Author Archives: mscurlgurl78

Lost Soul Ultra 50km

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While this is a bit delayed (2 months….)It’s official.  I completed my first trail ultra marathon!  On Saturday, September 7th, I trekked out into the infamous Lethbridge coulees on an adventure.  I felt prepared enough, I suppose, but I didn’t really get as much trial running in during the summer as I had hoped.  However, my training and completing of Totem to Totem in July must have helped as my legs felt better than expected.  And my result was better than I could have asked for.

The last two years, the weekend of Lost Soul has been HOT and smoky.  Forest fires over in British Columbia were the culprit.  On Friday, when the 200km, 100 miler and 100km runners started it was cool, overcast, and even drizzled a bit of rain.  On Saturday morning the temperatures were comfortable and great for running.

The course is split into 6 different sections, or legs.  There are also three aide stations-Headquarters (HQ, where the start and finish are), Softball Valley and Pavan Park.  Each leg varies in length and difficulty.

I had done *just enough* training this summer that I felt confident going into the race.  I had ran on legs 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 before during training.  I was not able to attend the leg 4 training night-Leg 4 is on private land and is only opened once during the summer for runners to explore and then again on race day.  I made a general race plan that I gave to my friend Aaron, who would be my crew captain for the race.  Well, he was my only crew person to be exact—I didn’t want to have to rely on Dan with Andy, because if Andy gave him any grief during the day, they may not be at a required spot when I needed them.  Aaron’s job was to meet me at each aide station around the times I was hoping to get in, provide me with any food and beverages I needed at that time, fill up my water, and then also keep Dan in the loop.

This was the general plan I gave Aaron to follow:

LSU GOAL of SUB 7 HOURS with Time of Day to LEAVE Aide Station

Leg1 -South Loop 7km, goal of 45 min, no stop at aid station T.O.D 7:45 am

Leg 2-HQ to Softball Valley 8.4 km, goal of 55 min, 2 min stop at aide station T.O.D 8:42 am

Leg 3-Softball Valley to Pavan 9.6km, goal of 1 hour 15 min, 5 min stop at aide station T.O.D 10:02 am

Leg 4-North Loop 16.4 km, goal of 2 hours, 5 min stop at aide station T.O.D 12:07 pm

Leg 5-Pavan to Softball Valley 6.6 km, goal of 55 min, 2 min stop at aide station T.O.D 1:02 pm

Leg 6-Softball Valley to HQ 6.2 km, goal of 50 min T.O.D 1:54 pm

Total time—6 hours and 54 minutes

 

RACE TIME! (My “actual times” are found on the Aide Station breakdown results from the LSU website.  I believe these are the times I came through the aide stations)

Leg 1

I knew I couldn’t get caught up in the hype.  I took it easy and paced myself off of someone I knew.  Not really much to say about this section except I did start off fast just so I knew I wouldn’t be stuck behind people on the first narrow hill climb.

Goal time-7:45 am    Actual time-7:43 am


Leg 2

I ran though the first aide station at HQ like planned.  This is also a section I was familiar with.  I have done this section many times as it is easily accessibly from our house.  The weather was still nice and cool so I focused on not pushing too hard (since it was still comfortable) and just focusing on the goal.  I also made sure to hydrate and get some calories in, even though I wasn’t hungry or thirsty yet.

 

Goal time-8:42 am     Actual time-8:39 am


Leg 3

I met Aaron at Softball valley and got a few bites of watermelon.  I also walked a bit through the station before running onward.  I didn’t have a need for a bathroom break so I decided to keep moving.  This leg was one that I had a bit of experience on the first half of it (Gun range hill, Ryan’s hill) but not as much experience in the second half as you head to Pavan.  As I was getting further along on this leg I was definitely starting to feel hungry and a bit tired.  I was also looking forward to getting to Pavan so I could go to the bathroom before hitting the North Loop.

 

Goal time-10:02 am    Actual time-9:53 am


Leg 4

This is where I will definitely need to find room for improvement.  The fact that I had no first-hand visual of what this route looked like was a mental struggle for me.  It was also starting to get warm and we were pretty spaced out on the course.  I felt very alone on this long segment.  I did not realize how many late-in-the-first-half of this loop coulee climbs there would be.  I think there were at least 3 that I didn’t expect to happen.  My stomach was bothering me and I was crabby.  I really thought I would be falling being my goal here and I was starting to come to terms with it.  As soon as I realized we had crossed the bridge to the other side of the lake and were heading BACK to Pavan, my spirits were lifted.   I also found a fellow runner who was training for NYC Marathon with us on the weekends, Steven, and we ran a bit together which was nice.  It was also a huge mental boost coming in to the aide station and seeing Dan with Andy.

