Tag Archives: gratitude

Not Running Across Alberta

If you followed along on any of my social media feeds, you will know that I did not make it across Alberta.  On the plus side, I did succeed in setting a new personal distance best of 210km.  I started to write a novel of a blog post outlining everything that happened on this adventure, but it was bland.  Instead, I’ll highlight some of my observations.

  1. Dave is superhuman. I am honoured to have been able to join him for just a glimpse of his journey, even if I was only able to keep up for 68km 🙂
  2. It’s hard to quit when it feels like the entire ultra-community is willing you on to succeed.  I was incredibly touched by the amount of support I received, either through social media, text messages or people meeting me on the side of the road.  Thank you for all your support.
  3. When choosing a pace, always listen to your body. Don’t look at your watch. Don’t follow someone else’s pace.  Don’t set arbitrary timelines. The more you can follow your own internal clock, the more successful your adventure will be.
  4. Ice Caps are right up there with beer for magical ultra fuel. Thanks mom, you made my day!
  5. Along the same lines, milk is the ultimate recovery drink.  After my second long day on the road my muscles were in pain and I was having difficulty even lying down to sleep.  Matt gave me a large glass of milk and 30 minutes later the pain was gone!  I was ready to run again.
  6. I have a pretty wonderful partner in crime. Our last 3 wedding anniversaries have been spent staying up all night at Sinister 7.  This year was not much different, as Matt spent the night following behind me in a car as I ran through the night to try to catch Dave in Chestermere.
  7. If you are repeatedly puking, take the time to stop and reset.  Continuing to run depleted will just dig yourself into a deeper hole.  I was puking on the morning of day two for no obvious reason, although I think I was still recovering from the heat on day 1.  We stopped, ate some food and then sat there for 30 minutes to allow the food to digest.  After that, no more puking!  I was able to eat and run again!
  8. The human body is incredibly resilient IF you have the patience to let it adapt.  In 2010 I had a metatarsal stress fracture in my foot which occurred while running a marathon, I thought my body couldn’t handle long distances.  This past week I ran 210km and I got really tired, but suffered no injuries.  This resilience has been built up through years of consistent training and fueling my body with the nutrients it needs.
  9. Know when to call it quits.  After running for 210km, including a 4.5hr stretch through the night, I was exhausted. I needed to regroup and have a nap.  Upon awaking from the nap, Matt and I did the math.  There was no way I could make it to the Saskatchewan border before I had to get back to work.  We decided to cut our losses and head to the woods for some much needed R and R.
  10. Gratitude. These endurance attempts are not a solo project.  I would not be able to chase these dreams without the support of so many people:
    • To Wayne, Trish and Dave.  Thank you so much for letting us tag along.  I’m so sorry we weren’t more helpful.
    • To my sister Ellycia.  Thank you for taking care of Moxie for us while we attempted to this ridiculous stunt.
    • To the staff at the Canmore Hospital.  Thank you for assessing me and giving me the confidence to know that I could continue to push myself without worrying about permanent damage.
    • To Salming, Altra and Spry.  Thank you for your support, without which I would never have even began this journey.

Gear and fuel (because people always ask me about this stuff).

  • Climb On bar for anti-chafing.  I applied this to my feet and other typical problem areas a couple of times a day.  I had no blisters and no chafing, which is amazing because I chafe more than almost anyone I know.
  • Salming Speed 6 for the first 53km.  When we left Lake Louise at 5am it was low light and these shoes are super reflective.
  • Altra Escalantes for the last 157km.  These shoes have a nice, wide toe box and cushioned ride.  They feel like slippers on my feet.
  • Swiftwick Socks – These socks never bunch or slip, are seamless and incredibly durable.  By far my favourite socks.
  • Ultraspire Spry 2.0 vest – This is the lightest hydration vest I own.  It was perfect for holding 1.5L of water, my phone and a few snacks.
  • Smithbilt Outrun Rare hat – I highly recommend wearing this hat on hot or rainy days.  It is very comfortable and you can throw a handful of ice in the top.  The cool water will melt down your head as you run.  Not recommended for winds over 50kph.  A portion of the proceeds go towards the Rare Disease Foundation.
  • Jujubes, Sour Dinos, Timbits (various flavours), Doritos, Iogo drinkable yogurt, Clif Bars, Oreos (various flavours), diluted Gatorade (lemon lime), Tim Horton’s Iced Cappucinos, Miller Genuine Draft, Gu Roctane electrolyte tablets, water, coffee with lots of milk and sugar.  Twice I attempted to eat a sandwich, those instances ended badly.

