Friday, October 24, 2014

Grizzly Ultra Marathon 50K: Race Recap

First off let me tell you I always feel a little ridiculous when I write these race recaps. I am not a competitive runner (meaning I don't have a shot in hell of winning or placing in my AG) and I don't think many people give a second thought to what someone at the back of the pack has to say about the race. 

But I will continue to write them for those few that care and to document my experiences. Last week I ran my third 50K Ultra – Grizzly 50K in Canmore. 

Big spoiler - I finished upright! 



I had no doubt that I would finish. I did not have a time goal as I just wanted to finish. Honestly. I knew if I pushed myself, I could finish well below 7 hours. I wasn't about to push myself so I set a "in my head" conservative goal of finishing under 7.5 hours. Accomplished. I crossed the finish line at 7:27.

I quite enjoyed this course that zigzagged its way around the trails near the Canmore Nordic Centre. It was broken up into 5 legs (14K, 12K, 12K, 7K and 5K). Every leg started and ended at "home base." This made it super easy for relay teams to switch team members. I decided to take each leg as it came. I needed to conserve my energy and keep my legs happy. 

Here's my take on the legs:

Leg 1 (Grey Wolf): Boring. Too much pavement. Wide-open trail. 

Leg 2 (Cougar): Great views, more climbs. Non-technical.

Leg 3 (Lynx): Most challenging but definitely rewarding. Great swtichbacks and climbs. 

Leg 4 (Killer Bees): Technical single tracks (meaning you had to navigate over roots and rocks). Definitely my favorite leg. I love jumping over stuff.

Leg 5 (Coyote): Short and sweet. Great downhills to the finish.

Overall I was of sound mind and mostly body during the race. Although others said I looked pissed whenever they saw me come through the transition station, I was fine. I explained that's my "I am concentrating face." 

My right leg was really bothering me after the first leg. I waited until I finished the second leg before I put on a calf sleeve. It seemed to help a bit. I had serious trouble with the downhills on the last leg which was mostly downhill. Not fun. I was thankful to chat with Amanda from Calgary who kept my find off the big ouch.

One thing I felt quite annoying about the aid station was the amount of people standing about. They didn't look like they were running but there they stood in my freaking way. I had to literally push past these spectators to get to my drop bag and to make my way to the start of the next leg. Hello???

When I finished, all I wanted was coffee. There was no coffee to be had. Amanda and I begged the guy at the shop (which was just closing up) in the Canmore Nordic Centre to let us buy the $3 cup of crappy coffee. 

Apparently there was no food left for the runners at this point. I didn't see anything so I guess this was the case. It would have been nice to have something but it is what it is. My right leg was really annoying me. I just wanted to ice my legs. 


It was great seeing familiar faces and making new pals such as Melanie from Cold Lake, who is the brains behind Running Wild Cold Lake. (Stay tuned for a future I am a Runner profile featuring Melanie.) It was great to chat with Kevin & Susan. The dynamic duo ran the 50K in a two-person relay. Read Susan's account here

Yup I would totally do this race again. Maybe if I finished quicker, I would have been able to enjoy the atmosphere a little more. By the time I was done everything was either wrapped up or was in the process of shutting done. I thought this was weird because the actual cut off time was 10 hours. Go figure. 

Anyway ... I definitely recommend this 50k for a soloist or as a relay team. Everyone I talked to seemed to have a great time despite the hiccups here and there. This "race" was a great way to finish my races for the year. I know what I need to work on to become a stronger runner (rest & hills!).

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mark: I am a Runner

Happy Thursday. It's my favourite part of the week where I get to introduce you to another runner in the community. Today's it's Mark from Red Deer. I know Mark casually as I met him earlier this summer in Canmore.

Although he's been running since high school, Mark recently got hooked on trail running.

