The weekend began like an early September weekend should – bright and sunny, with just a hint of chill in the air. And so began what I’m going to refer to as ‘my weekend of firsts’ – because not only would it be the first time I’ve run races on two consecutive days, but also because the races themselves are new to me: my first trail race, and my first cross country race!
Briefly, 5 Peaks is a trail racing series held across the country, on “some of the most beautiful trails Canada has to offer!” The series originated in Vancouver in 1998. Each event has a free Children’s Challenge (50m – 1km), a Kidspeaks Timed Kids Challenge (about 3k), a Sport (5-8 km) entry-level course, and an Enduro (10-15 km) intermediate to advanced course. Learn more at 5Peaks.com.
And until last week, I knew literally nothing about 5 Peaks. Running a trail race had never even occurred to me. As I’ve said before, I’m a bit clumsy. I stumble over sidewalk cracks. I injure my knee on the corner of the bed frame (you’ll note the kinesio tape in my pics). I make note of things on the ground to avoid stepping on them, and moments later forget about them and end up stepping on them.
As such, my thinking was that a trail race would be disastrous for me. Roots and rocks? Not for me!
So how did I end up at the top of Mount Seymour ready to run on trails on a Saturday morning?
Thanks to Karin and the #WestVanRun Team, I got an entry to the 5 Peaks race. This literally came about less than a week before the race, after having just completed the VanRace 15k. I must have been on some sort of runner’s high, because with just a wee bit of hesitation – plus an offer to be chauffeured by Debra Kato in her green machine – I was in!
I don’t have trail shoes, so I just wore an old pair of Nikes. This would prove to be my only regret…
As mentioned in my opening, it was a perfect day! Not a cloud in the sky. The parking lot at Mt. Seymour was packed – lots of people for the race, and I assume for hiking the backcountry. I’ve been to Seymour a couple of times, but always in the winter for snowshoeing. I was surprised how busy it was at 8:15am on a Saturday!
Debra and I collected our bibs and Buff toques (yay! More Buff for my growing gear collection!) and connected with members of the West Van Run Crew! More and more, I’m getting to know folks in the local running community, and love the pre-race energy and excitement. Many a race I’ve started out solo, and this is way more fun! (Thanks again to Debra for her awesome photography!)
We watched some of the kids come in from their run (simply adorable!) and then cheered as the Enduro Course (9k) headed out on their epic journey. Then it was out turn. In my ignorance of what was to come, I was still grinning at the start line!
I had read the course description ahead of time, but lines on a PDF map mean little in this type of terrain. Solana – the awesome Race Director – described the course while we were in the corral: fallen trees, muddy slopes – what have I gotten myself into?
I won’t even try to describe the course, because it’s somewhat of a blur. Here are a few ‘highlights’ that I can recall:
- Running through a ‘meadow’ – which has romantic connotations for me, but it’s really a rock-strewn path lined with weeds and grass
- Two fallen trees – requiring us to duck underneath (better than having to climb over)
ClimbingSliding down a gigantic boulder, probably about 5 feet high – very gingerly
- Squooshy muddy spots – and that after months of drought and one weekend of rain. What if we’d had a wet summer?
- Rough-hewn bridges and boardwalks of wet logs – tiptoed across those!
- Beautiful scenery – towering trees, quiet lakes, flowers, sun and shade – truly BC!
- Hills – slippy and treacherous on the way down, challenging and tiring on the way up
- Roots, rocks, slippery roots, and more roots
- The final hill. The final sole/soul-crushing hill. Gravel. And pain.
I elected not to take many pictures on the run, since I was afraid that if I took my eyes off my feet, I would fall flat on my face. These are the ones I risked taking:
Oh, and I also snapped one selfie (the Buff around my neck ended up on my head to soak up sweat before the end of race):
During the first kilometre or so, people were pretty good at self-seeding. I let a few people pass me (where there was room on the trail), and I passed a few others along the way. For rest of the most of the run, we pretty much ended up in well-spaced single file.
My only annoying moment was a woman who was tiptoeing over some rocks, which is totally understandable – but once we got back on the path and I said: “I’m just going to pass you if it’s OK”, she actually moved over to block my way. I ended up skirting off the path to get around her. Maybe she didn’t hear me…
Another thought that crossed my mind when I was the one walking very delicately across slippery rocks…I wish I had a pair of trail shoes. This may be something on my wish list…
After the final, horrible hill – the last little bit of the race took us around the parking lot to the cheers of fellow runners, and across the finish line! My first trail race, done and done!
We stayed around to cheer on the finishers of both the Sport and Enduro courses, and then to watch the complete awards ceremonies. There were also quite a number of giveaways, including shoes and Buff goods – I came away with a pair of XL Pearl Izumi socks! A few of our West Van Run team even made it to the podium! All in all, a spectacular day!
Will I do another trail race? You know what? I probably will! I don’t know where or when, but it will definitely happen! Stay tuned until then!
Chip Time: 49:54 (wahoo! I beat my 50-minute goal time!)
Average Pace: 8:19 min/km
Age Ranking: 10/16
If you skipped straight to the summary and don’t feel like reading the details, here’s the summary: my first trail race was well-organized, fun, a bit nerve-wracking (but in a good way), and totally awesome. Full stop.
I’m not sure if there was packet pickup prior to the day of (I don’t think so), but when we arrived it was a quick ‘give my name’ at the table and the bib was yours. Done and done. No fuss, no muss.
No t-shirt, BUT we got an awesome 5 Peaks branded Buff toque, which I will most definitely wear this winter! There were also a whole bunch of prizes and giveaways (won via heads/tails game, shoe toss, and rock-paper-scissors).
I have nothing to compare it with, but this 6k ‘sports’ course was what I would describe as ‘technical’. There were roots, rocks, branches, water, mud, hills, rocks, grass, gravel, roots…and that was on repeat. It was also absolutely beautiful, true BC backcountry experience! The course was well marked with flags, so no issues finding our way.
No aid stations on the course – though there were some great volunteers/course marshals who were so encouraging and helped keep us on trail.
Well-stocked at the finish line – bananas, oranges, cookies, coffee (bring your own mug!), and chips (yay! chips!). And as mentioned above, lots of giveaways!
Solana did an absolutely amazing job of organizing this event. I was especially impressed with pre-race communication, which was very thorough and left no doubt about what to expect (except for the crazy hill at the end…). I would assume that all of the 5 Peaks races Solana is involved with are like this one…so excellent.
Have you ever done a trail race? What was your experience?
Should I get trail shoes??