That Last One Really Was The Last Hill

I ran my first EVER trail run this past weekend!  A friend suggested we run around a local lake on Monday, which was a holiday here in Canada.  The distance was going to be between 8km and 14km depending on if the trail was still closed due to flooding.  I’ve been there before, but it was a very long time ago and I had only ever hiked one side of the lake.  Perhaps I should have looked at the map and read the description prior to going…  I knew that it was going to be hilly, but really?!?

Here’s the official description:
Portions of this trail are very steep.  Providing an alternative route along Buntzen Lake’s western shore, this trail follows the Pumphouse Road from the main entrance gate, then connects with the transmission line heading north before slipping into the dense forest that enfolds Buntzen Ridge. The trail ends where it joins the Old Buntzen Lake Trail near North Beach.

Okay, that first part would have at least been a little nice to know about.  Then I could have been slightly more mentally prepared.

There were 3 of us (+1 dog) running; my friend Gina, her friend Ivana and I, plus Gina’s dog Parker.  We started out about 8:30am.  The weather report called for sun, but I thought that it would be fairly cool since we were in a forested area so I dressed in a couple of layers.  The first little bit of our run was down a paved road before we accessed a “closed to drivers” area and the trailhead.  This was the path I was familiar with however I seemed to forget how rolling it is.  It wasn’t too bad, but I was starting to bring up the rear and realizing just how much I need to continue to train on hills!

See Map #1:
The path near the North Beach isn’t all that steep, but I was having some troubles.  These were made even better once my mind started to play with me.  I slid back into all my self-doubting ways and started to question why I’d even come along.  It was obvious that I was holding the other two back and it sucked having to make them wait for me at the tops of the “hills” (I didn’t know what hills were yet).  It’s always fun to start to hyperventilate when you’re running.  I figured it was better to do that then to break down crying 4km into the run.  At least I was making weird noises and hopefully keeping the bears away.

We crossed over the north end of the lake at a little suspension bridge and confronted my worst fear: a stupidly steep hill.  See Map #2.  It had to be steep because it was joining 2 trails, but my quads were screaming at me and we still had a long, long way to go.  I was getting ridiculously sweaty from exerting myself on the hills so I lost my long sleeved base layer and stuffed it in my backpack.  

The next too many kilometres to count (See Map #3) were a combination of switchbacks, ups and downs.  I kept being promised that there weren’t going to be any more hills, but after a while I stopped believing Gina and Ivana.  It’s not their fault though.  They hadn’t run the route in over a month and didn’t remember it being as bad as it was.  Here’s what the trail looks like:

That’s not me there… if you’d passed me I would have been the one with my hands on my hips huffing and puffing whilst walking up the hills.  After a while I didn’t even try to jog up them.  I was just looking forward to being DONE.  That said, however, I do like trail running.  I’m just more of a downhiller than an uphiller.  

Eventually we got to a point where we were pretty sure it actually would be mostly downhill.  Unfortunately we were also at a point where Gina and Ivana were sure they’d run, but not 100% sure.  It’s not like you can really get lost if you stay on this trail so we just kept going rather than turning back to the point where the upper and lower trails paralleled each other.  

Once we got down the hill we came out at the service road (See Map #4).  This wasn’t bad just boring.  It’s wide due to vehicle accessibility so you can see what’s coming.  Again I was assured that it would be flat from there to the end of the run, but friends lie forget.  After running for ten or so really challenging kilometres even the slightest of inclines was like a slap in the face.  I made no apologies for copping out and walking.

Finally we got back to the car.  It was pretty warm out and I’d run out of water with about 2km left in the run.  Oops!  I didn’t think I would be working so hard and I only brought 1 (out of a possible 2) litres.  Thankfully I had thought ahead enough to bring a protein bar with me for the ride home.  I was super hungry!

Overall Thoughts:

  • Totally willing to do it again!
  • Thankfully it wasn’t muddy.  There were a few mushy spots, but nothing that actually made my shoes too dirty.  Rain would have made this run miserable for me.
  • Probably would have been nicer not to have been thrown off the deep end, so to speak, since it was my first trail run.  The elevation gain was 150m which sounds okay until you convert it and discover it’s 492ft.  
  • I’d ask for fewer hills, but around here this kind of was fewer hills.  Anything less is a gravel multi-use path.
  • Wouldn’t mind a pair of trail shoes.  Conveniently Asics makes a trail version of the GT-2160 so I wouldn’t even have to search.  Of course, this is a want not a need and will only happen if we ever have surplus cash.  Reality: probably not till next year.
  • I’m not quite ready to say that I want to be a hard-core trail runner.  I like it, but I have a lot of work (ahem, leg strength) to do before I can commit to actually racing in terrain like this.

3 responses

  1. It looks like a wonderful run. Beautiful nature, what more could a runner want? Perhaps a Starbucks for some coffee?

    I recently spotted a landscape during my runs, looking very much like the candy: Bonbonbloc!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

  2. I went hiking this weekend and was thinking how I don't know that I'd ever be able to do a trail run because I usually fall at least 5 times on a hike alone. Awesome job on your run!

    May 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm

  3. So I'm no marathoner, but Buntzen is something that I run with walking intervals cuz heck ya it's hard. ESPECIALLY the north west side of the lake. Glad you're up for doing it again. Heck, I get a work out on that thing just walking briskly.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:50 am

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