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Name: Mark
City: Red Deer
Profession: HVAC Mechanic
Runner since: High School

1. Why did you start running? What pushes you to keep going?
Originally I started running in high school when a new teacher started a x-country team. I then had a chance to run one year with the University of Manitoba. After 10 years of too much work, with occasional painful run with my super motivating step mother I needed a change. Two and a half years ago I cleaned up my eating habits, which I now follow a plant-based diet. Started running more frequently. Signed up for a 15km race, and I was hooked again. The more I ran, the better I felt. Eating better and staying active has become very addictive.  

2. What is your running background? How many races have you done?
Since my return I have done over nine half marathons, a few legs in Sinister 7, 42km and a 102km trail race. 3. You recently ran your first 100K race. How did it go? I feel pretty lucky, from start to finish I felt pretty great. The course was a perfect intro to ultras. My support crew was amazing, always ready and super encouraging. (Mark ran the Iron Horse Ultra 100 in St. Paul, Alta)

4. What was the most challenging part of the race? Most rewarding?
The Iron Horse Ultra 100 recently changed Leg 3. I found it to be the toughest section of any race I have done. I could see the top of the climb a few times but it kept going, but once I had I knew I was over halfway through the race and the best was yet to come.
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5. What was the most challenging part of the training?
The speed work. It was regularly replaced by just doing a 15-20km run.

6. What propelled you into trail/ultra running?

I have always loved the trail but I became hooked after Sinister 7. I found a team that needed an extra runner and from the first email it was like family. They are the perfect example of what the trail community is about They even supported me on my first ultra. Best crew ever. Trail running is way more relaxing. Let's be honest, how often do road runners have a reason to stop and take pictures.

7. What has running taught you about yourself?
Every time I run, I can't stop telling myself how lucky I am. The runner's high is an understatement. The longer runs are great for clearing my thoughts and I like to say, the more I run, the more patient I become. 8. Do you have any current running goals?
100-120 miler or a multi-day race.

9. What’s next on your list?
Nothing in stone yet but Fat Ass 50, January 1st. Great way to start the year.


Like this interview? I am Runner appears every Thursday. If you or someone you know should be featured, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Happy trails!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Running in Canmore & Talking to Strangers

Jeff had suggested I try out the Highline trail while I was in Canmore. He drew a ridiculous looking map on a piece of paper. I left it on my desk. I am not very good with maps. I rely on the gps in my iPhone way too often. 

I googled the trail and learned that it was a popular spot for mountain bike riders. Jeff and his family are into the bikes so that's probably why he suggested this trail. I plugged Quarry Lake into Google Maps and I found that it was easy to find. I parked on a street in the Grassi Lakes neighbourhood. 


I remember Jeff mumbled something about a powerline would lead me to the trailhead. I saw the lines right away so I knew I was on the right track. I found the trailhead within a couple of minutes. Bingo! 


It was very quiet as I started to climb and climb. I decided to turn on some music. While it was a giant assault on Mother Nature, I knew it was better to be safe than sorry. I had to keep those bears away. I had my trusty bear spray in hand but you never know.

My legs felt pretty good but I was sucking wind once again. I really have to figure out some sort of hill training. I ran through a lovely forest that gave away to glimpses of the mountains in the distance. I came to a fork in the road where I had the choice to go east or west on the trail. I opted for the shorter distance.

I had a near-death experience with a few mountain bikers. Fortunately I am quick on my feet and I managed to jump out of their path while they were flying down the hill. I stopped a few times to take in the beauty around me. I love this picture. I dubbed it Three Hill Tree, a take on U2's One Tree Hill. (I'm so clever!). 

I didn't get to test my legs again on the downhill because I ran into this lovely Montana couple – Rod and Martha – on my way down. They looked like they wanted to chat so I walked down with them. I quickly learned that they were married for 43 years, have four children and live on a farm in a small town in Montana. They met in college and Martha had lived on the farm her entire life. After the Peace Corps, they decided to return to her home and fix it up. The have a condo in Canmore and this was the first time they had been in Alberta for about 10 years.

Now if I had chosen to just run down I would never have met this lovely couple and hear a little about their story.