Coming Out of Hiding – Cap Crusher 12k 2019 Race Recap

It’s a live blog post!

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I am reviving my blog because I love reading other race recaps when I’m preparing for a race, and I couldn’t find many recent posts for the Coast Mountain Trail Series’ Cap Crusher. I think they used to have an 8k course and there are a few blog posts about that, but there’s virtually nothing on the 12k course that I ran this year (2019). There is also a 24k course, which is the 12k distance doubled (you run it one direction the first time out, then in reverse the second time). Hopefully, this post will help people running the course in 2020 and beyond.

This was a triumphant race for me no matter what, because it was my first race post-partum. I ran 5 races while pregnant, but I hadn’t run a race NOT pregnant since November 2017, so it’s been awhile. Here’s the Cole’s notes of my post-pregnancy running routine:

  • I had a c-section so things were slow moving for the first little while. My first run was about 2k at Week 7 or 8 post-partum – I can’t even remember exactly when it was – and it was HARD.
  • There are a lot of physical changes that happens during pregnancy and when you have a baby. I am lucky because I seem to have skipped pelvic floor issues (which can make running tricky, to say the least), but it did feel like my core was a bowl of Jell-o for awhile.
  • I followed the same training plan that I did when I ran last year’s Loop the Lake 21k, but only out to the ~13k week. I started training around the end of January.
  • Training was NOT EASY. The reality is that it is just hard to get out right now. I have to work around Cedric’s work, my work, and the baby’s napping and feeding. Running in the trails takes a long time, so I could only run on trails once or twice a week (I always ran my longest run of the week on the trails), then I would do mostly roads with a few dreadful treadmill runs when the only time I could squeeze a run in was at 9PM. (Note to self: treadmill run after lasagna dinner is a bad idea). I tried to incorporate hills on the road runs whenever possible.
  • In addition to running, I have been doing baby + mom fitness classes once a week at Storm Fitness┬áhere in Squamish, taught by Carrie from Pinnacle Fitness. I’ve been doing this since my baby was about 12 weeks, and I cannot say enough good things about the classes. They focus a lot on building a strong core and it is nice to meet like-minded women in an environment where I don’t have to worry if my baby gets fussy, needs to eat, etc.

Okay, now on to the race itself.

I have volunteered at quite a few Coast Mountain Trail Series races, but I have never actually run in one! From my experience volunteering, I know that they are extremely well-managed and that courses are well-marked. The Cap Crusher was no exception. The website is pro and a glance at the course map told me everything I need to know: the course is loopy, the end is hilly, and there are plenty of ups and downs throughout the course.

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I am extremely unfamiliar with running the North Shore trails. I ran a trail race called “My First Trail Race” in the Lower Seymour area in 2010 (I had to go back in my emails to see where this race was/when it was – it wasn’t just my first trail race, but my first trail run altogether), and then I ran the MEC Trail Series in West Van a couple of years ago. That’s it for North Shore trails for me. I’d never set foot in the Capilano Canyon/Cleveland Dam trails until today.

The trails reminded me a lot of the ones I ran in the MEC trail race. I did not find it terribly technical, at least compared to a lot of the trails in the Squamish area. There were a few finicky areas that required careful footwork (especially as the legs started to tire), but overall they weren’t too bad. I would compare it to maybe Jack’s Trail or Debeck’s Trail here in Squamish (both of which I ran a lot while training for this race, which was helpful).

However, non-technical doesn’t necessarily mean easy!

Let me rewind to the race day details. The trails in Squamish and the North Shore have been super icy and nasty due to the atypical long winter we’ve had out here. When I checked the race weather a week or so out, it looked like it was going to be wet and rainy. An early week pre-race email suggested bringing spikes. Yikes.

However, as the old saying goes, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The few days before the race were nice and warm, and the trails ended up being in GREAT shape on race day. A day-before-the-race email let us know we wouldn’t need our spikes after all, and aside from a couple of steps in slightly mucky bits, the trails were awesome. As a bonus, the weather was beautiful too – around 5 degrees at the start and a gorgeous, sunny day.

