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.)

loop_the_lakes3

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).

20180519_103802

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

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

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

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

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

 

Loop the Lakes

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

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

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

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

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

20180519_103805

Finish line fun

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

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

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

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

5-peaks-alice-lake-4

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.

5-peaks-alice-lake-1

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.

5-peaks-alice-lake-3

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.

5-peaks-alice-lake-2

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.

5-peaks-alice-lake-5

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.

Believe It or Not… I’m Still Running

I realize I have not posted about running in… oh, about forever.

april-running-2

(Actually, I have not posted about anything in forever. I feel like so much of my day is spent on the computer for work, that lately, at the end of the day, the last thing I have felt like doing is getting back on the computer.)

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped running. In fact, I’m running a lot – typically 5 times a week these days, just about all of which is on trails.

I mellowed out my running over the winter-iest winter months, opting mainly for runs in the 5 – 10 k range and more often on the pavement than on the trails, but I picked things up again towards the end of February to start training for the Loop the Lakes 21k.

I ran that race last year and I quite liked it, but my goal at the time was mainly survival. I had never run a trail race of that length, and an ankle sprain in March seriously messed with any intentions I had for training properly.

This time, I’m entering the race with a plan. Goal #1: don’t sprain my ankle (so far so good – touch wood!) Goal #2: follow a training plan.

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 9.02.09 PM

I can’t remember how I found this training plan (I think I googled some combination of trail running half marathon intermediate training), but so far I like it. It is a 12-week plan, which is enough to make me feel prepared but not so much that I start to burn out.

It incorporates 5 runs a week, which is a lot for me – 3 to 4 seems to be my happy place. But 5 is doable for 12 weeks, and it has been particularly enjoyable as the weather has crept from winter to spring (and back again to winter, on some occasions). The first few runs were done with crampons on iced-over trails – but now, I’ve already run a few in shorts and my crampons have been stashed away for the season. (Don’t make me eat my words, Mother Nature!)

april-running-1

Swapped snow for rain

Each week features one workout type of run, which is somewhat new to me. I’ve often tried to incorporate things like hills and speed into my (admittedly informal, to date) training, but this one really maps it out for you with specific hill repeats, track workouts (ha ha, there is no track in Squamish – a quiet road will have to do), and Fartlek sprinty-fast runs. Don’t forget to do a warm up and cool down for these guys – I typically do 15 minutes of easy road running for each.

The regular runs have a mix of distances (building to 12 miles, which is about 19k) and tell you what kind of effort to give: easy, adding strides, negative splits, tempo, race goal pace, etc. I admit that I am only adhering to the effort part somewhat – the truth is that for trail running, my race goal pace and my easy pace aren’t terribly different from one another.

There are also a couple of rest days per week – I use these for hikes, gym days, or days where I’m too busy (and/or tired) to exercise.

april-running-3

I haven’t followed the daily schedule faithfully, in that I may not do the designated Monday run on a Monday, but I will make sure it gets done sometime in that week. At the start of each week, I make a check list of each type of run I’m meant to do that week. As long as it gets checked off by the end of the week, I’m happy. That way, I can plan my long runs when the weather is best, and I can squeeze in the shorter ones when my days are busier.

While I’ve felt a little sluggish and low energy emerging from winter hibernation, I truly feel my best on these runs on the trails. Sometimes I forget how pleasurable it is to breath in trees and dirt and rocks – although Cedric and other seasonal allergy sufferers might beg to differ!


Before I tackle the Loop the Lakes course, I have one race to conquer first: the 5 Peaks Alice Lake race this coming weekend. Cedric and I volunteered at this race last year, and we received what I consider to be the ultimate volunteer perk: free registration for any 5 Peaks race. I’ll be running the longer course (13.5k), and even though it may be a little soggy, I’m really looking forward to it.

Over Easter weekend, my local trail running store, Capra, held a free orientation run for the 5 Peaks course. This was perfect – my training schedule happened to call for a 13k run and I always like knowing what I’m going to run ahead of a race.

april-running-6

As a further bonus, my friend was able to join me at the last minute and we both did the course together – her longest trail run ever, and my longest run in about half a year.

