For those that don’t know, the Knee Knacker(ing North Shore Trail Run) is the iconic Vancouver area ultramarathon. It’s roughly 50km from just above Horseshoe Bay across the north shore mountains to Deep Cove. Sorry, did I say across? I meant up and over:
For the most part it follows the length of the Baden Powell trail. Again, for those that don’t know, the Baden Powell trail is the trail on the north shore. Because of it’s trans-north shore route it acts as a sort of highway connecting many smaller trails. Also because it’s so long it’s just ubiquitous.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Baden Powell. Not only is it rarely flat, but it’s also monstrously technical. Rocky, rooty, sharp turns, abrupt drops. If there’s a way for a trail to potentially get you to hurt yourself, it’s got it. My love/hate with it comes from how I end up feeling when I run on it. I’m either just dancing across all the mayhem, totally focused on where my feet are going and flying; or, I’m a total disaster, I trip on everything and I can barely move (I’m still nursing a nasty cut on my hand from the last time I felt like this) There’s never an in between. When every thing’s working out for me, I convince myself I should sign up for Knee Knacker “I get this trail, it gets me; I could do really well at that race!”. When I’m a disaster, I can’t imagine how people can run the whole thing in one shot. Let alone run it fast.
It never really crossed my mind to sign up for it. But I did tag along to one of their training runs. And while there had an absolute blast (aka: it was a good day). Running down the Hollyburn Chute section of the trail when I’m feeling on is probably the closest thing to enlightenment I’ll ever attain. While there someone suggested I volunteer if I’m not doing the race. “Yeah, why not? I’ve never done that”
Volunteering for the race was a neat perspective. It’s just like being at the race, because you are a part of it, but you’re not nervous or anxious of how awful you’re going to feel in the last parts. You’re just chilling.
I ended up being a sweeper for the third quarter of the course. Three of us along with two volunteers from North Shore Rescue (a group I’d love to volunteer with but don’t see how I can logistically make that work) hiked/jogged along the course taking down course markings and making sure no one was really falling off the course cut-off times. It was a fun group of people and we had a pleasant time of it.
Knee Knacker is a fairly small race, only ~240 starters, but the length and the brutality of it requires a lot of help. I’m sure it’s not unique in the fact that there are more volunteers on race day than there are racers.
It was a fun day and really cool to watch the racers come through without having to be in a race mindset myself. While I’m toying with the idea of entering the lottery for a starting spot for next year, if I don’t or if I don’t ‘win’ in the entry lottery I’ll certainly be back to help out. As Lord Baden Powell, for whom the trail is named after, once said “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it”