I did something I almost never do: I left my hydration vest behind. Since I didn’t need to carry spikes and I didn’t need tons of water as it wasn’t a hot day, I figured I could get away with a t-shirt and a light jacket and use the jacket for things like my phone (just in case), an energy ball for fuel, and my collapsible water bottle. There is an aid station at 7.5km, but all CMTS races are cup-free so you have to bring your own drinking vessel.

I was a little on the warm side, but overall I am pleased with my race day getup. I wish I had green running clothes, because a lot of people were gussied up for St. Patrick’s Day!

We got a parking spot right by the start, which was EXCELLENT because I didn’t want to have to walk too far with baby. I picked up my bib, listened to the pre-race talk, and we were off at 8:30 AM on the nose. The first part of the run is on a logging road and slopes downhill. I had seeded myself towards the middle-back of the pack, but I let my legs fly a little on this initial downhill. I know you are supposed to hold back a bit at the start, but I actually find I use less energy letting my legs windmill on non-technical downs then I do if I try to step carefully. So off I went.

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The first part of the race is great; there are lots of wonderful downhills and the ups are runnable. There are a few sections with stairs and with a couple of exceptions, I ran just about the whole thing. About halfway through the race, there is a long, straight non-technical trail that takes you all the way to the aid station at 7.5 KM. In the course map above, this is the part that requires the inset to see in its entirety. The run out is on a slight downhill, but it was hard to enjoy – because the faster 12k runners were already on their way back and so I knew I’d have to run it uphill very shortly!

I usually never stop at aid stations, but I filled up my bottle about halfway here, which only took a couple of seconds. I ate my energy ball as I started the slow and steady slog back up the long, straight trail. It felt a lot more “uphill” on the way back than it had felt “downhill” on the way down – doesn’t it always feel like that!

At this point, it started to feel like I was running the entire course in reverse – though of course, I know this isn’t the case based on the map above. I think the reason it felt like that was because the 24k runners were now on the course, so there were often people running in the opposite direction of me. This actually wasn’t as confusing as it might sound and it was virtually never an issue for passing or anything, since the trails are decently wide. The course was well-marked and there were marshals everywhere, so getting lost was not a problem.

After the post-fuel station slog, the bulk of the remainder of the course was uphill. I mostly power-hiked the ups and ran the flats (and the precious downhill sections – there were still a few of those!). Another girl let me know when we were at the 10k mark – this was a long (non-technical) hill up, and then there was a flat bit followed by lots of stairs going up. There aren’t many (any?) stairs on the Squamish trails since most of them are bike trails, so this was a little new to me. It felt Grouse Grind-y for a little bit there, or like the start of the Chief.

After the stairs, we had a nice downhill section before the last little climb to the finish. You could literally see the finish line, so the motivation to give it one last little push was there. I crossed the finish line in 1:28:05 and felt a little barf-y, but after I walked it off for a bit, I felt fine.

(I used to puke at finish lines ALL THE TIME, which is so so gross. I haven’t had this happen in like 6 years, though).

In the end, I finished 92/162, 42/91 for all the women in the race and 25/39 for women 30-39. I can’t WAIT to be in the 70+ division – hopefully I will always finish in the top 3! All in all, I am very happy with that result. The distance was just right – it felt do-able but still like a challenge. I pushed myself to the barf-feeling zone without barfing – THAT is my racing sweet spot!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stick around the finish line, as there was a hungry baby waiting for me. That means I missed out on the post-race sushi and cupcakes, but I DID get the awesome race swag: a beer and an excellent beer glass, both of which Cedric dibsed instantly.

In conclusion, I have never appreciated running – especially trail running – more than I do now that I have a baby. Time on the trail is truly precious and I really savour those moments where I get to have a little time to myself, even if the weather is gross or the trails are icy. It has been the best medicine for me – running has helped me regain my strength and fitness, feel more like my old self, and experience that sense of peace that you only get when you’re among the trees. I am really grateful that Cedric recognizes how important this is to me and does whatever he can to make sure I can get out the door whenever possible for an hour or two.

So what’s next? The Whistler Half Marathon on June 1! I have NEVER DONE THIS HALF! I have run the 10k course once and have been out of town for the run every year since. I am truly so excited – I love road half marathons because they scare me just a little bit but I know if I work hard, I can conquer the distance. Wish me luck!!!!

