jenbacca


WCT 2015

60Took me 2 years, but finally finished my blog post on the West Coast Trail. Better late than never, right?

We did it. We endured the adventure that is the West Coast Trail. Sep 2-7, 2015 was filled with ladders, cable cars, bridges, beaches, mud, swamp, and roots. So much mud, swamp, and roots. For those who haven’t heard about it, or thoroughly researched about it, the WCT trail is not just a hike. It’s not just a difficult hike. It’s not just a brutal hike. It’s a brutal, fun, awesome, life-changing hike.

It was the most fun & the hardest thing we have ever done. I think we will do it again.

Prep & Planning

We finally decided to do the hike Dec ’14 / Jan ’15. We started training right away – walking & snowshoeing. 3 days after hike registration opened in March, we signed up for the South-to-North route.

We had intentions of following some kind of training plan, strategically upping distance, volume, and weight over time, but we ended up really just spending every spare hour/day walking and hiking. I also started strength training. We planned 2 backpacking trips to prepare us; 1 in June – a 1-nighter 6km out & back (Taylor Lake) really intended to test all the gear Jamie painstakingly researched; the 2nd in July – a 2-nighter 34km loop (Skoki Trail) intended to prep us for 3-days of carrying a heavy pack for 8 hours a day.

Getting there

On Aug 30 we left Calgary for the ~3 day drive to get to Port Renfrew. We wanted to arrive at the Parks Canada Office the day before the hike for our orientation so we could hit the trail on the first ferry the next day. We drove right to Port Renfrew and stayed at a less-than-awesome motel for the night.

Arrival

Let’s do a quick weather recall of what was happening on the West Coast around that time:

Throughout the summer, Vancouver Island had been experiencing a drought. And then right before we left, Vancouver received a lovely storm knocking out power to about 750,000 homes; Port Renfrew & Clo-Oose were getting 20-30mm of rain daily, with severe wind warnings. Drought + Lotsa Rain = Flooding. Yikes! The Park Rangers at the Gordon River Trailhead Office were advising against anyone starting the trail on Tue, Sep 1; during the heavy rainfall, hikers were stuck between Michigan Creek & Darling River as the two were too deep to cross; a couple days earlier, 36 hikers had  paid the $63/pp fare to ferry out at Nitinat Narrows. We ran into 3 people who finished on Sep 1 – they hated it so much that they pushed through to end their hike 1 day early to just get it over with. So, uh, great! We decided to hold off on the first ferry for our planned day 1 and take the next one at 11:30. This was a good decision as it ended up pouring all morning.

Day 1; Gordon River Trailhead to Thrasher Cove (6km)

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Welcome to the WCT. BE READY TO SUFFER.

We got to the Gordon River Parks office & ferry at 10:30 am so we could speak with the park rangers before venturing onto the trail. Thumbs up received – yay! Also, no rain at that moment – yay! We hopped onto the ferry at 11:30 to start our 6km journey to Thrasher Cove.

Let me clarify: our 6km 6 hour journey.

This part of the trail is so difficult that it’s tough to keep up to 1km/hr for us ‘average’ hikers. The most elevation gain/loss combined with the classic mud, roots, and rocks of the WCT was a wonderful welcome. Thanks, WCT. I asked myself over & over again, “what the fuck am I doing?”

After 6 drudging hours, we arrived at Thrasher Cove; we were some of the last people to arrive so we didn’t get a great spot.

 Day 2; Thrasher Cove to Camper Bay (8km)

I woke up to the thought that, if the trail gets easier as you go north, today should be easier than yesterday. Rookie mistake.

Today we had a tide restriction. We decided we wanted to take the beach route to see Owen Point and the sea caves. We broke camp as early as we could – being the first hikers out that day. We started making our way along the beach, waiting to start this “bouldering” we read about.

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“Don’t slip! Don’t slip! Don’t slip!”

Well, we found it. Giant 6″, 8″, 10″ boulders & super-wet-slippery-logs to climb over. I freaked out doing this without anyone ahead of us, so we waited to see the next hikers to gain some confidence in our route selection.

Luckily, 3 young guys wandered over shortly, and we followed them. For like 5 min. Then they left us in the dust. We spent the next 2 hours hauling ourselves + our 45 lb (mine) & 55lb (Jamie’s) packs over giant boulders and logs; what a fucking workout. This was a no-camera-for-Jen-day because I was too stressed out; it was day 2 on a level of adventure we’d never done before, so I was feeling overwhelmed.

