Baden Powell from Grouse to Deep Cove
On account of the snow we faced last weekend, Gottfried decided to move our training run to a more temperate climate. He chose to run the Baden Powell trail, starting at the Grouse Grind parking lot and heading East, to the top of what is known as “The Seymour Grind”, which is really the high point of the Baden Powell on Seymour Mountain, where it meets “Old Buck” trail.
Sunday was the morning of the Vancouver Sun Run, so the entire of downtown was going to be pretty much cordoned off… So I couldn’t sleep in, despite the run being moved an hour closer to my house! Oh well.
I got up early, grabbed my stuff packed the night before, grabbed the dog, and headed off. I wanted to get through the city early, so I was going to walk the dog up on the mountain instead, so save 30 mins. I figured she might enjoy the little road trip, too.
We got through downtown with no delay, and I took her for a little walk around the Cleveland Dam park. It was super cold out. I was in shorts, and freezing. We walked around for a while until I couldn’t cope with the cold, and we headed up to the Grind.
Parked at the Grind, and walked the dog some more, in the trails. Finally 8 AM came around, so I stuck the dog in the back of the truck and met the other runners. I recognized a couple of faces. Dana (?) and another girl whose name eludes me. Nicola and Gretel showed up as well, which was good, so I knew I would have someone to run with!
We posed for our group photo (as more and more runners continued to filter in) before taking off.
We ran the Baden Powell directly from the base of Grouse. Well, “run” is a misnomer. It’s very steep there, so we mostly hiked. I wanted to run right off the bad, but Nicola took the lead with a pretty tame speed. She is damned fast when she wants to be, and knew the trail well, so I was content to match her pace. (I would later be glad I did!)
After ages of pretty steep climbing it finally levelled out and we were able to start running. One guy was out in front (who I didn’t know, but he looked intense) and we wouldn’t see him again until almost reaching the halfway point.
The three of us ran along at a very conservative pace. We walked all the big hills. We stopped for small breaks. Nothing too intense. I had run this trail almost completely before, and so I didn’t worry about where we were headed. It was nice out, and it was a nice run. Gretel seemed a bit tired, Nicola seems to be faster than ever, and I felt good but a bit sluggish, probably because of my 26 km the day before.
Eventually Nicola picked up the pace even further, out near the end of the trail, and we were humming along quite nicely. Gretel was sweating bullets, Nicola looked strong, and I was starting to feel it. I was experiencing what I thought was some pain in my calf again, which stressed me out. I realized after a while that it was actually pain right in the “narrow” part of my Achilles tendon, however. So that was good?? I mentioned this to someone and they suggested perhaps it was the new shoes. That hadn’t occurred to me.
We ran on. Now my left foot was hurting in the same place, more sharply. So I kind stayed off my toes, ran carefully… etc. Wasn’t too bad, just sore.
Finally we reached the halfway mark. It had taken us probably 2:25 to go about 16.5 km! It’s a slow trail… but that meant only 32 km or so total, and I had intended to run 40. I asked the girls if they wanted to keep going to Deep Cove, but they both declined. So I agonized for a bit, then decided to go on
Since we were at the “top” of the Seymour section, it was all downhill to Deep Cove! I ran pretty quickly, making up some serious time and feeling good. Sometimes you just need to shake out the legs, you know?
I made it to the end of the trail (or close… the rocky lookout anyway) in about 30 mins, so roughly 20.5 km in 3 hours. Now, to head back.
Oops. Except that I felt some super sharp pains in my Achilles! Oh crap. 20 km to go, most of it uphill, and my Achilles are experience stabbing electrifying pains. Damnit. Oh well. Slow and steady wins the race, I guess. So I start my hobble back, expecting to be out here for about 6 hours total. Ouch. At least the sun was shining! And then I remembered the dog.
I had left the dog in the truck when it was early morning, and freezing cold. I leave the dog in the truck every day at work, so I can take her out for walks at noon. She does just fine. But now, what was that shining orb in the sky? The sun?! It was hot. The windows were almost all the way up. Parked in an exposed parking lot, with black tinted windows. “Oh shit,” I thought to myself, “my dog is going to die.”
So much for “hobbling” or “taking it slow”. I ramped it up to full on race mode. I ran up hill, sprinted down hill. I cut corners, leaped over rocks, and tore through the woods like a deer. A very frightened deer.
I was exhausted, and there are some steep hills. I powered up, hands on my knees, panting like a madman. I swore at the hills. “F*$#k! F#$% you!” and sprinted the downhills. I would pass people, frothing at the mouth, panting, yelling at myself “Hurry up you moron, faster. Go faster!” between breaths. They would hastily move off of the trail, giving way.
