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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

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.

image

image

image

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.

image

image

image

image

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.

image

image
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

 

When do You Wave?

Running etiquette usually involves acknowledging other runners. Everyone does it differently. But how do you do it properly?

Some people do small waves, some do big waves. Some flick their wrists. Some nod their heads. Some shout something cheery. Some mumble something under their breath. Some look others directly in the eye, and others do everything possible to avoid eye contact. Some smile.

article-2212729-1557EE17000005DC-243_964x995

That all applies if you are running toward each other. But what if you are passing someone, or they are passing you? Wave as we’re passing? That can be awkward. Mumble something encouraging?

And how does a race situation change it? On an out-and-back race, rarely do the fastest runners acknowledge the rest of us coming the other way. But those not quite as competitive are more apt to be encouraging and friendly.

I have learned that runners definitely do not wave at cyclists. And if you are cycling, you do not wave at runners. This is especially hard to remember if you are training for a triathlon. Back when I was switching my running and biking every day and not fully conscious which sport I was doing that day, I occasionally had to swallow a wave (pretend there was a mosquito) to keep from looking foolish.

I suppose it is a cultural thing too. Different countries would develop different ways to appropriately acknowledge each other. It would be different for urban versus smaller town folks. City versus trail runners. I haven’t studied this in depth but I’ve passed a lot of runners. I’d love to know if anyone has any insight.

When I am doing my speed work I am more focused and less likely to acknowledge others. When I am on a lonely trail I am more likely to acknowledge someone than when I am on a busy urban pathway.

Does anyone have any rules of etiquette to share around?

Which are the friendliest cities to run in?

Sun and Ice

After a long weekend of standing on my feet exhibiting at a conference, I was able to get out alone in the woods to be by myself in the quiet and go for a run.

It was a recovery run. Recovery from a weekend of talking, socializing, and people-time.

image

Nature, trees, trails. I love the therapy it provides.

And being a Monday afternoon when everyone else was at work or school, I got the place mostly to myself.

img_20160222_131030478-1600x900.jpg
It looks like soft snow, but disappointingly it really is crusty packed ice that is great at twisting ankles. 

 

image
The sand over the ice should have made it less slippery, except in the places where I couldn’t tell where the sand stopped and the ice started

Now I need to go to work, even though it is still sunny. And then I need to go on another run.

 

My Introduction to Mountain Races – #tbt

My second ever race was a half marathon mountain race about 10 years ago. I had just run the Vancouver marathon a few months before and felt the need to keep going with this running thing. The closest thing to a race near our small town in northern BC was the Emperor’s Challenge about 2 hours away on the edge of the Rockies. Someone casually told me about it and as I looked into it, I got excited. It sounded crazy. But crazy was good. Basically it was 600m up a mountain following a creek bed and then back down a mountain road. I don’t remember having a good idea how much 600m is but I knew it was going to be excruciating. And I was going to have to do some hill training and learn how to do trails.

So I set about with hill training. Having grown up and still living in the prairies I didn’t really know what hills were. And trails? I didn’t know where to find them. All my marathon training had been on dead flat roads.

By accident I discovered that one of the dead ends near the river valley had a deer trail down to the bottom. So one day I went down it. Straight down it. Then straight back up heaving like never before. Over a matter of months I upped it to three times in one go. This dead end at the top of the hill was one of the romantic lookouts where cars came to park for a while, so I’m sure there were a few couples who wondered at my sanity. I wondered too.

On the way to this hill, I would run pass one of the farms that housed dog sled dogs. In the summer they trained on wheeled sleds on the adjacent road. As I would pass them, it would be very noisy with all the yipping, but all their training worked to inspire me to train harder.

A couple times, I also ran down the highway on a 5 km downhill stretch that was 5% slope for 5 km. And then I had my wife (and 3 and 5 year olds) pick me up at the bottom. I couldn’t contemplate going back up. She is amazing.

I never really got my trail training in except a couple times while camping, but I did a good effort on the hills.

I didn’t really know what to expect for the race, but now as I look back it was not that abnormal from a trail race. Maybe 100 competitors. Very casual start. Very crowded, confusing first kilometer. I wore too much at the start but was freezing at the top and warm again at the bottom. I wore my road shoes since I didn’t know there was such a thing as trail running shoes.

