Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby Steps - MYM50 Ultra

50 mile run... check.

It's taken a while but I finally got around to racing my first 'true' ultra - better late than never I suppose!  Why did I wait so long?  Well, the fact that I'm a bit of an injury-prone runner hasn't helped convince me that I would actually survive an effort that long - And honestly, the thought of running for 100 or 160km simply scares me.  That said, 80km seemed like a manageable distance, and I figured it was time to give it a shot...

Baby steps...

Short pitstop in Revelstoke, BC on route to Whistler - The big rig sits on a plateau high above town - It was just as much fun 4x4-ing up to the Frisby Ridge trailhead as running on the trail itself!
With the inaugural Meet Your Maker 50 on tap in Whistler, it was an easy choice to slide it into the calendar (actually, I didn't have much of a choice since it was also part of our Salomon sponsored events - so duty called - I know, I know...twist my arm!). Either way, I was keen to see how I would fare over this distance - uncharted territory for this guy!    Eager to hit the road, I loaded the big rig with event equipment and set off for another adventure.

You would think that an 80km race would warrant a bit of specific prep, but to be honest, I really didn't put a whole lot of thought into it.  Then again, I can't say that ever really put a lot of structure in my training these days.  I've followed a structured training plan for so many years throughout my (ski) career that I (think I) know what my body needs and when.  For the most part, I try to go with the flow... Between you and I, I'd say this strategy works about 80% of the time.

I've never really been a big fan of tapering for an event - not sure why - I just feel like I'm always sluggish on race day.  Everyone reacts differently to various training routines, and over the years, I've learned that I respond well to steady volume.  There's a limit of course, and it's often a very fine line between feeling good, and going over the edge...the questions, where is that line?

So what does that all mean?  In a nutshell, I take a look at my race objective(s), and figure out what I need most to succeed.  Is it climbing? speed on flats? quad strength? technical ability?  The most important thing to remember in this exercise - the key - is to ensure adequate recovery time so you can feel tip-top on race day!  As simple as it may sound, most athletes have difficulty grasping this concept, feeling like they always need to do more. 

Curious? Here's a glimpse of the few weeks leading up to the race.  It's a short window but may give some of you some ideas on how to prepare for your next event:

  • Aug 6-12:  Focused on volume - 132km of running w/ 5,000m +gain (including 2 long back-to-back runs - Rundle Loop 42k + Rockwall 54k).  Couple easy road rides to let the legs recover. 19hrs total.
  • Aug 13-19: Focused on recovery early in the week, then volume/speed - 70km of running w/ 2,000m +gain.  110km of riding to recover from previous week. Finished off wk with 40km hard effort around Ironlegs course. 10hrs total training.
  • Aug 20-26:  Focused on recovery - 20km of running.  212km of riding.  Body was quite tired so decided to stay off legs for the week.  Few longer rides to keep volume up.  10hrs total training.
  • Aug 27-Sept 2:  Focused on quad endurance & rebuilding - 150km of running w/ 6,000m +gain (includes 82km MYM50 w/ 3,800m +gain).  16hrs total training.
    • Mon: Hard up/down Lady Mac 15km w/ 900m +gain
    • Tues: 15km easy run
    • Wed: Frisby Ridge Trail (Revelstoke) 25km w/ 900m +gain
    • Thurs:  Day off
    • Fri: 14km - Easy
    • Sat:  Worked all day at Salomon expo - 30min run
    • Sun:  RACE DAY!!
The last week may have seemed like a bit of a gamble - especially the hard run on Wed in Revy - but my energy levels were good and I knew that I had enough days to recover for the race - It just 'felt' like this was the right thing to do!  Plus I couldn't pass up an opportunity to run Frisby Ridge Trail :) 

...and am I glad I did - Phenomenal views on Frisby Ridge Trail near Revelstoke, BC!

High alpine flowers were in full blown!  The trail gained 900 vertical metres up to a max height of 2,000m in altitude.  Weather was touchy, ranging from cold showers to sunny breaks - perfect temp for running!

Seriously - It doesn't get any better than this!

