Showing posts with label Race Report. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Race Report. Show all posts

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - My recent lack of motivation and surprising success at the Orca's Island 50k

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud!

Before we dive into the glorious mudbowl that was the 2015 edition of the Orcas Island 50km, let's step back a few months so that we can apologize for our lack of riveting blogging material.

Cascade Falls along the race course
I'll attribute my lack of writing to a few roadblocks I hit in the final months of 2014:
September - My failure to complete REDFAM left me rather disappointed (Probably not the best way to recover from a big race, but I'll keep dreaming!). 
October - I had to work the weekend of the Cultus Lake Giv'r take 30, which left me further unmotivated. 
November - I chose to go for the short 12k Phantom race to work on my speed a little (I've previously done the 19k and 24k). My ankle was giving me a bit of trouble so I wore my ankle brace, unfortunately this resulted in my right leg going numb for the latter half of the race (Is it worth stopping to take off your ankle brace in such a short race, or do you just suck it up?). I still set a PB for the course - so it's not all bad!

Hardly events to brag about - and nothing I was motivated to write about at the time.

In December we had begun training for the Orca's Island 50, and we'd rang in the new year with a solid 15 mile long run distance.
If I thought the end of 2014 was frustrating, the start of 2015 brought in a whole new bag of surprises.
I started off the year feeling a little tired/dizzy. I had myself convinced I was iron deficient right up until the doctor told me I had a low platelet count. This led to a few more blood tests, and a whole lot of worrying. Needless to say, with the start of January came very little running.
After a few more visits to the doctor I was assured that everything was fine and I could run along as usual (it was probably just a nasty virus).  This left me a whole two weeks to train for the race! Who needs to taper? We'll just train through it and hope we survive!

View from Mt. Constitution - the highest point in the race
Had to go back the next day for this view!
With at least one 18 miler under my belt in the last few weeks, we headed over to the island the night before the race. Had we been a little more prepared, we may have managed to get on a ferry that got us to the island before 11 PM. Lucky for us when we got to the island all the campsites were full too! Thankfully we had set up a nice little bunker in the back of the new outback to snooze in on the ferry and we were able to park right next to the race start to get in a good six hour sleep (Who can actually sleep the night before a race, anyways?). Not me! The pouring rain all night was not a sleep aid. 
We woke up to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, and with little time invested in training for the race there was VERY little motivation to get out of bed that morning.
Somehow I managed to pull myself together, pull on a rain jacket, and start the race. 
I did not regret this decision.... yet.
The first hour of the race I was a small child stomping through mud puddles without a care in the world. And then the first uphill came. The uphills were relentless, and the downhills were so mud-logged none of us knew whether we were running or skiing.
A few hours into the race I had a pretty good idea this was going to be a full day affair. And then the uphill came. The real uphill. By this I mean straight uphill practically crawling through the mud, and just when you think its over you turn the corner, look up into the sky, and see people. WAY. UP. THERE.

I don't know how I kept going. But I do know a good part of my motivation was knowing that if I finish I can say I've done it and I will NEVER have to do it again. Never again until next time, right?!
Zoomed shot of Mt. Baker!
I don't remember what I ate, though I'm confident it wasn't near enough. However, I do very clearly remember the second aid station, where it was announced someone had gone to the hospital as they had fallen and been spiked with a branch. 
I managed to only fall once the whole race - but I did have several Matrix like near-fall events.
I would like to thank the nice runner who lit a fire under my butt at 12:25 when he says "I think the aid station cutoff is 12:30." I ran the next few miles a lot faster than I needed to, at least until I realized that was the cutoff for the previous aid station.
After nearly 8 hours of sliding around in the glorious mud, I crossed the finish line!
I still can't believe I did it!! Not too bad considering our longest training run was about 3 hours!

At the end of it all, I have to say I would go back, despite telling Chris I'd never do another one of these when I crossed the finish line (what's the definition of insanity again?). I would hope for a little less mud next time, but what's the fun in that?!

I left Orcas island motivated as ever - and ready to plan our next running adventure!

Let's go lets go lets go!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Less pain, more fun, and my love of aid stations

Even before the race I knew things were going to be different at this year's FatDog120. Training was going really well, we managed to get out for a number of runs on the course, and we put in some really long back-to-back days through July. All that training gave me the confidence to go into the race without a pacer or crew, plus I knew that if I went really slow my dad or Jenna would catch up to me, so all was good.
On Thursday the pre-race briefing in Manning Park was a real eye-opener... there was five times more people than last year, so many that they were spilling out the doors! And thanks to Peter, (assistant RD) they all knew I was 'the guy wearing the silver skirt in last year's race video', yay...
Hoards of runners at the start line!
Anyway, we stayed the night at Stemwinder campground near Keremeos, and somehow managed to get a full 9 hours of sleep!
The morning of the race we were greeted by throngs of people! We had two bus-fulls driving to the start, which I thought was a lot, but arriving at the actual start was something else entirely. Vehicles were lined up all along the small dirt road by Lakeview Creek Campground - We're definitely not in Kansas anymore!

At 10:02 AM on Friday, the gun (bear banger) went off and it was time to hit the trails. Things went fairly smoothly up the first climb to Red Mountain through Cathedral Park. I wasn't having any foot or shoe problems like I did last year at this time so I was hopeful! Also, it only sprinkled on us for about five minutes before clearing up for the rest of the day. Thanks to Sam for the company on this section!

Pano of the top of Red Mountain in Cathedral Park! (Sam in the left corner)
Coming into Ashnola, the first major aid station, I was right on track for a 40-hour finish according to my pace chart from UltraSplits. The second climb up to Trapper Aid went well and I got in a few minutes before my pace schedule. From here I ran up to Flattop Mountain with a fellow from Victoria - the people are great at these races. Near the top I was warned by another runner that if I wasn't careful I'd take off 10 hours from last year's time. All I could think from then on was that if I was careful I could take off 10 hours from my time!

Calcite Aid Station was in a slightly different spot this year which was a little confusing, but it had some really great food nonetheless - salted potatoes, cheese quesadillas, and some sort of greasy fried bread... so yummy!
On the descent into Pasayten River I saw the first hint of sun all day. It was just the motivation I needed to run the final bit to the river crossing. The water felt so good I could have stayed in there for hours, but instead I had to settle for a refreshing rinse off. At this point I was half an hour ahead of schedule, uhoh!

