Thursday, September 24, 2009

Last trail race of the season...and some Skoki fun!

So now that i've taken almost a month to get out the full Transrockies Report...what else have I been doing with my time since the finish of TR?

Two weeks after Transrockies ended, I took part in my first 5 peaks race in Canmore! I've been signing up for some of these races each year and every year something comes up that prevents me from running them! Finally I was about to do one...the Canmore 5 Peaks half marathon, wahoo! I was a little worried that racing so soon after TR would be a bad idea but my legs felt pretty good and this was to be the shortest race i've done all summer! Couldn't be that bad!?

I got to Canmore about an hour early so I could chill and get ready. I always like to be to the start of races early so I can get a good warmup and stretch in, as well as a little socializing or nervous chatter in. I had a bunch of friends doing the 14km race but since it started an hour after me, none of them were there yet. I did run into a few people who were running the half that had also run TR...Phil Villaneuve and Blaine Penny. And I was so pumped to see Leslie from Banff was there also!!! I love this girl and she makes me smile everytime I see her and I'm instantly cheerful...she is awesome! She was volunteering and an awesome cheerleader the couple of times I passed her during the race! Also a huge shout out to her as she runs her first 100 miler in Utah this weekend!!! Check out the Bear 100 and they update the live race results!

I'd never run in Canmore on the trails of the Nordic Centre before so it was a real treat! I'm not going to go into the details of the entire race but it was fun! I can't wait to run out there more often! It was a super rolling course with some wicked steep steep steep technical downhills that were awesome. Surprisingly I ran pretty quick down those and made up time on people which was shocking as we are all beginning to learn how I am on technical downhills! Apparently I just might be getting better than when I started this year :) I battled it out with some talented ladies and ended up placing as the 2nd female overall. Good times! It hurt though and my legs hated me....helllllo? Wasn't Transrockies enough pain for the summer? Sorry legs, not quite done yet!

Here's a pic Leslie nabbed of me on my way out for a second loop at around the 14km mark I believe.

So yeah, it was an all around great day...and got to enjoy some great weather, great running, and some awesome friends! What could be better?! After the race I was hanging out with a bunch of friends from Calgary that also ran and we were all chatting away and stuffing our faces. We had moved away from the food as there was a serious wasp situation going on and after my wasp incident this summer I did not want to get stung again! I take a bite into my bagel, I feel pain and take out the bagel while something is stuck to my tongue. I reach in and pull out a wasp while my tongue continues to throb in pain. Frig, are you kidding me?!?

Last time I got stung my hand swelled up like a balloon and I had visions of that happening with my tongue. I went to the medic and all they could do for me was give me ice for it....which I was initially annoyed about since they couldn't give me drugs...but the ice actually did make it feel better. Then I remembered I carried around reactine in my bag and went to the car to get some. I'm happy to report that my tongue did not swell up like a balloon and I got to enjoy the rest of my afternoon on the patio of the Grizzly Paw in Canmore drinking beers with some friends. Great day!!

So I've been reading Leslie's blog for a while now and remember reading about her adventures in the past to Skoki Lodge. So when my friend Jason suggested that for a run last weekend I was all over it!

It's about a 2 hour drive to Lake Louise so we left Calgary around 7:30 and were off and running before 10am. It started off as such a beautiful day but the forecasts called for some not so good weather in the afternoon. Luckily we got most of our pictures in when it was sunny and awesome outside. Before I let you enjoy the pics we took along the way, can I say one thing...HOLY LARCH!!! I've never seen anything like them in the fall. Beautiful!

I LOVE larch!!
Ptarmigan Lake

Running up Deception Pass

On Deception pass before making our way down to Skoki Lodge

Skoki Lodge!!

Cleanest and nicest outhouse I've ever used!

Perhaps this is why?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Transrockies - Stage 6 - the Grand Finale!

Stage 6 - Vail to Beaver Creek
Distance: 21.2 miles (34.1 km)
Total Elevation Gain: 4,623 feet

I woke up the morning of Stage 6 pretty relieved this was the last day. Man I was sore and was pretty excited for this evening with my first night in almost 2 weeks sleeping in a real bed! Oh and I was going to really enjoy some well deserved beer later. I only had to get through 34km of running with 4,623 feet of total elevation gain first! Sigh...

I was surprised and relieved to find my heel not so bad this morning. I could still feel all of the vaseline the medic put on there and it was wrapped up really good so I just left it alone. I was hobbling around a bit trying not to put any pressure on it all morning until I had to start running!

Remember when Steve said I could walk all of stage 6 if we got on the podium yesterday in Stage 5? Clearly he wasn't serious but we didn't plan on killing ourselves today. We were currently sitting in 3rd place in the GC with 20 mins on the 4th place team and about 40 mins or so on the 5th place team. All we wanted to do today was keep our 3rd place and not let those 2 teams get in any time on us.

