On Running and Changing Plans

When I planned out my race calendar earlier this year, the Squamish 50 23k was supposed to be my last one of the year – but when we returned from the Yukon, I felt like I probably had one more race in me.

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(This photo is 2 years old but seemed suitable enough for this post)

I felt a little burned out from trail running (weird, I know), so I decided to sign up for a road race. I wasn’t exactly smart about it; I hadn’t run on roads in awhile, so I decided to lace up my shoes on a lovely early fall day to see if I could manage to run roughly a half marathon distance (even if it took me forever to do).

I could! It wasn’t easy – I ran at a 6:23 km/h pace – but at least I knew I could handle the distance.

I signed up for a half marathon about 7 weeks out, and I thought that if I worked hard at training, I could probably break 2 hours (which I’ve only done once) and could maybe even snag a PB.

The first month of training – and I use that term lightly, because although I had a rough structure, I wasn’t following a proper plan – went swimmingly. I got progressively faster on my long runs and a 5:45 km/h pace (needed for a 2 hour half) seemed challenging, but doable. Also, my long runs continued to fall on days where the weather was just perfect. Life was good.

Except for one thing: I felt a nagging soreness in my lower left leg – kind of behind the shin, by my inner ankle bone – which was annoying, but ignore-able. I ran through the soreness, but it only got worse. Eventually, I wasn’t able to ignore it anymore. Running was starting to seriously hurt.

The foot on the opposite leg also had a weird shooting pain when I stepped on something uneven (like a small pine cone or a pebble), which wasn’t good either.

I got a solid massage and upped my stretching game, but I was hurting hard only three weeks out from the race. I wasn’t able to put in many miles and my long run was excruciating – and I felt much slower than I’d been in recent weeks. As you can probably imagine, this was not exactly motivating.

Fast forward to today: the race is in a week and a half, and I’m not doing a whole lot of running. Instead, I’m doing lots of long, slow stretching. I’m foam rolling and yoga-ing, too. This morning, I went for a short run and didn’t feel any soreness. I contemplated extending my run, but decided it was better to stop while I didn’t feel any pain rather than pushing it too much.

Of course, running healthy is the most important thing – but I can’t help feel discouraged that the crucial couple of weeks before the race have gone to waste. The good news is that I think I’ll be able to tackle 21.1 k on race day – and if not, I can always drop down a distance.

The bad news is that I worry I’ll feel slow and sluggish and awful. I’m coming to realize that my sub-2 hour goal probably isn’t realistic for me for this race; rather, I should aim to have a healthy, pleasant race, even if I’m going at a snail’s pace. The nasty weather we’ve had as of late hasn’t done much to lift my spirits, but luckily, we’re heading into a stretch of sunshine now.

I’m hoping for a mini miracle on race day – one of those perfect weather days where you feel like you can fly. Either way, I’m getting nachos after, so it’ll be a good day no matter what.

Oh – and now I’m getting sick of road running and can’t wait to get back into the trails. Running, you fickle, fickle beast.

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Thanksgiving Weekend Finale: Capra’s Turkey and Trails Run

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Despite what my previous two Thanksgiving weekend recap posts might suggest (pumpkin pie and butter rolls), I did more than just eat over the long weekend.

Capra, the local trail running store and the hub of Squamish’s trail running community, put on a fun, family-oriented trail run this past Saturday, October 7. The run is called Capra Turkey & Trails, and it was the second year in a row that they put on the event (not bad, considering they recently celebrated their first anniversary).

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As advertised: the weather looked exactly like their promo pic (above)

I haven’t been doing a ton of trail running lately, but recent runs have included running up 50 Shades and running down Credit Line. I was relieved when I found out that the 6k trail run consisted of running halfway around Alice Lake, out on Jack’s, up 50 Shades,  down Credit Line, and back to Alice Lake via Jack’s. These aren’t necessarily easy trails, but at least I was very familiar with them.

The race was right up my alley: small and informal, but well executed. I had signed up online (the $35 fee includes a donation to the food bank), so I just had to pick up my bib before the race and I was good to go. Though the forecast looked iffy, the weather ended up being prime for a fall run: cool and overcast.