Reaching Bonnevier Aid, I was pampered by the volunteers offering all sorts of foods and drinks as I changed my socks and shoes and got my night stuff ready (bear bell, music, headlamp, shot bloks with caffeine, etc). I probably should have taken them up on the offer and eaten more at this point because by half way up the climb to Heather Aid I was feeling extremely tired. From 10pm to 12am, it was all I could do to keep moving and not fall asleep on the trail! Luckily, there was another runner that I was able to tag along with for a little extra motivation. The real motivation though was the cheese quesadillas waiting at Heather Aid Station! And trust me, they didn't disappoint!
I tried not to stay long at Heather because it was rather chilly - we were in the clouds and there was a breeze over the alpine meadows. However, I did end up staying for nearly 15 minutes while drinking hot chocolate and eating.

Running towards Nicomen lake was certainly an adventure! The mist from the clouds made it hard to see more than several feet ahead on the trail. The only good part about the clouds was that they kept the day's heat in, at least when the wind wasn't blowing. The final descent into Nicomen Lake was the most treacherous part, given the rocky, scree-like nature of the trail and a slight lack of flagging for the misty conditions. At times I truly wondered if I was on the right trail at all! I did pull out my Suunto and reassure myself using the navigation functions that I was on the right track a couple times.
Finally at Nicomen, I enjoyed the most delicious piece of bacon I have ever had!! It was exactly what I needed at that point. Somehow I spent 10 minutes at the aid station, what could I possibly be doing for that time?! Continuing on I was feeling great, if not a little worried that I was still going too fast as I had reached Nicomen Lake 50 minutes ahead of schedule!

The descent into Cayuse Flats seems to take forever. Fortunately, my feet were still mostly intact (only a couple tender spots), unlike the fellow that I ran part of the descent with. I changed my socks at Cayuse and told myself I had to get them taped and fixed at Cascades if I didn't want to hate myself for the rest of the race. It was great to see Tim's mom helping out at Cayuse (she makes the best jam squares in case you were wondering!). Skagit Bluff Trail, and all of its glorious hills, wasn't nearly as long this year as it was last! Clearly, our training was paying off.

I managed to reach Cascades an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, yikes! But then I spent 45
Hanging out at Cascades aid station
minutes at the aid station drying my feet and getting them taped (thank you!) and eating everything I could! Potatoes, broth and watermelon are seriously fantastic!
Back on the road, it was time for the second highway section, which I managed to run at a reasonable pace and gain back some of the lost time from my prolonged stay at the aid station.
A quick stop at Sumallo Grove to use the bathroom and I was off and running. Yes, actually running! Not fast, mind you, but I'm fairly sure I did 11 or 12 minute miles for several miles. All this was spurred on by the fact I (momentarily) thought I could make a 36 hour finish. All I had to do was run the 10 miles from Sumallo to Shawatum in 2 hours, then the next section to Skyline in 2 hours, and that would leave me with 8 hours for the final 20 miles from Skyline to the finish. It sounded doable... until I got tired of maintaining a 12 minute mile pace halfway to Shawatum. Maybe 36 wasn't quite so doable, but sub-40 was still a possibility. It was at this point that I got passed by one of the 50-mile racers who encouraged me to run with him... yeah right!

I did manage to run the last couple miles into Shawatum, though this was really only possibly because walking was hurting the calluses on my heels - I thought those things were supposed to help?
Coming into Shawatum I was 1h20m ahead of the 40 hour pace, but I again spent a bunch of time at the aid station. Over 20 minutes, in fact, while I had my toes re-taped. This did give me time to refuel and rebugspray.
The next section to Skyline seemed to actually take forever, even longer that the part into Cayuse! I just wasn't going very fast; my feet were starting to get sore and the hills (I forgot that they were there) just weren't expected. I also may have been getting a little tired and delirious as I mistook a couple different stumps/bushes for people on the trail, oops. I was still doing 20 minute miles, so it could have been worse!

34 hours into the race, still looking fresh!
Skyline aid was a very welcome sight. Here I took the time to dry my feet and get them taped properly (thanks guys!) and change into my Altra Olympus shoes, a recent addition to my collection. I also took the time to devour some exceptionally delicious food. Really, it was heavenly! There was bacon and eggs and hashbrowns and smoothies! This really got me fueled up for the climb to Camp Mowich, which was fairly uneventful. I managed to reach the top in 3h15m, the same as when we hiked it in training! And the best part was that the sun didn't set till I was just out from the aid station.

My attempt at photographing one of the two owls I saw on
Skyline 2 trail. The two bright spots in the middle are its eyes.
At this point I was still an hour ahead of my 40 hour schedule, and I was still feeling fairly fresh. However, sitting at aid stations was starting to feel a little too good, I never wanted to move. On the trails the only thing that was bothering me were my feet and it was only really the downhills that hurt. I could still truck along on the flats and ups without any discomfort, but heck, whose feet wouldn't be a little sore at this point.

Peter and Nicola at Sky Junction!
After a seemingly long hike from Camp Mowich, I could finally hear familiar voices emanating from Sky Junction up through the trees. Things really started getting going at this point - I kicked it into high gear and ran (I think it was a run...) up the final switchbacks to Sky Junction aid station. I was greeted by the wonderful sight
and heckling of Peter (from before) and Nicola (also extremely involved in FatDog). These two are seriously awesome!

Fed and ready to go, I hit the trails. With only 8 miles left I could sense the finish line was getting close. And being nearly 4 hours ahead of my 40-hour schedule was a great feeling. Downhills still hurt a bit, but that was subsiding, surprisingly! I know some of the other racers were complaining about the last sections, but it seriously felt like I flew up some of those false peaks!
Coming down through the burnt out forest I could see there was potential to come in exactly 9 hours ahead of last year's time ie. do a 39h01m, and darn if I wasn't going to try for it! At about 2 to 2.5 miles from the finish I really kicked, getting down below 8 minute miles for the final portion around the lake.
There's not much better than that final 'sprint' to the finish of a race. Everything that you've done to get there, whether it's in training or during the race, sort of culminates in a final hoorah! and that just feels plain amazing!

I finished in 39h02m, 1 minute after my goal time of 39h01m, according to my watch that had been going since the second the gun went off so very long ago. (The finish line clock showed 39h04m)
Unfortunately, there was basically no one at the finish line since it was midnight. But after a little bit I look up from my seat by the propane heater and see my mom has come to cheer me in... Her and my sister finished the 30 mile distance several hours before and had been sleeping in the car, so you really can't blame them for not being there when I finished. Thankfully they brought clothes for me to change into
Post-race relaxing!

Post-race celebrations included a delicious midnight bacon cheeseburger from the wonderful volunteers at the finish line, and the awards ceremony at 10am the next day, from which I got a watermelon (score!) and a free trail race entry (double score!)
Overall, much more fun was had at this year's FatDog120 trail race! And turns out, I spent over 3h20m in total at aid stations!!! I think I know where I could shave off a little bit of time in the future...


Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Fat Dog's Tale

It's Saturday August 16th at 4:45 in the morning. I wake up to my alarm blasting beside my head, hit the snooze button and snuggle back into my sleeping bag. Ten minutes later my alarm goes off again, I can hear Chris' family drag themselves out of the tent, and I know I have to do the same.
I finally muster up the courage to go out in to the cold and brave the day I'd known was coming for almost a year. I can't believe it's finally race day!

Foggy start to the FatDog70 up Blackwall Peak
It's now 7:00 am and Brad and I are loaded on the bus heading up to Blackwall Peak. It's warm enough outside to be in shorts and a shirt. We're hopeful the weather will hold and it does - sort of. We unload from the bus in the mist/fog/clouds to temperatures that have our teeth chattering, sending everyone scrambling for their jackets. After a short wait, we're off and running straight out into the alpine meadows. Although I know from training runs its absolutely beautiful up there, it was difficult to see more than a few meters away. It made for a pretty eerie start to the race!
I didn't make it far before I was hungry, since I always have trouble eating before a big race. Despite eating constantly, this hunger would plague me for the next 20 miles.
Let me just put this out there now... I'm not a strong starter. The first 20 miles was a mix of excitement that I was finally out doing the race and fear that I would get lost or run out of food.
About 5 miles in I was already on my own. I couldn't see far enough ahead to spot other runners, and I had no idea if there was anyone behind me. Though my legs were feeling good, I was rather tired and a little concerned as I'd already eaten half my food. I slogged through the next 20 miles, running where I could and walking pretty much every slight incline. By the time I made it to the first aid station (Cayuse flats), I had already had dangerous thoughts of failing at least 50 times.
Coming into Cayuse flats was one of the most motivating parts of the race. I had my watch on the minute gps recording intervals, so I came into the aid station 2 miles sooner than expected (according to my watch distance). My race crew (aka my family) was there to get me fed and back out on the course. I'm not sure what changed at that point, but I left Cayuse feeling like a whole new person. There are some nasty hills through the section between Cayuse and Cascade Aid Station that I powered through feeling rather fantastic.
The next section has a lot of aid stations close together, which was a blur of eating all the food I could stomach, and getting attacked by bug spray (thanks mom!). We also got to put on fancy safety vests and run on the highway for a bit which was fun!
Coming in to Shawatum aid station at mile 40
After Summallo Grove comes a flat section with nothing too exciting; I was feeling energized from all of the aid stations so there wasn't much to complain about. At this point the sun was out and it was glorious sweaty running along rolling hills. Though the flattest section before Shawatum aid station seemed to drag on forever, I finally made it back to my wonderful crew who fueled me up and sent me packing.
The next section was the only part of the racecourse I hadn't seen, which had me a little concerned. I'd been out on the trail for 10 hours by now, but I knew in 10 miles I'd have a pacer to drag me the last 20 , which was pretty darn motivating! The highlight of this section had to be the song that wouldn't leave my head, something like "walking on the trail with candy, walking on the trail with candy". Intelligent, eh? When I got bored of singing about my candy, I pulled out my mosquito net.  I was actually digging in my pack for electrolyte tablets, but decided I'd put it on the mozzy net and see if it helped. There were a few mosquitos buzzing in my ear - so it really couldn't hurt. This is when I knew I'd been running for too long, because I really don't know if it helped with the mosquitos, but it sure was a lot of fun. It added a new jungle like element to my vision that spiced things up a little. Though it did make it harder to eat candy.
I made it to the 50 mile mark (Skyline Aid), and was now excited knowing that despite the rather crappy start I could still make the full distance. I picked up my cousin - the BEST pacer in the world - grabbed my poles, and set out up the hill to break things! Yes, break things. But we'll get to that. Up until Skyline Aid I had been ignoring my pace chart completely, but I had the general feeling I was going pretty darn slow. Apparently, I was actually on pace for a 26 hour race (the cutoff being 27, my goal being 24), but thankfully nobody told me that.
I'd grabbed my poles at the last major aid station (Skyline) to help me get up and down the insane mountainous terrain that is the last 20 miles. Lucky for me, about 20 minutes in, the strap on my pole snapped, leaving me with a nice bracelet. A girl needs to feel pretty 50 miles in, right? The pole itself still worked just fine so we kept on truckin'. The next few hours are a blur of climbing uphill and stuffing down candy as darkness descended upon us. After 3+ hours of climbing in the dark we reached the descent into one of the remote aid stations - Camp Mowich.
I sat down to have some broth while the aid station crew filled my pack. A few minutes later I put my pack back on, and immediately tossed it right off. It was soaked! Of course my bladder was leaking. So we pulled out the bladder only to find a lovely little pinhole happily spouting out water. Nothing a little duct tape couldn't fix. A few minutes later I was all duct taped and ready to hit the trail.
And then I fell apart. It was about midnight, I was dead tired, sick of eating, overheating, and I felt like I could pass out any minute. Doing what any sane (ha!) person would do, I stopped and told my cousin we had to go back to the aid station - that I was too tired and I needed to sleep. She wasn't quite as convinced on heading back, as we had already hiked 15+ minutes uphill from the aid station. So she pulled out a garbage bag, sat me on the trail, and got me to eat and drink and recover for a few minutes. Shaking and still feeling like crap, I made the decision to go back to the aid station. So we started to hike back down the hill, stopping every 2 minutes because I wasn't entirely convinced I wanted to go back, and because I was feeling a little better. So after a quarter mile adventure back towards the aid station we again turned around and decided to trek the 8k to Sky Junction, where I could take a nice nap before continuing.
This was the hardest 8k I have ever done! I didn't want to eat, but if I didn't eat I started to feel sick so I had to eat. I battled this the whole race, but the waves of nausea and near loss of consciousness made it that much harder. So I kept moving forward, and eating, and drinking to stay awake. I don't suggest hydration as a means of staying awake, because I was overhydrated for the next 21k to the finish. I have to admit that having to pee every 5 minutes is a rather great way of staying awake on the trail, though its not very helpful for running.
We finally made it to Sky Junction. I had no idea what time it was nor did I care. They asked what I wanted and I said I needed a nap. I can't tell you how thankful I am that Peter (the assistant race director) was at that aid station. He sat me down on a nice ledge covered with a space blanket, handed me a giant can of pringles and refilled my leaky pack. He got me to put my music in, and pretty much just forget about everything. I'm not really proud to say this, but it took me 40 minutes to get myself off that ledge and muster up the strength to continue. If I wasn't getting cold I don't think I would have left. It also helped that it's further to hike out at this point than finish.
Now comes the fun part! It's 2am. I've finally dragged myself out of the aid station, and I'm on the top of a mountain singing - terribly, I might add. My pack is still leaking. It's duct taped, but there's a little too much water in it this time. So I spent the last 13k getting progressively soaked as my pack leaked all over me, and I had to stop to pee every 5 minutes. Have I sold you on how much fun I was having yet? BUT I MADE IT!
We finally came down the last hill into lightning lakes and the trail was lit with glow sticks to the finish line and it was incredible!! I crossed the finish line wet and cold at 4:30 in the morning - 4.5 hours faster than my predicted time after leaving skyline aid station at mile 50! My final finish time was 21h29m55s