And now, I will head back to my home in the mountains.

Please follow along as Dave continues to run across Canada at http://www.outrunrare.com

Happy Trails!

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Spray Valley 10 – The Conclusion

Part I and Part II


We gave ourselves the luxury of an 8 hour sleep on day 3.  Neither Arielle nor I could stomach the thought of another 4am wake up call.  Both of us were feeling the effects of the last two days, and we took some extra time in the morning to tape up any hot spots on our feet and massage our sore joints back to life.

We left the campground at 8:30am and 10 minutes later we were hiking up Rimwall.  Oleg led the way up the mountain, and with his expert route-finding we made it to the summit without issue.  I was impressed with the efficiency of our movement, maybe it would be a short day!  I began to dream about a shower and a soft bed.

The scree run down Rimwall was super fun and we were laughing as we flew down the mountain.  It was the calm before the storm.


 

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Fun times running down Rimwall!


I don’t remember exactly when it started, but at some point Arielle began to complain about some pain on the inside of her knee.  As soon as she described the pain in detail I knew what it was – pes anserine bursitis.  I have had this condition a few times and it is very painful.  The only way to relieve the pain is with ice, but we had none.

The condition is aggravated whenever you have to lift your leg more than a few inches off the ground.  Seeing as we were scrambling over boulders and up steep mountain terrain, this meant it was aggravated with every step.


The route up The Orphan begins in a dry creek bed which is littered with flood debris. Normally this kind of boulder hopping would be fun, but Arielle was soon in tears.  Every step was agony.  We found a cold stream and took some time to ice the knee.  I tried to comfort Arielle by telling her that this was not a long term injury.  My experiences with the same condition had never lasted more than a few days. I’m not sure that my words helped.

Arielle soldiered on up the steep slope to the summit of The Orphan.  It was our 9th mountain of the weekend and we were both ready to be done.  One more to go, we told ourselves.  We could do it.

The steep downhill was agony for Arielle and she would break the silence every once and awhile with a scream of pain.  If this was her coping mechanism, that was fine with me.  Just let it out!

We stopped at another cold stream to ice.  Arielle looked so determined.  I would have been totally okay if she had thrown in the towel after hobbling down The Orphan and called it quits, but she never mentioned stopping.  Her determination was so inspiring.  I thought about all the times that I’ve given up when things have gotten harder than I’d bargained for.



I was apprehensive about going up Big Sister.  Big Sister is not an easy mountain.  It is relentlessly steep with tons of slab and Arielle’s knee was going to hate her. Not only was Arielle moving like a peg-leg, but I was also having my own issues.  My mind was completely spent.  It was like I had used up all of my emotions and now I was reduced to a walking zombie.  If shit happened I didn’t trust myself to make any rational decisions.  I kept these reservations to myself, trusting Vlad and Oleg to make the rational decisions for us.

We followed Vlad and Oleg up the mountain, with Oleg keeping a careful eye on Arielle and acting as the ultimate pacer.  Thunderstorms swirled around us, but Big Sister remained dry.  It felt like we had some sort of higher power watching over us.  Eventually we made the summit, and enjoyed a muted celebration.  We weren’t done until we made it down.  We all knew that the down was going to be ugly, but at least we also knew that every step was leading us closer to the finish line.

I must have fallen 10 or 20 times on our way back.  They were controlled falls, but still … my coordination by this point was completely deteriorated.  I felt stoned and drunk.  I could only imagine how Arielle must have felt.

As we neared the bottom Oleg asked me how I felt about completing this adventure.  The truth was, that I didn’t know.  At the moment I didn’t feel anything.  And to be honest, I rarely feel much of anything (besides relief) when I reach a finish line.  I am so process oriented that I get nearly all of my joy out of the hard work and preparation which goes into eventually (hopefully) succeeding at a goal.  To borrow a quote I recently read on Amelia Boone’s Instagram “If you love the process, the results will follow. And if the results don’t follow, it doesn’t matter because the fulfillment and joy was always in the process itself.”

In the weeks leading up to this event I loved mapping out the route, scouting out the trails with Arielle, figuring out what gear we would need, putting together a team of committed friends, and getting as much vertical as possible into our legs in an attempt to make them unbreakable.  During the SV10, I loved the problem solving Arielle and I had to do as we ran into unexpected road blocks.  I even value the mistakes we made, such as not going back to the campground to get the right equipment or my epic bonk on the first day, because those mistakes are learning experiences for future adventures. I didn’t enjoy seeing Arielle in pain, but I loved seeing her unshakable determination.

