Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Big Fat Wish List

I love planning for the future.  I gain great satisfaction from dreaming up an adventure on the very edge of possibility, and then working towards that dream.  Right now I’m struggling, because I am unable to plan.  My future is an unknown, and I’m floating in the abyss at the whim of circumstances beyond my control.

 

In an effort to scratch my adventure planning itch I’ve decided to put together a Wish List.  Normally I hate the term “wish”- you either do something or you don’t.  Wishing is a waste of time and energy.  However, at this stage in my journey I don’t have a lot of ability to “do”, so wishing is going to have to be good enough.  Here’s hoping I get some of these wishes granted this year, and maybe next year this list can transform to my Big Fat To Do List!

 

So here we go, in no particular order:

  1. Multi-day adventures
  • 200 mile hike of my choosing
  • The Great Divide Trail
  • Family hike on the Juan de Fuca trail
  • Mount St. Elias, ocean to summit (lifetime goal)

 

2. Long Days Out

  • The Brazeau Loop
  • The Stein Traverse
  • Banff Triple Crown
  • Sub-11hr Iron Legs 50M
  • Sub-20hr 100 Mile Race (still needs to be a course I’m excited about)
  • Hardrock
  • Bluerock – Gibraltar – Picklejar – Junction Creek Loop
  • 10000m ascent and descent in 24hrs
  • Athabasca Pass, Mt Hooker and Mt Brown (haven’t done the math on this one, might be a multi-day).

 

3. Ski Trips

  • FHR on a sunny day
  • Mount Joffre
  • White Pyramid
  • Dolomite Traverse
  • Lake Louise to Lake O’Hara out and back (classic xc ski)
  • 2000m ascent in a trip

 

4. Scrambles, Summits and Ridge Traverses

  • Sub-6hr Banded Peak Traverse (with Arielle)
  • Full Opal Traverse
  • Mount Ptolemy
  • Livingstone Range Traverse – redo to the highway (with Arielle)
  • The Rundle Traverse (with Arielle)
  • Mount King George
  • Gap to Townsend (with Patrick)
  • Majo’s Loop (Nihahi, Compression, Prairie, Powderface)
  • Mt Fisher via Secret Pass
  • Mt Evan Thomas
  • Mt Daly
  • Tour de Noseeum, including the summit

 

Do you have an adventure idea you think I’d enjoy?  Send me a message and we can build my Wish List into a lifetime of adventures planning.

What’s Up?

December was a mess of doctor’s appointments. I had my CT scan at the Peter Lougheed Hospital. That same week my throat was feeling swollen and when I shone a light and looked down at it in the mirror I could see white. The technicians who were operating the CT scanner couldn’t help me, and they suggested I make an appointment with my family doctor.  I went to my doctor and it turned out I had thrush, a yeast infection that happens when you use a steroid inhaler and don’t rinse your mouth out well enough afterwards. My family doctor was able to prescribe me medication to combat the thrush. She also was able to give me the results of my CT scan, so I didn’t have to wait until January wondering about the scope of the Thing In My Face. 

 

Basically, Timf is a slow-growing mass which has completely blocked my right maxillary sinus and is associated with two of my molars.  For the most part, TIMF does not appear to be aggressive but it has eroded away quite a bit of bone. My family doctor could not tell me what these results meant in turns of surgery/recovery so I would have to wait until my appointment with the specialist to get answers. 

 

My thrush infection seemed to disappear as soon as I went on the medication, however the pharmacist made an error and only gave me 40ml instead of 140ml. As soon as I stopped the medication the infection came back with a vengeance, so I went back to my doctor and made sure to get the proper prescription from the pharmacist on the second time around.  None of the doctors I’ve talked to seem to think the thrush has anything to do with Timf, but I think it’s kind of a strange coincidence. 

I took a break from all the doctor appointments and we drove up to Revelstoke for a family Christmas. It was amazing to see everybody, and I wish we could have family gatherings more often.  The rest of the holidays were spent trail running, cross-country skiing and backcountry skiing.  I wouldn’t call it a relaxing holiday season, but it was just what I needed. 

Throughout the holidays Timf would swell and subside.  Constantly reminding me that it was there, but not causing any real issues besides the occasional headache. 

 I was really looking forward to today’s follow up appointment with the specialist. I am feeling fit and strong, and I want to run, race and adventure. I was hoping the specialist would give me a timeline for my surgery/recovery that would enable me to start planning these adventures. The specialist was able to explain the CT scan in more practical terms:  

  • I need to have a biopsy to determine what exactly Timf is. This will be a general procedure, and it is booked for the 24th.  I’m happy to not have to wait for another month before the next step in this process. Recovery from the biopsy should only be 1 or 2 days, but it means I’m going to miss the Calgary Roadrunners XC race 🙁 I’ve already emailed to see if I can volunteer instead!
  • The lack of bone and awkward location of Timf means that surgery may not be simple. After they remove Timf I may end up having a hole through the top of the mouth to my sinus. The hole would have to be filled using either a prostheses or bone graft.  Thankfully this is not a decision I have to make now.  
  • I asked the doctor about summer plans; he said there’s a good chance they will be affected by my recovery, so I’ve made the decision not to sign up for any more races. I was really hoping to run the Sinister Triple and do a 200mile hike in September, but I am going to have to learn to plan less and go with the flow more. With a little luck I may be able to sign up for races or go on adventures at the last minute. 

 

In the meantime, I will continue doing my thing. You can find me running, skiing, bouldering and weight lifting. Send me a message if you’d like to get out!

A Quick Update

Not a whole lot has happened since my last post.  I had some bloodwork done today, and yesterday the specialist office left a voicemail to say they were in the process of booking the CT scan.  I wasn’t particularly impressed with the voicemail, don’t tell me you’re in the process of booking an appointment, just tell me when the appointment is!

