The Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival: Feel the Lumberjack Within

Wow. Just when you think life in Squamish can’t get any better – the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival happens. I am officially in love with this place.

Squamish Days is not exactly a new tradition – this year, it celebrated its 60th anniversary. But it is new to me, and now that I know how awesome it is, I’m kicking myself for having skipped out on it last year. NEVER AGAIN WILL I MISS IT!

The Loggers Sports Festival is a multi-day affair, and the video above highlights a little bit of all of it (including the 8k community ran – which I ran!). But the event to beat them all takes place the Sunday afternoon. It’s a collection of lumberjack-style contests – think chainsaws, regular saws, a pit of water, and lots of giant logs. Of course, the actual events have technical names, but you don’t need to know them to enjoy the fun of it all.

logger-days-4

At $10 an adult (or $5 for seniors and kids), it’s a heck of a deal – we enjoyed 4.5 hours of epic entertainment, so the value is definitely there. Some (ahem – Cedric) might find that it’s a little on the long side, but I enjoyed every minute of it. If you happen to get bored, you can always walk around and check out the food stands, or even take off and come back (they stamp your hand, so you can come back in later).

The energy of the festival is awesome. The people watching is as much fun as the entertainment itself, and the event is really well paced – there are back to back competitions, so there’s always something to watch.

logger-days-6

Other things that are awesome: prizes. They had a few giveaways throughout the event that required you to interact with their social media accounts. I was STOKED to win a sweet prize consisting of a night stay at the Executive Suites hotel, two tickets up the Sea to Sky gondola, and $50 at Norman Rudy’s (located at the hotel) – who has two thumbs and is excited for an off season staycation? This girl!

I will leave you now with some tips on how to make the most of the festival:

  • The seats are bleachers – and as we all know, bleachers tend to get uncomfortable after a little while. Bring a sweatshirt or something to mitigate the effects of numb bum.
  • There is food for sale on-site, but it’s definitely festival fare. If you prefer to eat something a little more healthy, BYO – I didn’t see anything preventing you from bringing a sandwich from home. Bringing some water is a good idea, too.
  • There isn’t much in the way of shelter from the elements. In a way, the smokey air we’ve been having as of late was nice because it diffused the sun. I imagine it would get real hot, real quick with the sun beating down on you. Bring sun protection (and other gear to deal with whatever weather is thrown your way).
  • Everything is cash only. There are ATMs, but save on the fees and take our your money beforehand.

The Squamish Days 8K Run, Take Two

Though I haven’t been much of a road runner as of late, the Squamish Days 8K race has a warm place in my heart. I ran it last year and I loved the community vibe. I was also surprised about the stacked field of competition. Of course, that was before I knew that everyone is Squamish is only a step or two away from being an elite athlete (at least, it often feels that way).

logger-days-1

Going into this year’s race, my goal was to beat last year’s time of 41:44. That was a pretty fast time for me, but I thought I’d have an edge up this year because:

  • I’ve been running more this year than last.
  • I’ve also been hitting the gym more – I feel stronger overall.
  • I sometimes (probably not often enough) do speed work in my running. Sometimes is better than never, which is how often I did speed work last year.
  • Last year, I ran the Red Bull 400 the day before the Squamish Days 8K. This year, I did not.

Those were the things I had going for me this year. Things I did not have going for me included:

  • The fact that the air has been very smoky here in Squamish for the last week or so, and the air quality is not so hot right now.
  • The reality that although I am running more often, I very rarely tackle roads.

I’m pleased to say that the strengths outweighed the weaknesses, and not only did I beat last year’s time by almost 2 minutes, but I also cracked my goal of 40 minutes. Clocking in at 39:55… yours truly!

This placed me 5/14 in my age category, 20/77 for the women category, and 58/148 overall – three cheers for being in the top half!

