There is a trail on Vancouver’s North Shore mountains that I’ve always wanted to run, start to finish. I’ve spent a lot of hours on this trail over the years I’ve been in Vancouver, running many sections, but have never run the whole thing. It’s the Baden-Powell trail, named after the Scout founder, and built by Boy Scouts in his honour. Ed and I decided to run it this weekend, and invited others to come along. One friend, former Nordic combined athlete and active-man extraordinaire, Paul Lebel, took up the challenge.
The Baden-Powell (or BP) runs,
according to the KneeKnacker website (http://www.kneeknacker.com/ ), the annual race across the length,
for 48 kms. It stretches from Horseshoe Bay at the western end
of the North Shore to Deep Cove at the eastern end. It is purported
to have 16,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. It is the backbone
of the North Shore trails, much like Ridge Road in Gatineau Park.
I am not fit. I try and
get to the gym a few times a week, and maybe a long workout on the weekends,
and the odd bike-ride. Intervals? Forget it. I think it is with
this in mind – my declining fitness – that I threw my hat in the
ring. Because when else would I be in better shape? The bell curve
of my fitness, folks, is certainly on the downward slide.
We started at a leisurely 9:30,
figuring it would take 6 or 7 hours. I realized I had old orthotics
in (new ones are being adjusted), but didn’t think much of it (I would
later). We took a wrong turn almost immediately – instead of
running up almost 4000 feet to the top of Black Mtn, we swung around
it on an access road. A bit disappointing, kind of – but none of us
minded the reduced elevation gain. I have since been accused of
running too fast at the start, but defend that charge with ‘When else
were we gonna get time?’.
We got to Cypress Bowl ski
area, and started the second quarter of the run. Not long after
that (I blame this one on Ed, mostly) we took another wrong turn –
up to the top of a mountain, Hollyburn Peak. And burned I was,
when we figured it out – an extra 4k and 45 minutes of climbing and
descending. To make up for that, we ran downhill probably too
fast for about an hour and a half, which is how long the descent is
on that part of the BP. And my knees started hurting – first
the right one, then, gradually, the left one, with the pain in the left
fully overtaking the little trifling right knee.
Cleveland Dam is the halfway
point, and we had about 1.5k on a busy, uphill road after that.
We were sweaty and muddy and about 4 hours in, and I was grumpy.
Then, a mirage – two kids selling ‘Freshly Squeezed Lemonade’.
For 25 cents a cup. The smallest bill we had was $10, so we gave
it to them, had 3 cups each, and left them a lot richer. A good
lesson in consumer vs. producer surplus, I suppose, for those budding
economists among you. The lemonade was not fresh, but it was refreshing.
Paul had had some severe indigestion
a ways back, and it started slowing him down on the next section.
Ed twisted an ankle, and it swelled up, and I had two sore knees, so
the next few k were not quick. Paul decided to call it a day at
about the 2/3 point, having run a very demanding 36k. He later
said he regretted it, but walked into town to a coffee-shop and spent
two hours waiting for us, watching the Tour de France on their TV.
We tried to speed up after
that, and managed to pick the pace up somewhat, but I had to stop a
few times to shake the old knee-caps around. We had one last real
uphill grind – about 850 feet of rocky, rooty terrain – before the
long, long 5k downhill finish. That was my mental low point, and
probably Ed’s too. My arch started cramping badly, his ankle
was bugging him a bit, and I was feeling pretty out of gas. This
was also at about the 7 hour mark. We made it down to a road crossing,
and a sign that said 3.2k left, which cheered us, until the next sign
10 minutes later said 3.1k left – and it turned out to be accurate.
We crossed paths with a bear
with about 2.5k left – we had a section on a road, and he was chilling
a couple hundred metres ahead. We figured we should make some
noise, and the only songs we could think of – independently – were
The finish took longer than
hoped, with silly unexpected uphill bits, and then we climbed down the
last staircase and out into the park in Deep Cove, where we walked into
the ocean, pretty pumped, tired, and sore, 8:15 after we started.
A long car shuttle back, and here I am, on the couch, icing the arch
of my foot and dreading waking up in the morning.
By the numbers:
Distance: 51k (with the extra bit for the un-needed summit bid)
Average time: Slow
e-Load consumed by Tom & Ed: 12 litres
Clif Bars consumed by Tom & Ed: 10
Lemonade consumed by all: 9 styrofoam cuppies
Average price per cup: Over $1
Sore knees: 2
Years of life off my knees: Probably 5 per
Sore ankles: 1
Sore arches: 1
Sore tummies: 1