It all started with a Facebook message.
“Hi Joanna. Arielle is a new ultra-runner in town. Would you be willing to show her our trails?”
I love showing off our mountains so of course I agreed.
We ran up Ribbon Creek, over Guinn’s Pass and back via the Galatea and Terrace Trails. We finished in the dark under clear skies illuminated by endless stars. As I got to know Arielle better throughout the run I was impressed with her attitude. She has a zest for life that I haven’t seen in many people and she tackles obstacles head on. I could tell this run was just one of many adventures that we’d have.
We had a bit of bad luck so we didn’t run much after that initial adventure. Arielle had a sore hip and I tripped on a rock, cutting open my knee. Once we were mostly healed up we decided to go out for a xc ski. Neither of us are particularly skilled at skiing, so it was a fun day out with the main objective being not to fall over.
I’m not sure how the conversation started, but somewhere along the way I mentioned to Arielle that I had heard of this 72km race where you ski from Lake Louise to Banff. I was thinking it might be a fun goal to aspire to. You know, in a year or two once we learned how to ski properly.
Arielle thought a little differently, she thought we should sign up right away. It would be a good challenge! Apparently I’m a pushover, so I agreed. The race was scheduled for January 24th, and we were at the beginning of December. We had almost 2 months to train.
We opted to overlook the fact that neither of us even owned skis (we were renting), had never waxed skis (we were using waxless), and the furthest we had ever skied in our lifetime was just over 20km.
Over the next 2 months we both bought skis, learned a little about wax, and spent a lot more time on the trails. Our longest ski was 45km; an out-and-back from Lake Louise to Lake O’Hara in temperatures well below -20C. It was during the ski that I gained the confidence to believe that I could actually ski 72km, and also resigned myself to the fact that completing the 72km would be a total sufferfest. Oh well, I’m an ultrarunner. Suffering is part of the job description.
Unfortunately Arielle is working through a groin injury and won’t be able to do the race with me. She has decided to join my friend Alan as my crew instead. It sucks that we won’t be racing together, but it will be fantastic to have her along for support.
Even if the loppet doesn’t go well tomorrow I am incredibly thankful for the journey I’ve been on as we’ve prepared for it. I feel like I’ve discovered a whole new world that I never knew existed! Who knew that you could ski from Louise to Lake O’Hara? Or by extension, from Banff to O’Hara?! There’s a whole world of loppets, birkebeiners and ski adventure routes that I knew nothing about. I’m already making plans for next year 🙂