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I watched the tail end of the kids races (a 1k – the Gobble Wobble – and a 3k youth trail race), then I set out alongside 38 other runners to take on the trails. I started towards the back-ish but ended up passing a few people on the 50 Shades ascent. I ran the majority of the trail – something I definitely don’t do when I’m running it on my own.

The technical descent down Credit Line made for tricky passing. Luckily, we were pretty well spaced out by then. One dude passed me, and I passed a couple more people (mostly because they had to pull over to take off an outer layer or re-tie shoelaces – but hey, I’ll take it).

Arguably the toughest part of the course is “gentle” ascent back to Alice Lake on Jack’s Trail. This darned trail doesn’t look very daunting, but the up is just enough to be annoying – especially after having conquered the ups on 50 Shades. I made it back to the finish line in 45:15, which put me in 23rd place out of 39 runners. (Technically the last runner was the sweep guy so I’m not sure he should count…)

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Although Turkey & Trails is one of the smaller races I’ve done, they seem to have had the largest prize table of any race I’ve attended – and the best part is that prizes were drawn, not earned. That’s always good news for a middle (er… back) of the packer like myself. I didn’t walk away with either of the grand prizes (Altra shoes or La Sportiva shoes – I wish!), but I did get a snazzy, squishy Capra cup.

Will I be back next year? Heck yes! Will I be running Credit Line anytime soon? Heck no – apparently, a cougar has made it his local hang out, and he’s not that keen on sharing it with the rest of us.

Turkey & Trails – make it part of your Thanksgiving weekend traditions!

The Sea to Summit Trail – Better than the Chief?

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I have a confession to make: I don’t love the Chief.

That’s not quite true – I love looking at it a lot, but I don’t love hiking it. I get the appeal: it’s a good workout, it’s relatively quick (especially if you’re only after one peak), and the views are highly rewarding. But I find the climb to be a bit of a mind-numbing slog and the exposed parts at the top always make me nervous – I get a feeling of vertigo looking down over Squamish and the Howe Sound. So, I do the Chief from time to time, but I don’t love it.

A hike that I do love is the Sea to Summit trail. And now that I have a Sea to Sky Gondola pass (rejoice!), I can do it whenever I want and catch a ride back down for free. Here’s what I love about it:

  • It’s just the right amount of hard. There’s lots of climbing, but there are plenty of flat bits (and even a few dips) to break it up.
  • Hiking it is like playing in a jungle gym. Swinging through trees, clambering up rocks, skipping through sections of roots – there’s lots of variety, and it’s all fun.
  • The timing is just right. I walk/ran it (walked up the steeps, ran through the flats) in about 2 hours. That’s long enough for me to feel like I got a solid dose of nature, but short enough that I can still put in a full day of work.
  • The reward factor is extreme. Your prize for getting to the top: awesome views, food and beverages if you please, and an easy (and scenic) ride back down the gondola.

If you haven’t done the hike yet, read on for a brief recap.

The first part of the hike consists of the first 15 or 20 minutes of the Chief climb (hence my comparison of the two trails). This is my least favourite part – it mainly consists of stepping up wood stairs, stone stairs, even stairs, and uneven stairs. It’s not unlike the Grouse Grind.

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After a little while, a little sign points you towards the gondola. This is where you leave the Chief trail behind – and, in my opinion, the trail becomes a lot more fun. Instead of going straight up, it starts to meander a little bit.

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Getting lost on the Sea to Summit trail is not an issue. I like to imagine the trail marking meeting: “How many trail markers do you think we’ll need, Bob? A hundred?” “Double it. And double it again. You can never have too many trail markers.” Seriously – there are so many trail markers on this trail that it’s alllllmost ridiculous. If you don’t see one within three seconds of seeing the last, you start to feel a little panicky. But I have to admit it makes it easy and very tourist friendly.

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Relatively early on in the hike, an ominous sign warns you that the trail is about to get really real – so steep you’ll need ropes to help you shimmy your way up. While it is true that there are a few rope assisted sections to contend with, I’d argue that the first 20 minutes is the hardest part. The rope sections are short and not exposed in the least (yay for me) – they’re more fun than anything else.

