Coming Out of Hiding – Cap Crusher 12k 2019 Race Recap

It’s a live blog post!

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I am reviving my blog because I love reading other race recaps when I’m preparing for a race, and I couldn’t find many recent posts for the Coast Mountain Trail Series’ Cap Crusher. I think they used to have an 8k course and there are a few blog posts about that, but there’s virtually nothing on the 12k course that I ran this year (2019). There is also a 24k course, which is the 12k distance doubled (you run it one direction the first time out, then in reverse the second time). Hopefully, this post will help people running the course in 2020 and beyond.

This was a triumphant race for me no matter what, because it was my first race post-partum. I ran 5 races while pregnant, but I hadn’t run a race NOT pregnant since November 2017, so it’s been awhile. Here’s the Cole’s notes of my post-pregnancy running routine:

  • I had a c-section so things were slow moving for the first little while. My first run was about 2k at Week 7 or 8 post-partum – I can’t even remember exactly when it was – and it was HARD.
  • There are a lot of physical changes that happens during pregnancy and when you have a baby. I am lucky because I seem to have skipped pelvic floor issues (which can make running tricky, to say the least), but it did feel like my core was a bowl of Jell-o for awhile.
  • I followed the same training plan that I did when I ran last year’s Loop the Lake 21k, but only out to the ~13k week. I started training around the end of January.
  • Training was NOT EASY. The reality is that it is just hard to get out right now. I have to work around Cedric’s work, my work, and the baby’s napping and feeding. Running in the trails takes a long time, so I could only run on trails once or twice a week (I always ran my longest run of the week on the trails), then I would do mostly roads with a few dreadful treadmill runs when the only time I could squeeze a run in was at 9PM. (Note to self: treadmill run after lasagna dinner is a bad idea). I tried to incorporate hills on the road runs whenever possible.
  • In addition to running, I have been doing baby + mom fitness classes once a week at Storm Fitness here in Squamish, taught by Carrie from Pinnacle Fitness. I’ve been doing this since my baby was about 12 weeks, and I cannot say enough good things about the classes. They focus a lot on building a strong core and it is nice to meet like-minded women in an environment where I don’t have to worry if my baby gets fussy, needs to eat, etc.

Okay, now on to the race itself.

I have volunteered at quite a few Coast Mountain Trail Series races, but I have never actually run in one! From my experience volunteering, I know that they are extremely well-managed and that courses are well-marked. The Cap Crusher was no exception. The website is pro and a glance at the course map told me everything I need to know: the course is loopy, the end is hilly, and there are plenty of ups and downs throughout the course.

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I am extremely unfamiliar with running the North Shore trails. I ran a trail race called “My First Trail Race” in the Lower Seymour area in 2010 (I had to go back in my emails to see where this race was/when it was – it wasn’t just my first trail race, but my first trail run altogether), and then I ran the MEC Trail Series in West Van a couple of years ago. That’s it for North Shore trails for me. I’d never set foot in the Capilano Canyon/Cleveland Dam trails until today.

The trails reminded me a lot of the ones I ran in the MEC trail race. I did not find it terribly technical, at least compared to a lot of the trails in the Squamish area. There were a few finicky areas that required careful footwork (especially as the legs started to tire), but overall they weren’t too bad. I would compare it to maybe Jack’s Trail or Debeck’s Trail here in Squamish (both of which I ran a lot while training for this race, which was helpful).

However, non-technical doesn’t necessarily mean easy!

Let me rewind to the race day details. The trails in Squamish and the North Shore have been super icy and nasty due to the atypical long winter we’ve had out here. When I checked the race weather a week or so out, it looked like it was going to be wet and rainy. An early week pre-race email suggested bringing spikes. Yikes.

However, as the old saying goes, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The few days before the race were nice and warm, and the trails ended up being in GREAT shape on race day. A day-before-the-race email let us know we wouldn’t need our spikes after all, and aside from a couple of steps in slightly mucky bits, the trails were awesome. As a bonus, the weather was beautiful too – around 5 degrees at the start and a gorgeous, sunny day.

I did something I almost never do: I left my hydration vest behind. Since I didn’t need to carry spikes and I didn’t need tons of water as it wasn’t a hot day, I figured I could get away with a t-shirt and a light jacket and use the jacket for things like my phone (just in case), an energy ball for fuel, and my collapsible water bottle. There is an aid station at 7.5km, but all CMTS races are cup-free so you have to bring your own drinking vessel.

I was a little on the warm side, but overall I am pleased with my race day getup. I wish I had green running clothes, because a lot of people were gussied up for St. Patrick’s Day!

We got a parking spot right by the start, which was EXCELLENT because I didn’t want to have to walk too far with baby. I picked up my bib, listened to the pre-race talk, and we were off at 8:30 AM on the nose. The first part of the run is on a logging road and slopes downhill. I had seeded myself towards the middle-back of the pack, but I let my legs fly a little on this initial downhill. I know you are supposed to hold back a bit at the start, but I actually find I use less energy letting my legs windmill on non-technical downs then I do if I try to step carefully. So off I went.

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The first part of the race is great; there are lots of wonderful downhills and the ups are runnable. There are a few sections with stairs and with a couple of exceptions, I ran just about the whole thing. About halfway through the race, there is a long, straight non-technical trail that takes you all the way to the aid station at 7.5 KM. In the course map above, this is the part that requires the inset to see in its entirety. The run out is on a slight downhill, but it was hard to enjoy – because the faster 12k runners were already on their way back and so I knew I’d have to run it uphill very shortly!