As a bonus bonus, Capra had hidden little Easter eggs throughout the course. Even though we stayed towards the back of the very large pack (seriously – attendance was impressive!), I was determined to find an egg of my own. For the first half an hour or so, we were too busy chatting and forgot to look for eggs. Eventually, we remembered, and I was lucky enough to spot this little white one.

april-running-7

They smartly imposed a limit of one egg per person, so we set out trying to find an egg for Becky. It was nice having something to distract ourselves with when our legs started getting tired – I wish ALL of my runs had prizes hidden throughout. Such great motivation!

april-running-5

Alas, we never did find a second egg, but we made it in one piece and I’m feeling excited for the race this weekend. For those wondering, my egg was redeemed for a $25 Capra gift card – a most awesome prize. Thanks, Capra, for the fantastic event (and to Altra for the waffles afterwards!)

april-running-4


I don’t think I will destroy any records on the Loop the Lakes course in May, but I hope to feel strong the whole time and to enjoy the race day (which I really did last year). I think I should be able to beat last year’s race time, but you know what? I can’t remember exactly how long it took me to run it last year, and I haven’t looked it up yet. I kind of just want to run it my best this year and then compare the two afterwards. We’ll see if I can hold out.

Happy running!

Thanksgiving Weekend Finale: Capra’s Turkey and Trails Run

21616321_1807668232580876_4406147637639327342_n

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).

Turkey-and-Trails-3

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.

Turkey-and-Trails-2

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…)

Turkey-and-Trails-1

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 Lakes Have Been Looped: Race Recap of Run Squamish’s Loop the Lakes 21k

Woohoo! I did it!

When I signed up for the Loop the Lakes 21k back in November, I had no idea what I was in for. A long, snowy winter; an ankle sprain leading to a 6 week running hiatus; a 5 week period to get on my feet and train for my first trail half marathon. But everything came together and I had such a wonderful race day.

In the week leading up to the race, the forecast called for a rainy day, which wasn’t ideal but hey – a little rain has never stopped me before. Miraculously, race day ended up being my dream running weather: cool, but warm enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt, and party cloudy.

loop-the-lakes2

We rolled into Alice Lake around 7:30, and there was heaps of parking (always a mild concern at Alice Lake). The race started at 8, so I got my bib and my sweet swag (a Run Squamish hat that I am currently wearing) and sat in the sun doing my pre-run ankle warm up moves. Super cool. You needed photo ID to pick up your bib, which I didn’t know – luckily, they accepted my Facebook profile as ID. The future is now!

loop-the-lakes

Just before 8, I joined the small mass of people at the starting line and saw my running buddy, Olivia. Olivia and I have run a couple of times together at the Capra group runs and agreed to run this race together. It was her first trail race – she only started running six months ago, which amazes me. In the past few weeks, I have been so concerned that I would slow her down, but in the end we were a perfect pair.

loop-the-lakes3

The race started and everyone took off – FAST! The Loop the Lakes race has 3 distances: 21k, 15k, and 8k. It dawned on me that most of the serious/fast long distance trail runners in this race would probably opt for the longest distance, which meant that we were up against some speedy folks. Luckily, neither of us really cared about where we placed, so we started off towards the back of the pack and let everyone else run ahead.

I can’t really give a play-by-play of what happened, because we chatted the whole entire time and so I wasn’t focusing much on the race itself. It was wonderful. I thought I was going to walk every single uphill on the course, but I actually found myself tackling some of the easier ones because I was so lost in conversation. The first loop of the Four Lakes trail went swimmingly, and before I knew it we were an Mike’s Loop and then on to Entrails.

Things were really going in fast motion from here. Entrails felt way quicker than it did when I ran it on my own, as did Roller Coaster and Lumberjack. From there, we took a detour to Jack’s that involved going up some rocky steep zones. This was a slight energy zap, but we quickly got onto Jack’s.

Jack’s went amazingly quickly. I was really confused because the trail was looking like it does towards the end, near Alice Lake Park, but I thought there was no way we were already that far. I even asked Olivia if she was sure we were on Jack’s. I didn’t notice my usual landmarks (like seeing Credit Line and 50 Shades along the way). I honestly couldn’t believe it when we were spat out at Alice Lake. We only had one more loop to go and we’d be done.