 

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There are a few noteworthy points of interest along the way. Passing under the gondola lines is novel (be sure to wave if you see anyone floating by). Getting to the falls is a treat, and there’s a nice slabby lookout as you get closer to the top. But really, if you take the time to look around, the whole thing is pretty gorgeous. The trees are tall and lush and green and it just smells so darn delicious – it’s the kind of sight that you can start to take for granted if you’ve lived in Squamish for awhile.

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In my opinion, the closer you get to the top, the easier the trail feels. At one point, it widens to an old logging road – there’s a longer, but easier option that continues along this road if you’re feeling it, or else you can go the shorter (and steeper) regular route. The trail picks up a bit and once again becomes steep right at the end, but that’s when you know you’re almost there.

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Suddenly, the trail opens up and you can see the gondola up ahead – shining like a sweet little beacon. You’ve made it! If you don’t have a pass, you can pick up a download ticket for $15. You can make it worth your while by taking your time to explore at the top.

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I imagine this trail can get a little crowded, but I got an early start on a weekday and I saw exactly two other people: a couple in the first 10 minutes of the hike (on the Chief portion). Otherwise, I had the place to myself – not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

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Squamish Staycation: Sea to Sky Gondola, Hiking, and a Stay at the Executive Suites Hotel

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Back in February, I entered a Valentine’s Day contest with the local paper (The Squamish Chief). I guess our compelling love story pulled a heart string or two, because we won THE most epic prize: two passes up the Sea to Sky gondola, a night at the Executive Suites Hotel, and a few bonuses like free breakfast, sparkling wine, and a snack pack.

(I was maybe most excited about the snack pack.)

Half a year later, we finally redeemed our package and enjoyed a bona fide staycation. Allow me walk you through it.

The Sea to Sky Gondola – Hiking

Cedric and I are two of the few Squamptonites who don’t have passes to the Sea to Sky Gondola. I’ve only been up three times, and I’ve never had the chance to do some proper exploring.

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We wanted to do a hike, so we chose Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail with the Neverland Loop addition. The trail is an out-and-back, with a relatively steady climb on the way up (and down on the way back, obviously). We picked a perfect day – a little on the cool side, barely any wind, and clear skies to make the most of the views. There are a few beautiful viewpoints along the way – but then again, the killer views start the moment you step onto the gondola. You don’t necessarily have to work to earn the views at the Sea to Sky Gondola, but it sure is fun to do it that way anyway.

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The best part was the bountiful blueberry bushes towards the end of the trail and on the Neverland Loop (which, frankly, aside from the blueberries wasn’t super enthralling – though it is a nice way to extend the hike a little). We spent a lot of time snacking.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola website estimates 3 – 6 hours for a round trip of Al’s Habrich trail and 1 – 2 hours of the Neverland Loop. We hiked at a steady pace and took a quick snack break (well, a few snack breaks if you count the blueberry picking) and it took us 3 hours total. I think the website errs on the conservative side, which is probably wise.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola – Dinner and a Show

I chose this particular day to redeem our prize because I wanted to check out the last of the Sea to Sky Gondola’s summer performance series. On Friday evenings throughout the summer, they keep the gondola open late and have musical acts perform up top. On this particular night, the Sea to Sky symphony performed. It was lovely.

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While we waited for the show to start, we grabbed some dinner: a cheeseburger with poutine for Cedric (because who can refuse poutine when it’s offered as a side?) and beef chili for me. The chili was on the small side, but it came with a heaping portion of homemade chips which were sooooo good. The total came to around $30 (no drinks or anything), which is a little on the high side but not unexpected for touristy food.

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Cedric customized the ketchup art.

On the way down, we paid the difference to upgrade our day passes to annual passes – woohoo!

The Executive Suites Hotel

Our prize landed us in a *~fancy~* one bedroom suite at the Executive Suites Hotel. It had a kitchen equipped with the basics, a living area with a fireplace, a separate bedroom, a full bathroom with washer/dryer, and a big balcony with stellar views. In Anna Kendrick’s book, she talks about the hotel they stayed at in Squamish while filming Twilight – and I’m pretty sure it was this hotel. There’s a fun fact for you.