I usually never stop at aid stations, but I filled up my bottle about halfway here, which only took a couple of seconds. I ate my energy ball as I started the slow and steady slog back up the long, straight trail. It felt a lot more “uphill” on the way back than it had felt “downhill” on the way down – doesn’t it always feel like that!

At this point, it started to feel like I was running the entire course in reverse – though of course, I know this isn’t the case based on the map above. I think the reason it felt like that was because the 24k runners were now on the course, so there were often people running in the opposite direction of me. This actually wasn’t as confusing as it might sound and it was virtually never an issue for passing or anything, since the trails are decently wide. The course was well-marked and there were marshals everywhere, so getting lost was not a problem.

After the post-fuel station slog, the bulk of the remainder of the course was uphill. I mostly power-hiked the ups and ran the flats (and the precious downhill sections – there were still a few of those!). Another girl let me know when we were at the 10k mark – this was a long (non-technical) hill up, and then there was a flat bit followed by lots of stairs going up. There aren’t many (any?) stairs on the Squamish trails since most of them are bike trails, so this was a little new to me. It felt Grouse Grind-y for a little bit there, or like the start of the Chief.

After the stairs, we had a nice downhill section before the last little climb to the finish. You could literally see the finish line, so the motivation to give it one last little push was there. I crossed the finish line in 1:28:05 and felt a little barf-y, but after I walked it off for a bit, I felt fine.

(I used to puke at finish lines ALL THE TIME, which is so so gross. I haven’t had this happen in like 6 years, though).

In the end, I finished 92/162, 42/91 for all the women in the race and 25/39 for women 30-39. I can’t WAIT to be in the 70+ division – hopefully I will always finish in the top 3! All in all, I am very happy with that result. The distance was just right – it felt do-able but still like a challenge. I pushed myself to the barf-feeling zone without barfing – THAT is my racing sweet spot!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stick around the finish line, as there was a hungry baby waiting for me. That means I missed out on the post-race sushi and cupcakes, but I DID get the awesome race swag: a beer and an excellent beer glass, both of which Cedric dibsed instantly.

In conclusion, I have never appreciated running – especially trail running – more than I do now that I have a baby. Time on the trail is truly precious and I really savour those moments where I get to have a little time to myself, even if the weather is gross or the trails are icy. It has been the best medicine for me – running has helped me regain my strength and fitness, feel more like my old self, and experience that sense of peace that you only get when you’re among the trees. I am really grateful that Cedric recognizes how important this is to me and does whatever he can to make sure I can get out the door whenever possible for an hour or two.

So what’s next? The Whistler Half Marathon on June 1! I have NEVER DONE THIS HALF! I have run the 10k course once and have been out of town for the run every year since. I am truly so excited – I love road half marathons because they scare me just a little bit but I know if I work hard, I can conquer the distance. Wish me luck!!!!

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Woods Explorer Stories: Home Sweet Home on the Sea to Sky Marine Trail

I’ve been haphazardly recapping/journaling memories from  my 5-month, 14-leg trek across Canada back in 2015 – start here, if you’d like to catch up.

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Our final two legs took place in our very own backyard: Sea to Sky country. I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to get back home and sleep in my own bed (if only for a few nights). Having access to all my creature comforts was the most wonderful feeling – but my favourite moment was meeting up with friends on one of the first nights back. It was a very normal night – dinner at their house – and we swapped stories and caught up on life and what I’d missed over the past few months.

The best feeling was actually having stories to share with Cedric when I saw him later that night. I had loved spending time with him, but it was soooo good to spend time apart to recharge with our friends and to have our own experiences, if only for a few hours.

Our next adventure was one I was actually quite looking forward to: paddling the Sea to Sky Marine Trail in Howe Sound. I’d driven past the stunning Howe Sound more times than I can count, but I had never had the chance to experience it via kayak.

Let’s talk about marine trails for a second. When we paddled the Sound back in 2015, the Sea to Sky Marine Trail was still in the process of being “developed” – only it wasn’t so much the trails being developed as the campsites. There are a few campsites scattered on the shores of the coast and the Gulf Islands in Howe Sound, and how you make your way from site to site is pretty much up to you. So the moniker “marine trail” is a little misleading – the whole ocean is the trail.

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PERFECT WEATHER – so good.

In a typical leg, we would get a night or two at a hotel before the adventurous part began – this was to upload and send photos and videos (a task that took forever), to write blog posts, to do laundry, and to buy food and anything we might need for the adventure of the moment. On this leg, our home base was our actual home, so we had a bit more flexibility in terms of adapting to the weather. We ended up taking off a day later than anticipated, which meant that we enjoy perfect, blue skies the entire kayak trip. A++++.

The Sea to Sky Marine leg felt like a well-deserved vacation. We lucked out with mostly super calm waters, so we took our time and paddled leisurely, enjoying the sun. Remember – we’d just finished camping in Banff, where we’d slept in sub-zero temperatures and hiked in the snow. The sun and the sea felt mighty fine.

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The caption lies – this is Anvil, not Gambier

One night, we snagged a perfect campsite on Anvil Island. The tent pad was tucked away on a sandy beach, and there was only one other couple sharing the area. They were nice, but mostly left us to ourselves. We set up our Woods hammock (truly one of my favourite Woods pieces) and enjoyed leisurely breakfasts of toad in the holes. By now, Cedric had perfected his camp coffee-making skills, and our mornings were slow and wonderful.

