Seek the Peak – I Wasn’t Last!

Ever heard of Seek the Peak before? Probably not, and if you have… Well you might think I was crazy for signing up for it. Hell! Even one of the volunteers today, when I thanked him for being out there said he always wanted to see what crazy runners looked like.

Seek the Peak is crazy. It’s 16km of roads and trails with a 4100 foot gain that takes you from Ambleside Park up to Grouse Mountain, up the Grouse Grind and then you have another little 3k up and down jaunt you do. I am not going to lie, it’s tough. And hellish. Something that both mentally and physically can knock you on your ass. Some people complete this whole course in under 1:30. I can’t even complete the Grind portion in that!!

My goal today, my ONLY goal was not to be last. I am not Speedy McSpeederson, I am ok with that. But I wanted to not be the last person on the course. So I looked at the solo times for last year, and figured as long as I was under 3:50 I was good! I could do that right? Of course I could.

I got up at 4:30am, cursed and muttered, almost losing my last contact which would have been a disaster. I headed out to get Jen so we could hit the mountain for 6:30 and catch a shuttle bus down to the start. It was rainy out, and I figured a long sleeve was the way to go, as I tend to run cold.

We met up with Candice, Hilary, Dave, Lisa and Cory at the start. And yes, for at least 30 minutes Jen, Candice, Hilary and I were in the bathroom just to stay dry. I mean why get wet when you don’t have to?

Jen and I stuck together for the first 10k, until we got to the Grind. Everyone else was way ahead, and I appreciated her hanging back with me for that relaxing first bit. We chatted, took it easy, and I had to (again) make an off course pee break. It’s starting to become a theme with me and trails lately.

All was good mentally for me until we hit the roadway up to the grind. We passed my car, and I wanted to crawl in it. I won’t lie, I was NOT looking forward to the climb up the grind. I’d been shitting bricks over it for a few weeks wondering why I signed up for this. But I kept trudging away, one foot in front of the other.

Jen pushed on at the Grind and I just kept moving. Left foot, right foot, very minimal swearing (and for those that know me, running and hills that’s unheard of) but lots of mental struggles. I had people pass me, I passed people and at times really wanted to just throw in the towel. I did say over and over I would never do this again. I would never be this stupid to do this stupid idiotic race.

One lady said to me, after she told me it was her 7th year in a row doing the climb, that we all know someone who had breast cancer. And that what would I rather do? Sit in a chair having chemotherapy or do this race to help raise money. I understood what she meant, and it was a valid point. But at that moment, once she passed me, I muttered under my breath “I never want to do this race again.”

By the time I got to the top of the grind I was about 3 hours into the race. I knew I still had a hell of a climb coming up from what friends told me, and I knew that really the worst was over. I plugged away, running the parts I could and walking when I needed to. I was bagged. When I got to the part where the climb started, the volunteers jokingly said for $20 they would let me skip the hill and go to the finish. I thought about it and then said nope. I’m not someone who gives up. So I kept on going.

Luckily it was at this point I saw Cory coming down the hill. We hooted, cheered, high 5’ed each other and Cory told me he had already quit 3 times. I was proud he didn’t give up, signing up last minute and under trained he ROCKED that race. I kept going, chatting with a lady who I was pacing myself up the hill with. Thankfully she was there because on the way down I started going in the wrong direction. Whoops!

I ran the hills the best I could, taking it easy with the steepness and knowing my knees were not going to be happy with me. As I got near the bottom, I saw Wendy, a lady I had met on the grind who was struggling. I ran across, hugged her and said that yeah the climb sucked but she was going to finish. I hope it helped her out.

When I came back to the volunteer who said I could bypass for $20 I asked him if I got that for not giving up. He laughed and told me no way in hell, so I said worth a try, and kept on moving. I ran, albeit slowly the rest of the way, and was so happy to see the finish and Jen waiting for me! She got some awesome shots of me crossing the line.

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What was really cool and unexpected was we got medals. Apparently this was the first year? We popped into the lodge, grabbed a quick snack to go and left. All I wanted to do was get into dry clothes and go home.

In the end my time was 3:33:40 and I was not the last person across. My time for the grind portion was 1:32:36 which made me so proud!!! My best time on fresh legs is 1:23:33 so this was incredible. Jen held up a sweater so I could strip on the side of the road and get my wet pants off and away we went.

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Everyone who completed this race did amazing. It’s one that is not for the faint of heart, and no matter your time, completing it is the most amazing thing ever. My ONLY complaint is…. How the hell did I get mud all the way up to my knees AGAIN?

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Trail Porn

This past week was my first time getting back on the trails since, well, January with that miserable wet rainy 12 km adventure. Since then, I have managed to somewhat build up my distance and stamina, as well as purchased a new pair of Salomon running shoes that feel much better on my feet than the Speed Cross ones did. More room in the toe box makes Brandi’s feet very happy.

