Saturday morning, after a week of taking it very easy (nursing that injury), I went for a lovely 20 km run through the wooded trails outside of UBC. I drove there, shaving off 10 km, so I would have more time to run on trails. It was perfect. Tons of people hiking or jogging with their dogs, tons of runners, perfect weather. I ate gels, ran wherever I wanted, explored the forest. My leg was completely pain free. Pretty much an ideal run. Which was good, because Sunday would turn out to be pretty much the inverse of ideal!
Sunday morning now, bright and early. Up at 5:45 or some ungodly hour like that, out with the dog and then off to Squamish. I drank my new fancy electrolyte drink, listened to some Robb Wolf podcasts, and enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately, it had started raining, hard, and I didn’t have much hope that it would clear up. To my relief, it did seem like the rain was falling more lightly as I drove past Squamish, to our goal, a turn off to Retta Lake.
I arrived on time, and the rest of the team showed up shortly thereafter. (I am the most punctual of the group, you’ll be happy to know. I’ll be late intentionally next time, I don’t wanna get a reputation.) A car-load of girls confusedly drove by, then came back to rejoin us. I recognized none of them. Of the maybe 10 or so runners, I only recognized four runners from the first training run, including Gottfried (race director), Emry (sp?) or “The Man Who Knew The Way”, the Australian, Gretel, and a girl named Nicola. I got ready, lubed my feet, and we got our little race briefing. Of note was the reassurance that there was “only a short bit of hard packed snow” in one section and that it would be pretty easy going. And, as usual, we were off!
The beginning of the run was nice, up and through the Brohm Lake trails, eventually joining the trail we ran last weekend, and descending (along the dangerous steps and steep rocks) to Midnight Way. I think all in all it was about 7 km before we were breaking new ground.
I was joined quickly by Gretel, and we set off at a very reasonable pace. Nicola and a girl I would later meet, Jen, took off ahead. Gretel and I lost sight of them quickly on the first few hills, and that was fine. She wanted to take it easy, and I wanted to go slow to keep my calf from being re-injured. We chatted a bit as we ran. This is my favourite section of the trail thus far, and the pace was really chill.
We caught up with Jen and Nicola at a fork in the road, where they’d stopped, unsure of the way to go. It was unmarked, but there was a trail map, so we worked it out. So now, and for the remainder of the run, we four ran on together.
Through the Brohm Lake sections there are some really slippery steps, and this week it was Jen’s turn to slide her shins into the steps, in the same spot (perhaps the exact same step) as Nicola did last week. Eek! She seemed pretty sore, so we slowed down a LOT and plodded our way down the mountainside. There was a lot of chit-chat, and not a lot of concentration on the trail, and we were going disturbingly slow. I didn’t really mind, but part of me was like c’mon girls, let’s see some hustle. It is worth noting that the 3 girls knew each other, so I just hung out back, ate my gels, and made sure I didn’t break an ankle.
Finally we got off that rock slide, and we picked up the pace. My legs felt really heavy, my pack was really heavy (intentionally ,with 3 L of water) and I was actually working somewhat to keep up, so I was happy. We ran for what felt like ages along the gravel road, and honestly I am struggling to remember much of the trail. Much of it was road, for certain, with possibly some intermissions of steep gravel / rocky sections. I ran them all, but waited at the top for the girls. Not that they were far behind, they were just being more conservative on the uphills. I hate walking the hills unless I have to, so I just didn’t bother.
At one point we ran past a movie set. Jen theorized that they were filming another Twilight movie, and I noticed that all the girls’ running form immediately improved. They pranced along with smiles, wiped their sweaty brows, and tried to look their best in case a casting director needed a Bella replacement. They were also frantically trying to catch a glimpse of a shirtless werewolf or a shiny vampire, but it was not to be. Dejected, they ran on.
The course, at some point, becomes a real trail. I can’t for the life of me remember when and how, but there were some really nice fine gravel sections working our way up and out of the Cheakamus Canyon. We stopped and took a picture, and though it was overcast and foggy, we were in great spirits!
Then we hit the highway. At this point, the trail follows the highway for almost 5 kilometres! Despite it being nearly all downhill (or flat), it was a real mental battle. The rain was getting to me (I was completely soaked) and the cars rushing by, spraying water everywhere… I was ready for it to be over. I pushed the pace pretty hard, and the girls followed suite. I just wanted it to be over. And finally it was. Sorta.
We had reached what I believe is “Chance Creek”. We crossed a rotten wooden bridge, and were faced with a massive amount of snow. “Not to worry,” we reassured ourselves, “it’s only a few 100 meters of snow!” Indeed, the snow, very deep in places, stopped pretty soon. Only to re-start immediately, and then not let up for several kilometres! Wow, the battle continues.
Keep in mind, of course, that it’s been raining the entire time, and I am literally drenched. I brought a rain jacket, but it was much too warm. Running in snow is a challenge, but my Asics (which I just retired, after 1700 km!) were completely smooth, and that makes it damned near impossible.
Soon we reached a giant … puddle. Puddle is a misnomer. A little lake / pond had flooded over the road. Nicola went first, trying to skirt around, and promptly plunged through the snow into knee deep water. She decided “oh well” and just wades through the huge pool of ice water. Ouch. Now the rest of the girls follow! Ok, that’s way too intense for me. These girls are nuts. I’m going around. I gingerly try to walk around, and sure enough, my foot goes through and I’m standing in knee deep water. Damnit.
Ok, I figure, well, I’m soaked now, no point wasting my time, so I just jog the rest of the way in the water, literally over knee deep, while the girls pluck their way through the woods. My feet were so cold! I had to stop to wring out my socks. Then we kept running through more snow.
Finally (finally!) we reach the end of the snow, and the end is near. We run some soggy gravel trails, and then hit the road near Retta Lake, and race for the cars. Phewf! The longest 30 km of my life is now over. Thank goodness for that!
In the end, we ran 28.19 km in 3:15:37, for a roughly 6:56 min/km pace, which I felt pretty good about, despite feeling very sluggish. In the end, the rain and cold are but distant memories (as is, sadly, most of the trail… this is why it’s not great to run in a group, although that day I definitely needed the company!) and I’m looking forward to the next one, which I believe will follow nearly the same course. Looking forward to it. Hopefully the sun is shining, and with my new shoes I hope my traction in the snow is better. If not, I’ll be thinking about picking up a pair of microspike thingies.
Here’s my Garmin plot from the run:
Running is life.