This leg was not without its mishaps. On one day, the water was so calm that we didn’t need the skirts on our kayaks. Cedric set up the GoPro on the back of my kayak opening (I’m sure there’s a technical term) to get some footage, but I didn’t know it was there. At one point, I spun around to look over my shoulder – and promptly knocked the GoPro right into the ocean. It sunk instantly. That was not a great feeling.

On what was supposed to be our last night camping, we headed to our camping spot early. Cedric wanted to set up the tent right away to get a few photos, and as he went to put it up – something we’d done probably 60 times so far that summer – the centre pole snapped right in half. (I have to give it kudos – the tent was a prototype and went through some serious wear and tear on this trip.)

 

On most legs, this would have been disastrous – but on the Sea to Sky leg, we weren’t too bothered. Since we’d started setting up camp early, we had plenty of time to head back to Porteau Cove where our car awaited us. The waters were a little choppier, but we made it back without trouble and spent the night sleeping in our bed. I didn’t complain!

The final leg of the Woods Canada trek was kind of an odd one. We were supposed to go to Victoria to hike part of the Trans Canada Trail there, but the powers that be decided to leave us in Whistler to do some hiking around there instead. While I would have loved to spend time on the Island, the concept of being back home was still so novel that I didn’t mind.

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Fun fact: this photo was printed in GIANT in the Globe and Mail last summer for 2017 celebrations

We had one gloriously sunny day, which we spent hiking Panorama Ridge. The rest of the days were typical fall in the Sea to Sky weather: grey, cloudy, and endless amounts of rain. I was so grateful to have had wonderful weather on our kayak trip.

We continued to go on hikes, but we kept them relatively mellow – Ancient Cedars trail for the epic tree photo op; some runs on the local trails (oh, how I had missed running!); hikes up the gondola on Whistler.

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Perks of running during our Woods Explorer trip: I finally got some good running photos taken. Thanks Cedric!

It was a strange week – we were home, but our Woods Explorer journey wasn’t over yet. We still had to go back to Toronto for a week or so of media, debriefing, and wrapping up the whole adventure. It was a weird state of being in between – the setting was familiar, but we still weren’t in our regular routines.

This leg wasn’t the most novel or exciting, but what I loved about it is that I had time specifically carved out for playing outside. In regular life, it is easy to get caught up in work and appointments and errands and chores, that sometimes I find it hard to dedicate the time to enjoying everything that is around me. It was wonderful to have a couple of uninterrupted weeks where my sole purpose was to explore and document the process.


I guess that wraps up my Woods Explorer stories! It may have taken three years, and even though the memories aren’t all fresh, I’m glad I’ve organized them somewhere where I can look back on them for years to come. In hindsight, I am so, so grateful for my time as a Woods Explorer:

  • My absolute favourite thing was discovering various corners of our country. I’ve never felt so Canadian or so connected, and our time with Woods really made us want to continue exploring Canada (which we have been lucky enough to do).
  • From a relationship point of view, a trip like this either fuses you together or tears you apart. Luckily for us, it was the former. We both learned a lot about our own (and each others’) strengths and weaknesses and, though it took a few trials and errors, we figured out how to come together to form a wonderful, effective team.
  • It felt like a grand adventure – a last “hurrah” to close out my 20s full of epic memories that I’m sure I will be recounting when I’m in a retirement home.
  • Finally, it made me feel very comfortable in my own skin. I had moments where I felt invincible, and just as many where I felt challenged and out of my element. In the midst of living a spontaneous, on-the-fly life (which is very much unlike my regular life), I feel like I settled into myself in a way that, today, allows me to feel very happy, confident, and satisfied. That’s a very good feeling.

The end!

Another Year, Another Squamish Days 8K Run – This Time at 29 Weeks Pregnant

At the start of the year – before I got pregnant, but hoping it would be a possibility in 2018 – I set out a goal to finish 5 races before the end of year. Over the August long weekend, I ticked off my fifth (and final) race at the Squamish Days 8k run – mission accomplished!

The Squamish Days 8k is a personal favourite. It takes place over my very favourite weekend to be a Squamptonian: the Squamish Loggers Sports Festival. This year, we attended the kettle boil on Thursday night (verdict: underrated and fun, especially when paired with the chili cook-off) and the Sunday World-Class Open Loggers Sports Show (verdict: as entertaining as ever, but SO HOT) – and of course, I ran the Squamish Days 8k for the third time in as many years.

The Squamish Days 8k is a well-run, small town, unpretentious race. The route is a simple out-and-back. It’s all paved and while one generally wouldn’t describe it as overly scenic, it is flat, fast, and is a great distance – a challenge for experienced runners who really want to push it, but friendly enough to accommodate first-timers and third-trimesterers.

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My friend and I fell into the latter category: I was a day into my 29th week of pregnancy, while she had never run more than 4k before and was attempting her first ever race. I had no doubt she would finish in one piece, and I had been keeping up with runs in the 5-10 k range, so I knew I’d be just fine – albeit a little slower than years past.

I first ran this race back in 2016 in the early days of my first marathon training program (and the day after tackling the Red Bull 400 – an excellent and very unique race that should be on your bucket list if you like such things) in a decent 41:44, and cracked the 40 minute barrier last year by squeaking in at 39:55 (which is average for a Squamish runner but REALLY FAST FOR ME). I had a hunch I’d be a litttttle slower this year (ha), but (spoiler alert) I still managed to cross the finish line in the forties.