After some reflection, I would say that I feel pretty good about this adventure.  It has been a great learning experience which can be used as a stepping stone for other projects.  It is another part of the process in the push towards finding my own personal limits.


The rain began to fall a few minutes before we reached the parking lot.  It was a refreshing way to finish our journey.  Vlad and Oleg went ahead, while
Arielle and I reached the parking lot together.  We were too tired for a  jumping photo, but we did manage a synchronized handstand shot.

Total Distance – 135km

Total Elevation Gain – 12 000m

Total Time – 13hrs + 18hrs + 12hrs = 43hrs of moving time.  65hrs elapsed.  Just a little longer than planned 😉



Thank you to everyone who has supported us throughout this journey.  We could not have done it without you!

  • To the friends who joined us along our journey: Patrick, Ryan, Andrew, Colin, Vlad, Alex and Oleg
  • To our crew who took care of us when we were too tired to take care of ourselves: Matt and Elena
  • To Ian and Susan for supporting us throughout this journey
  • Icebug (shoes)
  • UltrAspire (packs and hydration bladders)
  • Swiftwick (socks and arm sleeves)
  • Veriga (crampons)

 

Running Scared – Diez Vista 100km (2017)

Preamble:

As is my usual M.O., I took a good look at the entrants list before going into this race. There were a few stand out names I recognized, and I was sure there would also be some strong local runners who I didn’t recognize.  I made a list of the women who I was certain would be miles ahead of me:

  • Samantha Drove
  • Tracy Garneau
  • Amy Sproston
  • Darla Askew

If you don’t know who these ladies are, just Google them.

I decided to let those women battle it out for the podium positions, and then maybe I could sneak in for 5th place.  I’ve heard that in some sports they have extended podiums that include the top-5 🙂

I didn’t want to have a goal which was strictly placement-oriented, so I came up with a time-oriented goal as well.  Two years ago I ran the 50km version of DV in 5:50, so I figured I should be able to complete the 100km version in sub-12hrs, roughly double that amount of time.  Sure, I would slow down over 100km, but I am also fitter now than I was two years ago.

I spent the days leading up to the race hanging out at my sister’s place in Vancouver.  We ate copious amounts of sushi and my brother-in-law cooked up a mountain of crepes. There was also plenty of beer.  I was carb-loading like a boss.

 

The Race:

The race began in the pouring rain, but the forecast was calling for the rain to lighten up as the day went on.  I decided to wear shorts (I hate wet pants), a t-shirt (so that if the weather improved I wouldn’t be too hot), and a water-proof jacket.

The race started in the dark at 6am and I found myself running next to Amy Sproston (I recognized her from Google).  Running near her was disconcerting, but I wasn’t breathing hard and my legs felt good so I decided to just go with it.  We took turns sharing the lead for the first 15km and I wasn’t sure where the other All Star ladies were.  My Icebug Animas were gripping extremely well on the rocky/muddy trail, so I was able to run down the hills with ease, outrunning all of the nearby runners only to be passed again once we got back onto smoother trail.

At the 15km junction we turned onto the steep and technical Diez Vista trail.  Amy was about a minute ahead of me, but I soon caught up and she motioned for me to pass.  Nowhere in my pre-race planning had I ever envisioned leading this race.  I felt like an imposter, but I decided that if the other ladies were going to pass me then I was going to make them work for it.

For the rest of the DV trail I was entirely on my own – no one to see in front of me and no one visible behind me.  I focused on staying smooth and relaxed. The rain was pouring down in buckets now, and at one point it even started to hail.  I had flashbacks of running Fat Dog 120, when the rain came down and runners began to drop like flies with hypothermia.  I told myself to keep on eating and to avoid puking at all costs.  “Keep the furnace burning” became my mantra.  In hindsight, the terrible weather may have been a blessing-in-disguise, as it kept me very process-oriented.

Eventually I got off the DV trail and onto more runnable terrain.  The trail was super cruisey and I found myself running all the uphills and flying on the downs.  I did quite a bit of downhill-focused training in the weeks leading up to Diez Vista, so I was confident I was not going to blow my quads out with the speedy downhill pace. The fun trail eventually intersected with a flat, gravel road.  I sighed and kept on running.

