Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why the Haleakala did we do that?

Our run up Haleakala, a 10000 foot high volcano on Maui, was ultimately successful, but our adventure was certainly not without some bugs and hiccups.

The Trail Effect Blog - Sea level in Paia
Chris trying to touch the ocean in Paia.
We started out at sea level in the town of Paia at 6:25 am. It rained the night before and is just clearing up as we are starting. The puddles however are still able to claim a victim as my dad (Brad) soaks a shoe before we even get going, oops! Anyhow, the starting conditions are nice and cool, and it's just getting light enough that we don't need to bring a headlamp for the portion before sunrise.

The first bug I encounter is at about mile 1, when I actually inhale a bug... immediately after my dad warns us about the swarms of them under the street lights! The bug gets lodged in my upper throat and I begin coughing and heaving as I'm unable to get it out. In a near panic at the inability to breathe without extreme irritation of my throat and the thought of having to pull-out of our run up Haleakala, I try drinking, eating gels and clif bars, and we even try flushing water through my nose (seemed like a good idea at the time). That still doesn't help! The darn bug is stuck in there for good, I'm sure of it! Eventually, after about 2.5 miles and 45 minutes of having this bug in there I manage to get it loose and cough it out. Turns out it's a beetle, no bigger than an ant! Of course through all that my throat ends up terribly irritated, something I dealt with for the rest of the run.

The Trail Effect Blog - Beautiful rainbows while running up Haleakala
Beautiful rainbows!
Between the bug incident and mile 13 there really isn't too much excitement; we see numerous rainbows, have some great views of the ocean beyond the farmlands, we run through the town of Makawao, refill our hydration packs with a hose at the Kula lodge and restaurant, and finally reach the turn up Crater road toward Haleakala summit.

From here we only have 22 miles to the summit (which were all conveniently marked so we could count down to the top!). Although the climb so far has been steady, the remaining section will prove to be the toughest as it is exclusively switchbacks up the mountain side. Reaching 4000 feet elevation we are engulfed in a misty cloud, though we quickly climb out of it and get back into the sun. We’re all still feeling pretty good at this point, but by the 6000 foot mark Jenna is starting to have some difficulty with lactic acid build up in her legs. We catch this fairly early on and get her eating and drinking, and she takes some tums to help buffer things. With a quick recovery we continue our slow but steady trek up to the 7000 foot mark where we enter the national park.

The Trail Effect Blog - Turn to Haleakala Summit
It's daunting when they warn vehicles of 'No Food'
After refilling our packs again at the visitor center we hit rain! Blowing, cold rain! Obviously we all put our jackets and gloves on, but by 8000 feet we are all getting pretty cold (I’m pretty sure my dad’s lips are blue). Luckily, my mom and sister (our ride down) pass us here and are able to give us a change of clothes and some extra unexpected candy (THANK YOU!) to power us until the rain ends at 8500 feet.

At 9000 feet it clears up and we can see the observatory and the visitor center at the top of the mountain. Only 4 miles left, not too tough! Except that we’ve already went 31 miles (50km) and climbed the equivalent of 3 Grouse Grinds back to back! Not surprisingly Jenna develops an exertional cough over 9000 feet that makes it really difficult to breathe deeply, so her and I walk the last 4 miles while my dad 'runs' the last bit to get the pain over with. We finish the ~35.5 mile trek in about 8h45m (that includes my time inhaling bugs).

The most surprising post-run revelation is that we got sunburnt despite the cloud and rain for most of the day! Jenna’s legs and the backs of her arms and hands are quite red, while my calves are. The sun must have been pretty strong from 9000 to 10000 feet.
The Trail Effect Blog - Switchbacks up Haleakala
Insane switchbacks on the way to Haleakala National Park

After all that, I would still have to say the worst part was the car ride down! Although it was amazing to see how far we’d gone (seriously, why would anyone run that far uphill), those switchbacks sure made us nauseous! 

