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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eagle Mountain Adventure: Trail Report

Me, Colin, Craig, Al
There's been two items on my bucket list for a really long time. One: to summit Mount Beautiful and run the Lyndsay Lake Loop, and Two: to explore the single track trails above the Powerline on Eagle Mountain in Coquitlam.

I knew there were some awesome mountain bike trails on Eagle that are kind of a secret and not well used since they're loosely marked and quite extreme in some areas. A couple of the trails show up on Google maps, so I set out with some friends to go see what we could see.

Heading into the trails with no real set destination, course intent and the freedom to let the day unfold is always extremely fun. Being in new territory is "relaxing" since you interact with the trail and the terrain as it comes to you.

We were prepared for 3 or 4 hours with at least 5 hours as a backup and started at 9:30am from the Equestrian parking lot in Buntzen Lake. Al, Colin, Craig and I set out up Eagle Trail switchbacks to the powerline where Al was having some flashbacks of his Diez Vista 50k experience.

After we hit the lookout, we headed east and found a trail head. It wasn't much of anything - no markings, quite grown over, and very unassuming. Then, a few steps in, and whammo! Jackpot!! We hit a huge fallen tree that had notches on the trunk for grip that led to a tight little bridge on an incline of about 30%. The trail went up and up, and after some time, saw some guardians along the way, of which Happy the Dwarf seemed to be the leader (see the video linked to the bottom of this trail report). The trail known as "Full Pull" would be amazing as a downhill experience, but the climb was also super enjoyable.

Love Creative Signage!

I was using my gel and water fueling strategy today, and felt great on the climbs for the whole day. We reached a lookout that was jaw dropping, but then Colin deflated that balloon as he cheekily pointed at Eagle Peak and teased Mount Beautiful in the mix. Fine, he was right. Let's push the day and get to Mount Beautiful with a Swan Falls descent. Our day just got more interesting.

Colin Wasn't Impressed .  . . He Wanted Peaks! (pictured is Craig)

We headed up some small jeep access roads and hit a connector to the top of Halvor Lunden trail. Our way to here was circuitous and the simpler way would be to do the reverse of our route (Swan Falls ascent and Halvor Lunden descent) or a HL out n Back. Doing the mountain bike trail exploration first is fun, but added almost two hours to our excursion.

We got onto the Lyndsay Lake trail network and followed the most direct path. We started hitting snippets of snow, and enjoyed the environment immensely. We all mentally adjusted our timelines as we knew 5 hours would be more likely for the outing (We ended up being out for 5:59:24).

Lyndsay Lake

As we left Lyndsay Lake, a sign said "Eagle/Mount Beautiful Peak 2.8km." Well, that 2.8k was a long hike! Super steep, with lots of ankle deep or mid-shin snow that made for exhilarating, albeit pace stifling, travel.

Once we got through Hemlock Pass which is a gulley between two peaks, the profile was amazing with little look outs all over. We were approaching full stoke levels!

Craig coming out of Hemlock Pass

The summit of Mount Beautiful was something else. The day was perfect and clear and we could see for miles in 360 degrees. Mount Baker to the South East, and Diamond Head in Squamish to the North. Diez Vista "peak" to the west looked like a speed bump in comparison to the elevation we were at. We took our time and took it all in, staring out over different viewpoints and absorbing the wonders of nature in our backyard.

Al Looking West towards Vancouver (That's Diez Vista on the bottom left)

The Boys, Looking North East

Looking North towards Dilly Dally and Squamish

Once we were ready, the way down was initially tricky to find, and we slid down lots of small snow banks in an almost "tele-ski" manner. Once we ht the Dilly Dally/Swan Falls junction, we took Swan Falls. It was slow going, and not very runnable as not only is it extremely steep and unforgiving (slip on a fast descent and it could be game over in some areas) but also my hip injury (it's locked up but recovering) wasn't up to the constant jumping and drop off impacts. I had to consciously land on my left leg, which was in essence like single leg hopping down a mountain. I was agile but muscular fatigue was setting in. Thankfully the nutrition plan was holding up, and aside from one moment of hunger at the peak, I felt energetic all day.

This is the angle of Swan Falls Trail! Eep

One of many rope sections of the day  . . . hardcore!

About 3/4 of the way down (did I mention how steep it was?) we hit the main falls, and cooled off. a few more rope descents, and some torn shoes for Craig, and we kicked out onto the Buntzen Reservoir. We walked to North Beach, Colin took a swim, and we ran back to the Equestrian parking lot with a nice push at the finish.

I was super stoked to have knocked this one off the bucket list, and was excited with the detour to Mount Beautiful Peak. It's a challenging trail system, and one that relies on giving yourself enough time to complete (which we did). We did run low on water, but fresh snow melted into handheld bottles remedied the shortage at the top of the mountain.

The Strava File (Click the Link)

There's still some additional exploration to do on the Eagle MTB trails, so I'll be heading back there in the weeks to come!