The dental office also phoned, just to check up on me and see if I was doing alright.  The combination of phone calls and upcoming bloodwork made me feel a bit blue, and I could feel tears starting to well up during my drive home from work.  I had been feeling pretty strong and secure for the last week, so it surprised me how quickly I could feel myself coming apart.

This sudden flood of emotions emphasized my need to stay active outdoors.  Since I let go of my 1Mvert goal I’ve been enjoying some indoor workouts, including some treadmill intervals and a couple of weight sessions.  But if I’m honest, these indoor sessions do very little for my headspace. The outdoors are where I clear my thoughts.  I’ve decided to make a commitment to get at least 30 minutes of outdoor aerobic activity each day.


As far as my health goes, I think I’m doing pretty well.  I’m not in any pain and I’m feeling quite fit.  I’m excited to work on running faster and getting stronger.  The swelling around the lesion is fairly minimal, but the rough part of the lesion seems to have grown a little bit.  I’m not sure what that means, but I’m not going to interpret it.  The swelling is what causes me discomfort and I’m grateful that it has not been an issue these last couple of weeks.


In other news, I’ve been having fun outdoors!  This past Friday I skied at Bow Summit, followed by a Saturday scramble up Blackrock, and a Sunday tour around the French-Haig-Robertson circuit.  The FHR wound up having some tough whiteout conditions, but we all made it through in one piece and I think we learned a lot from the experience.

 

Changing Focus

Last week I put a vague post up on social media.  In the photo I was sitting on a rock, crying.  I didn’t give a lot of detail into what was upsetting me, but I wanted to share the message that sometimes life is hard and it’s okay to let the tears fall.  A few days after that initial post I shared a few more thoughts.  I had spent the afternoon wandering around Forgetmenot Ridge, and while I was on the ridge I found the sense of peace and acceptance I had been searching for.  Now that my head is in a good place, I am ready to share my story. 


 

November 12th 

I was out for some evening laps on Prairie Mountain when I noticed that my top molars seemed to have grown and they were preventing me from being able to fully close my mouth.  I’m a big eater and this was extremely frustrating as I found it quite difficult to chew.  The issue continued to get worse throughout the evening, and I decided that I needed to see a dentist.  I’m not a very nice person when I’m hungry. 

 

A little background here, I have not been to a dentist in several years.  In the past I have viewed dental visits kind of like getting a massage, or going for a haircut.  I know I probably should do it, but I’d rather play in the mountains than take time out of my day for an appointment, so I postpone until it’s absolutely necessary.  Not being able to eat was the kick in the ass I needed to make an appointment. I scheduled a visit with the dental office closest to my house, and booked the afternoon off work. 

 

The dentist was very kind and understanding about the state of my teeth and lack of dental history.  It turns out I have great teeth, with only the one cavity that I’m pretty sure I’ve had since the last time I went to a dentist. Unfortunately, the dentist was unable to do anything about my heaving molars.  It turns out the issue wasn’t my teeth; rather I had a lesion which extended from the roof of my mouth to my cheekbone.  The swelling from the lesion was pressing on my teeth and causing them to “grow.  At this point the dentist mentioned something about cancer and an appointment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.  My eyes welled up and I couldn’t fight back the tears.  How could I have cancer when I’m only 35?!  Also, why the fuck didn’t I come in sooner?  I had felt that lesion growing on the top of my mouth for the last year, but I had just assumed my gums were irritated and it was no big deal.  My ability to absorb the news was not helped by the fact that I was SO HUNGRY from not having been able to chew properly for the last 24hrs. 

 

I walked out of the dentist office feeling totally lost.  I sent a text to Matt to let him know what was going on, then I bought a milkshake with extra whip cream and phoned my mom.  Mom did a good job of talking me off the ledge, and by the time I got home I was reasonably convinced that I either had a cyst or a prolonged sinus infection.  Cancer was unlikely. 


 

November 13th  

 

After the dentist appointment messaged some friends to let them know what was going on.  They helped me brainstorm foods that required minimal chewing and helped me to realize that I have a very good support network.  I was not alone. 

 

I had no game plan now except to wait for a phone call from the Tom Baker.  I waited and waited, but the phone call never came.  I’ve never been so obsessed with my phone.  Thankfully, the swelling had gone down in the lesion and I was able to chew properly again.  Food keeps me sane. 

 

That evening the last thing I wanted to do was go for a run, but I went out anyway because I know that running enables to be a more resilient person.  As soon as I got onto the trails I knew that this was exactly what I needed.  I listened to a Spotify playlist which included a heavy dose of George Ezra, and I soon found myself smiling and singing along.  I was strong, capable and in control.  I could do this.   

George Ezra was followed by “Unsteady” and suddenly I found myself collapsed on the trail bawling my eyes out. 

 

Hold
Hold on
Hold on to me
‘Cause I’m a little unsteady
A little unsteady 

 

The lyrics rang true.  Sure, I am strong.  But to get through this I was going to need to lean on my support network. I couldn’t do it alone.   




 

November 14-16 

Still no phone call from Tom Baker, but I wasn’t expecting to get a call on a weekend. I took some time for myself and consciously focused on practicing gratitude. Slowly my head got back to a space where I could have rational thought without random intervals of weeping. 

 

I did some Googling and attempted a self-diagnosis.  I know this is not recommended practice, but I couldn’t resist.  I decided that it was most likely a prolonged infection or nasal polyps and I felt like an idiot for my hysteria over the last few days.  I climbed some mountains with friends, and continued to feel at peace with whatever my circumstance was. 




November 18th 

 

The long-awaited phone call finally came.  I had an appointment for 10:30 the next morning.  I didn’t know what was going to happen during that appointment, but I was hoping it would be biopsy.  At the very least, it would enable me to form some sort of game plan. 