Check out my awesome 'Fat Dog' pj's I won!
The most important part of this post is to say THANK YOU! First to the amazing volunteers and people at Mountain Madness who made this an INCREDIBLE race! The course was so well flagged you couldn't get lost, the aid station crews were always smiling, there wasn't a thing I could find to complain about!
Next to Chris for dragging me on all those training runs and never getting tired of me!
My family for all coming out to support me as my crew and pacer!
And of course all of my friends and family who had to listen to me talk endlessly of our running adventures/Fat Dog/how messy our house was!

You are all amazing and I would not be a Fat Dog without you!

J.B. Running

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My First Ultra - Dirty Duo 50k

After finishing the Dirty Duo 50k, I was inspired to read a little bit more about the great wide world of Ultra running I had just become a part of. It was during this search that I found many articles with advice on how to train for your first 50k, and what not to do before your first 50k. I chuckled as I read, thinking to myself that it might have been a smart idea to look this up BEFORE my race.

My favourite piece of advice by far was a gentle reminder to have everything ready a few days prior to your race, so that the night before can be nice and relaxing, and you aren't running around stressing out about not having everything, or not knowing where you're going.
Trail Effect Blog: Jenna Bowling finishing the Dirty Duo 50km Ultra
Coming in to the finish line with a smile on!

Here's how my pre-race prep went.
1. Get home from work later than usual
2. Receive nice laminated map of trail route (Thank you Chris!)
3. Get slightly intimidated by the fact I don't know the entire route
5. Proceed to locate every piece of running gear I own, drag it out into the living room, and panic because I don't know what to wear if it pours rain on me for 8 hours. (Of course there was a heavy rainfall warning)
6. Feel like nothing is going right, and that I haven't trained properly, and that I don't know what I'm doing, and I might not make it
7. Finally calm down, realize I've run the majority of the route, and settle on bringing all the rain gear I own in a drop bag.

Despite a chaotic night before the race, the morning of the race went well. We ate our usual pre-race rice (It's liquid gold pre-race - you should try it), and we were on our way.

I took the beginning of the race fairly slowly, knowing I had a better chance of running pain free if I paced myself. I settled in near the back of the pack with people who seemed more than happy to walk the hills. It was a nice warm day out, and there was no rain to be seen (YET!). It wasn't long before I took to running the hills (Still pain free! Woohoo!).

I continued on, motivated by a girl ahead of me who was running all the hills. There were a few where I wanted to stop and walk, but its always motivating trying to catch someone!

I had planned to eat every hour to start. Which worked for the first two hours, and then I lost track of time and just ate when I felt hungry or tired, and that seemed to work well enough. One of my favourite parts of the day was eating a vanilla clif shot from the second aid station, and realizing it tasted just like vanilla pudding. There is nothing better than running around in the woods while eating vanilla pudding. There's another one of those things you shouldn't do in an ultra - do not eat new foods for the first time during a race... EXCEPT when they taste like vanilla pudding. Jenna: 1 Ultra: 0.

Trail Effect Blog: Chris Cochrane running the Dirty Duo 50km Ultra
Chris on Bottletop Trail
I got to the nasty uphill section (aka the hill that never ends) feeling good, at this point it was starting to drizzle. I ran where I could, and walked when my glutes wouldn't let me run anymore. Then came the technical downhill section - Ned's Atomic Dustbin. I have to thank Chris for this again, usually I'm chasing him down this hill trying not to trip and fall and die as he barrels down like he's indestructible. This time I was the machine! I flew down there with no troubles and no pain, ready for my second lap!
It was at this point I decided that a 25 km race would have been awesome.... do I have to do 50?

By now it was pouring rain and I hadn't seen any 50k runners in a while; I sort of felt like I was the only one out there.The last 25k weren't all that eventful. The hills were harder, and it felt like I was walking more of them. My energy was dropping fast as I approached the hill that never ends for a second time. Nothing a little sugar and caffeine couldn't fix though! I knew once I got to the top the rest of the race was downhill! The second lap was made more fun by the increasing rain and mud puddles on the trail! That isn't even sarcastic. It was like being a little child stomping through the muddy trails.

I made it to the finish line in just over 6 hours, with the biggest smile on my face. I DID IT! You don't have to be superhuman to do Ultras, you just have to get out there and give it a shot (a vanilla clif shot...yummm)!

The Dirty Duo is a tough 50k, there are some gnarly uphills and some wicked downhills. But every rain soaked minute of it was FANTASTIC! The course was very well flagged, the aid stations were well placed and well stocked, and the volunteers were AMAZING! There was even a big lasagne feast after the race, which was delicious! Thank you Mountain Madness for putting on such a great race, you'll be seeing me again next year :)

Whens the next Ultra? Let'
s go let's go let's gooooooo!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 FatDog 120 Race Report - Part 3

Welcome back to the continuing saga of my FatDog experience. I left you last time just after Shawatum aid station. At this point it was just my dad and I as Diane Van Deren had run ahead. This section of the race will be the hardest to blog about for a couple of reasons. The first is that I was in incredible agony because of my feet, and the second is that I simply don't remember all of it. So, this post will be fairly brief.

I'll sum up the run from Shawatum to mile 98 as an ever increasing struggle to overcome my increasingly sore feet. At mile 98 I lost. I simply couldn't keep going, and as much as I don't want to admit this, I cried a little. Diane had warned me that ultras make you, and everyone else around you, emotional, but I don't think that was the reason I broke down at mile 98. Sure I had been up for the past 36 hours, and ran the last 33 of those, but I don't think that was the reason either. The reason was that I wasn't sure if I could finish. In fact, for a moment there I totally didn't think I could. And that was when I got to thinking about everyone who had put in so much time and effort to either run with me or to cheer me on. I thought of Jenna who hiked in and froze her butt off for 5 hours before running with me through the night, my mom for organizing everyone, cheering and keeping my pacers alive, and my dad who was right there beside me doing his best not to break down with me. I thought about how I had been looking forward to finishing this race for the last two years. I also thought about how much it would suck to be stuck at the Skyline aid station seeing as it is in the middle of nowhere! But mostly it was how much I wanted to finish so that everyone-else's effort wouldn't be wasted. So, with only a few hundred meters to Skyline aid station, something clicked and I pulled myself together. I'm not really sure what happened, but quite suddenly I was as determined as ever to finish.