As for the race... I won't bore you with all the details, so here's the quick version:  
  • 6am start...Off we go
  • Leg 1: 10km...Speedy pace on flat-ish leg.  Lots of chatter with Mr. Coo...Let the leaders run up the road...Feeling good - should be a fun day!  
  • Leg 2 - Comfortably Numb: 22km... Technical is the name of the game...What a great trail!  This section kept our brains alive.  Caught up to 2 leaders (Mike Murphy and Mark Bennett) who I would end up playing cat & mouse with the entire race.  Watched Mike take about 5 spectacular crashes... good entertainment!  By the end of this leg I was done with technical... just give me some f'ing flat road! 
  • Leg 3 - BlackComb Climb: 10km...Monster grind to the top of the mountain!  Mark had a fast transition and flew out of the feed station.  I grabbed my poles, some food and chased!  Not sure what Mike was doing but he lingered just enough that a gap was formed...I caught up to Mark and we both paced each other to the summit.  Became a race to the gondola! Left knee was quite sore...Popped a few Vitamine - I's... good to go.
  • Peak 2 Peak chair - AWESOME! What a view... wow!  Adding the gondola to the race was brilliant - It was great to have a break at the 40km mark.  Enjoyed the best tasting soup EVER.  
  • Leg 4 - Whistler descent: 8km... Steep and fast.  Gapped Mark a bit on lower technical to dance down the rooty sections.  Definitely felt good in this section... lots of juice in the tank.
  • Leg 5 - 10km or so...Wasn't ready to run solo for the rest of the way so 'waited' for Mark to catch back up...Good to have him with me to maintain our pace... took a quick detour to dip in the river - so refreshing!
  • Leg 6 - 10km or so...I heard that the Flank trail would be a doozy, and it was!  Gaped Mark in the first climbing section - was feeling good so pushed the pace!  About 5km in, I tried to take some electrolyte tabs but stomach didn't agree with the horse-sized pills and out came my entire feed refuelling... ugh-  Feeling 'lighter'... I pushed on.  Couldn't eat from here on in...
  • Leg 7 - 10km or so...again.  Get me to the finish line.  Physically, body was ok.  But my energy was starting to fade as fuelling was not adequate...Coke was about the only thing I could choke down, but it wasn't enough...As I popped on the paved path in town, the energy was being sucked out of me - And then all of a sudden, Mike (who I hadn't seen since 30km mark), appeared out of nowhere and was flying! Nothing I could do...I tipped my hat and watch him cruise away...
  • Happy to finish 4min back of lead...another 6min ahead of Mark.  
And that was that.

All things considered, my 8h35min 'work-day' actually flew by surprisingly quickly.  A few little kinks but overall, the body held up pretty well...

Will I do it again? Absolutely.  The MYM50 course was spectacular - and included a ton of variety to keep your brain alive the entire way.  Just when you would start getting tired of a specific section, the course changed, and you were confronted with another type of trail, terrain or view to keep you motivated.  The perfect mix for such an event.  

But what about taking that next step to the full ultra distances?  Put one foot in front of the other and follow the pretty flags...for 160km.  Seems simple really. 


Never say never I suppose...

Suunto Ambit Beta - A big day on the Whistler trails... good way to tour the local area ;)

At the 50km mark...Poles in hand - Up I go!
Final Notes:

  • The course, the logistics, the markings, feed stations were top notch - kudos to the 5 Peaks crew for putting on a great year-1 event!  As usual, there are always a few kinks to work out, but all things considered - a flawless event in my mind!
  • Congrats to all the MYM50 participants - It was great to watch solo and relay runners funnel into the finish lines, greeted by family, friends and teammates - and sporting big smiles (most of them anyways ;)
  • See you on the trails...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rockwall Traverse...Take 4!

I was breathing hard, but feeling good...This was the 3rd of four passes that I would crest today.  After almost 4hrs of running, I was just getting to the good stuff. Through the larch trees I could see this massive 'wall of rock' materialize along the trail up ahead... 

"There it is!" 

A dark imposing wall stretching far into the landscape. 

Simple. Beautiful. 

I grinned and pushed on.  The day wasn't over yet.

I'm not quite sure what it is...but there's something about the Rockwall Trail that gets under my skin - in a good way of course...

The goal, like most of my runs on the trail over the past few years, was to run it fast & light carrying only the necessities - jacket, hat, gloves, ski poles, emergency blanket (in case shit goes wrong), and of course food and bear spray... For once I decided to leave the iPhone at home - today would be all 'business'.

Suunto Ambit Beta: The 'normal' way to run the Rockwall Traverse is from Floe Lake parking lot to Paint Pots - It runs ~53km, and covers 4 passes totalling over 2,500m of vertical gain. Current trail record is 6h46min. The high alpine singletrack is some of the best I've run - hence the reason I run it every year! 