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Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering about the snack pack. It was delivered to us in a festive yellow paper bag – very loot-bag-like, which made the whole thing even better. It came with one of those orange San Pellegrino sodas (which I looooove), Smarties, Turtles, Ferrero Rochers, and peanuts. We were also given a bottle of pink bubbly.

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Views from the balcony.

We loved lounging around the hotel room and had a great sleep, thanks to the blackout curtains. The bed sheets felt a little starchy, but the bed itself was good. I woke up before Cedric did, so I made myself a tea and sat outside on the balcony, listening to the girls next door swapping stories about a wedding the night prior. (The bridesmaid slayed her speech, in case you were wondering).

Norman Rudy’s

The Gibbons Group – mastermind behind Whistler hot spots include The Longhorn, Buffalo Bill’s, the Fire Rock, and Moe Joe’s – recently migrated its way to Squamish with Norman Rudy’s, the restaurant located in the hotel. We visited on two occasions: once for a late-night snack, then again for the free breakfast that came with our room.

The late-night snack was fine. We ordered a charcuterie board, which was good but nowhere near the level of, say, the customizable board at Basalt in Whistler, and a salad with seared tuna, which was good in an Earls/Cactus Club kind of way. Our server was nice and we left feeling full, so in all, it was a reasonable success.

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Oatmeal!

Breakfast was so-so. Whoever wrote the menu did a great job at making it sound very appetizing, but the meals themselves were just okay. I’m that person who likes to order oatmeal at restaurants (the best I’ve ever had: Enigma in Vancouver, which makes its oatmeal in apple juice – brilliant!). This oatmeal was tantalizingly described as follows: “Barley oats with seasonal fruit and chai yogurt”. CHAI YOGURT? I love yogurt and I love chai tea – this sounded amazing.

What I actually got was barley oatmeal (cooked perfectly, mind you), with a sliced strawberry and a very light swirl of the yogurt – not enough to taste any of the chai. Too bad.

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No bacon : (

Cedric ordered the classic two eggs and bacon. The only problem: when it arrived, there was no bacon! Cedric was not stoked.

When we mentioned it to the server, she told us she’d bring back extra bacon. I half expected a pile, but there were only 3 pieces. Cedric gave me one, so I was happy.

The “roasted campari tomatoes” described in the menu was, in fact, a lightly cooked single tomato (you can see it in the corner in the picture above). Though that was a little disappointing, the fingerling potatoes coated in parmesan were a hit.

Overall, my review of Norman Rudy’s is that it was fine and a convenient option if you’re staying at the hotel, but there are way better places to eat in Squamish.


All in all, it was a lot of fun playing tourist in our own town. We enjoyed every second of our little getaway. Shout out to the Squamish Chief for picking our entry and to the Sea to Sky Gondola and Executive Suites who sponsored the prize. Every person that we interacted with along the way was extremely nice. Oh, and get ready for a ton of Sea to Sky Gondola posts – I’m going to make the most of my new pass.


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Yukon Ho! Tombstone, Kluane, Alaska, Oh My!

In case you missed Part I of our Yukon Adventures, let me catch you up: we went to the Yukon, and it was awesome.

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Photo by Cedric

As much as I enjoyed our time in Whitehorse and Dawson City, the real reason we’d come to the Yukon was to explore the great outdoors. I’d heard Tombstone Territorial Park was incredible, and y’all – it did not disappoint.

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Photo by Cedric. See that winding road down below by the lake? That’s the Dempster.

Tombstone Territorial Park stretches along the Dempster Highway, its mountains flanking the infamous road that eventually leads to the Arctic Circle. We unknowingly timed our visit just right – early September meant that we’d caught the first days of fall foliage. It was pretty spectacular.

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Photo by Cedric.

However, our visit also coincided with Labour Day weekend. We had hoped to hike up to Grizzly Lake and spend a night camping out there, but you had to book the campsites online ahead of time – and they were already sold out by the time we looked. We’d heard that they save a few walk-on sites that you can nab the day of, so we made sure to head to the park’s information centre before it opened. Another guy had the same idea (he’d actually been working on getting the single coveted spot since the day before). He got the site – but in the end, it worked out just fine.

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Photo by Cedric.

