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


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