I usually try to drag along a friend to torture, and this time would be no different.  Actually, it was Simon (Donato) that threw out the idea - and despite some uncertainty about trail and bridge conditions, a quick call-out to the community and web inquiries and we were good to go!  By the time Sunday arrived, a crew of 4 (Ian, Matt, Simon and I) walked up to the Floe Lake trailhead... ready for a big day on the trails!  

Off we go...

The crew set off at a good pace, all eager to get up to Numa Pass, another 1,000m vertical above us.  The going wasn't speedy by any means as the abundance of spring rain/runoff had not only knocked out a few bridges, but left the trail overgrown with grass, fireweed and downed trees.  Aside from having to watch our footing, it was the wildlife that preoccupied our minds early on as the numerous open avalanche tracks were perfect bear habitat.

I usually try to keep a sharp eye out but found it hard to keep my eyes on the surroundings when I couldn't see where my feet were landing!  Instead we relied on a deep chorus of "Heeeeyyy Beeeaaarrr" every 30sec or so...seemed to do the trick. 

About 3/4 of the way up to Floe Lake, I was slowly starting to pull away from the group... A few more bends and I was alone.  That morning we had talked about the possibility of me pulling ahead - I was clear to the group that if I was to make a go at a speed attempt, I couldn't afford to wait for others, so everyone knew the game.  If anyone fell off the back, they would take one of the bailout routes via Numa or Tumbling Creek and meet back at one of the vehicles. 

Although this was my 4th time on the trail, it was my first time running it alone.  With the exception of a few hiking groups I had the trails to myself - it was actually a nice feeling to be solo.  Knowing the trail and what lay ahead made the time fly by.  I limited my pit stops to food and water breaks, stopping only to drink at creeks to supplement my own supplies.  That said, I did lay on the ground for a few minutes after a hard crash on the way down to Helmet Falls.  After 5hrs of running, things to get to a bit sloppy...You don't lift your knees as high, you let your toes drag a tiny bit more... Inevitably I hooked my foot on a stump and plowed hard into the ground, spraining my wrist of all things. But time was ticking - "suck it up buttercup..."

The highlight of the day:  I was coming up on a random stream just up from Tumbling Creek and found a mini can of Coke just sitting there waiting for me... "No shit!" I said out loud. I pulled the tab and a fresh 'phfzzzz' escaped.  Down the gullet it went.  I crushed the can, stuffed it in my pack and off I went...[Smile]

The trail itself is simply...fantastic - I won't go into (bore you with) all the details but trust me when I tell you that the Rockwall is a must-do in your life.  Hike or run... it's worth the trip!

After the final descent into Helmet Falls (~40km), I had been out for about for a total of 5h15min or so... and had another solid 15km+ to go... making the 6h45min would be close.  This section is mostly downhill but still has some descent bumps that take their toll.  Despite feeling good and cruising on this section, it still felt like it was dragging on forever! Seriously.

tick tock, tick tock...

I finally arrived at the final Marble Canyon/Paint Pots intersection (0.9km to go) and looked at the time.. 6h40min.  But since the bridge at Paint Pots was out, I decided to take the long way home via Marble Canyon... another 3.4km - ugh!

The last section was gruelling... I just wanted to get it over with.  Finally, I pulled into Marble Canyon, 7hrs on the button.  I'll take it.  As I slowed to stop my watch, Simon, Matt and Ian appeared around the car... waiting for me!?  "What are you guys doing here?"  A combination of technical difficulties with Simon's hydration pack (busted bladder) and tired bodies had forced them to take the Tumbling Creek shortcut that featured an exciting run-in with a juvenile grizzly! (always carry your bear spray kids!)

So that's it.  Another RW adventure comes to an end... Already looking forward to my next attempt :) 

Thx for reading-

The remnants of a massive forest fire in 2003 leads you up the trails from Floe Lake Trailhead 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Still Kickin'...

Yes, I'm still alive...

I've been thinking about how much I miss writing over these past few months...and that's about as far as I've gotten. 

C'est la vie. 

So today I figured I'd sneak in a short bit, a sort of teaser really... Oh don't worry, I won't bore you with everything I've been up to "since my last post...", besides, if you're already following me on the social media ticker index, then you know...

