Knee Knacker Training Run June 24, 2012
I know, I know….it’s been long overdue.
Here we are at the final stages of training for the 2012 Knee Knacker, & I’m finally managing to get down to typing out a “weekly” run report. Apologies to anyone who’s been expecting to get their regular fix of trail lore.
From the beginning of May, our group has grown from about 35 participants up to 80+. As the runs get longer or the conditions get worse, we seem to pick up more people. Safety in numbers, or misery loves company…whatever the case may be, we’ve got a great group of varying ability, pace, background, & experience.
Today’s training run is the longest on the schedule…we were aiming to cover the first three quarters of the race course…from the start at Nelson Creek, to Lynn Canyon. It’s also the first time that many runners get to experience the arduous climb up & over Black Mountain.
The weather & snow conditions play a big part in the potential for (mis)adventure. If the weather cooperates, the upper Bluffs offer stellar views of the Gulf Islands & Mt Baker. If the weather takes a turn for the worse (remember 2010?), it can be downright miserable. The trail conditions can vary from slightly muddy, to swampy, to snow covered….or everything in between.
As we prepared to start our run, it appeared that the weather was going to cooperate….despite a monsoon-like rain the night prior, the morning promised a mix of sun & cloud. It was obvious that there would be snow in the high areas, but how much?
Three Knee Knacker veterans had gone through a few days prior & supplied us with some valuable feedback on the trail conditions…heavy snow above the Bluffs, very little around the Hollyburn section, & a bunch more snow on the cross country ski trails. We were warned that the creek crossings at Hollyburn might be challenging. With that in mind, participants were given the option of skirting the Hollyburn section via the Cypress Bowl Road.
Armed with that knowledge, our group of over 70 runners started the climb up towards Cypress. I don’t know whether it was a full moon, the uncertain conditions, or the reputation of the trail, but the group was much quieter than in years past….though as we warmed up & groups started to form, so did the conversations. Eventually we climbed up past the rockfalls, up the steep forested trails & onto Eagle Bluffs. Although it wasn’t brilliant sunshine, we were well under a cloud layer & could enjoy the view of Eagle Harbour, Bowen Island & beyond. Our group stopped to take in the view, & pose for a quick snapshot before darting back into the forest & onto the snow.
As had been noted, the upper reaches were covered in snow, but the trail was fairly straightforward…that is, the obvious tracks in the snow were easy to follow. Unfortunately, tracks can go in many (wrong) directions. Such was the case for more than a few people…even some veterans found a way to add an extra 30 to 40 minutes to their run.
When we got to the Cypress parking area (the ¼ mark on race day), I opted to investigate the Hollyburn section & followed the Baden-Powell trail proper. Unlike last year where I had to rig some safety ropes for the creek crossings on race day, there was very little snow & the trail was very straightforward. The creeks were swollen, but not to the point to cause any concern, & I managed to make decent time through that section. I eventually caught up to a group of four as we popped onto the cross country ski area & we wound our way down the open snow slopes to the Ranger station…..from there, it was a nice long technical downhill through the Hollyburn Chute, & eventually through the residential neighbourhood of the British Properties. As I closed in on Cleveland Dam, I passed a couple of fellows who’d sustained some injuries…knee & ankle….& had (wisely) opted to take a cab from Cleveland Dam (the ½ way point on race day).
Arriving at the Dam, I spotted uber-veterans John Machray & Ean Jackson (going for his 20th Knee Knacker finish this year). They were on an abbreviated run today, but talk revolved around one particular subject. While it’s obvious to some, not many participants realize the experience, knowledge, & talent that surrounds them. We are very fortunate that this sport allows us not only to race with some of the best, but to train with them as well. Among the people who participate in our weekly training runs, we have folks who’ve run the Grand Canyon, the Sahara Dessert, multiple 100-milers, Ultraman (double Ironman), set national course records, have been inducted into Halls of Fame, etc, etc…. Not many of these people look for fanfare or attention, but they are willing to share their experiences if nudged a little bit…especially if their knowledge will help a fellow ultrarunner.
Today marked a historic moment in ultrarunning that had a very local connection. A fellow runner who had recently moved back to North Vancouver had just competed in the most classic 100-miler of them all…the historic Western States 100-miler (if you don’t know it…look it up). You’ve probably seen her during a few of our training runs….often returning from an out & back training run well ahead of everyone, or in the fast pace group, & always smiling. Ellie Greenwood not only finished the first female in WS100, not only was she 14th overall….she beat a course record that was set by the legendary Ann Trason back in 1994. Ann’s time was thought to be unapproachable. By finishing in 16 hours & 47 minutes, Ellie shattered the previous record by 50 minutes!! See what Knee Knacker training runs can do for you! Congratulations, Ellie! That was unbelievable!
With that bit of inspiration under my belt I headed up towards Grouse Mountain….walking. Obviously I could use a little more training & a little less weight. This section often causes much grief during the race. After the high of crossing Cleveland Dam to the chants (clapping) of thousands (a few hundred) of screaming fans (family, friends, volunteers, & strangers), the long slog up Nancy Green Way & back into the Baden Powell trail up to the St George’s bench can really take its toll. I managed to keep a fairly decent march going, but was promptly dropped by a couple of gals who decided that they’d had enough of waiting for me….off they went along with August Albrecher & a couple of others with the stamina to match their pace….I don’t know how they finished because I never saw any of them after that. I kept my pace going as I munched on some sesame snaps & Mo whizzed passed me. Mo’s on her first Knee Knacker attempt, & she’s been stomping those long climbs into submission.
Eventually Clive, Dave, & Andy caught up to me & we wound our way down, down, down to the Varley trail, over the final hump by the gazebo at LSCR (the race’s ¾ mark), & over the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (part of the original Knee Knacker route, it was changed due to the potential for conflict between tourists & an onslaught of mud-encrusted smelly runners).
The run finished (6 hours), we refueled with a variety of liquid concoctions (none better than the coffee & mint ice cream that one particular Knackerer was enjoying) & waited for other fellow runners to return so that we could whisk them off to their cars at the start.
Another day, another few miles of mud, sweat, & snow.
See you next Sunday….wear something red for Canada Day!