It was a hot morning – what else is new? – but check-in at the local high school was easy and we had a cheer squad of 3 to keep us entertained until the race kicked off.

I mentioned in my last race recap that I appear to have hit an automatic maximum speed – I simply cannot exert a whole lot of power at this point, so I just cruise along at a moderate, steady pace. I like to think that this made me an excellent pacer for my first-timer friend! We had never run together before, but we spent the race chattering away and the kilometers seemed to tick by pretty steadily (each KM is marked in this race, which is nice).

My #1 concern with this race was the lack of bathrooms along the route. I’m at the point where I need to stop at a port-a-potty on even just a 5k run, so I was a little nervous about this. I’m not sure whether it was the company, conversation, or race day excitement, but miraculously, there were no emergencies en route. That in itself was a major success!

I won’t lie – the last couple of k on the open road beneath the beating sun were REALLY HOT! We were sweating like mad as we crossed the finish line (with our cheer squad going strong and a TON of cute dogs to motivate us).

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Post-race celebrations took place inside the gym, where I enjoyed copious amounts of watermelon and waited for them to post the time results. Here is my insider tip: don’t leave early – your odds of winning a draw prize are very high! My friend was actually the very first prizewinner announced and she walked away with a snazzy pair of 7mesh running socks. I won two tickets to the Loggers Sports event that afternoon, which we were planning on attending anyway.

Our final time: chip time 48:49 and 48:50, gun time 49:01 and 49:02, which placed us 98 & 99 out of 129 runners. I guessed we would finish around 50 minutes – pretty close! I appear to have bested my friend by 1 second, which we determined was based on the fact that my bib, pinned to my belly, protruded further out and hit the timing mat slightly ahead of hers. The perks of pregnant running, folks!

This year, I discovered that the run offers a STROLLER RUN category!!! And you BET I’m going to be running it with my baby next year (will this count as her second time running it?) Only 2 people raced in this year – but the girl who placed first ran it in 40:20, which is most impressive. Think I can crack Top 3 next year?

(Actually, based on the number of pregnant women swarming Squamish, I bet the field will be a little deeper next year!)

MEC Lower Mainland – Trail Race 4 – Rose Park, Squamish Race Recap

Ah, yes, the succinctly named MEC Lower Mainland – Trail Race 4 – Rose Park, Squamish trail running race — I ran that!

This race took place a few weeks ago in my own backyard. I took part in a 15K MEC trail race last year in West Vancouver, but for reasons I cannot remember, I had to miss the Squamish stop on the MEC trail race circuit.

This year, I had the race on my radar, but I held off signing up for awhile because the date coincided with my leap into the third trimester of pregnancy and I just had no idea how I would feel. Luckily, not only are the MEC races outrageously affordable ($15 – which includes a timing chip and all that), but unlike many races, prices don’t go up as you get closer to the race, meaning you can make a decision the week of, as I did.

The bulk of my runs this year have been solo, but there is one girlfriend I have enjoyed running with about once a week or so since the early days of my pregnancy. She had signed up for the MEC Race and gave me the push I needed to finally pull the trigger. There are two distances in this race: a 5k or a 10k. We signed up for the former.

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A 5k romp in the woods – no biggie, right? WRONG! We had heard that this particular course featured some serious elevation, and folks – the rumours are true! I don’t typically run around Smoke Bluffs – in fact, the only time I’ve really run there was during last year’s Squamish 50 23k, which had me cursing the never-ending uphills – and MAN, was it steep.

The 5k route is said to have about 230m elevation gain, which doesn’t seem so bad. Except the course is kind of a lollipop shape, so that 230m elevation gain is concentrated in just half of the race. Now, the first 0.5 km or so of the race takes place on a paved path that leads from the start/finish at Rose Park to the trail head at Smoke Bluffs. What I’m saying is that the 230m elevation gain basically occurs in only 2km of trail, so it’s a lot steeper than the numbers would suggest at first glance. (The 10k features an elevation gain of 410m, for what it’s worth.)

If you’ve been around Squamish this summer, you already know that it has been relentlessly hot – I’m taking 30+ degrees day in, day out with little to no rain at all. Most of my runs have wrapped up by 8/8:30 AM to beat the heat, but this race didn’t start until 9:20 (the 10k runners took off closer to 9). I was a little concerned about the heat, but it was early enough not to be atrociously bad and the shaded trails kept us pretty cool overall.

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Picking up our bibs was pretty straightforward, and we swatted tiny biting bugs until it was time to take off. I haven’t been doing much trail running since June – the road has just been easier and offers fewer tripping hazards for a pregnant solo runner – but I have to admit, it was nice to ditch the pavement for the dirt for a change. Once you enter Smoke Bluffs, the trail starts off as a not-too-steep gravel  trail, then eventually transforms into a narrower, more technical dirt trail.

It climbs. And climbs. And climbs. While we were able to run some of the gravel uphill, I had to walk most of the climbing dirt bit – and man oh man, did my calves ever burn. I tried to pick up the pace whenever the trail flattened out a bit, but the breaks in the climbs were usually very short lived. There was a lot of power hiking over kms 0.5 – 2.5. This part of the run felt a lot longer than 2km.

Of course, what goes up must come down, so the second half of the race is a nice treat for those who like to careen down steeps. I took it pretty conservatively on the downs, as I didn’t want to risk twisting an ankle or tripping over a tree root. The consequences of a fall right now seem a little more serious than usual.