Run Highlights:
-Running through a lavender farm – smells delicious!
-Intermittent signs spray painted on the road that reminded us to breathe
-The nice family of a man biking up who offered us food and drink as we powered up the hill
-The changes in scenery – from luscious grasslands to the barren rock atop the volcano
The Trail Effect Blog - Elevation markers up Haleakala
Paint Run by numbers, all the way to the top of Haleakala at 10,023 feet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

T minus 4 days to Volcanoland!

We've been in Hawaii for 4 days now.
It's hot, humid, there is little water to be found.
It feels like we've been stuck out here for days.

Alright so its not quite like that...
It's beautiful and sunny here, and we wake up to the sounds of birdies outside our window.
In four days, we will be taking on the epic 34 mile run up Haleakala. (We had to push back the run by a day due to a change in the 'free maitais by the pool' from the 25th to the 26th)

The Trail Effect Blog - Haleakala Volcano
10,000 feet up to the top of Mount Crumpet (Haleakala)

Yesterday we got up and ran for an hour bright and early in the morning. By 8:00 am it was already warm and humid enough that we were dripping sweat.
Consider me a little skeptical at this point.
We only ran for an hour, and I was sweating like crazy and had some trouble setting into a comfortable breathing pattern.


So I leave today for a short run to see if I can control my breathing a little better as to survive an 8 hour trek uphill!


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!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Operation Elevation Simulation

**** Operation Elevation Simulation ****
Target: Simulate the elevation change of Haleakala, min. 10000 ft
Location: Grouse Grind, BCMC
Weather: -2 C; Clear, light breeze, falling snow at higher elevation
Trail Conditions: Frozen but clear at lower elevation; Sporadic ice and snow at higher elevation
Operatives: J.B.Running, UltraChris 

**** Mission Status: Successful ****
Lap 1: 1h02m, Grouse Grind
Lap 2: 1h05m,BCMC
Lap 3: 1h05, Grouse Grind
Lap 4: 1h10m, BCMC
Total Actual Elevation Change: 11200 ft

The Trail Effect: Snow on the Grouse Grind
Jenna hiking up the Grouse Grind in snow.
As we started out on our first lap, we weren't quite sure of the trail conditions we would encounter, especially near the top. We had hiked up this trail just over a week prior and hadn't encountered any ice or snow until the very top. Just to be safe we brought our crampons along for the first two laps. It was a beautiful sunny day at the bottom, however at about the half way mark it began to get chilly as the wind picked up and the snow began to fall. At first we couldn't tell whether it was actually snowing, or just blowing off the top of the trees. By the time we got to the top we were a wee bit chilly, and fully convinced it was snowing, and not just blowing. The ice on the top half of the route (despite being a bit scary in places) made for some incredible icicle displays. As we got higher and higher, the water in the tubes of our running packs began to freeze. This was actually rather convenient, as it forced us to drink often to prevent the freezing. At the top, we took the Gondola down to save ourselves some time, and to save Jenna from the inevitable IT band pain that was still haunting her.

The Trail Effect: Icicles along the Grouse Grind
Amazing icicles along the Grouse Grind!
Lap 2 was just as cold and icy as the first, however there were a lot more people out on the BCMC. We appeared to be the least prepared, with the rest of the hikers carrying large backpacks and poles. All we had were small packs of water with a bit of food, some space blankets, and our pocket knives.

We thought we appeared unprepared, but at the start of lap 3 we saw a guy in shorts and a t-shirt. ARE YOU CRAZY!? I mean some people run warm, but it was COLD at the top!!! We're going to bet he didn't make it too far. Brr! The start of #3 was painful. Jenna didn't drink quite enough water through the first two laps, and was fading slowly. Her legs were a bit shaky, and it left her wondering if she would survive a fourth and final lap (not to mention the rest of the 3rd). After a small bag of chips (Only 90 calories in a bag? Come on, we're trying to hike up a mountain here!), some shot blocks, and a gel, we were on our way! Surprisingly finishing only 3 minutes slow than the first lap on the GG.
The Trail Effect: Sunset from Grouse Mountain
Unbelievable sunset from Grouse Mountain
As we started lap four, the sun was beginning to set. We opted to change into thicker jackets, and we were very happy with that decision! As the sun set, parts of the trail started turning pink and fiery red colours, it looked incredible!
It seemed to take forever to get to the half way point, but once we were there we were both feeling great!
Though the light was fading, we made it to the top and didn't have to dig out a headlamp!
Plus, we got to the top in time to catch the end of the sunset! What a perfect sunday!