Sunday was a gorgeous day with the sun shining, and my longest trail run ever. Solana, Jen and I hit up the North Shore and did 17 km on an out and back route to Norvan Falls. From puddle jumping, to running in snow and going over a suspension bridge, the 3 hours on the trails were amazing. It was a pace that kept me moving, challenged me and only caused cramping in my calves around the last 2-3km.

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So this Saturday, my friend Suzanne organized a gentle run on the trails. It was awesome because Jen, Nikki, Hilary and Candice all managed to make it out for this one as well!!!

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Suzanne, Nicole, Newton, Emma, Troy and Susan were there as well which made for a large group and the chance to mingle and visit with different people. I like having the chance to swap up and run different paces through different parts of the trails and get to visit with different people. It’s definitely a plus to trail running.

We hit up the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge so we could hit up the washrooms. For me, it was a challenge. I am terrified of heights and bridges, mostly because I always fear I am going to break them… Yes stupid fear but non the less….. We did manage to get some good shots of me on it.

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This last shot is my favorite. Jen and Nikki each held one of my hands as we went across. Not only did I have to deal with the sway of the bridge with us all on it, I had no death grip on the rails. Seriously love my friends.

I ended up doing the shorter loop with Troy, Susan and Nicole, where we discussed Invisalign trays, running and just enjoyed the scenery. There was a really nice climb near the end, and I just powered through it to the top. I’ve accepted the fact I am a lot more natural of a climber than a lot of people, and am starting to embrace the skill a lot more.

These past 2 trail outings have made me realize how much of a difference there is between trail and road running. Between the scenery, friends, and the serenity of the trails, I can fully appreciate living where I do and being part of an amazing community of trail runners. I can’t wait to get out there more and start my season of racing.

And here’s some random scenery shots

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Get Off The Road

I put on my road running shoes, my Nike Vomero+8 for the first time in over a week last night and my feet were not happy. It was then that I truly realized how much trail running is seeping into my life.

Tuesday night runs with Solana and the 5 Peaks Ladies of the Trail group is fast becoming my favorite night of the week. With the sun setting earlier and my shift at work changing I am sad to think that next week might be the last one I attend for a bit.

Every week I get the chance to meet new people, visit with the girls who are becoming regulars and hit the trails in North Van for a new experience. I discovered I am almost fearless when it comes to uphill climbs, and my body thrives on them, even when I feel like dying partway through. Downhill is another story…..

I managed to slip on a rock last Tuesday, and went ass over teakettle, landing on my opposite leg than my last fall, but smashed my same arm. But I got up, brushed myself off and after a few unladylike words kept on trucking down the hill to where everyone else was waiting.

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We were halfway done the run, so I finished it and went home a bit stiff and sore from when I started.

Saturday I was leery about the Buntzen Orientation on the Enduro course for the upcoming 5 Peaks race. I knew it was going to be a technical trail, but I had no idea just how technical it would be!!!! Solana had promised incredible views, but it was foggy and overcast so the only view I got was this near the end.

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Still so so incredible!!! The course was about 15k and took me close to 3.5hrs to run. Thankfully the lovely Alannah ran with me for all the uphill and didn’t leave me behind on the downhill, often checking in to make sure I was ok.

Solana popped back and told me to stop being afraid and trust my body. Letting go of the fear of falling and downhill is going to be a struggle but I am trying. Melissa came back and ran with us near the end, both her and Alannah good with letting me set the pace which rocked. I got some awesome swag and decided for the race I would stick with the sport 10k instead of the Enduro.

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I have to admit, I have never felt so out of my comfort zone as I did that day. I felt out of place and so unsure of my capabilities in the middle of the Diez Vistas trail that at one point if I wasn’t sure I might die, I would have turned around. But I knew that Alannah was with me and the others were waiting so I kept going.

But this Tuesday, it was almost as if a light went off in my head. Our run started off with gentle rolling trails, and my lungs and legs were burning before we hit 3 k. I wanted to turn around and go back to my car, but I didn’t. And then, then we hit the uphill. Stairs, inclines, switchbacks… Oh the glory that is uphill. It was as if my second wind hit and I felt like I could do anything. My legs were still tired, but strong. My breathing was good and I felt great.

And when we hit the downhill portion where we could run I felt like I was flying. I was jumping over the small dips, hopping down from the foot bridges and letting my body do what it did best, move me. I gave up control and listened to my body and it was the most incredible feeling ever. I felt for the first time at peace and in a comfort zone I have not been in for ages.

And it was then, as I chatted with another runner hopping over the dips that I realized how much I love trails. How much I want to run them and embrace the challenges that come with them. And that I am not going to give up, and I can push myself and this is something I want to do.

I am addicted. I would love to blame Solana for all the races I want to do and limits I will be pushing, but instead I have to thank her for believing I can do this and for the awesome chance I have had to experience this.

So all I can say is “get off the road”

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