We didn’t do this run to smash a personal record or anything, but I have to admit that as we returned to the paved trail and tackled the last half k to the finish line, I still had some energy and I wanted to really give ‘er. But it was strange: I already seemed to be at my maximum capacity. For whatever reason (smaller lung capacity? extra weight? blood pumping all over the place?), I couldn’t seem to move any faster than I already was – which, believe me, was nowhere near record breaking speeds. I wasn’t overly bothered by this – after all, I expected to slow down as the weeks went on – but it was certainly a big shift from the St. John’s half-marathon I ran just a month and a half earlier.

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The finish line was simple but sufficient: bananas, water, and electrolyte beverages were free for the taking. My favourite part, however, was the girl who dunked a towel into ice water and mercifully wrung it out over our sweaty heads.

In the end, we ran the 5k in a reasonably respectable 46:12 (chatting the entire way – not bad!), which placed us 16th and 17th out of 39 women (not sure how we ranked overall – the results are organized by sex). For the record, the fastest lady finished exactly 10 minutes faster than us in 36:12 – just to give you an idea of the terrain we were dealing with.

So that’s how that all went down. At the beginning of the year, Cedric and I made a list of goals that hit on various parts of our lives. In the fitness/sport category, I made a goal of running 5 races in 2018. This one was #4 – and though it was pretty short but sweet, it was perfect for where I’m at right now. Besides, now I have a time to beat for next year!

Race Recap: St. John’s Uniformed Services Run Half Marathon at 21 Weeks Pregnant!

[Surprise, surprise – I wrote this post over a month ago but am only getting around to posting it now. I was waiting for them to post race pictures because I swear I saw a race photographer on the course, but I never did find any photos!]

The Uniformed Services Run in St. John’s, Newfoundland, was one of those races that could have totally gone either way.

On the one hand, I had trained steadily for a trail half just three weeks prior, plus I had tacked on the last couple of weeks of a regular road half marathon training program to fill the time between the trail half and the St. John’s half. In theory, I was in decent running shape for the race.

On the other hand, I spent the eight days leading up to the race in full tourist mode, meaning lots of time sitting in a plane or car and lots of indulgent meals (with some fresh Atlantic salmon thrown in here and there, for good measure). I managed to squeeze in a couple of short (<5k) runs and we did a few hikes as well, but I was certainly moving less than I ordinarily would in the week leading up to a race.

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Behold: Magee and the Great Porta Potty Line Up. (Do I look overdressed for a race in June? Um, yes.)

Running a race away from home has its own challenges, too. I’ve only ever run one non-BC race – a ten miler in Toronto eons and eons ago. Running a race on a vacation means you have to remember to pack everything you’ll need ahead of time, plus pre-race rituals (like the meal you typically eat the night before a race) are tougher to stick to.

Throw the fact that I was 21 weeks pregnant into the mix, and you can see why things felt totally up in the air. For this race, I was at that point where some days, I almost forgot I was pregnant – but other days, I would get winded just walking up a short but steep incline. Even though I’d just run a trail half 3 weeks before, I knew that a whole lot could happen, fitness-wise, in those 3 weeks.

(As an aside, there is something oddly satisfying about running 21k at 21 weeks.)

So you can see why I had no idea what to expect going into this race. Well, I’m glad to say that it pretty much turned out to be the best case scenario!

Initially, my goal had been to enjoy the race and just finish before the 3 hour cutoff. After completing the Loop the Lakes trail half in about 2 and a half hours, I decided I could probably expect to run a road half at least as fast as that, given the relative lack of elevation. I estimated that I would probably finish around 2:15 – 2:30, depending on how it all went down on race day.

On the third day of our Newfoundland trip, it had snowed in St. John’s. The day before the race was cold and damp – the kind of weather that really gets into your bones. I was understandably a little worried about what race day would bring, but the forecast looked promising: sunny but cool (6 degrees, but feeling more like 1 or 2 degrees at our 7:30 AM start time). I had brought one t-shirt, one long sleeved shirt, one pair of shorts, and one pair of running leggings, so I had to option to mix and match depending on the weather. I opted for the long sleeved shirt and leggings, which seemed a little ridiculous for mid-June, but hey – cold is cold!

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Our friend was much faster than me – possibly because he wore shorts instead of pants?

By the time we got to the start line, I could already tell that I had overdressed. It definitely did not feel like 1 or 2 degrees – more like 10 or 11 degrees – and I felt envious of the runners around me who were wearing t-shirts and shorts. It was too late for a wardrobe change, so I decided I would just have to make do.

I pulled up to the start line less than a minute before the race actually started, and I seeded myself towards the back, knowing that I would probably be on the slower side. Before I knew it, we were off.

I knew virtually nothing about the course. Our friend was running the half (though his goal time was much more ambitious than mine), and he had told me that there was some nice downhill to start the race. I also knew there was a loop that I’d have to repeat twice, though I wasn’t sure when it would come up or how long the loop was. I’d read the course description, but all the names of the roads were foreign to me so I decided to just go with the flow.

The first few k were indeed downhill – and HOT! Despite a pre-race bathroom break, within the first kilometre, I was already sweating buckets and I also had to pee. There was a porta potty at the first aid station, but another runner juuust beat me to it. I waited for about 30 seconds but when he didn’t emerge, I decided he was probably going to be in there awhile longer and that I was probably better off just hustling to the porta potty at the next aid station.

There was a good crowd of runners around me, but then the course split off into half marathon and 10k runners – and most of the people around me abandoned me as they turned right towards the 10k course. This was the beginning of my first loop. Despite feeling a little overheated and having to pee, my legs were feeling pretty good and I was enjoying the run.

