A big hilly training hike to prep for the Squamish 50k ultramarathon – with an internet stranger!

LP1040214I only knew Nikki, aka @ndscottnygren, through my @running_ultras Twitter account. She’s a Vancouver-based trail runner and ultramarathoner, and she was coming out to Port Alberni for a few days. She tweeted and asked if we could go for a run together.

This was only 5 days before my wedding, and 12 days before the Squamish 50k ultramarathon that Dave and I would be running as our honeymoon! So I wasn’t very flexible, regarding when to go or what to do. I had one MkULoXD7day free, and I knew I wanted to do something long and hilly – my last chance to do something long before the race.

Fortunately, Nikki was easy-going and flexible, and willing to fit in with my plans. Turns out that she was signed up for the Squamish 23k, so long and hilly worked well with her training needs too.

So, the plan was Copper Mountain – Dave’s and my ol’ standby hilly route. The trailhead is a 5 minute drive from our house, at the south end of Anderson Ave. It starts with a 200 m uphill, then meandering around up top a bit, then a 300 m downhill right down to the inlet, before following the forested trail alongside the water.


We've gone up then down - now down on the inlet. Next stop: Lone Tree Point, which you can see in the distance.

We’ve gone up then down. From here, we’ll follow a rugged trail along that steep slope behind Nikki, down the inlet. Next stop: Lone Tree Point, which you can see in the distance.

Hot dawg! A group photo at Lone Tree.

Hot dawg! A group photo at Lone Tree.

Then we headed out to Lone Tree point – another few km down the inlet, but with a cumulative 200+ m elevation along the way there and back. Then it was back up, a very steep climb back up 300 m to the Lookout (where Dave and I and the dog(s) always go) and then 200 m back down to the car. But I LP1040217told Nikki that I was hoping to do that middle down-up loop, to the inlet and then the Lookout, twice, if we were feeling up to it – that would bring our total climbing to about 1,000 m (in other words, about one third of what I had signed up to do at Squamish). I told Nikki that I was happy to hike, not run, most or all of it. With all of that climbing, we would totally be getting our cardio – even if we didn’t run any of it.

NKXsU4eg.jpg-smallIt was a hot day, but there were lots of water stops for Xhosa (and us). Nikki wasn’t as keen on the climbing as I was – but I kept reminding her: at Squamish, you are going to be so thankful that you did this! She dreaded that first steep 300 m climb up, but was game to go for the second loop: back down the trail along Follinsbee Creek, then along the inlet, then up the steep trail for the second time. She cracked me up about halfway up – I guess she hadn’t noticed where we had cut off the inlet trail to start the climb. We’d been climbing and climbing… and finally she asked “Are we on the uphill yet?” She thought we were still on the inlet trail, and was thrilled to find we had already done half of the uphill!!

The big uphill: 300 vertical metres of this. And we did it twice!

The big uphill: 300 vertical metres of this. And we did it twice!

The reward: the view from the Lookout!

The reward: the view from the Lookout!

It’s a bit weird to make a plan to meet someone you only know online. We had a few mutual Twitter-running friends, so I was pretty sure she was legit. But Dave was a bit concerned about me meeting her like this, and turns out that Nikki’s husband was too! But fortunately, neither one of us ended up being a weirdo (or a guy), and we had a great day, chatting the whole 5+ hours we were out there as if we were old friends! Hope we do it again some time, Nikki!

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