Tag Archives: injury

Getting Back to My Roots – January Recap

After a frustrating year of not feeling like myself, I have decided that 2019 will be dedicated to doing what I love most – mountain adventures.  So far it is going well with mild temperatures enabling lots of scrambling and trail running, while still continuing to explore more and more on my touring skis.  My only complaint is that the front range xc ski trails have not been very good, but you can’t have it all 🙂


The month of January was dedicated to getting as much vert as possible, and my friend Philippe set up his annual vert challenge for a little extra motivation.  I kicked off the month with a 5-peat on Prairie Mountain.  This was an intimidating run as I hadn’t done that much vert (3500m) in a single push in many months.

I had the not-so-bright idea of trying to fuel with beer, one beer for every summit.  This was my thought process:

  • I planned to do 90 minute laps so I shouldn’t get drunk.
  • Alcohol contains 7 cal/g, as compared to carbs which only have 4 cal/g, so it seemed like an efficient way to fuel.
  • Historically, pedestrians used beer during multi-day races.
  • I like beer.

Unfortunately I quickly learned that beer is not a good fuel for ultras, as alcohol blocks normal carbohydrate uptake. By my 4th repeat (about 5hrs in) I had a massive bonk.  It felt like I was drunk, but looking back on it I think I was just extremely low in blood sugar.  After stumbling down the mountain I had a Mars bar and about 10 Oreos (no exaggeration); instantly I felt much better.  The 5th repeat felt a lot stronger than the 4th and I finished the day feeling successful.


I had another big day on my feet with the French-Haig-Robertson Traverse.  This traverse is a classic ski tour that I’ve been thinking about since I got my touring skis.  The route has also been nicknamed the Majo traverse since he’s done it so many times,so when I heard he was planning a trip out I asked to come along.

The forecast was not looking good and I fully expected the trip to be cancelled, but on Saturday morning Majo and I (and 13 other Slovaks) were in the Burstall Pass parking lot preparing to head up the trail.  The snow was lightly falling, with hardly a breath of wind as we made our way up French Creek.  It was a perfect morning and I wondered if the sky might even clear up. We hit our first obstacle as we reached the basin below French glacier.  The group had split into two pace groups, so we waited for the slower group to catch up before heading toward the glacier.  The wind picked up and temperatures dropped as we approached the glacier.  The snow was windswept and crusty, which made skinning across the angled slopes very tricky.  The slower skiers were struggling to keep up, and the faster skiers were getting cold waiting.  The decision was made to split the group in two, 8 people turned around and 7 of us continued on.

I was familiar with about 80% of the route, and I was fairly certain that following the skin track back would be more difficult than continuing up the glacier to the Robertson col.  Majo assured me I’d be fine on the col so I continued forward on the traverse with the 6 other guys.  This was my first experience in high winds on skis.  The wind would catch my pack, and I got blown over a couple of times as I was slow to react to the sudden gusts.  Every once and awhile I found myself worrying that I wouldn’t be able to ski down in these conditions. This is when the other side of my brain would assert itself and convince me to keep moving; it wouldn’t be windy on the other side of the col and the wind was blowing all the nice soft snow over there so I would be able to ski just fine.  Sometimes when I have these internal debates I feel a bit schizophrenic.  We got over the col, and were completely sheltered from the wind as predicted. The ski down was lots of fun, with soft snow almost the entire way.

The entire traverse took us just under 6.5 hrs. It wasn’t the stunning day with incredible views that I had envisioned, but it was a mountain adventure all about making new friends and learning new skills.  I’m already looking forward to doing it again.


I woke up on January 26th to hail, lightning and driving rain.  It was like an alternate universe had suddenly appeared.  The plan was to scramble up a couple of mountains, but I wondered whether or not I should even leave the house.  Thankfully Leo was driving so I didn’t have to think too hard, and he white-knuckled his way out to the trailhead as Philippe and I enjoyed our role as passengers.

The first objective on our list was Gap Peak.  Philippe and I had been up before, but this was Leo’s first time.  The rain/snow mixture had stopped falling and we enjoyed mild temperatures as we hiked up the steep slope.  In keeping with the crazy weather, a blizzard blew in, and then blew out, treating us to amazing views of the Bow Valley.  We had been a little concerned about traversing the summit ridge with the forecast high winds, but the winds were not bad and the ridge conditions were excellent.  It was the perfect ascent.