Warming up at Camp Mowich. Great photo...
At Skyline aid station I had part of a cheese quesadilla, drank some gingerale and had a coke to go. After this things get fuzzy, but keep in mind that the last 20 miles of this race include some of the toughest climbs in the whole race. Anyway, the next thing I remember was undergoing what I'll call an involuntary gastric reinitialization. Not fun. After that I remember curling up on a space blanket on the side of the trail. I slept there for about 15 minutes according to the flat portion on the elevation profile I posted in Part 1 of this race report. After that, the next memory is of reaching Camp Mowich aid station as there was a nice little fire and hot chicken noodle soup. I'm pretty sure the soup was actually burning hot and I couldn't drink it, but that might just be a hallucination. Next up was Skyline Junction, the last aid station. Upon reaching here I instantly fell asleep on a mat they had there. Supposedly, a few minutes later someone looked over at me and asked my dad, "Is that your son sleeping face-down in the dirt?" To which he replied that I was probably fine, an opinion he quickly changed once he looked over too. What's more, even after righting me, I rolled right back into the dirt!

Thank you Ken!
I do remember some of what happened once the sun was starting to come up. The sweep for that section caught up with us somewhere after (or shortly before) the last aid station. Ken was truly fantastic and kept me moving forward, and eating! A big thanks to him.

The final descent into Lightening Lakes is a mean one given the rockiness of the upper section. Reaching the valley bottom I looked at my watch and saw that I had exactly 15 minutes to get in before 47 hours (the cutoff was 48). This triggered an all out sprint to the finish. The final result was a 47h01m finish, my first DFL (dead last). Though only 18 of 31 registrants complete the race.

I was greeted at the finish by my mom and Jenna, who apparently didn't really sleep at all the last night since they were hanging out at the finish area worrying about me the whole time. So with that, a big thank you to my family and all the volunteers for their tremendous support throughout the race! It really wouldn't be possible without them.

Jenna's Follow-up Comments:
This race report would not be complete with my two favourite parts of the weekend:
1) After Chris finishes the race, we head back to camp to get some well-earned rest. After about an hour of sleep, we both got up out of the tent to use the washroom. As we get back to the tent, I start to crawl in when Chris says "What are we doing?" (As if an hour of sleep was enough after being up for 48+ hours) to which I respond "Well I'm going back to sleep!" and I start to zip up the tent. Slightly irritated, Chris reluctantly climbs back into the tent. Of course, he falls asleep immediately... on my side of the tent!
2) After the race, we went to talk to Peter to thank him for making sure Chris got out alive. I'm so glad we did, because this is the best thing I heard all weekend. Peter was helping out at Skyline Junction - I don't remember exactly how he said this, but it went something like this. "At one point I heard these strange sounds coming through the forest, and I thought to myself : SHAMU IS COMING." Turns out it was just Chris.

As a follow-up, Christine Blanchette wrote this Article (or alternately available here) profiling my FatDog race attempt which appeared in the Sherbrooke Record.

Go to parts 1 or 2 of the FatDog120 Race Report

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Phantom Trail Race: The beginning of my own mountain madness.

In 2011, I took on the Phantom 12k race as my first ever trail race.
The idea of so many scary looking uphills in a race frightened me, but the fact that it wasn't frowned upon to walk some of them made me feel a bit better. By the end of the race, I was a little wet and a little tired, but I went home with a big smile on my face. The course was well marked, the people were friendly and happy, and the warm soup afterwards was delicious!
In 2012, I went one step further, feeling strong enough to take on the 19k route. I felt okay for most of it, surviving the 12k portion I'd done previously and heading out into 7k of unknown terrain. It was fun until about 16 or 17k when the course shot nearly straight uphill. I was tired. The course was wet and slippery yet again. Once I reached the top of the hill I was exhausted, but I knew the end was in sight. In fact, I got so excited that I was getting close to the finish that I decided it would be faster to roll down the hill. It wasn't. In fact, it kind of hurt. I am still thankful for the nice guy behind me who yanked me up off the ground and made sure I was alive before heading off.

This year, I didn't really know what to do. I knew I wanted to do the race, but I was having difficulties deciding which distance for a couple of reasons. In October I completed the BMO Okanagan Marathon for the second year in a row, knocking 15 minutes off my time while battling waves of nausea nearly the entire race. Here's what I learned: When you run a marathon, you should probably stretch after. Even if your muscles hurt so much that stretching feels like its doing more harm than good. As a result of my pure stupidity, laziness and hate of stretching (Who's with me? I mean, nobody really likes stretching), I ended up fighting a common battle among runners, IT band pain. This is something I had never really experienced before.

After a few weeks of stretching and icing (not the delicious kind that comes on cakes) and stretching and icing and resting I couldn't handle it anymore.I needed to run! I had attempted a few runs, making it no more than 10 minutes without quitting due to the stabbing pain in my right knee. I did, however manage to squeeze in one 12k training walk, and one 12k training run before the race. I tried to run the first one, but I only made it about 2 minutes in the trails before I stormed angrily back to the car cursing my stupid knee and that darn marathon. Never again will I run a marathon on the road! After about 5 minutes wallowing in self pity I put on an extra jacket, grabbed my iPod and decided that if I can't run, I might as well walk.
It was at this point that I made the decision to run the 24k Phantom Route. For two reasons:
1. Because I was dying to run. I was going to get through it even if I had to walk the whole damn thing.
2. The 19k route has a very mean hill 16k in, which I just wasn't quite prepared to face

So here we are on race day. I've taken nearly a month off of running. Let's just say I wasn't quite as prepared as I had hoped to be. High on ibuprofen to ward off any idea of pain, I took off into the forest. The weather was the nicest I've seen in all the years I've done it, despite the weatherman calling for snow.
The start of the race went well. A couple kilometers in, I was near the front of the pack. This may have been due to a large number of people taking a wrong turn early on, but that's a minor detail. I'm sure I ran those next few kilometers faster trying to keep up with those who had taken the wrong turn.
About 5k in my legs were cold and felt a bit like lead weights. I made the decision to run the hills a) because I was hoping it would warm up my legs and b) I really didn't have anything to lose.
Slowly and steadily I climbed the hills, and even though it didn't feel like I was going fast, I passed a surprising number of runners who were walking.

The Trail Effect Phantom Trail Race Report - Jenna on Bottletop
Running up Bottletop Trail, happy as can be!
By the 8k mark I was warmed up and feeling good. As I started the second major descent, I began to get cold fast. It was then I realized that my stomach was soaking wet. I am a sweaty person, but not THAT sweaty. My hydration pack was leaking on me. I tried several things to stop the dripping water, but nothing seemed to work. The valve takes a significant amount of effort to open and close, and my cold hands just couldn't do it. My only solution was to blow the water back up out of the tube after every drink of water so that nothing could drip on me. This took a lot of effort, especially when climbing uphill.

