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!

Believe It or Not… I’m Still Running

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

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(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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!)

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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!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.