For the moment, I'm done with all the jet setting on the Yo-Yo Express, and looking forward to squeeze in my share of PV-time.  Either way, no complaints-

So what next...? Work aside, I've got a few running projects lined up in the mountains with the main objective being my preparation for the Meet Your Maker 50, my first 80km race - very exciting!  This is a new event that will take place in Whistler on the Sept  1 - 2 weekend...If you're game to take on the distance - Don't delay - But if the solo thing isn't for you, then round up your training buddies and come out for the relay!  Regardless of your choice, I highly recommend checking this one out as it will cover some of Whistler's classic singletrack trails - and not to mention a ride on the Peak 2 Peak gondola during the race!

(Sorry, couldn't help plugging in a bit of promo in there...)
Ok, before I start rambling on more projects, I'll cut this one short... too much admin work to catch up on. 

Time to get back to the grind.

Thanks for checkin' in!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Time to Turn the Page...

Winter is over. Sort of...

It's been another busy year of work, travel, life.  Every year I tell myself that things will cool off a bit, that work will become less hectic, that my travel will slow down... It hasn't, and that's OK.

Truth is, I love what I do.  The work, the busy schedules, all the travel...It's all part of an amazing adventure in itself and I wouldn't change a thing - at least not anytime soon.  Sure there are times where I wouldn't mind being home a bit more - but we adapt. You learn to spend more quality time with close friends/family, and plants learn to live without little to no water for 10-day stints.

Greek coastline - Athens awaits.

So with the nordic season behind me, I turn the page and look forward to hitting the trails!  That means it's time to hit the road again... or in this case, the air.

For the past 5 seasons, I've had the opportunity to take part in Salomon's Advanced Week, where Brand Ambassadors, athletes and product development staff come together to test the latest footwear, apparel and gear.  It's a no-holds-barred week where we literally 'run' the product into the ground, and provide valuable feedback to the development team.  Of course, not everything makes the cut, but if it does, it becomes worthy of the 'S-LAB' tag - Salomon Laboratory.  So if you've bought on of these products in the past, you know it's been approved by some of the world's best trail runners!

Kardamili - Advanced Week testing grounds

This year's testing grounds - Kardamili, Greece...  Two words: 'WOW'.  As far as testing grounds go, I don't think you could ask for a better location.  The quality of the trails here is simply impressive - you want it, you got it - except for flat sections... haven't found too many of those yet!  Oh, and the scenery...not bad at all!

I know what you're thinking...but believe when I tell you that this is the furthest thing for a 'vacation'.  With countless products to review, the R&D crew wastes no time!  Days are jammed-packed with 2 per day testing sessions, covering 20-30km of technical trail, which translates to a minimum of 3hrs of difficult running - and that's only if you don't get lost!  Fresh off the trail, your trail running gear is immediately replaced with pens and paper, filling out feedback forms, and documenting every feelings, tweeks, comments - the good, the bad, the ugly... they want to hear it!

Felix and Michel on the final push to the top of the trail
Testing aside, one of the highlights for me is the interaction and networking that takes place between both athletes and Brand Ambassadors.  Being able to share or bounce ideas and marketing strategies from a global perspective, and adapt them to our Canadian market is key.  Whether in an organized focus group, or dinner time chatter, exchanges take place throughout the day - So by the time your head finally touches the pillow around midnight, sleep is instant.

On the trail...Coming and Going
Like it or not, another Advanced Week has come and gone...My brain is full of new ideas, confidence and I'm ready to attack the trail running season!  Our new Greek friends have been fantastic hosts, and the camaraderie of my Salomon 'family' continues to grow...I'll miss this place - but I'm happy to come home. 

Sardine head collection - Greek specialty!
Looking back at this busy year, one of the things I've learned about my work is that it's not about skiing, or running or whatever it is I do...(trust me, sometimes I don't even know how to describe what I do!).  The root of my work, is about building relationships.  Not so sure why it's taken me this long to figure this out, but I realize now that whether for business or friendship - relationships are the key. 

[Taking a moment to reflect on this...]

Yup, I can turn the page now.

So much to talk about...Better leave some for next time.  Besides, it's time to go for a run!  
A rare moment - Taking a bit of PV time...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kaslo SufferFest - Are You Ready to Suffer?

Well, all I can say is that the Kaslo SufferFest lived up to its name...It's Monday, and I'm still wading through the fuzz - ugh.

