Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bagger Challenge - 4 Peaks by Land, Sea and Bike!

Friday night after a day of work a haircut and meeting Mike and Marie and friends for dinner (Mike and Marie were original founders of the local running club, they have retired to Gabriola Island and were in town for a visit...Great to catch up!)I was barely in the door and Neil was keen to discuss our plans for a Saturday outing. Ean had emailed with options to bag a few more peaks on the Howe Sound Crest Trail for the "Bagger Challenge"- check it out at ( I was keen to get out there and bag a few but the last post/blog from Ean showed he was out there for 21 hours bagging many peaks and perhaps got into a little trouble! Hmmmm...Neil proposed another option of Hollyburn, Strachan and Black Mountain. If all goes well -perhaps a quick trip to Bowen Island for Gardner Peak. I was up for the challenge and we set off from Maple Ridge at 8AM. I called Ean to let him know of our route and hey...maybe we will see you out there! We set off from Cypress at 9:30AM and arrived back home at 7:30PM - a good days work!

Neil at the top of Hollyburn Mountain

At the top of Hollyburn Mountain

Neil and the remains of a plane crash from the 1950's on the way to Bag Mount Strachan. It felt a bit creepy!

The top of Mount Strachan

Cypress Creek Lodge where we stopped for a sandwich and coffee after bagging Hollyburn, Strachan and Black Mountains.

On the Ferry to Bowen Island with our bikes to climb Gardner Peak.
We rode our bikes from the ferry terminal to the start of the trail. We hid our bikes in the bush just before the trail really kicked up! The trail up Gardner Peak felt a bit steep but it was the 4th Peak of the day. A beautiful trail with soft needles underfoot - a great downhill run!

Celebrating the 4th Bag -
Gardner Peak - Bowen Island

Sunday, September 20, 2009

1st Place - BC Ultra Running Trail Series

Receiving My Prize for First Place in My age Group for the BC Ultra Running Series

Sending Neil off!

Andy enjoying a post-race burger!!

Yesterday the fun car with Neil, Andy and myself headed out to Manning Park to do the final event in the BC Ultra Running Trail Series. The weather was terrible. The rain was so heavy the car was hydro planing on the highway and visibility poor. Not so unusual at times here so we are quite familiar with running in these conditions. However, today's journey was going to take us up to almost 8,000 feet for a 50km run. We did this event last year on a very clear beautiful day. I recall telling myself to only do this on a fair day. We arrived with only a few minutes to spare and I decided not to do the event at the last minute. I was really concerned about the weather and the elevation. The decision seemed the sensible thing to do at the moment. Neil was in so he could win the Grand Slam prize for being the only one to complete all 8 events. I almost had company from Andy but since Neil was heading out - so was he! They were off and I headed back to the car where I proceeded to tuck up with my blanket and pillow and a book to read. I dosed off and on for a bit. I felt a bit guilty as I could see the race director and other volunteers working away. I joined in to help and found myself putting labels on the home made wine that Gottfried had made for those who won their age categories and for the volunteers! Back to the car to escape the torrential rain. The time passed quickly and the skies improved. Unfortunately Andy got lost about 8km from the finish and ended up on the other side of Lightening Lake - adding another 10km or so. I wondered why he wasn't in yet and then I saw him approaching the finish area from the wrong direction. Yikes!! He was not a happy guy for a few minutes there. Can't blame him that really is upsetting. He came around and proudly accepted his 3rd place finish in the BC Ultra Running series. Neil received a great Nathan travel bag for being the only one to complete all 8 races in the series. I proudly received 1st place in my age group in the series- a new Nathan back pack! Lots of swag heading back to Maple Ridge in the fun car! It was a bit of a flashback from last year - many prizes coming home in the car! We left Manning Park drove 2 hours back home for a quick clean up to head out to a 60th Birthday party in Langley. We were a bit late for the party but arrived just in time before the caterer cleaned up the food! A long day - but a fulfilling one! Today I managed a 2 hour run on the dykes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Montreal - A quick trip!

The top of Mount Royal - overlooking Montreal.

Cruising on the Saint Lawrence.

Neil at the top of Mount Royal - overlooking Montreal.