Now that's not to say that I planned on taking it easy and not racing...I had every intention to race. My body however had different ideas. Remember how Steve felt on Day 1? Well I didn't feel quite that bad...well probably not even as close to feeling that bad...but boy did I feel like ass. And my legs were done from the start. They had a mind of their own and basically told me to screw off and that 5 days of racing was enough. I kept waiting for that feeling to go away like it had done after a few km every other day but it never happened. My head got frustrated with the rest of me and I felt emotional. There were mixed teams passing us in the beginning that never passed us before and it was playing tricks with my head.

I don't know if I felt good once the entire day. I hurt so much that I didn't even get to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me and there really was some fabulous single track that ran through the forest for something like the first 10 miles or so. I almost wish I could go back and run it again as a fun training run and get to enjoy that part.

I kept telling myself it's ok, as long as we keep our lead over the Spanish team - Team Helly Hansen who were 20 mins behind us overall, then I would be happy. Well once we finished the first big climb of the race, we turned and began the downhill which was probably the worst part of the entire 6 stages for me. It was mostly overgrown singletrack trail with most of it running through tall grass up to your waist. You could barely see the ground and there were big rocks everywhere to trip you up...I don't even know how I didn't bail in there. For whatever reason I decide to look back and see if anyone was there and of course it was Helly Hansen coming out of nowhere. These two are good at descending and they caught me pretty quick, passed and were gone before I knew it. Shit!!! Now I was worried. If they were having a really good day could they put in 20 mins on us now in the 8 or so miles we had left? There was no way I was about to let that happen so it definitely did cause me to start running a lot faster so I could catch them.

I think Steve was a little frustrated with my shitty slow running but if he was I definitely didn't know it. He still remained super optimistic and kept telling me that they weren't too far ahead and we'd catch them on the next climb we had to do. Finally we got down to the town of Avon and had some flat running to do on the streets through there and to the next aid station that was right before the last big climb. I stopped to fuel up and pour a ton of water on my was mid day and super hot out there. While stopped at the aid station Helly Hansen was not too far away so I started to relax a bit. We had just under 5 miles to go with a really gross 1000 ft climb looming ahead but I knew we were the better climbers.

We caught them pretty quick and I ran whatever I could but there was a great deal of walking in here for me. This climb was gross, I can't even describe how much I hated it. I wouldn't have thought twice about using a tow rope that day if we had one and would have welcomed Steve as my own "personal sherpa"! As someone said recently...he's a friggin mountain goat...and the dude literally pushed me and power hiked my ass all the way up the climb (not to mention the many other times throughout the day).

Finally finally finally we were done with climbing and had 2 miles of single track left to go taking us down into Beaver Creek. We crossed the line in 5th place for the day in 3:57:05 and managed to keep our 3rd place overall. Fewf. What a battle.

Steve and I finishing up Stage 6 in Beaver Creek!

Four Newfs finish Transrockies! (Steve, me, Gary Robbins, Blaine Penny)

Top 5 Mixed teams on the podium ( From Left to Right....2nd Place - Team Nike/Gore-Tex, Peter Courogen Julie and Leasure, 3rd Place - Team Pine Line!!, 4th Place - Team Helly Hansen, Francisco Perez and Eva Braa, 1st Place - Team Montrail NSA, Tamsin Anstey and Gary Robbins, 5th Place - Crasian, Don Sims and Erika Mastny)

To recap the whole experience, here is my Post Transrockies report once again. It was an awesome event and I would recommend it to everyone! Will I do it again? For sure! Just probably not next year...i've got a lot of other things planned for next season.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Transrockies - Stage 5 - and a podium finish :)

Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail
Distance: 23.4 miles (37.6 km)
Total elevation gain: 4,407 ft

The past four stages of racing was starting to take it's toll and I was getting tired. Each day I woke up feeling the same soreness and it never really got any worse. We would do a brief warm up before each stage and think holy crap, my body is the heck can I get through another day of this? Yet when it was go time, somehow I would just ignore it all and think of the task at hand. I was impressed with what my body was able to do.

At dinner after Stage 4 there was lots of talk about the two stages that remained. They were both super long with the most elevation gain. I found that throughout the race the best thing to do was to just think of the next stage that we had to do and try not to worry about the stages that remained. It definitely helped! So...Stage 5 was to be a big day...the second longest stage and the second highest in elevation gain. Whew...I was a little worried but excited. Generally, I tend to do better with the longer stuff...especially since it takes me so long to get I was looking forward to another day similar to Stage 3.

We took a short shuttle ride back to Red Cliff where we ended Stage 4. It was so cold that morning...I think 28 Fahrenheit they said when we woke up and when we got back to Red Cliff we still had an hour until race start. Luckily Mango's Mountain Grill (known for their world famous fish tacos) had opened it's doors for us runners to hang out in and keep warm for the hour. Steve and I sat on stools at the bar and I was tired. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to think about what we had to do today. I didn't want to go outside and warm up in the freezing cold. Ugh. I was cranky and sore and not looking forward to the day.

