Seek the Peak had been on my bucket list of races for many years until finally I was able to fit it into my schedule in 2014. I remember thinking what a challenge it would be, not only to run the course, but to psychologically connect all the sections, embrace the elevation and feel strong throughout the entire distance. I wanted to prepare myself not just to run the course, but to be able to race it. In order to accomplish that I would need lots of specific training such as speed work and uphill climbs… many many uphill climbs.
At the time I committed to Seek the Peak we had a small group of runners at lululemon Park Royal who were also keen to do the race. We decided to train together on the course every week in order to get ready. We hiked the Grind. We ran up Nancy Greene Way. We ran Capilano Canyon then Nancy Greene Way then the Grind. We even added the Peak to get a feel for it. It was a challenge for everyone, but the resulting feeling of accomplishment and building our confidence for race-day were vital. By the time June arrived, I think everyone knew they could do it.
On race day I remember telling myself not to take off like a bat out of hell; even if it was so tempting given the flat start. “Save your legs, breathe, save your legs”, I kept reminding myself. The important thing was not to focus on what others around me were doing; I needed to run my own race.
From training, I knew all the sections very well and could visualize the entire course. I maintained my focus on the initial climbs in the canyon and tried to keep an even pace. I used the flatter parts (and some of the few downs) to catch my breath and stride out my legs. I knew what was coming and continued to try and hold back somewhat. The Cleveland Dam stairs came into sight, and then I was off on Nancy Greene Way. “Slow and steady, just keep moving your legs”, I kept thinking. Before I knew it I was on the Grind and the transition to power hiking felt natural. I again checked my breathing and my pace and tried to settle into a speed that I hoped to maintain all the way up. It surely wasn’t over yet and I had to make sure I had enough left in me for the Peak.
I expected it to be hard, and it was. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But so is life and so is going through chemo. I’ve been lucky to be fairly healthy, but I’ve always been very aware that running and racing are a privilege. I chose to do this and if I really wanted to, could stop at any time. Some people don’t have the option to stop. Illness and pain don’t always stop. I knew other runners around me had their own reasons to do this race as much as I had mine. Some of my own friends and family have had to overcome cancer and they were my inspiration during the race. Even if I was my body was begging me to slow down, completing this race was my opportunity to stand next to them saying “I’m here for you; if you can’t stop, then I’m not stopping either”.
So there I was, at the top of the Grind thinking “Ok, it’s almost over. Just one more hill”. Off towards the Peak I went. This particular year there was a ton of fog at the top. Visibility was so limited that I it was difficult to figure out where to go and I listened to the directions of the course marshals as best I could. I managed to keep to the trail and started the last climb up to the Peak. At this point my legs were so tired but it was not the time to slow down. Just one more climb. Just one more climb. The feeling of accomplishment in getting to the top was absolutely amazing. I was so happy to finally be able to let my legs run down as fast as they could toward the finish line. I passed familiar faces still climbing and we shared some words of encouragement. I knew it was almost over and my body was flooded with adrenaline.
And then I was done. I crossed the finish line amidst loud cheering from my husband and kids. I had given it everything and felt tired but so completely happy. I could now cheer too and greet others crossing the finish line with well-deserved high-fives. We had done it and it felt amazing.
I was honoured and excited at the opportunity to put together and lead the training program for the race last year. I knew how much this race means to people and what kind of challenge it represented for some. I also knew that it was my responsibility to guide, train and support all of those runners. It was going to be a hard 10 weeks, but that was also the reality of the race itself.
The 2015 race came and went with everyone from our training group making it to the top. Smiles and hugs flooded the finishing area and this is by far one of my favourite memories.
I considered writing this blog post on advice and tips for training which would surely be helpful. But I decided that my own personal experience would be more relevant. I love this race – as hard as it is; and cannot wait to celebrate the 2016 finishers with a round of high-fives at the top.