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Monday, March 24, 2014

Race Report: Cap Crusher 13k

The Coast Mountain Trail Series is a set of races put on by Gary Robbins & Geoff Langford. It includes Cap Crusher, Survival of the Fittest, Buckin' Hell, Squamish 23, Sky Pilot and Rubble Creek Classic.

This was the 2nd year for the Cap Crusher, and the number of runners had increased nicely from the inaugural year in both the 8k and 13k options.

Going into this race I had two goals:

  1. Crush the Cap!
  2. Run it hard.
  3. Do it on tired legs.
  4. Run hard on tired legs.
The Saturday before the race, Gary and Geoff had set up the Squamish 23 orientation run. A whole smack of runners showed up for the run (there were 30 last year, this year over 70!).
The weather was calling for snow (which it did) and rain (which it did) and that wasn't enough to stop any of the mad trail runners (which it didn't).

We Love Trails!!
I was running the orientation with my wife, so we were going to use the entire 4 to 4 1/2 hours to cruise along and enjoy the day together. She did amazing, and at the point where her and I thought we were the last bunch coming in to see Dianna at the Aid Station (volunteer coordinator extraordinaire), all of a sudden a whole crew of runners showed up and we had an aid station party! Apparently a whack of people got lost, which is fair since white chalk on snow is hard to see and it covered up one junction. We called the whole gang of friends the "Lost Losers" in a joking manner.
Lost Losers Engage!
The orientation run was awesome, and getting the 20 + kilometres on the feet the day before the Cap Crusher race, with a 9 hour shift at work, and then 2 hours sleep was going to be perfect to hit goal number 3! 

The Sunday morning of the race was the most beautiful day of the year. Blue skies, snow capped mountains, and a cool morning which was going to rise to 10 or 11 degrees made for perfect conditions. Gary warned us that the stair and boardwalk sections were going to be very icy, so if you're not fighting for first, then take it slow on those parts.

Cap Crusher 2014
Registration was a breeze, and super well organized. There were tons of volunteers, both at the the start finish and along the entire course. The flagging was likewise superb, but we'll get back to that in a bit. 

The race start had Gary throw down the gauntlet for Mike Murphy to defend Canadian honour as Alex Varner, the world 50k trail champion had lined up as well. Exciting! 

Trail running countdowns always make me laugh. They sound something like this: 
"Okay, 60 seconds . . . 20 seconds people . . . 3 - 2 - 1 GO!" Reminds me of having foot races in the park as a kid. 

3 - 2 - 1 GO!
I have a great start and fall in step with Spring aka Pebbleshoo. We run the whole first climb together, up and over the BP section and into the second section that's going to take us to the turn around. Except we get turned around. Her, two guys and myself all missed a sharp right and end up at the dam again?! What the cheese!

Spring on my left 
Cleveland Dam
We stop for a moment, look around, and then Spring says we probably missed a turn. Another small point of hesitation and we turn back. We ran 600 meters too far, so have to run 600 meters back, and thankfully find the markers (there were about 53 flags there, but we missed it). 
Technical downhill is my strength so I break into the lead of our pack, and mentally I'm trying to keep my head straight instead of being angry at my mistake. By the time we hit the gravel section, Spring gets ahead and creates a gap of a few hundred meters. We went from middle of the field to dead last, so we burn hard to the turn around. I feel a little sluggish on the flat sections and much stronger on the technical sections so I decide to just cruise at about mid 5 minute per km pace to the split section. 
We manage to catch many of the runners who were behind us and get back into the trail system. Spring is long gone. I see Dayna from Run Like A Girl and she's cheering us on and taking stealth photo  #1!

I peel off my long sleeve Merino shirt since the day is warming and tie it around my waist as I navigate the Cap trail system. There are marshals everywhere, go left here, right here, straight there, and they were amazing. The route on the race is super loopy and mega fun, since you hit the same trail in different directions on multiple junctions. I loved that part of it as you get to see other runners moving in various directions. I put in my head that I was going to not only reclaim my position before taking the wrong turn, but gain a couple of spots also. I flipped a switch in my head, and started thinking about reeling in as many runners as possible who got in front of us. 

I run across Peter, who we ran with us last weekend at Diez Vista, and we stick together for a good chunk of time. We see Elaine who catches ninja pic #2!

Vera was marshalling with Myka (sans camera) and then we see Andy, who gets this shot. 

Too funny, all our friends being super volunteers on this race! I felt like every time I saw Andy, Elaine, Vera and Dayna it was like a super boost of energy, similar to a hot wheels car on a track that has the battery powered spinny things that keep the little hot wheel zooming over the trick tracks! That's what this course was like. 

There's a set of steps that takes you back to the start finish before looping you back into the trail system and I toss my long sleeve to my boys as I push through. I know there are at least three runners ahead of me that I have to catch.

There's about 5k left in the race so I push hard and pass two more runners, and then finally the last one who I needed to catch. I'm feeling great, and I know there's one more climb back up the BP section, so let's see if I can get anyone else. People who were ahead of us that I can get in front of. 

As a mid to back pack runner, I have to say that playing "manhunter" on the race was super fun. Rather than just settling into a rhythm and staying with the same group for the race, the whole chase for redemption added a particular urgency that really added to my day. Not that I'll make a habit of going off course mind you!

The final climb is steep, but not too long, so I go full anaerobic. I catch two more 13k runners and a few more 8k runners and then see the crest of the hill. I can't let the 13k runners catch me on the dam in case they have a faster base running pace, so I have to be aggressive on this technical descent. By far, one of my best descents ever. I jump down the trail totally in the zone, see a couple of 8k runners and yell out madly "Behind!!" since I'm on a kamikaze course as they leap out of the way.

The dam comes up, I don't look back and cross the finish line. 

Ed, Vera, Elaine & Myka

Cap Crusher was amazing. The way the trail weaved back and forth, went up and down, from technical to groomed and transitioned seamlessly was perfect. There was a super fun post race awards presentation with amazing prizes, some games and SO many people hung out to chill and enjoy each other's company. There were some spectacular views, like this one below, and the camaraderie, energy and unique quality of the distance was perfect.

Like the LEGO movie says: "Everything was AWESOME!"


  1. I think I was one of those 8k runners who jumped out of your way! So nice to meet you and run with you for a bit in Squamish. Great job at Cap Crusher!

    1. Thanks Nikki! Looking forward to more runs together! The whole weekend rocked, and it looked like you were having a blast on the two runs also. See you next time.