With the Squamish 50, runners can sign up for a weekend of completing not just a single behemoth run, but two.
The 2017 edition, which was held on Aug. 19 and 20, saw those looking to do both complete a 50-mile (80-kilometre) race on Day 1 before a 50-km challenge the following day.
Louise Oliver was the lone Whistlerite to complete both legs, taking 43rd overall with a two-day time of 22 hours, 21 minutes and four seconds (22:21:04).
Racing in the women's 40-to-49 division, Oliver credited her regular training with a lifelong running partner from Squamish for helping to establish a base to work from, adding that she ramped things up in January with countless hours on a snowy Valley Trail before singletrack options opened later in the spring.
"At our peak I would say we ran about 10 hours on Saturday, and woke up and did another 7-8 on Sunday. My husband (Chad) also entered the 50km, which was his first ultra, so he and I also spent time slugging through some miles," Oliver wrote in an email.
"When the Ascent Trails opened this summer, we climbed as much as we could, as often as we could. Training for such a beast of a race is a pretty massive endeavour. It is really about fitting in training whenever possible. My family was incredibly supportive, and I cannot thank my little boy and in-laws enough for giving me the time to get out there and train."
Oliver noted both courses were fairly similar with plenty of time spent around the Alice Lake area before finishing in Squamish proper. She also stressed the "painful" aspect of much of the terrain.
"There is so much vertical, and insanely technical downhill — your legs are pretty much pulp by the time you cross the finish line. I have done longer races, but mile per mile, I would say these courses are the most difficult I have ever attempted," she said.
In 2016, Oliver ran the 50-mile race and was baffled that a significant subset of Saturday's competitors would wake up early and do another huge challenge the next day. She admittedly felt the same way when she got up at 3:30 a.m. to join them this year, but nevertheless, she persevered.
"The exhaustion and my nausea were pretty fierce. I struggled keeping food down, and my body was too sore to get any semblance of real sleep. So, when the alarm rang on Day 2, I was a bit of an emotional mess for a few minutes. Once I got up and moving, I knew I was at least going to get to the start line. I knew there were zero guarantees that I would finish the 50km, but I was certainly going to try," she recalled, adding about the first half of the race was spent "fantasizing about sleeping."
"The only point I thought that I may not finish was when the blisters on the bottom of my right foot tore open. I ended up ripping off the tape I had used to try and protect them, and after about 2 km of sheer agony, the pain ebbed.
"Day 2 was a brute, plain and simple."
Adrenaline and the joy of seeing her family intermittently at aid stations powered her for much of the race, but there were some added motivations as the day progressed. Crossing the finish line brought a sigh of relief and joy as Oliver received congratulations from co-race director and world-renowned ultra-marathoner Gary Robbins as well as the finisher's ball cap.
"As I ran out of the last aid station 10 km prior to the finish, I remember very clearly someone saying 'Go get your hat.' It was all I thought about for the last hour of the race," she said.
Oliver thanked the volunteers and added the event is well run with a number of impressive competitors travelling to compete in it.
Complete results are available at www.squamish50.com.