As I made a U-turn at the far end of the loop, the course marshal said something about pacing myself as I ran into the wind. Wind? What wind?

Then, as I began running in the opposite direction, it hit me – and I mean it, the wind smacked me right in the face. On the plus side, I no longer felt hot and overdressed. On the down side, it was serious work running into the wind. That infamous Newfoundland wind is no joke!

I had time to gather a bit of energy as I stopped at the (thankfully vacant) porta potty at the next aid station, then got back to it. Running into the wind was tough, and as we rejoined the 10k course, the road started to get a little hillier. Thankfully, the hills didn’t bother me too much – I credit this all the trail running I’ve done in the past few months.

One thing to note is that this race has no kilometre markers. I never had any idea whatsoever how far along I was – I wasn’t even wearing a watch (though I had my phone tucked away into my running vest. By the way, I’m pretty sure I was the only runner with a running vest. Trail habits die hard!) I was, however, beginning to wonder when my second lap of the loop would start. For some reason, I had thought that the loop was much shorter than it actually was.

Just when I was starting to feel a little discouraged, I ran into some fans: Cedric and the wife of the friend who was also running. I didn’t think that I would get to see them along the course, so it was great to get some high fives from them. This also happened to be about the point where the first loop ended and the second began – at least now I knew what to expect for the next loop.

I enjoyed a little stretch with the wind at my back, then it was once more time to run straight into it. I stopped at the same porta potty on my second loop that I had on my first loop – pregnancy bladder is real!

I am pretty certain that the wind picked up as the morning went on. At this point, the runners were very spread out – at times, I could only just barely make out the colour of the shirt of the next person ahead of me, and they would sometimes disappear over a hill or around a corner. There were marshals along the course, but I really had no idea where I was going, so I wanted to try to keep another race in view at all times.

Meanwhile, my legs were still feeling good. I felt like I was pushing myself, but comfortably – the kind where your legs will probably feel sore the next day, but you don’t feel like throwing up or anything (this is generally a sensation that one wants to avoid when running pregnant, to be sure). Eventually, the person ahead of me would come closer into view until I was able to pass them, then I would target a new shirt colour.

This is how the last few k went – I’d see a shirt colour, slowly catch up to them, and find a new target to lead me to the finish line. The only thing is that I wasn’t sure how far away the finish line was – I knew when I had completed the second lap, but from there I wasn’t sure how far into the race we were.

The last little bit was a slog – windier than ever, and just uphill enough to chew up your legs. I had been trailing a guy in a blue shirt and I passed him as we entered the park. Suddenly, I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me – and I was at a T junction with no course marshal in sight! I asked a bystander if she knew where I should go and she said she thought she saw people take a left, so I decided to do the same. For a moment or two, I thought I might have made a mistake – but then I saw the finish line come into view, thankfully.

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Finish line swag

The finish line clock was just turning to 2:03 as I crossed it (my chip time ended up being 2:02:47) – and I couldn’t believe it! I knew I had felt good, but this was a totally normal road half marathon time for me – and things had been SO windy and, you know, the whole pregnant thing. It was one of those days where things just kind of aligned for me and I struck that magical, elusive balance of pushing myself while still really enjoying the whole thing.

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PEACE, BABY! (This is why my hands look weird in the previous photo – because they were in transition to peace signs)

Another magical, elusive miracle: my Strava app actually recorded the correct 21.1 km distance (although it put my moving time at 2:02:15, so something was a little off – maybe my bathroom breaks automatically paused it?). My KM times are approximately as follows:

  1. 5:59
  2. 5:19
  3. 5:33
  4. 5:35
  5. 5:19
  6. 5:20
  7. 5:44
  8. 5:52
  9. 6:02
  10. 5:54
  11. 5:58
  12. 5:44
  13. 5:27
  14. 5:25
  15. 5:39
  16. 5:33
  17. 6:12
  18. 5:50
  19. 6:07
  20. 6:30
  21. 5:58

I’m not sure when my two bathroom breaks were – I would guess kms 9 and 17.

I am pretty sure that this was the last “big” race while pregnant – though I still hope to run a few shorter, for fun races. Who knows when my next half will  be – but hopefully it’ll be as much fun as this one was.

Race Recap: Run Squamish’s Loop the Lakes 21k

I had such good intentions of writing this post immediately after I finished the Loop the Lakes race… but I didn’t. So instead of writing it with fresh memories and emotions, I’m writing it about a month after the fact. It’s not nearly as satisfying, but better late than never, I suppose.

A quick background: I ran Run Squamish’s Loop the Lakes 21k race last year (recap here!), though under less-than-ideal conditions: I had sprained my ankle in March, so training was sporadic and limited. Plus, it was my longest trail run ever at the time, so the intimidation factor was considerable.

This year, I had the advantage of a few good trail races under my belt from last year – not to mention the fact that I knew the course inside out, having run the same race the year before and having incorporated many of the trails on my training runs. Speaking of training – I trained for this one! Properly and everything! You can read a bit about my training here. I dutifully ticked off each and every run in my training plan, and I even incorporated speed work and hill workouts, which I’ve never officially done before.

There was only one little challenge that popped up in the months leading up to this race: I got pregnant!

