Far Flung Places and Races

I travel to far flung places with my job several times per year but I can’t seem to get any exotics races in. I am constantly on the lookout for races in East Africa and there are a lot of them but my schedule never complies.

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I travel through London and Amsterdam but never can I just extend a couple days to include a weekend. In the last couple years I have been in Ecuador, Myanmar, Haiti, Colombia, Ghana, and a bunch of countries in East Africa. Even my trip through New York could have worked except it was in February and too miserably cold for a race.

I’ll keep checking because I think it could be an amazing experience.

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Does anyone out there have good success with matching trips and racing?

Running in Calgary and the Rockies

Are you a runner just visiting Calgary and wanting to know what Calgary and Banff has to offer for runners?

Or a Calgarian just getting into running?

Well, have we got a running scene for you. From trails to pathways, big events to wild remote places, running groups to solitude, flat long runs to epic peaks to conquer. This place is amazing for runners.

Where to run

In Calgary

Calgary is full of great running spots. The valleys along the Bow River and the Elbow River offer countless opportunities to experience the trails, and pathway systems which seem to go on forever. Lots of people start downtown and run along the beautiful rivers. Morning, lunchtime and evenings, it is packed with runners, in both summer and winter. And don’t discount actual real hard core trails inside the city limits.

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Continue reading “Running in Calgary and the Rockies”

September is Race Month in Calgary!

The race calendar is packed full this month! September is always busy for running races. Not only is school starting again, everyone is back from vacation, but people are setting new goals. Get going on those fitness goals by signing up for a race. Maybe it’s not a goal race, but it could be a tuneup race, or your first time out there to test yourself.

Whether you’ve been running all summer, or are starting up again with new goals for the Fall, September is a great time to see what you’re made of.

And if you happen to be in Calgary or area, check out my list of Upcoming Calgary Races this month. More race details and links here.

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The weekend is almost here. Are you signed up yet?

Race nutrition – it doesn’t have to taste good (but it helps)

It doesn’t have to taste good, it just has to get you through race day.

My family does not like the taste of my cliff bars, gels, or energy drinks. That’s a good thing because that means they aren’t sneaking them out of the cupboard before I can pack them.

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I had no idea what my food intake would be for my 50 Miler but I knew I would be burning a lot of calories and would need to replenish. I had heard all the horror stories of not being able to keep food down on these events.

For the most part, nutrition intake went well enough, although I didn’t eat nearly as much as I thought I might. I started with 3 cliff bars, 3 gels, and 2 litres of water. At the end, after 13 hours, I still had 1 bar, 2 gels, and 1 litre of water left. I grazed at the 6 aid stations: a few chips, and gummi bears at each, plus a couple cups of soup (and some Gatorade and coke).

I must have burned a lot more calories than that. It was cold enough that perhaps I didn’t need more hydration but I though I would have needed more electrolytes. I was feeling low on fuel for the last hour and I should have had another cliff bar or gel but the finish line was so close, I thought I would go without it.

And I hardly ate after the race. My stomach just wasn’t up for it. But over the next few days, oh yeah, I downed a lot of food. I am still downing a lot of food and barely exercising.

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Shoe Saga

I had a no-win shoe choice for my 50 miler on Saturday. But I am glad to report that it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

As per my blog last week, my new trail shoes were still numbing my feet even after 100km of being broken in. So they were out. My very well worn road shoes had no grip, and my old trail shoes has lost both their cushioning and their grip. And I figured I couldn’t break in a new pair of shoes in a couple days.

So I brought both old pairs of shoes and planned to trade them and dry socks at the half way point.

The trail was very wet with numerous creek crossings so my feet were fully wet all day long. The dirt and mud caked my feet as I discovered when I swapped the shoes. And when I had to occasionally fish out sand and tree needles.

With 1 hour to go I suddenly had a blister coming on. I searched for the cause, perhaps some sand but frustratingly I couldn’t find it. It sure was painful though. But after inspecting after the race, a blister had not even materialized. I have super sensitive feet but I was sure they had been falling apart.

The very rocky terrain did a number on my grip. It seemed that well over half of the trail was loose sharp rocks that kept moving under my feet. With no grip to start with it was a bit hairy in sections. And for the parts that were not rocky, they were muddy. Better grip would have been very helpful but it probably would have been worn off by the end too.

And cushioning? I would have loved some cushioning. I was jealous of all those Hokas I saw out there.

This week I will be babying my feet. Sandals and bare feet will be my main choices for a while now.

And I will be doing some shoe shopping before my next race.

Trying to Smile for 50 Miles

Well we found the start line easy enough even in the pitch dark. We just had to find all the head lamps lined up listening to the final instructions. There seemed to be lots of nervous energy, me included.

The start of the Ironlegs 50 Miler race was in the rain and it rained for much of the race. It made for some parts to be very miserable but luckily rarely was it a down pour. Despite the weather, there were smiles and joking everywhere, throughout the day. Everyone was in the same boat (or maybe in the same flood).

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We only needed head lamps for the first 5 minutes of the race so many of us just relied on other people’s head lamps for that first bit. It made for a tentative slow start with everyone bunched up but it spread out soon enough. When there are so many hours to go it is not worth getting stressed out what part of the group you are in. Within several kilometres the amount of passing slowed down considerably as we found our place and as our legs woke up to the realization that this was going to be a long day.

