Get your feet dirty with 5 early season BC trail runs
Ignore the white stuff, dream of the mud
The weather outside is frightful as the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island are caught in the icy grips of old man winter. And he is a total jerk. But, that won’t stop us from looking forward to getting our feet dirty this on the trails soon enough. For those eager to plan, here are five early season trail running events to whet the competitive appetite. (It also helps to ignore, old you-know-who.)
The Dirty Duo, March 9
This is a scenic and rather hilly race set in North Vancouver on the Capilano University grounds and Inter River Park and will challenge runners of all levels on these sweet North Shore trails. Runners can choose from a 50K, 27K and 15K distance. Runners can also participate in a relay with a mountain biker or can do a 27K run and a 30K bike for the ultimate challenge. This event is part of the Foretrails Run Series, www.foretrails.com.
The Cap Crusher, March 16
Break out the four-leafed clover running kit and celebrate spring and St. Patrick with this challenging run around the upper Capilano Canyon and along the river. This trail system is quite beautiful but can also offer technical workout for runners. There is both a 12K (8:30 a.m. start) and 24K (9 a.m. start) option as well as a kids race (8 a.m. start). It all gets underway at 8am at Cleveland Dam. For more information go to www.trailseries.ca.
MEC Greater Vancouver Trail Race One, April 7
The first MEC Greater Vancouver Trail race of the year features 5K and 9K courses through Pacific Spirit Park, chip-timed results, coffee and bananas, finish-line massages, plus unlimited high-fives from stoked MEC members and staff. Runners will enjoy a course that passes through the beautiful forest trails of the northern section of Pacific Spirit Park. For information go to www.events.mec.ca.
The Marathon Shuffle, April 28
Head to the Sunshine Coast and the drop-dead gorgeous Sunshine Coast Trail for the annual Marathon Shuffle. The event takes place along a 29 kilometre section of the trail and passes through the settlement lands of the Tla’amin Nation and is a collaborative effort between Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society, Tla’amin Nation, Club Fat Ass and the BOMB Squad. Registration opens Feb. 22. For more information go to www.sunshinecoast-trail.com.
The Cumby, May 11
The Comox Valley Road Runners are hosting the 4th annual Cumby trail race set in the Cumberland Community Forest located in the hills about the historic village of Cumberland. The race day event lineup includes the full Cumby 25K race as well as the 13K Half Cumby and new this year the 5.5K family-friendly Mini Cumby. Walkers are also welcome to join in the Mini Cumby to take in what the Cumberland Community Forest has to offer. For more information go to www.thecumby.ca.
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Doing It Right - Winter Camping
What you need to know about camping in the cold weather
Mention the idea of winter camping and most people will spontaneously break out in goose bumps. Fair enough - go unprepared and camping in snow and ice will be cold and miserable. But do it right and a night out in winter can not only be comfortable, but amazing. Crowdless camping in empty wilderness. Skies full of stars, and maybe the Northern Lights. Sunrise glistening off untracked snow. The difference between pain and pleasure? Well, that comes down to gear and knowledge. You could spend many unpleasant nights figuring it out for yourself or learn from our well-earned experience.
Making snow a home
Sure you could spend hours building a snow shelter, but you'll get soaked, exhausted and waste valuable day light hours. Instead bring a legitimate four season tent, made for supporting snow loads and blocking chilly winds, and set it up in the right place.
Location, location: If there's lots of snow on the ground you can pitch it just about anywhere, but leave-no-trace rules apply in winter too. Set up camp at least 100-feet from lakes and streams and away from summer and winter trails. Amongst a stand of trees is a good bet. They provide shelter from the wind and trap some heat. Avoid depressions and gullies, which fill with cold air overnight - and lee slopes - where snow will pile up if it snows or gets windy.
Lay the foundation: With skis or snowshoes off stomp out an area several feet larger than your tent's footprint. Leave it for an hour – go build your kitchen or start dinner – to allow the snow to settle and firm up. Shovel it flat.
Stake it out: Tent pegs don't work in snow. Put extra string on all your tent and vestibule tie points and grab a bunch of thin branches. Wrap the string around a stick and then burry it a foot down. The string will slide freely while the stick acts like a deadman, perfect for tying down your tent. Use a slip knot and you won't have to dig the sticks out when it's time to pack up.
Make it home: Dig out your vestibule area so you can put your boots on sitting down. Don't unpack your sleeping bag until just before you get in or it will fill with cold air. Take a water-tight waterbottle filled with hot water to bed to help warm your sleeping bag. And bring a snack. Bears aren't a worry in winter and if you wake up cold a bite to eat will help fuel your furnace for a few more hours of shut eye.
Random words of wisdom
Change into dry clothes as soon as you're done your day; it's easier to stay warm then get warm.
Go to bed warm, take a short walk or ski just before snuggling in for the night.
Save time in the morning by melting snow the night before. Keep it from freezing by storing it in a snow fridge - dig out a cubby and then seal it with a block of snow.
Don't hold off going pee at night. Keeping that liquid warm in your body actually makes you cold.
If it's cold and windy and you don't want to cook outside move to your tent vestibule, just make sure to open your vestibule wide to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to "number two" in the cold
As with setting up camp, leave-no-trace rules apply. Always go to the washroom far from summer water sources and trails to prevent contamination. Peeing is pretty straightforward, just cover the hole when you're done. For number two, saddle up next to a tree, dig a hole in the snow, do your business and then bury it. Trees put out a bit of heat meaning your waste will disappear faster come spring. If you're base camping think about building a group snow outhouse to contain your impact. And keep in mind snow makes great TP - ball it up like a snowball and wipe. Seriously.
The gear to bring
Shovel - indispensable for everything from levelling tent platforms to digging out snow fridges. Lightweight, two-piece aluminum shovels are best.
Sleeping bag - Being cold at night sucks. Bring a sleeping bag rated to 5 to 10C warmer than the coldest temp expected. A cheap way to increase the comfort range of a sleeping bag is to bring a bivy sack or sleeping bag liner. Each adds about 5C of warmth.
Sleeping pad - Go full length with an R-value of 4 or higher. Put your empty pack down as well to add a bit more insulation to your core.
Warm clothes - Down jackets and pants, fleece tops and bottoms, toasty baselayers and a couple pairs of socks. Bring more than you think you'll need.
Booties - The greatest winter camping invention: down or synthetic filled booties. They're heaven after a day in ski boots and super warm to boot.
Stove - Go white gas - canisters don't work well in cold and snow - and make sure it's working well.