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Sea Caves @ Owen Point. Photo Credit: @albinomuppet

We eventually made it to Owen Point and the Sea Caves, which were cool, but had another 6km to go to get to Thrasher.

We continued along the beach for as long as we could and eventually had to head inland for the remainder of the trail. Overall, today was another 1km/hr day, between the early morning bouldering and the afternoon inland portion. I found Day 2 tougher than Day 1.

Finally, we came to our first cable car – COOL – which was also a sign that camp was only 100m away – HOLYMOTHEROFGODTHANKYOU.

We set up camp in a nice isolated spot in the trees, ate, socialised a bit, and then hit the sack.

Day 3; Camper Bay to Carmanah Pt (18km)

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A break from mud & roots! And sunshine!

This was our first long day. We roughly planned out the remainder of our hike to be able to make the 1pm bus on day 6, and opted for a lengthy 18km trek on day 3.

We were fatigued. This was the day in the hike where we realized the mental grit needed to finish.

This is also the day where we really started to see the storm damage on the trail. Lots of logs, mud, and roots. We also made it to the first boardwalk section; I remember distinctly on the boardwalk saying to Jamie, “If I ever talk about doing this again, don’t let me.”

More ladders. More roots & logs. A tiny repel. Jamie slipped on a big slippery log. Another cable car – in which I really discovered just how fatigued I was: not only could I barely assist Jamie with the pulley, but I also dropped my camera in Carmanah Creek. As soon as the cable car got to the platform, I hurriedly dropped my pack, got down off the platform, scraped my butt on a large log, got to the creek & recovered my dead camera. This was the only time hubby & I got upset with each other the entire trip. It was tense.

We hiked another 2 km’s and made it to Carmanah Pt, where we were able to set up camp on the beach and rest.

Day 4; Carmanah Pt to Tsusiat Falls (22km)

Waking up exhausted is just the way it is. We trekked along the beach, passed Chez Monique’s, which had very little supplies due to the storm, so we opted to walk right past. However, we did take a small detour to see a dead whale on the beach – kinda gross, but not something you normally get to ‘experience’. It was gross & stinky. Moving on…

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Waiting for the Nitinat Ferry

This was a tough day. I mean, it was 22km, and we had 3 days of gnarly WCT behind us. We had to get to Nitinat Narrows by 4:30 to catch the last ferry across the river, so back onto a schedule. The trail itself was getting less technical and offered more boardwalks, but for some reason that made it feel longer. The hike from Carmanah Light House to Nitinat Narrows felt like the longest hike I have ever done in my entire life. We started passing hikers coming from Nitinat, and continued to make the rookie mistake of asking them how far to the narrows. Perception is everything. They kept saying, “Oh, like 45min” each time we asked a new group every hour or so. We did finally make it for the last ferry, ordered salmon & potato, and relaxed a bit while we waited for the ferry.

 

We still had another 10km to get to Tsusiat Falls, our next camping spot. We were exhausted, it was getting late – so starts the mental game of, “Did we fuck up somehow and miss the campsite?!?”. Nope. Sure didn’t. Just kept going, one foot in front of the other, and finally arrived at the ridiculous decent into Tsusiuat Falls.

Again, one of the last groups to arrive at a highly populated site, leaving us with a less than amazing spot. It finally did rain that night, briefly, right around the time we were eating dinner and planning to pack it in for the night.

Day 5; Tsusiat Falls to Michigan Pt (10km)

Good morning 10km day! Yay! Also good morning to the lovely ascent from Tsusiat Falls back to the main trail. Talk about cardio.

I don’t remember much about this day. I recall meeting some fellow Calgarians at Michigan Pt & having a fire that night. And then breaking trail bright & early the next morning.

Day 6; Michigan Pt to Pachena Bay / The End (12km)

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9km’s to go!

The final day. The last hurrah. No sense of accomplishment – only a strong sense of, “when the fuck will this be fucking over because i am very over it!”

Pachena Lighthouse. Sea Lion Cove. Very fresh bear scat. And a continually easier & easier trail. The last 9km felt like forever, but again – one foot in front of the other, snacking & hydrating often, and we finally arrived at the Pachena Bay trailhead.

We. Fucking. Finished.

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Older & wiser Jen & Jamie 🙂

Full Gallery for your viewing pleasure:

 


Spartan Update!

