Calgary Half Marathon

What a great day to run a race! On Sunday, the sun was out, and the smiles were everywhere as the gun went off for the Calgary Half Marathon Charity Challenge.

At the start line we were treated to a whole choir singing the national anthem, and the mayor giving his encouragement.

The smiles and chatter only lasted for a kilometer and then the chatter suddenly  disappeared as we started our first hill, even though it was a pretty small one. But huffing and puffing at km #1 can be pretty discouraging. But then the crowd thinned a bit, we crossed the river twice on beautiful old bridges before hitting the first aid station just outside the tiger cages at the zoo (but unfortunately we couldn’t quite glimpse them this time).

Many runners started at 7AM with long sleeves, but it was too warm to finish the race with long sleeves. I was glad for a hat because the sun was still so low in the horizon for most of the backstretch.

At 7:20AM, at km 5, one of the bystanders had a sign that said “I’m still in my PJ’s”. We had been up for hours already, so we thought that was pretty funny. It was nice to see the crowd really into it.

This is definitely a downtown type of race route. We crossed six bridges over the two rivers. Plus there were two underpasses, two overpasses and one U-turn. Half the route was immediately adjacent to the river. But because of the crowds, unfortunately, the goslings weren’t out and about. They’ll be back tomorrow for sure.

There were a whole bunch of cheering sections, and lots of bands including Elvis of course and my favourite, a steel drum band. We ran the popular “Red Mile” which is Calgary’s strip of trendy places, and the outskirts of the zoo, where sometimes (but not today) you can see the tigers and camels through the fence. The race finish was in front of the stampede grandstands so everyone could see you sprint (or crawl) to the line.

I finished with one of my daughters and we were both very proud of her personal best time. My other daughter finished just behind us on her first half marathon. Way to go girls.

Great organization, great food, great entertainment.

Now, let’s see. When’s my next race?

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The organizers were definitely ready for the crowds
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And the crowds came out
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And we followed the crowds all the way to the finish line

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

Another Sunny #Runch in Calgary

It felt like everyone had vacated the Calgary downtown towers at lunch today and were out for a run or walk. Me included. The pathways were packed. It’s great to see so many people getting some fresh air, stretching their legs, and getting energized for another afternoon in a cubicle again.

I sure needed the run. I had skipped two days in a row, even with the nice weather because of … well… life. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

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The economy is slow around here so many people don’t have the workload pressures they have in past years. So I guess that means more and longer lunch hour runs for a lot of people. It probably means longer lunches on the outdoor restaurant patios too, but I’m not in that scene. I just whiz past them.

It is a long way from spring yet, but the temperature was up, the sun was out and the ice along the river was melting fast.

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Looking at how many pictures I took on one run, I am now wondering whether it was a hard enough run. But it was a fun run, at least.

This weather, and the thousands of other runners are a great inspiration for the spring races coming up.

See you out there for a #runch sometime.

 

 

Not-quite-Spring-yet trail run

I can’t wait for spring trail running in the mountains so I gave it a shot today. And I discovered that although it was sunny and warm, it is definitely not fully spring yet. This is really not surprising for end of February, but it has been unseasonably warm lately, making it feel much more like April. The ice was treacherous and covered about 90% of the length of the trail, making it absolutely necessary to have yak traks or other ice grips. I had to really keep it slow and walk carefully on most of the up and downhills.

The other indicator that trail running or hiking in the mountains in February is not that popular (or not that safe) is that in two hours of running, I only came across one hiker and his dog. Otherwise it was a very quiet run. I love those quiet runs, but I was wondering if anyone would come across me if I ran into trouble. I was trying not to think about bears waking up from hibernation a couple months early due to the warm weather, or the warning signs about cougars, or the cliffs immediately adjacent to the trail. But alas, it was a quite uneventful run.

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This trail was the Montagne Trail, a single track rolling trail on the north side of Canmore, Alberta. It skirted above the golf course but stayed off the steep parts of Lady McDonald mountain. I will have to head back out here to do the Lady McDonald trail to the peak in the summer sometime.

From what I remember, I think this is a very popular trail in the summer. I have heard it mentioned quite a bit but this is the first time I have been here.

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I had a great view on this sunny day of the mountains across the valley beyond the town site. I was inspired to do some peak bagging just as soon as the trail conditions improve – which is probably not before mid-June.

Just as I got to the car, a storm blew in with new snow. Good thing I didn’t start half an hour later. It would have been pretty miserable. But maybe the trails will be in better condition by the time I have a chance to head back out there for another trail run. Either more snow, or no ice would be great, thank you very much.

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Maybe I will aim for the peaks when summer hits. They look enticing

Montagne Trail in Canmore, Alberta. 1 hour west of Calgary, just outside the Banff National Park gates.

11 km, 1:45 hours – This sounds slow, but the ice made it tough going.

There’s ton’s of trail running in the Canadian Rockies. Check out this post

 

Just show up with your shoes tied

And bring some dessert to share.

Our local running club puts on a cross-country series through the winter and we always get some doozy races. Today was 8 km in a city park with rolling hills but a bunch of side slope and a lot of ice. We even had a 5m long section where it was glare ice on a slope. At least today we had no wind and the temperatures were bearable. Not every race is this comfortable.

They are very casual races with maybe 70-90 runners of all abilities and ages.

One of the best parts is the soup lunch after and the dessert potluck. There is always lots of variety of soup and large tables of desserts. This is probably the main reason people keep coming back to these races. No prizes, no medals. Just bragging rights and dessert.

It is a great community of runners who love to put themselves out there in the snow, ice, blizzards, and whatever else comes our way between October and March in wintry Canada.

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Racing in the winter requires a special kind of crazy.

Check out the Calgary RoadRunners club here 

Bow River Run

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We live in a beautiful winter setting. This run was right out my back yard.
13 km on the single track snow covered trails right next to the Bow River.

On New Years Day morning there were a whole lot of other runners all seemingly in a great mood. It was a great day for a run.

The geese and the ducks were huddled in the hundreds trying to ride out the winter in the icy river.

This run streak won’t last more than a couple more days since my normal schedule will jerk me back to reality. But in the meantime I am still counting.

Day 42 running streak

Happy New Years!

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