September 21 2019 I have my big goal race of the year. Yes, it’s a low key race. No, I won’t be in contention for a top 10 spot even. I’m hoping to not be the last person in.
Every year my biggest concern is making the cut-off for the first 27km, which is 5 hours. So far, it really hasn’t been a problem, but I’m always concerned about it.
This weekend I decided it was a good idea to head out, get some elevation, and test my legs on the first 27km to see how it was going to go. I also decided to test out the shoes I was planning on running in.
How the Day Went
Around 0420 I just couldn’t sleep anymore, so I got up and started getting ready. That had me out the door before 0500 and a good way down the highway. I arrived at Lightning Lakes in Manning Park around 0600 and started on the trail at 0615 heading down from the lake towards Windy Joe1.
The trail starts off mostly flat with a slight downhill grade until about 5km in as you start ascending the old road that goes to the Windy Joe Fire Lookout.
Once you see the Windy Joe/PCT sign take the single track to the right and head towards the PCT trail for about another kilometre. Then follow the signs up to the ridge for Mt Frosty.
The next number of kilometres are slightly uphill and runnable for the very fit2. Watch out to the left for views over the border to a bunch of different peaks which I’ve never looked up the names for.
Eventually the terrain starts to change from running in the forest and gets quite rocky. As it gets rocky, you’ll be treated to a number of views off both sides of the ridge.
The ridge continues to get steeper and steeper until some people may feel uncomfortable and want to use their hands a bit. I just kept trucking along with my poles for a bit of balance. Make sure you watch here though, because it would be easy to catch the tip of a pole between rocks and break it.
If you’re just out for the day, once you hit the ridge look over to the summit of Mt Frosty, and take the 20 minutes to visit it. I know that some racers summit during the 50km race, but I’ve never been fast enough to do this so I took the time today to summit. It took me about 3:20 to get all the way over to the summit.
From there, retrace your steps to the ridge marker and start heading down towards the lake again. Lightning lakes is still about 10km away, but you’re at least heading that way already.
The first few kilometres off the ridge are fairly slow as you pick your way amongst loose rocks. I know during the race many people find it quite steep and a bit scary to start. Even once it starts to level off and maybe be runnable, there are lots of rocks to roll ankles on, so be careful.
Eventually the trail gets more runnable, and you end up making your way through a campsite that’s about 5km from the lake. There is an outhouse here if you need to stop, and I ended up talking with a family that had camped for the night and was going to summit Mt Frosty then hike out.
Head towards the outhouse, then keep heading downhill. The trail after the campsite is a bit flatter than before the campsite which favours the runners instead of the grinders like me. In fact, the chunks of the trail around the campsite may be my favourites.
Late in September the larches turn yellow, and that’s really pretty. I also find this chunk of the trail the most runnable chunk of the trail.
Lower down, the trail gets fairly rough again as it sees lots of traffic and parts of the edges of the trail are falling away. In fact, it’s tight enough in some spots that as I tried to pass a family coming up the trail (that have moved to the side) I caught my hip on an overturned tree and managed to rip my shorts, and underpants right through. Even got a bit of a mark on my hip through all those layers of clothes.
After the campsite is where I started having issues with me Altra Superior 4’s as well. These issues came in the form of blisters on the ball of my foot. I have had this on the left foot in the past with these shoes, but thought it was a lacing issue. Unfortunately, it seems to be an issue with the shoes for me.
The blisters left me walking more parts than I wanted to walk because that was the way my blisters weren’t squishing around in my shoes.
It took me about 90 minutes to run/walk my way down to the lake. I had planned on adding another 10km to my run by running up the lake and around to my car, but I didn’t want to make the blisters any worse than they were already.
I headed back to the car, grabbed a towel and took a dip in the lake. Then it was a quick change and back in the car to head home so my wife could take our youngest out to get new skates.
All told, I enjoyed the run and getting to summit Mt Frosty. I’m disappointed in the new shoes because the Superior 3.5’s have been great. I was going to run the Mt Frosty 50km in the Superior 4, but not after this run. I’ll likely use my Lone Peak 3.5’s which have about 500km on them. I ran the race last year in a set of 3.5’s so I know they’ll be fine and I’ve never had blisters from them.
Now, to figure out if I purchase the Lone Peak 4 and keep the Superior 4 for shorter trail runs. The biggest issue with that is that I have found the Superiors much better for steep downhill trails. On steep downhills, I find I have to lace the Lone Peak’s extremely tight to keep them where I want them.
If you want to do this route, you can grab the gps file below.