I volunteered at a Foretrails race last year and was given a free race entry in return. The only one I could go for was Iron Knee/Tender Knee in May. It was also a week after Sun Mountain 25k. Was I ready for back-to-back 25k trail races when, at the time of signing up, I hadn’t run that distance yet? I said… sure! If needed, I could’ve downgraded to the shorter race anyway so let’s go big (for now).
Iron Knee Course
Iron Knee will take you from Cleveland Park (near Cleveland Dam) to Panorama Park in Deep Cove. There are 2 main climbs to keep in mind: the combination of Nancy Greene Way, Powerline, and Baden Powell Trail until Lynn Valley Headwaters Park and the very steep and grueling Powerline Trail Climb at the 16 km mark. Once you overcome that, it’s a nice (mostly) downhill jaunt all the way to the Quarry Rock trail. At this point you’re so close to the finish line but you have to navigate through ups and downs of stairs and many tourists, most of whom are not paying attention. This part was probably the most frustrating for me.
How Did I Do?
Cuski decided to sign up for Iron Knee at the last minute since he needed to run that distance anyway. I’m glad he did because I needed the extra motivation to go. I know I could do the distance but the terrain in the North Shore is more technical than Sun Mountain. Either way I was committed so we drove to Cleveland Park and left the car at the dam parking lot. While waiting to get our bibs, Cuski said, look, the Sedins! I thought he was kidding and I looked and indeed they were there! I saw them taking a selfie so I headed over and offered to take their photo. Of course I asked for one too. I said, “I didn’t know you two were trail runners.” One of them (sorry, I still can’t tell them apart) said with a laugh “we’re not.” I wished them luck and giddily went back in line. I never thought I would meet hockey greats at a small local trail race.
The first half of the course was pretty difficult for me with all the climbing and the first bit of technical descent. I was getting pretty discouraged at one point when people kept passing me. I was certain I was last place but I hadn’t seen the sweepers yet so I kept going as best I could.
By the time I hit Lynn Valley, I pushed a little harder. It was more flat and runnable. I was doing the same along Fisherman’s trail, ran as many flats and downhills as I could. It was very surprising to me that I managed to pass some people just before the infamous Powerline climb. This gave me a bit of a boost.
Oh.. that’s the Powerline Climb…
Powerline is a beast. There’s a reason why race organizers put signs of encouragement along this 2 km stretch of steepness. Let me tell you something though. The once-a-week strength workout plan I got from personal trainer Ellen Rosenfeld of VanFitness in Motion really seemed to help. While I was really struggling getting up this beast of a hill, I managed to do it in a steady pace. After what seemed like forever, I got to the top where the aid station had luscious chocolate cake. I grabbed a small piece, refilled, and started my descent towards Deep Cove.
This descent was fairly fast. I basically booked it and the trail was easy enough for me to keep the pace up. The section of the BP after Mt. Seymour Road was a bit more technical again but I had run here before. Familiarity helped. I kept looking behind me to see if the people I passed caught up with me but I was all alone. I tried to do the Quarry Rock trail section as fast as I could. However, it was a Saturday and it was BUSY. There were also an insane amount of stairs and on tired legs, they were killer. Some people were inconsiderate but others were really nice and supportive. Once I got to the road, I knew the finish line was coming up and I booked it. I didn’t know I still had that much energy left in me. I finished at just over 4 hours and 35 minutes… not far off from my Sun Mountain time.
This was an achievement for a few reasons. I came back from behind, completed two 25k races in 2 weekends, and finished with a comparable time to my last one. I was ecstatic.
Quick Recap of Iron Knee
Organization – Race day package pickup is available which is very convenient. The course is well-marked with tape and marshals positioned at important intersections. There were also a lot of aid stations, which really helped break the course down quite a bit.
Course – It’s tough but not awful. Definitely challenging due to some technical trails and that steep climb in the middle. Once you get past that, it’s mostly downhill to the finish, but you do have to go through a busy trail with stairs and clueless hikers. It also seems that the course is a mile short (according to Strava).
Swag – While there are no medals for this race, race organizers gave everyone a small dry bag filled with some essentials like a whistle/compass, poncho, and space blanket. There was also food at the finish including more cake!
Would I Do it Again? Yes, I’d like to see if I’ve improved on the downhills now that I know what the course looks like.