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.

 

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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!

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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.

For the Love of the Adventure: “Snowshoeing” at “Garibaldi Lake”

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I am not what one would call a “peak bagger”.

Rather, I am a firm believer in the old cliche that the journey is the destination. In other words, if I have to amend or abort an adventure due to weather, injuries, time crunches, or other variables that are generally out of my control, I’m not really bothered.

I’m not concerned with reaching a summit; I’m more focused on getting outside and having a really nice time. So while a recent snowshoe trip to Garibaldi Lake ended up involving neither snowshoes nor lake, I still deem it a success. I got to play outside, enjoyed a rare and glorious sunny winter day to its fullest, spent some solid QT with friends, and capped my day off with (root) beer and snacks at Backcountry Brewing – by all objective measures, the adventure was a perfect one.

If you’ve ever done the Garibaldi Lake/Black Tusk/Panorama Ridge hike in the non-snowy season, you know that the first part of the hike involves a seemingly never ending series of switchbacks through the forest. However, in the snowy season, the hike starts one step earlier.

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The paved road to the trail head is not quite as easy to maneuver in the winter, when it is covered in snow, as it is in the summer, when it is not. Our first clue should have been the dozens of cars parked on the shoulder just past the turnoff. However, there were a few tough guy cars who had laid down some tracks along the road, and our Fearless Adventure Leader’s truck seemed as capable as any, so we happily bumped our way down the road to see how far we could get.

We got a decent way up, but the three point turn required to orient the vehicle properly for a smooth exit was a little trickier than anticipated. Luckily, our Fearless Adventure Leader had a sturdy avy shovel in his sturdy truck, so the rest of us got to feel useful as we dug and pushed it to a comfortable position on the shoulder of the road, out of the way of any other tough guy cars who dared make the trek.

Then, we were off. Though there was snow on the ground, it was fairly well packed and more easily tramped by foot than by snowshoe. We debated leaving our snowshoes in the car, but we ultimately decided to take them with us in case things got deeper and softer. Spoiler alert: we did not end up using them, though I am glad we took them because – as another hiker we bumped into with snowshoes strapped to her pack said – we got to take them out for a lovely walk. Snowshoes need fresh air and exercise too, right?

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Notably missing: snowshoes.

We lucked out on gorgeous, sunny weather, though under the canopy of trees in the switchbacks, we weren’t in much danger of getting a sunburn. The snow was a little sparse towards the bottom, but it covered most of the trail pretty solidly. I anticipate after some recent snowfall that the trails are even snowier – perhaps even requiring snowshoes?

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Cell phone cameras: taking poor quality selfies since the 2000s!

My biggest challenge with outdoor activities in the winter is temperature control. I have the attractive habit of sweating aggressively when doing any moderately strenuous activity (including hiking up switchbacks for hours). If I stop, say for lunch, the sweat cools instantly, chilling me to the bone. I’m usually able to reheat my core and my legs once I start moving again, but my extremities go yellow and lose circulation. (Google Raynaud’s if you want to gross yourself out a little.) I lose feeling, especially in my hands, and it is very uncomfortable and hard to regain feeling until I’m somewhere sheltered and warm and wearing something dry.

So, when we stopped around our pre-determined turnaround time to determine whether we wanted to keep going or call it a day – despite having not reached Garibaldi Lake – I was totally fine when we opted for the latter, knowing it meant I would regain feeling in my hands that much sooner.

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We came, we saw (some pretty trees, mostly), and although we didn’t conquer much, we had a great time, proving that one does not actually need snowshoes for an enjoyable snowshoe trip!

 

 

Flour Water Salt Yeast’s Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough Focaccia Pizza

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I was so very excited to receive my very own copy of the infamous Flour Water Salt Yeast cookbook for Christmas.

I have heard about this book for a long time – it is the cookbook of all cookbooks when it comes to artisan bread.

For the past year, I have been baking bread from my beloved (and currently extremely tattered) Bread Illustrated cookbook. I love Bread Illustrated for its simplicity, its excellent use of photographs to clearly illustrate each step, and the sheer variety of types of breads it covers. I fully plan to continue to bake from it because it goes beyond the typical rustic sourdough thing that seems to be popular right now. (Popular in bread circles, anyway. Sometimes I forgot that most people don’t spend a lot of time in bread circles.)

