Didn’t You Pass Me Already?

“Didn’t you pass me already?”, asked the distracted hiker with the enormous camera and off-leash dog.

“Yes. And this is my last loop”, I said.

What I didn’t say was that I had passed her 5 times already on this 2 km loop and that I had done the loop 3 times before that.

Not many people notice us “loop-ers” but I love seeing their confusion and then their amazement when it dawns on them they they have been lapped.

Last year, as I was on hill repeat 10 out of 20, one casual hiker asked how many I was doing. When I said I was working on 20, he was truly inspired and decided to join me. I don’t know how many repeats he did but by the time I finished my 20 he was still going strong. Maybe he was proving something to his girlfriend, but I was happy to see I inspired someone.

Today on my 1 km city trail route, I saw a commercial grass cutting crew on maybe 5 of my 8 laps. On each of my laps I saw most people at least twice – several dog walkers, girl out for graduation photos, grandmother out for a smoke break, and a few other runners. I hope my running has inspired some of them to kick it up a notch even further.

No matter how much or how little our running effort seems to us, it can be a huge inspiration to someone else. Or they can think we are just loopy.

Keep running. Keep inspiring.

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Big Hill Springs – Places to Run (or not)

I’m not sure if the “Big Hill” at these natural springs is the hill that I ran since there are bigger hills around, but the hill that I ran was big enough for this short loop. At least it was steep enough. It was definitely a “hiking only” hill.

The park really is very small, with the looped trail only being 2 km long. I hadn’t realized how short the trail was when I planned this run. So I did the loop 8 times to get in 15 km and 400m of elevation gain. My legs were definitely feeling the downhill by the time I ended.

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The park is often very busy with 20+ cars in the parking lot, especially on sunny weekends for the picnic’ers who don’t want to go far from Calgary but want to experience the outdoors. Running the trail then would be very frustrating. On the sunniest days, the kids wade in the water and every open space is used up for picnics, baby strollers, and dogs.

But I had picked a Friday after work when the rain was threatening at any time. So there were only 5 cars in the lot making the trail very quiet. I had lucked upon a good time to go and I even stayed dry.

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The first kilometer of the loop is along this creek that pops out of the ground at several mineral springs. The water isn’t warm, but it is full of minerals and used to be very popular with those seeking the health benefits of mineral baths.

I loved listening to the quiet, to the creek, and being out of the wind in this protected valley.

I’ve noticed that other runner and biking bloggers talk about following the creek from this park for the 20 km downstream to Cochrane. Unfortunately, even though there is a truck trail, it is provincial road allowance, the adjacent landowner has been grumpy for many years and is insistent on the “No Trespassing” through that general area including the road allowance. It looks like it could be a great place to run but alas, I didn’t go for it this time around giving the “crochety farmer” a wide berth.

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I only went off the trail on one loop and went across this make-shift bridge (and stayed dry)

I can’t say this is normally a great place to run. I was lucky that there were no crowds, but that doesn’t happen often. And the loop was only 2 km with not much else in the area to extend it. But the serenity, the creek, and the trees made this a great run for me this time.

Located 1/2 hour west of Calgary near Cochrane at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Grassi Lakes – Places to Run

Grassi Lakes Park in Canmore makes for a great hike and a tough run. The main loop is 4 km starting at the parking lot with a lot of elevation gain – maybe several hundred meters or so. At the far end of the loop are these two incredibly clear small shallow lakes. They are a great place to take a snack break as you wonder at the beauty.

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Near the start of the trail is a fork with a sign for “easy” and “more difficult”, both going to the same location. If you do the loop you would take one up and the other down. I definitely recommend the more difficult for at least one direction. There are waterfalls, views of the townsite and lots of steep stone steps. If you take the easy route you get views too but not nearly as good. We took the difficult route up and the easy route down.

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The trail was way too popular and crowded on the spring Saturday that we were out there so the going was a bit tough. So wait a few weeks into summer, go early in the morning, or go on a weekday for a quieter route.

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To get there go south of Canmore, head past the nordic center for 2 km and park next to the lake.

At the top end of the loop, if you go past Grassi lake (south) you will go past a very popular cliff climbing area as you ascend more stairs up to Spray Lake for another amazing view.

If you head east from Grassi lake you get onto to the High Line trail that follows the mountain range. This is definitely a must-run. We didn’t do that one today but I fully recommend it.

