Puddle Panic – Gunner Shaw 2021


What’s it like to run a race *in real life* after nearly 21 months? Exhilarating! And to make it even better, I chose my first race to be the unique, challenging, muddy and rewarding Gunner Shaw Cross Country race!

Like many of the races in the Lower Mainland, I’ve run the Gunner Shaw before. The first time, it was rerouted due to a police incident. The second time, two years ago, was a damp but enjoyable experience.

As everyone knows, we’ve had some of the wettest weather on record over the past month. I knew we’d be in for a treat on the 2021 Gunner Shaw course.

Jeannine, Carmen & Freya (the Toller) picked me up, and it was great to have some company as we headed to Jericho Beach. Due to COVID restrictions, there was no access to the Jericho Sailing Club, so we hung around outdoors.

gunner shaw

It was absolutely amazing to see some running friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen in nearly two years. Reunions galore! Such a delight after all this time of (enjoyable but sometimes lonely) solo runs around the North Shore.

One concern – was my decision to wear shorts instead of tights the right one? It was chilly but not freezing, so I was hoping for the best.

Once again, I opted for the 5K single-loop course. Neither my training nor my willpower was sufficient to sustain me through two rounds of this punishment!

The course was familiar – starting out on the grass, then circling around the Sailing Club onto the gravel path, and then the unforgiving instability of the sandy beach. Then – squishy, muddy grass, followed by the soggy woodchip trails of Jericho Beach Park.

The big downhill was epically slippery, and you really had to commit to navigate the slope without landing on your butt. Someone ahead of me grabbed a tree branch that nearly took my eye out, but I dodged it deftly.

We knew – how could you not? – that the puddle would be something else. But it wasn’t until it loomed ahead that the reality hit me. The atmospheric rivers had morphed the puddle into a small lake that had inundated the trail completely. Its end wasn’t even visible as it receded into the distance.

I dove right in (feet first) and the frigid water came up to my knees. I was determined to keep moving, stepping as high as I could to maintain my forward momentum. It almost worked until, about halfway along, a log and another racer blocked my path. My feet were numb and I had to slog forward until finally climbing onto the muddy banks of this cruel body of water.

puddle panic!

My pace was slow, but I wasn’t deterred as I forged ahead to the final mucky leg of the journey. The biggest surprise was a small but shockingly deep basin of filthy water that caught most of us unawares! Then, with legs like blocks of ice, I did my best impression of a sprint to the finish.

Shorts instead of tights? A wise choice, since my legs dried off almost immediately. No hot showers available to runners this year, so we hung around to cheer on a few more finishers, bade our friends farewell until the next event, and headed home to one of the most satisfying bathing moments of the year.

Thanks to the amazing organizers – Lions Gate Road Runners – and all the volunteers for one of the best ways to end the year, and kickstart in-person racing again!

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