I was feeling a little better after warm up and once the race started I went through my usual routine of struggling to breath for 20 mins or so before finally settling into the start of the 10 miles of running uphill that we had to do out of Red Cliff. The day was taking us "up and through the legendary back bowls of Vail Mountain and then down into the village itself". I've heard a lot about Vail and was excited to hang out and spend the day/night there after the stage! We got into a good rhythm and started passing teams and quickly seemed to move into 3rd place for mixed. I was thinking, holy shit, this hasn't happened not get's so early in the day and you're in 3rd already? We had passed Dean and Helen (Team North Face) early on and I assumed that I would see them again shortly.

The first 8 miles on dirt road seemed to go on forever... and we were both getting cranky and just wanted to get to the first aid station already to fuel and take a bit of a break. Finally we arrived...ate, drank, took some salt pills and were on our way for the remaining 2+ miles of the first big climb on single track and summited Bowman's shortcut trail!! Wahoo! Then we got to enjoy some fun, technical downhill for a while and i started to feel good again.

I knew we had another big climb ahead of us after the downhill ended. Two Elk Pass had a lot of long switch backs and luckily they were mostly all runnable. It was pretty sunny though and I was feeling the heat on the way up. I looked up and was happy to see the second place team...Nike/Gore-Tex not far ahead...I couldn't believe how close they were! That helped to boost my spirits and before we knew it we were at Benchmark summit which was the second aid station...and we were standing there fueling up with Team Nike/Gore-Tex. I was stoked and we had 10 miles to go...all downhill!!

The girl (Julie) from that team left before us and we quickly followed but the guy (Peter) left a little after. Eventually she stopped to wait for him and we continued on...and now were in 2nd place. Steve was running balls out and I couldn't keep up with him but he wasn't getting too far ahead either so I just concentrated on what I was doing and making sure I didn't trip and fall. We were pulling farther ahead from Nike/Gore-Tex and even though we were in 2nd, I would not let myself get excited that we might podium that night. There was still a lot of running to do! I was getting more and more tired and Steve promised me that if we podiumed today that I could walk the whole Stage 6 tomorrow if I wanted. I've gotta say...that was a pretty good incentive! :)

The last aid station came and went and they had caught up to us there. Damn it! We left before them and they did not spend much time there before following us. There was a little over 5 miles to go. I don't think I've ever run so fast or hard in my life as I did during the last 5 miles of this race. They were on our ass and we couldn't shake them. I felt sick and hot and crappy and wasn't sure how much longer I could keep this up.

I would say with about 2 miles to go as we're rounding a turn I hear Julie yell out as she slips on the loose rock and falls. I couldn't help but be relieved because I was really getting tired of them chasing us and didn't think I could hold them off. I didn't dare look back though as I knew it would be the time that I would trip and fall as well. They seemed to start catching up to me again pretty quick and finally we had a little bit of single track to run down to get into Vail. I'm completely out of control and don't know how I didn't wipe out. Steve was already down through it waiting for me and I was all over the trail and just running scared from these guys. I guess this tactic worked as I ended up pulling farther away from them. Steve was waiting for me as I busted out of the single track and he said they were no where in site. We didn't have far to go and we flew through the finish line in 2nd place in 3:59:10...with Team Nike/Gore-Tex crossing about a minute after! It was the most stressful day of racing i've ever experienced and it was AWESOME!!

On a side note...I had also been running almost the entire day scared from Team North Face...Dean Karnazes and Helen Cospolich....always afraid that they were going to catch up to us any second and pass us. That night we found out that they actually had to drop out of the race at the second aid station that day. Dean had fallen in Stage 3 and had cracked a rib. WTF? Guess he finally decided he needed to go to the hospital! I don't know how he managed to still race as much as he did after that but hats off too him.

My attempt at getting in to soak my's frigging cold...I think I managed to get in just past my knees. Yes i'm a wimp.

On the podium!! 3rd place - Team Nike/Gore-Tex (Julie Leasure, Peter Courogen), 1st place - Team Montrail - NSA (Tamsin Anstey, Gary Robbins) , 2nd place - Team Pine Line!

Tent City set up in Vail - ours is at the top of the second R :)

After the crazy downhills of Stage 4, I ended up with a giant blister covering my heel. The awesome guys in the medic tent fixed me by draining it, pumping some zinc oxide in there and bandaging it up. After today's Stage 5 with 10 miles of downhill at the end...the blister was enormous covering my entire heel pad. It was a giant flap of skin that the medic had to completely cut off and told me he'd never seen anything like this. The only thing he could do for me was put on tons of vaseline and wrapped up the whole thing. He literally told me it would hurt like a bitch tomorrow and wished me luck on Stage 6. How nice :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Transrockies - Stage 4

Stage 4: Nova Guides to Red Cliff
Distance: 14.2 miles (22.8km)
Total Elevation Gain: 3,009 ft

Stage 4 was to be another day very similar to Stage 2...a shorter day with one big climb and one big descent! I was actually looking forward to the shorter day and had so much fun on Stage 2 that I thought it would be I didn't really have any nerves going into this stage.