We grabbed a drive-in “front country” campsite, then set out to hike the Grizzly Lake trail – or at least part of it. When I’d researched trails in the park, it looked like the options were somewhat limited. After speaking with the park rangers, we realized the opposite was true. Although there are few marked trails (similar to what we’re used to in Sea to Sky country), the potential for hiking is virtually limitless. You basically pick a mountain – of which there are many – and walk up it. Since you’re above the treeline, there isn’t much in your way. You basically choose your line and walk up. It’s steep, the ground is squishy, and the whole thing feels very Wild West.

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I was trying to hold hands but we couldn’t time it right with the self-timer feature…

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Photo by Cedric.

In the morning, we hiked about 3/5ths of the Grizzly Lake trail. It was beautiful – the climb was steady, but the views provided plenty of distraction.

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There’s an inspirational quote here somewhere… Photo by Cedric.

We headed back down, ate our usual camp fare in the car (PB & banana sandwiches), then drove up to a mountain on the opposite side of the highway. This one had a short trail, which provided access to countless choose-your-own-adventure lines. Cedric continued on to explore a ridge, while I hung back.

Fun fact about hiking with Magee: I loathe ridges.

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Photo by Cedric.

We spent the night back at our campsite, which had a river running alongside it – it made for a very peaceful backdrop. The campsite was pretty low frills (outhouses, fire pit, picnic table), but it had one major perk: free firewood! We hadn’t planned on making a campfire – I guess we had just accepted our local fire ban as permanent in our lives – so we didn’t have a hatchet or anything, but Cedric Macguyvered his way through a stack of wood and we enjoyed a cozy evening by the fire.

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I was worried that it would be freezing in the night, but we were well-equipped and it wasn’t so bad. I checked outside a couple of times in the night to see if I could catch the Northern Lights, but it was too cloudy. It ended up raining a bit overnight, and we woke up to see a dusting of snow on some of the surrounding mountaintops.

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Photo by Cedric.

After breakfast (PB & banana sandwiches… again), we drove all the way to the top edge of the park. We scoped out a potential hike, but it required a fairly wide river crossing, and though the water was pretty low, it was a little more effort than we were after. That might sound silly, but there were so many accessible mountains all around us – and they were virtually empty. There really was no need to make it harder than it was – although if you wanted to, you could certainly explore well beyond the highway. The mountains go on forever.

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Photo by Cedric. Squishy, squishy, squishy. Up, up, up.

We opted to walk up Angel Comb Mountain. The ground was squishy and bouncy and surprisingly delightful, but it was a steep ascent up the mountain – no switch backs through the trees here. We made it to one ridge, then I stayed put while Cedric continued on to explore another (sketchier, in my wussy opinion) ridge zone.

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Photo by Cedric.

In all, our time in Tombstone was short, but we definitely made the most of it. It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever witnessed – it definitely earned a place on my personal list of most impressive scenery in Canada.


The next morning, we continued our counter-clockwise tour of the Yukon. We hopped on the (free) ferry out of Dawson City and made our merry way through the segment of the highway they call the Top of the World. It is a mostly dirt road, and it is incredibly scenic – which is saying a lot, considering the whole darned territory is rather picture perfect. Regrettably, we didn’t take any photos along this stretch – but if you ever get the chance to drive it, do it!

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We crossed the border into Alaska, which meant two things: 1) the dirt road morphed into a perfectly paved road for a little while, and 2) we had our best wildlife encounter: a big old moose. My passenger seat snaps may not quite be worthy of a National Geographic spread, but oh well.

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We made a few stops in Alaska – such as checking out Chicken, AK to buy a chicken key chain and some fudge (at a store that boasted having the only flush toilets in town!), and having lunch in Tok – then after a long day of driving, we pulled into our destination for the night: Beaver Creek.

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Chicken, Alaska

Beaver Creek was not my favourite Yukon destination, so I’m just going to go ahead a gloss over it. If you can drive straight through it, you won’t be missing out on a whole lot (in my opinion) – but you will be missing out if you don’t stop at the Pine Valley creperie just past town. With a few exceptions, I found the food in Yukon to be just okay – but the creperie was a notable exception. It’s like somebody dropped a tiny French countryside bakery into the middle of the Yukon. We savoured every bite of our breakfasts (a quiche and a Nutella crepe), then bought a couple of tarts (apple and blueberry) for later. I also grabbed a jar of their homemade blueberry jam, and my only regret is not getting more.