At the 12k mark I realized that by some miracle I'd done it in 1h12m.
Well, that was unexpected. (At this point I was only about 6 minutes behind Chris, which is pretty stellar for me)
Continuing on, the next portion of the race was a rather open section next to Lynn creek. It began to get colder, and I eventually reached a point where there was snow on the ground. I had to be extra cautious on the foot bridges as they were rather frosty and slippery.
In the weeks leading up the race, I had wanted to get out and run/hike this last 12k section, as I was unfamiliar with it. Chris described the final section as a gentle ascent to a clearing, at which point you turn around and head straight back to the finish line, of course bypassing that nasty hill in the 19k route. He. Was. WRONG.

Running through the beautiful snowy forest with a soaking wet shirt (somewhat dehydrated by now because drinking took way too much effort), that clearing could not come fast enough.
Finally, I reached the clearing. I could feel a bit of pain in my right knee by now, but I was too cold to stop and dig something out of my pack, plus I wasn't that far from the end. Or so I thought...
And then the uphill came. I think that's the part Chris left out. You go to the clearing, and then you go up through this rooty, rocky, winding crazy path. It was nicer than the 19k terror. However, I must say it was a little unexpected.

Although I wanted to be angry at Chris for leaving out the minor detail of the final uphill before the finish line, I couldn't. It was SO beautiful up there. I felt like a little kid again bounding over roots and rocks and splashing through countless streams as I ran carefree through the woods.
DO THIS RACE. It is so much fun.
I made it to the finish line in a 2h38m, dehydrated, freezing cold, and loving every minute of it!!

After all that, I completed the 24k only 10 minutes slower than my 19k time the previous year! I am getting stronger!

I sit here now getting ready to take on whatever is thrown at me for the Dirty Duo 50k in March. I hope you'll join me and follow along as I train to take on double the distance of my longest trail run yet! Let's do this!

Don't let the sands of time get in your sandwiches.

2013 FatDog 120 Race Report - Part 2

From Calcite aid, Diane and I continued running down toward Pasayten River. At the river crossing, the Pasayten is about 50 feet wide and 2 feet deep and has a very helpful cable strung across it to hold on to as the rocks can be slippery. The water was surprisingly refreshing, and exceptionally clear - when we looked down with our headlamps we could see clear to the bottom. After wading through the river I changed my socks and shoes and had something to eat courtesy of Don and his wife (we basically run through their backyard)! Next came the first road section. It was along this section that we started contemplating the uphill that was coming. It was to be our third large climb, and would take about four hours. Upon seeing a mileage sign for Vancouver, Diane and I joked that we should just keep running on the road; the 233km to Vancouver couldn't be nearly as hard as Bonnevier. I still think it might have been easier...

Reaching the bottom of Bonnevier, we were greeted by Diane's husband, a familiar face by now as we had seen him at Ashnola and Passayten aid stations. With a quick stop here we were off again, this time going uphill. Bonnevier isn't terribly exciting, it's logging road followed by tree-covered trail and, given the nighttime conditions, you can't see a whole lot. After a couple of false peaks and four and a half hours of hiking uphill we reached the Heather aid station.

Heather aid was definitely a highlight, primarily because Jenna was waiting for me there! And, to put Jenna's dedication into perspective, Diane and I arrived at about 3:30am on Saturday, whereas Jenna hiked in while it was still light out!! Anyway, when we got there, Peter's family cooked us up some very tasty quesadillas. On that note, I think quesadillas have to be one of my favourite ultra foods. They're crispy on the outside, hot on the inside and the cheese just hits the spot during a race, plus I haven't had any issues digesting them. If anyone RD'ing a race is reading this, please include more cheese quesadillas at aid stations!

2013 FatDog Race Report - Sunrise on Heather Trail
Sunrise from Heather Trail
2013 FatDog Race Report - Nicomen Lake
The absolutely stunning Nicomen Lake
Diane's pacer, Ward, also met us at Heather aid, so the four of us headed out into the darkness along the single-track Heather trail. Three hours later, with the sun just rising, we came down into Nicomen Lake aid station. The steep and rocky descent here brought about the realization that my feet were starting to hurt, mostly the balls of my feet, but also the toes. Nicoman aid was an interesting experience. Food and water was limited given the hike required of the volunteers, so all we had for breakfast were some Pringles. If anyone is free next year and wants to hike in with a stove and eggs and hash-browns we would all really love you! Just to be clear though, I do really appreciate those who hiked in to man the aid stations! The people sleeping on the ground were  amusing too since they had their space blankets pulled over their heads, causing their feet and legs to stick way out the bottom. It was quite the sight!
After Nicomen Lake there is one of the longest descents in the race and it was at this point that Diane and Ward took off. Jenna and I continued on, though we were going slowly due to the increasing pain in my feet and the fact I hadn't eaten much recently. At about the two-thirds mark on that descent, Jenna and I started singing while we ran and oddly enough I started speeding up. Singing, at that moment, helped lift my spirits just enough that we were able to catch up to Diane and Ward just before Cayuse Flats aid station.

Cayuse Flats aid was my next big surprise, this time because of my family. Everyone was there! My aunt and uncle, my mom and dad, even my sister made it out. The best part for me, and probably them too, was that they had made huge cardboard signs saying Go Chris! Although we didn't linger at this point, it was good to see them, and we knew we would see them again in a few miles.

Most of the family at Cayuse Aid Station, complete with signs!
Getting back to the grind, the section between Cayuse Flats and Cascade Aid Station was unexpectedly hilly and definitely a little painful! Don't let the elevation profile fool you, after going downhill for hours, these uphills are killer. Nonetheless, the first runners doing the 70M passed us along this section. Coming into Cascade aid station, my family was again waiting for us, signs and cameras in hand.

Changing into some Merrell Mixmaster shoes (never again, I gave them away after the race), and getting a quick massage on my right hip flexor, we continued on to the second road section. This section wasn't anything special, though we did manage a fairly quick pace. At Sumallo Grove Jenna switched out for my dad as he was to pace me the last 40 miles of the race. Ward also left Diane, with the plan to meet up again at Skyline aid station. After getting everything sorted out pacer-wise, Diane had went ahead and left my Dad and I to catch up. It wasn't for a couple miles that we did catch up, but only after asking a couple hikers how far ahead she was and getting some ridiculous answers (>10 minutes ahead, I think not!). Between Sumallo Grove and Shawatum aid station, there were a couple notable occurrences. The first thing was a rather steep, 200ft climb just before the the curve of the Skagit River. This 'hill' wasn't visible on any of the the elevation profiles, but, believe me, it hurt! The next thing was that I ran out of water a mile or so from the water drop. This was unfortunate as it was quite warm in this section! The third thing was sort of an ongoing problem - my feet were getting progressively sorer. It was obvious that I had some major blisters forming, and that they were slowing me down significantly. I think the first one popped just before Shawatum. If you've never had a blister pop while running, it's pretty much excruciating for the first bit, then it settles down into a dull stinging. Sounds like fun right?!