 

Side note:

I am not a road runner.  Occasionally I have fits of delirium where I think I want to learn how to run properly on the roads, but it only takes me one or two road workouts to come back to my senses.  My road running skill (or lack of skill) is a serious liability for me if I want to be a competitive ultra-runner.  Thankfully the weather really sucked this winter so I was forced to embrace the treadmill for several runs while my asthma went into full revolt from the cold air.  The extra treadmill running has resulted in moderately better flat running speed.

 

Back to the race:

My improved road running skills came in handy during the several out-and-back road sections on the DV course.  With each out-and-back I could see my competitors gaining on me, but I was able to move fast enough that I could get back to the safety of the trails without getting caught.  I felt like a hunted animal, searching for the safety of a burrow or thicket.  (We’ve been reading Watership Down).

The course turned onto a trail which ran up under a power line.  The rain was falling harder now, and a bit of a cold breeze picked up.  My t-shirt wasn’t cutting it and I could feel the cold begin to seep into my bones.

I ran down a series of switchbacks into the next aid station where Matt was waiting for me with a merino wool long-sleeve, water-proof cap, fresh buff and some mitts.  Having Matt there with warm clothes probably saved my race. I knew that taking the time to change into warmer clothing was going to cost me the lead, but I also knew that if I didn’t take the time to take care of myself I was going to end up hypothermic.

It seemed to take forever to towel off and change my clothes, but surprisingly none of the other ladies caught me.  I wondered if they were toying with me.

The next section of the course was fun, uphill trail.  I settled into a good rhythm and found myself at the top of the climb way too soon.  I had been enjoying the climb so much I didn’t want it to end 🙂  Now we were running on wide double-track trail underneath a power line for several kilometres.  The trail crossed over raging streams and waterfalls, I wondered if they would burst their banks.  A slight, cold wind had picked up and the rain continued to pour down.  It was so cold, and I was so thankful for my wool shirt.

This section was, once again, an out-and-back.  And, once again, nobody caught me but several ladies were very close.  I was well over 40km into the race and I just wanted to relax. I told myself that I was never going to take the lead in the first half of a race ever again.  It is much more fun to chase than to be chased.

I got off the power line trail and enjoyed several kilometres of super fun trail.  I bombed down the switchbacks as fast as I could without colliding into any of the runners who were on their way up, and then embraced the power-hike back up the appropriately named “FU” Hill.  Near the top of the hill I ran into Katie who graciously volunteered to tackle the other girls for me if they got to close.  Thanks for helping me out Katie 🙂

From the top of FU Hill it was mostly downhill to the Start/Finish area, which was at the 59km mark of the race (it’s a convoluted course).  This was the lowest point of my race.  From the very beginning of the run, there had not been a single moment of relaxation.  There were so many times when I just wanted to slow down and take a walk break, but I couldn’t find a good excuse!  My legs felt fine, my stomach was fine, my HR wasn’t too high, my feet weren’t blistered.  I just wanted someone to pass me so that I could stop running so hard. I wanted a nap.

I came into the aid station determined to sit down and have a break, but nobody offered me a seat.  Instead, they all told me how good I looked, gave me a cup of hot soup and sent me out of there (after taking a quick photo with Gary).

I found myself running back towards FU Hill, when all I wanted to do was walk.  I needed an attitude check and I pulled out all of my mental tricks:

  • I reminded myself to be grateful.  There were over 100 volunteers who had given up their day to hang out in the rain and make sure I got to the finish line!
  •  I reasoned with myself; there’s less than a marathon left!
  • I tried to find some body parts to gripe about, but everything felt fine.
  • I smiled at the runners who were coming down the hill as I made my way up.  Fake it ’til you make it.

By the time I made it to the next aid station my attitude had begun to come around.  I’d made it this far, I may as well finish this thing up. I enjoyed a cup of hot soup and then slowly made my way out and back up the hill to run the power-line trail for the final time.  I was dreading that power-line trail, it was going to be so freaking cold!

Then something wonderful happened, I got caught!  It was the first person, man or woman, to catch up with me all day.  I can’t remember this guy’s name, but he was the most positive person I have ever met on the trails.  He talked about how much he was looking forward to getting back on that power-line trail and seeing those BEAUTIFUL waterfalls. That conversation changed the rest of my race and I found myself completely re-energized.  I picked up the pace and left my new friend behind as I gained a sudden burst of motivation.

During my trip back on the power-line trail I noticed that my lead had grown by a few minutes, and that the chase pack had shrunk from 4 ladies to just one. I assumed the other women had dropped out.  The weather was so bad, I couldn’t really blame them.

