I am, and have always been a road runner. My legs are used to pounding away on the pavement without issue. However, since moving out West, I have been longing to hit the trails, the mountains are calling me! I committed to a training camp with my coach and other athletes in Squamish at the end of July, but wanted to get onto the trails before then. The only hold-up was, I train alone mostly and with trail running it is much safer to go with a partner or group.
I knew my friend Julianne had started to dabble with trail running and was pretty open to running adventures, so we made plans to head out to Norvan Falls. First, I made sure to pick-up the appropriate gear. Since road shoes don’t offer the tread necessary for trail running, I headed to Atmosphere at Park Royal to get some supplies. I ended up choosing the Solomon Speed Cross 3 (pictured below), they are water resistant, which ended up being a great choice when we were running through streams!
Normally, when I go out for a run I try to avoid carrying “stuff” at all costs. It is typically just my house-keys, IPhone and fuel. For hydration, I rely on fountains which are plentiful on my regular route. You can’t expect to find water fountains when you are running on a trail, so I also got a hydration pack. This is probably the most important piece of equipment to have, especially if you are planning to be out there for many hours at a time. I chose the 1.5L (which is the smallest option I found) Camelbak. If someday I completely transition from a road to a trail runner or become an Ultra Runner, I will have to size up my hydration pack, but this little one is fine for now!
The last thing I made sure to pick-up was fuel. I always bring fuel when I am going to be running for longer than 1.5 hrs. When road running, I tend to go for Honey Stingers Chews because they are easy to eat while in motion and provide the necessary carbohydrates. For trail running, I figured we would probably take a break to re-fuel so I chose Honey Stingers Waffles and Vega Protein Bars.
Now, enough about supplies, it is time to talk about the actual trail running experience! As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we were greeted by an older couple who had just finished their trail run from The Grouse Grind to Lynn Loop, they were super friendly and enthusiastic and told us about several races they had planned for the next few months. It really set the tone for the run and we met many other runners and hikers throughout the morning and exchanged friendly “Good Mornings”. We started our ascent to Norvan Falls and the wall of trees from the mountains in the background made for some awesome scenery. What made it even better was the sense of being in the “wildnerness” though it is only a short drive from downtown Vancouver. The only sounds were the gushing water from the falls and the sounds of your breath. On the way out, we were lucky enough to have the trail to ourselves! We didn’t see anyone until the bridge, about 300m from the falls. We met a couple of hikers there who took a photo of us.
After a few more photos we headed to the falls to look explore, re-fuel and take more photos of course! I was absolutely starving, so I ate a waffle AND half a Vega Bar. There was a group of about 8 people at the bottom of the falls who were just finishing up their break, so they took a photo for us also.
Shortly after this photo, a lot of people started arriving at the falls and it was time for us to start the return trip. It seemed, the rest of Vancouver was now awake and many had a similar idea of how to spend a Sunday morning. We saw many more people on the way back, I would definitely recommend heading out early so you can have a more private experience in the trail. We decided to choose the more technical route on the way back, it was still a beginner level trail (I think), but a bit more challenging than the route we took on the way out.
From my experience yesterday, I can say trail running involves a different kind of engagement than road running. For road running, the pace is the focus, but the scenery and footing may not be. I tend to go into this state where I zone out from everything except the workout I am doing or paces I am targeting. Sometimes I don’t remember seeing certain landmarks I have passed. For trail running, you absolutely have to focus on your footing, it is kind of like a puzzle at times. Your pace is definitely not the focus, there is a lot of climbing and the terrain makes it difficult to go really fast. For me it was a combination of where should I put my feet/ wow it’s so pretty in here. I was engaged with those two focuses for the entire run and felt very happy doing it. I had an amazing run yesterday and plan to hit the trails once a week for an alternate running experience. The next trail I have my eye on is: Garibaldi Lake.