With our wake up being generally by 6am it was damn cold in the mornings and I would try to get dressed for the run in my sleeping bag and then pile on as much clothes as possible to walk over to the breakfast tent. The sun started to peak out over the mountains by 7-7:30 and I would wait as long as possible before discarding my clothes and doing a little warm up before the 8am start.

Finally some sun starting to peak over the mountains...with the race clock counting down in the distance

Steve looking a little chilly after breakfast

Stage 4 started with a gradual uphill on a dirt road that we had come down at the end of Stage 3 to the finish. I was starting to get used to the same issues I would have at the start of every stage. I always felt like garbage! It took me such a long time to get into it...usually about 4 or 5 km till I would finally start to feel better. Come to think about it...I think I start every race i've ever done pretty much feeling the same always takes me a while to warm up and get going so the first 20 mins or so are usually rough. I think it was worse at Transrockies though as I could really feel the cold air on my lungs at the start of each day making it harder to breath as well as the altitude.

Anyhow, finally I started to feel better and got into a pretty good rhythm as the route turned from road to trail and we started to go up. I was surprised and thankful to find it was mostly runable stuff with limited walking and not like Stage 2 where we immediately started fast hiking. Each day we continued to find ourselves running with the same teams around us and it was fun to chat with some of them along the way.

At one point we were running with Dean Karnazes and his partner Helen Cospolich (another top ultrarunner) from Team North Face. As we finished so close to them the previous day and were not far back from them in the overall standings, I really wanted to stick with them or beat them today! Dean seemed to be struggling a bit and was farther back with me while Helen is simply a powerhouse and was running up farther ahead with my brother. I'm running along minding my own business and slowing down over this steeper section when Dean comes along and puts his hand on my back and pushes me up over this hump. I laughed and said thanks I needed that! Steve turns around laughs and says "oh no, does that mean I have to reciprocate?" and then does the same thing to Helen. It was pretty funny and helped take my mind off of the task at hand!

Dean dropped back farther and I continued on while Helen slowed to wait for him. I'm pretty happy we're making some time up on them when after a while I turn back and see that she has strapped the tow rope on him and is towing him up the hill...and is gaining on us. WTF?! She is a machine! Even if Steve was feeling like crap there is no way I would ever have been able to tow him! They tow on past us while Dean happily comments "it's like I have my own personal sherpa!". While many teams used the towing system...I really didn't want to go there and told Steve I wanted to do this thing on my own as much as I can. Maybe if we were in contention to win the whole thing then I would have thought about it more.

The last couple of miles to the top became STEEP....straight up...and I was bent far forward pushing off my knees with my hands trying to "power hike" up this thing. Steve helped in the really tough spots and would push me from behind to get my legs moving quicker and I was thankful as I was starting to slow down. The crazy thing was that this was some type of dirt 4 wheel drive road but have no idea how anything could drive up here and why they would have ever made it this way! A little further up we actually passed one of the jeeps from Nova Guides with aid station supplies in an interesting position...not sure if it was stuck or maybe the drivers didn't want to attempt to drive it any further up.

Finally we bust out at the top of this climb and get to run along an amazing ridge for a while with absolutely spectacular views. In a race I have a habit of not taking the time to check out the view around i've been known to fall and am always looking down so I don't trip over stuff. I look up all around me and immediately get a boost in spirits as it's pretty breathtaking up on this ridge as we run along at around 11,500 ft. We got to see several 14,000+ foot mountains including Mount of the Holy Cross, Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. We get to Hornsilver Summit and I feel relief as I know the rest of the run is entirely downhill...awesome!

Running for a long long period downhill is not as easy as it sounds though...especially when your legs are cooked from previous days of running with lots of descending. Steve and I could feel it in our quads pretty quick and my legs were getting more and more tired as I tried to keep up with his fast ass flying down. I knew towards the end there was to be a few river crossings which I generally hate as often they lead to blisters for me or make existing blisters worse with having wet feet.

We managed to avoid the first one by running up the embankment and around but then I came to the next one which was kind of unavoidable. I should have just said screw it and run right through it but decided I would try and keep my feet dry as long as I could as I had a pretty giant heel blister going on and really wasn't keen on getting it wet. So I tried to step on the bigger rocks that were sticking out of the water. I step up on the last one to climb up out of the river but it's wet and I slip off and go down HARD on my hip. Instantly I yelled out in pain (with a few choice words) and Steve stopped, asked if I was ok and was freaked as he thought I had hurt my knee pretty bad. I didn't even realize I had hit my knee even though it was bleeding as my hip hurt so much. I started trotting a bit with frequent cursing and finally the pain started to go away. That or the fact that I had to run down a river bed for the next half a mile took my mind off the pain. I was taking it pretty slow because I really didn't want to fall again on all of these wet rocks and the pain from the cold water on my feet hurt so bad. Eventually I couldn't feel my feet and when we were back on the dry path it was pretty painful running with them so numb.