I was quite happy with my finish. I was very encouraged by being able to pass people even to the end, and even after the 14 km of continuous downhill.

DSC04266
We had warning that it was going to be a steep one!
DSC04249
My daughter’s first race, and my second race.

DSC04265

It was a great introduction to trail running. But oddly that was the last trail race I did for a few years. I’m not sure why, but at first it didn’t stick. It took a couple more trail races before trails got into my blood. And now they are in my blood.  I would love to go back and try my hand at that race again.

The views are spectacular (if you notice them between all the huffing and puffing).

Capture

http://www.emperorschallenge.com/ – Tumbler Ridge, BC – Babcock Mountain

 

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.

image

image

Racing in the winter requires a special kind of crazy.

Check out the Calgary RoadRunners club here 

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.

image
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.

image
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.

Racing in the Depths of Winter

Racing in the depths of winter is not for the faint of heart. You need stuff, you need other crazy people to race, and you need guts.

image

You Need Stuff:

  • Gloves – you head out the door with thin gloves but pack thick ones just in case. At the start line you wish you had not left the thick ones in the car. At the 1 km mark you can’t feel your fingers. Good thing you don’t need fingers to run. After bunching your fingers up inside your gloves at the 5 km mark the feeling starts coming back. At the 7 km mark you have removed the gloves and are carrying them. The crowd (ok, there’s no crowd except for maybe five frozen spouses) thinks you’re crazy for running with exposed skin. Good thing these races tend to be short – our local winter running series are about 8 km.
  • Toque – you know “toque” – that knitted cap your grandmother gave you last Christmas. Usually the toque is too warm but with no toque you are sure to get frozen ears. Toque on – Toque off – Toque on – Toque off. Craziness ensues.
  • Thermo layer – Need a thermo layer for both your top half and your bottom half. Bonus if the thermo layer has odour reducing qualities (definite necessity if you don’t want to be washing every single run).
  • Parka (just for the start line). A wind resistant winter running jacket underneath.
  • Socks – 2 pairs. Depending on how high the snow is and how long your tights are you are probably going to need longer socks than you thought.
  • Shoes – not just your cool summer shoes. If these aren’t semi-air tight and hopefully water / melted snow tight you’ll have wet feet. And wet feet are cold. Cold feet are not fun.
  • Face mask – to keep that nose and chin from getting numb. Face masks end up being about the grossest things hanging around a winter runners racing stuff. Just think frozen saliva, sweat and snot. Yup, never borrow another runner’s face mask.
  • Tech – NOPE – Don’t even bother with a phone / camera  / GPS watch – The battery will freeze up on you and you will just be frustrated. Plus your gloves are likely not touch-friendly.

You Need Other Crazy People to Race

  • Sometimes other crazy runner people are the hardest people to find in the depths of winter. Most runners are either curled up on the couch for a few months, or are on a treadmill. But crazy people are drawn to each other, I’m sure. The few that there are seem to all show up at these crazy events. Great place to find winter running partners after the race.

You Need Guts

  • Runners have guts.

Oh and don’t forget hot chocolate. You always need something to help warm up after.

Don’t let winter scare you off. Just be prepared.

Bow River Run

image

image

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!

Oh, for Longer Socks

You know that space between the top of your socks and the bottom of your tights. It’s part of your ankle that you don’t really notice. And no one else notices it either.

image

It’s not noticeable UNLESS there is a lot of snow you are trudging through. Or it is really cold out. Then you really notice that inch of skin. That inch of skin suddenly becomes the most important part of the body.

Pull your socks up higher. Pull your tights a little lower. Just frustrating.

I haven’t gotten frostbite on my ankles yet but it can be really frustrating when I pick the wrong socks for a run. I need to hide those short socks a little deeper in the drawer so they don’t come out at this time of year.

Most running socks are short. But some are even shorter. They’re designed that way for fair weather running. Not winter running.

Most of my longer socks are cotton. Not great for running in, period.

My tights are just a bit too short. I do have looser wind pants that I can wear for running that go a little lower, but I usually only pick those as a second pair to go over the tights.

Putting all the right pieces together becomes all too important when frostbite is a real threat.

Remember those leg warmers from the 80s? Well, in case you’re wondering, I’m not resorting to those. Any other ideas?

%d bloggers like this: