The Cap Crusher Race Report

Recently we ran in and completed a trail race called the “Cap Crusher“, the first running event of the year in the Coast Mountain Trail Series. This would also be our personal first race of the year and for Leigh likely his 5th total time running this year.

It starts and ends in Capilano Regional Park, right near the immense Cleveland Dam. It’s name is very appropriate; “Cap” for Capilano and “Crusher” for the fact that this course will crush your quads. It climbs ~800m’s (2600ft) over a short 13km’s.

There is an 8km variant to the course (named the toughest 8k in Canada) but we both chose to run the longer distance.

Here is our individual experiences with this race:

Gearing up at the start

Gearing up at the start


So I’ve raced very little in the past. The Cap Crusher would be my 4th time running in any sort of organized race, ever. But, in 2015 I’d like to increase my base running fitness. Off the couch I’d like to be able to do +30km trail runs in the mountains easily. To help motivate myself this year I’ve signed up to run a bunch of races.

So, we arrived at the starting line for the Cap Crusher early and picked up our bib numbers. There was a slight chill in the air coming across Capilano lake. In the distance I could see the snow capped summits of the Lions.

Immediately we started recognizing faces and saying hello to the people we knew. The energy in the crowd waiting to start running was palpable.

Gary Robbins, the Race Director, gave his speech about the course and then the countdown began. If you’ve raced before you likely know the energy in the crowd at this point, but if you haven’t I can only explain it this

The energy is electric.

It’s almost like you can feel everyones heart-rates start to increase as the countdown reaches zero. The main challenge at this point is controlling the urge to just sprint when you hear them shout “Go!”.

Inevitably, there’s always a few in the pack that sprint out ahead, riding a wave of stoke that they hope will carry them to the finish line. Within 500m’s these early starters have usually slowed right down and begin to get passed.

For myself, I tried to maintain a slow starting pace, but I knew I didn’t want to get caught up in the back 70% which would choke up and stall as the course narrowed to uphill, single-track trails.

Runners High in the Woods

Runners High in the Woods

I ran harder at first to stay with the front pack until everyone started spreading out and then settled in to a slower pace.

Just before the 1km mark the trail started descending downhill steeply. While I love downhill running, I knew I was going to have to regain all this elevation again to get back to the finish line. But hey, this is what I signed up for.

The course undulates up and down frequently, crossing bridges and passing viewpoints. I found the scenery inspiring enough to keep me moving. I’d never been on these trails before so everything was new.

Running with people is fun. Who knew?

One of my favourite aspects of the course is that there are a lot of loops and sections where you run the same trail but in the opposite direction. This allows you to pass by other runners frequently and give them Hi-5’s or shout encouragement to them, or get encouragement from others. You never feel like you are out there alone.

At around the 11.5km mark into the race I began the final, tough uphill. True to it’s name my quads were indeed crushed at this point and starting to spasm a little.

At the bottom of the Dam. The only way is up!

At the bottom of the Dam. The only way is up!

Like the Lego Movie said, “Everything is Awesome!”

But, at around the 12.2km mark you start a glorious, wide open downhill back to the Cleveland Dam and then the finish line. I was riding a strong Runners High by this point. The course was awesome, the weather was awesome, the views were awesome my fellow Runners were all freakin awesome!

I threw my arms out in an aeroplane and just free fell down to the dam, hit the flats while crossing it and then, as the finish line came into sight, my quads fully cramping, shouted out a “I hate you Gary!” to the Race Director. He was smiling. Gave him a double High 5 as I finished before heading immediately to the fuelling station for cupcakes and coffee. Followed prudently afterwards by Hammer recovery bars and water.

Overall an amazing day and experience. It’s definitely got me stoked on running more this year.

Springs Experience:

This was going to be my second time racing this course. I ran it last year and found it to be a tough course for the short distance of 13km, but it was also one of the races where I had the most fun. This is the first trail race in the series, people are itching to race after a long wet winter season, so the stoke is at an all time high.

My intention with this race was to beat my time from last year. Even though I haven’t been training as much, since my 50 miler last year, I feel the rest has been good for my body and I have been able to focus on strength.

My goal for this race was to

  1. Run as many of the hills as possible.
  2. Open it up on the downhill and let it fly.
  3. Don’t get lost like last year.

With the latter being the most important I was keeping a keen eye on the flagging. I don’t think I could live down getting lost on a Gary Robbins course twice!

I love arriving at races early, you get to hang out with your fellow trail running comrades, feed off of each other’s energy and hug and smile until your hearts ready to burst from happiness.This was going to be a fun race!


I positioned myself up front and tried to keep pace with the lead runners. I knew I still had to keep a pace I could hold, but I also needed to push myself outside of my comfort zone for this one.

Part of the reason I love this race is how awesome the volunteers are. The course marshals are crazy supportive, as are your fellow racers. I couldn’t even guess at how many high fives were given during the race. All I know is how much this level of enthusiasm keeps me stoked!

The views out over Capilano Lake

The views out over Capilano Lake

I felt that I was running well, pushing faster, but still trying to maintain a pace that I could hold throughout the race. By the time I ran through the final aid station, I knew there was only about 3km left and probably the toughest part of the race. I pushed as hard as I could through this section and did my best to run as much as I could, albeit for the steep stairs that knocked me down a peg and I frustratingly slowed to a power hike up those steep sections. But at the top of every steep ascent is an equally steep and fun descent, so I would count on making up time on those sections.

Making my way down to the bridge across the Cap Dam I could see the finish line in sight. I could hear the cheering and knew I just needed to push for a few more minutes. Pushing as hard as I could I ran up, yes UP as there is one final hill to the finish line. Waiting there smiling was Gary, in all his bearded glory, who high fived me as I jumped across the line.

Free Moveo Massage after the race.

Free Moveo Massage after the race.

Immediately I bent over and tried to catch my breath and started dreaming of the protein smoothie for when I got home (Almond Milk, Almond Butter, Ice, Banana and Hammer Recoverite)

I was happy with my effort and stoked to be able to knock 15 minutes off of last years time! Running this course again just reaffirmed that this is still a “must do” race of the season.

Hanging loose over the Cleveland Dam

Hanging loose over the Cleveland Dam


If you’re interested in trail running in Southwest British Columbia we highly recommend signing up to one or all of the Coast Mountain Trail Series races. Amazing courses, loads of prizes (Leigh won an $80 Cake because his bib number added up to the number 6!), and you get to run with and meet some excellent people. It’s Win Win.

We’ll be running again in the Survival of the Fittest race on May 30th, we hope to see you out there! If you see us, come over and say hello.

More information here:

Coast Mountain Trail Series

Getting a FREE Moveo Massage after the race

Getting a FREE Moveo Massage after the race

Author: Leigh McClurg

I grew up in County Dublin, Ireland and moved to British Columbia, Canada with my wife in 2010. I fell in love with being in the Backcountry and Mountains that are all around me here and try to spend all of my free time exploring those wild places. My main goals are to chase happiness, see as much of this planet and its cultures as possible and grow every day through knowledge and experiences.

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  1. ” Mountains…have so much to give….and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them”.

    and wrestle we do….just like the song never look into the eye of the son, but momma that’s where the fun is…the mountains, that’s were the fun is…

    Danny Ng

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  2. I also ran this race and got lost on a Gary Robbins race haha! Man that guy’s a hero truly!

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