At this point i'm really wanting this day to end as i'm pretty tired and am feeling beat up. We have about 5km to go downhill on a dirt road which I like as I don't have to think or pay attention to my footing so much. We pick up the pace and end up passing two mens teams during this time and really don't want them to catch us or any other mixed team to pop up out of nowhere and pass us at the end so we keep increasing the pace. Just like the previous stage we end the last couple of miles at a pretty sick pace close to 6 min/miles and are both left wondering where the heck this energy is coming from. We cruise in to beautiful Red Cliff satisfied with our 4th place finish in a time of 2:30:56.

Steve and I finishing up Stage 4!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Transrockies - Stage 3

Stage 3: Leadville to Nova Guides
Distance: 24.2 miles (38.8 km)
Total elevation gain: 2,930 ft

We spent the night of Stage 2 in Leadville at 10,000 feet! (where the famous Leadville Trail 100 takes place) Tent city was set up on the soccer field of a school in town. I had a pretty great sleep that night and was happy to not wake once to use the bathroom. My quads were feeling pretty sore after the previous day's long descent but after a little warm up before Stage 3 began they were actually feeling pretty good and ready to go! This was to be the longest stage of the race and I had no idea of how long it might take and had hoped for nothing over 4 hours.

The race started through Leadville with a couple of miles on paved roads and a really long hill down that seemed to last forever. Steve and I were going at a fairly good clip yet teams were bombing down this hill and passing us right from the start. We thought this was kind of strange as we knew as soon as we turned off onto trail at the bottom and it started to climb we would pass them again...and we did.

Stage 3 was quite rolling and it was my favorite type of trail running. The weather was very cool that day and we felt like we were back at home on one of our training runs. We both felt fantastic and enjoyed the entire day. There was this one climb I remember that lasted a while and we both got into this awesome groove and were passing teams on the way up including this Spanish team we soon found ourselves competing with each day for overall placing.

I think our favorite part of the day was when we found ourselves on the Colorado Trail which was a combination of some really beautiful single and double track trail. We felt so good that we couldn't help but run fast through there and it felt pretty effortless. We kept it feels like we're back home in the Canadian Rockies...this is awesome! Towards the end of our run we caught up to and passed some mens teams as we continued our descent out of the trees and down along a giant meadow. Eventually we came out from the meadow and had a few km or so to go on a dirt road.

We started to pick up the pace as we didn't want the teams we just passed to pass us again...and then Steve sees the team down the road that's a couple of minutes ahead of us and says that's Dean (Karnazes). I knew we had made up time on them in the GC yesterday as we finished ahead of them and I really wanted to catch them today! We decided to giv'r and kept saying...we're totally going to regret this tomorrow!...but decided that we felt so good that what the heck let's go for it!! We gave it all we had and at one point were running close to a 6 minute mile but in the end finished just over a minute behind them. We were super pumped with our 4th place finish on the day with a time of 3:59:01.

At the end of the race Dean congratulated us on a good race, was chatting away to me (yes I was super excited lol) and asked where we were from. When he found out we were from Canada, he started talking about the Death Race that he had done in Grand Cache, Alberta only a few weeks prior! He went on to tell me how tough that race was and how he couldn't even believe he managed to come second! I mentioned that I had already planned on doing that race next year and was super excited about it! :) So yeah it was awesome to chat with him...what a really nice guy!

I then decided I really needed to go soak my legs in the creek nearby or I wouldn't be walking tomorrow...boy did it ever feel good! There's definitely something to be said for an ice bath or a good cold water soak after a long, hard run! We then spent the afternoon hanging out at the Nova Guides campground in historic Camp Hale, happy with our finish and happy to find ourselves moving up in the overall standings!

Chillin out at the Salomon Relaxation Station

Steve and Julia also enjoying some relaxation!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Birthday! And welcome to Stage 2 of TR!

Stage 2 - Vicksburg to Twin Lakes
Distance: 10 miles (16 km)
Total elevation gain: 3098 ft

I had an awful sleep after Stage 1 and our first night in the tent city. A cold front blew in overnight and the winds were pretty intense. The noise from a billion tents flapping in the wind was crazy...not to mention the several times when i did manage to fall back to sleep I would roll over on my side and then get woken up with a smack in the face from my wind blown tent. Lovely.

With maybe 4 hours of sleep that night, I woke up on the morning of Stage 2 and welcomed myself into my 30s :) Today was to be a fabulous day as I was doing the coolest thing I've ever done on my birthday...I get to run up to 12,600 ft today in a kick ass race!