Here's a video of the day as it unfolded. This Summer is gonna be awesome!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Race Report: Cap Crusher 13K 2015

A return to Capilano Canyon with Coast Mountain Trail Series first of the season Cap Crusher, the race that went so well last year but had the small issue of me going foolishly off course, required redemption.

Ready for Redemption!

The course is excellent, zig-zagging and with a constant mix of up and down, and mini-loops. In fact, it's quite bewildering, and any time I've tried to recreate it on my own, it's next to impossible.

It's a fast race, where you can't let off the pedal or your average pace will suffer with a slower end time then expected. I was shooting for (as I do every year) faster than last year, with a goal of 90 minutes.

To prep for the race, mileage through the winter was really good with lots of climbing available due to little to no snow pack, and mild, springlike weather. I wasn't concerned about being under trained, and the Cap Crusher was going to be a training race regardless; a nice way to kick off the season and get into the "competitive" frame of mind. I had even gotten in some speed training this year, with tempo, fartleks and track intervals.

David, Jeff K., Chris L., Me, Barb, Joanna, Gregan's Hand

The bonus this year, a couple of school friends who I had reconnected with, Jeff K. and Chris L. were signed up, so that added a new element of fun. Also, our WRM running friends were either racing or volunteering, so the party atmosphere was lining up. My wife and kids were helping with registration, so we were going to arrive early.

The weather that whole weekend was miserable and wet, but somehow, come Sunday, the skies cleared, and despite being cool, the rain clouds refrained from ruining the fun.

After getting bibbed, and standard pre-race briefing, the 13k runners lined up while the 8k runners staged behind for a 15minute staggered start.

My race strategy was to run the hills, float the downs, and maintain a tempo pace/effort on the flats (of which there are few). We bolted off the start line (I had a mild watch start issue as I locked it too early but fixed within seconds), and then pushed a high 3 minute pace across the Cleveland Dam to get into the correct pack. The first climb happens within 200 meters, and I ran up with a nice pace. I could see my friend & training partner Jamie (who kills hills) up ahead, and managed to keep sight of him all the way to the peak, although he had solid uphill effort going.
Technical Uphill (Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy)
Jamie, Well Ahead of the Mid-Pack (Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy)
I got jammed up on the downhill with slower runners, and attempted to pass, until we kicked out into the rolling section to the out and back. Our friends were marshaling all over the course, so there was a constant cheer and support squad at every turn and junction!

The out 'n' back is a good time to settle into a race rhythm, and I ran a low 4 minute pace on the way out, and low 6 minute pace on the way back as it drops and rises by 60 meters elevation. I was happy with that.
There was a girl in front of me who kept dropping me on the flats with a faster base pace, then I'd catch her on the up, then she'd drop me . . . this reeling in and out kept up for a good half of the race, and she kept me at bay. When we finally zoomed left here, zipped right there, bolted up that way, and whipped down this way, the stairs arrived. I had been pushing hard on the ups the whole race, and then these stairs clobbered me. The misty air of the canyon was playing with my asthma a bit and breathing on the way up the stairs was slower than I wanted (a touch over 30 seconds slower than last year). I lost my nemesis on this section.

Coming In For Some PED's (aka Asthma Puffer)
 I ran through the aid station (which is also the start/finish), and quick hit of the puffer from my wife, and I was off. High fives and shakalakas to the friends and family, and back into the trail network. I was running with no fuel or water, and for some reason I was thinking there was a water station at the hatchery. There wasn't, and in hindsight I should have run with a small 4 ounce bottle. I was parched, but no matter, run on!

The final climb approached, my legs were definitely fatigued, and I got an ounce of water from a fellow racer. More psychological than anything else, but it revived my mental energy.

I knew the final climb was steep, so I pushed hard, and got some heckles from Chloe and David A. who remarked that he was amazed I was still on course this year! Yes, getting off course on a Gary flagged race as I did in 2014 is a shameful thing and one I likely won't live down. Good times.

Another racer, Chris Sheehy and I hit the top together and I was determined to pass not only him, but anyone else I saw on the final descent and along the dam, so I turned it up and dug deep. Somewhere along the way, my shirt came off too. The final 500 meters was a fast interval pace, and I dialed in 4 racers on that stretch! Interval training helped a ton to get into that discomfort on tired legs.
My Mum Catching the Finishing Push

So with glorious nipple tape, and not much else, I finished my second Cap Crusher and clobbered my old time by 8 minutes and 26 seconds. Super stoked about that.

The post race festivities were fun, with tons of prizing, including shoes, packs, beer and other gems. I had a chance to catch up with friends about their race and volunteer experience, and congratulate the Murph on his win.

All in all, another stellar experience by Geoff Langford, Gary Robbins, and Dianna Christopoulos and the whole CMTS gang.

Up Next: 5 Peaks Golden Ears and the Squamish50 30k O-Run!

Official Finish Time: 1:28:33 (48th out of 108)
My Strava File
Official Race Images Courtesy of Brian McCurdy

Miruna, Kat, David A, and Me

Banana Selfie