Photos from my Spartan Sprint (5km) on August 18th!

Photos from Jamie’s Spartan Super (~14km) on September 7th! You better click to see the full photos – he is hiding in his finisher pic 😉


July & August update

Been a pretty fun couple months!

  • Ran the Stampede Road Race 10k with my buddy, Paula – it was a nice, relaxing, sunny run
  • Ran the Red Deer Mud Hero 6k with Paula, my sister Robin, and my husband – Mud Hero this year was much tougher than last year!
  • Then finished off by running solo in the Spartan Sprint 5k – not a good idea – but it was still fun

Just trying to enjoy myself while I work with the doctor to figure out my energy system issues. Sure is tough to keep your chin up when diligent training results in either plateauing on regression – but I keep reminding myself that at least I can do it at all!

Paula & Jen enjoying the Stampede Road Race

Paula & Jen enjoying the Stampede Road Race

Jen & Paula crossing the finish line @ the Stampede Road Race

Jen & Paula crossing the finish line @ the Stampede Road Race

Paula, Jen, and Robin pose before Mud Hero. Unfortunately there are no 'after' photos.

Paula, Jen, and Robin pose before Mud Hero. Unfortunately there are no ‘after’ photos.


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Tough Mudder Report!

Oh. My. God. THAT was fun.

~17km of mud, blood, water, sweat, and teamwork.

Our team, Nerf Herders, was AWESOME! Thanks Glenn, Dan, Mark, Chris, and Jamie for helping me through some killer obstacles 😀

(I tried to make this as short as possible, but a 17km course with 20 obstacles makes for a length post! I bolded all the Obstacle Names so you can skim over if you choose)

Just like they warn you, we got covered in mud within the first couple Kilometres at Kiss of Mud. But don’t fret, we got a nice rinse through Arctic Enema – a 1 degree Celsius tub of ice & water up to your chest that knocks the fucking wind right out of you. Holy shit. The dudes with the bull horns yelling at you to keep moving are necessary – because you pretty much lose your shit in that one; but I still loved it!  Carry on to Bush Wacked, which was a steep descent through heavily wooded and mudded terrain. Run some more, and arrive at Warrior Carry – piggy back your buddy ~50m; Jamie piggybacked me, and then I piggybacked Jamie – see ya lata quads. Run some more, and we find Glory Blades… 12′ walls on 60* angle – angled towards you. Run, run, run and get stuck @ the 30min bottleneck of some unlabeled Ice Hill type obstacle. We stood. And we waited. People tried to go around, but you just couldn’t! Finally made it through that boring one and got to Log Jammin’ – a series of logs of various widths and heights forcing you to climb over or go under via strategically places Barbed Wire. Next was Trench Warfare – which was several mud hurdles and mud pools – super muddy and super fun. Then we got to Firewalker – which was a bunch of cinder blocks filled with burning wood – flames got as high as a foot – you had to jump over the flames into a pool of water; that one was really fun, too! Run, run, run; trek through Mud Mile; run, run, run and arrive at Ladder to Hell – a 20′ ladder with rungs about 4′ apart. Run a whole bunch more to Electric Eel – a shallow pool of water you crawl through with live wires dangling above you; somehow I managed to only get shocked once, while Jamie got shocked a gazillion times and was a little ‘out of it’ afterwards. Run run run again, then pick up a large log at Hold Your Wood and carry it for a few hundred metres. Then, my favorite obstacle – Walk the Plank. This is a 15′ platform you jump off of into a deep pool of water. It sounds easy enough, until it is your turn: I got up there, waited for my go-ahead from the volunteer dude, freaked the fuck out, suppressed the freak out, and jumped – all in a matter of about 2 seconds. Then it was over. What a rush; sweet. Run again; watch a lot of people get heat blankets (it was friggin’ cold!) – I didn’t need one since I overheat at the drop of a hat. Then we found Boa Constrictor – a 20′ culvert tube descending into water and then another 20′ culvert tube ascending out of the water; there is nothing to really hold onto – I got stuck in this one!! I’m sure I could have eventually wriggled out of it, but it would have taken another few minutes – hubby grabbed my arm and yanked me out.   Next was Funky Monkey – greased, ascending monkey bars; Mark on our team (who did TM last year) called it the “1-2-Swim”; and that it was. I didn’t even get to swing to 1 bar before I slipped right into the water below.  Then… Then there is Everest: a greased 1/4 pipe. Dan and Jamie managed Everest – which was great – it meant I had 2 team mates waiting to help me up; I ran up that mo-fo and grabbed onto their hands. The 3 of us gave it all we had to pull me up; I got 1 foot up onto the ledge; but by that time my shoulders, back, and core were done. I let go with the intention of trying it again but when I stood up at the bottom, I realized I was shaking – I gave that thing all I had! I would have needed a good 5-min recovery to be able to attempt again, so I said Fuck it and walked around it 😦 This obstacle was the one that scared me the most about TM, and the one that made me want to sign up for TM – definitely a let down. It was after that failure that ‘sealed the deal’ in my mind to do another TM.  Next was Berlin Walls. 12′ walls. Stronger, more coordinated folks ran at those things, pounced off the small 1″ step and hoisted themselves over. Us weaker, less-coordinated people had our buddies hoist us up and then we hoisted ourselves over. I totally bailed on the other side, it was awesome. And then we did another one. This time I climbed over the top a lot slower so I wouldn’t bail again. And finally, we arrived at Electroshock Therapy – the last obstacle at the Finish Line – a 20′ long obstacle of dangling live wires for you to run through. Yet again, I only got shocked once.