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This was precisely the fuel we needed to power a visit to Kluane National Park. The views here are spectacular, and they feel radically different from Tombstone.

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Photo by Cedric.

We spied on mountain sheep with binoculars, then headed out to do a pretty and relatively mellow hike called Goat Creek (or something like that).

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Not a mountain goat, but I liked these little guys that we spotted around Kluane. Photo by Cedric.

It looks like many of Kluane’s most spectacular hikes are multi-day affairs, which didn’t jive with our schedule – but I have no doubt they’d be well worth doing. We’d contemplated hiking the King’s Throne at the south end of the park, which is meant to be wonderful, but were advised that the weather in that area was quite cloudy and windy, so we decided to take advantage of the clear skies where we could find them.

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The hike itself was pretty sheltered, but it was very windy when we got back down to the road. Observe Exhibits A and B: that’s all dust, baby!

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Exhibit A: Photo by Cedric.

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Exhibit B: Did somebody say SELFIE!

Eventually, we made our way back to Whitehorse, where we enjoyed another day (and another cinnamon pullapart pastry) until our late evening flight back to Squamish. Yukon, you were something else – I will be back!

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Photo by Cedric.

Yukon Ho! Part I of Our Roadtrip in YT

You heard it here first: the Yukon is the new Iceland.

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Photo by Cedric. This is Tombstone Territorial Park and I will talk more about it in my next post. Consider yourself teased.

Hear me out. Iceland used to be the place to go for outdoor lovers seeking something under the radar. And while Iceland is still very much on my travel wish list, it’s hard to call it a “hidden gem” – it seems that everyone and their grandma has discovered it, visited it, and posted a selfie from the Blue Lagoon to their Instagram.

The Yukon appealed to us for a few different reasons. It’s always been in the back of my mind as a place I’d like to go – and it just so happens that we didn’t get to visit it on our Woods Explorer journey. So, we booked a trip.

We didn’t realize that the Yukon was such a popular place to visit until we were there. Scrolling through our social media during our down time, we noticed that an absurdly high number of our friends and acquaintances were also currently in the territory. Even Justin Trudeau was there.

You could easily spend a month exploring the Yukon. In fact, I would have loved to devote several weeks to driving up through BC, spending some time hiking and camping, then making our way up the Dempster to the Arctic Circle. Alas, our vacation time was limited, so we had to adjust our travel plans to fit with our schedule.

We settled on the Klondike/Kluane Loop suggested by the Travel Yukon website. We liked that:

  • it was a loop, meaning we’d get to see as much as possible;
  • it took us out to Kluane National Park;
  • it lead us through the two “metropolises” of the Yukon, Whitehorse and Dawson City;
  • it brought us close to Tombstone Territorial Park (we planned an extra day and night to explore this gem);
  • it allowed us to dip into Alaska, adding one state to my “have visited” list (I think I’m at 23…); and
  • it fit nicely with our schedule.

We flew from Vancouver to Whitehorse, and let me say – I am a big fan of little airports. Everything always seems so quick and easy. We arrived in Whitehorse mid-day, which gave us plenty of time to do some exploring.

When researching accommodations, I was generally underwhelmed with the options in Whitehorse. The hotels seemed to range from seedy to mediocre – and they weren’t terribly cheap. We opted to stay at a little studio unit from AirBnB, which suited us perfectly. As a bonus, a couple of pups lived in the main home, including this cute little one:

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Whitehorse is right up our alley. Its population is about 25,000 – remember now, the entire population of the territory is only around 36,000. But for the size, it seems to have a heck of a lot of amenities. We found a few gems (Burnt Toast Cafe for lunch, Baked Cafe and Bakery for breakfast – oh my GOSH, the cinnamon pullapart thingies are to die for), toured the local brewery, and decided we quite like Whitehorse.

