Seek the Peak: Race Recap
D called yesterday put your money where your mouth is day. It’s unfortunate that days like that have to start at 4:30am, at least the birds were already up.
Wanting to keep not only the morning but the rest of the day simplified (from the race I was spending Father’s Day at the ball park, where else would the Dads want to be on their day? And who can really think clearly at 4:30am?), my bags were already packed and my car loaded the night before, so all that was left for me to do was complete my pre-race must do’s and post my status “there is no fear in fierce”.
I met D and Soraiya at 5:30am and we started our motorcade to Grouse Mountain. I had checked the weather forecast for West Vancouver before leaving and it called for a mix of sun and cloud; that was not what we arrived to. I guess the torrential downpour should not have surprised me, it is Junuary after all. Fortunately I had a black garbage bag in the back of my car, for just such an occasion and I quickly cut out a few holes, voila, old school running jacket!
As Seek the Peak is a point to point to point race, there were school buses to shuttle us from the mountain to the start line at Ambleside Beach. We loaded quickly and headed down. With over an hour to kill before the start of the race, the rain and nowhere to stand undercover, we should have actually driven one of our vehicles to the beach and picked it up after the race. Thank goodness the bathroom had a large change room where we were able to take shelter, not to mention making it easier to jump in the bathroom line-up for a last minute nervous pee.
The race started shortly after 8:15am, and what do you know it had almost stopped raining! I Hulk Hogan’d my garbage bag and started my 16km, 4,100 verticle foot climb.
The first leg of the race was a 4km section, some road, some trail, some flat and a few ups and seemed to go extremely fast. My legs were feeling well rested and I was happy to be able to still see D and Soraiya, even if it was only the back of them. Instead of carrying my camelback I opted to wear my new water belt, each bottle holds 10oz of water so my plan was to save my water for the Grind and use the water stations provided. It worked well as the timing mats were in front of the water stations at each of the check points.
The second leg of the race was 9.5km trail (plus .5km road), somewhat technical, lots of roots and rocks. I was a little taken aback by some of the downhill on the trail, knowing full well we were going to have to go back up. The scenery was beautiful (other than the girl puking behind a tree), the trail network followed the Capilano River crossing at the salmon hatchery and then the uphill really began, a few s-climbs and stairs, little stairs and a lot of them, the kind that make your calves burn!
We kicked out of the trail then to a strategically planned water station and then out onto Capilano Road (Bev, I totally thought of you here, your restaurant was staring me in the face). I knew this section of road was going to be a killer, I ran it last week. I prepared myself, took a deep breath and that is when I saw Nicole’s smiling face waving and cheering me from the other side of the road. There is just something about seeing a familiar face on a race route, it just gives you a motivating kick in the butt. Thanks Nicole!
Oh, only .5km Capilano Road was tough, but I pushed through it and even managed to catch up to Kevin whom I hadn’t seen since the very first downhill section of trail. We both stopped at the water station at the bottom of the Grind and toasted our water cups before starting leg 3…the Grouse Grind.
I checked my watch as I entered the trail and was very happy to see that I was just at 59 minutes (it also made the math very easy for the rest of the climb to stay on top of my time). Fatigue was starting to catch up with the soloists as those who were running the race as a relay bounced by us with fresh legs up the first section of the Grind, but the Grind has a way of evening out the playing field very quickly.
When I hit the ¼ mark of the Grind I was starting to feel some tightness in my calves. By the time I hit the ½ mark my calves were starting to seize up a little if I over stretched them, which was making passing others difficult. I chose my moments carefully using wide corners to pass instead of short-cuts. I knew that I needed some electrolyte replacement by now but didn’t want to chance using the gel that I had brought with me, because I had never used it before, rule number one, nothing new race day (so why did I bring it, right?). My plan was to stop at the water station at the top of the Grind and drink some of their Powerade and cut it with as much water as I needed.
I kept my head down and tried to focus on my music for the last ¼ of the Grind. I was also starting to get cold, I wasn’t sure if it was because my pace had slowed down or if it was because of the temperature. The last few rocks were very slippery, to the point that I lost my footing and had to use the rope, which was equally slippery (gross), I felt like QT in Vegas only my rope burn took my palm print not my fingerprints off!
Coming out of the trees was awesome, as quite a crowd of spectators were gathered to cheer including Nicole and Randy, from spin class, had also joined her (I had secretly hoped that my daughter’s ball game had been rained out and my family would be there as well ). Once again just what I needed and I managed to pull off a sort of run to the water station.
Pink Powerade is disgusting. Using my tequila shooting skills, I managed to get two cups back and plenty of water to get me through the last leg, up to the peak of the mountain.
Whenever I have visualized doing this race, in my mind it is always a beautiful sunny day on top of the mountain. Yesterday was the polar opposite. Wet, poor visibility, snow on the trail. And I realized quickly that I was cold because it was freaking cold! But I only had 3km to go and it was business time. I tried to run as much as I could, but the harsh reality was that now my hike was quicker than my run and I went with it, and looking around I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Thank goodness that there were plenty of marshals around, because you really couldn’t see where you were to go, I felt very disoriented.
The trail was very steep going up and it made for a very steep downhill for the runners who had already reached the peak. It wasn’t long before I saw D coming down the hill towards me, we high fived as we passed. I knew that she didn’t have far to go and was so proud of her time (she ended up finishing 2nd in her age category!). The climb seemed to go on forever, and with no end in sight (you couldn’t see much more than 50 meters in front of you by this point), you could only hope it was around the next corner.
Soon I saw a very smiley Soraiya running towards me, another high five for team run like hell and then it was my turn to see the top of the mountain. It was a bit anti-climactic, around an orange cone and then back down. I glanced at my watch and to my surprise I was only at 2:11 (my completion time goal was 2:30), I let out a woo-hoo at the top and started my descent.
Coming down was awesome; you couldn’t help but smile as you ran down, what a feeling to have reached the top. My only goal now was to get to the finish line without getting covered in road rash (mountain rash) from my feet slipping out from underneath me.
The trail split and I started my approach towards the finish line, at least I hoped because visibility was still very limited. We ran past the grizzly bear habitat (the scene of Liz’s half written screen play), I did look but saw no signs of life. Then there it was, the last little muddy uphill section to the finish line marshaled by one of my favourite volunteers from 5 Peaks, Alia. We said a quick hello and I scrambled up and into the shoot and across the finish line. Official finish time 2:21:16
The finish line atmosphere was amazing. On the deck of the Rusty Rail Grill there was a party going on, DJ, food, fantastic looking burgers and best of all COFFEE! It could have tasted like the pink Powerade for all I cared (although it didn’t) it was warm. And as much as I wanted to join the party my teeth were chattering my hands were numb and my lips were taking on a blueish tint; dry clothes and the warmth of my heated seats in my car were calling.
When I registered for Seek the Peak I didn’t just want a challenge I needed a challenge and that is exactly what I got. Cheers to Grouse Mountain, the organizers, volunteers, everyone who raised money and those who participated in this fabulous event.