Ever been to Kaslo? If you don't know where it is, look it up.  I've never actually taken the time to drive through the Kootenays before, and after such a great weekend spent running on the local trails, I honestly wish I had more time to play (but with fresh legs!).

After a long day of driving, I pulled into the quiet little town at around 11pm...seemed like most of the 1,000 residents were fast asleep.  The only place that looked remotely open was the Kaslo Hotel & Brew Pub - I guess it's time for a pint!  Despite the local band's 'talent', it was time for bed - lucky for me, it was only 2 sets of stairs above!

Happy to be catching up on some Z's after a busy week, I was looking forward to a bit of a sleep in...but it was not to be.  Instead of my alarm, the hotel phone rattled beside me. 

"Sir, is that your big (ass) brown Dodge pickup parked out in front of the hotel?"

Half asleep..."Uh...y-yes..."

"Oh, good. I guess nobody told you...but that's our finish line today, and your truck is parked in the way of our kid's race course!"

The view of Main Street from my hotel room...right above the finish line!

The rig parked in the kid's finish lane... I guess I better move it now.

In case you didn't know, the
Kaslo SufferFest is actually a 2-day multi-disciplined stage race that includes various combos of XC mountain bike race (40km or 100km), a trail race (10k, 25k or 50k) and a DH mountain bike event. Like most of the 300+ participants, I decided to take part in only one of the many events...the 50k trail race. 

So, while I was snoring away in my comfy bed, the mountain bikers were covering some hard kms on the trails.  By the time I was back from a tasty breakfast at the local coffee shop, the town was alive and anticipating the big guns - who in this case ended up being a couple of friends of mine from Canmore - way to represent boys!

The Cafe boys in the spotlight - Leighton (right) took the win, with John (left) in 2nd
Onto the trail race...
With a quick fly-by on the important bits of the course, I was as good as I was going to get.  I typically like doing a course recon when I can - always good to be familiar with key intersections, check points, etc...Also allowed me to get the kinks out after the long drive and see how the body would feel after my 4 Peaks epic less than 7 days prior...

As I prepped my gear, I realized I forgot my Suunto watch...Funny how we get used to key pieces of gear when we race...Felt odd to not have a watch - I normally set it to gauge my pace or to see how much altitude I've covered (or how much I've got remaining!). But I survived.

Suunto data a la PV:  Elev Gain: ~ 1,500m Not a ton of gain, but the course still took it's toll with lots of singletrack, up/down terrain and few hard technical bits.

At 6am, huddled under the street lights of Main Street, a small crew of runners (50k participants) set off into the night...After a quick run through town and it was up the grunt climb of the day - a straight up, 500m gain stair-step climb known as 'No Brakes' hill... I settled into a steady rhythm, shining my light up the track and pushing on my quads to get the best efficiency out of my stride.  In behind, strongman Peter Findlay pursued.  Despite having placed top 5 in the 100km mtn bike the previous day, there he was lingering...Damn that old-man strength.

Up and up we climbed...I pushed on in the night.

As daylight broke, the climbing eased off onto the Buchanan Access Trail, one of the best singletrack traverse I've done in a while.  I didn't know how far back Peter was hiding, so I switched off my AY-UP light, put the pedal to the metal and disappeared around the bend...

For the next 10km, I was giddy...the track was simply amazing - Aside from a few up or down switchbacks to detour around natural obstacles, it was a beautiful flowing descent into the aid station. At the Wagon Rd turnaround (15km) I had gained 5min on Peter...but it's a long race so I kept my head down and kept the pace up.

Besides a bit of confusion due to missing signs at key intersections (found out later that they had been taken down by locals - I was lucky and guessed right, others weren't so lucky!), the rest of the run back down to town was fairly quick - Next thing I knew, I was cruising through town.  A quick resupply, and I was off for loop #2!


Kaslo River Bridge:  The link between the North & South trails...

Dodge this!  The race course zipped right through the Kaslo local airport...Had to look right, left, and up!

The second loop looked a bit confusion on the map (hence my recon the day before), but it actually turned out to be relatively easy to follow... There was lots of aid stations out there, so lots of opportunities to fuel up if needed.  Although there wasn't much elev gain (on paper), I definitely found this section challenging.  My body was still feeling good, but I could start to feel that I wasn't fully recovered from the 4 Peaks.  The slow consistent singletrack climbing ate away at my energy... My pace slowed in the twisty mossy singletrack.  The short/steep up and downs were taking their toll...The mind started to wander... Where was Peter?  Damn that old man strength...