I cut a few corners, skipping a short section or two at Lynn Valley, and considered taking the streets. I didn’t know the way, however! I was worried I’d get lost. I thought “20 km, that’s not that far…” then I would visualize all the sections I knew were coming, and be struck with the enormity of my task. I calculated how long it would take. I looked up at the sky, the gorgeous sun shining brightly through the forest canopy, the sunniest day I’ve seen in 10 months. Then put my head down and get back to the task at hand.
How long can a dog last in a hot car? How long before she goes into a coma, before her heart stops? Would someone notice? Would she break out of her cage in a last ditch attempt at survival? Or fade quietly? Would the other runners remember the dog? Would I come back to a fireman giving mouth-to-nose to my dog, an IV drip in her front paw? I was delirious, imaged myself carrying her overheated body to the water filled pond nearby. Would that do the trick? Would she drink? I would hold her snout out of the water, so she didn’t drown.
I ran on. I had planned my food carefully for precisely a 4.5 hour run. I was rehearsing my race fuelling strategy, and so I had gels, electrolytes, water, and a carb powder concoction. But carefully metered for 4.5 hours. I was running out. I stuck to the schedule, even though exhaustion and dehydration were setting in. I hadn’t anticipated this pace. I would eat a gel every 45 minutes, a drink every 15, a carb drink every 60. Keeping track of the math, analyzing pace and ETA, it’s enough to keep you busy until the next 15 minute interval.
I ran on. Finally I reached a section of trail I knew very well. But now, it all seemed new. What was this?? Where did all this trail come from? I cursed out loud every new turn I didn’t recognize. I sprinted through the forest. I was running sub 5 minute pace at times, and I was pleased, if only briefly.
It was an odd thing. In an emergency, can you really sustain that feeling of urgency? Can you sustain it for 3 hours? 4 days? I thought of the movie “The English Patient”.
It’s a known fact, from fighting, that you cannot stay angry when you’re tired. Can you stay stressed? Can you stay sad? I doubted it. In moment of extreme emotion, I can’t keep running. Extreme emotion will stop me in my tracks. So the converse must also be true: extreme physical exertion will stop your emotions in their tracks. So I couldn’t dwell on my dog being dead, at my hand. I tried not to dwell on her last horrible moments of delirium, dying alone in a heated cage. We don’t all die alone, but she would, and it would be my fault.
“Why did I bring the dog? It’s her fault! It’s her fault for not running. It’s not my goddamn fault she’s crated. Goddamn dog, why won’t you run!? It’s your fault you’re in that damned crate! … I’m sorry. I’m sorry Tuna. It’s not your fault. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was a harsh owner. I should have let you play with sticks. Shit! Who cares if she smells the fucking flowers??”
How would I live with myself?? I decided I would never get another dog. She would be the only dog I ever owned. Obviously I would never get another dog. I had proven, without any doubt and with complete finality, that I was unfit to care for anything. I would probably retire just leave. Go to South America to self-destruct in the jungle. Pick bar fights with Columbians until I was killed.
The run was endless. The sun bore down. The hours passed. I ran out of food, despite finding a spare gel in my pack. I sprinted on.
Finally, in the distance, I saw two girls that I’d started running with. It was 5 hours into my run, and I was nearing Mosquito Creek. The kilometres were being discarded, but it seemed like so many remained!
I met them, sprinted past. They said “I heard you ran to Deep Cove?” I panted yes, but that I had to go, see you at the finish line. I left them in a hurry, sprinted up the last hill, the very last hill, and burst out of the forest into the road. Now it was a straight line to the parking lot. I sprinted faster. I was running sub 4 minute km now, hikers giving me a wide berth as I tore down the dirt and gravel path. The car was so close!
I kept my eyes to the right, looking for pool of water I planned to dunk the dog in. I would hop in the car directly, if she was unmoving, drive down here, and drop her in the lake. The vet would be closed, it would be her only hope. I found the spot, a wide shallow pool with cold, running water. Only a few yard from the end of the parking lot.
I ran through the parking lot. So long! So steep. So, so hot. Black asphalt gravel stuck to my shoes. I cursed the parking lot. I looked up at the sun… yeah, no shade to be had. Shit!
The parking lot felt endless. It was so, so hot. I was running on empty. I could imagine the girls up on the hill behind me, watching me crawl. They would know. They would show up while I held my dead dog in a pool of water.
Finally, I reached the car! I tapped on the rear window as I unlocked the door…
The dog raised her head, yawned, stretched. She was fine. Out of water, but more concerned with eating sticks than drinking. Phewf. She would live to disobey another day!
I fared pretty well. I ended up cutting 45 minutes off my “out” time, to cover the last 20 km in 2:15. Total distance was 39.7 km in 5 hours and 15 minutes. In terms of time, this was the longest run of my life, by about 26 minutes. In terms of distance, I’ve run further a few times, but certainly never harder!
My Achilles are hurting, a few days later. But my race fuelling strategy was great. No muscle soreness, barely tired, feeling great. Looking forward to another training run next weekend!
I think I’ll leave the dog at home next time…
Running is life, and death.