Flour Water Salt Yeast (which I shall call FWSY going forward) has a much narrower range of breadly recipes, but it goes much more in depth than Bread Illustrated. It’s basically like a college textbook of all things bread. It really, really goes into detail about various techniques and examines each and every variable that goes into baking bread, including temperature and time (and how to adjust each of these based on your own circumstances). It’s user-friendly, but it’s advanced.

I’m not going to lie – I find it a little intimidating. I feel like I need to read it cover-to-cover before I give it a serious go. But I did crack and try a recipe the other week – and it was fantastic.

You see, I wanted to make a pizza for dinner. I mentioned that I wanted to pick up some dough while I was in Whistler (Pasta Lupino sells its delicious dough dirt cheap!), and a girl in my book club said, “I thought you baked bread?!”. She was right – why on earth was I planning on buying pizza dough when I knew very well I could make it myself?

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Since rustic breads and pizza are the focal point of FWSY, I flipped open to the pizza section, which includes 15 pages on pizza and focaccia methodology before presenting four recipes: same-day straight pizza dough, overnight straight pizza dough, overnight pizza dough with levain, and overnight pizza dough with poolish. As I was somewhat short on time, I decided to try the same-day straight pizza dough.

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The ingredients – you’ll be shocked to know – are flour, water, salt, and yeast. One recipe yields a MASSIVE amount of pizza dough – enough for five pizzas. As the devoted pupil that I am, I read the methodology section before starting this recipe and realized that I could make two huge focaccia pizzas with the same amount of dough, so that’s what I did.

(We had pizza for days – and if you know Cedric’s appetite for pizza, you’ll know this is quite unusual.)

The recipe is super detailed when it comes to temperatures, which is awesome for making sure your dough turns out as perfectly as possible. It is on the cool side here, given that it is mid-winter, so I have created a proofing room of sorts in one of our bathrooms. It is small and windowless and easy to heat up without destroying our utility bill, and it served perfectly for growing my dough at just the right temperature.

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Here’s another intimidating thing about FWSY: it doesn’t use a stand mixer. You just use – gasp – your hands! Secretly, this is a good thing – I sometimes wonder if my weekly sourdoughs and other breads are too harsh on my KitchenAid’s engine. It will be good to give it a bit of a break, I think.

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Mid-pince

Of course, this means that rather than relying on a hook to do the bulk of the kneading in mixing, I have to use my own digits. The book outlines folding and pincing techniques (lobster claws, activate!) and it was actually kind of fun to squish the dough around to ensure all the ingredients got incorporated. I have a feeling this is the kind of thing that I will get better at over time.

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Daaaang look at those bubbles!

I also learned a new technique for creating smooth balls of dough. While Bread Illustrated talks about cupping the balls and making small little circles with it against the counter, FWSY uses a cup and drag technique, which I like a lot better.

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So, I made two massive balls of dough, which became two large baking pan-sized focaccia pizzas.

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I skipped the tomato sauce and topped them with bocconcini, caramelized red onions, proscuitto, and (post oven) arugula and Nonna Pia’s balsamic reduction.

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The pizza was delicious. The dough was easy to maneuver before baking and after baking, it was light and flavourful and completely delicious.

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The thicker focaccia meant we really got to sink our teeth into it and taste it, but I think it would be wonderful as regular pizza, too.

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If the same-day dough is this good, I can only imagine how tasty the other three pizza recipes in this book are.

More FWSY to come.

Rain in the Valley = Snow Up Top

I’ve been putting my Sea to Sky Gondola season’s pass to good use – this week, I went up twice to try my hand (foot?) at snowshoeing.

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I recently acquiring my very own pair of snowshoes – I got a heck of a deal at one of my favourite secret websites, 33 OFF. They had a bonus 10% off snowshoe deal, and their prices are already pretty good. (I also get my road running shoes from here because I know which model fits my foot well – the Mizuno Wave Riders).

This time of year, when it is raining in town, it is often snowing up in the mountains where it’s a few degrees cooler. I checked the forecast and web cameras for the Sea to Sky Gondola, which affirmed what I had suspected: yep, there is snow up there, and lots of it.

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Pro Tip: If it looks like this outside, it may still be worth getting out of bed.

