Sometimes winning overall can come by accident. But smashing a course record by 40 minutes is often carefully calculated. For Jenny Quilty, winning the Squamish 50/50 overall was not the goal, but a byproduct of executing a finely-tuned weekend of racing. Quilty raced 50 miles on Saturday and 50K on Sunday, gaining 5,850 metres of elevation over 130K. She beat the course record, snagged three podium positions, and won the 50/50 event overall. Here’s how she did it.
A, B, C, D, and Z goals
When Quilty registered for the Squamish 50/50 in November, she set the big goal of beating the previous course record, which was set by professional ultra trail runner Kaytlyn Gerbin in 2016. When formulating her race plan, she stuck to her A goal, but remained honest and realistic about adjusting her goals when necessary. The B goal was to race competitively with the other 50/50 runners. The C goal was to beat her previous Squamish 50/50 time from 2017 (five hours slower). The D goal was to finish both races and get the 50/50 hat. And her Z goal was not to DNF.
“I knew of Kaytlyn Gerbin, but didn’t know the trajectory she was on after the 2016 50/50,” says Quilty. Following winning the 50/50, Gerbin went on to dominate the world of ultra trail running, setting more course records and placing second at Western States 100 in 2018.
Believe in yourself and your legs
Even after all the Strava stalking, Quilty “was not sure if the splits were within reach,” she says. “I was going in with self-belief it would happen.” Quilty says that self-belief helps “set the foundation that you can do huge things that at some point you may have called impossible.” Even if things don’t work out, “you’re still doing something really awesome.”
Run your own race
What does it look like to run your own race? For Quilty, that meant focusing on her own goals and not getting caught up in the hype. She set a rule for herself to run the first half of Saturday’s 50-mile much slower than she would for a regular 50-mile race. While the rest of the 50-mile racers had their head down, Quilty rolled into the 20K aid station nowhere near the front pack. She ended up finishing second in the 50-mile that day.
Keep it chill
Quilty’s mantra was ‘find ease in the effort.’ “It definitely wasn’t easy. I worked hard on the hills without overexerting, and kept it cool on the flats. I kept building in the final 15K, and knowing I was close to catching third place did not pull me. I felt better and better during the 50-mile and had no idea I kept gaining. I just felt really confident in my running.”
They say that eating is training. In everyday life and in races, Quilty does not mess around with proper nutrition and adequate fuelling. Two days prior to the Squamish 50/50, Quilty avoided eating fibre. During the race she consumed a Spring energy gel every 5K and had a pickle at most aid stations. If she felt hungry in between she ate Honey Stinger energy chews. Her liquids varied between Herbalife CR-7 (100 calories in 500 mL) and water. In the last 10K she just had Coke and water.
Aid station management
Quilty loves lists, and knew with managing time at aid stations that she would at least be able to run faster than her 2017 time. She made lists for her crew (Matt Bolam and Katrina Abram) to stay organized at every aid station.
Run smart, recover smarter
In training, Quilty not only ran, she practised proper recovery. The night between the 50-mile and 50K races, Quilty slept a mere six hours. However, she avoided unnecessary finish-line chaos, foam rolled, ate pizza, and spent time alone to unwind before Sunday’s race. “Know what you need in recovery and practise it,” is her advice.
Find your calm and work through it
Quilty trusted the effort she felt at each step of the race. “Anything you feel will change, good or bad. So if you feel good, trust it. If you don’t feel good, either fix what you need to, or give it time and keep doing what you’re doing and let that feeling go.”
At one point, her legs seized up on Climb Trail, and Quilty wasn’t sure what to do. Instead of panicking, she had to trust and believe it would pass. Even as she recovers, she has to trust that the blood blister on her toe will get better soon.
Know your ‘why’
Quilty’s biggest ‘why’ was beating the course record, but that didn’t make her lose sight of the big picture. She wanted to be a part of the Squamish 50 weekend again, get that hat, and prove to herself that self-belief can work. “It is exciting to place overall, but the bigger outcome is raising the bar regardless of gender.”
Quilty is an advocate for the trail running community, a clinic leader, and race director of the new Fraser Valley Trail Series. Next up she will be supporting her crew at an Alzheimer Fundraiser 24 hour race and racing the Around the Lake Give’r Take 30K in Chilliwack, BC.