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At first we were dodging the puddles until someone chided us that our feet were going to be sopping wet pretty soon any way. What were we doing? We had lots of creeks to cross yet. And yes there were a lot of water crossings and puddles throughout the day. And we soon remembered that getting wet when you are wet already is a lot of fun. And it didn’t take long until we couldn’t get wetter.

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Those of us who had done reconnaissance on the trails at least knew what the views were supposed to look like without the fog and rain. I felt sorry for those who hadn’t seen the area before that day. They missed out on a lot of mountain scenery.

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The hills were relentless. They just kept coming and coming. On average, half the race was 10% uphill and the other half was 10% downhill. That’s 4200m up and 4200m down over 87km. It felt like it would never end. There’s a reason it is called the toughest 50 miler in Canada.

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Well it did end. 13.5 long hours later. I came in 20th overall out of maybe 80 runners. So I am pretty proud of that. I didn’t smile all the way, but it is pretty amazing to be out there and to prove to yourself that you can do this.

Thanks for the amazing volunteering and aid stations in that drizzling rain all day. And my amazing family who came out to a couple aid stations and to steady me after the finish line.

Don’t ask me if I am going to do it again. The pain is still pretty fresh and the couch will be aiding my slow recovery for a while yet.

30 more days to figure this out

One month – 30 days – and counting. Two more massive weeks of training, then two really easy weeks. Right now my legs are looking forward to the easy weeks, and then the 2 weeks vacation immediately following the race.

I need to figure out a few things before my ultra-marathon on August 15th – 80k Ironlegs race:

1) How to get my bladder from leaking (my backpack bladder, not the other one)

2) What food to bring with me. Can ‘man’ live on Clifbars and water alone? Of course there are aid stations, but you never know. There is an aid station every 2 – 2.5 hours or so for the 12 hours duration I am expecting. The previous longest race I’ve done is 6.5 hours.

3) I’ve never worried about salt intake. Maybe I will stash Pringles at the drop points. I’ve never tried salt tablets. Worth a shot?

4) Shoes. I am getting a new pair of shoes in the next week or so. That might be a hard decision. I need to break them in a bit before I subject them to gruelling techincal trails.

5) What do you put in a drop bag? Food, extra socks, tylenol? Anything else?

6) I have a 2 litre water bladder. That is a lot of weight if it is full, especially for 4200m of vertical. Should I risk not filling it all the way up? Maybe I should see how hot it is out first.

7) Audiobooks to forget the pain? Or bask in the sounds of nature for 12 hours? Maybe a combination. My battery won’t last nearly that long anyway.

8) Bear spray? I always bring bear spray on these trails but maybe there will be enough people on the trail to keep the bears hunkered down for the day.

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Yup, we’re going up and over that mountain.

Happy trails!

Surviving the whole half

My amazing daughter and I finished the grueling full half marathon on Sunday. I am so proud of her sticking to the training and pushing through to the finish line.

The Calgary marathon put on an amazing weekend with an excellent course, volunteers and aid stations (we know because we made full use of the aid stations and the toilets).

Even with a 6:30 start there was no worries about having to decide what to wear. No one wore long sleeves. The weather was pretty much perfect.

We both had to push through the pain and ignore all the other faster runners out there. But in the last km we dug deep and even passed a whole bunch of others. And we finished in 2:04 in her first half.

Before we even left the grounds my girls were asking to do it again next year. That’s a good sign of a great event.

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Lost Soul Ultra Relived

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Lost Soul Ultra (54km option – 3600 ft vertical) was the longest and toughest race I have ever done. That was back in September 2014. I’m still pretty proud of it. Since then I’ve been trying to forget the long, lonely, steep, slippery hills. Just when it was becoming a dim(mer) memory, I rediscovered this scrapbook page my wife lovingly made me to help me remember the 6.5 hours of pain. Maybe she thought my memory of it would get me to not do something like this again this year. Quite unlikely! Once the memory fades, the memory of another grueling race doesn’t seem so bad any more.

In case you’re curious, this race is in Lethbridge, Alberta. “The toughest race on the prairies”.

Let’s Race! Calendar of Events in Calgary Area

Need a tune up race before the big one? Spring is always full of running races. Make sure you try out at least one this spring and earn some bling. It doesn’t have to be a big race, check out your local 5k charity run, or stretch yourself and do a trail race.

Racing seems to bring out the best in every runner.

And if you’re not going to race, volunteer at a race. You’ll love it!

Calendar of events in the Calgary area:

  • May 9th – 5 Peaks Trail Race in Fish Creek
  • May 10th – Mother’s Day Run
  • May 16th – Tri-it Espresso Run
  • May 16th – MEC Race Three – The Pace Setter
  • May 23rd – Rocky Mountain Soap Women’s Run
  • May 24th – Run for Women
  • May 31st – Scotiabank Calgary Marathon
  • June 6th – Banff Jasper Relay
  • June 6th – Hope Classic
  • June 7th – Run Bowness
  • June 13th – Millarville Run to the Farmer’s Market
  • June 13th – Run for Water
  • June 14th – Betty’s Run for ALS
  • June 14th – 5 Peaks Trail Race – Canmore
  • …LOTS MORE…

For an even more comprehensive list of Calgary area events click here.

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