Moe “The Eagle” Beaulieu points to his smart-phone sized belt buckle holding up a pair of high-tech trekking pants. It’s kind of an odd combo, as the style of the buckle is traditionally found mounted on the jeans of a Texas cowboy.
Yet it makes perfect sense.
“I got this from a 100-mile run in Virginia 19 years ago,” he said.
Beaulieu is also wearing a hat, vest and athletic shirt, all displaying the logo of his vegan food sponsor, Green Foods.
But it’s the buckle, or buckling, I learn, that is one of the most coveted ultra-marathon awards.
“I don’t know if it came from the Western States, which is the original 100-ultra-marathon and used to be a 100-mile horse race, or from somewhere else. But some runners used to skip a race if it didn’t have a buckle, they’d seek out the Texas-sized buckle and go race there.”
That’s the old days, Beaulieu adds. The sport, in his eyes, has grown as much in the last five years as it did in its first 30 years.
Moe The Eagle is known by many in the B.C. and Northwest ultra-marathon community. A legend in the making, Beaulieu completed his 125th ultra-marathon, the Arc-Teryx Squamish 50-kilometre on Saturday (Aug. 10). It took him nine hours and 55 minutes, 133rd out of the 160 starters who finished, with 47 more who were unable to finish the race.
“It was hotter and more humid than in years past,” Beaulieu said. “I was 40 km in when I knew I had to cool down. I sat in a creek up to my waist and when I got out I went to an aid station and asked them for some ice. I stuck it under my hat. You can’t ignore your core temperature. You have to be stubborn out there not to let yourself quit, but you can also slip into a coma from heat exhaustion.”
Another pack of ice went into his shorts. The aid station attendant said he’d only seen one other ultra-marathoner do that and it was another elder runner. “You guys are tough,” he told Beaulieu.
“I told him I’m not tough, I’m just trying to stay alive!”
Beaulieu is part of a regular running group with another popular name in the Victoria running community, Mike “The Trail Guy” Suminski. Together they’ve trained for such races as the Leadville 100, another of the most famous ultras.
But no matter how much you train, there are too many unknowns to prepare for and getting tagged with a Did Not Finish is bound to happen. One of Beaulieu’s first DNF came back in 1987 on one of his first 100-milers, the same Virginia race where he eventually earned a buckle in 1994.
“When I first ran it the horses and runners still did the race at the same time. I was 80 miles in and a horse stepped on my foot. You couldn’t see anything particularly bad but the blood was pooling in my foot. I think that was the last year horses and runners shared the race trail.”
Two years ago Beaulieu faced his biggest setback so far, when he overcame stage four throat cancer. He not only beat it and is nearing 24-months remission, but is starting a support group for cancer patients and survivors with long-distance cyclist Dan Young.
“The ultra community is like a family. When you have cancer, you’re kind of on you’re own. I wanted to start visiting people but I thought, ‘I’m going to get attached and I won’t be able to commit to as many,’ so we’re trying to make it a group. Maybe in a little while down the road the group will exist on its own and we can move on to start another one.”
Cancer also prompted Beaulieu to change his diet to strictly vegan and, just a few weeks before his 69th birthday, said he is recovering faster than he did at 59.
“It’s like a high performance race car. You only want to put the best fuel in it. Now I feel even better.”
Beaulieu’s son Logan, one of his three kids, has done 75 ultras and was already a vegan.
Logan, in Edmonton, made his own news story a few years ago when he suffered a horrific car accident and was told he might not walk again. At 41, he’s often in the top-5, and top-10 of ultras he enters in.
The two plan to run the Javelina 100 km in Arizona at Halloween.
The support group’s first meeting is Sept. 16 and more information is online here or by calling 778-265-2086 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Eagle name
Beaulieu earned the name Moe the Eagle from a couple of different stories. In the 1970s Beaulieu used to donate money to restoring the eagle population, which was then depleted. He also had a sharp eye for eagle feathers, which he came across often.
Then in 1996 he organized The Eagle ultra-marathon, a 100-miler that finished with a 5,000-foot climb up Apex ski resort in Penticton. It ran again in 97, 98, and 2004 to 2006.
There are several versions on his website.