Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Brigade Trail Race Report

Start of the 30km Brigade Trail Race
The following is the collective experience of Jenna, Steve, Chris and Brad (Chris' dad) from doing the 2017 Brigade Trail Race from Tulameen to Hope. Your mileage may vary.

Pros of the Brigade Trail Race:
Great to be done!
Steve and Jenna happy to finish
with only a few wasp stings!
  • Free entry (we got ours at the end of Fatdog but they have been at several different races as prizes)
  • Some camping space is available at the finish area at Peers Creek Rec Site, but there really isn't much space, and amenities are nil, just an outhouse.
  • The course was beautiful! (at least when
    it wasn't clouded in)
  • Single track! 25 of 30km was single track for the shorter race, with the 80km race being similar.
  • The course was well marked the whole way!
  • The aid stations were stacked! So much food and drink, even for the last runners of the 80km and at the remote aid stations. Avocados, bacon, candy, pickles, chips! What else could you want?
  • Fresh cooked hot bannock at the end! They were even willing to experiment with candies and mars bars wrapped in the batter and deep fried!
  • Bbq burgers with all the fixings.
  • The finish area was well set up. There were tents with heaters and food and drink, music, and most importantly, bathrooms (portable ones, but we weren't complaining)
  • The volunteers! At Jacobsen Lake aid station they fixed Brad's hiking poles, while others were filling his pack and helping him change clothes.
  • Lots of prizes! A whole table full of stuff!
  • The two runners that were pulled at the last aid station due to time cut-offs got free entries for the next year.
 Cons of the Brigade Trail Race:
    Brad at Jaconsen Lake aid station.
  • Pre-race meeting was in Princeton, but the race started in Tulameen and ended in Hope. For those of us doing the 30k we spent 3 hrs sitting on a tour bus leaving Hope at 8am and driving down a gravel logging road that was surely never designed for a Prevost tour bus. Both distances ended at a gravel lot 8-10km outside of Hope offering the occasional shuttle bus back to Hope.  If that's not logistically challenging, I don't know what is!
  • STEEP! The ups were steep. The downhills were even steeper! Some sections with branches and rocks were almost UN-hikeable, though Chris opted for the reckless approach and ran the downs. Our legs hurt for a full week after the race.
  • The spongy ground was nice to run on, but then you remember that the course is filled with.. you guessed it, wasps. Stinging terrible surprise ground wasps that stung you and disappeared!
  • The cut-off for the 80km is 15 hours, rather short considering the extremely difficult terrain.
  • Weather in Hope-Tulameen can change quite quickly. The later finishers were subject to some cold wind and rain! (not a fault of the race, but definitely need to be prepared)
  • The awards and prizes were the next morning in Hope and a lot of people had already left by then and missed out.
It doesn't look that bad right?!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Introduction for BigBearRunning

Before my transformation.
My name is Steve Bowling and I am a beginner trail runner pushing boundaries; and now, pushing myself harder and further has not only become something that I do, it's become a way of life.

To begin this epic tail, we need to backup 3 years to a day in January 2015 when I looked in the mirror and though to myself "what have you done?" I couldn't believe I had let myself go that far, I stepped on the scale and it read "err." I pushed on the counter a bit and the scale fluttered back into a readable range of 330.  My fast food, fast pace life had finally got the best of me and I thought to myself now is the time. Now, there are a couple things I should clarify, my weight has gone up and down a lot over my life with times of working out where I could take myself down to a just above average size and then usually fall back into the beer and pizza phase and put most of it back on. I was always active, but my poor diet usually got the best of me. I have always been big, I probably never had a BF % under 25 even when working out, but it never bothered me much, until now that is....

My first 10km
I was done, now was the time. I've always known the basics to proper diet, but usually ignored them for the most part because, lets face it, pizza is delicious!  The first steps were small, switching to eating 6 times a day,  healthy foods, going to the gym, doing lots of cardio and before you know it the first 30lbs had fallen off [more on this in a future post]. I was starting to get positive comments from people and this inspired me to continue, so I downloaded a calorie counting program. Next thing you know I was down around 245lbs which is where my running career really started, with my little sister and her husband (Leap Frog and Little Fox) convincing me that I should train and run the Vancouver Sun Run.

I went down to the running store and got myself some runners and some shorts and a shirt and started trying to run. It was pretty hard at first with my longest run at about 2- 4 km, but I had signed up for the race and I was determined to do it. Somehow I kept pushing on until next thing you know I was running 10 km runs. I went down to Vancouver and had a great weekend and ran my first race. It was such a fun time I wanted to go further so I signed up for the Kelowna half marathon at thanksgiving, finishing that at just short of 2 hrs. I was feeling pretty happy with myself for how far I had come. Little did I know that my life was about the change...... forever......

