...It's time on your feet that counts."

Conventional running gear is a rarity. You'll see a diverse selection of outerwear worn by the ultra marathon community, not all of it high tech, but certainly functional.

In contrast to most runners, ultra runners like to quantify their running in terms of hours, not miles. Carlos, for instance, has a 10 hour per week limit on his running. No more no less. So what if he does half of that on a Saturday, then another 4 or 5 hours on Sunday- that is a different week.

Blood on trail is not unusual . Many or most serious ultra runners have the scars to prove it.

Never take your car keys on an ultra run- not only did I lose mine, but we found another set of Toyota keys hung neatly in a tree waiting for the owner to claim (if anybody finds another Toyota key up there, it's mine!)

Ultra runners pick up every speck of garbage they spot along the trails. Not sure I've ever seen that before.

A bear sighting on trail is nothing to be alarmed about. You only have to run faster than one other person in the group.

Never underestimate ANYBODY training for an ultra. I consider myself a half-way decent runner, but had the feeling I was way out of my league in this group. Just because you've run a good road marathon time does not necessarily mean you can be a good ultra trail runner without lots of ultra, trail specific training.

Complaining or whining is not allowed in the ultra community, at least I never heard anybody else other than myself doing any.

I will use some of what I learned by training with this group, mainly that 2 hours of trail running is hardly a good warm-up for the typical ultra marathoner, and I probably should keep going for another hour or 2. The pace can be slow, and I can save hill work for another day. I will be more consious of picking up trash.

Now I can't wait to get back on the track for a session of good, hard intervals.

(c) Dave Elger 2008 All rights reserved.


  1. hey dave. love the post! good running with you and hope to see you again. have a great season. -jp-

  2. Nice running with both of you!Dave you are a very observant guy!
    Do you want to run the "Monty?"
    Club Fat Ass Event.
    You can camp in my back yard.
    Four tents last year...

  3. Thanks Carlos. That sounds like another fantastic challenge. If I can make it I will be sure to let you know

  4. It is awfully realxing out there not worrying about splits isn't it!! Somehow the bears seem less threatening than approaching footsteps:)