November 19th 

 

My mom accompanied me to the hospital.  I had two doctors, Zoe (a student) and Dr Matthews.  They asked me a bunch on questions and stuck a camera up my nose.  Zoe was just learning to drive the camera and she took a few wrong turns, but the experience wasn’t terrible. I’m sure I’ll experience worse.  The doctors also spent some time looking around my mouth and repeatedly asking me if I was having difficulty swallowing. 

 

I think I left the appointment with more questions than answers.  I didn’t have an infection or nasal polyps, it was something more serious than that but we still didn’t know what.  I had a requistion for bloodwork, a CT scan and there was a biopsy in my future.  Dr Matthews told me that they were going to have to drill through the bone for my biopsy, so I would need to go under general anesthetic for the procedure.  I’ve never had any surgery so that sounds a bit daunting, but I’m sure it’s fairly routine. 

 


November 21st (today) 

 

I feel like I’m doing okay emotionally, but last night I had a dream that the lesion had grown, that it was bleeding into my mouth and I was choking.  I woke up this morning totally exhausted and not at all certain of what was dream and what was reality.  I’m realizing this is going to be a bit of a bumpy, and unpredictable road. 

 


Moving Forward 

 

I’ve decided to forego my 1 million feet of vert challenge.  I was really enjoying getting out and running hills or mountains every single day, but the project is extremely time consuming. In addition, I’ve had to eat A LOT of food to fuel my activity level and my appetite has been at an all-time high.  I know that in the coming weeks I will have a lot of time-consuming appointments, as well as additional emotional stress, and probably some difficulty eating solid food.  The challenge doesn’t seem fun anymore.  I feel like I need to relax and be more flexible with my training, so that is what I’m going to do. 

 

Over the last week several individuals have messaged me to tell me their stories and give me their support.  I know that many people have cancer scares, and that there’s a good chance that whatever is going on in my mouth/sinus is benign. However, I’d like to share my story publicly to lend support to others who may have similar ordeals happen in their lives.  I also want to keep a written history of this experience, so that I can look back on it and hopefully use it to build my mental toolbox in the future. 

 

Going through this process is teaching me to have so much more gratitude for the blessed life that I have.  I appreciate my ability to chew (something I never really thought about before), and that I lead a life with so much freedom that I can set ridiculous goals like climbing a million feet.  I’m grateful for free healthcare, supportive friends/family/spouse, and for a work environment that allows me to take time off to take care of myself.

 

The Inaugural WAM 100

“The WAM 100 mile race is hands down, all at once the most stunning ultra in Canada and the most challenging race in the country, in fact it ranks right up there as one of the toughest 100’s on the continent.

167 kilometers of incredible terrain, up and down the two major mountains on the east side of the Whistler valley: Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain…while doing Whistler Mountain twice! All while covering over 9500 meters (31,000 feet) of climbing and descent, and skirting no fewer than a half dozen alpine lakes along the way, including Jane, Jake, Logger’s, Cheakamus, and more. We’ve even thrown in three suspension bridge crossings for good measure.

This is as much an adventure as it is a run. The course is unrelenting, but it has a high “reward value” in that we don’t have long sections of suck while you’re waiting for the few highlights to present, rather the highlights are plentiful and you’d have to close your eyes to eliminate the beauty of the area from constantly coming at you.”

~excerpt from the WAM website~


 

I came into this event ready and excited to race.  Last year’s running season did not go particularly well, and my opportunity to truly race at Bighorn earlier this year went up in literal smoke when I hit a buck during our drive down to the event. Standing on the WAM start line I felt fit, healthy and rested. I hadn’t felt that good in a very long time and I had to work hard to temper my enthusiasm.

Whistler Alpine Meadows 2019. Photo by Scott Robarts

Standing at the start line, not sure what’s up with that expression 🙂       PC: Scott Roberts Photography


Meadow Park to Alta Lake – 14.5km, 733m ascent, 696m descent 

I ran most of this leg either with Jessica (a strong runner from Edmonton) or on my own.  The leg began with a climb and Patrick and Chris went on ahead.  I was trying to keep my effort very easy, and keeping up with the boys on the climb would have taken me out of that zone.  The leg finished with a very cruisey downhill section with 27 switchbacks.  Anyone who has ever run trails with me knows that I like to corner, so this was right up my alley. I let my legs go, passing several runners and catching up with Patrick and Chris in the aid station.  The aid station was a few kilometres sooner than advertised (and I was moving faster than expected) so Matt wasn’t there.  I grabbed some candy from the well-stocked aid station and began to hike up the hill on the next leg of the course.  As I hiked, I sent Matt a quick text so that he would know that we had missed each other.  It was a nice luxury to have cell service on a race course.

20190920_110212

Views over Whistler on Leg 1.  I think that might be Sean Blanton hang gliding!


Alta Lake to Function – 11.5km, 632m ascent, 711m descent 

 

Chris hiked up ahead, while Patrick soon caught me from behind.  Patrick ran with me for awhile, and then all 3 of us were running together through the Function Junction section.  I was surprised that we were all moving at the same pace, but I enjoyed being part of a “team.”  Soon we were at the second aid station.  The distance for this leg had been correct, but we were still running much faster than I had anticipated.  Matt was there to help crew me and I had a rice ball (rice, egg, cheese, soy sauce) from our cooler.  It was nice to have something other than candy.  The 3 of us left the aid station in close succession but I took it super easy on the crushed gravel path, falling behind the rest of the Team.  I was very concerned about all the running we had been doing this far into the race and I thought that I needed to figure out some sort of walking strategy to slow myself down.

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Running along a raging river as we head into Function Junction.