Race Recap: Comfortably Numb = The Most Fun

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the Comfortably Numb Trail Race has already come and gone. June 10 seemed soooo far away for the longest time – then all of the sudden, it was just around the corner. I didn’t really have time to get excited or scared or anxious about the race. That’s probably a good thing.

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The weather forecast for race day looked iffy (rainy cloud image in my weather app). The more detailed overview said clouds in the morning and rain in the afternoon, so I thought we might be in the clear. But on my drive up to Whistler the morning of the race, it started raining a decent amount. Drats. It was also pretty cool (about 7 degrees when I left the house, with a high of 13 degrees later in the day). The most challenging thing about this kind of weather is deciding whether to wear shorts or leggings. After much consideration, I wore the latter (though I brought along a pair of shorts to be safe).

I’m pleased to report that a) the rain stopped shortly after it started and stayed away the ENTIRE race, and b) the leggings were totally fine for the race (though I’m sure I would have been okay in shorts, too).

I realize this is a lot of weather talk, but I’m just so happy with how it turned out because it ended up being my favourite running conditions: overcast, cool, and dry. A race in Whistler on June 10 can go any way. If it had been hot and 30 degrees, it would have been tough on some of the non-shaded parts later in the race (especially because the race started relatively late, around 9 AM). It had apparently been rainy and muddy the year before, which makes for a slippery course and is, in my opinion, way less fun. So three cheers for the weather. Hip hip hooray!

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Views observed while killing time at the start.

I was curious about this race because, as the name suggests, it follows the notorious Comfortably Numb mountain biking trail between Wedgemount and Whistler Village (though this race ended at Nicklaus North). Seriously – when I mention Comfortably Numb to mountain bikers, their faces go pale and they tell me stories about how they did it once, and never again. Mostly, I’ve never traveled that part of Whistler by anything other than car, so I thought it would be fun to explore some new trails. My research indicated it would be technical trails, mostly single track, and that it would gradually go up up up for the first half to two-thirds, then down towards the end. The distance was curiously pegged as “23k+”. I’ve heard it range anywhere from 21k to 25k. My little app put it closer towards the 21k end of the scale, but let me tell you – it felt infinitely farther than my Alice Lake 21k.

Logistically, this race was A+++. I parked as instructed by the RV park in Spruce Grove and caught the free shuttle to the start line at the base of Wedge. Bib pick up was quick and easy. They had a “soft start” time of 8:30 for anyone who thought they might need more than 4 hours to run the race. As always, I had no idea how long it would take me, but I decided to risk it and start with the main crowd at 9 AM. Everything got started on time, and we were off.

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Start line shenanigans

The race starts off on an uphill gravel logging road. You guys – I was at the VERY BACK. Zero people were behind me. That was humbling, but I guess I really take the “don’t start off too quickly” thing to heart. Quite a few people ended up hiking the steep bits near the start (including the 18% grade part!) so I ended up in the general “back of the pack” crowd rather than at the literal back. That was kind of nice.

The rumours are true: the race really does go uphill for a long, long time. I’d been told that the trail is very runnable, and that’s partly what makes it quite difficult: they’re flat enough to keep on running, but steep enough to tire you out (especially after 13k+ of uphill). I definitely did not shy away from hiking anything that felt on the steep side. See, I tried running some of the steeper ups, but I found that if a person was ahead of me and walked the steep part, I wouldn’t gain on them even if I was running/shuffling. My running was literally the same speed as hiking, so I figured why waste the energy?

Eventually, the runners became more and more spaced out. Around 1:30 into the run, a guy was close behind me and I offered to let him pass. He didn’t pass, and we ended up running together and talking for about half an hour. Poor guy – I pretty much told him my life story, including the minutiae of my curriculum vitae. He had recently bought a second home in Whistler, so we talked real estate for awhile (my favourite!)

I can’t decide if running and talking is good or bad for a race. In this case, I think it was good – at this point in the course, the uphills were getting tedious and the scenery was pretty similar, so being able to talk was a bit of a distraction.

Around the 2:00 mark, something weird happened. I’d been completely alone with the guy for a little while – we hadn’t seen anyone ahead or behind – but all of the sudden, about three people came from behind and passed us. The guy joined them (I should mention that he told me he’d literally run 100 ultramarathons in the past, so I didn’t really feel bad that he was faster than me). I was left in their dust and put my head down to get back into the solo running zone.

