I have been itching to fit in a day on the JDF trail since my first fast pack in 2009. That time I enjoyed a fun day with a couple of buddies, Shawn and Michelle, exploring, making memories, taking photos and taking in the scenery. This year I couldn't seem to convince any buddies to join me on the trek so I faced my fears and went solo. It turned out to be a fabulous day- I had a great long run on one of the most beautiful west coast trails imaginable. 47kms (and 2000m elevation gain then loss) of single track, mud, roots, ladders, bridges, beaches, rivers, mud...did I mention mud?
It was a beautiful blue bird sky day and I was SO happy that the rain let up for my big day on the trail! I got to spend the weekend with my Dad who agreed to support me on the trail which was a huge bonus. He dropped me off at China Beach trailhead, met me at Sombrio beach with water and snacks then picked me up at the finish at Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew.
My first time fast packing the trail took 9hours and 15 minutes ish and so I thought I would aim for 8-8.5 hours - which I figured would be totally do-able if I just kept moving along.
Before the run I was nervous about 2 things: 1-being out on the west coast, solo, with no cell reception with the bears and cats. 2-how my body would handle the time on my feet. After about 30 minutes on the trail I realized that my first concern was WAY off the mark- I could barely cover 5kms without running into multiple groups of hikers! I probably past more than 20 or 30 groups along the trail - and Sombrio was packed with close to 100 people camping on the beach! So- needless to say, I didn't need to pack my bear spray after all.
The 2nd issue was a non-issue in the end as well:)) I am so stoked that my body felt fantastic and I felt zero pain in any of my niggling areas throughout the run. After injuring my calf in MOMAR at the end of May I have been constantly battling a few soft tissue issues and walking the fine line between training and recovery to try and continue moving forward with my fitness without slowing down due to injury. Tricky one but I think I am out of the woods now!
So...8k to Bear Beach...2k on the beach...21k to the shelter with loads of ups and downs. I was exactly 4 hours to the half way point on the trail too which was cool. They call this the 'difficult' section of trail because of the unrelenting climbs and descents to get across the endless creeks. But I really like this section because you can actually run good parts of the first half of it. There are not very many sections of the JDF that you can really get into a good run because it is crazy technical, rooty, muddy and of course includes boulder laden beach sections. So, the start of this section was hilly, yes, but it meant I could run and stretch out my legs on the downs! I am happy to say that I ran nearly all the hills- just saved the super steep sections for trekking. Knowing that so much of the trail is un-runnable motivated me to push through burning quads on the uphill sections and keep my run going as much as I could.
Long story short...
I had hoped to be at Sombrio (29kms) in 4.5hours but it took a bit longer than expected because of the piles and piles of gooey wet mud on the trail! The start and finish sections are much less wet and you can run over the muck without too much trouble. But the middle sections are still crazy wet cause of all this lovely spring weather we have had- and I nearly lost my shoes a couple of times! It took me nearly 5 hours to get to Sombrio cause I just couldn't run as much of the trail as I had hoped. In a month I am sure you could knock off 30 minutes on this section as it will be much drier.
The trail from Sombrio to Botanical Beach/Port Renfrew (18k) was still wet but much easier to move through and so I was able to hold a good pace. Suprisingly I was feeling great right to the end and still running up all of the stairs and ladders on the last legs of the trail. This section took me 3 hours and like clockwork I arrived at the Port Renfrew trailhead exactly 8 hours after starting!
The only issues (besides the mud!) I had were getting off trail / missing the trailheads a couple of times when the trail went on/off the beach and running out of water! I spent more than a few minutes hiking up the wrong trails to no where and wandering around looking for the trailhead from the beach. And the little water thing...when I met up with my Dad in Sombrio I refilled my camel back but only put in about 1 litre without really looking closely. Half way through this 3 hour leg I sucked my camel back dry! I was SO thirsty during the whole run that I knew I was already a bit dehydrated so running out of agua was no bueno. That was a long 9kms...my mind went on quite a few different tangents as I imagined myself sucking water out of cruddy puddles to survive as if I was the guy in that movie who had to cut off his own arm...
That thirsty section was a complete mental test and I had to keep willing myself forward to the reward of a drink of water... but I made it and my dad was waiting at the finish with a giant jug for me. I drank an entire litre on the spot!
Good times- you should do it! That is one of the most amazing trail runs I have ever done. You can do a section of it if you aren't ready to do the whole thing. And you can feel safe knowing that there are plenty of people out there with you. In fact, I think I can safely say that I saw more people in that 8 hours than I have all year in the trails I run and ride on at home!
Here are some pics...and videos at the end...