Ever Do The Knee Knacker? (part 1 of 3)

The Knee Knocker? Ever do the Knee Knocker?.


The Knee Knocker? Ever do the Knee Knocker?

No! The Knee Knacker! You’re from Vancouver British Columbia, you’ve heard of it right?

Knees, Ankles and Perhaps More

It’s September 26th, 2009 and I’m on a day hike recommended by Sunset Magazine — the Kendall Katwalk in Washington state. The Katwalk encompasses a blink-of-an-eye section of the full 2,663 mile (4,286 km) Pacific Crest Trail which runs from the California/Mexico border to the Washington State/British Columbia border. It lies about five miles north of the Snoqualmie Pass trailhead in the Cascades, and about a 343 km drive from my home — Vancouver, British Columbia.

I’ve just been touched by an avid trail runner taking a leisurely hike on the Katwalk with a couple of friends.

Humbled When Least Expected

Come to think of it, intrigued, not touched was the remnant of this chance encounter. In addition to humbled.

We exchanged a couple of incredulous hiking experiences and latest vacation exploits. My attention caught — hook, line and sinker after his description of his fast approaching end-of-summer little adventure — a rim-to-rim trail run through the Grand Canyon. Talk about cool!

The intriguing bit came next, however. Ever do the Knee Knacker? he says.

My furrowed brow quickly invites a raving explanation. I was enlightened with the stats as to why the Knacker is infamous in the Canadian ultrarunning scene. Impressed upon me was the fact that it is also recognized as one of the 25 toughest races in North America by the Running Wild magazine.

Then it happened. A jolt hit and a tingle of embarrassment took hold. It is an American that is telling me this adventurous escapade takes place within a skip-hop-and-a-jump of my backyard!

My mind wanders for a split second — for someone that spends quite a bit of time looking for unique, challenging experiences to take on — how could something that engages several senses by just hearing the words Knee Knacker escape my radar especially when so close to home?!

The Challenge

Discovery. Whether it’s discovering the world around us, or the world inside us, discovery is what makes living so incredible! To me anyways.

The Knee Knacker :

  • Canada’s Knarliest 30-Miler
  • A challenging trail race along the Baden-Powell trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove
  • Provides magnificent city, mountain and ocean views
  • Climb 8,000 feet and descend 8,300 feet
  • Recognized by the Running Wild magazine as one of the 25 toughest races in North America
  • Male course-record holder, Aaron Heidt at 4 hours 39 minutes. He says: the most grueling 50K I’ve ever run — even the descents are full of nasty climbs!
  • 100K World Champion and female course-record holder, Ellie Greenwood at 5 hours 6 minutes. She says: I have yet to come across a trail race that compares to the Knee Knacker in terms of technical difficulty.
  • Largest ultramarathon race in Canada
  • Race limit of 262 runners
  • 3 mandatory checkpoints and 5 points with cut-off times
  • Next start time — 6:00am on July 9, 2011

Now talk about cool!

Taking Fear By The Horns

It’s morning and it’s December 2010. A realization grips hold — 2011 means 45 years of age! I feel I am at a crossroad. A point which encourages me to look back, to make sense of a few things, then to look forward.

Amongst a few revelations, one thought nudges deep inside. It’s time. It’s now or never. You need to take life by the horns, more to the point — take fear by the horns.

A struggle ensues within to change. One thought that creeps up – the Knee Knocker. Google quickly corrects me, Knee Knacker, and I leap in.

July 9th, 2011 — Live or Die?

When paralysis of analysis has in the past, crept in, this time caution to the wind catches hold.

One thought drove me into entering the Knacker lottery last November — if I’m selected it’s a sign — I can and will make it!

Looking back, logic could have easily have run me a muck:

  • You have never run 30 miles before
  • You have never run in trails before
  • The last 26.2 marathon you ran took 4 1/2 hours and this has a 10 hour cutoff
  • To predict your trail running time: take your marathon time, double it and add 20 minutes

It was more than a flutter, it was a double-flip of shock that sent my heart racing when the Knacker lottery results came through. I made it! 😐

Every Sunday for the past month and a half has been spent training for this event with a group of incredibly fit people. Many have run this thing even 9 times!

