Posts Tagged ‘trail race’

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…


Disclaimer: I received a free entry to MEC Trail Race One as a nuun Ambassador. All opinions are my own.

My second trail race of the year was a few weeks over a month ago (now that I’m finally writing this report!) I credit fellow nuun Ambassador Jeannine with fuelling my growing interest in trail running, and was glad to have her there at the MEC Trail Race as well!

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!


MEC North Vancouver Race FIVE

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to MEC North Vancouver Race FIVE as part of being a WestVanRun Ambassador. Don’t forget to register for the West Van Run (5k / 10k) on March 4 & 5, 2017. Use the code ‘bradley‘ for 15% off!

Dubbed ‘Haunted Headwaters‘, the fifth and final race of the MEC North Vancouver trail series had both 5k and 10k options. Initially, I threw down and planned to sign up for the 10k, but ended up scaling back to the 5k. Which was plenty long enough for me! The event starts at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park – hence the name of the race!


MEC North Vancouver

When I started this blog 2 years ago, I hadn’t yet run a full marathon. I hadn’t run a trail race. The first race report I wrote was of the 2014 West Van Run. Fast forward to today – I joined with other enthusiastic members of the West Van Run team to conquer the trails of the MEC North Vancouver Race ONE!

MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop – an outdoor gear store and Vancouver institution) puts on a series of trail races (among other events) in communities across Canada, and keeps the entry fees low so everyone can join in. This was my first MEC race – and it was great!

Race ONE was held in North Vancouver, starting at the Lower Seymour Conservation Forest, and included both 5k and 10k options. Since I’m doing BOTH the 5k and the 10k at the West Van Run next weekend (March 5&6), I opted for the 5k. Although sub-titled ‘The Frozen Forest’, this run was anything but wintry!

Debra picked me up and we headed through foggy downtown, over the bridge and into the hills of Lynn Canyon. The parking lot was already getting crowded and we lined up to get our bibs and timing chips. Enjoyed a sample of David’s Tea, made a couple of potty breaks, and mingled with a bunch of familiar faces (not necessarily in that order). Given that I’m not a regular trail racer, it was great to run into a wide range of friends from:

Forerunners (Emily)

MEC North Vancouver

RunVan (Jun)

MEC North Vancouver

My office (shout out to Sharon! Why didn’t we get a selfie?)

And, of course, WestVanRun Crew! Paula, Mark (awesome t-shirt!), Milan and Stephen all tackled the 10k:

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Sam, Harrison, Debra and I took on the 5k:

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Ever reliable with her trusty camera, Debra (@debrakato) receives credit for all of the photos in this post!!

We cheered on the 10k racers as they headed out. About 25 minutes later, the 5k gang gathered at the start.

MEC North Vancouver

The first half of the race involved a loop around Rice Lake on a well-groomed trail. The terrain was relatively flat – a bit of undulation, but nothing especially intense. Almost immediately, however, I regretted wearing my jacket. Knowing a couldn’t continue like this, I hoped I wouldn’t repeat the incident at the Snowshoe Race where my jacket fell down around my ankles. I cinched it tight around my waist and forged ahead. It was all a bit of a blur.

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The second half was a whole different ball of wax. We passed the cheering crowds at the start/finish line and the course sloped downhill. Then, unexpectedly, stairs. Heading down. A whole lot of stairs.

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I gingerly passed a man in front, who said: “There’s a big uphill coming!” He was not mistaken.

At the bottom of the stairs, we were close to the shores of Lynn Creek, and the terrain became fairly rocky. There were more tourists and hikers and dogs as we passed the eastern end of Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.

MEC North Vancouver

And, as predicted, stairs going UP.

And UP.

I kept a pretty decent pace up the stairs. And then there was a hill. My pace slowed. I wanted to keep going…but I had to slow to a walk. I just couldn’t do it. Once I reached the top, I pushed myself to pick it up and keep moving. I had to convert my merino wool Buff (on its first outing) from cap to neck because I was SO hot.

There was a log.

MEC North Vancouver

In my mind, I leaped the log like a gazelle. In reality, I imagine it was more like a clamber.

In the last 100m or so, I managed to pass the guy who had been just ahead of me all the way up the hill. Sam and Harrison had finished moments before, so we reconvened with the 10k racers who had finished, and cheered in those who were wrapping up. We showed off our West Van Run team spirit! NOTE: Samantha came in 4th overall for females in the 5k! Congrats, Sam!!

MEC North Vancouver

Debra and I then headed on to our NEXT race…to be continued at the Bagel Chase!!!

Final Results

Chip time: 28:29
Average pace: 5:42 min/km
Place overall: 23/161
Gender place (no age categories): 18/54

Trail races – yay or nay?


Join me in linking up with MissSippiPiddlin and HoHoRuns for their Weekly Wrap!

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

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):


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

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!


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!



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



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.

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.

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.

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??