The descent was nearly as perfect, but I sprained my ankle a few hundred metres from the parking lot. I felt the pop, and although it wasn’t particularly painful, my stomach felt sick.  I was pretty sure this was going to need some recovery time.

After a few tentative steps I found that I could weight-bear without pain, so we decided that we could still go up a second peak.  I could start my recovery tomorrow.

Another storm blew in, and by the time we made the 10 minute drive over to Mount Yamnuska it was snowing.  Thankfully I could power hike without pain, so I was able to maintain a reasonable pace as we made our way up to the chimney.  The trail had been fairly clear up to this point, but now it was becoming quite slick with snow and ice.  I delayed putting on spikes for as long as possible as I was fairly certain they would aggravate my ankle, but eventually I had to put them on.

Neither Leo or Philippe had been up Yam, so I had the privilege of leading them across the chains and the even trickier section afterwards for their very first time. In a blizzard!  Yamnuska is a much tougher mountain in winter conditions and I was super impressed with their composure as we safely navigated the exposed terrain and made our way up to the summit.

Leo lent me his poles for the downhill, as I was nervous about rolling my ankle again. All was well until the traverse across the scree slope just a few kilometres away from the car.  Snow had balled up underneath my spikes and I rolled my ankle again; the pain dropped me to the ground and brought tears to my eyes.  At this point the path was snowy but not icy so I decided to take the spikes off. Sadly, the damage was done.  I hobbled my way down the path back to the car with Philippe and Leo leading the way.


The ankle is healing well, but I had to take the rest of January off. It was disappointing because I wasn’t able to push to compete for the win in Philippe’s elevation challenge.  Still, I finished the month with over 25,000m of climbing and I’m feeling quite satisfied with my climbing fitness at the moment.  I was already planning to schedule a rest week, so now I just get to start it a few days early. Here’s hoping February ends on a more positive note 🙂

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Training update

My philosophy in training for the Alberta run goes something like this: 

  • Run lots 
  • Don’t get hurt 
  • Eat all the food 

In reality, not getting hurt is the most crucial part of this whole training thing.  I’ve only partially succeeded in this goal: 

  • Several weeks ago I developed a blister on the back of each of my heels from my xc ski boots 
  • I made these blisters worse by trail running on them with the wrong socks 
  • The blisters were lonely, so I decided to develop a second set by allowing ice to build up on the inside of my hiking boots. 
  • I made these blisters totally raw by post-holing along a ridge for 8 hours. 
  • These blisters refused to heal until Gord sent me to Kenron pharmacy, where they sold me a magical bandage called MeFix. 
  • The blisters are now 90% gone, but limping around for weeks has given me massive knots in my calves and rather tender Achilles tendons. 

I’m an idiot because this entire cascade of events is preventable; I’m a stubborn idiot because I kept pushing through it.  The stiffness in my calves/ankles caught up with me on Saturday when I attempted to run 100km on trail in Bragg Creek.  My sore ankles were affecting my biomechanics, and 10km into the run I twisted my knee slightly and something pinched.  It was a painful, unnatural feeling, instantly filling me with dread. I ran on for another 10km hoping the pain would subside, but it only increased.  I decided to stop being a stubborn idiot and packed it in.   

The next day I iced the knee a bit to try to get the swelling out, walked around the neighbourhood for about an hour, and played some casual frisbee.  I also spent some time with the lacrosse ball, massaging out my giant knots. The knee felt tight, but there was no pain.  

After another rest day and some quality time with the lacrosse ball, I tried a 1 hour run on the trails with my friend Kim.  The knee felt fine.  It seems I have dodged a bullet, but my body was giving me a warning shot. My daily routine now includes regular dates with the lacrosse ball and proper foot care to prevent further damage to my poor heels. 

 

Some training highlights since my last post include: 

  • A 49km run from Bowness to Fish Creek.  Including my first ever ice cream from Village! 
  • A 30km lack-lustre MEC race where I was reminded that there is a reason why I never race with a watch 
  • A 46km trail run with some speedy guys 
  • Fun scrambles up Limestone, Yamnuska and Burke. 

Upcoming challenges include: 

  • Pacing the 3:45 group at the Calgary marathon 
  • More mountain days (because they make me happy) 
  • Some longer road runs in the 6-7hr range.  I might try this with a 20 minute lunch break in the middle to test out my stomach. 

5 weeks of training left! 

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)

 

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