 

Goal time-12:07 pm    Actual time-12:05pm


Leg 5

Apparently, I looked like hell when I got in to the aide station.  I think I spent a solid 10 minutes or more going to the bathroom, getting ice, drinking fluids and eating watermelon.  I couldn’t stomach any other solid foods other than watermelon or gummi chews.  I got my body heat cooled down and headed out.  With this being a shorter leg than the last, I knew I could focus on the fact that I wouldn’t be out there as long as the North Loop.  And, the first part of this loop had shade!  I tackled it the best I could, and as I head in to Softball Valley for the final time, I was feeling a burst of energy!

 

Goal time-1:02 pm    Actual time-1:07pm


Leg 6

I didn’t even stop for Aaron at Softball Valley.  All I did was ditch my hydration backpack and I didn’t even take the water belt.  I knew I could get this last leg done efficiently.  It is the easiest leg on its own, but after doing 5 prior it could still be a challenge.  I had a goal and I was going to reach it.  I had planned on trying to do this leg in 50 minutes….I ended up crushing it in 41 minutes!

 

Goal time-1:54 pm    Actual time-1:48 pm


 

I BEAT MY GOAL!  Holy shit it was a ride.  And to be honest, as I finished, I felt like I could have run another 5 km.  With the strategy of ultra running being a mix of running on flats and downhills, power walking on inclines, my body actually felt incredibly good.  Aaron was there at the finish line with my single tall-boy can of Blindman Longshadows IPA on ice.  Dan and Andy were not there immediately because they didn’t think I’d be there by that time!

I ended up finding out that I placed 3rd in my age group!  I knew it would be close, but I did in fact place 3rd in the 18-39 female category with an official time of 6:48.11.  I placed 3/17 in my age group, 5/61 women and then 15/137 overall.  The coveted LOST SOUL ROCKS were awarded to all finishers this year, as it was a special 20th anniversary year.  However, I earned a special age group rock which I received sand-blasted about a month later.  This means so much to not only finish this bucket-list race, but also earn an age group award!

 

Will I do this again?  YES!  Now that I have a baseline, I would love to try and beat my personal best.  I think with more trail training and experience, I could definitely break 6:40, and maybe head down to the low 6:30s.  I have a lot to learn on the trails, especially work on my downhill descents, fueling, stomach issues, and just overall trail experience.  I don’t know if I will be out there in 2021, as a lot revolves on a possible 2nd foot surgery, but I will be back!

Brief hiatus

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Hey everyone

I know it’s usually a gap between all my posts anyways with work, all our family commitments and etc. I was starting to write my recap on my Lost Soul Ultra experience (the recap was already delayed) and a family emergency happened last week. I need some time to decide what to write next.

Street art from Europe, circa 1965

Totem to Totem Marathon

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I don’t even know where to begin! So I’ll start with a quote regarding visitor information directly from the race webpage:

“Located off the north west coast of B.C, Haida Gwaii is as far west as you can go in Canada. It is the home and traditional territory of the Haida. It is one of Canada’s undiscovered treasures.”

 

Flying in

 

This was a family vacation that we planned around a race. It was able to happen in part that our friends, David & Heidi, live out in Haida Gwaii. We booked the three flights, shuttle and ferry and went out on an adventure! By using our AirMiles (and the fact Andy could fly for free) it cost us $100 per adult ticket for all three flights, return! Flying from Alberta to British Columbia is the lowest AirMiles flight redemption for province to province, so this was a steal considering how much all these little flight segments would have cost.

Riding the moving sidewalk in Vancouver

Almost a 3 hour delay out of Vancouver calls for a nap

Even slept through a parent transfer!

We arrived in Haida Gwaii on the Thursday. This allowed us to get settled in at our friends’ place and tour a bit the next morning. Flights were delayed out of Vancouver, and we ended up leaving 3 hours late to the island. Andy was a champ throughout this all (more so, I was getting super anxious and I think my husband was getting sick of airports). I was very worried we would be stuck in Sandspit (not where Dave & Heidi live) because technically, the last ferry would have already left. However, BC Ferries ran one more ferry from Moresby Island to Graham Island solely because of the inbound flight coming in. Phew!