We crossed the finish line, and we were done. Just like that. Tough Mudder is not timed. They remind you again and again – it is not a race, it is a challenge. And you even pledge before you start “I will put my team ahead of my course time.” It took us 4:45; we had 1 team member with a really rough start to the run, and another team member busted his knee somewhere ~4-6km from the finish. For context: faster teams with no injuries finished in as little as 2:30.

Jamie wore the GoPro camera on his wrist, and got some cool pics! The GoPro fared relatively well in the super muddy/wet course.


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3 More Sleeps

Just 3 more sleeps to the big day!

Last weekend we embarked on our last training run. It was not a good one. I definitely found my limit regarding my body-chemistry issues. We headed out to Allen Bill pond to run towards West Bragg Creek. As soon as we started running, I felt the exhaustion and tiredness; and the moment I got about 10 steps up the first hill, my legs were on fire, stiff, and lacking mobility. I managed to barely muscle through it (we cut it short); the dip in the river afterwards was numbing but great.

Since Saturday, I have focused on recovery and fueling. I’m now focused on eating enough, and wrapping up chores/errands/etc in preparation for 8 days away from home!

Here are some pics from Saturday’s run:


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Well, it’s not for lack of effort!

Just 2 weeks to Tough Mudder. I’ve been training like mad, so even though I am certainly not an “elite athlete” by any stretch of the imagination, however the day turns out is not for lack of effort.

I’ve been at the gym lifting heavy weights, doing the “Spartan Bootcamp”, and all sorts of other power/strength/endurance stuff (including banded running. look it up. it’s hard.) On the weekends, Jamie and I have been hitting the trails and doing [what I consider to be] long runs. With few walk breaks. The point is to develop endurance. Jamie & I both agree that this season is going significantly better for me than last – much less walking. Aside from rolling my left ankle, rolling my right ankle, breaking a toe, and today hyper-extending my heel (all in the last 4 weeks), I feel ready.

Today we did the lovely 16k loop around Upper Kananaskis Lake. I specifically chose a route with with few hills to help with the extra couple kilometers from last week. It was a gorgeous run – until I tripped on something (later to be discovered as ‘nothing’), and landed on all fours, hyper-extending my right heel. This kinda weakened my ability to keep a good pace on the tougher terrain (see: shaky-rocky-shale-type stuff), but once we got through the gnarly stuff we were back on track.

We got ourselves a Gopro hero3 for all of our adventures – especially to take with us to Tough Mudder. It’s a waterproof, “drop-proof”, take-along-with-you-in-extreme-situations camera. It’s tiny and can be attached to your wrist, chest, helmet, bike, whatever.

Jamie played around with the GoPro during our K-Country run today. Enjoy.


Gearing up for Tough Mudder

I’m on the 1-month countdown to Tough Mudder. I have obviously been very focused on training, but now starting to shift my focus on getting there & gear!

Flights are booked.

Vacation condo is booked.

Now what do I wear? This is a very important question. Your gear of choice needs to: handle mud, dry easily, be comfortable, and be trashed. Those are some pretty interesting requirements. I’ve landed on a few things:

I still need a shirt and a pair of shorts that dry fast, are comfortable, and i don’t mind being trashed. Does that exist?