Today we had to be up and ready to leave on the bus by 7:30 as it was about a half hour drive to the start in Vicksburg and we wanted some time to warm up. Unfortunately the bus ride was a bit of a pain in the ass for me as I get motion sickness fairly easily. So the whole school bus on a super bumpy dirt road got old pretty quick. I've never been on anything so bumpy and it was so bad that it actually made my head hurt...I felt like my brain was shaking around in there. Seriously. Aside from that, the bus driver missed the drop off for us and took us an additional couple of kilometres on this road before realizing and turning around. Ugh, I just wanted to get the hell off this thing. I remember saying to Steve...there's got to be other runners in the past that have puked on this drive to the race start...then I had flashbacks of myself as a kid in Florida throwing up on the metrobus...nice. Finally we got there with about 15 mins till race start.

It was a really cold morning and with asthma I find it really tough to breath when the air is cold so I wanted a good warm up first. Obviously this did not happen since we arrived so late to the start. Steve and I did a quick warm up run and then headed to the start.

Due to our late arrival and time spent warming up etc we ended up being stuck pretty far back at the start. So when the race started we spent the first 2 miles of flat road passing teams and trying to get ourselves in a good spot for when it became single track. I could tell right away Steve was feeling amazing today as he took off pretty quick from the line while I spent the first 2 miles struggling with my breathing. Finally we hit the single track and it got pretty steep pretty quick and most people had started some fast hiking. I have never been a good fast/power hiker but I still managed to pass some teams here and tried my best to keep up with Steve. He is a machine and could definitely hike that faster than I could run up it. This 2+ mile section of fast hiking up to the top of Hope Pass was quite comparable to scrambling in the Canadian rockies back home.

Finally we reach the top of Hope Pass...spend a brief few seconds at 12,600 ft to take in the view and grab a gel...then drop over the other side for some super fun and fast single track running all the way back down! I have yet to become super speedy on technical downhills but i'm definitely getting better. I was just loving this day and Steve and I were having a blast all the way down. We were so pumped at how good we were feeling and pretty much loved every second of the descent. Nicola and Pete passed us with a few km to go and while Steve was well ahead of me and could have likely kept up with them, I just did not have the speed on that technical stuff to keep up. Those NorthShore runners from Vancouver have got some serious skills...way to go guys!!

My quads definitely took a pounding on that long descent and when we hit the flats with a couple of km to go I just lost steam and instantly felt like crap. I ended up slowing right down but started to feel a little better after a couple of river crossings at the end. We finished pretty strong and were happy with our 5th place in a time of 2:07:06
Steve and I nearing the finish
PUMPED after today's awesome race!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Transrockies - Stage 1

Stage 1 - Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge
Distance: 20.8 miles (33.5km)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,721 ft

Race morning arrives and I wake up thinking the same things I think every race morning...I'm tired, I don't want to do this, maybe i'll bail? Ok well I didn't exactly have thoughts on bailing for this race but was definitely thinking uh oh, what have I gotten myself into. I always wake up so cranky on race never fails. But when I finally drag myself out of bed and get dressed things start to get better.

Steve and I drove into Buena Vista back to the school where breakfast was provided for us. There was tons of food...cereal, fruit, bagels, bacon, eggs, pancakes, you name it! I don't know about you but there's not a whole lot I can stomach on race morning so I stuck with my usual...bagel w/ PB and a banana. It's always done me well in the past so why mess with a good thing? I was in awe of the runners that had gigantic breakfasts with bacon & eggs...all the good stuff! It made me a little queasy just thinking about eating that before a race. If I did it would definitely come back later to haunt me for sure!

We drove back to the campground to get ready, pick up Kira & Julia, and then head back downtown for the late 10am race start. We cranked the tunes on the way to get us favorite pre-race song being "There's an Arc" by Hey starts off slow but it picks up pretty quick and is total kick ass! If you ever get to see them live DO will not be disappointed...i've seen them twice now and they're freakin phenomenal. But...I digress. I'm not sure why the race started so late the first day and was dreading it as the clouds slowly moved away and the sun came out in full glory about 20 mins before the race was to start. Damn! It had been mid 80s all week and I was not looking forward to this. Generally I don't run well in heat but Steve was training in high heat all summer in the Okanagan so it didn't worry him at all.

While we waited for the start, we ran into some Albertans I knew. I met Doone and Tim Watson at Powderface 42 a couple of months ago. It was great to see some friendly familiar faces! And they were with Leslie & Keith from Banff! I was so pumped to finally meet them and have been reading Leslie's blog forever! They know all the best spots to run with the mountains literally in their backyard...I can't wait to come visit them in Banff and run!!

Here's a pic I borrowed from Doone of all of us before Stage 1!
(Doone, me, Steve, Leslie, Keith, Tim)

That picture was taken very shortly before the race started. We quickly seeded ourselves around midpack I guess and got ready to go! The race started with a quick jaunt down one of the streets leading us across the Arkansas River and immediately onto some single track trail that climbed for a couple of kilometres. Unknowingly, Steve and I had actually run part of this same trail on thursday. He guessed that this was where Stage 1 was going to go and he was right! So the first little bit of it was pretty familiar to me.