When I signed up for the Loop the Lakes 21k back in the fall, I knew there was a chance I would be pregnant by the time it rolled around. I figured there was also a chance that I might not be pregnant, and if that was the case, I certainly wanted to keep up with my running. I decided to sign up because the race would be relatively early in my pregnancy and there was always the option of dropping down to a shorter distance (8k or 15k) if I wasn’t feeling up to the half.

In the end, the entire training period aligned with being pregnant, and I ran the race at 18 weeks. The training runs weren’t always pretty (lots of chafing, lots of pee breaks – I will write more about pregnancy and trail running/running in another post), but they always got done. I was very lucky to feel pretty good overall during my first trimester, and on the days where I wasn’t feeling so hot, I always felt soooo much better when I was out on the trails, even if I was going at a snail’s pace. Being in the trees and moving around always seemed to do the trick for me – though I acknowledge that this is definitely not the case for everyone. (And I did have a few very discouraging training runs – again, I’ll talk about this in another post.)

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Classic pre-race photo – check

 

 

The weeks leading up to the race were HOT – like, 25 to 30 degrees hot. Yet somehow, race day ended up being perfect: cool, overcast, and all around optimal. I headed to the start line at Alice Lake and got a good warm up walk in as I walked from the parking lot to the starting line (be sure to give yourself LOTS of time for this – I arrived at the start just a couple of minutes before go time).

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KILLER finish line food at the Nester’s tent – although the oranges were the only thing I was interested in.

Before I knew it, we were off. I seeded myself towards the back of the pack, anticipating that there was a good chance that I would be one of the last of the half marathoners to cross the finish line. As we headed out to loop around the first like (Alice Lake), another girl made a comment about being happy to let others go ahead of her – she told me her motto for this quarter of the race was “slow and easy”. I never thought about having a motto for each quarter, but I liked the thought and decided to adopt it myself.

Slow and easy seemed especially fitting since it would prevent the keeping-up-with-the-pack start line jitters – plus, I have grown to dislike running the Four Lakes Loop clockwise in Alice Lake Provincial Park, and this motto would get me through it in one piece. I’m not sure why I don’t like it – I think it’s because I have run it a few times too many and it has just enough incline to be runnable, but annoying.

Anyway, I took it slow and easy through this first section of trails and found myself thinking that the small uphills weren’t as horrible as I’d anticipated. I pulled over at the same porta potty I stopped at during the 5 Peaks race for a pee break (for those doing the math – I was also pregnant during the 5 Peaks race), then got ready for the second quarter of the run.

The second quarter is actually my favourite part of the run – I love the technical parts of Entrails and the flowy, downhill Roller Coaster and Lumberjack segments more than anything. I had run these trails a ton during training and I surprised myself when I was able to pass a few people on some of the more technical bits. At this point of the race, I was feeling great – though I knew it was still early on. Still, rather than focusing on how things might start to hurt in a little while, I decided to enjoy feeling great while it lasted.

 

Loop the Lakes

These extremely unflattering spandex shorts are the only warm weather bottoms I have that currently don’t cause extreme chafing.

When I popped out of the bottom of Lumberjack, I adopted a new motto for the third quarter of the race: keep your head down and run. This part of the race features the Around the Rock section that I remembered from the previous year as being pretty uphill – zapping any evidence of a runner’s high that might have developed on Roller Coaster and Lumberjack. This was actually the only part of the race that I hadn’t covered in my training runs and, indeed, it did have lots of uphill and I certainly slowed down. The reward was none other than my beloved (not) Jack’s Trail – mostly the same section that is covered in the 5 Peaks race, where the incline is slight but relentless.

Throughout this section of the race, I felt like I was running alone – I saw virtually no one else out there, aside from some course marshals. This was fine by me – I did the vast majority of my training runs by myself, so it was nothing new. Besides, I was still feeling pretty good.

At long last, I found myself back at Alice Lake Provincial Park – but the race wasn’t over. I now had to run the Four Lakes Loop counter-clockwise for the fourth and final quarter. My motto for this leg: dig deep. The end of the race is so often where the wheels start to fall off, and in this race, us 21k runners actually run against a stream of 8k runners for part of the stretch. The 8k runners got to tackle a fun downhill, which for me was a slog of an uphill. But I knew that once I got through the uphill, it would be relatively easy until I crossed the finish line – mostly flat and downhill, woohoo!

I didn’t need to dig to deep after all (though I did take one more porta potty stop, for good measure). Overall, I was feeling pretty good – far better than I had for either of the two 19k runs I had done in training.

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Finish line fun

When it was all said and done, I crossed the finish line in 2:33:09 – placing me 26th out of 42 women. More importantly, I beat my time from last year by more than 21 minutes – at 18 weeks pregnant, to boot!

All in all, it was a great day. The runner’s high lasted me through the entire weekend. I was proud of having felt so good throughout the entire run – and I was really, really proud of all those training runs I had completed, even on the days where it was the last thing I felt like doing. Having a race like this was exactly the motivation I needed to get outside and get moving – two things I hope this future baby likes to do, too!

5 Peaks Alice Lake Race Recap: First Race of 2018 in the Books!

I am pleased to report that the first race of the season was a great success!

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Don’t mind our colourful wardrobe choices…

Cedric and I volunteered as course marshals last year at the 5 Peaks Alice Lake race, and as a thank you, we received a free into any 5 Peaks race. We saved it for this year’s iteration of the race and had a fantastic time on our respective courses (Cedric did the 8.5k sport course, I ran the 13k enduro course).

This was my second race in the 5 Peaks series, but it had been years since I ran my first one (which was up on Blackcomb mountain).