Today's accomplishment made Haleakala seem like a much more attainable goal. Maybe it will even be a little warmer :)

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

I just can't say no to volcanoes.

Chris and Brad atop Haleakala in Maui in 2010
The year was 2010. Chris and his family had taken off on a glorious vacation to Hawaii over Christmas break. And by vacation, I mean Chris and his dad had concocted this grand scheme to ride their bikes 10,023 ft up a volcano. Sounds like what normal people do in Hawaii, right? Haha. Ha.
They did it. Here's some photographic evidence just in case you don't believe me!

Knowing that this is a running blog, I'm sure you've guessed what's coming next. In just three short weeks from now we're all headed off to Maui once again to enjoy the glorious sunshine and beaches. But I didn't just write this post to brag about going to Hawaii. I'm writing it because today we officially started training! Training to run up this wonderful volcano of course. Let me say this now. This was THEIR idea. I will take no responsibility for the Cochrane Insanity. Yes, it's a thing. I, on the other hand, now have a problem. Between my goals to become a strong and confident runner, and my absolute and unparalleled love for rocks, I CAN'T SAY NO!

I want to run 10,000 ft up a volcano!
It's a volcano!
Can I do this?
Shouldn't we have started training for this sooner?
Am I strong enough to make it without slowing them down?
Is this a good idea?
It's a volcano!

So I'm going to try! I'm going to try to survive, I'm going to try not to slow them down, and I'm going to run A LOT of hills in the next three weeks :)

We started tonight with a run simulating a quarter of the elevation gain, or 2500 ft.
Basically we picked a nice hill with a relatively easy decent near it and ran circles for about an hour and a half. We only needed to do 17 half mile laps, which didn't sounds so bad. Until we started running. Three laps in I'm running down the hill thinking "oh no, I have to do this how many more times?!".
After completing the 17 laps, I was surprised how good I felt. We were feeling rather satisfied with our accomplishment until a recalculation on the way home told us we actually should have done 18.5 laps. Better luck next time.

I'm attaching a profile of our run to this post, mostly because it looks like a bunch of Christmas trees all in a row, and that makes me happy.

**UltraChris' addition:

Any idiot can run. It takes a special kind of idiot to run up a volcano.

Modification to my Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras

You may have read about the issues I was having with my new Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras staying in place on my Altra shoes in my recent gear review blog post. The problems I was having included: 1) the toe not staying in place and the toe-bar pressing in, 2) heel spikes not secure enough and 3) sides of upper rubber rolling upwards when tightened. I have now made some modifications to them and have solved numbers 1 and 2 above. Issue 3 is still a problem, but it's one I can live with. To allay any suggestions that I'm simply using the wrong size, I tried a medium pair as well and the rubber upper was too tight for my foot, plus the toe-bar issue was worse. An extra-large would have made issue 2 worse.

Issue with toe-bar of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
Previous location of the metal bar shown in green above.
Modification to Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
New location of metal bar on R foot. Notice it's not symmetric.
In regards to issue 1 above, I  moved the front metal toe-bar from the top of the foot to the bottom of the foot. This wasn't all that easy since the metal is quite strong. I ended up having to use vice-grips and a small screwdriver to pry the loop closure open. Once unhooked it was easy to reposition and squeeze together the loop where I wanted it. The positioning of the bar is no longer symmetric (see the second image) as I wanted a perfect fit and that was the only way to get it. If you are trying this, be careful not to bend it too far as the metal may be on the brittle side.