My first half
Now this would be the time that I was told about trail running. It was described as a beautiful scenic way to run, being just like running on the road but through nice mountain trails around a lake. With a description like that and a love for the great outdoors who could say no? So we all signed up for the Around the Lake Give'r Take 30 km at Cultus Lake. This was going to be the longest distance I had ever gone in my life and further than I had ever envisioned myself coming - but here we were.
After my first trail race

Race day was a cold wet morning, I was wearing street running shoes, regular shorts and a running shirt. With a borrowed race pack stuffed with all kinds of bars and candies that had come from my sister's running stash, I had no idea what to expect. All I could think about was the nice mountain trails and how fun it was going to be. As the race started everyone sort of funneled through the chute and the park and out onto the road, thinning out before the trail head. I felt good and had a good pace, until the first climb that is. I watched people pulling themselves up the first section using trees and branches as the trail was wet and muddy. The first hill seemed to go on for miles. My body was sore as I wasn't used to any kind of real elevation change yet, my running shoes had horrible traction in the mud and I was slipping and falling all over the place, thinking to myself what have I gotten myself into? Somehow I managed to push on and make my way to the backside of the lake where there was a well stocked aid station with lots of delicious food. My legs ached by now, my feet were cold and wet and it was starting to rain. I grabbed some yummy candies and headed on up the next climb, which also seemed to drag on forever. By now the pain had started coming into my core which also was not used to this kind of torture. I climbed and climbed and climbed wondering whether my heart was was going to give up first or my legs. I was grumpy, I thought "this is nothing like the description, why would my sister tell me this was a good idea?" I marched on, pushing up the hill I finally saw a man at the top. He started clapping and cheering and as I crested the hill there was a table with a whole bunch of mini cups filled with beer. The volunteers told me that I was at the top of the last climb and it was all downhill from here. Every part of me was sore, I had nothing left. I drank a couple oz of beer and continued down the trail. I somehow managed to get down to the beach and cross the finish line where my sister laughed and said "Sorry, I forgot how hilly this course was". At the time I was not amused, but looking back now I see the humor in it.

Hiking the Chief
I went down to the store shortly after and bought a pair of trail shoes and started finding trails to run. I wanted to run all the trails and all the mountains. Somehow out of this crazy race experience I had found a true appreciation for the sport of trail running. I found myself googling course profiles and picking races that looked fun. I went on to complete a marathon distance trail race (Wandering Moose), a couple half marathons (Hallow's Eve, Phantom) and 27 km trail races (Dirty Duo,and brigade), a 50km trail race (Kal Park 50) and most recently, my first 50 mile trail race (Tenderfoot Boogie). I'm currently training for the FatDog 70 miler in August.

Chris (LittleFox) and Jenna (LeapFrog) have been my inspiration through all of this, helping with gear, food, training plans, and trail tips and tricks. They have probably forever changed my life, and now I have been added to their trail running blog! I look forward to sharing all my race reports and gear reviews so hopefully everyone can run their best run!


Sea Kayak Trolling

Exhibit A: Primitive kayak fishing setup without a rod
After some success last year with a very primitive kayak fishing setup (see Exhibit A), I decided to upgrade a bit to hopefully make things easier. The previous fishing setup was a 1x2 piece of fir with a carabiner on the end and 30-pound fishing line wound around it. I clipped that on the back of the kayak and ran it through a carabiner on a bungee cord. The idea was that the cord would stretch when something bit. That didn't work so well as I think the fish I did catch got pulled along for sometime before I realized it was there (there wasn't much of a fight to get it in the boat).

Sea kayak trolling setup from a Tofino-based kayak guide.
After searching for a way to upgrade to my set up, I realized there isn't too much info out there. And even less if you don't want to drill holes in your kayak for rod holders et and since Jenna would never let me drill into our precious kayaks I needed to figure out something that would work. The image to the right was posted on a West Coast Paddler forum, so that, plus some helpful advice from my friend Ed led to my setup below. Hopefully this post will make things easier for you to get set up for some kayak fishing!

Fishing in Haida Gwaii - first bite of the trip, just a little
lingcod (?). Sadly, it was too early to catch any salmon.
For my kayak I did the same for the front - PVC pipe tied on the left front deck as a rod holder and Scotty downrigger clip on the right to keep the line out of the way. Unlike the above photo, my rod was directed forward toward the bow since I figured it would be unruly to have it sticking up like above. However, for the back, I added a PVC pipe to hold my net on the right back deck and put a paddle holder on the left back deck. This made it quite convenient when trying to bring in a fish. You can see most of the set up in the photo to the left: bottom left of photo = paddle in paddle holder, middle under my arm = rod holder PVC, right bottom = downrigger clip.

A few more we caught while trolling
as we kayaked along.
The first real test for my kayak trolling set-up was on our recent trip to Haida Gwaii, and it seemed to work pretty well. Caught a several lingcod and some rockfish. (I'm assuming they were lingcod, as they didn't look like the rockfish on my identification chart, but if anyone has a better suggestion, please let me know) None of the fish we caught were especially large, and we didn't catch any salmon, but the ones we did get were extremely tasty! I was using a pink mini-flasher and a hoochie, and the lingcod seemed to love that.

If you're interested in a getting a groundfish identification card and/or a fish descender, the Oregon Coalition for Educating ANglers (OCEAN) will send you one. I highly recommend it! Just make sure to give them a donation so they can keep up the awesome work.

Stay tuned for a post about our crazy 2.5 week trip to Haida Gwaii, and how to plan your own! Actually, you may not really want to plan to your own, it was a lot of work... but you can read all about that soon.