Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rubble Creek Classic

Lara and I tackled the Rubble Creek Classic Trail Race on Sunday in Garibaldi Park, Whistler BC. Here's a  recap of our day on the trails:

First, some info about the race. The race is part of the Sea to Sky Trail Running Series and is put on by Escape Route, an outdoor store based in Whistler and Squamish. The race has been going since 1985 and is a "grass-roots" style run. There is no support, aid or trail markers, you must be 100% self-sufficient along the course. There is a sweep however, in case of emergencies. The course runs from Cheakamus Lake over the Helm Creek Trail to Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Park. Click here for Course Map by Trailhunger.com

Course Details

Distance:  24.5km
Elevation Gain:  1338.4m
Elevation Loss:  1592.8m
Highest Elevation: 1781.6m
Lowest Elevation: 557.4m

 We decided to do this race because neither of us had ever explored Garibaldi Park and a group of friends that we run with were also planning to try out the race. We'd heard glowing reviews about the amazing scenery along the course so thought we'd jump on the band wagon.  We didn't exactly start out overly well prepared for the race. In terms of training we'd run 10km once a week for the last 2 months with one "long" training run coming in at 2.5hrs and a few long days of hiking. But we'd done the Knee Knacker training back in June, so we could do it on residual fitness, right?!? We knew we weren't properly trained so we opted for the soft start at 7:30am and went into the race with minimal expectations, i.e. goals of getting thru it alive and just enjoying a day in the mountains.

The day started out with a 4am wake-up call and a dark, rainy drive up to Whistler to meet up with our carpool. On the way to the start line we encountered a fallen tree from a wind storm the previous night that was blocking the road. Luckily there were several cars on their way to the race, so we teamed up, grabbed a branch and pulled the tree off the road. After a few minutes to sign in and get ourselves organized, a small group of us were off on our soft start. The route starts off with a gradual climb for the first 2km, that quickly turns steep and continues to climb  for about 8km up to the Helm creek campground and then onto the rolling hills of the Cinder flats. I surprisingly felt pretty good on the climb, even with the lack of training; I guess mountaineering all summer has to have some benefits! There was continual rain up the climb, but it was tolerable since the trees cut the wind and provided some shelter. Once we broke out onto the flats however we were met with a brutally cold wind and once we climbed to the high point, we had the fun of running in blowing sleet and snow! So Cold! I think the term "soul destroying" was used at one point to describe the conditions, along with several choice words from other runners we encountered on the course.

If we weren't already cold enough, after running for  a couple of kilometers through the flats we encountered a creek that was pure glacial run-off that had no bridge. We had to wade through the wide, seemingly never ending, creek that was knee deep in spots. The next couple kilometers were spent trying to get feeling back in our feet and legs. Luckily, even with the challenging weather conditions, the scenery and terrain on the Helm Creek Trail and Cinder Flats is spectacular, making the run well worth the effort. I can only imagine how extraordinary it would be on a clear day.

At about 15km into the race we started closing in on Taylor Meadows with some great views of Garibaldi Lake. By this time we were losing elevation and re-entering the treed trails. Even though we were losing the great views by entering the trees, we were happy to have their shelter and be back out of the wind. Once we passed the Taylor Meadows campground we hit the epic downhill of the course that drops 1500m over 8km down the treed switchbacks of the Rubble Creek Trail. After about an hour of crazy downhill (that seemed to take forever) we were spit out of the forest at the finish line in the Rubble Creek Parking lot.  4hours and 3min of pure adventure!

We didn't linger at the finish line too long due to begin cold and wet, so we finished off our afternoon at the award ceremony in Whistler at a little restaurant called "Creek Bread" that was nice enough to provide us with food and drink specials to celebrate our race. After warming up, eating some fabulous pizza and collecting our goodie bags we hit the road and headed back home for a much deserved rest. All in all a great day of camaraderie, running and adventure.

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