Prairie Link Loop – Places to Run

I have run this 12km loop once before, maybe 5 years ago but I had run it clockwise. When I ran it last week, I decided to do it counter-clockwise. Well my memory wasn’t quite as good as I thought and I was second-guessing a little too much. I had neglected to take a photo of the trailhead map since I was sure it was on my phone somewhere. But when I needed it I couldn’t find it. So I was within 100m of turning around at the half way point when I came across the bridge to assure myself I was still on the right trail. There weren’t many people on the trail to ask, and definitely no direction signs. That was very close to a disappointing run!

Then within 500m of the bridge I missed the next turn even though there was a trailhead map right there. So I did an extra 1.5 km in the wrong direction before my brain kicked in with its internal GPS to override what looked right on my actual GPS.

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I love these bridges

So going counter clockwise, in mid-April I found some ice on the trail at the very end for several hundred meters near the parking lot. But overall, the trail was very dry, especially for April. I don’t remember any mud. We’ve had a very dry winter / spring.

There were maybe 10 others on the trail that I ran into over the 2 hours out there, on a weekday morning. On the weekends, it is full of mountain bikes and there can horses too. But this was a great time to be out there. I don’t get many weekday mornings to get out there.

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Hoping there’s no bears or cougars around the corner. The bear spray is buried too deep in my pack for that kind of surprise.

 

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Rocky Mountains as a backdrop
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Unfortunately, all the sections of trail that were this smooth had incredibly steep or were long hills

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Now that’s a cold river but it felt great on the feet (for the few seconds it took to take the photo).

 

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Can you tell where I lost the trail? Yeah, I didn’t read the sign and assumed I knew the way. Good thing my internal GPS kicked in eventually.

To get there from Calgary, head through Bragg Creek to Kananaskis Country, and park at Elbow Falls. Before mid-May the road is closed beyond this point but it is only 500m to the trail head. In the summer you can drive right to the parking lot for Powder Ridge Trail. That’s an amazing trail too. So is Prairie Mountain. So much to hike and run from this one parking spot.

Praire Link Loop – 15km with the wrong turn (12km otherwise), 360m elevation gain

Running the River

Running along our local river is as good as it gets when I need a run that starts at my house.

I can choose the busy paved pathway, the quiet paved pathway on the other side, or the single track through the trees (but only on one side of the river). There’s bridges every couple kilometres so whatever distance I am running that day doesn’t mean I have to come back on the same side.

There is a 10 km or 15km loop going upstream and 6km or 14km downstream if you start at my house. Starting at the ice cream shop is a great place to meetup for those that have to drive to the trail head. You can always treat yourself after the run. It’s a very popular starting point for some reason, hmmm.

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There are vitually no lights in the linear park except when the pathway is near the road, so I need to wear my headlamp for most winter evening runs.

Last year as I was training for my mountain ultra race, I frequented the trails to get in a little elevation and trail experience on each of my runs.

When I am looking for speed work I stick to the paved trails. There’s even markings on the pavement at 800m intervals if I am feeling so inclined to see what I am made of.

Winter running is usually on the paved pathways since the trails are too treacherous with ice.

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We could use some water fountains in this Park. There’s some at the ice cream store but a few more wouldn’t hurt. And any time before May and after September the fountains are shut off because they’re frozen. I guess that’s life around here.

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Spring is just around the corner so the number of bikes and families on the trail is increasing everyday, especially when the sun is out and especially on weekends. Pretty soon I will have to head for the quieter trails until the weather cools off again in the Fall. But either way, the runs are immediately adjacent to the river.

Places to run: Edworthy Park in Calgary
Seen on my run: Bow River at sunset

Saturday morning trails

Saturday mornings are meant for runs. Even better if I can get out on a trail. We did 5km on a new trail this morning on some new snow. Couldn’t ask for a better start to a day.

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For the first time in a long time one of my daughters was not sleeping in, so we went for a run together. We were staying overnight at a retreat center and needed a reprieve from the meetings the day before and the meetings this morning. A run was the right cure.

We were probably the first and only ones out on the trails which wound down to a frozen creek, beside the creek for a while and back up a steep trail to finish up in sort of a loop.

We saw one deer but were expecting more. The local family of moose was unfortunately also not around.

It was just us, some conversation and the trail. Perfect.

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Passing, Getting Passed, and Busting a Gut

I was pretty happy with how the race started out. I knew from past winter trail races that if you started in the middle of the pack you tended to stay there because of the lack of opportunities to pass. On Saturdays 8 km race I started out hard, even passing a bunch of people in the first hundred meters by running off the trail in the ankle deep snow. I was totally out of breath by 200m but it paid off. I was in a good position just behind the fastest runners but not stuck in the pack.