This weekend we did a quick trip to Montreal for Neil to attend a conference hosted by Merial Canada. Thursday night we stayed at the Vancouver Fairmont Airport hotel due to the early flight the next day. On my way from SFU I managed to fit in the Grouse Grind before meeting Neil at the hotel. We have stayed at this airport hotel a few times now and it is a great way to start the vacation. We spent most of Friday flying - it is about a 4.5 hour flight Vancouver to Montreal with a 3 hour time change. I really enjoy Montreal. I have been here 5 times now. It always proves to be a refresher in Canadian history and an immersion in the Bi-lingualism in Canada. In Vancouver rarely are my French skills required (despite French being a school requirement for several years) The locals are very accomodating to those of us with minimal French - I always manage to get by. Upon arrival we met up with a few other attendees and shared a taxi to the hotel. We arrived just in time to freshen up for the wine and cheese reception prior to dinner in the revolving restaurant above. It was a clear evening and a great way to see the city at night. One of the first topics of conversation revolved around the Montreal Marathon that was taking place in the city on Sunday. We had no idea the event was on...I might have signed up - always a great way to see a city! It was a great evening socializing with many interesting people. I was excited about exploring Mount Royal in the morning and many gave me tips how to get there. Saturday AM Neil was in a lecture and I headed out to explore Mount Royal - left on Rene Levesque Boulevard - right on Peel Street to the end and then straight up! I came upon a series of steps that appeared as popular as the Grouse Grind in Vancouver. All sorts climbing the steps with various routines as they climbed up and made their way down. Once at the top there were a variety of trails to explore. Since I was on my own I took a few photos at the top and opted for the wider more travelled path back down. I ran around sections of McGill University looking for the Faculty of Dentistry Building as I have been doing a project in BC with a colleague from McGill and thought a picture of the building would be good for an upcoming presentation. I was a little lost as I found myself running out of the City Center into an area that was full of night clubs etc...It was early in the AM so it was thankfully very quiet. Turned around and within minutes I was dodging the shoppers on Saint Catherines Street. I had been running now for about 3 hours and decided to head back to the hotel to get cleaned up. Neil had a few free hours in the afternoon and we went shopping on Saint Catherines Street. It was bustling with activity - fun! A few items were purchased to enhance my student wardrobe! Saturday evening we went with the Merial Group for a dinner cruise on the St. Lawrence. It was something to see the docks at night, the huge freighters and the lights of the city. Sunday AM I retraced my steps and showed Neil Mount Royal and today we found the Dentistry building at McGill. I took the picture for the upcoming presentation. Stopped in at the Starbucks en route - quick shower and off to the airport in a lightening quick taxi ride dodging the closed roads for the marathon to catch the flight home. It was a quick trip - but fun!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Walk In The Park - 54km - My 27th Ultra!

Sunday at 2:15AM the alarm went for our 3:15AM departure for Kamloops to take part in the 54km run called Walk in the Park. This is our 3rd time participating in this event and the 3rd year we have left in the middle of the night for the 7AM start. What a crazy thing to do...but kinda fun! On Friday Andy emailed saying he was not feeling well and wouldn't be joining us. Andy won the event last year and was looking forward to the course again. Too bad as Andy also makes the journey very interesting with tales of the latest from the dairy farm and the latest adventures with the 5 kids! Late Saturday night we learn of a new passenger in the car - I had invited Ean Jackson to join us for the ride. Ean lives in North Vancouver and would have to be up even earlier than us to meet up with us for the journey. Crazy idea Ean thought - but kinda fun! We met Ean outside Tim Horton's in Abbotsford where he left his vehicle. Ean was ready for the journey with coffee and doughnuts to share for the ride. Only one pit stop along the way at the regular spot on the Coquihalla Highway. The 3.25 hour journey passed quickly with great conversation and good laughs despite it being the middle of the night. I could tell that Ean was quite amazed he was doing this. He usually goes to Kamloops the day before and stays overnight like most people would do. This crazy tradition started with the "guys" having this practical approach despite me trying to convince them of a nice hotel the night before. We watched the sun rise as we entered the Thompson Valley where Kamloops is located at the base of the valley. A week previous I was really doubtful that I would be running this event due to the heavy smoke in the valley from the surrounding forest fires. The weather gods were with us and the previous days rain and wind helped clear the air. The skies were very clear when we arrived at 6:30AM. Ean commented that he could smell the smoke in the air when we got out of the car. It had me a bit concerned but I was determined to start and give it my best. Chris the race director greeted us with great enthusiasm that we had made the journey from the coast to his race yet again. Chris is a great RD - he always remembers the first year I did this event, Marla and I got terribly lost. The second year I did it I was a little lost for a few moments and wow did he do a fantastic job of marking it this year! Neil was also with me this year to keep me on route. At the briefing before the start Chris mentioned he had 3 aid stations along route but could only put any gels/food at the one station with volunteers due to the 2 bears living in the area. I had a vision of the bears sucking back the Double Espresso gels!! or crunching down the chips/crisps!
The course is an 18km loop and you do it 3 times for a total of 54km. The route is amongst many trails on the mountain that is very desert like with very dry dusty trails. The trees are thin and many plagued with death from the Pine Beetle that has devastated the trees in this area of BC. It is a very hilly route with some very steep ups and downs. Bears, deer and rattlesnakes live in these hills. We only saw 1 deer, 3 piles of bear scat and heard a few rattles in the sage brush. It was a beautiful morning. As we set out for our final loop the threat of a storm started to blow in. Dark clouds, high winds and light rain. The temperature dropped and we had nothing but the short sleeves and shorts we were wearing. Thankfully the storm just gave us a big scare and moved on further up the valley. I learned on-route that a few of the runners had dropped due to various reasons. Reg from Chilliwack hung in there and finished despite not feeling well. I improved my time from last year by 37 minutes, 8:14, so I was pleased with that. Funny thing about a loop course. On the 3rd loop I said to Neil a few times...I don't remember this section! =:)Despite having been there twice very recently! Once done we enjoyed a hot dog from the barbecue and had a quick stop at Starbucks to grab a coffee to go for the ride home. We dropped Ean off at his car in Abbotsford @ 7pm with a 7:30pm arrival home. Now that's a good days work!!
Thanks for a great journey Ean and Neil!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grizzly Bear at Grouse Mtn

Today Neil played a bit of hookey from his day job and headed to Grouse Mtn area to "bag" a few peaks. He managed to conquer 6 in one day! He was going alone (since the rest of us were at work!) so I asked him to take his Blackberry and email me so I knew he was OK. During a work meeting about electronic health records (yawn!) I received his email saying he had done 5 peaks and was heading out for one more! I gazed out towards the North Shore Mtns wishing I was there! He had an awesome day and made a visit to the Grizzly Bears at Grouse that we have been visiting since they were rescued a few years ago. "Grinder" you are getting to be a big boy!!