 

Function to WAC – 19km, 1071 ascent, 1061 descent 

 

The course turned off the crushed gravel path and onto an ATV road.  The ATV road angled uphill, and the grade slowly got steeper as the path got rougher.  I made a conscious effort to slow down and just focus on being relaxed, eating and drinking at regular intervals.  Jessica caught up to me and we talked for a bit before I found myself moving ahead again.  I really enjoyed this climb because it felt like it gave me a chance to reset from all the running we had been doing.  I was a bit sad when the climb ended, but I didn’t mourn for long because the course turned onto what looked to be a brand new mountain biking trail.  The trail was cut into the mossy undergrowth of the forest and traversed between a couple of picturesque mountain lakes. It was gorgeous! This is where I met my new friend James, a runner from Squamish who had wandered off-course and just made his way back.  WAM was his first hundred, but he had plenty of leg speed having just run a 34 minute 10km the previous weekend!

 

I loved this forest section. I had good company to run with, and the route had taken on much more of a wilderness, mountain feel. I no longer was fighting to force myself to slow down, I simply had a big grin on my face and was fully embracing the forest bathing.  The forest section ended with a downhill mountain road before turning back onto some rockier single-track.  The good vibes continued and I broke out a bag of Cheetos to celebrate as the trail came to a lookout over another mountain lake.

 

Shortly after the lake I ran out of water.  This leg was definitely longer than advertised, but I wasn’t overly concerned.  I knew we were going to have to make up for that short 1st leg at some point. Eventually we came to the top of a climb and began a technical descent down towards what I assumed would be the aid station. This descent was where I saw the first of the “DANGER SLOW” signs.  I chuckled to myself, how many more of those would I see today?  A kilometre or two later I ran into the WAC aid station and Matt was there to crew me.  I had a rice ball and a yogurt tube before heading back out.  Patrick was just ahead of me and I caught up to him as he was finishing off a bottle of Coke.

 


 

WAC to Village – 15km, 755m ascent, 601m descent   

 

The next section is a bit hazy for me.  I recall Patrick and Chris moving ahead on the initial climb, but then somehow I caught up to them and I was leading the Team.  I was feeling really good and just enjoying cruising along.  At one point I was enjoying the view a little too much and completely missed a turn.  Thankfully Chris was there to set me straight.  The course was impeccably marked, but you still have to pay attention.

 

Apparently we made good time on that leg, because we arrived at Whistler Village just as our crews were setting up.  This was a planned longer aid station break, as we prepared to head up Whistler Mountain and into the night. I ate more rice balls and yogurt, changed my socks and shorts, and re-lubricated areas that were threatening to chafe. I also packed an extra headlamp. We left Whistler Village as a team of 4, having picked Mike up (another runner from Calgary), at the aid station.  I had been looking forward to the long walk up Singing Pass to Whistler Mountain all day.  It signaled the end of the running and beginning of the adventuring!


 

Village to Whistler Mountain – 19km, 1720m ascent, 460m descent 

 

My focus during the walk up Singing Pass was eating.  I ate a Mars bar, and a couple of slow burning Muir gels.  I probably also had a bunch of gummies and jelly beans, maybe some Oreos.  It was a constant snack fest. Chris dropped off the back of our train for a bit at one point, while I lagged behind Mike and Patrick on the steeper sections.  I was feeling really good on the flats and downhills so I would quickly catch up to them on any of the undulations.  The trail became more technical and undulating as we left Singing Pass and went over the Musical Bumps.  Technical, undulating terrain is a strength for me, so I soon moved ahead.  It was dark out and although the route was extremely well marked, it was still easy to wander off course. At one point I missed a turn, but thankfully I quickly realized my error.  I climbed back up to the missed turn and waited at the corner to warn the other guys. But if I’m honest, I am not good at waiting and I soon decided that they could probably figure it out just fine on their own.

 

Eventually I made to the summit of Whistler Mountain.  The volunteers had some good tunes going and the aid station was well-stocked with candy, including M&Ms! I’ve had a bit of an addiction to M&Ms lately so I filled a ziplock with the tasty treats.  I asked the volunteers if they had pancakes, but they told me they weren’t cooking them up until the morning.  This was a bit of a bummer because I knew Patrick had been looking forward to those pancakes since last year’s WAM.


 

Whistler Mountain to WAC – 14km, 158m ascent, 1572m descent 

 

All good things must come to an end, so I reluctantly left the aid station and started down the extremely steep and technical descent trail.  Having been on this trail last year, I knew what to expect and I was apprehensive.  I was fearful my legs might not be able to handle this kind of trail after 80km and 4000m of climbing, plus this time I was doing it in the dark!  My shoes handled the rock and mud well, but I didn’t do so well on the boardwalks.  After one particularly hard fall on a boardwalk I was extremely careful navigating the rest of my way down the route.  There were several of those “SLOW DANGER” signs, but I think they could have just posted one at the top of the trail and called it good.

 

Eventually I got onto more runnable trail and I enjoyed the easy cruise down, occasionally crossing paths with one of the lead runners who were on their way back up.  I counted the men and the ladies as I passed them. The lead lady was in 10th and looked very strong.  I was in roughly 20th place overall and 2nd lady, about an hour behind 1st.  I took some extra time at the aid station, feeling very sleepy (it was just after 1am) but otherwise in good spirits. I had some coffee, broth and snacks, dropped off one of my headlamps and began the slow shuffle back up the trail.  I had spent about 20 minutes in the aid station and was surprised that none of the Team had made it in yet.  I didn’t worry for long though, because I ran into Patrick a few hundred metres out of the aid station, and then Chris few minutes later.  They both looked to be in very good spirits.


 

WAC to Whistler Mountain – 14km, 1572m ascent, 158 descent 

I was dreading the climb back up Whistler Mountain.  It was SO TECHNICAL and STEEP!!  I ran into Jessica a few kilometres out of the aid station and we stopped and talked for a few minutes.  She had a sore foot and had decided to drop to avoid a more severe injury.  Then I ran into Mike who was walking like a zombie.  He did not look like he was interested in continuing the torture.  Near treeline I ran into a dense patch of fog as I climbed up through the clouds.  It made spotting the flagging tape much more challenging.  The fog continued above treeline and suddenly I realized I was off-course.  I looked around me for any markings but I didn’t see a thing.  Thankfully I remembered my watch had a breadcrumb feature and I was able to use that to get back on route.  I was borrowing the watch from my friend Katie and I made a mental note to send her extra thanks for saving my race.