The Trail Effect FatDog Race Report - Fun in the forest!
Fun in the forest!
Anyhow, Shawatum aid came and went and we started running through some rather dense, almost tropical-like sections. Then the mosquitoes started getting bad! Thankfully, Ward gave us a couple head nets to wear to keep them from biting. I'm not sure what we would've done without them! Somewhere along here Diane left us again since I was clearly just going too slow. She is sort of a pro after all!

I will leave it at that for now. So until Part 3 comes out, happy running!


Go to parts 1 or 3 of the FatDog120 Race Report

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 FatDog 120 Race Report - Part 1

Well this is a few months late, but since we only just started The Trail Effect, I think it's excusable.

FatDog120 by Mountain MadnessFor anyone unfamiliar with the FatDog120 Trail Race, it is a 120 mile race along trails snaking through Cathedral, Manning and Skagit Valley Provincial Parks as well as the Cascade Recreation Area. It starts near Keremeos BC and finishes at Lightning Lakes in Manning Park. There are four main climbs in the race and a total elevation gain of 8672.7 meters (28453.7 feet). In 2013 the FatDog120 was named one of the Top 9 Toughest Ultras by Outside Online. If you're the type that needs company on a run, this is probably not the race for you; the number of non-race related individuals that I saw on the course was no more than 3 people (not including vehicles on the road section).

First, a little bit of background on the rest of the year. Things didn't start out so well this year. In switching from running mostly in minimalist shoes to Salomons, I developed some patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) in my left knee. This started in January and with high hopes of doing well in the DirtyDuo in March I was somewhat devastated. After seeing a physio and doing the quad exercises she gave me I was feeling somewhat better, though not cured! I still ran the DD, but seeing as I really hadn't trained all that much I finished an hour slower than the previous year. The PFPS was on and off for the next couple months after that and it definitely limited my training at times. In May Jenna and I went to the Big Island of Hawai'i and didn't run nearly as much as I would have liked, though we did do some crazy hikes (maybe that will be another post). Anyhow, on June 1st I undertook the Vancouver100, a CFA event that runs the length of the Baden Powell Trail twice, starting and ending in Deep Cove. I finished under 20 hours, but only by a couple minutes. Nonetheless I was fairly happy with that performance, given the snow on the western sections of the trail. I made the mistake however of agreeing to run the BP trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove with Jenna only a week later. That's when the PFPS came back, just when I thought I had got rid of it! Training was again limited for the next little while as I iced, stretched and did whatever I could to stay sane. So needless to say, I was going into FatDog somewhat less trained than I had hoped to be, but I figured I would just see what I could do and could pull-out at at any point and no one would really fault me for it.

Jenna and I arrived in Keremeos BC the Thursday before the race, as the race start was Friday 10am and the pre-race meeting was that night. The pre-race meeting was somewhat intimidating since the average age was probably twice mine, plus the basic message from Heather (the RD) was simply don't die out there! We camped at the Stemwinder Provincial Campground 15 minutes west of Keremoes for the night, probably not the smartest idea (it is right beside the highway), but it was better than the over-priced 'cozy' hotels in town. Race morning I started with a bowl of oatmeal and some Gatorade. We took down camp and drove into town for 9am so I could get on the bus to the start area. Jenna would meet me in Manning park later that night.

Start of FatDog120 at Lakeview Creek Campground
Start of FatDog120 and relay option
The start of the FatDog120 and relay options takes place on the wooden bridge at the Lakeview Creek Campground. Just before 10am, Peter, the assistant RD, said good luck and set off a flare to signal the start of the race. Despite being nervous, it was somewhat anti-climactic given that the race starts directly into the first uphill and almost everyone walks it. From the start it was just under a three hour hike, if you will, to the first aid station and the peak of the first mountain. Check out the profile at the bottom of the post for an idea of the elevation changes - keep in mind the x-axis is time, not distance. Just before the first aid station, I had my first foot issue; my heel was rubbing. I decided to be proactive and stick in a large piece of moleskin to cushion it, though it wasn't all that successful in the long term. Just as I was getting going again another runner caught up with me and we started running together. Turns out it was Diane Van Deren, the exceptionally talented North Face-sponsored runner, and we ended up running together for 60+ miles of the race.

FatDog120 alpine section
There is a trail here somewhere right?
The top of the first peak is almost desolate, except for the small grasses that grow there. Running through this section was both fun and challenging since the trail was non-existent and flagging was tied around rocks on the ground. After crossing the moon-scape and running along several board-walks through marshy meadows, the trail descended steadily until it reached Ashnola River Road and the second aid station. From here, it was back up the other side of the valley to the Trapper Lake area. At some point on the way up, Diane and I came across a runner going the wrong way! We got him straightened out and continued on. The next hiccup came when Diane ran out of water somewhere before the aid station. Luckily I had brought a small flask with an extra ~500ml as a precaution. Trapper Lake aid station, though not actually at the lake, was quite fun seeing as the volunteers had music playing and it was nice and sunny with only a light breeze.

Trapper Lake along the FatDog120 course
Trapper Lake
The boggy section by Trapper Lake was so beautiful we decided to wander around looking for the trail markers for five minutes or so. We did end up finding them after a bit, but not before getting our feet good and wet. From here we headed over Flattop Mountain through a very beautiful alpine meadow. The single-track trail was quite grooved in compared to the sides and was difficult to walk in. After Flattop came another long descent! Then, at some point, it was my turn to run out of water. Thankfully the water drop (read: water collected from a stream) was only a little way down the trail and I was able to refill there.

Just as it was almost dark, Diane and I started to hear music coming through the forest. At that point we knew we must be getting close to Calcite aid station, and we were, but we were still a surprising distance away. The volunteers there had their shelter decked-out in Christmas lights and they had fresh picked, homegrown blueberries for us! So good!

I think I'll stop at this point and leave the rest to Parts 2 and 3.

FatDog120 elevation profile
Elevation profile of the FatDog120. X-axis is time. The three flat sections at 36h, 40h and 43h are sleep breaks.

