DREAMBOAT RETURNS TO FALCON LAKE TO RUN 150-MILE RACE
Written by Lyndon Froese
There's a 150 mile ultra-marathon happening up here in the woods. 150 miles – no kidding! – and, Eric Young, an extremely attractive man who grew up here came home to run it. He thought it sounded like a good idea to run for 150 miles straight.
If you're like me, it might take a bit for the "150 mile" part to sink in. For all you math majors out there, that's 240 km. It's going to take Eric between 36 and 40 hours. I'm having a hard time imagining even being awake for that long.
One time I day-dreamed about how cool it would feel to have run just a normal 26-mile marathon. I'd be like a running god. "Yeah," I said to myself in my great-feeling day dream, "I ran a marathon, man..."
Back in real life, Eric will be running almost six consecutive marathons – on a trail. This is a trail-running ultra-marathon.
Eric's a friend of the resort here, so everyone knows he's in town and everyone's got an opinion.
"It's kind of bewildering to me", said Craig, who one time when he was younger ran about two miles. "He's gone in that godawful Death Race."
[The Canadian Death Race is another ultra-marathon. Even though it's a comparatively diminutive 78 miles, no one argues about the name "Death Race".]
Over in the maintenance department, lead mechanic Ryan Gemmel had this to say:
"Well, I think Eric's a hell of a guy. I've always been impressed that he can work a day on a construction site and then go on a long-distance run."
Ryan had just finished a day on a job site himself and he was eating chips and drinking beer.
"But, like, how many Manitobans can even run that far?" Ryan wondered, "I guess that's why Eric moved to BC."
I asked Kelly, who is known around the resort as a very strong man with large muscles compared to the rest of us guys.
"Well, there's a reason I'm in maintenance and nothing to do with newspapers or journalism," Kelly said as I stood there with my notebook waiting for him to come up with something great on the spot. "But I say, 150 miles, let's do it!"
My brother Terrell, also in maintenance, was nearby and said he was familiar with this sort of self-torture. He's competed in numerous violin competitions -- including the Altona Festival of the Arts when he was 11 or 12.
"I got ulcers," Terrell said.
Another time he completed the Super Run.
"How far is that?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," I said. "Maybe 2 kilometers..."
"Gotta be at least 2.5."
Over at the front desk, Tessa said her distance record was longer than her husband's 2 or possibly 2.5 kilometers. She used to run cross-country in high school. At this one race, she said, there was this kid who didn't speak English well – new to Canada. Everyone was in their fancy running gear except this fellow who was in jeans and a t-shirt. But he was the fastest runner there. Only thing is because he wasn't sure what was going on in this unfamiliar culture, he stayed 10 feet behind the leader the whole race so that he didn't get lost.
"I'll bet he could run 150 miles," Tessa said.
Mariko, a mysterious Japanese woman who's been working at the resort for almost a year, needed the miles converted to kilometers to make sense of it – she is from a sensible country that uses metric only.
"240 kilometers?" she said, pronouncing every syllable. "For me, even driving would be too far... I don't understand... why would you run?"
I wanted to talk to an actual athlete to get some perspective. Megan Imrie is a two-time Olympian and her photo is all over the ski hill. I've never met her, but she's an A-List celebrity out here so I felt like I knew her, you know?
"Megan Imrie, you're an athlete," I said to her on the phone. "What do you think about Eric doing this 150-mile race?"
"Eric said he was quitting running two years ago," she said.
Megan's husband Scott Edmunds got on the call too – he's a friend of Eric's who likes to make fun of him.
Scott is also in the sports world, but he said it was still confusing: "Megan and I know lots of people who do things like this, but for the most part they aren't as smart as Eric."
"Do you two think Eric will finish this race?" I asked.
"Yes," said Falcon Lake celebrity Megan Imrie to me on the phone. "Absolutely."
"I don't think he should..." said Scott Edmunds.
Scott told a personal story to explain why. One time he went on a cross-country ski. It was "quite a long ski," in his words. No less than 25 km.
"I was going really hard because I wanted it to be over and I had no feeling of accomplishment at the end."
Still, Scott said he is hoping to sprint to the finish along side his friend as he runs the last mile with Eric.
"Well, maybe not the full mile," said Scott "But..."
* * *
"I'm not telling him he can't do this – he is an adult."
That's what Eric's mom, Theresa Young told me on the phone.
She said when Eric was younger he entered a 100-mile race in Colorado. She went with him to help and ended up pushing him in a wheelchair through the Denver airport on the way home. Eric was underaged so he had borrowed his brother Ian's ID to enter that one.
"So now there's a sweatshirt with Ian's name on it," Theresa said.
"It's one of my greatest accomplishments," Ian said when I talked to him later. There are records on the internet about how Ian completed a 100-mile race in the mountains.
"Eric was lucky to have an older bully of a brother like me who would chase him around – it was fight or flight for many years and he chose flight until he became bigger than me, so I really take credit."
"Most people borrow their brother's ID to get into bars," said Ian. "He did it to torture himself for 28 hours one day."
