Full Moon Frenzy 2013 - Race Report

After a course change due to political instability to our South, we ended up with 4 participats for the 2013 edition of the Full Moon Frenzy.  Returning champion & last year's King Of the Mountains, Alexis Guigue, proposed the idea to return to the Stein (after a failed plan in 2011 due to high snow).  We'd start at Lillooett Lake and finish in Lytton.  The upper Stein had apparently been "cleared" in 2012, so conditions should be "good" (foreshadowing).  We only hoped that the bridge 13km from the end would be cross-able (damaged in the spring by rockfall).  'Tovarich' Maxim Aleksandrov was the official winner of the day with a time of 28 hours, 10 minutes.  He bested Alexis Guigue & Dean Perez in a fast paced sprint to the finish, reaching a pace faster than 6 min / km in the final few kilometers.  The three of them finished in the same time just meters apart.  Dean Perez was the King of the Mountains, being a strong finisher in all 3 of the categorized climbs.

We started off the day by leaving Vancouver at 2am.  Due to some unfortunate traffic light sensor placement, we were pulled over by the police.  "Where are you off to at this time of night?" (in a tone as if we had been drinking and were heading home), "We're going to go run the Stein."  Knowing that this was punishment enough, we were let off without a warning.  He must have assumed that we wouldn't make it back in time to pay the fine.  We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 5am.  After a start line photo, the gun sounded, and the racers elbowed for position down the narrow logging road at 5:40am.  

(Dean is out of photo as he was taking the picture)

They quickly hit a dead end in the form of a creek and decided to utilize the by-pass trail around the washed out section of road.  The road was straight-forward, although overgrown in places, but the bush was very wet.  Whoever was on the front would 'get a shower' from the continuous 'wet bush', which also provided countless puns.  The racers blazed through the 'wet bush' section and reached Lizzie Lake in a time of 2 hours.  Although there was some difficulty to initially find the start of the trail, once it was found it was quite easy to follow.  A quick encounter with a wasp nest kept the speed high in this section, although there was only one person who fell victim to their violence.  The group reached the Lizzie Lake hut in 2h50 and stopped at the aid station (creek).  Alex Gibbs, who had recently filled up at the last aid station, quickly pounced into the lead...  albeit in the wrong direction.  

Thankfully, Long Lake looks nothing like Arrowhead lake, and the error was quickly fixed and they were on their way again.  As they approached the top of the first categorized climb of the day, Dean Perez cleanly took the lead and won maximum points at Arrowhead - Tabletop col in a time of 3h54.  A long traverse led the racers to Caltha Lake, and fun alpine meadow running led them to the 2nd climb of the day to the Tundra-Caltha Col.  The group was tight, but Alex Gibbs managed to eke out his competitors by a matter of inches and was the first to the park boundary sign in a time of 5h40.  


From this point on the terrain became a bit more technical, which slowed the group down slightly.  Descending along damp (it began to drizzle) talus proved too much for Alex, and his pace slowed after a rather rough tumble on a boulder.  The traverse across Tundra Lake was tedious, which followed damp boulders and wet grass on a steep side-hill above the icy waters of Tundra Lake.  Dean Perez jumped into the lead going into the last climb and raced Maxim for the final mountain points.  Dean managed to crest the ridge first, and claimed the KOM prize with his placement.  The racers had been racing for 7h30 by this point, and had to traverse a sharp ridge, then descend 1200m to Stein Lake where the next section of the race would begin.  The ridge top running was beautiful and incredibly fun.  On the descent, Alex Gibbs struggled to maintain contact with the lead group of 3 as they hammered down the steep descent.  When they reached the Stein River, they followed the trail back towards Stein Lake and crossed the cable car after an elapsed time of 10h10.  


The first section of trail toward Rutledge Creek was super fun and easy to run.  They made good time, however the 3 leaders (Alexis, Max, & Dean) missed the turn to the cable car and left Alex wondering where his fellow competitors had gone and what he should do.  Luckily, some Tarzan like calls yielded results, and he was quickly joined on the other side by the remaining 3.   The trail on the far side appeared to have been cleared recently... that is... for a few hundred meters.  Then the racers came upon the fire swathe from the 2009 fire.  The bush started to close in around them, and because tighter and tighter.  The trail became harder to follow and trail markers became sporadic, along with any signs of a trail.  The route had been changed since the fire, and the GPS units that a couple racers brought were rendered almost useless.  The pace dropped dramatically to around 30 min/km (2kph).  The bush increased in density as they went and the alder became mixed with devils club and fire weed.  Many yelps of pain were heard throughout the bushy sections as the racers would attempt to push alder out of the way and instead grab hold of a prickly stalk of devils club.  After a few hours, the light poison from the prickles made at least one racers finger tips go completely numb, which made the pain of continuous thorns less drastic, but the mental drain just as much so.  The bush was also wreaking havoc on their lower limbs.  Prickles, thorns, sharp sticks all contributing to the jabbing, scratching, & gouging of shins and calves.  The caked blood provided protection from some bush, but that was only a temporary reprieve until it too was scratched off to expose a new layer of skin to be subject to this torture.


