Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gowland Tod Park 4 hour run through the emerald hills

I awoke this morning and loaded my running pack with 2.5 liters of water, my camera, and a peanut butter and honey (PB&H) sandwich. It was going to be my first 4 hour run I have done for many months. Since I am running strong and consistent, I felt I was ready to start doing what I love most- long runs with loads of relief.

I picked the Gowland Tod Range to run for several reasons. First it starts at about sea level and climbs as high as about 1350 feet at Jocelyn Hill and then dives down again and back up to 1000 feet at Holmes Peak after which you turn around and climb them both again in reverse. In total it has some good elevation and relief. The second reason I love this route is the views are breath taking. The entire trail parallels the Finlayson Arm of the Saanich Inlet and you can see the ocean, surrounding mountains, and forest. I believe every trail runner should have an opportunity to run this course at least once in there lives.

The weather was superb without a cloud in the sky and temps were hovering around 60. After arriving at the trail head I started my run and within about 10 minutes found myself cranking up the first hill, which climbs unrelentingly for several miles. The trail is rocky and winds it's way from near the ocean south towards Squally Reach. My legs were a bit tired from this week's runs but once I started motoring up the trail I began to relax and find my pace. Though not the fastest pace, it was maintainable and comfortable, and I knew it would last for 4 hours so I stuck with it.

Squally Reach in the Gowland Tod Range. Floating over the grassy hummocks!

I arrived at the squally reach lookout and drank in the most amazing view. I could see the ocean and Salt Spring Island, even Mt. Baker was dimly visible looming over the eastern skyline. I ran across the grassy hummocks and could swear I was floating.

After playful running on the reach I began to turn my attention to summiting Jocelyn. Jocelyn is a large grass covered blister rising nearly 1400 feet above the ocean. The trail from Squally Reach to Jocelyn undulates and ascends and descends over uneven terrain. Though most of it hovers around the same elevation there is plenty of ups and downs to keep you earning your forward progress. You feel you are nearly to the summit but then the trail turns north and you almost back track a Km before curving around to the south again. After turning to the south you begin to overlook the ocean once again and the views are breathtaking.

Approaching Jocelyn Peak with the Saanich Inlet behind me.

Leaving the Summit of Jocelyn.

The summit was a perfect place to stretch out on a rock and enjoy my PB&H. The sun cut through my sweaty shirt, warming my body all the way through. I closed my eyes and just let my mind wander. My thoughts turned to my summer plans and I decided that I really want to hike Lone Peak with my wife. Lone Peak is an 11,000 + footer rising directly over the Salt Lake valley with nearly 6,200 feet of prominence, it is not for the average weekend warrior.

When we were first married we would hike almost year round often in remote and unknown places. I recall many long drives in my jeep as we listened to music and discussed everything from our favorite movies to our future plans. These trips made our relationship grow so much stronger and created a depth that wouldn't have existed without these precious adventures. Now after the children have arrived I realize that I really miss hiking with my wife and I decided I will take advantage of having family around this Summer to watch our kids while we go and have another adventure. I hope Vye will be game. I snap out of my daydream and decide I better get busy and continue on to Holmes Peak.

Holmes Peak is the small blister (barely visible) in the foreground on the ridge with the taller hill behind it being Mount Finlayson.

The trail to Holmes Peak is very straight forward but I still veered off the main ridge and descended about 500 feet to a main road and realized I just tacked on about 3 extra miles and 500 extra feet of elevation up and down. I don't care, there is no need to stick to a plan I am just running where ever I feel like it. I regain the ridge and decide rather than turn around I will continue on to Holmes Peak.

Trail towards Holmes Peak.

Trail to Holmes over some rusty (gossanous) soil.

I reach the small peak and push quickly to the top. I then decided to finish my sandwich and get heading back. The sun is much warmer now as the day has progressed but I don't mind, I missed the warmth during the sun's 6 month hiatus from the Island. I worked my way back towards the arbutus tree-strewn ridge that hooks back up with Jocelyn. I am now feeling the distance and time on my feet. My legs are toast as I continue to climb.

I forgot the feeling that comes after several hours of hard trail running. The legs ache and elevation is not won so readily. I persevere through and begin to push a bit just for fun. I summit Jocelyn again and take one last look at the view.

The undulating terrain between Jocelyn and Squally really takes it out of me. I begin to have to power hike a few of the steeper hills and I can tell my body is burned out. After a long struggle I reach the Squally and only need to run down hill from that point. The quads feel like they have just gone through a meat grinder but I like it in a way only a distance trail runner could understand. I can feel that I really pushed myself and that I was operating near my maximum for the day. I know that I put everything I had to give into the run and I know that I am back to running 4 hours again. Everything is right in the world, I got the treasure that comes after you have done everything you can. My hydration and fuel were on point and I never felt thirsty or hungry. It was a great day! As I drive home I analyze my run and feel satisfied with it. I can't wait to try it again!

The video below is of the same trail but I made it a different day. Enjoy!

Today's song comes from Finland by a small duo named "Villa Nah". They are a synth duo with many great songs. Today's song is called "Emerald Hills" and though it really wasn't in my head during the run it kind of summed up my run today as I was climbing an emerald hill. I like the song and think that it fits perfect for spring trail running on Vancouver Island.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Dude you have to take me on this run when we go up it looks AWESOME!!!!! I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with you, but it looks AMAZING!!! I can see more and more while you love trail running, it looks SO fun! I am definitely going to give this a try here shortly. AMAZING views! AMAZING post!