I’m pretty proud of this because I don’t think I’ve ever run a 4:59 km pace … like, ever. At least not over this distance. I downloaded a most random playlist of songs strategically chosen for their beats (think Hey Ya, Footloose, Lose Yourself… definitely an odd mix) and tried to keep my feet moving with the music – and it worked! It kept me feeling motivated, even though I don’t usually run with music.

logger-days-2

This year, I stuck around for awards and prizes at the end. It was absolutely worth it – not only for the delicious watermelon, but also because I won a snazzy water bottle. As luck would have it, that was not the only thing I won on this day… stay tuned.

logger-days-3

So what do we think – can I spin these wheels even faster in 2018?

Hitting the Reset Button with Mother Nature

Summer in the Sea to Sky is so fun that it stresses me out.

camping-1

Note to self: be more like Moose. All photos by the very talented (and handsome) Cedric.

Even with the extra-long days, there simply aren’t enough hours to do everything you want to do. I want to say yes to every Facebook invite. I want to tackle every hike within a hundred miles. I want to go for ice cream with every visiting friend. I want to do it all!

It’s the best problem to have: too much fun stuff, and not enough time to do it all (without neglecting basic hygiene and, you know, working). It’s silly to admit to myself, but when my schedule is as full as it is – even if it’s packed with fun stuff – I get overwhelmed.

I’ve found that the best cure for too-much-fun-itis is spending a little one on one time with Mother Nature. A recent camping trip gave me the much-needed opportunity to put everything – laundry, work projects, my floundering fantasy baseball team – on pause.

With the usual distractions removed, there was nothing to do but take in the views, explore the lakes, catch up with friends, and watch the adorable Moose do her thing. We didn’t go far and we weren’t out for long, but it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves and for a little while, time seemed to stand still.

camping-3

Moose ❤ Photo by Cedric

Except at night – at night, time seemed to move verrrrry slowly because I was so flipping cold and couldn’t thaw out my feet. Got to keep it real here.

camping-7

Photo by Cedric – and taken while I was already in the tent trying to thaw myself.

I very much needed this little weekend getaway to remember that fun is supposed to be fun, not stressful. I know the endless gray November days will be here before I know it, so I’ll enjoy the over-committed sunshiney days while I’ve got ’em.

Happy weekend!

Down the Meadow of the Grizzly Trail (Spelhxen tl’a Stl’lhalem)

I’ve written about the slow and steady climb up the newly expanded Stl’lhalem Sintl’ trail up by Quest University – now, let me introduce you to the brand spanking new down trail: Meadow of the Grizzly.

IMG_8161

Up, up, up.

On my first lap up and down this zone, I opted to avoid this trail because I wanted to get down as quickly as possible, so I chose to take the black diamond Upper PowerSmart trail to Skookum. That was kind of silly, because Upper PowerSmart is steep with lots of small rocks on the trail that force you to take it slow when you’re descending it on shoes, not on bike. Time-wise, it’s probably equal to take the blue-rated Meadow of the Grizzly, which is less technical and consistently runnable.

grizzly-1

Views on the way up – decidedly less smokey than my last Legacy climb

 

 

 

IMG_8199

… and the same views a week later when the smoke had returned.

If you’re tackling Meadow of the Grizzly – either on foot or on bike – you’re probably reaching it by way of Stl’lhalem Sintl’. Grizzly is basically the climb trail in reverse.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First, you’ll hit winding dirt switchbacks similar to the ones at the end of the climb, only steeper. A runner can fly down this section. I’m not sure about a biker – I read in TrailForks that it’s not necessarily intuitive to navigate yet on two-wheels, and I did note a small section that was taped off (i.e., “DO NOT TRY TO JUMP OFF HERE”).

IMG_8201

(Note: I realized on the way down that the trail intersects with the climb trail part of the way down. I may be tempted to cut off the final upper portion on future runs.)

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once you emerge from the switchback forest, you enter some trails through the block cut- similar to what you encountered halfway up the climb trail. This is the section with the epic views – and, this time of year, the epic wildflowers. You can stick to the wider log road, or take some single-track shortcuts (which is what I opted to do – the signage was still up from the Hot on Your Heels race, so I followed that course). The trail here – at least when I’ve run it during this rainless summer stretch – is dry and dusty.

grizzly-10

Finally, you hit the access road that takes you through the Pseudo-Tsuga trail. The incessant switchbacks through the brush are not dissimilar to the early sections of the climb trail.

grizzly-11

You may want to visit this bench (logging road bus stop?!) for a quick mid run/bike nap.

