So my father-in-law just got a new car, in the UK. A Škoda Yeti. Here’s a great Top Gear piece showing how good they are if you feel the need to land a helicopter on the roof of your car, open a mobile (off-roading, no less) tattoo parlour… or casually pop Sienna Miller into your glove compartment.
Seems like Jeremy Clarkson approves, so it can’t be bad at all. He’s from Doncaster, I believe. God’s Own County. Despite that… he’s still a bit of a plonker. Must be the water in Chipping Norton where Wikipedia tells me he now lives. There had to be a good reason…
While this car acquisition news was making its way through the internet, I was off doing the Snowshoe Grind Mountain Run, with Mrs E. I’d like to say it was “bright and early”, but as Rick Cluff on the CBC’s Early Edition says, it was actually “Dark and Early”! I was up (at least corporeally) at 5am. The upside was that the roads were nearly empty and I got a prime location in the Grouse Mountain car-park only an hour after setting out from White Rock. I can’t remember the last time I’d managed to park so close to the SkyRide.
Checking in was painless, and Mrs E and I signed away all our rights to everything including our first born and any superfluous kidneys we may be in possession of. In return we were given shiny racing bibs with some neat RFID strips on the back. I smiled, as I knew my own time could be just as easily tracked with an hour-glass or a sun-dial (the latter admittedly being less reliable at this time of year in The Lower Mainland).
We then joined a throng of far too energetic youngsters on their way to learn how to be Canada’s future Olympic Team. They had Nancy Greene Ski League bibs on and looked like they knew how to make a pair of skis fly. The SkyRide gondola was packed, which made it swing more robustly than usual as it went past the two pylons on its way to the Chalet. Let’s just say Mrs E didn’t enjoy it quite as much as most…
Now technically, as one might infer from the title of Snowshoe Grind Mountain Run, it’s a race you’re supposed to run. Well me and technicalities don’t always see eye to eye. Or even eye to navel. I had registered just to say I’d been there. That I’d taken part. We were up at the Chalet in plenty of time, and sat comfortably as the other competitors started to gather. (Forgive the blurry crappy BB photo.)
I thought it was the first time the race had been organised, but it turned out to be the third time. It was only my own fourth ascent to the race’s high point at Dam Mountain. On my last ascent (last weekend) I’d seen one of the competitors… twice! Plainly real training is necessary if you are serious about the numbers you leave to history on the Race Results Page. At the time, I’d just thought he was bereft of a social life. (It’s easy to be critical of people when you’re out and about… alone; bereft of a social life. :))
As Start Time approached, everyone made their way outside and donned their weapons of choice.
I was surprised at the variety. Some of the hard core had proper running snowshoes. Essentially these were a pair of trainers with snowshoes bolted directly to the soles. There were no bindings except the laces used to tie on the running shoes. They looked very lightweight.
The route, according to this Grouse Mountain map, is 5.5km in length (much of it shared in both directions,) and has a height gain of 800′.
Now 800′ doesn’t sound like a lot… until you’re looking up at it! Actually, the two or three steep bits were way worse coming down. The Dam Mountain loop at the top was new to me, and not a part of the usual Snowshoe Grind route. It was a sensible addition though, as it avoided congestion at the rather sharp and small peak at Dam Mountain. People could flow off the peak and around the loop, rejoining the up-coming traffic at a much broader part of the trail.
There was one small downside though. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the “high heels” on my new snowshoes are awesome at aiding you climb steeper sections. There was something cathartic about reaching the peak and ceremoniously flipping them back down flat. “It’s all downhill from here!” Except now I was into this new-to-me route in the Dam Mountain loop. It wasn’t a particularly steep descent off the backside of the peak… but it had lots of fresh loose powder. For a little while, I forgot I was in a race, and waited patiently behind an older lady as she gingerly picked her way down. Then I remembered, exclaimed “sorry”, and took off past her in a flurry of powder and sweat. Not 20m later, I was skidding on my arse through virgin snow as my reward. Oh well – it helped cool me off a bit. Then came the downside… this Dam Mountain Loop has ascent in it! As it comes back to rejoin the main trail, it has some elevation to reclaim. Having mentally checked out of “the up bits”, this was a bit of a demoralising realisation. No matter though. We were in the guts of a low cloud, and I put my head down and dug in.
The event is well organised and there were probably a dozen or so marshalls at strategic points whooping and encouraging you on, as well as pointing you in the right direction. As is common in BC’s ski resorts, they mostly had Australian or UK accents. Students or world-travellers enjoying what BC has to offer and getting a little pin money while they’re at it. Almost at the peak, one particularly enthusiastic supporter had been cheering on the older lady and assuring her she was nearly there. When I got to her, I put on my best straight face and calmly asked if this was the bus-stop for the return shuttle.
There were only 69 entrants in all, which looking at previous years’ results seems par for the course. There were prizes for each age group, and extra prizes for “best dressed”. This guy won one of the two prizes … for being best undressed! The other (bending over) didn’t quite go so far, and wore a pair of cut-off denim shorts and a particularly dodgy red vest. As well as being best (un)dressed, the guy in tights was also fastest in his age group.
I managed to put in a bit of running on the return leg, despite the hiking boots, and so in spite of the addition of the Dam Mountain Loop section, I actually managed a time that was easily 5 minutes faster than my previous best SSG time. Despite telling myself I was there for the experience not to race per se… I couldn’t help a sprint finish and burning off 3 other competitors with the finish line well in sight. So I wasn’t last either! 🙂
The best prize – available to everyone – was the full cooked breakfast in the comfy Altitudes Restaurant after the race. There was plenty of scrambled eggs and crispy bacon, as well as some quite zingy ginger and carrot juice concoction. I quaffed a litre of Whistler Water (one of the sponsors), and managed to studiously avoid the pancakes and rather delicious-looking potato chunks. There were some random prizes for entrants, based on your bib number, and Mrs E (who was very leery of even entering the race) managed to snag a pretty cool Molsons Canadian ’67 T-shirt (they were also a sponsor).
As we left, I realised I’d not had a hot drink, and managed to acquire two Earl Grey “Mighty Leaf” tea-bags on my way out. This brand is definitely better than average… though still not sufficiently so to justify the high prices charged for tea in such places. I suppose it might be considered stealing, since I had no intention of making tea right then. However, I figured after my busy morning, and given that the breakfast was fundamentally free… I’d bloody well earned them!
Would I do it again? Hell yes!