Seek the Peak 16 km Race Report

Oh hello there. I am still alive! It’s just been a crazy busy week at work, I’ve had more social plans than normal (three nights in a row this week!) AND we’re renovating our bathroom. 

Anyways, excuses, excuses but I finally spent some time last night taking photos off of my phone and writing my Seek the Peak race report so here we go.

I signed up for Seek the Peak about a month ago after messaging back and forth with Solana about it. I wanted to get in some runs/races on the Vancouver area trails before Squamish and Seek the Peak was the only one I could find that worked with my schedule. The week before my mom decided to come down to Vancouver with me too so we booked a hotel room in North Vancouver for Friday night. I was very happy to have someone to drive down and back up with even though it was the quickest trip ever (we were there for less than 24 hours).

When I got there on Friday evening Solana picked me up at my hotel and took me up to pick up the race packages and to give me a little preview of the Grouse Grind. I have heard about the grind of course but have never done it before. I knew it was going to be really really hard and the preview on Friday night showed me that. We only went 1/4 of the way up before coming back down and running a bit of the Baden Powell Trail. It was good to spend some time on similar trail to what I’ll face at Squamish in 8 short weeks. It is definitely a lot different than the local trails I’m used to.

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After the run I went back to the hotel, showered and crawled into bed. I really wanted/needed a good night of sleep before the race but unfortunately due to the cold I’d been battling since Wednesday my nose was very stuffed up that night and I slept terribly. The 5 am wake-up call was certainly a rude awakening. Here I am right before leaving the hotel:

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I joined Solana and her friend James and my friend Norman for an 8 km run from Cleveland Dam down to Ambleside Park BEFORE the actual race. This was a great way to get in extra mileage and see some more trails. I really enjoyed this little warm-up and since I didn’t end up running on Sunday due to being sick I was glad I got in the extra mileage on Saturday. HUGE thanks to Solana for including me in this warm-up run!

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After 50 minutes of running we arrived at the start for what we thought was 45 minutes before the race but ended up being more like an hour. The start was at Ambleside Beach and was really beautiful. We totally lucked out with the weather that day.

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After hanging out for about an hour it was time to start! I said goodbye to all the new people I’d met through Solana as I knew they were all going to finish way ahead of me and just tried to settle into a nice and easy pace. This race is broken up into four legs so I’ll share my times from each leg below. I believe the legs were broken out as 4 km, 6 km, Grouse Grind (3ish km), 3 km.

I don’t actually remember the first leg that well but I remember I felt good and ran the whole time. I believe it was also relatively flat. Leg 1 time was 21:02. 

Leg 2 was a bit tougher. There was this long, slow incline on a gravel trail that I forced myself to run the entire time. Normally those kind of long, slow inclines really mess with me mentally but I actually felt pretty good at this race and just kept a steady pace and kept going. Then we went into the trails where there were a lot of rolling hills. I was kind of frog jumping with this one lady in there as she would pass me on the uphills and then I would pass her on the downhills. In the middle of this leg we had to climb up an awful, awful set of stairs. My knee was actually hurting pretty badly at this point but it felt fine the rest of the race so I think it was just the stairs. I remember thinking that I wasn’t even at the grind yet and my legs were already getting beat up. However, the trails were absolutely gorgeous! And when I came out of the trails I got to say a quick hi to Kirsten, who was volunteering!

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The last part of leg 2 was a long hill on the pavement. I hated it and walked most of it! In hindsight I probably could have ran more of this leg than I did but I wanted to save my legs for the grind. Leg 2 time was 53:01.

Leg 3 was the Grouse Grind. Oh man. I don’t even have the words. Doing this climb for the first time after already running 18 km probably wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made. Suffice to say I found this part of the race incredibly, incredibly hard. I felt a bit claustrophobic with so many people doing the climb and the tall trees all around us closing us in and it seriously felt neverending to me, especially since I haven’t done it before. I wanted to quit so badly at the 3/4 mark. I actually stopped for about 5 minutes at that point and ate the granola bar in my bag and just tried to breathe. Nothing ever felt SO good as getting out of there even though I knew we had one more climb ahead of us. Leg 3 (Grouse Grind) time was 1:18:30. 

I know my runkeeper app on my iPhone wasn’t completely accurate (especially on the grind portion) but check out this elevation profile:

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Once you exited the grind you still had one more big climb to do to truly get to the peak of Grouse Mountain. I found this kind of cool but it was definitely a lot of an easier climb than the Grind. And you only had to go 1.5 km up and then you got to come back down.

At the top I asked some tourists to take a photo of me because I hadn’t climbed all that way not to take a photo of the view! I was getting eaten alive by bugs in this photo though.

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For the last 1.5 km you got to go down, down, down which felt pretty amazing after climbing for so long. I ran back down at a pretty decent clip and passed a few people. I kept looking for the finish line and two guys told me it was just around the corner. I was like “really?!?!” but it was, thank god. I finished Leg 3 in 30:38.

