A few weeks ago, my massage therapist mentioned the Columbia Apple Crusher Challenge at Blue Mountain Resort here in Collingwood and asked if I was going to do the run up the classic Grind trail and make it onto the leaderboard. I told him I didn’t think my knee would be cooperative… Long story short, I did the exercises that my physio recommended, I kept stretching and foam rolling and most importantly, I took some actual time off of running and did a verrrrry slow build back. Last week, I finally got to roll over to the hill and hit it—and got onto the top of the leaderboard… though the leading time has already come down since I made my attempt.
The challenge is going on til mid-October and timing chips are available at the Columbia store at Blue — and there’s tons of swag up for grabs in monthly draws in addition to bragging rights. (You can get a timing chip for a single day for $10 or $25 for the season.)
Details are here: https://www.bluemountain.ca/things-to-do/events/apple-crusher
You can check the leaderboards here: https://www.bluemountain.ca/things-to-do/events/apple-crusher-results
About the actual trail: 714 feet of vertical over 1.28 miles. Starts at the Apple Crusher arch at the base of the Grind, and goes past the gondola at the top into the trail with a flat 150-meters-ish to finish. There’s another archway at the end. (See the Strava file: https://www.strava.com/activities/5839472144/segments/2864875249193859316 )
If you’re going to do the Apple Crusher challenge, I have a few tips:
- Hike it first if you can. It’s worth learning the trail so you’re not going in totally blind—I wish I had known where the finish was when I made my first attempt!
- Warm up by starting from the village. Don’t go into it cold! (You can park in the lot by the Orchard sign, but don’t just go right into the climb. At least spend a few minutes running on the flat.)
- BYOWater bottle. There’s nothing at the top, and it is NICE to have something to sip when you get there.
- Pace yourself. Don’t go ultra-hard in the first climb. It doesn’t look steep to start but it will start to hurt fast. Push, but don’t strain.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. (Remember our last podcast about discomfort? Lean into it on this hill.)
- Speaking of leaning in, I like a bit of forward lean when heading into steep sections. (Hilary Spires and I talked about that on our trail running tips episode)
- Wear trail shoes if possible. It can be really slippery in there! It’s not rocky, though, so regular sneakers will work.
- Aim for a dry couple of days. When I went, it had rained that morning and was still raining a bit, and it was quite slippery—both on the dirt and especially on the wooden bridges! Be really careful on the bridges if you go when it’s wet.
- Don’t forget your timing chip. I had mine on my wrist but it can definitely go on your ankle or in your pack.
- Go mid-week. I happened to have my hill workout on Tuesday anyway, but the Tues-Thurs window is definitely better from a crowd perspective. I only had to pass one person on the way up, so that saved me some time.
- Push it at the top! Once you see the gondola, go hard. There’s still about a minute to run through the woods, but it’s all flat, so sprint for the finish!
- Don’t panic if your results aren’t up immediately. It took the leaderboard a few minutes to show mine.
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