Is Meadow of the Grizzly fun? I suppose every trail runner and mountain biker has their own interpretation of what makes a fun trail. For instance, my favourite trail to run is Roller Coaster – so smooth, so snakey, soooo fun. Others may not agree with me.

I would say that Meadow of the Grizzly isn’t necessarily THE MOST FUN, but it’s varied enough to keep your interest piqued and enjoyable because you can just point down and give’er. It’s not overly technical and it does a good job of getting you from the top to the bottom. You can kind of just turn off your brain and go. The wow-factor is in its distance – it covers a whole lot of ground very efficiently.

grizzly-12

I imagine they’ll be developing plenty of more trails in this zone now that trail access has been established, and some of these future trails will probably be more “fun”. Grizzly is accessible to most – if you’re good enough to ride or run all the way up the 12k climb, you’ve probably got the stuff to make it down in one piece. At the top of the trail, there’s a sign saying it should be treated as a “dark blue”, which is accurate.

If you’re on a bike, you probably want to take it slow the first time down. You can pick up a lot of speed on this trail – but the sharp curves are a-plenty, so control is key.

I’ll be honest – this loop is a bit of a long slog for me. I’ve learned that it’s a lot more enjoyable on rested legs (versus day-after-a-leg/glute-workout legs… I won’t be making that mistake again). It  sure as heck beats running on the treadmill at incline.

 

A Ranking of the Ice Cream Sandwich Flavours from Tall Tree Bakery

When I heard that Tall Tree Bakery was making ice cream sandwiches using their own cookies, I nearly cried.

ice-cream-sandwich-4

This is what dreams look like.

I also nearly cried when I paid them a visit and discovered they were sold out. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this could very well be the best thing ever.

Luckily, they upped their production to keep up with the demand of the ravenous dessert lovers of Squamish, and I’ve had the chance to work my way through their ice cream sandwich menu throughout the summer thus far.

ice-cream-sandwich-3

Cedric took this picture because he was making fun of my dirty face

The sandwiches are delicious. The flavours are inventive. The price is insane(ly low): $5 for two big cookies and a thick slab of high quality ice cream. The cookies alone would set you back $3 if you bought them individually. I say with utmost confidence that this is the Official Squamish Treat of Summer 2017 – and beyond, I hope.

ice-cream-sandwich-2

Bring a friend = try two kinds at once! Brilliant.

What follows is my official ranking of the Tall Tree Bakery Ice Cream Sandwich flavours.*

*Sadly, I seem to have missed the boat on the coconut cookie with coconut ice cream flavour. I think I would have loved this one, but it appears to be off their menu. I’ll edit this post if it resurrects.

#1: Cranberry White Chocolate Cookie with Black Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

ice-cream-sandwich-1

I won’t lie – at first, I was intimidated by this combination. I thought it might be too much of a good thing. I forgive my earlier, naive self, for I was used to simple pairings, like vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

A friend raved over this flavour and said it was the only one she ever got – it was too good to risk trying anything else. Well, with a testament like that, I made the leap and ordered one for myself. I got it after a hike on a hot, sunny day, and three words describe my experience: Oh. My. God.

ice-cream-sandwich-2

The combination is not too much – it is utterly perfect. The tartness from the cranberries, the sweetness from the white chocolate, the cold creamy ice cream, and the fruitiness of the black raspberries are the TOTAL, MAGICAL PACKAGE. It’s a brave combination, but it works better than basically anything I’ve ever had before.

(I’m still dreaming about this one.)

#2: Ginger Molasses Cookie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

ice-cream-sandwich-4

Wait… you don’t bring a knife to the bakery so that you can split ice cream sandwiches?