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We made it to Sandspit!

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Loading it up on the ferry

Not loving it on the ferry!

On Friday morning, Dave and Heidi decided to show us how life is out there and we went crabbing. It was a lot of fun. We drove up to Miller Creek (a spot on the race course), parked on the side of the road, then hiked into the beach.(YES we bought our license to crab, which was a whopping $5 per person. You could catch up to six crabs a day per person on that…) We ended up catching a Dungeness crab and a red crab (I forget the name of this kind). The Dungeness was huge! It fed us all lunch that afternoon.

Probably my favourite picture from the trip!  Some serious sand-scooping with a sand dollar is happening.

Dave & Dan became friends in elementary school when they both took French Immersion

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Our catch

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The crew (minus Dave since he was taking the picture)

Bringing home the prize!

Later that day, we went to the Skidegate to pick up our race packages, which was located at the Kaay Centre. FUN FACT: This was an official AMAZING RACE CANADA location! Even though it was a small package pickup, you could walk a little bit inside the centre and out on the grounds to admire the totems, canoes, and the view. I was happy with the shirts, as they were the Authentic T-Shirt Company, and from my experience their shirts are not of the best quality….and often, they are only one “gender size”. Since I got a women’s small, it actually fits my proportionals correctly and is not a lost cause. The logo and the shirt design mesh well together and both my husband and I really like the colour!

 

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Family photo!

Race started at 8 am. The drive from Dave & Heidi’s place in Queen Charlotte was about 15 minutes. If you are a tourist doing the race, there are quite a few B&B options right in Queen Charlotte too! And I am sure people have Air BnB. There are just none of your typical “Holiday Inn”stuff. And that is fine! We loved the comforts offered here! Race parking was so easy, everyone was so nice. The full and half marathon would be starting at 8, with the 10km following at 8:15.

Down on the beach at the Kaay Centre

Getting ready to start

If this race interests you for a full marathon, the first thing I need to make clear is that it is an extremely small field. In the past years of running in general, more and more people take part in 10km and half marathons….full marathons still seem to be a little bit scarier of a task. I knew it would be a small field based on looking at past results. When you look at the 2019 final results, there were 21 total runners in the full marathon, 47 half marathon runners, and 128 runners in the 10km. So, coming from “a city” this is VERY SMALL. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING! For lots of distances, this is great. But I was well aware of how the marathon field would be and how alone I would potentially feel on the course.

The course is “out-and-back” style, where the half marathoners turn around at Dead Tree Point water station. The marathoners would then continue on to St. Mary Spring, then head back to Skidegate. The whole time you are running, you are on the “highway.” It’s the only road there, with one lane each way. They have tall cones on the edge for runners to stay inside of. When cars occasionally pass, most honk and wave. There are water stations approximately every 5km. If you really get frustrated with your race just look to the side and you are literally running alongside the ocean. You’ll forget your worries!

I won’t recap mile by mile, I’ll just post a Garmin screenshot and it’ll tell you how it went. In summary: Started off strong feeling I could get that 3:30.00 but by 7 miles I was so mentally frustrated and alone (since the half marathoners had turned around) I was just in a mood. Lo and behold Meaghan and Benjy from Victoria, BC, come up to me. THANK GOD. They had ran with Dan for a few miles before the marathoners kept going, and Dan must have described me well enough to them that they knew I was his wife. At that point I thought another female runner was ahead of me. Turns out, I was the lead and Meaghan would ultimately win for the women. But without them showing up, and running with me to the turnaround point, I may have just dove into the brush and then found my way to the sand to start crabbing again because I was crabby….

Running with others is fantastic. We met up around mile 7 or 8. We all ran together until the turnaround. Meaghan and Benjy went ahead. I eventually passed Benjy. And then seeing the areas I already had once passed motivated me to keep moving and pick it up. I’m going to say GIRL POWER here because after Meaghan passed me, no other women passed me but I caught up to and passed 3 guys! It felt good! Since I was feeling the pain of the mileage (I hadn’t done a training run longer than 15 miles this season….oops) and I couldn’t see the third place female behind me, I made sure to take my time at the aid stations. They were well stocked, but I will say the first one we hit on our way out from the start was weird because they only have bottled water but no cups or jugs to fill from….so I carried a bottle of water for a while as a shower device!