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Then, we made the six(ish) hour trip up to Dawson City. I thought the drive was quite scenic – little did I know what was yet to come. We pulled over at a few lookouts, grabbed (then ate) a bunch of carrots from a farm stand, and stopped into various gas station general stores to loads up on road trip essentials (Coke Zero, gummy worms, etc.)

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We stayed two nights in Dawson City. In between the two, we camped at Tombstone Territorial Park, which I’ll talk about in my next blog post.

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We spent our first night in Dawson at Juliette’s Manor. The hostess was lovely (but not named Juliette, which threw me off). She said to pretend that we were staying at a long lost relative’s house, and that’s exactly what it felt like – very comfortable. We had an early start the next morning because we wanted to maximize our Tombstone time, and she made sure to set out some breakfast for us despite the ungodly hour.

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Our time in Dawson felt short but sweet – we seemed to always be rushing around and didn’t get to spend as much time exploring it as I would have liked to. I thought the town was positively quaint. We shamelessly did an old-timey photoshoot at Peabody’s Photo Parlour, which was ridiculously fun. We stopped by at the last minute and they stayed open to accommodate us, which was very kind. We didn’t want to take too much of their time since they probably wanted to go home, so I felt kind of panicked as I rooted through their most impressive tickle trunk of Victorian gowns and can-can attire. We rate the Peabody photos as a must do tourist activity. When in Rome, folks!

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I must admit that this dog did it better. (I don’t know the dog – the photo is from the Peabody Facebook page. So that’s two stranger dogs in one post, for those keeping count.)

Check in later this week for part 2 of our Yukon adventures: the one with the epic hikes and epic photos.

Race Report: The Squamish 50 23K Trail Race 2017

The Squamish 50 kicked my butt.

And I only ran the 23k course.

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Before I knew I was about to get my butt kicked.

I have mad respect for those who ran the 50k and 50 mile courses this weekend. I bow down to those who tackled the 50/50 (50 miles on Saturday, 50k on Sunday).

The Squamish 50 23k was my big race of the summer – the Loop the Lakes 21k and Comfortably Numb races earlier this summer were part of the build up to this run, which would be the longest and highest (1000m ascent, 1200m descent).

I think my summer fitness peaked around June. With vacations, camping, hiking, and out-of-town weddings, this summer has been fun but busy. I’ve been trail running consistently, but in a somewhat haphazard manner. Calling it training would be a bit of a stretch.

Boy, did I feel the effects of my non-training in today’s race.

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225 runners and I took off at 8AM from the start line at Quest University. The first couple of kilometers were part of the Legacy trail that I’ve been running semi-regularly this summer – this was the only part of the course that I was familiar with. I seeded myself towards the middle-back, which seemed about right. Most of the runners in my zone did the same run-walk thing I like to do up the switchbacks around this part of the race.

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I felt pretty good by the time I hit the first aid station 4k into the race. I brought my own food and drink, so I didn’t need to stop. I knew there was another uphill section after the aid station, and that was a bit of slog, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Although I hadn’t run these trails before, they were similar to those I was used to running. The uphills were pretty steep and I walked all of them, but I cruised on the flats and the downhills, enjoying the technical bits when they showed up. When I hit the “11k to go!” sign, I was feeling pretty good – though I was definitely pacing myself. I wasn’t setting any course records here.

The group was pretty well spaced out. I passed some people, but others passed me. It didn’t feel overcrowded and I didn’t feel like I was hot on anyone’s heels (nor was anyone stepping on mine). Things were going fine.

I passed the second and final aid station shortly after the “11k to go!” sign – and this is where things went wrong. I hit a downhill section, which was wonderful. I booked it down the long, glorious hill and ended up at a bridge with a bunch of kayakers. I looked to see if there were signs indicating that I should cross the bridge – but I couldn’t see any signage or flagging tape. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen any markers in a little bit.

This is the point where the kayakers informed me I’d taken a wrong turn – and that the course continued ALL THE WAY UP THE HILL I’D JUST RUN.

This was, in a word, heartbreaking. I turned around and started power hiking back, and then I saw another girl barrelling down the hill. I informed her that we’d come off course. On our way back up, we came across another 9 runners who had done the same thing. It was brutal heading back on the long, steep hill. I knew we still had a lot of uphill sections and I was so annoyed at having to use my energy on this one. I didn’t understand how it had happened.