It was wonderful to pass the sole aid station around km 12.5 (I can’t remember if I made that distance up or if someone told me that). I didn’t actually stop to use anything, but I knew that although the climbing continued after the aid station, it wasn’t for too much longer. That was a good thing, because I already felt pretty tired. It was kind of funny to think that the fastest racers were already close to the finish line at that point. But also kind of not funny.

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Some super swaggy swag, which I will tell you about later if you keep reading this very long post.

After the aid station, the trails opened up a little and became more technical. There was lots of rocky running – it reminded me a bit of parts of my Pukaskwa hike (minus the views of Lake Superior). The trails continued up and up and up until eventually, there was a clearing that appeared to be the top. There was a bench conveniently located to take in the view. I so wanted to sit down for awhile (and by sit down I mean lie down and nap), but on I went.

As it turns out, that wasn’t the official top – but it was pretty close. Not long after, I hit a sign that said “Comfortably Numb – Descent”. I definitely hollered.

The down was technical and tiring, but sooooo infinitely better than the uphill. A lot of it was exposed (as in not in the forest), so it would have been a slog if it had been hot and sunny. I focused on keeping my brain sharp and watching my footing, as there were tripping hazards everywhere. Believe it or not, I even passed a few people on the downhill, which meant I probably wouldn’t finish dead last – yay!

After a little while going downhill, my feet started feeling… well, comfortably numb. Maybe even uncomfortably numb. Parts of the trail were really rocky, and landing on pointy rocks kind of hurts. I felt some rubbing on both of my big toes, which wasn’t ideal, but then I remembered that the quicker I ran, the quicker I’d be done. I should be a motivational speaker.

Eventually, I saw a guy on the trail. There hadn’t been any marshals on course (just the people at the aid station), which was no big deal because it was very well flagged. I recognized the guy from the Helly Hansen dryland training sessions I used to go to when I lived in Whistler (I highly recommend these, by the way). At that moment, he looked like a glorious angel – he told me there was 2.7k left to go.

He conveniently neglected to mention that shortly after I passed him, the trail would go uphill for a bit. Thankfully, that didn’t last long – it became less technical and more flat soon thereafter. I started seeing a few mountain bikers, which meant I was close to civilization. Seriously, you feel like you’re waaaaay out there on the trail. It was nice knowing I was close.

I hollered some more when I saw a sign announcing that there was only 1k to go. It felt like a very long k, but sure enough, the trail eventually spit me out at the finish line 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 6 seconds after I’d started. Was I happy with this time? Well, the short answer is heck yes. That was a really long and challenging run for me, and I was so happy that I still had energy and a smile on my face right up to the finish line. I can sincerely say I enjoyed myself and had fun. Looking at times from previous years, I guessed I’d roll in somewhere around 3:30, so 3:42 wasn’t horribly far off. It put me towards the back of the pack (83/104 overall, 45/61 for women), but that didn’t really bother me.

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Photo: Rob Shaer

Sometimes I wonder if writing race recaps as a slower person is a reasonable thing to do. To be honest, it can feel like the accomplishment of running the race isn’t as worthwhile as the accomplishment of the person who came 1st or 15th or whatever. But then I remember that I ran the exact same kilometers as they did – my feet ran (or, let’s be real, sometimes walked) the same terrain theirs did. There’s no shame in being on the slower side, right? I’m on the slower side of a group of people who feel like running ~23k of tough terrain is a reasonable thing to do on a Saturday morning. That’s a good group to be part of, no matter where you finish in the pack.

(Email me for my rates as a motivational speaker).

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Best. Finish. Line. Snacks. Ever.

The finish line was DOPE! Here is why:

  • It finished outside the Nick North clubhouse. Classy!
  • Finishers got this super rad Helly Hansen hat that makes me feel 33% cooler than I actually am.
  • FINISH LINE FOOD. ICED CINNAMON BUNS FROM HOT BUNS. NEED I SAY MORE?
  • I won a draw prize – a Helly Hansen base layer top. Winning is the best.
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#Winning

I feel pretty confident in saying that I will be running this race again next year. Goal: have as much fun as I did this year.