The last loop was a little tougher – it was weird because we were now running against the grain for those doing the 8k, like salmon swimming upstream. Olivia’s legs were starting to feel it, so I blabbered on with stories to keep us distracted. We finally crossed over from the Stump Lake side over to the Alice Lake side, and for a brief moment, I thought we still had a lap around Alice Lake to complete – but I was just confused (again) and the finish line was actually right in front of us.

I had NO idea how long this race would take me. My road half marathon times have ranged from about 1:56 – 2:10 (minus the Fail Race), but that definitely doesn’t translate into trail running times. Earlier in the week, I ran 18k in 2:45, so I though the very fastest I could do 21k was 3 hours, probably closer to 3 and a half if the weather was iffy or if I was feeling off.

I was stoked to cross the finish line at 2:54:40. While this didn’t earn me any awards (I came 32/37 women for the 21k distance… but hey, only the fastest ladies were running this distance, right?!), it DID earn me a massive plate of nachos from the Shady Tree.

nachos

Can we talk about these ‘chos for a second? The only time I’ve had them before was after my marathon. I remembered them being amazing, but I wasn’t sure if that was just because I was so exhausted from the marathon. I can now confirm that they really ARE amazing. In my opinion, NOWHERE in Whistler makes good nachos. The Shady Tree has it dialed in: the ingredients are real/delicious; they’re layering skills are impeccable; and they have a tortilla at the bottom to catch all excess toppings. I call this the nacho triple threat. Squamish clearly has Whistler beat in the nacho department.

I finished this race feeling pretty strong – my legs felt (and still feel) really good, we ran at a super mellow pace (very much conversational), my spirits were high the entire time, and I did not have a single ankle problem. I’m very excited to run my other races now – I think I can step it up and challenge myself a little more by faster and maybe working on hills, now that I know I can handle the distance. As long as I continue to feel healthy (touch wood), I think this will be a very fun summer of running.

I ended up signing up for a shorter (10k) trail run around Lost Lake in Whistler next weekend, so that might be a fun distance to try to speed things up a bit. For now, I’ll wear my Run Squamish hat and bask in the post race glory. Ahhh.

Volunteering at Five Peaks – Alice Lake

One of my goals for this year was to volunteer at more races.

I think I said I would try to volunteer at one race per month, but I definitely missed the first three months of the year. But better late than never – and I’m officially 1/1 for April (and 1/4 for 2017).

Last weekend, the first race in the 5 Peaks BC series took place just down the road from us, at Alice Lake. When I was planning my own race schedule, I seriously considered signing up for this race – I was torn between it and the Loop the Lakes race that takes place in May, also around Alice Lake. When I found out that a couple of friends were signing up for Loop the Lakes, I made the executive decision to go with that one. Thank GOODNESS, because there is NO WAY I would have been able to run even the sport distance with my current ankle drama. More on that later.

Cedric agreed to volunteer with me, and I’m glad he did because otherwise, it would have been a little lonely. We were course marshals, stationed at an intersection where the enduro racers would pop out after completing a bonus loop, and which the sport racers were to bypass entirely. Complicated stuff – but we were there to keep things under control.

5peaks1

PUPPY

After we checked in, we took a shortcut trail and walked about 2 kilometers to our designated zone. We were plenty early, so we decided to walk the loop that the enduro racers would get to run. It was a really cool loop with some fancy looking bike features and plenty of rubber chickens pegged to trees. I later learned that these chickens are indicators of intense bike features ahead – and if you’re a chicken (get it?), you might want to go around it. This is probably common knowledge for biker types, but I found it novel.

The morning had been rainy and the forecast looked like it could swing either way. But by the time we made it back to our station, the rain had stopped and you could almost see the sun trying to burn its way through the grey sky.

5peaks3

Arrows! Flags! Signage!

Shortly after, the first few runners appeared. After that, they trickled through somewhat steadily – sometimes one by one, other times in small clusters. We cheered and pointed everyone in the right direction, and nobody got lost on our watch. Woohoo!