 

I didn’t think it was possible, but I had ascended the mountain too quickly and I reached the aid station well before sunrise. We were above the clouds now and I could see that sunrise was going to be accompanied by a spectacular inversion.  I decided to lollygag a bit at the aid station – if I moved slow enough maybe I would get to see the sun.  I ate a full cup of noodles in front of the aid station heater, and then I spotted the big box of bananas.  I knew that I don’t handle bananas well when I’m racing, but I also wasn’t thinking very clearly.  All I could think was that those bananas looked delicious!


 

Whistler Mountain to Base 2 – 19.5km, 482 ascent, 1772m descent 

 

I scarfed down a full banana and then made my way off the summit towards the Musical Bumps.  Not even 10 minutes later I had thrown everything up on the side of the trail.  I checked my watch, I had made it 19.5hrs without puking.  Not bad!  I was sad to see those noodles go to waste, but I felt much better after puking. Unfortunately, even thought I was feeling better my brain was truly checked out at this point and I proceeded to miss another very well-marked corner and wander off route.  A few minutes later I realized my mistake, and once again used the breadcrumb feature to get back on track. Now I was back on very technical trail, and I had to be alert to follow the course markings.  I was so focused on the markings that I hardly ate during this section and my pace slowed significantly.

 

The upside to all of this is that the sky started to lighten and I got to see the sunrise! The sunrise was so beautiful, that I found myself full of gratitude for the comedy of errors that had slowed me down. Soon I was shuffling my way back down the Singing Pass trail, smile on my face but starting to feel very stiff and tired.  Puking always takes a lot out of me, and I was so stiff by this point I couldn’t manage a full stride. I noticed a tightness in the back of my right calf, and a memory tried to trigger, but I couldn’t quite place it.  I ignored the tightness and pressed on.  It was around this time that I started to pee constantly. I was thankful that I was on my own because it felt like I was peeing every 10 minutes and I wouldn’t have wanted to have to move far off-trail.  I tried increasing my salt-intake to help with some water retention but it didn’t seem to make a difference.  I was peeing far more than I was drinking, and I found myself not wanting to drink because I felt like it would just trigger more peeing.

 

Eventually I made it to the Base 2 aid station.  I was very tired and happy to have a seat.  I had a rice ball, some yogurt, salted potatoes and some delicious bacon kindly offered by a random bystander.   Nicola was at the aid station volunteering, and when I complained about my constant peeing she had said that she’d heard it was related to protein intake.  Hopefully the bacon would help.  While I was sitting there Patrick and Chis came running in.  They said they were tired, but they looked great!

 

 


 

Base 2 to 7th Heaven – 4km, 848m ascent, 6m descent 

 

I walked out of the aid station and began the steep climb up the Blackcomb Ascent Trail.  My calf had tightened up to the point where it was painful on every step and I was not moving very quickly.  Patrick and Chris soon passed me, and I was happy to continue at my slow and steady state.  The trail went up and up and up, but eventually I reached the aid station.  I had slowed down but I felt like I was still in good spirits and moving okay considering I’d been running for 24hrs straight.


 

7th Heaven to 7th Heaven – 12km, 758m ascent and descent 

 

The volunteers warned me that the next section was very slow going.  Apparently even the lead runners had taken over 2.5hrs on this section.  I think their warning lit a little fire under my ass because I was able to run the next portion of gravel road.  From there the route turned straight up a ski hill, it wasn’t even on a trail and I laughed out loud. It was time to Minotaur!  I love a little bushwhacking and I took joy in the fact that I probably loved that section more than anyone else in the race.

 

The bushwhack was short and soon the course turned back onto well-developed trail. I didn’t know anything about the Blackcomb alpine and to be honest I wasn’t expecting much more than random mountain biking trails.  So you can imagine my surprise when the trails turned out to have some of the most stunning views on the course!  We had climbed just above the inversion and were dancing with the clouds.  Marmots whistled, and the trail wound its way around alpine tarns and boulder fields. Glaciated peaks popped in and out of view.  I was happy.

 

SidenoteI do have one complaint about this section of the course, and this is that we were doing the loop backwards.  The best views were always behind me so I found myself constantly wanting to stop and look back, but I couldn’t do this because I was in race and I was trying to move efficiently.  There were also a ton of people up there travelling the opposite direction, so they were constantly having to move out of my way.  I feel like if I was moving in the same direction as them I could have just hopped on the boulders to move around them, and not make them feel like they had to make way for me.  But I digress...

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7th Heaven to Green Lake – 17km, 495m ascent, 1420m descent 

 

I find I move quickly when I’m happy and I finished the 12km loop faster than expected, catching back up to Patrick and Chris as they were leaving the aid station.  Now there was only 25km left to the finish line with no significant climbs.  My energy levels felt good and I was ready to give a good push, but my calf wouldn’t allow me to run.  I decided to ask the aid station staff for a tensor bandage to see if wrapping the calf would make it feel any better.  It turns out one of the volunteers, Adam, was a bit of a guru at this type of thing and he did an amazing job.  The tape job definitely didn’t get rid of the pain, but it seemed to slow the progression down.  Up to this point the calf and been getting progressively more painful, but now I was able to shuffle (slowly) down the ski out without feeling a significant increase in pain.  I tried to take a full stride, I wanted to force myself to do it out of sheer will power, but I found that I couldn’t.  Just like at Bighorn, I found that I have an upper pain threshold and I can’t seem to push through it.  But (unlike at Bighorn), I was still moving at an okay pace and my spirits were still good.  The road for the ski out was very firm and I found myself wishing for a softer surface.  My wish was granted when a minute later we were directed off the ski out onto a very squishy, technical downhill mountain biking trail. This was not exactly what I meant by softer surface.  The terrain was steep and slippery, and the going was extremely slow.  I found myself cursing Gary under my breathe.