Logistically, the race was very well run. We picked up our race packages the day before at Capra, so we didn’t feel rushed to get to the start line on Saturday morning. Still, we left with plenty of time because parking at Alice Lake can be finicky. The pre-race email was very clear about parking; it advised to give yourself lots of time and noted that those who carpooled would be rewarded with the better parking spots.

Since we were only two in our car, we parked down by the highway and prepared ourselves for a long-ish, uphill walk to the start line. Luckily, we were able to hitch a ride up with another car – in the end, we only ended up walking 10 minutes or so to the start.

As the kid races were underway, I made my way to the queue for the porta potties. It was longish, but moved steadily and I made it in and out with a good 10 minutes to spare before the start of the race.

The enduro runners got a head start over the sport runners. The two courses start out the same for the first 4 or 5 km, so this gives everyone a good chance to space themselves out a bit. To help ease congestion on the trails even more, we seeded ourselves into different groups. Each seed took off a few minutes apart. I hung back, starting with the last group – speed wasn’t my goal for this race.

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I spy Cedric! Photo Credit: Rob Shaer Photo

I should mention now that despite a nasty weather forecast, the weather was PERFECT. It was cloudy and cool for the most part, with the sun peeking through every so often. I saw people in shorts and tanks, and I saw people in down vests. It was that perfect in between weather. Despite a few days of steady rain leading up to the race, I didn’t find the trails to be too muddy at all. I had expected the worst weather-wise, but it ended up being just fine. I love when that happens!

The first part of the race takes you clockwise along the Four Lakes Loop. At this point, everyone was trying to find their place in the pack – there was a lot of passing and leapfrogging, but it wasn’t too bad. Things cleared up quite a bit as we approached the wide, flat stretch (where you hang a right to continue onto Four Lakes, rather than going left onto Bob McIntosh). I no longer felt like I was fighting for a spot as there was plenty of space.

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I like this photo because I’m such a ninny about running on the wooden parts when it’s wet – I always look down. Photo Credit: Rob Shaer Photo

Despite my pre-race porta potty visit, I had to pee again – but I knew there were a couple of outhouses along this stretch of the trail. The first one was occupied, but the second one a little further down was free. There’s a race hack for those who are stuck in a long line as the race is about to start – if you can hang in there for a few km, you can visit the on course toilets!

Shortly after the toilets (and aid station) is when the two courses split off. The enduro runners go for an additional loop along Tazer, Rupert, and some other trails. I happen to think that this loop features some of the most fun trails to run – I would definitely recommend it if you’re torn between the two distances. It starts of with a bit of uphill (still runnable, if you’ve got plenty of steam in your engine), then continues on to some fun, technical stuff with plenty of cool bike features.

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Solid game face from Cedric. Photo Credit: Rob Shaer Photo

The trail opens up at Tracks from Hell, which has a nice wooden bridge/platform section (I always like running these for a change of pace). Eventually, the course merges back and for a short section, you run a part of the course that you already covered a little earlier. It gives a bit of a sense of deja vu.

Shortly after, the course takes you towards Credit Line. I run Credit Line all the time, so I was looking forward to the long stretch of technical downhill. If you’re not used to the trail, this section can be tricky – I saw plenty of people taking their time, and I totally understood why (after all, this is the trail I sprained my ankle on last year!) I was feeling pretty good the whole way down and eventually, I was spat out onto Jack’s Trail.

I feel like Jack’s is an underrated menacing little bugger. It’s “just” a green mountain biking trail and it is pretty even and non-technical, compared to a lot of other trails in the area. But it slopes upward juuuust enough to tucker you out, especially at the end of the race. It also seems to go on forever and everything kind of looks the same.

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Luckily (or not), I run Jack’s often, so I have certain landmarks I like to look out for to break up the monotony. From Credit Line, you pass Mid Life Crisis on your left – they had a couple of marshals here, which was nice for a morale boost. A little while later, you pass 50 Shades on your right – when you hit this point, know that the distance between Mid Life Crisis and 50 Shades is about the same distance as 50 Shades to the finish line. In other words, you’re almost there.

The nice part about the course is that pretty much as soon as you’re done with Jack’s, you’re right at the finish line – no need to run around Alice Lake or anything.

So that’s the course (I wrote it out for any 2019 or beyond runners who want a detailed preview – sometimes I like to look up race reports to get any idea of what I’m in for).

In terms of how I felt, in a word: GREAT! Without getting into too much detail, I have been running a lot for the past couple of months (gearing up for my Loop the Lakes 21k race next month), but I have been pretty conservative with speed. That’s saying a lot, as those who know me know that I’m not much of a speedster to begin with. My goal for the race was to push myself comfortably (oxymoron?), to maintain my energy right to the finish, and to really enjoy myself.

I feel like I succeeded at all three! I love the racing environment, and even though I am generally not very competitive (unless it involves board games), I like the rush and extra push I get from the people around me. I felt strong and steady the entire run, so I feel like I paced myself perfectly. I crossed the finish line feeling great – and then I stuffed my face with sliced oranges from the snack tent. I ended up running it all in 1:45:32 – kind of mid/back of the pack, which is about what I expected.

Cedric is not usually much of a runner, but I’m glad he joined me for this race and I think he did really well. We celebrated our respective finishes with a hearty breakfast at the Crabapple Cafe in Brackendale. The home fries are to die for.

All in all, 5 Peaks Alice Lake was an awesome experience. I’ll be back next year – whether as a volunteer or racer is still TBD.