(Remember when I hiked the Sea to Summit Trail the other week in pretty much no snow? It’s safe to say that there is a lot of snow on the trail now.)

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This is how much snow was on one tree branch. Hand for size reference.

I headed in the same general direction both days I went up. One day I snowshoed towards the Skyline Ridge Trail, the other I went partway up the Sky Pilot Valley Trail. Both of these trails are machine groomed – it’s like getting fresh tracks on a cat track.

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I like this post’s hat

Actually, when I went up mid-week, I did get fresh tracks – I had the whole place to myself. The conditions make it easy (and fun) to get an hour or two of power snowshoeing in.

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Fresh corduroy, brah!

Even when I went up on the weekend, it was pretty quiet. I saw a few other parties here and there, but I was largely on my own. I didn’t see anyone else head up the slightly steeper (but still very manageable) Sky Pilot Valley Trail.

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This is where the grooming ends on the Skyline Ridge Trail – continue on if you dare, it’s deep (see next photo)

Way back in the day when I lived in Vancouver, I – like so many others – struggled through the dreary January-March season where it is often wet, grey, and just generally horrible. One year, I discovered that I could head up to Whistler during this season and enjoy copious amounts of snow. It was the perfect cure to the winter blahs.

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I stepped slightly to the side by the bridge and sank down to above my knee. Yeah – probably no off-roading for me right now.

(Of course, it’s not all gravy – shoveling your car out from several feet of snow mid-March while your friends in the city post pictures of blooming tulips can get old pretty quick.)

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Now that I live in Squamish, I kind of feel like I have the best of both worlds. There are plenty of grey days, but if the temperatures cooperate as they did this week, I can get my snow fix with minimal effort. I don’t have to brush snow off my car very often, but Whistler is only a short drive away (in good conditions, anyway).

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Snowshoeing is officially being added to my repertoire of wintertime activities. I like that you can make it hard or easy, and I like that I don’t have to devote an entire day to it – I can head out for a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon and still get a lot done. I’m a fan.

Sea to Summit, Winter Edition

A few months ago, I waxed poetic about the fantastic Sea to Summit trail that winds from the bottom of the Chief up to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

I put in a good three or four solo autumnal Sea to Summits until the rainy season set in, the days got shorter, and the motivation dissipated. But this past weekend, it was so beautiful and perfectly sunny – in the middle on January, no less – that I felt I would be insulting the Squamish weather gods if I didn’t go outside and enjoy it while it lasted.

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January 14, folks!

(Sure enough, the forecast says rain, rain, and more rain for the next little while.)

Although we had a good chunk of snow over the holidays, sun and rain have washed away most of it. I spied a few Sea to Summit hikers on Instagram and determined that it was probably in fine shape for hiking, so I laced up my trail runners (and threw my spikes in my running vest) and headed up.

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A quarter of the way – dry, dry, dry.

The trail was actually busier than I expected. Not only was it a weekend (and a stunning one at that), but it was “Social Sunday” on the Sea to Sky Gondola – meaning live tunes, board games, and pancakes (I think. I didn’t actually go into the lodge at the top on this trip, but I get the promotional emails.)

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Still, it was relatively quiet. Though I passed a few groups of happy hikers, I felt like I had the trail to myself most of the time.

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I didn’t need the spikes for a long, long time. For the bulk of the way, the trail ranged from completely clear to pretty clear. Any snowy bits were sparse and easy to plod through. The lower three quarters of the trail were maybe a little wetter than usual, and there were streams where I hadn’t noticed them in the summer.

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Things started to get snowier where the trail splits into the logging road portion towards the top. I popped on my spikes, though it is debatable whether or not I really needed them.

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There were some slippery spots where I was glad to have them, but there were also rocky bits were I had to tread lightly, trying not to wear out the metal. There were also lots of wet sections – some you could detour around, others that required you to walk right through. My feet got pretty wet, but it was close enough to the top that I didn’t really mind.

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I leapfrogged with another solo hiker for the final stretch of the trail, who had been out with friends but opted to run ahead of them to burn some energy. I can relate – while I love heading outside with buddies, sometimes it’s nice to just power up solo to clear your head and get your heart rate up.

