Running up and down Mt. Benson was the absolute staple of my running diet in 2012. I managed to tag the summit 74 times during the year, sometimes multiple times in one day. I attribute a great deal of my running success in 2012 to the training challenge it provided. Steep climbs, technical descents, and all manners of conditions from bone dry dirt to flowing waters, snow, and ice were found on the mountain.
Spending over 100 hours on it, the vast majority without seeing another soul, I felt I got to know the landscape in an intimate way not likely experienced by many others. I knew every rock and root. I knew every time a new tree blew down, or a rock was removed from its place. I saw the seasons change. I knew the good and the bad. Sure I had plenty of summertime runs that were bliss from the first step, and got to see dozens of incredible vistas, sunrises, and sunsets. But I also had plenty of runs in the cold, rain, dark, and snow with no promise of a view. Headlamps, frozen feet, treachery underfoot.
Just as with life, I think the most challenging outings made the heavenly ones that much more rewarding. The first warm spring breeze of the season was surely that much more meaningful after of dozens of rainy outings by headlamp.Though I never saw a big cat, I have no doubt they saw me. Glowing eyes reflected by my headlamp in the dark when I was alone and miles from the nearest human. Coming upon a tree stump torn apart by a bear in search of food that was untouched only 24 hours before. Crashing sounds in the woods. At times, particularly when the light is gone or dwindling, there can be something unnerving about being alone on the side of the mountain. It can make you feel that much more alive.
At the start of the year, I decided I would take a photo each time I tagged the summit. While posting every single one might be over the top, I wanted to share some of my more memorable moments from the year. And some stats.
Total Summits 2012: 74
Most in a Day: 5; 58k ± 4,000m 7:15
Fastest: 33:06 from Witchcraft Lake
Longest run w/ Summit: 65k ± 2,400m; Summit @ 51k
Most days without Summit: 63
#1 First of the Year: Jan 1, 2012. This was actually a hike with a few friends. Great way to start the year.
#7 A Jog After Work: Jan 12, 2012 5:55 PM
#11 Snowshoes at Night: Jan 31, 2012. I will never forget this slog. The snowshoes were sinking and acted as giant shovels picking up pounds of snow. I tried not to hate every second of it. I told myself it would be good training for the West Coast Trail. 15-20 mins/km.
#13 Full Moon: Feb 7, 2012. I made the trek up the mountain by headlamp not thinking much of the moon. As I popped out of the forest to the summit, I was greeted by an incredibly enormous orb rising over Vancouver in the distance. The picture does not do this one justice.
#16 Blackjack Ridge: Feb 19, 2012.
#17 Above the Fog: Feb 21, 2012. A lost contact lens and decaying headlamp battery made for an interesting descent as darkness came.
#19 First of Spring: May 6, 2012. All of the challenging, rainy, nighttime early season runs make ones like this all the more rewarding.
#25 Nice Start to the Weekend: May 19, 2012. 49k Weekend jaunt.
#35 West Coast Trail Training Run: June 2, 2012. After 5 hours of lovely trail running, it started hailing and pouring rain on the way to the summit from Witchcraft. Earlier on I had regretted dragging my jacket around all day! Tagged the summit 51k into a fun 65k ± 2,400m run. This was to be my longest training run before taking on the West Coast Trail (75k) in 4.5 weeks.
#43 5 Laps: June 9, 2012. 58k ± 4,000m 7:15. Last 11.5k lap was the fastest :)
#46 Wildflowers: June 16, 2012. Nice start to a 4 summit long run.
#53 Kneeknacker: July 10, 2012. I forgot my camera on this run, so I uploaded a picture from Google Earth. The skinny blue lines are GPS tracks from all the runs I have done. Kind of neat that you can see the Kneeknacker 50k route across the water on the North Shore of Vancouver.
#54 Company: July 11, 2012. Always nice to have some folks along. Teen Wolf keeps the predators at bay.
#55 Two Towers: July 12, 2012.
#56 Dramatic Skies: July 13, 2012.
#57 3 Laps Longshadow: July 14, 2012.
#63 & 64 No Headlamp, No Worries: August 28, 2012. This was a fun one. I had a double summit before work in mind (usually around 3 hours), so I had to leave the house early. I was halfway to the trailhead when I realized it was still dark out. I hadn't used a headlamp in ages, and the waning summer hours had escaped me. I downloaded the "Flashlight" app for my iPhone, and ran the first 30 minutes (until the sun started to rise) by its pathetic light. Good thing I was familiar with the route. About halfway up, I heard loud crashing, much more than the usual deer. With my pathetic phone light I had no way to investigate. I figured if something was going to eat me, it had an even chance whether I was continuing up, or running scared to my car, so I continued along to the summit. And then tagged it a second time.
#65 Clouds: August 30, 2012.
#71 Shadow of Benson: September 26, 2012.
#73 October Wonderland: October 25, 2012.