Race Review: Finlayson Arm 25K trail race

We weren't last!

We weren’t last!

Okay, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Despite the typical burning quads, achy knees, extreme fatigue, unquenchable thirst and mild headache I usually experience during trail races, I had a really great race on Saturday at the Finlayson Arm 25K (actually 28K) trail race.

The thing I love about trail races as opposed to any road race is that you get to make friends out on the trail. You’re going slow enough and you’re out there for long enough that you can actually chat with other runners for a few hours, which makes the time go by quicker and makes the race far more enjoyable. That, and I find trail runners are far more friendly in general on the course than road runners are. Even the lead racer who passed me somewhere around the 13 km point said “great job” as he flew by. And words of encouragement were exchanged by every single runner after that.

Since Debbie and I ran the course two weeks ago, I generally knew what to expect. I’ve run these routes and hiked Mt. Finlayson many times, so I was well prepared to tackle the elevation  challenges on the course. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be after Holmes Peak to Jocelyn Hill, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

Debbie, Dave and I started off the run together but quickly lost one another once we reached Goldstream River about a kilometre in, where we had to wade through calf-deep water to get to the trails on the other side of the park. I spent most of the run up to the trestle leap-frogging with two other women (they’d pass me on the climbs, I’d fly by on the downhill… downhills are my jam), and ended up all alone for awhile until I reached the tunnel under the highway, where an older man entered the tunnel breathing like a zombie just as I was exiting. I turned back to see a hobbling figure coming towards me, which made me run ever faster (hey, it could’ve been a zombie??)

Crossing under the highway to get back into Goldstream Park

Crossing under the highway to get back into Goldstream Park

I passed Debbie on the trail to the trestle as she was having trouble with her heart rate (which skyrockets to an abnormal 210 bpm if she’s not careful) and she smartly decided to take it easy for the rest of the race. I was half expecting her to come up behind me on the Finlayson climb, as she’s a great climber and I pretty much slow to a crawl when there’s any major elevation. Zombie-breathing man caught up to me and let me lead the way up the mountain, and a lovely girl from Pender Island named Jill kept pace with me to the top and back down the other side.

The view from the top of Mt. Finlayson - Jill snapping some pictures

The view from the top of Mt. Finlayson – Jill stopped to snap some pictures

We ended up running together until we hit our one and only aid station at Roundtree Road, manned by tri coach extraordinaire Lindsey and her friend Connie. After Lindsey helped fill my hydration pack and I downed a 1/4 of a banana, a slice of orange and some electrolyte mix, we continued on down towards Caleb Pike. I ate half a Vega sustain bar somewhere at the 50-minute mark, the banana and orange and then the other half of the Vega bar at about the three-hour mark. That was it for fuel. I trained without much food so I didn’t feel like I needed that much on the run, which was good, as I found myself feeling a bit nauseous near the 20 km mark.

I lost Jill for awhile on the climb to Jocelyn Hill but made another trail friend named Cathy whose husband (I’m pretty sure) was the zombie man from the tunnel and Mt. Finlayson (who was no zombie at all, just a super fit and fast older man). He passed me on the top of Finlayson and was already coming back down when we were about 800m from the turnaround point.

I also caught up to Dave (well, Dave caught up to me) on the climb to Jocelyn. Apparently he took a wrong turn when coming down the back of Mt. Finlayson (where we’re supposed to turn on the way back) and ended up running an extra 2 km or so. And he STILL passed me and beat me (you should be proud, Dave!)

My favourite vista at Jocelyn Hill!

My favourite vista at Jocelyn Hill!

Once we reached the turnaround point, I had the other half of my Vega bar and continued back down with Jill. I passed Debbie somewhere in between Jocelyn Hill and Holmes Peak, and was happy to see she was doing okay. I ran and chatted with Jill until we reached the bottom of Mt. Finlayson, where she took off on the climbs and I kind of lumbered along by myself until I reached Prospector’s Trail back in Goldstream Park. I checked my watch at the ACTUAL 25K time, which was about 4:20 ish. I came through the finish line back in the Goldstream campground at 4:47 ish for 27.59 km, much faster than my expected 5.5 hour finish time.

I made it!

I made it!

Since runners were so spread out on the trail, you get all the attention when you come through the finish line, which was awesome. Matt, Dave and Jill were there waiting for me, as well as a nifty Driftwood Brewery finisher’s beer glass, free beer, burgers, chips and popcorn.

Debbie came through about 10 minutes later. She also ended up getting lost at the bottom of Finlayson on the way back, confused about where the turn was to get back to the Mt. Finlayson Trail since we had gone a different way on our training run.

Despite a few runners getting lost, overall I thought the trail was well marked with pink ribbons and arrows — though I think it helped I knew the area fairly well already. The aid station and finish line were well stocked with good food and drinks, the weather was perfect and the atmosphere was awesome. Overall I really enjoyed the race, and will probably do it again next year.

Bri’s Race Rating
(Out of five stars)

Course: ☆☆☆☆☆
Terrain: ☆☆☆☆
Views: ☆☆☆☆☆
Food: ☆☆☆
Volunteers: ☆☆☆☆☆
Swag: ☆☆☆
Organization: ☆☆☆☆
Atmosphere: ☆☆☆☆☆

Have you ever done a trail race over 10 km? Have you ever thought about doing an ultra? Who else raced this weekend? Do you have a race coming up?