Unfortunately I pretty quickly started to feel like garbage. I'm not a fan of starting a race with immediate climbing and it takes me a while to get used to it. The heat and altitude was not helping and I quickly found myself breathing super heavily. I kept forcing myself to drink nuun more than I ordinarily might and I finally started to feel better about 4 or 5km in. Steve was feeling like a rockstar and I had to tell him to hold back a bit so I could get my heart rate down had skyrocketed pretty quick.

Once that was under control we were running along pretty good till around the 10km mark. What seemed like all of a sudden to me...Steve says he's not feeling well and that he was having stomach issues. I had a feeling he was dehydrated as well as he hadn't been drinking as much as I had in the beginning. I was actually shocked when Steve said he needed to stop and walk for a bit...this is something he never does. I figured once we got to aid station 1 and pumped him full of saltstick, fruit, water etc things would be good again. It seemed to help a bit but he had a hard time getting stuff down. He would go through big waves of feeling awful and feeling shitty as the day went on...i don't know which was better? And I felt bad cuz I was actually feeling pretty decent and didn't know what to do for him. I was fine with slowing our pace or walking or whatever we had to do to get this bloody day overwith. It felt like we were running the entire day. What ran through my mind was oh shit...this is supposed to be the easiest of the 6 stages.

The day didn't get any better with our mix of running flats and downhills and having to walk up even the easiest hills. It was disappointing for us both as we knew normally we could run the entire thing without any walking. I was hot but always left the aid station feeling like a star after dumping water on my head and eating some banana and watermelon. It was definitely a combination of altitude, hot dry heat with little wind, and some dehydration that plagued Steve all day and he was unable to recover and get his heartrate to go back down.

We knew that the route eventually went back down to the river towards the end and Steve said to me if he sees the river soon he might have to stop and go for a dip to cool down his core. I kind of just wanted the day to end at this point but knew he was hurting huge so I agreed it would be a good idea. I would say with about 7 or so km to go I see Steve veer off sharply to the left out of the corner of my eye. I was like ohhhh shit, he's passing out and is going down!! I was wrong! I look over and he's running down this little enbankment to this stream and dunks his head and hat in. I have no idea how he saw it...but I almost laughed in relief and went down to dunk my hat as well.

Steve seemed to feel better after this and soon we were at the last checkpoint with about 6 km to go on a flat road. While we're stopped here and getting some food, a ton of mixed teams come out of nowhere, stop quickly at the station and then pass us. I'm bummed, where the heck did they all come from? We leave and follow them down to the road. I'm pretty happy that the rest of the race is completely flat for 6km and just concentrate on getting this thing overwith. Steve is not doing well and we have to walk run walk run the entire way. I felt sooo bad.

The funny thing is that the road to the finish was so long and straight that you could see all the teams infront of you doing the same thing. Clearly we were not the only ones feeling this way and I guess the heat and altitude really affected a lot of teams that day. When we were actually running we managed to go at a fairly good pace and passed a bunch of mixed teams at the end so I was pretty happy about that. We ended with a time of 3:44:14 and in 9th spot in our division. Despite such an awful day for us I was surprised and pleased that we still managed to be in the top 10.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Transrockies Pre-Race

So yes, I know I know...i've been really procrastinating with the whole Transrockies race report. I feel like i'm back in university and I've been putting off the start of some ridiculous historical geography paper as long as I can...although I would like to think my blog and my race report would be far more interesting than historical geography...ack! I guess because it wasn't just a 1 day race that i'm finding it hard to remember things from 6 whole days of racing....and also the fact the whole experience was incredible and much better than I had anticipated....I don't want to leave anything out...but i'm sure I will. At the ripe old age of memory is not what it once was.... ;-) Anyhow, I'll do my best to try and keep you entertained.

After arriving in Buena Vista 5 days in advance...getting a couple of runs in as well as a couple of hikes in at around 12,000 ft, Steve and I felt good to go. Our first run that week had worried me a bit as we were running on the flats and struggling pretty huge to breath. We both have asthma as well and I was wondering if it was worse because of this or is this what it feels like to run at altitude? After talking with everyone else who had run prior to the race starting I realized that yup, this is pretty much what everyone is feeling...well I guess except for the teams coming from Colorado, Arizona etc. Anyhow, each day that we spent running or hiking after that leading up to the race we started feeling much better and were getting used to altitude. I was just so thankful we showed up 5 days in advance!

Steve had randomly picked this campground for us to stay at for 5 nights prior to the race called the Arrowhead Point Resort. After arriving and chatting to the couple that run the place we discovered that this was actually where they set up the tent city for us to stay after Stage 1 of the race. That was kind of a weird coincidence. Anyhow, I brought my tent along and camped there for the 5 nights before the race while Steve, Kira and their 6 week old Julia stayed in an RV that the owners rent out. The RV was pretty sweet and nice to hang out in the evenings before the race started.