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Photo credit to @jagsbean Jags Photography

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With less than 400 m to the finish! Beautiful! Follow @jagsbean on Instagram for more!

 

Finish line area was super welcoming and all the runners, spectators and volunteers were genuinely happy when someone came across. We received a beautiful finishers’ medal, the design was new this year by local Haida artist Robert Davidson. Andy was waiting with David & Heidi when both Dan and then I crossed the finish line. They caught video of Dan coming in with Andy clapping, and then when I crossed in I ran and gave him a big hug.

I finished the race in a time of 3:42.35, which is my third fastest full marathon.  This was my 15th marathon.

As a mother runner, coming across the finish line and giving that little monster a big huge is an amazing feeling!

We hung around for a bit, and then we were informed that awards wouldn’t happen until the last finishers came in, so around 2 pm. At standard races,this would not occur. But since this is such a small, community and cultural event, I understand the importance of waiting for everyone to be in attendance to receive their awards. We went back and showered, Andy took a snooze, and we came back at 2 pm. The awards were presented by the totems in behind the Kaay Centre overlooking the water.

IT WAS PICTURESQUE. I received an award for being 2nd female in the marathon (time of 3:42.35…my third fastest time!) and it is honestly, without a doubt, the best award I’ve ever received in a race. Lots of races just have finishers medals, or if there are not finishers’ medals then they do age group medals. They are pretty generic. Since we are on the edge of the damn country, it’s not like they have access to mass-produced awards….so I was given a necklace carved out of black stone, with the Haida eagle & raven on it, and the Argilllite stone that I am told only Haida are allowed to harvest (made by local artist Tyler York). It’s pretty damn special.

2nd place female award

All of the award winners from each event-Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km

After awards, the rest of our trip began. We were only staying three more nights, but we made the most of it and the best we could with a toddler. We walked 400 metres every morning to the playground. And we walked 100 metres from Dave & Heidi’s house to a trail that was a rainforest. We went to a beach, we ate good food, we had a blast!

Hiking trails right behind David & Heidi’s house

Beach before heading to dinner (Notice the monkey swinging on the rope….)

Dinner at Blacktail in Queen Charlotte

Andy approved of our meals that evening!

Berries are everywhere! Ever heard of THIMBLEBERRIES? Yeah, I hadn’t. Andy LOVES THEM. Find them everywhere! We drove out to see the site of the Golden Spruce (I had never read about this act of eco-terroism, but we found out about it whilebeing here. Well, Dan knew but I did not. It’s super interesting actually!) Wesaw ancient carved Haida canoes, we walked random trails, we did beach walks, we dined on friends’ patios that overlooked the ocean….we did as much as we could. And I know there is more to do.

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THE BERRY MONSTER!

Golden Spruce Trail is really accessible for all ages

Since I did in fact drink the water at St. Mary Springs on our last day while doing an outing, I know I will “be back”. But even before that,I know I NEED to be back. Our family needs to be back. And if you are interested in travelling to an amazing island in British Columbia, that feels a worlds’ away, you should too. Even if you don’t run. But if you do run, and want to add a bucket-list race, why not run on the Edge of Canada?

Read the sign….I drank the water, so I will return to the Islands someday!

Dinner on our last night at a friends’ house.  THE END!

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Running on the edge of Canada

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I moved to Canada in December 2008. I started working as a substitute teacher in January 2009, landing my first 1-year contract for the 2009-2010 school year. I was teaching 4 grade 9 math classes and a grade 10 class. It was a new curriculum year for Math 9, and we had a new textbook. As I worked through my notes in the text, when I got to the Chapter 6 on Linear Relations there was a section on interpreting graphs. There is an example problem, that at the time, meant nothing to me. Here it is:

I’ve been teaching math 9 on and off since 2009, and this example comes up when we talk about extrapolation and interpolation. Even though I’ve always been keen on maps, I never took the time to look where the hell this actually was in relation to the rest of Canada. Fast forward 10 years from my first time teaching Math 9 and I am actually going to Queen Charlotte Islands.

Note where Lethbridge is in the bottom right of Alberta. Head due west towards Vancouver, then follow up the coast and you’ll see Queen Charlotte Islands. We are basically almost going to be in Alaska.

