Green Tea Sherbert

Thursday, July 06, 2006

West Coast Trail in 1 day

Our Goal: To complete the West Coast Trail within a 24 hour period


After last year's knee knacker, a 48km Ultra Marathon over North Vancouver's 3 most prominent mountains, my friend Chris decided that we needed something a little more challenging to do.

Chris, being a lawyer, spends a lot of time at the office. Apparently much of this time is spent surfing the web while charging out obscene amounts of money. On one of these busy days he found a log of some very fit people who ran 75km The West Coast Trail in a day. Then he convinced us to do it, by saying that it will in fact be slightly easier than The Knee Knacker, despite it being 27km longer, since there is not nearly as much elevation change.

After convincing all of us to do it, when it comes time to lay the money ($165) down and make the reservation, Chris decides that he is too busy and can't commit to it. I think this is retribution for when I missed his wedding!

Now it is up to me, Spencer (Spenny) and Nick to pull this off.

We camped at the beautiful beachside Pachena Bay Campsite just outside the town of Bamfield. We went to bed at about 7:30pm using some magic sleeping pills that promised not to have any side effects whatsoever. At 2AM despite wearing ear plugs and being heavily drugged, we all wake up to the sound of some really loud funky hip hop music and some guy named Bill yelling to Bob about how he needs another beer. I have nothing against hip-hop and guys named Bill, Bob... or beer, but I really wanted to lay a Rock style smack-down on Jabroni drive to Bob and Bill.

The Run

At 5:45AM July 2, 2006 after a reasonably good sleep, and a beautiful morning dump, we set off.

The first 25km was very beautiful. There were lots of giant trees, not too many ladders, limited elevation gain and nice firm ground to run on. I'd compare it to the
section between Seymour Mountain and Deep Cove on the Baden Powell Trail in North Vancouver. We kept to a 5minute run, 2 minute walk pace because, to be perfectly honest we hadn't properly trained for a 75km run. This sage advice we got from Chris, "the guy who bailed on us". We got to the 1/3 mark after about 4 hours.

It was on this section that we bumped into our first backpackers. I remember this very clearly because it was an unimpressed Aussie. All he said was "so you guys must be doing this in one day?.. Oh.. " then walks on. I was hoping for a reaction from people. At least a bit of surprise. I mean, we're doing a 7-day hike in one day. But this guy acts as though we're just jogging around Stanley Park or something. He was the first Aussie I didn't like.

Other than the unimpressed Aussie, Tsusiat Falls was the highlight of this section. If I were to backpack this, I would definitely stop there to camp and go swimming.

The next 25km involved the ferry crossing of Nitinat Narrows where we resisted buying crabs or other "cold beverages".

Prior to starting the WCT we heavily debated the pros and cons of the nutritional content of the hamburger and what affect it would have upon a weekend warrior (us) attempting to run an ultra-marathon. When we reached the much talked about burger stand at the 44km marker
I had at that point eaten 8 cliff bars and 2 cliff shots. I would have run blind-folded and bare foot the rest of the way for a burger at that point. It was so good and greasy. No extra lean, free range soy burgers here. This was the type of burger where the paper plate becomes transparent because the oil from the burger soaks into it. I washed that down with 2 chocolate bars. 2500 calories of fat had just been ingested.Perfect!

The next 15km involved about 9km of running on the beach. If the scenery wasn't so beautiful, it would have been pure torture slogging through that soft sand.

Spencer applying nuskin on a rather sensitive area that had been rubbed raw.

It was after this point that the gas started. I think that certain members of our group weren't used to eating 15 cliff bars in one day. One minute, I can smell the breeze off the ocean mixed with eau de cedar spruce, and the next I am swimming in Annacis Island Sewage Treatment plant. I strategically move to the front of the threesome.

At the 50km mark we realize that we will probably be on the trail until about midnight. It actually didn't really hit me that we would be running late into the night until that point. We started to speed it up quite a bit so that we could clear the big section of ladders between Cullite Creek and Camper Bay. There was a large section of boardwalk through a bog. This was one of my favorite sections because we could just let it rip.

Unfortunately after this it is too dark to run along boulder-filled beach towards Owen Pt, and we are forced to go inland. The inland section is supposed to be more difficult and far less scenic. Apparently we missed out on some spectacular views here.

The last 5km took about 5 hours. It was pure torture. The trail was very technical. There were lots of narrow logs to cross, deep mud and it was dark. Also our bodies were starting to wear out. Spenny could no longer bend his right leg and had to use a walking stick. The best part was him trying to climb up ladders with one hand on his walking stick and dragging up his right leg.

My headlamp was pretty dead. I could only see a few feet infront of me so I was relegated to the stinky back again. Also my hamstrings were really tightening up. I was not able to straighten my left leg for the last 20km. And my shins were getting ravaged because I no longer had the coordination to lift them over stumps.

Despite the aforementioned ailments and setbacks I must say that we really kept our cool. We got lost twice because of misleading trails, but never panicked. Nick was definitely the leader at this point. He was the most experienced outdoorsman and was used to finding his way in the woods in the dark. Spencer and I were noticeably starting to lose it. I noticed we both started to mumble incoherently to ouselves. Weird.

We finally reached the Gordon River at 4AM. We had to bivouac because the ferry would not come until 9AM.
We set up Nick's tarp. We put on our non-breathable water proof layers as the first layer to trap in the warm water vapours close to our bodies. Next we put on the rest of our clothing to add insulation. We had originally agreed that if we had to bivouac, we were to cuddle in order to keep warm. Somehow Nick and Spenny claimed the outer spots under the tarp so I was forced into the middle.. Lets just say no cuddling for me! It wasn't that cold. Completely exhasted, we shivered for a couple of hours, then Nick left the tarp to light a fire down by the river to keep us warm.

I went back to my semi-conscious, shivering state, and 10 minutes later I felt someone kissing me. I honestly thought it was Nick kissing me as a practical joke because I didn't want to cuddle! To my relief and utter joy, it was Sharon. She and Nancy had camped at the other side of the Gordon River and saw Nick lighting the fire. They paddled over their little rubber dinghy and brought us back to their campsite for breakfast. We stuffed ourselves with roast chicken, muffins and fresh fruit. It honestly felt as though we had been away for many days when in fact we had only been gone for just over 22hours.