Monday, July 18, 2011

Stumbling through the snow at Knee Knacker

The Knee Knacker course.
I've been wanting to visit Vancouver for what seems like forever. I'm not sure why it took so long, but we finally got our chance. Gary Robbins had suggested the Knee Knacker as a good event to run in the Vancouver area so I put my name in the lottery back in February and was lucky enough to get accepted into the race.

This is really a must-do event. I'm not sure why it hasn't received more publicity south of the border. Not that it needs more participants. It is already so popular that you have to enter a lottery to get the chance to run. But most of the participants are from British Columbia. In fact it's so popular that people that don't get to run volunteer in droves--there were more volunteers than runners and they even turned volunteers away.  It's easy enough to do the trip in a 3 day weekend, but the Vancouver area is so beautiful and there are so many things to see and do, I would suggest adding a few more days onto your trip as we did.

Downtown Vancouver with the mountains in the background.
The course is extremely technical--rocks, roots, staircases with lots of climbing. It was hands-down the hardest 50K I have done. It is a point to point course following the Baden-Powell trail from west to east starting near Horseshoe Bay and finishing in Deep Cove. There are magnificent views of the Vancouver area as one summits the first major climb, Black Mountain and even though it feels like you are deep in the wilderness, one is never far from the North Vancouver suburbs and several times the trail dips down into residential areas before climbing back into the hills.

The race started at 6am which seemed on the early side given that the race is over by 4pm. For those of us who prefer to sleep a littler later, insult was added to injury by having the buses leave the finish line at 4:35am to take us to the starting line in time for the 6am start. I met Scotty in the parking lot at 4:30am and we took the first bus together. It was good to hang out with him prior to the start especially since there were so few familiar faces.

Runners at the starting line.

and climbing.
Climbing . . .

 The course includes over 8,000 feet of climbing, about half of which comes within the first 6 miles. It had only been three weeks since Big Horn, so I tried to take it easy on the first climb and then assess how I felt. Nothing felt easy about the first climb other than stopping to take pictures, but soon enough we were reaching the top to be greeted by the large amount of snow still on the top of the mountain.

View from the ascent up Black Mt.

Vancouver obscured by the clouds.
 The snow section was my slowest split (relative to the rest of the field) of the day. I'm not sure how much of it was my lack of experience running on that much snow and how much was the lack of traction on my Hoka shoes. The other funny thing about the shoes was that the cushiony material in the sole hardens up considerably in the snow so when we finally cleared the snow and started down the dirt road, it felt like I was running on slabs of brick. However, that quickly went away and the shoes were excellent cushioning to prevent the knees from being knackered by all of the technical downhill sections still to come.

Elves greeted us at the top of the hill signaling the first aid station.

Slippery running.

Stairs down as far as you can see.

Technical? They weren't kidding.
 I felt the best over the second half of the course--probably because it is a lot easier than the first half and finished in 7 hr 9 min in 81st place. The race finishes in a beautiful park with a beach which made it easy to soak tired legs in cold water. I can't recommend this event highly enough--put it on your bucket list now!


  1. Great post Mike! And cool pics. Glad we were able to hit this event together. I'll probably try to do this again next year, when a little more healthy. You did terrific!

  2. Wow, great job, especially after BH100! Is that the first race you've done in the Hokas? Do you have the trail ones or the road ones? Sounds like a crushing 50k, congratulations on a job well done!

  3. @ALM Thanks! I have both the Mafate (trail) and Bondi (road) Hokas, but I was wearing the trail version during the race.