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!

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.