When I finally got back up to the top, I understood. The signs clearly pointed us to the left – they’d put two pylons on the right, which was down the hill I’d taken. My brain had seen the pylons and assumed I was meant to run between them. If I’d looked up, I would have seen that the tape and markers continued down the left.

This mistake cost me energy, but the worst part was that it really rattled my mental game. The detour had taken me about 15 minutes, which is pretty significant. I tried to get myself back on track, but I couldn’t help think about all the people who had passed ahead of me during that time. Ughhh.

I had lots of time to think about it, because the next stretch continued uphill. I kind of felt like I wasn’t “racing” anymore, so I occupied myself with trying to find trash on the trail. The Squamish 50 has a cool initiative where if you pick up garbage along the way, you can redeem it for a pair of new running socks at the end. This kept my mind busy for awhile.

Eventually, I felt like I’d found my stride again. There was a long downhill section that went on for awhile and felt pretty fun.

Then came the uphill.

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That final spike doesn’t look that bad on the elevation profile. It’s very deceiving.

There is a horrible, awful, dreadful uphill portion that starts around kilometer 16 and lasts about 2.5k. It basically sucked the soul out of me. I was in a pack of five or six girls, who became my heroes/guardian angels/soul sisters. We slogged through the seemingly endless uphill sections together. Seriously – it felt like it went on FOREVER. And it was very steep. Any energy that remained in my legs was zapped. I for sure said “I’m dying” out loud at some point.

One of the girls said, “Hopefully this will motivate you – we only have 6k to go!”

In fact, it did not motivate me at all. I had NO IDEA how I could possibly squeeze 6k out of my useless lower half.

What goes up must come down and blah blah blah – but while downhills seemed fun earlier on in the race, now they were just awful. I felt two big blisters forming on my big toes, and I did not trust my legs whatsoever. I had to dig really deep here to try to keep my mind sharp and to make sure my legs were listening to what my brain was saying. It wasn’t horribly technical, but as I learned earlier this season, it only takes one misstep to cause a nasty injury.

I hobbled down the trail – and “hobbled” is the perfect word to describe what I was doing. I recognized the voice of someone I knew and chatted with her for a bit. Eventually, we emerged into the road part of the race. A sign indicated we had 3k to go. I thought, “3k – I can do that. I hope.”

I felt borderline delirious for that last little bit. I ran the downhills okay, but the flats now seemed very difficult. I tried to dissociate from my body (or was it my mind?) and made it through the park. When I hit the underpass, there was a slightly uphill bit that broke my running spell. I now began a run-walk routine: run two lampposts, then walk one. Run two pylons, then walk one.

It’s funny – last year I was a course marshal towards the finish line of this very race. I remember seeing people walking and thinking, “You’re almost there! Pick up the pace – you’re almost at the finish line!” Oh, if I knew then what I know now!

I have to admit that the course marshals towards the end did give me a little extra pep to my step (and by that, I mean I’d run three pylons, walk one). As I got close to the park where the finish line is located, the enthusiastic cheerers gave me the boost I needed to make it to the finish line.

I did it!

My time was 3:37:11. To be honest, I don’t really care about the time. I stopped caring when I made that detour. I figured, hey – my time won’t be great, but at least I’ll be able to beat it next year. I placed 163/226, 53/68 in my division (… not so good…), and 99/141 for the ladies. So that puts me around the 25th percentile. Olympics, here I come!

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This result thingy makes it look like I ran 50k in 3:37:11. So going off that, then I TOTALLY CRUSHED IT.

The finish line was awesome – after I recovered, I partook in the BBQ and enjoyed an Alice & Brohm ice cream (I volunteered at package pick up on Friday and each volunteer was given a free ice cream token). I ran into two separate girlfriends – who happened to come 13th and 14th out of the women and finished nearly an hour faster than me. They are amazing (and unfortunately in my age group – ha ha).

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Lunch of champions.

This race was definitely type 2 fun. I very much hated the second half of it. But I’m already excited to run it again next year. However, it made me realize that there is NO WAY I’m remotely ready to run a 50k race. Especially not this one.

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See you next year, you fickle and wonderful beast of race.