This past weekend I headed up island to tiny town called Sayward to take part in the Kusam Klimb. There were seven of us and four of the girls had done the klimb* before but this was my first time. When we arrived in Sayward we went to the Elk Haven Cottages where we were staying for two nights. The cottages were simple but they had all the basics that we would need. Once inside we figured out who was going to sleep where and relaxed for a bit before going to pick up our race bibs. We then had supper and got our backpacks and gear ready for morning.
Klimb morning arrives and I am up having my first cup of coffee when I hear the various alarms going off throughout the cottage that had been set for 5:15am. The plan was to leave around 6:15-6:20am to get to the start and do a bit of a warm up for those who wanted to. It was a bit cool outside and Mount H’Kusam was covered with clouds at the top but that didn’t stop us from wearing shorts and tank tops. We knew we would warm up quickly and we didn’t want to be carrying anything extra as we made our way up.
Start time approached and someone counted down the time and away we went down the road for 2km until we reached the bottom of Mount H’Kusam. The trail up starts as a gradual incline that is runnable and I did for most of it. I then found that my steps were getting smaller and I could walk faster than I could run it. The klimb was getting harder and steeper and walking was really the best option for me. I looked at my watch and I had gone about 3-4km when I remembered Nick telling me that the first 6km of the klimb were like doing the Grouse Grind twice. I have done the Grind before and the trail up to the top is mostly stairs with some pebbly trail. The Kumam Klimb has no stairs and is just dirt underfoot.
The Kusam Klimb is not a race due to the difficulty of it. I paid to take part in the event and I had a number pinned to my tank top so I was out to compete with myself. I had to get it my best even and push myself. As I made my way up my legs were getting tired and starting to feel a bit shaky. I was started questioning why I was doing it and said “This is ticked off the bucket list.”
I was being followed by two or three men and I asked them if they wanted to go by me because I didn’t want to hold them up. They let me know that they were ok to keep following and they were the caboose of the train. Funny! They pushed me to keep going and eventually the one guy did ask to go by. I was Ok with that and then tried my best to keep up with him. He eventually got further away from me until the last 2km of the run.
The klimb got steeper and I was using my hands, along with my feet to walk with at some points. I put the gloves on that the girls had recommended I purchase before the klimb. They told me about the ropes that I would be using at various places throughout and my hands would be happy for them. As I klimbed my iPod playlist motivated and distracted me from my legs burning. It was a short distraction but one I was happy for.
I eventually made it to the top and I saw two men there who were tracking our numbers. One man said congrats because I made it there in under two hours. I looked at my watch and it said 1:52. I then asked how many other women were in front of me. He said “Five. I think.” That felt good and I continued on.
As I headed down the other side the down part of the klimb was just as steep as the up. I had to hang on to ropes to go down the trail and that was touch and go. I decided I just needed to trust my feet and legs and just go for it. I loosely held on to the rope but with enough tension that I felt secure. I could hear some of the men coming down the mountain and I moved out of the way. They were moving much faster than me and I didn’t want the pressure of them behind me. As we reached the single track trail I was uncertain if my legs were going to be able to run. They were feeling so tired from the klimb up and going down but to my surprise they were. Midway down the backside Kristy came up behind me on the single track. I knew this was going to happen and I moved out of the way to let her go.
The trail eventually opened up and we came to a wider trail that was more like an old logging road. Two people could have easily ran side my side if there would have been someone around me. I ran the road solo for the majority of it. I only saw the volunteers at the check points after that. As I ran along I drank from my hydration pack and ate some Gu Chews, dates and some energy balls that I made. I wanted to have something that was more like real food than gels. I am also tired of gels after all my marathon training. They fuelled me well and I will eat the same thing when we run the Broken Goat 25k next month.
A few times along the way I stumbled on my feet. I had to remind myself to pick up my feet so I chanted a few times “Feet! Feet! Feet!” It seemed to work and I stayed upright for the entire run. As I ran along the fire road there were small ditches for water to run through. Some had water and they made the rocks a bit more slippery. I was cautious in those ditches and slowed down a bit.
I reached what I thought was the last check point and it said 5.5km. I was happy to see that and I was now back on single trail. There were more little ditches and some of them were deeper than others. I checked my watch and I was keeping a good pace and feeling good but I realized that the distance left to run and the total klimb distance didn’t match on my watch. I was going to be a few kilometers short of 23km. That is when I arrived at another sign that said 2.2km. Those were the ‘short kilometers’ that I needed to run. I recognized where I was as I headed down the hill. I saw the two guys who had passed me earlier in the run. I passed by them and told them good job and one guy said “Wow, strong finish and great job!” That made me feel good. I eventually rounded the corner and could see people on the road waving people into the finish line. I was so close.
I crossed in 3:16:51 and was very happy with my time. I placed second in my age group, seventh woman overall and 31 out of 529 participants. I think that my marathon training over the last five months definitely benefited me because I am not sure I could have done that klimb without it. I have been asked if I would do the klimb again and right now I don’t think so. I think I had the best conditions for the event because this year there wasn’t any snow, the weather was perfect and I was with a great group of girls.
Have you ever done a crazy climb? What is the longest distance you have ever done?
*I spelled it klimb throughout my post because the event was called Kusam Klimb.