My husband’s friend David and his wife Heidi moved out to Queen Charlotte about a year and a half ago. Dan met David when they took late French-Immersion during Elementary through High School in Red Deer, Alberta. David and Heidi eventually moved out to Vancouver Island, then Vancouver, and now have left the big city to live a more simple life. So we decided to make our family summer vacation to be flying out to Queen Charlotte!….and doing a race of course!

Flying out there isn’t an easy task. I was able to use my Air Miles to get our flights covered (just paid $100 each for taxes) and Andy still flies free since he is under 2 years old. We will be leaving Lethbridge and flying to Calgary. Then Calgary to Vancouver. And lastly, Vancouver to Sandspit. Once we land in Sandspit, we have a shuttle arranged that takes us about 20 minutes to the ferry. We get on the ferry, ride it for 20-25 minutes, and then will be dropped off at David & Heidi’s doorstep. It’ll be a full travel day for sure.

Since I am always looking for unique races to participate in, when I found out that the Totem to Totem Marathon occurs in July in Haida Gwaii I knew we had to come out during that time. It is a relatively small race, however, it is still a Boston qualifier. It appears the race began in 2010 (that’s the earliest results they have on their site) and there were 5 full marathoners, 12 half marathoners, and 12 who ran the 10km. Last year, there are results for 14 marathoners, 28 half marathoners and 128 runners who did the 10km. Considering the remote location, the growth in this race (particularly in the 10km) is great to see.

The race appears to be an out and back. No course map is provided on the website. But I think it is paved and pretty much along the water the whole way. I really will be running “on the edge” of Canada so to speak. I have no clue if there will be a bike pacing the lead runner. I have no clue how many spectators there will be. I am preparing myself to be mentally challenged because with so few marathon runners (I count 21 registered marathoners on the confirmation page through Running Room) we will all get spaced out pretty quickly. I am going ot be running my own race.

What do I hope for? Well, in a perfect world I nail that 3:30.00 I was going for back in Berlin this September and qualify again for Boston. But, I honestly feel like this is the least prepared I’ve been for a marathon in years…..

Yes, I have been running. I have been racing. But my training just hasn’t been “right” since being back at work. I’ve been dragging, having back pain, legs hurt. I have been meeting with my doctor, getting chiro done, going for massages. I haven’t ran longer than 15 miles straight all of 2019. So everything after mile 16 is going to be hella interesting.

I just need to trust myself in knowing that I’ve done this before. This isn’t my first rodeo. This will actually be my 15th full marathon! And the last time I ran a marathon in British Columbia I ran my best time ever. Sea level and cool temperatures are a good thing for me! I’m doing a race on an ISLAND!! How cool is that?!?! Either way, I am very much looking forward to not only this race, but the experience of exploring and learning about Haida Gwaii, because I honestly know NOTHING about the history of the area or the area itself. I can’t wait to right this race and trip report!

Taber Tuff 12.5km

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Saturday, July 13th, marked the inaugural “Taber Tuff” trail race. Taber is a small rural community east of Lethbridge, about 45 minutes away. In my mind, all I think about when I hear Taber is CORN. I don’t think of much else at all. And I definitely don’t think of a tough trail race. So I was very interested to see what this would be like.

The race was held at the Municipal campground in Taber. Once you get into town, you make a turn and head down the road for about 3km. What you end up at looks completely different than the town of Taber itself. The campground has lots of trees and is nestled along the water. The coulees that we are used to in Lethbridge, while not the same here, are prominently located past the trees. It was a nice surprise to see this landscape.

The race had two distances-12.5 km and 25 km. I was registered for the 12.5 km. If you chose to do the 25 km, you did the 12.5 km loop twice. The 25 km runners started at 8 am and the 12.5 km runners started at 8:15 am. This allowed for runners to get pretty spaced out which made it easier if you came up to any 25km runners and needed to pass on the single track.

It was already a very warm morning when the race started and I was happy that I was only going to be doing the 12.5 km. Heat is not my friend. Once they started the 12.5 km, I got myself set as lead female. I had no idea if I was going too fast or too slow. I was just going to try and listen to my body and see how it all played out.

The first 5 km were what I would call “deceiving.” What I mean by that is that it was pretty easy as far as trails go. You start by entering into some wooded area and then get some basic rolling coulee hills. Nothing tricky. This was going to be easy…..