 

The rest of the race course was just plain cruel. After the downhill mountain bike trail we meandered up and down and around for what felt like hours!  Jamil Coury caught up to me and we hiked together for a few miles before he went ahead to finish the race strong.  We both thought the meandering trail was ridiculous, especially when it became clear that this was another one of those legs that was longer than advertised.  Jamil ran ahead and I hobbled on as quickly as my legs would allow me, eventually reaching the final aid station.


 

Green Lake – 8km, 275m ascent,  285m descent 

 

I had it in my head that I really wanted to break 33hrs, but if the last leg was actually the 8km advertised there was no way I could do it.  I asked the volunteers if the last leg might be short – I was already at 164km on my watch and the race was only supposed to be 167km long.  They said no, the last leg was a full 8km.   Oh well – I held onto my hope that the volunteers were wrong. I filled up my soft flask with coke and pushed as hard as my legs and lungs would let me to get to the finish line.  I left Green Lake at exactly 32hrs and if I didn’t reach the finish line in 33hrs I could allow myself to slow down and walk it in.

 

I wasn’t able to run the hills so I walked them all.  I also wasn’t able to run the downhills particularly well, so I just moved as best I could.  The flat sections felt okay. The trail was totally smooth crushed gravel and I was in love with the friendly surface.  Why couldn’t the whole race be like this??  I pushed hard, there was a guy behind me and I told myself I wasn’t going to let him pass without a fight.  The minutes passed by and it became apparent that I wasn’t going to make it in under 33hrs but still I kept pushing. Something in my mind told me this leg was going to be short.  We came onto a road and Ellie Greenwood was volunteering at a junction, “1km to go!”   The leg was short!!

I looked at my watch, maybe I could do it …

 

That last kilometre was the longest kilometre of my life.  I ran as hard as my legs would let me, even though Strava says it was only a 6:06km.  Whatever, it felt fast !!  I crossed the finish line in 32:59:14, less than a minute to spare on my arbitrary timeline.

Whistler Alpine Meadows 2019. Photo by Scott Robarts

I think WAM may have eaten my soul.  Finish line relief.  PC: Scott Roberts Photography



 

The Aftermath 

 

Chris, Patrick, Matt and the crews were all at the finish line waiting for me.  Marieve, the ladies winner, was also there to congratulate me at the finish line.  I thought that was a very classy thing to do, as I know I am usually too destroyed after a race to think of anyone except for myself.  Gary was there with a finish line hug, and I was so happy to be done I forgot to ream him out for making us run around in circles for 10km.

 

Overall, I am very happy with this performance. I still haven’t raced my perfect hundred miler but I think I’m getting closer.  I didn’t puke until almost 20 hours into the race, and even then it was just a one time thing. I took care of myself when things went sideways.  I slowed down when I had to, pushed when I could, and when I got hurt I took the time to treat the injury, which definitely enabled me to move faster in the end. I had no blisters and there was no crying. I didn’t take any naps.

 

There are a few things I could do to improve for next time:

  • I could improve by remembering my poles.  I think poles would have definitely helped me from Base 2 to the end when my calf quit working.

 

  • I also could improve by not eating that stupid banana.  Puking lead to a minor bonk, as well as dehydration and associated muscle stiffness.  I was running downhill totally pain-free before that banana.

 

  • I also could improve by figuring out why I was peeing so much. I did seem to pee less after having some protein …

 

Thank you:

  • Matt – for being the best support crew I could ask for.  Not only on race day, but supporting me throughout my endless hours of racing

 

  • Patrick – for being an awesome training partner and finding us a sweet place to stay in Whistler.  I hope your feet heal up so we can get back out adventuring!

 

  • Gary and the CMTS team – Thank you for organizing this ridiculous race, even if I was cursing you at times.  The swag was awesome and organization impeccable.

 

  • Spry – your continued support enables me to pour my heart into this sport and lifestyle I love so much.

 

  • Katie – thanks again for lending me your watch all summer!

Meet the Minotaur 2019

I was really excited to race Meet the Minotaur this year.  I was healthy, there was no smoke, and I was eager to test myself on some true mountain terrain.  Admittedly, I hadn’t specifically trained for Meet the Minotaur. While I had lots of mountain time in my legs, I had done zero high intensity training and I worried the race would be too short for my diesel engine.  I also had just put in a big effort with the LRT the previous week, and it was likely that I still had deep lingering fatigue in my legs.  I didn’t give these detractors a lot of thought, and instead I lined up on the start line intent on racing hard and having fun. 

 

I knew several of the racers this year, and we were in mid-conversation standing on the startline when the race suddenly started and the runners surged ahead.  I was eager to push myself hard on this race course and I definitely started out too fast.  I followed last year’s winner Anna Koevoet as the pin flags led us through a non-trail section of forest. There was plenty of deadfall and several of the runners were running along stepping on top of the logs.  I’m paranoid of logs snapping and getting a stick through the leg (I’ve seen it happen) so I was the odd one out, stepping between the logs and practicing my hurdling skills.  I kept up okay, but I think my strategy was a little less efficient. 

 

It soon became apparent that the opening pace was way too quick if this was going to be a 4hr+ race. I was only 20 minutes in and already feeling hot, nauseous and light-headed.  My campmate Melody had decided to pull out of the race earlier that morning because she wasn’t feeling well and I wondered if I was also coming down with something.  I slowed down to a walk and let racers pass me.  Svenja caught up and jogged with me for a bit before moving ahead and I resisted the urge to give chase.  If I wanted to do well in this race I needed to get my effort level under control. 

 

I began to feel better and I slowly started to up the effort level. I was running my own race now and I felt much better for it.  I began to pass people back.  I was feeling good and everyone I was passing sounded like they were working very hard.  We were were climbing up a very steep slope to the unofficially named “Fish Peak”, and I enjoyed getting into my element.  At some point I passed Anna (I can’t remember whenbut I knew it would be difficult to catch Svenja. She is an experienced distance runner and over the last couple of years her mountain running skills have greatly improved.   

 

At the top of Fish Peak I passed by Abi who was volunteering, and Susan one of the RDs who was manning Checkpoint 1.  Now it was time for a very steep descent and I let myself run with joy, passing a few guys until I lost the flags and had to come to a screeching stop.  The runners behind me caught up, and then one of them saw a flag and we were off again.  This happened a few times on the descent (learned later that some sheep had been eating the flags), and I definitely lost a few minutes on this section.  This was also some of the steepest descending I’ve ever seen on a Minotaur course and I laughed to myself, thinking Ian must have been responsible for designing this section of the course.  We descended into the brush and I worked together with another runner, Jeff, to navigate the course.  Two pairs of eyes were definitely better than one and I enjoyed the company.  Before we knew it we were at checkpoint #2 and headed up our second big climb of the day. 

 

Jeff initially passed me on the climb, but soon I found my legs and I caught back up to him, passing several other racers as well.  I could see Svenja far ahead, but she appeared to be moving effortlessly and I couldn’t make up any ground.  I didn’t have the power in my legs that I’m used to on steep climbs and I couldn’t help but think I might be feeling some residual fatigue from the LRT.  I thought back to all the scrambles Svenja and I had done together, of all the times I had waited for her as she learned to move more efficiently on steep terrain.  I berated myself for teaching her too well!  Honestly though, it was super cool to see her kicking ass and I began to feel comfortable with the idea of second place. 

 

We gained the ridge heading up to the summit of Deadman Pass Peak where Ian was hanging out, monitoring a particularly exposed section of the route.  He egged me on, telling me I could catch Svenja on the descent.  I seem to be very susceptible to external encouragement and I took his words to heart. I kept Svenja insight for the rest of the climb and then worked on reeling her in as we descended the mountain.  I don’t think I made up any ground on her with this initial descent and I wondered if I should even bother.  Then the course turned onto a delicious ridgeline and we were able to cruise down the mountain with a full stride.  I let my legs go, and was surprised to find that my legs were very happy to run.  Svenja was still well ahead but I felt that I was moving quickly and I knew that I had to be making up ground on her.   

 

For the last several minutes I had been running neck and neck with my new friend Pascal. Pascal and I reached the last checkpoint just as Adrien and Svenja were taking off on the final descent back to the finish line. Pascal reached the checkpoint before me so I had to wait as he took a few more seconds than I would have liked to punch his card. Svenja was running away while I was waiting for the hole punch and I was impatient.  I punched my card as quickly as possible and took off, running around Adrien as he jokingly put his arms out to stop me.  I said a quick hi to Svenja, but I was intent on passing and putting as much distance between us as possible.  I knew that if there was any road running during the final kilometres that she would catch me.  I needed a buffer. 

 

I ran as hard as I dared, creating a bit of a gap, and then slowing down because of fatigue, and also because I was out of water.  Pascal caught back up to me and we worked together spotting flags through the deadfall as we worked our way back to the finish line.  The race organizers were a bit cruel on this section, we could have returned to the road and ran the last mile back to the finish but instead they made us bushwhack through the forest.  This worked to my advantage as I think if we’d had any more running Svenja would have caught me and we might have had a sprint finish.  As it was, I managed to hang on for the win with barely a minute to spare. 

 

After the race all of us hung out at the finish line for a few hours, drinking kombucha, eating tacos and cheering on runners.  I think Svenja and I are both looking forward to a rematch next year.  Meet the Minotaur is truly a unique event – if you have any interest at all, I highly recommend you sign up.  I promise it will be unlike any other race you’ve ever done.

 

  • Check out Svenja’s race report here, to hear her perspective of our battle on the Minotaur course.

 

The Livingstone Range Traverse

Over the past several years Matt and I have fallen in love with the Crowsnest Pass area of Southern Alberta. The land in the pass is wild and undeveloped. While most mountains in the region have routes to the summit, few of them have actual trails, and even fewer have trails that are marked on a map.  I love the lack of formality. 

 

It’s a 2.5hr drive from our place in Calgary to Crowsnest Pass, and I always know when we are getting close because a distinctive rocky, ridge rises into view west of the highway.  The wall of rock extends for 35km, beginning at the Oldman River and finishing at Hwy 3 near the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. The ridge is called the Livingstone Range, and it includes 5 mountain summits – Thunder Mountain, Lightning Peak, Centre Peak, Cauldron Mountain, and South Livingstone Peak.   

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The LRT in the distance, as seen during our drive down to The Pass.

The first recorded Livingstone Range Traverse (LRT) was completed by Rick Collier. You can still find Rick’s trip report on Bivouac and I have read it several times with interest, wondering if I would be able to follow his footsteps.  Rick completed the traverse in 3 days, losing elevation each night in order to find a camp with a source of water.  This style of travel sounded miserable to me, and I knew immediately that if I were to complete this traverse I would want to complete it in a day. 

 

A couple of years ago local athletes Andrew Fairhurst and Troy Misseghers completed the LRT in a single push.  When I saw the route pop up on my Strava feed my head nearly exploded.  Andrew and Troy are on a much higher fitness level than me, but seeing their adventure made this dream of mine seem more possible. The following year Andrew and Troy completed the traverse again, smashing their previous time and completing the route in just under 12hrs! My dream had now become a goal, and I asked my adventure partner Arielle if she would want to attempt this route with me.   