If you’re a little intimidated by some of the bold flavour combinations of the Tall Tree Bakery ice cream sandwiches – in other words, if you’re like my brother-in-law and choose to order vanilla when you’re at an ice cream store with 50 flavours – I recommend the ginger molasses/salted caramel sandwich. The flavours complement each other rather harmoniously, because the ice cream flavour is pretty mild. It tastes good, but relatively neutral – like vanilla with pops of caramel swirl.

ice-cream-sandwich-1

The aforementioned pop of caramel swirl

The ginger molasses cookie should be familiar territory for most cookie fans, and this one is good. I recommend letting the sandwich thaw juuuuust a little to let the cookie get that classic ginger cookie chewiness. Overall, this is a delightful combination and is sure to be a crowd pleaser – a safe bet, for instance, if you’re buying a sandwich for someone else and aren’t sure what to get.

#3: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie with Grasshopper Ice Cream

This was the first sandwich that I tried. It seemed like a relatively safe bet. The grasshopper ice cream is a mint concoction, and I already know I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

ice-cream-sandwich-5

Obviously, the flavour combo works, and though it is delicious, it isn’t my favourite. The cookies shine bright in this sandwich (it is also mighty good in a standalone state), but the ice cream falls just a little flat for me. It’s just mint – I think it could use some chocolate chunks or a fudgey swirl to add a little texture. Plus, the chocolate on mint is very sweet – and that’s coming from a lover of all things sweet.

But the fact of the matter remains that chocolate and mint is a killer combination – so there are absolutely no complaints from me.

#4: Peanut Butter Cookie with Heavenly Hash Ice Cream

ice-cream-sandwich-5

If I’m not mistaken, this combination was a later addition to the ice cream sandwich offerings (i.e., not one of the original menu items). On paper, I loved it: the nuts from the heavenly hash ice cream were the perfect tie in for the nuts in the peanut butter cookie. Nuts on nuts – what’s not to like?

ice-cream-sandwich-3

Individually, the peanut butter cookie and the heavenly hash ice cream are both stars. Together, it’s a lot – not in a bad way, but almost like both are competing for your attention. It’s like the peanut butter cookie is so good that it needs to be enjoyed on its own to be fully appreciated. It’s got the classic peanut butter cookie crumbly texture and it has full, non-crushed peanuts mixed in for a bonus crunch. The ice cream layered between these two, thick peanut cookies has it battle it out to get noticed.

(Am I weird for talking about treats in this much detail?)

Here’s how I recommend making the most of this sandwich without going overboard on the flavour train: take the top cookie off for an open-faced ice cream sandwich. Sure, your hands might get a little messy, but you’ll strike the perfect nutty balance. As a bonus, you’ll have an extra peanut butter cookie to enjoy later on. It’s a win-win.

Post Vacation Wake Up Call: Tackling the Newly Expanded Legacy Trail (Stl’lhalem Sintl’)

After an early season of back to back to back to back races, this blog has been a little quiet on the running front – time to change that.

legacy-5

Smokey views brought to you by BC’s forest fires

In the weeks after Comfortably Numb, I kept running in the ole trusty backyard trails – and I was feeling good. I went on a few 3+ hour runs that just felt fun and mellow – the kind where you get home feeling fantastic and thinking, “Gosh – I could have kept going forever!”

Then I went on vacation for a couple of weeks. I didn’t run any trails, but I did squeeze a handful of beach runs and hot, muggy, humid paved bike trail runs. The former were more for pleasure, while the latter were about testing my speed (while surviving the heat). Notably absent: elevation of any sort.

After catching up on some post-travel sleep, I ventured out on my first trail run. It went… okay. I did a usual loop for me (Covenant –> Jack’s –> 50 Shades –> Credit Line –> Home) and I felt alright, but pretty sluggish towards the end. I definitely did not have that “I could have kept going forever!” sentiment.

I took the next day as a gym day, then the following day, things got real: I decided to try the Legacy trail out by Quest. I’ve done the first little bit of this up trail a couple of times (it’s called Stl’lhalem Sintl’ lower down), but I’d heard they expanded it and that it now totaled 12 k of steady but runnable uphill. Bring it on.