So, there you go. This isn’t a groundbreaking post, but I thought that there may be a few people out there contemplating hiking the Sea to Summit who might like a trail condition update. Of course, things are likely to get a lot wetter with the rain coming our way – and if it’s cold enough, we could get more snow, especially at higher elevations. In fact, I would be perfectly fine with some snow higher up – I’m dying to do some snowshoeing this winter.

The Official 2017 Magee Running Awards

My goal is really to get outside, explore the local trails, stay healthy and injury-free, and gain a little confidence on running trails.

This is a self-quote from a blog post I wrote nearly a year ago, where I laid out my running plans for 2017. I mostly succeeded in my overall goal, though I failed a little on the “stay healthy and injury-free” side of things – but I’m exiting 2017 in one piece with seven races under my belt (or, more accurately, my running vest). I’d call that a win.

To cap off a season of running, races, and physio visits, I thought I’d get a head start on award show season and celebrate some of my greatest (and not so greatest) running moments of the year.

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Best Race Swag

Overall, this was a positive year for race swag. There was good swag (hats!) and less good swag (so many – too many – drawstring bags), but one race’s swag really stands out: 5 Peaks Alice Lake.

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I didn’t even run this race, but as a volunteer, I got to take home a pair of the neon orange running glove/mitten combos that has become a staple of my winter running wardrobe. Two mittened thumbs up for 5 Peaks Alice Lake!

Best Event to Volunteer At

I volunteered at several races this year (even a mountain biking one!), but the Squamish 50 takes the cake. I volunteered at the package pick up for the 50k, and it was unbelievably well organized. There vibe is positively electric and it was fun matching race bibs with IDs from around the country, continent, and indeed, world. A+ experience.

Best Runner’s High Moment

My spirits were never higher than they were as I finished the Comfortably Numb race in June. I’m not sure why I loved this race so much – I wasn’t particularly fast and there was nothing really out of the ordinary, but I loved running point-to-point on unfamiliar trails, and cruising downhill for the second part of the race was just so, so fun.

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I loved this race and I hope to run in again in the future.

Most Humbling Race

The Squamish 50 23k KICKED MY BUTT. The horrible extra hill detour I took from accidentally veering off course certainly didn’t help.

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This was just a tough race for me – the toughest I’ve ever run. I still can’t figure out if it was because I undertrained or was just having an off day (it happens), or if it is due to the tricky terrain and unforgiving uphills towards the end. I finished the race feeling extremely humbled.

Most Satisfying Race

The Squamish Days 8K was a personal favourite. I love this small local race – it’s a straightforward out-and-back road race and I squeaked in under the 40 minute mark.

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For someone who tends to sit comfortably on the slower side of the middle-of-the-pack in trail runs, it’s fun to be able to run a fast race on the roads. I’m proud of this one!

2017 Trail of Distinction Award

After exploring many of the trails around Alice Lake and Garibaldi Highlands, I proclaim Roller Coaster the recipient of my favourite trail award. I don’t know what it is – it winds so perfectly, meandering up and down (but mostly down) through the beautiful woods without too many death traps to trip over. I love it!

2017 Trail of Terror Award

The first few months of 2017 consisted of awful icy patches, but no section terrified me as much as the bridge by the waterfall on Covenant. On one bitterly cold run, we almost wiped out as the slanted wooden slats were transformed into a wipe-out zone of black ice death. Even in perfect conditions, I STILL cross this bridge with great caution and hesitation.

Best Food

Hands down, the tastiest and most random finish line food were the Hot Buns Cinnamon Buns at Comfortably Numb. Hey – maybe they had something to do with my runner’s high?

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Most Satisfying Impulse Race

I initially only had 3 races on my agenda for 2017, but I signed up for another 4 races on relatively short notice. My last race of 2017 was the Boundary Bay Half Marathon. Just shy of two months out, I decided to take a break from trail running to focus on roads for a bit.

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My training wasn’t pretty (see: injuries and more gym time than running time), but the race ended up being a lot of fun and gave me the extra push I needed to end the year on a good note.


As 2017 comes to a close, I’ve started thinking about my running goals for 2018. I haven’t solidified anything yet, but I already know it’s going to be a tricky year. I’ll be away for some of the big races of the year (including Comfortably Numb and the Squamish 50), but my goals include trying a few new races, running a road race in another province, and enjoying many sunny days on the trails enjoying the smell of hot trees (my favourite smell ever).

Happy trails!