My first training run with this group left me in incredible, mind-numbing pain — not the day after, but 1/2 way through the training run!

Even with my road running training of 6 days a week for the last 7 months, even with my running a road marathon-a-month since April — I have discovered trail running is quite different. I have discovered why this North Shore trail has become infamous.

Sundays have left me feeling awed, inspired, achy for days (surprisingly, and thankfully, only my first training run. It feels like my body has quickly become accustomed to this), invigorated, excited and quite often feeling like a Billy goat grasping for solid ground.

The amazing part of all of this is — in less than ten days this will all be over and … I will have experienced a little, amazing, epic, nutsy adventure in my little, humble life. 🙂 I can’t wait!

This post is the first of a three-part series on my first ultra and my first trail-running race. Not just any trail-running race — but the infamous Canadian Knee Knacker. It has been a year of fearing for this race, training for this race and finally running it only to end up past the finish line and in the hospital. Important lessons have been learned — including the priceless Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in. ~ Willis Harman.

  • Part Two: The Hyponatremia Cocktail Du Jour
  • Part Three: Ensure you don’t miss the surprises that lie in the next post — subscribe to this blog and receive the third part by email.

Alternate Perspectives On The Knacker

Grand Canyon’s daunting Rim-to-Rim ultrarunning experience:

  • 24 miles from the Bright Angel trail
  • 6,000 feet total elevation gain

Mt. Whitney’s (tallest mountain in lower 48 states) infamous 1-day summit experience:

  • 22 miles round trip
  • 6,400 feet total elevation gain

Would love to hear about other unique and incredibly amazing MARATHON/ULTRA MARATHON races! Please share them along with your blogs in the comments below.

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  1. Just Do It! The Rockwall In The Canadian Rockies (Part 1 of 2) | - September 4, 2011

    […] squeezes out a realization. This route is about the same distance as Vancouver’s much-touted Knee Knacker trail running race I found myself in just over a month […]

  2. Amber McMinn - July 5, 2011

    Awesome work making it to the start line Doris! That’s an achievement in itself. I too run a 4 1/2 hr road marathon and have had a fabulous time running the knee knacker 3 times now. Its one of the best races going! Unfortunately the lottery gods weren’t on my side this year, so I’ll be volunteering on race day, but at least I’ve managed to remain involved in the KK community by attending the (often grueling) training runs on Sundays and volunteering on race day.

    Good luck on Saturday, I’m sure you’ll rock it!

    • Doris Blanchet - July 5, 2011

      Hi Amber! You attended the runs on Sunday and you’re not entered in?! That is AWESOME! I have LOVED those Sunday runs – just as much as I feared them often the night before! 🙂 Something about having your veins pulsing the whole day after the run that makes me not want the whole thing to end! 😐
      That is a great idea of keeping involved with the race in some way, even though the gods weren’t on your side this time around – I will definitely keep that in mind next year! Thank you for the wish! ~ Doris.

  3. Andy - July 4, 2011

    Hi! I found this posting whilst poking around trying to get more worked up for my first Kneeknacker as well. This is going to be the highlite of my year, I can’t wait. I’ve been able to make it out to a few of the Sunday runs and I agree, they’ve been a blast.
    Good luck next Saturday!!

    • Doris Blanchet - July 4, 2011

      Hi Andy 🙂 Well this time next week it will all be over! Have heard so many stories about last years event – am really getting psyched up about this as well! Do you have a goal time set for your first one? Are you a trail runner? ~ Doris

    • Andy - July 5, 2011

      Nope, no time goals. I just like to go out for long runs in the woods. That said, I told my wife and kid to meet me at the end between 7 and 7.5 hours from the start. Sounds about right. Yes, trails. I’d never set foot on pavement ever again if I thought it was possible.

    • Doris Blanchet - July 5, 2011

      7 and 7.5 hours – Awesome! ‘Maybe’ if I get my husband to hang a carrot of wonderfully cool lime margaritas in front of my nose the whole way can I dream of 8 hours!!! 🙂 It’s interesting how many people have told me never pavement again. Haven’t hit that point yet myself 🙂 Good luck to you this Saturday!

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