When the sweeping crew dismissed us, we walked back towards the finish, picked up the race swag (sweet running mittens – perks of being a volly!), then decided to enjoy the weather and walk the trails back home.

5peaks2

We made this cool stump chair but it was hard to capture in photographic form, I guess.

It feels lame to say this, but this was the most mileage I’d covered on foot since I hurt my ankle. When I got home, it felt sore. I felt like I regressed in my physio exercises, and a new knee pain had emerged (I’m not even sure if this is related to the ankle, but I’m guessing it’s all connected).

So frustrating. I hadn’t run at all – I’d only walked what, 12 or 13 k in total? I’ll admit to thinking: “How the HECK am I supposed to RUN 21 k in just four weeks if I can’t even walk half that without hurting?”

Eventually, I came back down to earth. I’ve made so much progress in the past four weeks, and I’m sure I’ll continue to make big strides in the four to come. It’s certainly not optimal, but there’s hope yet that it’ll all work out.

Today (two days after 5 Peaks), I ran 7.25 km on the road doing 5 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking. It wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t a breeze either. One day at a time – that’s what I keep telling myself.

Continue reading

My 2017 Running Goals/Races

Living in Squamish means that I am spoiled with countless trail races to choose from – if not in my own backyard, than either up the road in Whistler or down the road on the North Shore.

Luckily, my running goals for 2017 are all about trails, so this is perfect.

screen-shot-2014-10-13-at-4-12-45-pm

Random running photo from my “Coming out of running retirement” half marathon. I trained for it in five weeks! PS Does anyone else prefer to run with their shirt tucked in?

I went into 2016 with absolutely 0 running goals. Actually, that’s not true – I’d signed up for the Whistler Half Marathon 10k route, but I had to transfer my registration because I was out of town working on the Woods Canada campaign. When I returned from that, I ambitiously signed up for 3 races: the Red Bull 400 (because it sounded cool), the Squamish Loggers Day 8k (because it was local, inexpensive, and a totally runnable distance) and the Boundary Bay Marathon (because I was on a roll in signing up for races).

The marathon was not a New Year’s resolution or even a bucket list item – it was just something I decided to try. That ended up being the Great Running Accomplishment of 2016.

Earlier this winter, I made a list of all the trail races I was interested in running. There were many of them, especially in the summer months. After considering my fitness levels, my budget for races, and my ability to recover from other races, I narrowed it down to three: the Loop the Lakes 21k, Helly Hansen’s Comfortably Numb, and the Squamish 50 23k.

Before we discuss each of these, let’s talk specific goals. My main goal doesn’t actually involve doing any running; I want to volunteer for at least one race per month. That gives me the chance to participate in the race buzz, get a feel for the event’s vibe (to see if I want to run it some day), plant some roots in the local running community, and get a few free t-shirts and granola bars.

In terms of racing goals, I’ve never aimed to be the fastest, so I’m not going to start now. My goal is really to get outside, explore the local trails, stay healthy and injury-free, and gain a little confidence on running trails.

On to the races.

Run Squamish’s Loop the Lakes Trail Run

This will be my first race of the year, but it’s not until May. I’ve run around Alice Lake a good bit (remember this post I wrote the first time I ran there?) and I absolutely love it. I hope that my sort-of familiarity with the trails helps ease me into the trail racing world.

There are three distances in this race: 8k, 15k, and 21k. I signed up for the 21k. I know it will be a challenge (I think my longest trail run to date was 18.5k – in snow no less), but I figure it’s not much harder to run 21k than it is to run 15k. I hope I’m right.

ltl_map2016_21k

I’m not sure of the exact elevation but it doesn’t look too bad – two notable ups and the biggest range is from about 100 m to about 400 m.

Helly Hansen’s Comfortably Numb Trail Running Race

I haven’t actually registered for this race yet, but I plan on doing so before the price bump on February 1st. I have never run Comfortably Numb and it has always been very daunting for me (just from things I’ve heard from mountain bikers who have a love-hate relationship with it). I am sort of intimidated by it, which is exactly why I want to run this race.