For over 4 hours the racers would run short section of "trail" through the bush, lose the trail, find no evidence of a trail, push through the bush in what seemed like the correct direction, find something that resembled a trail, maybe see a piece of flagging tape, then repeat the entire process.  They traveled somewhere between 10 and 12 km during this time.  The pace was slow, and to make matters worse, the light that had been fading, finally disappeared. 2 hours later, they finally reached the 3rd cable crossing of the day at South Scudamore Creek at 11:20pm, 17h40 after they had started.  But the mental anguish of hours and hours of bush whacking were starting to take their toll.  

The trail between here and Cottonwood Creek was reasonable to follow, although slightly over grown, and they made good time to Cottonwood Canyon, where they again lost the trail and ended up finding an old footbridge closer to the Stein than the cable car.  Almost 19 hours had elapsed since they started, and with 29 km to go, the chances of finishing in 24 hours seemed very slim.  But from here on in, the trail should be reasonable to follow... shouldn't it?  They got on a well marked and signed trail that led into a sparse clearing and another forest fire swathe, and they quickly lost the trail again.  They wandered around, trying vainly to find the trail, but any sign of it had disappeared into the jungle that was again closing in around them.  Instead, the trail was replaced with alder, devils club, fire weed, dead fall, and swamp.  At one point, a racer looked up and found himself staring directly at the moon, which he quickly realized was in the west and happened to be the direction they were travelling in at that moment.  This was of course the wrong direction, and the group re-oriented itself and pushed further.  Had they made any progress at all?  Were they going in circles between swamp and impassable jungle?  Time would only tell.  It took them 2 hours to travel 4 km.  But then, as the river began to pin them against cliffs, deliverance!  The Trail!  They passed over the cliffs and took a quick 20 minute power nap at 2:40am.  21 hours had elapsed, and there was still 25 km to go, there was now no hope of finishing in under 24 hours.  

The rest did wonders to the team, and they pushed on, re-invigorated by the presence of a reasonably defined trail.  The bush was still present and overgrown on the trail.  It seemed to be there as a constant reminder that the Stein was not going to let them go easily.  Headlamps would reflect off the bush, making it impossible to see the trail.  Cut off branches were kicked, sticks were kicked into the back of legs repeatedly drawing blood, devils club clung to what skin remained of their shins, but they pushed on, driven near mad by the relentless torture.  Once in a while, the next turn of the trail would not be evident, but some searching would turn up the hidden entrance to more bush.  4 hours later, they reached the Suspension Bridge.  It had been mostly repaired and was easily cross-able, although not necessarily advisable.  It was 7am, everyone was sore, mentally drained, and physically exhausted.  The elapsed time was 25h20.  There was only a 13km "sprint" to the finish, but first... (yes, we slept like that for 40 minutes, and it felt damn good).

After the quick nap, at 7:50am, they set off.  The walked briskly for the first 10 minutes in order to wake their legs up, but they were soon running, and they pace gradually quickened on the fast and smooth trail.  Alexis, Dean, & Max took off at an ever increasing pace, and dropped Alex who was feeling the full effects of the day.  With 6km left, they had opened up a gap of 5 minutes, at which point they ran into the support crew, Maddy.  They declined the offer of cold beverages and pushed on.  Alex on the other hand, after finding out the gap, accepted the offer and began the process of recovery while still in the race.  Alexis, Dean, and Max raced towards the finish and Max broke away slightly to best his competitors in a sprint finish.  They arrived at 9:40am, almost exactly 28 hours after the start.  Alex & Maddy arrived an hour later at 10:40am.

Finisher medals were enjoyed by all, along with salty and satisfying food.

Max was the overall winner of the day, and Dean Perez was the King of the Mountains.  Everyone finished, which means that no one was 'fed to the bears'.


Next years race will be held in the Cascadian state of Washington in the beautiful North Cascades on August 9th & 10th.  Final route details will be hammered out soon, but it will be a loop (to avoid any border schenanigans).  It will of course feature lots of beautiful alpine & single track, but hopefully less bush... much less bush.


Ean Jackson's picture

Awesome accomplishment!

Way to go, guys... I *think* you may now own the record for the fastest bagging of the Stein Valley trail!!!

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