I hit the trail mid-week at 7:30 AM, with the goal of avoiding too many mountain bike encounters. It was a successful mission: aside from the parking lot, I didn’t encounter ANY humans on my run (somewhat unheard of, as these are popular trails).

legacy-2

Getting started…

The first part of the trail was as I remembered – nice, not-too-technical trails that slowly wind upward with just enough flat bits to keep the momentum going. The trail takes you through treed areas as well as into meadowy zones, with a few pretty look outs along the way.

legacy-4

Among the trees

The smoke from forest fires elsewhere in the province had started blowing in, so even though it was a sunny day, the views were somewhat murky. The wildflowers were in full bloom, so it was all very pretty.

legacy-6

Getting higher…

I’d been running slow but steady for the majority of the trail when I finally hit a poster board announcing the new addition on the trail. It read, “The following five kilometers…” – hold the phone, I’m only just over halfway up?

legacy-7

The markers start getting Tragically weird… I start to wonder if I’m hallucinating…

Though another 5k of non-stop up sounded a little intimidating – particularly after taking a bit of time off from hilly stuff – I hadn’t come here to turn around halfway. I sucked it up and carried on, though I’ll admit I walked some of the steeper sections (which, in actuality, aren’t all that steep – but these legs were tired).

legacy-8

… weirder yet …

I tried to run as much as I could, reminding myself that the more I ran, the faster I’d knock off the distance. Occasionally, I’d bump into signs announcing the elevation and comparing it to local landmarks. It was most satisfying to learn I’d reached the elevation of the second peak of the Chief and the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

legacy-1

When I finally got to the top – about 700 m of elevation later – it was a little anticlimactic. My options were left or right: left would be shorter but steeper and more technical (read: slower), while right would be longer but easier (featuring another brand spankin’ new trail that was recently developed). I went left and tip toed my way down loose rubbly stuff on a trail called Upper Power Smart.

legacy-9

Views on the run back down

Things got a little more mellow and fun on Skookum, which eventually brought me to Fred (also enjoyable) and Tinder (new favourite – no wonder everyone likes this one so much!). Tinder had a few uphill bits, which made me eager to wrap up the entire run. I finished off with Flat Alley and Pseudo-Tsuga.

I was happy to see my car. My legs were tired, and apparently so was my brain. I placed my cell phone on the roof of my car, stretched a bit, then drove off – phone still on car. Some good Samaritans saw it slide off and followed my car for a good five minutes until I figured out that those small honks they were doing were directed at ME. D’oh.

legacy-10

Check out this sweet dirt tan line.

In short: Legacy/Stl’lhalem Sintl’ is a lovely, fun trail and a good way to gain confidence on climbs. I hope to squeeze it in a few more times before the Squamish 50 23k – which is only ONE MONTH away.


PS: The Squamish Chief just published an article about the trail. I’m going to try to the blue trail down on my next visit.

I Need Your Help to Go to Ethiopia!

People of the internet. Friends and strangers alike: I need your help.

I’m in the running to win a prize so astounding that it blows my mind: a round trip for two to Ethiopia and Zambia.

You see, in celebration of Canada Day, I put together this little video featuring 26 things – one for each letter of the alphabet – that make me proud to be Canadian. It made it to the top 5 video submissions, and now, I need votes.

Votes come via Facebook by the way of likes (1 vote), comments (2 votes), and shares (3 votes). I’m begging. I’m grovelling. I’m pleading, pathetically. PLEASE give me your likes, comments (literally ANYTHING!), and/or shares. I promise to write epic posts about my African adventures, if I’m lucky enough to win. To vote, either:

  • Visit my post to the Ethiopian Airlines Canada Facebook page here; or
  • Visit the Ethiopian Airlines Canada Facebook page and like the post they made sharing my (Magee Walker’s) video (you may have to scroll down a bit)

I worked hard to make this video, running around Squamish and Whistler with my trusty cameraman, Cedric. Here are a few stories behind some of my favourite shots.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 7.00.46 PM

Z is for Zamboni – that’s a no brainer. The larger challenge involved gaining access to a Zamboni. I figured there were two places I could access a Zambo: Meadow Park in Whistler or Brennan Park in Squamish. I thought my best bet might be to go before a hockey game or something and catch a shot of the Zamboni going by in the background, with me in the foreground off the ice. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure how often Zambonis went out on the ice (especially in summer) – I thought maybe I’d just go camp out and wait for one to emerge.