I used to run once a week or so with Lululemon’s run club in Whistler and we often hit the Lost Lake trails. These are (sort of) my old stomping grounds and I anticipate some satisfying feelings of elation once I finish this one – hopefully in one piece. It is somewhat longer than Loop the Lakes – 23+ km (why do they put the plus sign? It makes it scarier!) – but the vertical gain is 800 m, more than double Loop the Lakes. Yikes. Luckily, most of the ascents take place in the first half, so I should be able to survive by just rolling down the trail for the second half.

comfortablynumbmap

This one is not until June, so I’ll have a month or so to work on those hills after my first race.

The Squamish 50 (but the 23k course)

After volunteering at last year’s race, I knew I HAD to run it this year. I’m not quite up for the 50k distance yet (nor the 50 mile distance, nor the combo 50/50 distance), but this one feels like a big, legendary race and I can’t wait to take part of it. Taking place towards the end of August, this will probably be my last race of the season. In all honesty, this is the one I’m looking forward to the most.

This race is notorious for being tricky – even the 23k route has a 1,000 m ascent (but a 1,200 m descent).

Squamish50


In short, I am super excited for my trail running goals. (I may also do the Logger’s Day road race if they are running it – ayooo, pun – again.) I have to admit that everything seems daunting right now – doable, but daunting. I’m not going into these races with any major training plans, but right now I’m aiming for a well-rounded routine that includes:

  • 2 longer trail runs per week
  • 1 shorter run per week (e.g., running fast on the road or doing hill repeats by myself)
  • 2 gym days per week
  • 1 yoga per week (at least)
  • All the fun activities I can fit in – snowboarding, cross country skiing, hiking, etc.

Squamish with a 16-month-old

squamish-with-kids

Earlier in the summer, my sister, brother-in-law, and 16-month-old niece (whom I affectionately refer to as Ribs, or Lil Ribz) flew out from Toronto to spend 10 glorious days exploring Squamish with us.

It turns out there’s plenty out here to do to entertain a toddler and her parents — and I’m sure we only touched the tip of the iceberg here.

Below, I’ve outlined some of the trails we walked and places we visited. Keep your eyes peeled for Riblet’s Choice — those activities that earned extra enthusiasm from my niece.

Trails

Brohm Lake

Brohm Lake was the perfect choice for a hot and sunny afternoon. We hit High Trail, Tantalus View Trail, Bridge Trail, and Alder Trail and stayed cool in the shade the entire time (though still broke a bit of a sweat on some relatively gentle uphills).

Our discovery of the parking lot south of the lake was a lifesaver — we probably would’ve skipped the trails if we hadn’t come across it, since the main parking areas were completely full. We didn’t go for a swim this time, but next time I’ll bring my bathing suit.

Alice Lake Provincial Park – Riblet’s Choice

I’ve enjoyed running the trails of Alice Lake, and I thought my sister’s family would really like the Four Lakes Trail. I was right — the trail was the perfect way to fill an afternoon and everyone had a favourite section. I liked watching the hundreds of toadlets migrate (mind your step if you’re visiting mid-August), my sister liked the running water at the start of the trail (north of Alice Lake), my brother-in-law liked checking out the river, and baby Ribs liked everything — she spent the first third of the hike enthusiastically shouting “wooooooow”.

Jack’s Trail/Coho Park

My sister adores running water. She would rather sit by a tiny stream than look onto a lake or the ocean. Unfortunately for her, most of streams have dried up this late into the summer — but not all of them. There is still quite a bit of water trickling through the Coho Park/Jack’s Trail zone.

These trails are a short walk from my house, so we went to check it out quickly on the day they arrived, and they returned to explore it a little further a few days later while I was working.

Mind the bikes!

Ancient Cedars Trail

I always forget how nasty the road leading up to the Ancient Cedars Trail is on my little Volkswagen Golf! It’s pretty bad, but if my car can do it, yours probably can, too.

We headed up to Whistler to help my friend with a Tourism Whistler video he is putting together (Ribs is stoked to be the baby face of Whistler), and I thought the family might enjoy taking in the great big cedar trees along the loop in the centre of the trail. This trail is about five kilometers long, is a bit steep but not too bad on the way in, and offers something a little different than most Whistler area hikes (in that it does not involve trekking up a mountain). It’s worth doing at least once, and again when family is in town.

