Posts Tagged ‘north vancouver’

Grouse SnowshoeGrind

When Debra asked me if I wanted to join her to do the Grouse Snowshoe Grind Mountain Run, I was hesitant. I mean, a snowshoe race? But then she reminded me that it would make a great blog post, so I readily obliged!

***SPECIAL THANKS to Debra for all of her awesome photos – many of which are included in this post!***

There are three kinds of people:

  1. Those who run the Grouse Grind regularly
  2. Those who run the Grouse Grind once
  3. Everyone else

The Grouse Grind is a three-kilometer hike from the base of Grouse Mountain with an elevation gain of 853 metres (2,800 feet). However, the Grouse Grind is closed for the winter. The SNOWSHOE GRIND is an entirely different thing!

In the days leading up to the run, I got a bit nervous. I’ve gone snowshoeing a few times, though not in recent years, and I’ve certainly never raced in them. I got some sage advice about how to dress from Christina (don’t worry…we ALL get sweaty), and felt fairly well prepared by the night before.

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After a fitful sleep, brought on by more anxiousness about this race than I even had before my first marathon, I groggily got myself ready for a 7:15am pickup by Debra. Light traffic, and after a brief detour we were at the base of Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver for bib pickup.

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We crammed onto the tram with dozens of skiers and snowboarders of all sizes and ages, and arrived in plenty of time to relax over a coffee and strategize about how to tackle the unknowns of a snowshoe race.

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Have you ever snowshoed? It’s not like running on the roads. You need to have a wider stance, and you tend to leap/shuffle forward. There are spiky things on the bottom to help you grip the snow. And we were going to need it…

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Once we were kitted out, we scanned the competition (“The one in the short sleeves is going to win…”) and got ourselves pumped up:

And a few minutes later about 120 ‘runners’ headed out onto the snowy trails.

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For the first few minutes the trail was a gradual upward slope. I ran a little bit, walked a little bit – felt that my pace was pretty decent. I passed a few other snowshoers.

Then things got steep.

Grouse Snowshoe Grind

This is why we call it a GRIND

For nearly a kilometre, the grade of the trail was between 22% and 30%. This quickly reduced me to walking trudging at a lightning slow pace.

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Elevation profile

Took a couple of stops along the way.

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Taking a look back (and waaaaay down):

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Finally, two kilometres in, we reach the top of Dam Mountain – the summit is at 1,318 metres elevation (we started just shy of 1,100 metres or about 3,600 feet). The scenery was breathtaking.

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On my way up, I had been passed by several a whole bunch of lead runners who were bombing down the trail. I tend to be pretty cautious going downhill, and at first I was kind of tip-toeing, and letting others pass me. Finally, though, I got the hang of things and picked up some speed. I passed Debra & Grace on the way by.

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See how my jacket is tied around my waist in that last photo? Well, about 5 minutes later it fell down around my ankles and I nearly took a header. Thankfully, I pulled it together and stayed upright.

And then it was over. I was very thankful for a banana and a sports drink.

Grouse Snowshoe Grind

I made sure to stay to cheer both Grace and Debra across the Finish Line!

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Feasted on bagels and cream cheese, coffee and cookies, but failed to win any door prizes this time around.

Absolutely knackered after this short but gruelling race. Would I do it again? Now that I know what to expect…absolutely!

Have you ever been on snowshoes? How about running a snowshoe race?

Weekly Wrap

Sharing this race report via the Weekly Wrap LinkUp hosted by HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin – stop by and read stories from other inspiring bloggers!

5 Peaks Trail Run
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!

I’ve covered the cross country race – the Vancouver Spirit Run – in another report. This report focuses on the 5 Peaks Trail Run, held on Mount Seymour in North Vancouver.

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.

5 Peaks

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…

Race Day

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!)

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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!

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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?

[Tweet “Thinking of doing  your first trail run? Read all about @5peaks #trailrunning “]

The Course

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)
  • Climbing Sliding 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:

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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):

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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.

5 Peaks

Photo courtesy of http://www.robshaerphoto.com

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!

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NOW I’m hard core!

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!

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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!

Final Results

Chip Time: 49:54 (wahoo! I beat my 50-minute goal time!)
Average Pace: 8:19 min/km
Overall: 70/140
Age Ranking: 10/16

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RACE REPORT

Overall
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.

Packet Pickup/Expo
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.

T-Shirt/Swag
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).

Course
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.

Aid Stations
No aid stations on the course – though there were some great volunteers/course marshals who were so encouraging and helped keep us on trail.

Post-Race
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!

Race Management
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??