Back on the phone with Theresa, she was relieved that, since she was out of the province, a small team had been assembled to take her place as support. Emily Christie and three former employees of resort (Dana, Maha and Meghan) make up Eric's Hot Babes Support Team.
"Tell Emily to bring a 2L of flat Coke," Theresa said when I told her about the Hot Babes Support Team. "I'll pay her back." The Coke is like a potion I guess and it was a part of a laundry list of items that Theresa thought Eric might forget.
Besides the Hot Babes, other community members have tried to help Eric over the years. Gord and Linda Hood used to own the Snack Shack in downtown Falcon Lake. Gord said Eric was their best customer, always coming in for spicy chicken wraps. A long time ago, when Eric still lived in Falcon Lake, Linda and Gord heard that he was going somewhere far away for a run.
"So I called him up and said to place his order for wraps," Gord told me a phone call. "We were going to be his wraps sponsor."
Eric came by the Snack Shack in his little car, filled up his cooler with wraps and headed out of town.
Gord's longest run was 10 miles. When he was young and fighting forest fires, they had no helicopters so the plane would land on the closest lake and they would run with a can of water on their backs from there.
Since Gord is a legend, I thought maybe he would have some advice for Eric. I asked Gord if he did.
"No," said Gord.
I think he speaks for all of us on that one.
* * *
Questions for Eric Young from the peanut gallery:
I wrote down some questions that everyone at the resort had and went to the Young's place to see what Eric would say.
Eric tried to make a Manitoba-shaped waffle for his English girlfriend Eli who was in Falcon Lake for the first time and I asked him the questions from my pieces of paper:
Falcon Trails Resort (this is me talking on behalf of the resort): Eric, the people want to know, what do you think about while you are running?
Eric Young: Good ultra-marathoners probably think about running. Escaping the present is not a great strategy. Repetitive, meditative, trance modes I've heard are good strategies. If you aren't happy doing what you're doing, you aren't going to do well. I never think about the finish line. I think about getting to the top of this hill or what I'm going to eat at the next station.
FTR: Do you have a playlist?
Eric: I like listening to musicals... Les Mis, Jesus Christ Superstar...
[Eric also said later that he has begun races listening to the same song in his earbuds since he was a teenager: "Separation of Church and Skate" by NoFX. He'll be pressing play on that as the gun goes off later today]
FTR: Have you even ever been awake for 36 to 40 hours straight?
Eric: Ah, no... I guess not. I don't think so...
FTR: What about taking a pee?
Eric: I ran a race in Alberta. It was on gravel and I started noticing this wet line, like a sin wave pattern on the trail. I thought it was maybe a leaking camelback. Then it went away. Then I saw it again and again.
FTR: Do you have any pre-race rituals, like superstitious stuff?
Eric: I pretty often end up being a few minutes late to the start of the race. Everyone else is already a couple minutes down the path.
FTR: Which section of the race do you anticipate having the most suffering?
Eric: The last section. They say the second 50 is twice as hard as the first 50. And the last 50 is twice as hard as the first 100.
FTR: So it doesn't level off and you enter some kind of dream-like state or something?
Eric: You do, but that state might last for an hour or two.
FTR: What would a week of ideal training would look like? And what did your actual training look like?
Eric: (An ideal training week) would start out by talking with someone who actually knows about training for these things. My *actual* training would be... I don't know... trying to fit a run in after 12 hours of installing flooring?
FTR: Do you ever crave anything when you run?
Eric: Licorice. I've always wanted to be sponsored by Twizzlers.
Then there were a lot of questions for Eric about suffering and why he, or anyone, would want to put themselves through this.
Eric said that if he knew for sure that no one would ever find out that he ran 150 miles, that there would be less motivation to do it, but there would still be some motivation.
He said that it's true that it's a painful experience. That's why his parents don't like seeing it. It's hard to witness your child in pain. Not only is there muscle exhaustion, joint pain and sleep deprivation, but Eric said he will have massive blisters on his feet so every step will be painful. Still, he talks about enjoying the experience. I asked him how that can be. He said part of it is because he knows that he'll be proud that he did it. He said there are many things in life that we do that are painful in the moment that are still worth doing because they are satisfying in the long term. And knowing that, in a way, makes them enjoyable even as you do them.
I asked him how he expected to feel about it the next day – potentially in a wheelchair. He said that that physical pain is also the feeling of an accomplishment. All of us can relate to a satisfaction in over-coming momentary desires, of self-mastery.
I asked him how that day-after pain would feel if he only ran 40 km because of an injury. He wasn't sure. But he said he ran a 50-mile race recently and could barely finish because of tendinitis. If for that same reason, he could only run 40 km of this race he said he would understand that it would mean he could no longer do ultra-marathons.
Eric said that even at 100-mile races with very serious qualifying requirements, only about half the competitors will be able to finish.
So I asked him what everyone wanted to know: What does Eric Young believe is going to happen this weekend?
"I believe I will make it to the finish line."
Good luck, Eric Young!