Running the Knee Knacker

I tried to run a little bit back in high school, but I never quite enjoyed it. A season of cross-country running, some track and field, and one or two Sun Runs. As far as distances went, ten kilometres felt pretty long for me.

The course, which stretches 48 kilometers from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove.

Fast forward to this past February. After a great day of skiing on the Duffey Lake Road, I was sitting in Whistler with Tim and Natalie, who were both signing up online for the KneeKnacker, Canada’s “knarliest” 30 miler. After facing a little bit of peer pressure, and Natalie’s optimistic attitude towards this “easy” and “fun” run. Of course, this is coming from the girl who casually ran a blistering 6:15 three years ago, more or less off the couch, and only fueled by chocolate and apples to place 3rd overall in the women’s division. July felt so far away, that I foolishy entered in my personal information, and signed up for the race. Due to the large number of people who sign up for this race, there is a lottery system in place. I was secretly hoping to be one of the lucky 42% of entrants who don’t get picked each year. After all, there are many interesting mountains and steep descents to bash my knees on, why do it on one that isn’t on my map wall (Note to self. Add the 92G06 and 92G07 to the map wall ASAP)

There is a lot of up and down, 8000ft up, 8300ft down.

Unfortunately my name was picked, along with Natalie, and Mark, who is racing for his fifteenth time this year. Mark placed 5th overall one year, but he had to give up his ski season to train to that level. Maybe if I was more serious about training, I would have started in March. As it turns out, La Nina brought along some great powder in March, and the thought of running in the rain did not seem as appealing.

Craig skiing some fine powder on the Duffey Lake road.

And then I should have started training in April and May, but I was stuck in South America working. Instead, I focused on the other half of my “training program,” which is the rest part. I followed a special running diet too, consuming large amounts of red meat, lots of red wine, and generally little vegetables. I tried to run once or twice, but eventually gave up when I realized the smoggy air in Santiago was probably worse for my lungs than a lack of exercise.

Ensuring proper electrolyte balance with white wine,

Following a strict protein rich diet,

And lots of red wine to load up on the anti-oxidants.

The weather in June was a blessing in disguise for me, as the cool rainy weather allowed me to finally spend some time pounding my knees on the trails, instead of enjoying perfect granite splitters in Squamish. By the time July 9th rolled around, I could still count the number of times I’ve run in the past 6 months on two hands plus a finger or two. It was a good thing that July 9th, the day of the race, was sunny. Otherwise, I might have just slept in instead.

An important day of cross-training on the Chief. Robin climbing high on Angel’s Crest.

Mark, Natalie and I looking like runners at the start line. What have I gotten myself into this time? Photo by Jeff.

The race actually went quite smoothly for me. The run starts off with a big climb up to the top of Black Mountain, and then down to the Cypress parking lot, traverses across Hollyburn and a long descent down to the Cleveland dam. With more snow than normal this year, this meant close to an hour of running on snow. Natalie and Mark were way ahead of me by this point as I was trying to take it slow in the first half, since I’ve never run anything this long before and wasn’t sure if I could make it to the end. Previous training runs were up to 20km at most, usually more around 10-15km, and never more than 2-3 hours. While running across the Cypress parking lot, I was tagged “it” by Sue, who had been directed by Natalie to tag me, but not Mark. There was no way I could catch up to Nat, but at this point I figured I should try to run harder anyways.

Eventually after a long section of knarly rooty sidehilling across Grouse and Fromme, I stumbled into the Rice Lake aid station, where I found Mark chugging flat cola, supposedly the magic drink containing just the right amount of sugar and caffeine to power runners to the finish line. Other strange but effective foods included boiled potatoes dipped in salt. At this point, I tagged Mark “it” and continued to sprint to the finish line. Well sprint might have been a bit of an exaggeration as I slowly crawled up the Seymour Grind before pounding my shins down the last stretch to Deep Cove.

I was stoked that I finished with a time of 6:55:56, well under the eight hours that I thought was reasonable for me. Not bad for a non-runner. Natalie cleaned up with a time of 6:40, and Mark finished shortly after me. Results here. We celebrated with Honey’s donuts, complimentary massages and a long soak in the ocean. Big thanks to Jeff who supplied us with a ride, photos and beers, and all the other volunteers.

My shins hurt. Photo by Jeff.

I can’t believe I just ran that! Photo by Jeff.

Liquid carbo-recovery the following day on a sailboat. My legs were knackered. Photo by Ed.

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