 

Our first attempt on the LRT failed quickly.  It was May 2018 and the ridge was engulfed in cloud with a fresh layer of snow and verglas up top.  We made it up Thunder Mountain, but the ridge over to Lightning Peak was clearly impassable in these conditions.  We decided to bail and comeback on a better day. 

 

Our second trip up to the LRT was with our friend Philippe.  We were hoping to scope out the section from Thunder all the way over to Centre Peak, but route finding proved to be trickier than anticipated and after 6hrs of scrambling we had only made it to Lightning Peak.  This was a very enlightening day for us.  Originally we had thought that 16hrs would be a reasonable time for the traverse, but now we were thinking it would take 20hrs+.  Ugh, I don’t particularly enjoy sleep deprivation. 

 

On July 28th, 2019 the weather and route conditions finally lined up on a day when both Arielle and myself were free.  It was time to give this a serious go.  At 4am Arielle and I began our hike up Thunder Mountain.  We were travelling by the lights of our headlamps, but this was our 3rd time up this route so navigating was seamless.  By 5:30am the sun was rising and we were taking our first summit pic.  As we gazed across at the jagged ridge leading over to Lightning Peak, we hoped we would have better luck with our route selection this time around. 

Following the advice from Andrew and Troy we aimed to stay on top of the ridge as much as possible, only dropping down when it was necessary and following goat trails until we could regain the top of the ridge.  We made good decisions and moved efficiently, reaching Lightning Peak in roughly 5hrs.  We were stoked with our progress and excited to explore the next portion of the ridge which was entirely unknown to us.  Arielle’s boyfriend Vlad was going to meet us at Centre Peak with more water, however we were moving so well that we thought we would beat him there.  We sent him a text to tell him not to bother, and he decided that he would start at the south end of the ridge and meet us from that end.  Arielle and I had both started with 3L of water and the weather was quite warm so we conserved as much as possible. 

The traverse over to Centre Peak took forever! Our text to Vlad proved premature, as we did not make it up to the summit until well after our overly optimistic time estimate. We were still moving efficiently, but the ridge is just so long and slow!  sections of the ridge are extremely exposed with cliffs on either side, while at other times we would be forced to drop off the top of the ridge and find routes around pinnacles.  There was absolutely no running and every step was taken with care.  Eventually we found ourselves on the summit of Centre Peak; there was no celebration, just a sense of relief. 

We knew from talking to Troy and Andrew that the real difficulties of the route lay on the south half of the route.  Apparently there was some difficult scrambling with high consequence, and we wondered what was in store.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) Arielle and I were so used to exposure by this point that nothing phased us.  I could have walked on a 2×4 plank, 100m above the ground and I don’t think it would have phased me.  We continued our constant forward progress, eventually reaching the summit of Cauldron Peak.  Arielle sent Vlad a text letting him know that we were in fact still moving, and I stopped to tape some hot spots on my feet.  This is when I realized that large holes had ripped open the uppers of my Scarpa approach shoes.  Oh well, that’s why I brought duct tape 😊   I taped up my shoes the best I could and on we went.  1.5km later we found Vlad lounging on a sub-peak.  He had had hiked up with 5L of water for us from the south end of the ridge.  Neither Arielle or myself were out of water at this point, but it was nice to stop conserving and be able to drink as much as we wanted. I had felt mildly thirsty (drinking just enough to keep my stomach happy) for most of the trip. 

The next portion of ridge was extremely undulating with a few tricky sections. The 3 of us hiked mostly together until we finally reached the summit of South Livingstone. Arielle’s stomach was giving her a bit of grief so she held back a bit but was still moving at a good pace. Just like Centre Peak, the summit of South Livingstone seemed to take forever to appear and when we finally crested the top it was with a huge feeling of relief.  Vlad took a couple of photos of us and then we were off running to the Interpretive Centre.  

The South Livingstone trail was overgrown and much of it was not exactly runnable.  I did not take the most efficient line and 20 minutes later the 3 of us were all back together, even though Vlad hadn’t run a step.  How demoralizing. Vlad suggested we follow a drainage down, promising that it would lead us to the road to the Interpretive Centre.  Arielle and I ran off ahead again, eager to get somewhere with decent footing so that we could finally open our strides and run.  The drainage proved to be a bit bushwhacky, but the flowers were beautiful and we were in pretty good spirits considering we had been moving for over 13hrs.  If we didn’t get lost we might be able to finish in under 14hrs, a time that neither of us had thought was realistic at the start of the day. 

 

Finally, we reached the dirt road and we knew we were only 3km to the finish line!  Now it was Arielle’s turn to wait for me as she is a much stronger road runner than I am.  I did my best to keep up a good pace and we even managed to run a sub 5min kilometre (downhill).   The final 800m was uphill on paved road to the parking lot and Arielle pulled ahead trying to encourage me to run faster, but pavement saps all the energy from my legs and I had nothing left to give.  We finished the route in 13:55, super excited with our time and the efficiency that we had moved with throughout most of the day. 

 

 Post-script: 

A few days later, after we had submitted our run to the FKT pro-board, Troy sends me a message.  “Hey, did you know that we finished at the highway, not at the Interpretive Centre when we did our FKT?”  

Long story short, there was a misunderstanding with the location of the finish line and Arielle and I took an unintentional shortcut.  The true FKT route stays on the ridge the entire way to the highway, rather than turning off the ridge and heading to the Interpretive Centre.  Our route was a few kilometres shorter than the true ridge route and had less bushwhacking, it was also the route that Andrew had given me with his GPX track from their 2017 traverse.  I still feel like we completed the spirit of the route since the crux of this route is really about scrambling along an endless rocky ridge, not about bushwhacking to a highway.  However, anyone who considers a future FKT attempt should take this information into account.   

 

We refuelled from our long day out with burgers, fries and root beers at A&W. I definitely feel that this should become part of the LRT FKT tradition.  A&W is basically located at the termination of the ridge so it’s meant to be 😊