Go to parts 2 and 3 of the FatDog120 Race Report

Saturday, November 23, 2013

2013 Phantom Trail Race Report

This past weekend (Nov 16) J.B.Running and I had the pleasure of racing in the Mountain Madness Phantom Trail Race, a 24km event around the LSRC and Lynn Valley area of Vancouver's North Shore. This was my second time completing the 24km option, and Jenna's first attempt at it. The weather was surprisingly nice, at least for the first half (more to come), as it wasn't raining and almost seemed sunny at times.

We got to the start area with plenty of time to check in and get everything ready. At 8:30, we were off. The loop to Rice Lake was fine and took about 6 minutes, then we headed off down the Baden Powell trail into Lynn Canyon, a section complete with a mix of stairs, boardwalks, mud and roots. This is usually a great section to run and I felt fine for the first 15 to 20 minutes of the race, but then the cold I had been battling for the week prior started to rear its ugly head. My first thought was that I was just needing some sugar as I only had a small breakfast, so out came the gel. That didn't help, but eventually (by about 45 minutes probably) I managed to shake the feeling and was doing fairly well.
UltraChris from The Trail Effect during the Phantom Trail Race
At the top of Bottletop Trail

Despite the tired feeling and the fact that my nose was running faster than I was, I was able to run all of the first half of the race. This meant I was able to come through the main starting area at 1h06m30s, only a little behind schedule. I was shooting to come through at about 1h04m based on a training run of the 12km loop two weeks prior. After passing through the main start/finish area the 24 and 19km races headed up Varley trail toward Lynn Headwaters and then on to do the Lynn Loop.

The upper portion of the loop was where things started to get 'fun'. The temperature dropped to somewhere near freezing as we continued climbing up the valley and we soon started seeing snow around the sides of the trail. This was completely unexpected as past years were completely devoid of the stuff! With the lower temperatures came a thick layer of slippery frost on the many foot bridges. This made for slow going as the shoes I was wearing (Altra LonePeak) weren't quite sticky enough to handle running on it. As we got back into the forest there was no sign of frost or snow and it definitely felt warmer, despite still climbing in altitude. This section of the loop heading back to the finish is undoubtedly the most technical section of the whole race, but also extremely fun! The 3 mile long section is a constant barrage of roots, rocks, bridges and streams crossing the path (or flowing down the middle of it). At one point I tweaked the inside of my left knee, but, in typical runner fashion, I continued on and it went away. Then with about half a mile to go I saw Peter from North Shore Athletics (also RD for a number of Mountain Madness races) who proceeded to cheer on the guy behind me, then give me heck for not running faster to drop him. Some help!! Nevertheless, I managed to pull away from my pursuer and finish with a 2h10m, good for 8th place.

J.B.Running finished in a great time, and had a huge smile on her face, so a big congrats to her! Also, congratulations to our friend Meagan on her first-time finish of the 12km distance.

One of the best parts though, as always, is the draw prizes! Jenna and I both managed to snag gift certificates for Hillsound crampons and Meagan got a Phantom Trail Race shirt! All-in-all another successful and fun year with the Phantom!

In the past I have been less than satisfied with the level of detail available regarding race courses, whether it has roots, rocks, mud or, heaven forbid, a road section! So, one thing I would like to make a habit of when posting these race reports is the inclusion of a detailed description of the course terrain and conditions. Here it goes:

Phantom Trail Race Course Terrain and Conditions:

Approximate Length
Out-and-back to Rice Lake
Mostly packed gravel with some softer trail, 2 to 3 meters wide.
5 minutes
Baden Powell Trail along Lynn Canyon
Begins with long downhill of soft, wide trail into canyon. This is followed by a couple of steep stair cases down leading to a section of large rocks, roots and mud. There are a number of small wooden walkways along this section. The longer continuous walkway just before the uphill out of the canyon can be quite slippery as it is slanted sideways at times. The uphill out of the canyon has a new set of stairs that help significantly.
15 minutes
Baden Powell Trail to Pipeline Bridge
After crossing the road, there is a short section of gravel trail (3+ meters wide) followed by a longer descent on soft trails, complete with switch-backs (single or double track). Definitely runnable with proper shoes. The staircase down to the bridge is extremely steep, almost ladder-like! Slow down for this one.
10 minutes
Fisherman’s Trail to Bridle Path Turn
The trail seems to be packed gravel with larger stones. This section is not technical despite being rocky, with the river-side usually being smoother. This section is a fairly gentle, but constant uphill and the trail is quite wide.
Less than 5 minutes
Bridle Path to Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
This section begins with a gentle incline that increases steadily for about 5 minutes before providing a brief reprieve before another uphill section. The trail is wide and fairly soft until after the reprieve where it is strewn with loose rocks.
10 minutes running
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
This section is the bottom portion of a mountain biking trail and provides a short, but technical section. The trail has many loose rocks and a few board walks that are falling apart. Runner beware!
Less than 5 minutes
Bottletop Trail
One of the most fun sections in the race, this trail has a number of ups and downs over nice, soft single track, followed by a long descent back to Seymour River. The descent ranges from single to double track and has a few slippery sections due to slanted layed rocks or wooden ramps used for biking. These rocks and ramps are often wet with runoff making them even more fun!
5 minutes
Fisherman’s Trail and Homestead Trail
The upper section of Fisherman’s trail continues along Seymour River on a wide, gravel path for about 8 minutes. Turning left onto Homestead trail takes you upwards to the start area of the race. Homestead trail is a combination of gravel and softer trails about 3 meters wide. It gets steep, levels out at about the one-third mark, then gets steeper for the rest. This hill can be tough if you’re not prepared for it, but isn’t anything special otherwise. It takes about 8 minutes at a slow run.
16 minutes total
Varley Trail to Lynn Headwaters
After passing through the start area, you cross Lynn River and follow the road for 100 meters then head onto Varley trail toward Lynn Headwaters. Varley trail is a mix of gravel trail and wood walkways. It is 1 to 2 meters wide throughout.
8 minutes
First Half of Lynn Loop
This section of Lynn Loop starts on a rather wide gravel path before changing to single and double track with small foot bridges. The entire section is a constant uphill though quite gentle. The latter portion of this section has some few rocks and roots on the trail and the potential for mud. The foot bridges can be slippery, especially if it is cold and they frost up!
20 minutes
Second Half of Lynn Loop and Return to Start Area
This is the most technical part of the whole race as it has numerous large roots and rocks interspersed with copious mud on single or double track! There are a number of stepping stumps that can provide a less wet path but they can also be quite slippery. The small streams running across the path don’t help either. The majority of this section is a constant uphill though it is not noticeable given the roots etc. The last part is a fairly steep and quick downhill on a somewhat wider gravel trail. There is one short uphill right before the finish that can be difficult if you are not expecting it.
35 minutes