Back down the hill I went, feeling smooth and looking forward to more hot soup at the 80km aid station.  I drank a lot of soup at this race, and each aid station had a different delicious flavour! Strava tells me I had over 1.5hrs of stoppage time, I’m sure most of that was spent drinking soup.

At the 80km aid station I learned that I was not only 1st lady, but 3rd overall!  How exciting!  I left the aid station in good spirits, bound for the final aid station of the race before reversing the technical DV trail and running back to the finish line.

I spent too much time drinking soup at the final stop (87km) and one of the guys caught up and passed me.  He was the only person to pass me all day.  I had hoped to catch back up to him on the technical trail, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The narrow DV trail had transformed into a river with freezing cold water.  My frostbitten feet complained loudly as I forced them to keep moving forward in the bitter cold.  Whenever I could, I would detour widely around the water. I was moving very slowly.

Eventually the trail climbed high enough that the rivers reduced to mere streams.  I was able to move more smoothly, but I still didn’t feel particularly quick.  Whenever I needed to eat or drink I would stop and stand in place.  I didn’t trust myself to simultaneously walk, eat and not trip on a root or rock.

I got back onto less technical trail and was happy to discover that I still had the energy to run. I ran down the hills, and shuffled on the flats and ups. The kilometres ticked by and when I reached the stairs which led up to the finish line I knew I had finally made it.  I confess that I did not run up the stairs (I walked them), but I did manage to run to the finish line where Gary Robbins was waiting with a big hug.  I tried my best not to ugly cry.

1st lady, 4th overall, 13:15.

Epilogue:

  • Most exhausted muscles: forearms, biceps and shoulders from holding onto my heavy, wet mitts!
  • Blisters: None!
  • Chaffing: Everywhere!!!  Body Glide did not last.  Also, I am not used to prolonged rain running.
  • Fuel:
    • Gu and Hammer gels (various flavours)
    • Mini Starburst (although these tasted amazing, I wouldn’t recommend it in the future.  My mouth turned into a giant canker sore)
    • Soup (vegetable broth, tomato, carrot, squash)
    • 3 caffeine pills (100mg, every 4 hrs)
    • 3 salt pills (whenever I felt nauseous)
    • Water whenever I felt like it.
  • Gear:
    • Icebug Animas
    • Swiftwick 7″ socks
    • Ultraspire Spry 2.0 pack
    • Asics shorts.
    • Costco merino wool long-sleeve shirt
    • Mountain Hardwear jacket (men’s small so that I could fit it over my pack instead of under it)
    • Running Room mitts
    • Icebug buff (x2)
    • Nike waterproof golf cap
    • Petzl Tikka headlamp
  • Thank you:
    • To my wonderfully, unbelievably, supportive husband
    • To Susannah and Bernard for hosting us for the week
    • To Gary Robbins and Ridgeline Athletics for putting on this event and dreaming up the 100km course
    • To Ian and the team at Rockgear Distribution for helping me out with gear to train and race in
    • To my training partners who help me believe in myself and enable me to dare to dream bigger

 

Next up, Bighorn 100 Miler in June!

 

Happy Trails!

 

 

 

 

 

Healthcare

Today I am thankful for healthcare. Two weeks ago I had a gaping hole in my knee, exposing tendon and bone. With the help of a skilled doctor and some magic sutures, my skin has reconnected.

Tomorrow I get my sutures out. I will be bringing my running gear to the doctor’s office. My legs are twitching.

Happy Trails!

I’m looking forward to being able to stretch my quads again 🙂

 

Seasons

My Facebook feed exploded with photos of snowy mountains this morning. No snow reached the city but we did have a refreshing rain shower and the air was crisp with a bit of bite. Winter is definitely on its way.

Today I am a thankful for seasons. Each season brings with it new possibilities and exciting new adventures. Spring brings long days, a welcome reprieve from the cold, and excitement as new trails start to open up. Summer is the season of wild flowers, camping and epic long runs. Autumn is filled with spectacular sunsets, brilliant yellow larches, and heart pounding scrambles.

This year I’m particularly excited for winter. There is nothing more beautiful than snowy mountains on a bluebird day, but I also love my evening runs in the dark. Just me and my headlamp, the sound of the snow crunching under my feet. Winter running is meditative. I rarely see another soul to interrupt my reverie.

Happy Trails!

A snowy winter wonderland