The race started on Sunday...and by friday before the race we were getting super antsy and excited and really just wanted the race to finally get started and have those pre-race nerves out of the way. I woke up on Saturday feeling pretty stoked as things were finally starting to get underway. We drove to downtown Buena Vista to registration and gigantic race package pickup. Here we picked up our race bibs, course maps, timing chips and big duffle bags that would hold all of our gear for the 6 days of racing and camping! All I can say is good thing they gave us those duffle bags there because it was needed to haul away all the other crazy gear they gave us. We left with a TR shirt, Windstopper jacket, Timex Watch, hats, waterbottles, socks, Salomon recovery shoes, visors, food...and i'm sure there's more that i'm missing. It was insane. Aside from that there was other free swag given away each day. I've definitely never experienced anything like that at any race i've done before!

Steve and I at registration

The rest of Saturday we pretty much just chilled out and enjoyed the day. That evening we were at a local school for the opening ceremonies and dinner. It was strange that I recognized so many people but didn't actually know any of them! I finally met Gary Robbins (fellow Newfie!!) after chatting with him through the blog and facebook world the past few well as Aaron Heidt...another fast runner that actually lives in Vernon like Steve & Kira.

I was pretty much starstruck with some other faces I recognized and yes I got made fun of when I got a little excited at dinner and said...hey isn't that Dean Karnazes?!? I've been reading one of his books! Aaron proceeded to ask me if I wanted him to go get his autograph for me...come on...I know i'm a geek but please, i'm not that bad! If I wanted his autograph...I'd just go get it myself haha :) And no, I didn't. What the heck am I going to do with an autograph? I actually didn't realize that so many top ultra runners would be there...Nikki Kimball, Anita Ortiz, Hal Koerner (Mr. Western States!!) to name a few. I was loving it...this is what I do and I get to spend the next 6 days hanging out and running with all these people who love it as much as I do? Sigh...

After the ceremonies/dinner was over we headed back to the campground and I decided to spend the night in the RV so I could get one last night of really good sleep before spending the next 5 nights in tent city.

My Stage 1 Report will be coming along is an exciting preview of what's to come as quoted directly from my brother... "Steve sucked and hurt so bad, he nearly crawled over on the side of the trail to die" LOL. I guess yeah it was something along those lines...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Post Transrockies

Transrockies...what can I say? I had an absolutely fantastic experience and I think it's definitely one of the coolest things I've done to date. This running season has been nothing but spectacular for me and what better way to end it than with an epic 6 day, 113 miles of trail running in the Colorado Rockies. The icing on the (birthday) cake was that I had a kick ass brother Steve. There is nobody I would rather have run it with! One of my favorite days was Stage 2 (yup, my birthday!). I can't think of anything better I would have rather done to celebrate the big 3-0 than do a tough run up to 12,600 ft at Hope Pass...take in some great views...and then enjoy a fabulous fast descent on some fun single track all the way down the other side!!

I'm going to get around to some kind of real race report on the whole 6 days eventually...hopefully while my memory is still fresh from the whole experience. Once I get some pictures organized I promise to fire off a report. I will say that Steve and I managed to claim 3rd place overall in the Mixed Division and that was more than I could have asked for. I had no idea what to expect and went in thinking I would be thrilled with top 10. Here are the final results showing the 5 divisions...80+ Men (when the 2 partners ages add up to over 80), 80+ Women, Open Mixed, Open Men, and Open Women.

I just wanted to comment on what an awesome and well organized race this is and I would highly recommend it to anyone that loves to trail run! This summer was my first introduction into trail running and i'm definitely hooked more than ever...and already working out my race schedule for 2010! Steve seems to be pretty hooked as well and I look forward to seeing him kick some butt out there in the future.

I was a little afraid that after this race I would be tired and ready to take a long break and not run or race for a while. If anything the opposite has happened...I can't wait to get back out there. Our last Stage was friday...4 days ago and i'm itching to get out for a run. The only thing holding me back at the moment is the giant blister I received on stage 4 on the bottom of my heel. It got so bad that they eventually had to literally cut off all of the skin from the bottom of my heel...yeah it looks pretty awesome, and feels even better! Luckily I didn't have any major issues with it for the remaining stages. Stage 6 probably gave it the worst beating but at that point I was just happy we were finishing up the last day!

While I consider Transrockies to be the official end of the season for me, i've still got 3 more races to go...all within the next 6 weeks. Then I promise I'm taking a real break :) I've got the Canmore 5 Peaks coming up on Sept.12...i'm supposed to be doing the Enduro distance 12km but I'm trying to upgrade to the half marathon. I prefer the longer stuff and am not much of a sprinter. Then I have 2 road races after that. Melissa's 22km in Banff is coming up on Sept.26th and then the Okanagan Marathon on Oct.11. It looks like some fun weeks ahead!

That's it for now! Thanks for all the kind words everyone and putting up with my Transrockies babble all summer! My race report is still to come!