Just try to borrow a friend’s truck.

Murrin Provincial Park

Ribs & Co. tackled this one on a day I had to work, so I don’t have much to report. They said it was the perfect length, required a bit of uphill, and had great views from the lookout. This one’s on my eventual to do list.

Places

Farmer’s Markets

We hit up the Squamish Farmer’s Market twice and the Wednesday evening Whistler Farmer’s Market once, and bought plenty of produce of delicious local meals — think Coho salmon (with this tasty BC salmon rub my sister picked up at Nester’s), beet and arugula salad, fresh garlic on everything, and SO MANY BLUEBERRIES (Pemberton’s Hare’s Farm are what’s up). Mountain grain bread from Rising Knead was a regular purchase, my sister was digging the Spark Kombucha, we became addicted to the sweet and salty popcorn from Sargent Poppers Kettle Corn, and a single roasted marshmallow from Goodmallows was the ultimate treat (I had the spice chai one, and my sister tried salted honey and lavender kind — both were amazing).

farmers-market-marshmallows

Ribs had fun strolling the booths with us, sampling the fare (this kid is a big fan of blueberries), and playing in Pavilion Park.

River of Golden Dreams

Given my sister’s affinity for running water, I thought a trip down the River of Golden Dreams in Whistler would be right up her alley. As fate would have it, my friend needed people to join him on a canoe trip down the river, so off we went.

The River of Golden Dreams isn’t what everyone would consider a baby-friendly activity (the local tour operators don’t accommodate babies), but we borrowed a baby life jacket and loaded up in a couple of canoes, and Ribs slept virtually the entire way. Warning: if you attempt the river with a baby, make sure your back paddler is strong — my sister spent the whole ride holding her snoozing kid. This was my first time paddling the River of Golden Dreams (previous expeditions have been by way of an Explorer 200), and it was  nice way to spend the day.

The Squamish Town Hub – Riblet’s Choice

I don’t know if this qualifies as an attraction, but Little Ribs had a great time in the little square on the corner of Mamquam and Diamond Head Road. We enjoyed sampling the treats of the Cloudburst Cafe (my celiac sister liked the gluten-free date bar and Nanaimo bar), Ribs picked up some sweet threads at One Small Room, and there was plenty of play space (including a few choice toys set out at the Toy Corral.

The Vancouver Aquarium

Ribs & Co. spent a day at the Vancouver Aquarium (I didn’t make it for this one). Their feedback: fun, but busy — even on a Tuesday afternoon. Ribs liked the kids tunnel.

 

 

I just love Alice Lake Provincial Park

I’m lucky to live quite close to Alice Lake Provincial Park, and I’ve fallen in love with the park’s Four Lakes Trail (and the many trails that it leads to).

Though the campground always seems packed (even when I first visited the park in the middle of the week in May!), I’ve never had trouble finding a parking spot in the main parking lot by Alice Lake.

The Four Lakes Trail is a six kilometer loop with minor elevation changes. The trail is relatively clear and doesn’t have too much stuff you can trip over, making it an awesome bet for those looking for a fun but mellow trail run.

Alice-Lake-2

As the name of the trail suggests, Four Lakes Trail takes you alongside four lakes: Alice, Edith, Fawn, and Stump. You also pass the rushing Cheekeye River en route.

I’ve done the trail both clockwise and counter clockwise. I prefer doing it clockwise; the uphill is more gradual and I like having the slightly steep downhill bit towards the end of the run. It takes me 45-ish minutes to run — more if I stop to take in the lake views along the way — and when I did it with my family, we walked it in around two hours.

Alice-Lake-1

Equally fun are the trails branching off from the main loop — I like the Bob McIntosh Memorial Trail to Rob’s Corners and Cliff’s Corners, then taking Tracks from Hell back to the Four Lakes Trail. This detour is easy, but beautiful. You can see these trails on the Squamish 50 map (it’s a teeny tiny section of the course).

Alice-Lake-4

And that’s why I just love Alice Lake Provincial Park!

Alice-Lake-5