I then remembered I had a friend who worked at Meadow Park for awhile, so I thought I’d ask her about the Zamboni’s schedule. I was talking to Cedric about my plan when he told me that he KNEW THE GUY who drove the Zamboni. I’m not sure why he has withheld this vital information from me for the past four years. Cedric made a few calls, and before I knew it, I was getting a Zamboni driving tutorial.

I only drove the Zambo – I didn’t actually do anything to the ice – and it was quite easy, kind of like driving a golf cart. I was most impressed at the turning radius of the machine.

This was actually the very first shot we filmed – we drove all the way to Whistler just to do it. Totally worth it.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 8.08.42 AM

Y is a bit of a tricky letter (along with Q, X, and U – shout out to my sister for coming up with “Universal Healthcare” because I was going to do “Umbrella”, which I knew was lame). The only thing I could come up with was Youppi – you know, the old mascot of the defunct Montreal Expos? I have fond memories of looking at these little Youppi figurines at my aunt’s/#1 commenter’s house when I was little, and even though Youppi has since retired, I thought it represented a nice little bit of Canadian nostalgia.

Cedric wasn’t fond of Y is for Youppi. I began to doubt my choice – is it possible that most other Canadians didn’t associate the fuzzy little orange guy with childhood memories? In the end, I stayed loyal to Youppi – partly because I didn’t have any other ideas for Y.

(Got any better ones? Comment with Y ideas on my video – heheh, see what I did there?)

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 8.06.47 AM

Maybe one day I will write a post about my experience volunteering at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (in brief, it was THE BEST TIME EVER!) Experiencing the Olympics in my own (adopted) hometown and getting to participate behind the scenes was something that made me feel ridiculously proud to be Canadian. It only made sense to include it in my alphabet, and the fact that a good portion of the Games (and all of my volunteer shifts) took place in Whistler made it easy to access some Olympic paraphernalia, such as these large Olympic rings.

The thing is, these rings are a highly desirable photo background for tourists. Nabbing a shot requires waiting in a disorganized queue as people hop in and out to take their photos.

When I filmed the scenes, I actually filmed two takes for each one: one where I did an action silently (which is what I ended up picking), and one where I talked (e.g., I’d shout “R is for Red Olympic Mittens!”) This was no big deal for the majority of shots, but it felt super weird to do when there were other people around – such as the small crowd amassed around these Olympic rings.

But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 8.01.59 AM

I’m kind of happy that the alphabet begins with A because it means I got to start off the video with a bit of humour. In case you couldn’t tell, I made that amazing poster myself (shout out to WordArt for still existing).

This shot was really all about the mustache, of course. I hit up the dollar store and found a killer deal (6 mustaches for $1! Who would have thought!).

I Googled Alex Trebek to select the mustache that most resembled his own – and this is when I remembered that Trebek has actually shaved his mustache in recent years. Doing an Alex Trebek impersonation without a mustache wasn’t an option, so I kept it in anyways.

The dollar store mustaches were black – mine had to be more salt and pepper (no offense, Alex). Solution: roll the mustache in flour. Voila – a Trebek-worthy mustache!

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 8.05.51 AM

When I lived in Whistler, one of my go-to runs was to go from Alpine along Alta Lake Road (killer hills), pop in at Rainbow Park, and then run around Alta Lake. There is all kinds of random stuff along the way – including a pair of massive Muskoka Chairs.

When I was crafting my Canadian alphabet, these chairs popped into my mind – only I couldn’t remember exactly where they were on Alta Lake. We parked at Lakeside Park and took off clockwise, passing Wayside Park along the way. About 10 or 15 minutes later, we found them, tucked behind the sailing club. Best chairs ever.