Cap Crusher 12K – Coast Mountain Trail Series

Posted: March 24, 2019 in My Story
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Cap Crusher

The last time I ran a trail race was 2016 and it was the MEC North Van Race Five. In fact, I’ve only run three trail races before – the others were 5 Peaks Seymour and MEC North Van Race One. The longest distance was 6K. But since moving to the North Shore, I was bound and determined to tackle the trails once again, so I signed up for the aptly-named Cap Crusher – part of the Coast Mountain Trail Series. Tough? Yes! Worth it? Absolutely!

Have you heard of Gary Robbins? No? Most folks in the Vancouver running community are familiar with the name. Maybe you’ve seen the documentary The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young. Yes…Gary Robbins is one of those folks! And, as it happens, he’s also the race director for the Coast Mountain Race Series. And as one volunteer said as I struggled past her: “If there’s a hill, Gary will find it!”

My buddy Jeannine was my go-to when I first looked into the Cap Crusher. She gave me the thumbs up, and I registered well in advance of sell-out (three weeks before race day). I’ve been anticipating the race eagerly, although as the day of reckoning grew nearer, I started to get a wee bit uneasy. Was I ready for this? Surely not!

Earlier this week, an email from Gary with an update on course conditions. We’ve had a lot of snow this winter, and temperatures have been abnormally chilly. We were advised that there were patches of snow and ice and – while traction devices weren’t required – microspikes or yaktrax might be worth bringing along. Yikes!!

My fears were alleviated with Friday’s update. The weather had improved and the Cap Crusher course was ice-free! Jeannine sent me an encouraging message:

Cap Crusher

Packet Pickup

Friday evening, I got home from work and then made a beeline for Kintec North Vancouver – which I can literally see from my balcony. I was greeted warmly by a familiar face, although I couldn’t place her. She was volunteering, knew my name, and handed me my bib, beer (from Bridge Brewing), beer mug and cinch bag. Not a bad haul!

Cap Crusher
Cap Crusher

In and out in a couple of minutes.

That evening, a few more text exchanges with Jeannine, who gave me some tips on what to bring, wear, etc.

My dreams were filled with trails – I woke up feeling like I had already run the full course. Then reality set in; I still had 12K to race!

Race Morning

I dug up as much green as a could: my greenish RunVan t-shirt, my Seawheeze shorts with a bit of green, my TRY Events shamrock socks – and then a green Coast Mountain BUFF supplied by Jeannine. And so as not to let down my fans, I stuck with my signature orange cap (because orange is Irish, too, right?)

Cap Crusher

Waiting at the bus stop at 7:30am, a shout from the street: “Hey Bradley, need a ride?” Bev and Deb, on their way to the race – so huge thanks to them for the ride!

At Cleveland Dam – and damn it was breezy! I had worn sleeves as well, but no gloves and I was freezing. I kept my jacket (just a windbreaker, no warmth at all) on as long as I could, but finally had to leave it at gear check. I tried to convince myself that it would be warmer in the trails. Greeted my running buddies, and then huddled at the start line for the 12K.

Cap Crusher
Amy, Jeannine, Jonathan & me
Cap Crusher
Credit: Scott Robarts

Gary did his pre-race briefing – with jokes, a door prize, and lots of great information about the Cap Crusher course. It would be well-marked, and staffed by 70 volunteers.

Cap Crusher

On the Course

It’s really hard to explain the course, because I generally had very little sense of which way I was going. Basically, it was either downhill or uphill. We were in the beautiful trails of Capilano River Regional Park. I’ll let the map speak for itself:

Cap Crusher

Early on, we got a view of Cleveland Dam…

Cap Crusher

At about 7.5km, we had an aid station and a turnaround. I didn’t really need any aid, but I did slather a bit of Vaseline on my chest, where my hydration vest was chafing.

Cap Crusher

Heading to and from the aid station, we passed the runners ahead of and behind us. Jonathan passed me and – making reference to my comments about the West Van Run 10K – called out: “Do I inspire you!?” You do, Jonathan, you do.

I have to say that despite the challenges of the trails, the runners seemed generally happier than the road runners I often see during races. Lots of smiles, cheers of encouragement. I think I was grinning almost the whole time, although it may have looked like grimacing to the casual observer.

Cap Crusher
Credit: Chris Thorn

The volunteers were spectacular: cheering, clapping, high-fiving…I felt so well-supported throughout the race. And the course markings were amazingly clear; apparently there were 1500 wee flags along route, along with arrows and Wrong Way X’s. To be fair, I always had other runners in sight, so there was no chance of getting lost. But huge props for keeping us on track!

Did I mention that the Cap Crusher also had a 24K distance? These intrepid folks were doing the course twice, once in each direction. They started half an hour after the 12K, so we started seeing the lead runners during our return. And boy, those folks can move. It was pretty impressive. I just kept going as best I could.

Cap Crusher

It was quite a slog up that final hill – lots of walking and heavy breathing involved. And remember those 24K’ers? Who started 30 minutes after us? I got passed by a couple of them. Unbelievable!

Then a downhill, and the Cleveland Dam was in sight. All that was left was to cross it…and finish on an uphill. Ack! But I give it what power I had remaining in my jelly legs. A high-five from the Gary Robbins, and my longest trail race ever in the bag!

Cap Crusher
Credit: Scott Robarts


I had warmed up a lot, grateful I hadn’t worn my jacket after all. Post-race, though, I was happy to get some coffee and soup in my belly to warm me up. And chips, and cookies and – after a bit of a wait – sushi! Yep, sushi! These trail runners know how to eat!

Cap Crusher

There were prizes, too! Overall winner – 16-year-old Samuel Perrin, who did the thing in 57:10 (nearly 30 minutes ahead of me!); not far behind, first female Jenny Quilty at 58:20.

What a great morning! Awesome people and a remarkable course. I told my RunVan buddy Greg that I thought the trail runners looked happier. He said, “Of course, we’ve just spent a couple of hours in the trees. Forest bathing – it makes a difference.”

Cap Crusher
Jeannine is my trail running mentor

Oh, and remember that volunteer at package pickup? Ellie Greenwood – a famous ultramarathon runner. And she knew who I was! So chuffed.

Final Results:

Chip Time: 1:26:33
Overall Place: 83/162
Place in Gender: 48/71
Place in Age Group (40-49): 14/18
Click here for full results

Cap Crusher
Gary & me!

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