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5 Peaks Trail Race Series: Cypress Mountain Race Recap

5 Peaks Trail Race Series: Cypress Mountain Race Recap
5 Peaks Trail Race Series: Cypress Mountain Race Recap

“We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too.” – Kristin Marz

Last Saturday, I ran my second trail race: 5 Peaks Cypress Mountain Enduro Course. 11.5 km, 472 m elevation gain.

I love hiking, spending time outdoors, exploring new places, and running, so I really want to get more into trail running. There is an abundance of trails to explore in BC, many easily accessible from downtown Vancouver. My not-so-secret goal is to run a 50 km trail race in February 2017, so it was high time I hit the trails. I volunteered for a 5 Peaks race last summer and received a free entry for a race of my choice this year.


Photo Credit: Rob Shaer Photography

About the race

5 Peaks hosts trail running races of varying distances across Canada, including in Ontario and Alberta (check out the full race list here). I ran my first trail race with 5 Peaks last year at Alice Lake in Squamish and loved it. I’ve found the trail running community to be incredibly friendly and encouraging. The 5 Peaks races are much lower key and less stressful than other road races I have done.

This year’s race at Cypress Mountain featured a new course with some “gnarly” single track, “hardcore hills” up double trails, and a “super technical add-on” past two alpine lakes. Yes, I probably should have read the course description beforehand. But silly road running, marathon training me thought, “this is only 11.5 km, that’s nothing!” Famous last words.

Race Recap

My good friend Alyssa, new friend and fellow Ontarian Moira, and our friend and Alyssa’s boyfriend Jan drove up to Cypress Mountain early Saturday morning. It was cold and foggy, but luckily not raining. We had lots of time to pick up our race packages, bibs, and reusable cups. Kudos to the 5 Peaks volunteers for making this process totally stress-free. Around 8:50 am, we lined up at the start and several waves later, we were off and running!

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Serious pre-race discussion with Moira & Alyssa. Photo Credit: Jan Heuninck.

The course was initially very narrow and I remember thinking “how am I ever going to run or get around people if the entire course is like this.” But a few minutes later we started to spread out and the hills began! I really had no time goals going into this and was not entirely sure what a “good” time would be (the winner would finish in just under 58 minutes). My plan was to push hard and try to enjoy it.

Honestly, the race was much harder than I had anticipated.

I have done little to no trail running, but plenty of hiking and road running. While my endurance is pretty good, my technical trail skills not so much! I also was far from rested, continuing on with my marathon training plan as usual the week leading up to the race.

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Meters from the finish line. Photo credit: Jan Heuninck.

Because of all the rain we’ve had recently, the course was very muddy! Within a few miles, my shoes were soaked and covered with mud (they have since been laundered). I tried to embrace how dirty I was going to get and immediately regretted wearing my long sleeve, it was humid.

I felt relatively strong throughout the entire race, but the trails took a toll on me mentally.

I’m not usually one to get so easily discouraged, but each time I looked down at my watch I thought: “how have I only gone x number of miles, given the effort and time I just put in.” Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the climbing sectionsI love strength training and lifting weights. When trail running, I really reap the benefits of the strength and power I have gained from regular group personal training. Climbing up rocks and bounding over roots? That’s a lot more fun than jump squats or weighted step-ups in the gym.

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I promise I was having more fun than this. Photo Credit: Jan Heuninck.

The trails were quite technical, so it was hard for me to get momentum running. I had to walk a number of sections and by the end I was tired and a little frustrated. However, near the finish an older male runner came up to me and said he had been trying to catch me the whole race and was impressed by my climbing! That compliment was a great boost.

The volunteers on the course were fantastic: incredibly positive and always pointing you in the right direction. The course was well-marked. There was an aid station at km 4 and you returned to it at km 7, but I did not stop. The race is cup-less, hence the reusable cups as swag. You are encouraged to carry your reusable cup with you if you want fluids at the aid stations.

My final race time was 1:31: 10th in my age group, top 1/3 of women overall, and a pretty average time based on the results.

Plenty of room to improve my time next time. I met up with Alyssa, Moira, and Jan at the finish line. I grabbed fruit (banana chunks and watermelon slices) and we made our way to Whole Foods for the obligatory post-run coffee and snack.

What I wore

Lululemon Energy Bra, Lululemon Namastay Put Hipster, sleeveless tank from The Bay, Lole Long Sleeve, Lululemon Run Inspire Crop, Lululemon Speed Sock, Saucony Xodus 6.0 Trail Runners, handheld bottle.

Read my post on Marathon Training Essentials Part 1 for more of my favourite running clothing, shoes, and socks. 

What I ate

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 banana, 1 tbsp cashew butter, berries

Pre-race: 6 small dates, 1 tbsp sunflower seed butter

During race: small water bottle, 1 berry Nuun tablet

Post-race: fruit, coconut milk latte, 2 Whole Foods energy balls

Read my post on Whole30: 30 days of meal ideas for more grain-free and paleo pre and post-workout snacks. 

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FInish line happiness. Photo Credit: Jan Heuninck.

What’s next?

This race was a good wake-up call.

If I want to run a 50 km trail race in February, it is going to require some serious training on the trails. Developing my mental toughness is always a work in progress. I am hoping to make it out on the trails once a week for a run or challenging hike. I plan to run an MEC 10 km trail race and the 5 Peaks Whistler trail race in August. We’ll see what comes after that!

Have you run a trail race before? Do you have a fitness goal you are currently working toward? 

  • Syd says:

    Good for you, I think you did great! Some advice I got from a fellow trail runner was that when transitioning from road to trail running, try not to think of the pace but more the time spent on your feet. Since trail running proposes many different challenges that road running does not, it would be unfair to compare pace between the two. BUT I totally agree that it’s tough to get your head around travelling so little distance in what looks like many more minutes on the trail than on the road. Stick with it, you will do great in your next trail events 🙂

    • says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, it really is such a difference! Usually I don’t care that much about pace when I’m running trails, but I think when it becomes a race… it’s easy to forget how different it can be from roads!

  • Carmy says:

    That photo really captures the happiness at the finish line! Trail races are a whole different beast. So many technical parts to look out for!

    • says:

      Yeah, my friend Jan takes some fantastic photos! I was also very excited about the prospect of drinking coffee and eating! Haha. They really are a whole other beast, challenging in a different way than road races.

  • Alyssa says:

    I agree – this was a hard day! So nice to be outside in the mountains though. Can’t wait to do it again!

    • says:

      Yay, me neither! Hard, but definitely fun. Not much beats being out in the mountains! Especially when it is followed by coffee, and spent with friends! 🙂

  • […] to Sky Trail. The total elevation gain for the race was 300m. I found the course easier than the 5 Peaks Cypress Mountain Trail Race. The trails were less muddy, not as technical, greater variety of terrain, and more […]

  • […] Ran the 5 Peaks Trail Race at Cypress Mountain and learned 12 km is not a short distance when you’re running on the trails […]

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