Tuesday, December 17, 2013

There and Back Again, A Runner's Tale

On Saturday, we planned to hike to Elfin Lakes and stay the night, taking on our first winter camping adventure together. We chose this route specifically because there is a hut you can stay in overnight. Since neither of us have much experience camping in the snow, (except one long weekend that involved -30 degree weather, little sleep, nausea, and some frozen Pepto Bismol, but perhaps I'll save that story for another day) we felt this was a good place to start. We figured there would be a decent amount of snow given the recent weather, and double checked webcams from similar elevations. All packed and ready to spend a night, we drove up to the trail-head just north-east of Squamish expecting a winter wonderland. As we drove higher and higher we began to question how much snow would really be at the top. We reached the lower parking lot only to be greeted with... RAIN! Rain, rain, rain! It was supposed to be snowing, not raining! After a lengthy debate and a short (and very icy) exploratory hike, we decided it wasn't the wonderland we had hoped for, so home we went. We wanted real winter camping! Plus, snowshoeing on ice doesn't sound all that fun.

As we didn't get to do the planned 22+ km snowshoe, we had to switch gears to get in an appropriate amount of training. This is when Chris told me that the run up the Volcano is 36 MILES! Now, I'm sure he had told me this before and I just wasn't paying attention, but I was so worried about the elevation gain I wasn't even thinking of the distance! So, the new plan was to run (with some walking) to Grouse Mountain from UBC, do the BCMC trail, then run home after taking the Skyride down (to save ourselves the pain from such a nasty downhill). This would get us approximately the distance of a marathon, with some grand uphill in there for kicks! Am I the only one blown away by this?! Who just goes out one Sunday afternoon and says oh we're just going to run a marathon today?! Bunch of crazies! I wasn't quite sure I was in the right mind set to make the distance, as I wasn't having the best week ever, so of course we headed out anyways. We had gone to see the late night showing of The Hobbit, Part 2 on Saturday so I must say I was a little sleepy as well.
The Trail Effect Blog - Run to Grouse Mountain
Looking back on our accomplishment!
Despite leaving the house as two of the seven dwarfs (grumpy and sleepy), it didn't take long before the glorious sunshine cheered me right up, and I replaced those two dwarfs with a third, happy!

We managed to accomplished more than I expected, making the 13.6 mile run to Grouse in just over 2 hours. This included some planned walking to make sure we could complete the distance, having not really trained long distance for a while. The road up to Grouse is always surprisingly steep, but we were able to run the whole thing, which felt amazing, but made the climb up the BCMC that much harder. When we started the BCMC, I felt like I may as well have been crawling. Food and water helped a bit, but it definitely felt like we were going slow. The trail was fine for the first three-quarters, and then it got slippery! This was as expected, having seen the conditions only a week prior. As we reached the icy section, we ran into several people on an unexpected trek down the mountain. They informed us that there was the crazy line-up at the top of Grouse, likely a couple hours wait to get down. Apparently the red gondola was having issues, and the line-up was all the way out the door and past the skating rink! We chose to tough it out, figuring we could stop for a well deserved bite to eat at the top and warm up a bit. We realized fairly quickly that with only our light running jackets and now wet gloves, we were ill-prepared to wait in an hour long line outside on the top of a snowy mountain. We noticed they were starting to send people down the blue gondola, so this is when I started to try and bribe people. I worked my way up the chain of employees politely asking if there was a way we could hold our place in line without waiting outside. I'm not sure whether the nice man just took pity on us because we were dressed so stupidly, but we got down in the first load of people they sent on the service gondola. To whoever the nice man who helped us get on that gondola is, THANK YOU! Really. You may my day.

Once we finally got to the bottom of Grouse, we were pretty darn cold, and took off back down the hill trying to get warmed up. I'm not really sure how to explain the next part of the run. There was a lot of cold, and my IT band hurt pretty bad, but it was cold, so I couldn't stop. Well, I could stop. But I didn't.
Then the french fries we had eaten at the top of Grouse came back to haunt me. I guess my stomach didn't like them as much as I did... but I only ate a few!

In the end, I ran until my stomach wouldn't let me, and then I walked, and ran and walked and ran and walked until my legs started to hurt and I started to go crazy. My favourite part was singing the word OW to the tune of various Christmas songs! It actually helped for a bit. And then I realized why I was saying ow. Then it stopped helping.

But we DID IT! 25 Miles and 5+ hours later.
Mission accomplished.

Keep the bugs off your bumper and the bears off your t(r)ail!

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