At the 40km mark, I started passing runners that were on their first mini-loop of the second half of the course...good timing.  Chasing bodies perked me up and my pace quickened.  I was on the home stretch.  Once last pass by the airport (a quick look up!) and it was all the way down back to town. 

One more lap around the town's shoreline and I crossed the line...Happy camper! 

Ever been to
Kaslo? You should...with 7 different events (in 2 days) to choose from you don't have an excuse!  A big thanks to Janis for putting on a great show - and the entire community for supporting this exciting weekend of events.  Can't wait for next year! 

The hardware:  Carved by a Kaslo local artist...Not sure what inspired this guy...could it be the real thing?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Canmore 4 Peaks Challenge

It may not look like much, but it's no easy feat...

The Canmore 4 Peaks Challenge is simple - Summit all four local peaks in a day.  Using cars, bikes, move to/from each trailhead is not allowed.  So you can run, walk or crawl, either way, it makes for a long, long day on the trails.

The peaks include Grotto Mountain (2,706m) which is the steepest of the bunch + Lady MacDonald (2,605m), with its sketchy knife edge summit + East End of Rundle or EEOR (2,530m), a slow scree ridden climb and Ha Ling (2,407m), the 'easiest' of the four...


As far as I know, only 3 people have done this prior to my attempt... Jack Firth at the age of 50-something, completed the four summits in a day (20hrs give or take) and was joined by his son (Ben) for the final ascent up Ha Ling...

Sticking with local mountain men...Ernst Salzgeber completed all 4 Peaks at the age of 60!  I couldn't find many details on this attempt, but word is it took him in the 17+ hr range...

The latest to complete the 'quad' is climber and local Canmore Crossfit owner,
Greg Thazuk, who's built a reputation for tackling any worthy challenge that is thrown on his plate.  Greg completed the mountain mission in around 14.5hrs (not sure on exact time)...A solid effort for a self proclaimed 'non-runner'!

As for me, I'm just happy to tick this 'beast' off my list... Huge respect to Jack, Ernst and Greg - It's an honour to be part of the select that have completed this challenge!

**Note: If I've missed someone and/or you know of anyone else that has completed the 4 Peaks Challenge please acknowledge them in the comments section - I'd love to know!
A few bits in case you were wondering:

- Which summit was the hardest?  All 4 peaks were unique in difficulty, but the most physically and mentally demanding was EEOR. By that point, I was close to 8hrs and I was tired.  Having never climbed Rundle, I ended up losing the trail twice and had to bushwack my way through steep terrain to find the trail again. As I got higher up the peak, the loose scree made you lose 1/2 a step for every one you took...Add in some tough route navigating and I was just about to lose my shit.     

- Easiest summit?  Ha Ling... I've run up this one many times. I knew it wouldn't take me more than an hour and it's as close to a mountain hwy as you can get.  However, Fitzy and I had run out of water halfway up (poor planning on my part) but thankfully a very generous couple hiking down shared some of their water with us!

- Scariest moment? The 10-15m knife edge on Lady Mac was super sketchy...I definitely felt out of my comfort zone as I clung onto the edge with both hands, feet half dangling over a massive cliff trying to find an edge to step on...I had a few moments where the wind was howling so hard I had to stop and hang on...not good.

-  Freak occurrence... At the top of Grotto, the wind was howling like crazy.  Despite tightening the draw strings on our visors, a tornado like wind simultaneously blew Andy and my hats off our heads.  I was lucky, my hat was blown 10m in the air, and fell back to my feet... Andy wasn't so lucky, his visor was catapulted about 50m out in space...lost forever on the back side of Grotto.

- Best moment of the day... Fitzy 'found' a nectarine at the bottom of his pack at the top of Ha Ling.  By this time, we were parched from not having brought enough water...The sweet juiciness of the fruit brought me back to life for the last stretch home...

- Running on Flat: 1h45 min (most of this was spent running through town)
- Time spent climbing: 5h33min of speedy pole walking  
- Time spent descending: 3h18min (yes my quads are sore today)

- Breaks along the way?  At the 5h30min halfway mark (at my house), I took 30min to refuel, eat, drink, change socks and shoes. Otherwise, random water/food break along the way, and twitter posts... of course.

