5 Peaks Cypress

5 peaks cypress

After nearly a year living on the North Shore, I thought I was better at hills. I learned my lesson at 5 Peaks Cypress on the Enduro course…I’m not. As we were waiting in the corral, Race Director Solana told us the hills were ‘soul crushing’. She didn’t lie. Rocks and trees and fog and a bit of rain and oh-so-many hills ensured that we had a brutally fantastic race day experience, where time and distance lose all meaning and it’s just you and the trail…

The only other time I’ve joined a 5 Peaks event was at the 5 Peaks Seymour back in 2015. I remember the race being tough, scenic, well-organized and particularly hot. The only difference with this year’s 5 Peaks Cypress was the weather – everything else held true!

When I decided to register for the race, I asked Jeannine her opinion on whether I should run the Sport (shorter, at 6.5k) or Enduro (11k) course. She warned me that the Enduro was a lot tougher, but the views made it totally worthwhile. I went in with eyes wide open – although I couldn’t see a lot through the fog…

5 peaks cypress

I did my bib pickup at Distance Runwear on Saturday and got my swag – a nifty pair of BOCO gloves with 5 Peaks branding. (I’ve been a fan of BOCO Gear since testing their products with BibRave – and I wore their hat at this race!)

Cypress Mountain is an amazing place, but there’s no public transit so you really need a car to get there. Saturday evening, I picked up my Modo car share with the awesome ‘Open Return’ option – so I’d have it ready first thing in the morning, and wouldn’t have to worry about returning it at a specific time. I used Modo when we went snowshoeing at Cypress this winter, and each time it has made my life so much easier!

Sunday morning, prepped and ready! But then oops…halfway on my drive to the race I realized I had left my Garmin sitting at home, so I backtracked to retrieve it. No way was I tackling 5 Peaks Cypress without my GPS tracking! Fortunately, I had left myself a good time buffer, so I arrived without incident. Except for the fact that it had started to rain.

I hung around and chatted with my running family, watched the youngsters running the 1k and/or 3k kids’ runs, visited the washroom like 3 times, and then nervously lined up for the 9am Enduro course start. We were cautioned that a mama bear and her cubs had been spotted near the beginning of the race, so (to quote Solana): “Don’t blame me if you get eaten.” But the bears were the least of my concerns.

On the Course

The first kilometre or so wound through some gentle trails surrounded by small trees and scrub and past Yew Lake. This soon gave way to a fairly steep uphill with a few switchbacks. I was still trying to get my rhythm, deciding with each couple of steps if I should keep walking or try ‘running’. It was definitely more of the former. Then things leveled out for another kilometre. That didn’t last.

5 peaks cypress
5 peaks cypress

What the hell is this? What have I done? The slope in front of me was – you guessed it – soul-crushing. Up and up and up we trudged, trying to find footing on the loose stone. Is it volcanic rock?? Is Cypress an old volcano? (Note: it’s not, but there are leftover volcanic rocks in the area) Dark and sharp and cruel. 240 metres of vertical elevation in one kilometre (which, according to Strava, was a 40% grade). It was ENDLESS.

On this uphill slog, I thought: although it’s a trail race, it’s definitely not a trail run. This is fundamentally different from everything we do in a road race. It’s an entirely unique world.

Then it was over…but only for a moment! More uphill! And at the aid station, where the Sports course runners turned off, we kept going. Right up to the peak of the mountain. I had anticipated epic views, right up until race morning. We were so high up we were in fog and/or clouds. Nothing to see here, folks!

Downhill – I think it’s tougher than going up. I don’t have enough confidence in my balance or the strength of my legs to really go hard, and these trails had so much loose stone that it felt risky. But boy, caution is tough on the quads! I know I’m going to feel that pain over the next few days!

I made it a point to avoid looking at my watch (although I was glad to have it). Time and distance really start to lose meaning at this point in a trail race, and my spatial awareness – pretty good on the streets – is completely on the fritz in the trails. I just focused on where each foot was landing, trying to avoid a tumble.

In the final stretch – 15 minutes? A few kilometres?? – I fell in stride with a woman going a reasonable pace. It was good to have a bit of company out there. We encountered quite a few hikers heading up, but they all moved out of our way as we stumbled past.

Jeannine – who had wisely elected to run the Sport course (after running some 23 kilometres the day before) – was cheering as I approached the finish line. Around a final corner, and the race was done.

Photo: Jeannine Avelino


The rain had long since stopped, so the entire race was dry. And I was so happy that it was over. But what a fun challenge! So glad I did this!

That kid was high-fiving all the finishers!

Afterwards, debriefing with my running buddies, and partaking of the snacks. Fruit, popcorn, chips…the only thing they didn’t have was coffee, which I was craving.

Hope ran her first trail race!

Knowing that a shower and a nap were in my future, I headed home. Until the next race!

Final Results

Chip Time: 1:36:56
Place Overall: 127/193
Gender Place: 87/107
Place in Age Category (45-49): 36/46

For full race results, click here


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