A Long Day on the Trails

I’m a pretty firm believer in if you can dream it you can do it. I proved that to myself on Thursday July 28th. Here is my story of accomplishing the Rockwall Trail full traverse.

This adventure literally started as a dream. 5 years ago nearly to date on a road trip I ended up hiking to Numa pass on a day hike. I remember standing on the pass and looked out at the entire length of the Rockwall trail and told myself I wanted to come back to complete the whole thing. A year later I returned and completed the whole trail in 4 days… A challenging feet to backpack 55k, I had never gone so far before! One of the days we were hiking we got passed by two runners doing the whole thing in one go. I couldn’t really believe that this was possible but the thought stuck with me. Again when I stood on top of Numa pass, the final climb of the hike I told myself I would return one day to complete the whole thing running, a pretty lofty goal for a girl who had just started running.
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Fast forward four years and the dream manifested. It seemed like the perfect training for my big goal race Transalpine. I connected with Elizabeth over social media who lived near to the trail to get some details. The trail is 55k in length but you need a car on both ends or you’ll be hitch hiking back so having an option for a car drop is ideal. So although we had never met, we decided the perfect time to meet was to complete the Rockwall trail together, a goal of both of ours.

A 4am wake up call generally means an epic adventure is ahead. My friend Brice who joined me on this road trip and I were already sleep deprived from 2 days of running 25k trail runs and driving. But we were so excited it didn’t matter. At 5am Liz pulled into the parking lot and we finally met. I instantly felt completely comfortable with her and wasn’t nervous about running such a distance with a complete stranger. This definitely was a risk especially with the magnitude of the trail and how far into the back country it goes but it didn’t really cross my mind to be honest.

We hit the trail at paint pots at 5:50am. My pack felt like a brick on my back so it took a little time to warm up. (See below for a full list of what was in my pack). Our plan was to start slow, walk the up hills and stay on top of everyone’s calorie intake. The first 15k or so is pretty runable to Helmet Falls with a few good size climbs. We were on the ball, eating every hour, and cruised into Helmet Falls in good time.
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After this, we hit our first big climb of the day but the reward at the top of the climb was our first look at the iconic Rockwall trail.

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We took this section at a “stop every 5 minutes and take photos” pace. It was impossible not to. We were surrounded by epic mountain scenery every way we looked. We ran on through into Wolverine pass where we started to see other people.  No one could really believe we were doing it in one day but everyone we met were so encouraging and it was entertaining to be told we were simply crazy to be doing what we were. I mean really, we knew it was crazy, but hey, that’s what we do!
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We ran down our first big descent into tumbling creek camp site and refueled our  water. We then headed up our second big climb. This opened up to some intensely beautiful scenery with some massive glaciers and peaks. I was still feel really good, I was on top of my nutrition and the time seemed to be flying. We approached the biggest descent of the day and took it slow as not to burn out our quads. We refilled our water again at a glacier run off and chatted with some more through hikers. At Numa creek campsite we took a break for some serious calorie refueling before our last big climb.
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I remembered this climb as a crazy, death climb with steep, never ending switch backs. My memory did not fail me, and while it didn’t feel nearly as hard, it was anything but easy. We pushed up and kept a solid pace the whole way, promising each other we wouldn’t stop until we reached the top of the pass. Up and up we climbed, swearing, swearing and sucking back all our water.

Brice Ferre Studio - Vancouver Commercial, Portrait, Editorial, advertising, trail running, athlete, adventure, photographer

Brice Ferre Studio – Vancouver Commercial, Portrait, Editorial, advertising, trail running, athlete, adventure, photographer

As I crested over the top of the pass and took in the view of floe lake I felt very emotional. I was completely exhausted, 43k into an epic adventure, but I was so happy. I looked back at the Rockwall trail and felt beyond proud of myself. I think it’s so important to feel this way. We work so hard towards our dreams and when we achieve them, we should relish in our accomplishments. I have come an incredibly far way since I started this sport and to be able to do these kind of adventures is just icing on the cake. I can’t even explain how much passion running in the mountains fills me with, it would be very hard to put into words.
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As we took our photos on Numa ridge we got hit by a crazy thunder storm and we hurried down towards Floe Lake. As we approached the lake, the sun came back out and we were rewarded with the insane blue colour of the lake glistening in the sun. Perfect motivation to get through the last 10k down. IMG_2341Now I can’t sugar coat the whole run because that just wouldn’t be accurate. I definitely felt exhausted during this section but my body kept moving and Liz and I paced each other so well. We ran through an old forest fire, alive with alpine flowers and although we were hurting, we kept going. The body and mind are pretty amazing tools. When the objective is simply to move forward, you find the strength within you to do it.

IMG_2343The awesome Liz… @runningtherockies …best pacing partner out there!

The past two km were pure torture. We came around a bend and we could see the highway ahead but it looked impossibly far away. We swore, we cursed the trail, we stopped for split seconds to groan a little. When we finally crossed the final bridge we saw the sign that said 0.5k to the parking lot. Liz said, come on girl, let’s finish this strong. And strong we did. We came through our finish line smiling, completely exhausted and beyond proud. Felt pretty cool to have made such an amazing friend over the past 10 hours and 50 minutes. Our goal time was between 10-12 hours so we were pretty stoked.

Immediately after finishing, completely exhausted!

Immediately after finishing, completely exhausted!
IMG_2349Finish Line Selfies!

We split a celebratory beer that an awesome guy gave us for our accomplish, and showered in the ice cold glacier river. This adventure is still really raw inside me. 55k, 2800m of elevation gain, stunning scenery and good friends. I feel so full of joy. This is the third time I’ve ran beyond 50k self supported, and it won’t be the last. I don’t always need a medal and a fancy finish line, some times a sweaty group hug and a cold craft beer is just perfect!

A few side Notes here for safety, always tell someone or multiple people where you are going and when you expect to be back. Have a good idea and understanding of the trail you’re doing and where you can exit if things go wrong.

Here’s what I had in my pack (12L Salomon S-lab), and what I would recommend everyone have for any lengthy back country running adventure:
1. 2 L capacity of water
2. Extra electrolytes
3. Water purification tablets
4. Life straw water filter
5. Multi tool
6. Bear spray
7. Emergency blanket
8. Long sleeve
9. Waterproof rain jacket
10. Light gloves
11. 100 calories an hour plus extra food
12. After bite, Advil
13. Headlamp
14. Small first aid kit
15. Whistle (attached to my backpack)
16. Sunscreen
My pack was about 10Lbs at the start of the run, but trust me it’s worth it to carry the extra to be prepared if there were an emergency.

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