- Fuel? 4 ham/cheese tortilla wraps w a bit of honey mustard, 2 HoneyStinger gels, 1 Pro Bar, salt vinegar crispers (salty goodness!), Salt Stick electrolyte tabs, Tumbs (4), noodles w/ oil/salt (at home), 1L of ginger ale (at home), 2x 1.5L bladders + lots of water from creeks (I'll probably pay for this one later in the week - yikes!), 1 coke (that Fitzy brought to me on EEOR) and the most amazing nectarine on the planet!

- Best piece of gear?  Ski poles... essential for all the up/down. 

- Body damage?  Quads are beat, small blister on right foot from all the side walking on steep scree slopes...that's it.

Suunto Movescount Beta: Forgot to recalibrate the altitude on my watch at the start so the base altitude is about 100m off (should be 1325m, not 1428m)...Start - halfway - finish point was my house in downtown Canmore, I took a 30min refuelling break at the halfway mark, otherwise was more/less trying to keep moving most of the day.

View from the top of Grotto - #1:  Was psyched to have Andy Reed with me for most of the day...Thanks Andy! Canmore in the backdrop.  You can notice Spray Rd that cuts into the side of EEOR (Rundle) - Had to run up that road to get to the last 2 trailheads of the day.

View from Lady MacDonald - #2: Great view of Canmore on a perfect day! In the center of the photo is Ha Ling Peak (left of center valley) and EEOR (right of center valley). Spray Rd cuts up the slope...

Top of Lady MacDonald: Super windy conditions made for some tough climbing on narrow summit ledge...

Lady MacDonald's knife edge summit - Difficult to see but most of this section is only 1 to 2ft wide ... Hangin' on for dear life - white knuckling it all the way across - Didn't feel very comfortable up here!

Taking a water break in Cougar Creek after 2 peaks...Andy takes a bit of gravel out of his shoes.

View of Ha Ling Peak midway up Rundle - #3:  If only I had a squirrel suit... Hit a low point going up EEOR, and was looking for any excuse to take a break! 

One more to go:  Taking a quick break in the reservoir in between EEOR and Ha Ling.  Having lost Andy, I was happy to be joined by Fitzy for the last climb of the day. 

Don't do it!  A twitchy chipmunk hangs out on the top of Ha Ling...He wasn't too pleased when we left without leaving him any crumbs-

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rockwall Traverse - Fast VS Light...

Suunto Movescount Beta...

PV: "I don't know...what do you feel like running?"

Martin: "Well, if you had to pick one trail to run, which one would you choose...?

PV: "Rockwall... no question."

Martin: "What's 'Rockwall'? How long will it take?"

PV: "Not sure...It's 52km w/ 2,500m gain. My fastest time is 8hrs, but we could easily cut an hour off that. Maybe two... Hikers typically do it 3 to 4 days."

Martin: "OK then... it's settled. Let's go for it!"

And that was it.
Despite having run this trail twice before, I was eager to show Martin aka the 'Goat', one of the most scenic and classic trails of the Canadian Rockies - And with my injuries finally behind me, there was no excuse not to test the body and take advantage of all the high altitude training we had done over the past 3 weeks :)

With near perfect conditions, we set off in an attempt to see what we could do as far as putting a new benchmark on the table for this challenging trail...and after the smoke had settled, we were left exhausted, but content with the effort.

No matter how well you think you're prepared, playing in the mountains can be a humbling experience - You have to be prepared for anything, and anticipate the unexpected. Blue skies can turn grey in an instant...dry trails can become muddy...your trusty pair of trail shoes can give you the worst blisters ever...water bladders can can run out...I think you get the picture. Bottom line, if you're not careful, the mountains will slap you around like a cat playing with it's pray...

So going for a 'fast' time sometimes means you have to make sacrifices - but where? In order to move quickly, you have to be light...But what gear to you leave behind? How much extra food do you bring? Despite all the planning, you still end up riding a fine line and can only hope that nothing goes wrong. With those thoughts in mind, I think we prepared adequately for anything weather wise - all the 'survival' essentials were present in our packs. I think where we were a bit ambitious was in regards to our expected time, and unfortunately ended up a bit lite in the food department as both Martin and I ran out of 'fuel' with 8k to go. And that's where the real fun began...

I'll stop there and let the video speak for itself... In the meantime, the high alpine window is closing quickly and there's only a few weeks of running up high left... is there another attempt in the forecast...?