I realize the purpose of the toe-bar was probably to keep the two front chains from moving too far to the side of the foot and allowing the shoe to slide forward, but in my experience they were doing this a little too well. The modification now allows the front chains to spread apart slightly more than before, while still keeping the foot from sliding forward.You can see this change in the pictures on the right.

Modification to heel chains of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
1 link removed from heel chains on both sides of crampons
The second issue of the heel spikes/chains being somewhat looser than ideal was solved by removing a chain link from both of the heel chains. This was even more difficult than the toe-bar modification as it required bending of 4 loops for each link I removed. Again, these links seem quite brittle. This isn't a bad thing given their need for strength, but it does make modification somewhat risky!

I still haven't come up with a way of fixing the third problem. It will have to be something that gets fixed with future generations of this product.

So, despite my complaints and the need to make some modifications to the toe-bar and the heel chains, I still really like these. Their traction is fantastic, and they're super light! Highly recommended!


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

Monday, November 25, 2013

What is your favourite time to run?

A snowy running path perfect for The Trail Effect's bloggersUltraChris: During the winter months when the snow is falling and the smell of woodsmoke fills the air.

J.B.Running: During the fall when it gets dark early, the cold streets are filled with warm and delicious smells of people cooking dinner. Especially when you know there's a feast waiting for you at home!

Comment with your favourite time to run!

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra Gear Review

The Trail Effect's UltraChris at the top of Hollyburn Mountain
Whiskey Jacks at the top of Hollyburn
This weekend The Trail Effect's J.B.Running and I took our new Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras out for a test hike up to Hollyburn Peak. It was a fantastically sunny and warm day and we were able to wear just tights and long-sleeves. It took just over an hour to reach the peak via the winding snowy trail that others had made. The trip down was slightly quicker. The highlight of the hike had to be the birds and the view at the top! There were some very tame Whiskey Jacks and a somewhat less-friendly Raven all searching for food.

This is my first gear review so bear with me; I promise they'll get better! First, the trail we were on had a mix of packed snow, icy sections and a few exposed roots. Since this is a gear review for crampons I figure it should be broken down into a couple categories: Traction, Fit & Feel, Cost, and Final Conclusions

The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras feature a number of clusters of stainless steel spikes that are about a half inch long (see photo below). You'd think these would provide unbelievable grip, and you'd be right. In terms of traction, these stood up to everything we could throw at them. I tried running in them, I tried sliding on a sheet of ice and I even tried placing my foot on an icy, near vertical section of the trail and stepping up - they didn't budge! Full marks in this category.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra, pic from Hillsound website

Fit & Feel
Fit and Feel are at the opposite ends of the spectrum on this one. We'll start with the positive: the feel. The feel is great! I couldn't even tell they were there they're so light! Plus, the spikes aren't so long as to make it feel like they're pushing up into your foot. Those things, combined with the excellent traction, make for a phenomenal ride. The negative, however, is that they didn't stay on my shoes like they were supposed to, though J.B.Running's stayed in place for the most part. As you can see in the bottom photo, mine kept slipping to the side, and if I tried to over-correct and place them medially, that little metal bar would dig in to the top of my big toe! I think the issue stems from the fact that my Altras aren't as pointy as J.B.Running's Salomon Speedcross. I realize that most shoes come to more of a point than the Altras, but the Altras aren't that oddly shaped! And to be fair, the crampons did still work in lateral position, but I wouldn't trust them like that for a steep descent. Another thing that I wasn't totally thrilled about was the way the velcro strap attaches on top. It wraps around the rubber upper and, when tightened, it causes the rubber to roll upwards slightly. This isn't a huge problem, but I do think it could be designed slightly better.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra on Altra LonePeak shoe
Something isn't quite right here...
If we didn't win our Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras as draw prizes at the recent Phantom Trail Race, I'm not sure we would have forked out the money for them. They are regularly $69.99 which, compared to some of the other models, is a bit pricier, and would definitely be quite the investment for a casual runner/hiker. If someone does a significant amount of winter running on snowy and icy conditions I could definitely see the benefit of these, but otherwise the cost is somewhat prohibitive.