Finish

My FINAL TIME: 3:03:09

Add in the 50 minutes ran at the beginning and that’s nearly four hours on my feet last Saturday. Definitely my longest run of Squamish 50 training yet. I was battling a bit of a cold (which this race ended up making way worse and I had to rest all day on Sunday) so it definitely wasn’t my best day but considering how hard I found this race I’m just glad I finished to be honest. Big thank you to Solana and her friends for staying around and cheering me in and also for snapping the above photo!!

After the run I got to meet Lisa, who is also running Squamish 50 as her first trail ultra (she’s done a couple of road ultra’s before) so it was fun to chat with someone else about how their training is going. My mom came to meet me at the finish and bring me back to the hotel which was great. The race took me longer than I originally thought/hoped it would so we weren’t able to do any Vancouver shopping but we did go for an amazing sushi lunch after I got cleaned up at the hotel and it really hit the spot!

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I’m not going to lie. This race was a bit of a rude awakening for me. Squamish is going to be HARD, you guys. But you know what, I know I can finish it despite how hard it’s going to be. I’ve officially requested an early start time so I will have 11 hours to finish the course and I know I can do that. I just need to put my mind through it and push through the walls that are inevitably going to happen.

After doing this race I think I need to go back and try the Grouse Grind another time when I haven’t already ran 18 km. Maybe I will appreciate it more then. Last Saturday I HATED every second of it. Ha.

Have you ever done the Grouse Grind? Love it or hate it? 

13 Responses

  1. Nice work, Amber! That does sound like a really hard (and steep!) race. Quite the mental challenge. Some folks here have done this 50K that has a 3 mile continuous, steep hill in it and all I can think is NO THANK YOU! Ha. Way to go and getting that extra 50 min in ahead of time is a great way to help simulate race day conditions and just being mentally okay with feeling exhausted.

  2. caz says:

    hilarious! my friend and I were actually headed to the Grind that day but changed our minds because we had other things on! If I’d known you were there we would have come done it with you!

    We’re at about 1:10-ish but without doing things before/after. our goal is 50 minuted by the time it closes in the winter!

    so sad i’m away in 2 wees 🙁

  3. Kelly says:

    As always, I’m so amazed by you 🙂 That beach photo is so beautiful and makes me miss my trip last summer, gorgeous!

    I have to say the Grouse Grind even when not running before it, was sort of the thing you appreciate only after it’s done haha. There were a lot of people climbing it the day we did too and it makes it really hard to get in a grove. Plus it’s just all stairs, insane stairs. Plus, you can’t see the view so it’s hard to see what you are trying to accomplish haha. BUt it is worth it when you get to the top. We took a picture at the same view as you did 🙂

  4. Heather says:

    That course looks tough but you are awesome to have conquered it…with a cold too!!

  5. abbi says:

    Great work and sounds like a really tough climb. View is great though! You ended up with a great finishing photo too and definitely getting in the work you need for the 50k!

  6. Ris says:

    Wow I’m seriously in awe of you. Even if it will be really hard, you are going to be prepared and totally rock the Squamish 50!

  7. Bronwyn says:

    AMAZING. Congrats!
    I LOVE the grouse grind. I always do it at least once a year. It’s such a challenge. I don’t really think of it as a hike, since there is nothing nice to see until the top, but it feels like such an accomplishment every time.

  8. LG says:

    Wow – great pics! I’ve never done the Grouse Grind, but I’ve heard lots about it! Would love to one time…

  9. Sherry Sim says:

    Amber Amber Amber…don’t beat yourself up about what you are DOING!!!! This is new to you so there are bound to be challenges and you are doing it. I’m sure Norman has lots to fill you in. I admire what you are doing and love reading your honest stories about it. Keep it up!!!

  10. Where did you go for sushi??? That looks amazing!!!!

    I told you before, and I’ll tell you again, I’m proud of you for powering through and finishing. Sq50 is going to be hard, but the climbs won’t be as hard as the Grind, promise!

    See you in a couple weeks!!

    -S

  11. Dang that is a really steep climb! Way to go on pushing your body through that. I know you are nervous for the race, but I have complete faith in you. You can do it! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The good thing is that you won’t have to care about your time, and hopefully the early start will make you feel better about things and less anxious about not finishing.

  12. Travel Spot says:

    That grind section is a HUGE hill! I actually like races more when they go up and down a bit instead of up, up, up. That always makes it harder because you tire yourself out and it becomes a little difficult mentally. Some advice I have (because I have made many, many mistakes!) is to be sure to eat often and drink lots of water. My worst race so far was bad because I didn’t eat and I really hit a mental wall. That’s why doing those longer weekend runs is so important, so you can see how the wall will affect you!

  13. […] gorgeous trails there which are a lot more similar to the trails I’ll face at Squamish and I ran one race in June! It was definitely a good running month, as it should be being the second to last month […]