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The pack starts out pretty thick

Other fast runners stuck further back had less opportunity to pass and so I didn’t have to contend with them. But I knew they would slowly try to catch up so I kept up the speed as best I could.

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Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go in the deep snow to pass. It's tough slogging.

After regaining by breath a little I eventually passed a few others on the downhill who had started out too hard. Then the line of runners started to string out.

At the 2 km mark I had a chance to look behind me and felt relieved to see the line behind me quite strung out already with no one on too close on my tail.

At 4 km I was pushing to stay with the bright yellow toque in front of me. At 5 km the yellow toque passed a dull grey jacket. But I couldn’t keep up with the yellow toque. He slowly sped ahead but not quite out of sight.

At 6 km to my horror behind me I saw the one guy that I always think I can beat but almost never do – a 16 year old lanky boy who doesn’t seem to ever be out of breath. He quickly passed the line of people behind me and sat on my tail for a long time. Then I got a surge and passed the dull grey jacket and glimpsed the yellow toque again, getting my hopes up. But the young snirp (nearly one third my age) behind me was breathing down my neck and then passed me and sped ahead. I couldn’t keep up to him. For the last 500m both the yellow toque and the young guy were within striking distance but just not quite. My tank (morale, ego, and lungs) was empty by then. So unfortunately I finished behind them. But almost no one else passed me for the entire race.

That big sprint at the beginning was worth it. I got 17th out of perhaps 60 people in the 8 km race. There was probably another 15 people in the 2 minutes behind me meaning I was lucky I didn’t get stuck behind someone at the beginning. It was a much better result than recent previous results.

I will admit that those small races have a lot more drama and excitement than big ones. This is especially true if the races are a series and most of the same competition show up every time.

Winter Running in the Rockies – Lake Louise

We did a quick stop on our drive through the Canadian Rockies on the way to see the relatives for Christmas. We just couldn’t help ourselves and had to get out and run a bit. Beautiful.

We followed the trails groomed for skiing in Banff National Park in the town of Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies following the river upstream.

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I would love to get out here a bit more. Even though it is only 1.5 hours from home we don’t get here enough.

-15C, snow in shoes, wet socks, frozen fingers and nose. But super fun.

We kept it really short (2k) so we could get back to the road.

Day 33 run streak

Places to Run – Nose Creek Park

It was a beautiful day today for an afternoon run in the brisk cold air on a sunny day. I had a small window to get my run in between errands. After dropping someone off at the airport I picked a park I don’t often go to near the airport.

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This park, Nose Creek park, has mostly flat trails in a large open space but it is surrounded by subdivisions.

At this time of year the trails can be a bit tough and uneven, but I wasn’t in a hurry.

There were a bunch of dogs and their people out today but mostly it was a pretty quiet lonely trail.

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I definitely bundled up today even with no wind.
-15C and sunny.

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Nose Creek park is very popular with cyclists in the summer and walkers in the winter. Access and parking is not great since it is accessed off some big roads. But I guess that’s what keeps it a little less busy.

Today was 8.9km with 100m elevation going in and out of the small valley along the creek, mostly staying off the pavement. Trails through the fields are way more fun.

Run Streak Day 29

Edworthy Park Trails – Places to Run

The paved pathways at Edworthy Park in Calgary are is a go-to for most all running groups in the area. But there is so much more than just paved pathways. But it seems few people are discovering the gems found right in the city.

There is a whole bunch of single track too. You just need to step of the pavement and head several meters closer to the river and you will find some great trails. They aren’t as long as you might want want wilderness running, and there are no hills on the north side of the river. But they are much quieter than the alternative hard surface. This morning I found almost no runners and I couldn’t hear the nearby road. And if you go to the south side of the river the trails are more than you’d expect. Lots to explore.

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My run this morning was the 10km loop between the two pedestrian bridges plus the 4 km run to get to and from the park. I ran counter clockwise which obviously was against the flow of most other runners. Either way works for me.

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There seems to have been construction at least somewhere on this loop for the last 8 years I have been running it. Between upgrades, park renovations, and river flooding, there is always something to work on, it seems. But the city prioritizes the pathway for commuters leaving it mostly open most of the time.

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These trails are some of my most run trails because of how easy it is to get there from home, and how nice it is to run along a river.