Final Thoughts
They did what they were supposed to; they gave unbelievable traction on ice and snow! The downside is they didn't accommodate my non-standard, albeit anatomically correct, shoe, so I'll have to do some altering to make them perfect. If you can get a pair of these for a reduced price I would very much encourage you to do so, or if you have a stack of cash burning a hole in your pocket then feel free to grab a pair. Just remember to make sure they fit and stay on your shoes! Also, for the next month or so, Hillsound is giving away 100 pairs of these Trail Crampon Ultras. The caveat is that you have to submit a picture of you wearing a pair of Hillsound crampons. Maybe you could borrow a friend's for a photo shoot...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday's Running Haiku

Ran to MEC today
It was closed so we left
Got noodles instead

Introduction for J.B.Running

Hello and welcome to everyone's new favorite trail running blog, The Trail Effect!
If you're interested in running, or any sort of outdoor adventure, you've come to the right place. We hope to bring you along on our running, hiking, backpacking (and anything else you can think of) adventures, and provide inspiration and ideas for adventures of your own!

The Trail Effect Blog's J.B.Running
Developing new Kayaking techniques in the Broken Islands
Let's start a few years back. I grew up in the relatively small city of Penticton, B.C. If you asked me to name three things I couldn't live without, I probably would have said sports, the great outdoors, and math. Not including my wonderful family of course, that's a given. And food and water I suppose, for those of you thinking too literally. Now before you think I'm too weird, let me explain.
1. I always have and always will play any sport, anytime. I am a team player, and I love the atmosphere and support of having a team around me.
2. Do not put me inside for long periods of time. It's like caging a rabid animal. I need the outdoors. I love the outdoors. For a long time, I thought it would be incredible to go back to when we had no houses and just live off the land.
3. Math. I love it. Science. I love it. And I'm not afraid to admit it.

It was a combination of these three things that led me to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Here I was able to do something I never thought possible, combine all the things I loved into one incredible career path, Geological Engineering. It was during my time at UBC, where I spent copious amount of time sitting with my nose in a book, that I discovered a new love. Running. There is no better way to escape thousands of seemingly useless mathematical equations  than to just get out and run. As far and as fast as you can.

If I am to be completely honest with you, I would have to share my ulterior motive for running.
Before I left for university I met my boyfriend of 5 years. He was training for his first Ironman at only 18 years old. Of course, with Penticton being the former home of Ironman Canada, it's hard to escape the crazy people. I can't quite begin to explain his level of insanity, but I'm sure as you start to read this blog you'll understand.

I started to run because he ran. I started to bike because he biked, and I started to do triathlons... well, you get the idea. He is incredibly inspiring, and without him I wouldn't be the runner I am today. I hope you can learn from this blog what I've learned from him. You can do it. You just have to believe you can.
When we first started to go running together, I would get frustrated. I guess you could say I'm a tad competitive, and although I wasn't the best at every sport I played, I always enjoyed winning.
It was difficult to run with someone who could run laps around me. I couldn't help but feel a little insecure. But it was never about how far, or how fast I could run. It was about getting outside and enjoying it, and just running and smiling and being free.
I can't tell you how many runs I gave up on, how many times I burst into tears because I was too slow, or too weak, or just not feeling well. If you told me that by 23 years old I would have run two marathons, I would have laughed in your face and said I'm not crazy.
But I will admit that right now. I am crazy. UltraChris taught be how to be crazy. And I'm sure there will be many more crazy adventures to come.

So I hope you'll start reading our blog, whether you're an experienced runner like Chris, or you're just discovering the great wide world of trail running, like me.
Join us as we take on the trails!

FYHP - Find your happy pace :)

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