On Saturday I did the Knee Knackering Trail Run in North Vancouver, a 30 miler aptly described as the “gnarliest” trail run in Canada. I’ve also heard it said that it is the best trail run in Canada, and the "hardest 50k I've done." I’ve known about it for a long time--this turned out to be the year, finally. It was a great experience, despite a challenging day.
The course is a point-to-point, moving west to east on the Baden-Powell Trail, atop and along the mountains that overlook Vancouver--those same mountains which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. The first half of the course has some very steep pitches, with even some rock climbing, to the tops of Black Mountain and Cypress Mountain. The second half is not quite as steep, but there is still more climbing than I anticipated. It also seems like the second half has more roots and rocks, while the first half this year had miles of snow. They said this was the second biggest snow year ever.
The course is technical. TECHNICAL. This is what they mean by “gnarliest” race. One friend described the course as “a piece of work.” I found it was always something, even in the final miles of the course—stairs, bridges, rock scrambles, roots, rock, ropes, rock fields, rocks. Also, some rocks. I had to always watch my feet. It can be kind of fun, if you’re ready for it, and have the right attitude.
There is also lots of climbing, with over 8000 feet for the day. Roughly the same amount of footage for descents too, but notably, Knee Knacker descents are tough, with non-stop roots, rocks and stairs. Not good for a guy with a weak ankle, which was my situation. And it is on the downhills that I always mess up my ankle. I found myself very protective of said ankle throughout the day, rarely getting any speed going.
The views are extraordinary, of saltwater, islands, big city, even Mount Baker. Hundred mile views, from the top of Black Mountain. Even the finish has a view, of Deep Cove and its pleasant little marina. And the weather was perfect, with blue skies, and enough sun later in the day that I had to pull out the sunscreen. And the volunteers were always so encouraging, and the runners too.
I did not run well. Oh well. I rolled my ankle pretty bad about a week ago, and it is still tender to touch. I also have been really sick—sinus and throat stuff. I left work early a couple times during the week. I had to walk a bunch to guard the bad ankle, and I had no energy to pull from. This isn’t the kind of course for these sorts of issues. But I really wanted to do the race, and I figured I could get through it and take in the Baden-Powell trail and long views from up high. For this, I did endure some moments of misery in the final ten miles.
I spent much of the day in the proximity of friends Marlis, Steve, and Chris. They were awesome and encouraging, despite my tough day, and just brought the right attitude. I also got to hang out with Mike C. on the way to the start. Mike graciously picked up my number the night before, so that I could drive up morning of the race. Not the wisest of strategies, with the just-wrong 1:45 AM alarm, but it worked out well.
Afterwards, I attended the banquet—very worthwhile—and was impressed by the number of 20 and 10 year finishers. Also, I heard there were 250 volunteers for the 200 runners, and they were so supportive during the race. The event is clearly a passion for many. This is a race that’s been around a long time, operates like a well-oiled machine, and has life long supporters. Very glad I finally got to run it, even if I wasn’t up to snuff. I couldn't have asked for a better day to check it out.
A few pics below; more here at this link.