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!

Squamish with a 16-month-old

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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