Then it all started to change. In my opinion, the challenging parts of this course were between miles 4-6. This was where there were often holes in the ground or sketchy single wide paths on the face of a coulee. There was loose sand and lots of areas with erosion. For me, being someone scared of heights, I was freaked in some spots. I had to really slow my roll in order to comfortably tackle some of these areas.

I also hit some GI issues around mile 4. I honestly have no clue why my stomach got upset, as I was actually more careful than usual leading up to this race with my food and drink intake. I totally felt ready to go in the morning, and didn’t do anything weird with my fueling routine. I am putting this problem I experienced due to the heat but I also noticed that if I really coasted my way downhill fast, the jarring motion in my stomach seemed to bother me and that’s when it got more upset. These are all good things to find out now at a small 12.5 km race so I can work on them in preparation for Lost Soul 50km. Many times I had to literally stop and take some deep breaths before continuing on with my run.

You looped back to the campground at 10km and followed some cones through the campground. Lots of little kids were sitting in their camping chairs cheering us on. The last big climb was a paved path with then a nice descent back to the rivers’ edge, a stroll through some shaded area, and back at the campground base area.

I ran in a time of 1:33.36 and finished 1st female and 3rd overall. There were 27 finishers in the 12.5km race. I think if I was able to do this same course again on a different day I could break 1:30. But, between my stomach issues, the unexpected sandy and scary areas that I am not used to, and my upcoming marathon this Saturday, I couldn’t push as much I know I could have. I am pretty proud of my time though, because I did step out of my comfort zone a bit with this race. Every trail race I do now is a step in the right direction. It’s a new way of thinking and running for me and it’s going to take time to get used to. Maybe I’ll eventually get used to the heights?!?!?!….

Oh yeah. I also won a sweet Igloo cooler in a draw prize! And we needed a new one !

The Lone Wolf-Team “Lammers & the DILF”

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Father’s Day weekend 2019 was spent camping in beautiful Fernie, British Columbia….and running the trails of beautiful Fernie, British Columbia! The Lone Wolf, put on by Stag Leap Running. This was the second year the event was put on, with last year being the inaugural running. We did not participate in the inaugural event, so I cannot speak to how this was compared to 2018. But I will say that overall I was impressed!

These type of trail events seem to be a trending thing: last man standing style. For The Lone Wolf, you could either enter as a soloist or as a team of two. The idea is that every hour, on the hour, runners leave “The Den” to attack an approximately 4 mile loop. On the odd number laps, you would run clockwise and then on the even number laps, you run counterclockwise. You must finish your lap in the one hour, otherwise you are eliminated. It’s up to you or your team how much you want to push it on each lap. Run balls out on your laps, you’ll have more time to rest in between. Run slow and steady, and you won’t have much time before the next lap starts. Also, if you are a team you can decide how you want to split up the laps between you and your partner (more on that later).

Race photos from Raven Eye Photography

Before getting into actual race day, I want to say that if you are into camping, booking a campsite at the Mount Fernie Provincial Park campground is ideal for this race weekend. We are relatively new to the camping world, but I researched and found out I could book a campsite in mid-February. On the day booking opened, I had full selection of campsites. I chose one that I thought would be close to the Nordic Centre that the race would be located at. We came to find out that we were about 1/4 of a mile away! This was awesome for us, as we would be at the race with our 20 month old son and we knew we’d have to be going back and forth for various things. For example, in the evening once my husband was done doing his laps and threw in the towel, he took Andy back to the campsite to feed him dinner, and then he was able to return to the race site before I finished! There are lots of other hotel accommodations very close to the race, but I would strongly recommend booking early so you get exactly what you want.

Happy camper!

Race package pickup was at a hotel near downtown Fernie. It was a quick pickup, with waivers to be signed. We got our race bibs and our shirts. I really love the shirt colour and design, and they are also very soft. We headed back to the campground and were able to get a really good night’s sleep-Andy slept like a champ! With the race not starting until 10 am, we didn’t have to worry about getting up super early. If you are staying at a hotel or Airbnb you would want to get there relatively early and/or carpool as parking is at a premium. We had our friend Nick come to our campsite at 9 am and he parked his car there.

The race staging area is very large and there’s lots of spots to set up your own personal area. We had a group of us from Lethbridge put a couple of those four-sided shade tents together and had camping chairs, coolers and Andy’s pack-n-play set up in the shade. If you have a group that wants to be near one another, also get there early enough to make sure that happens.

So on to the race. Dan and I chose to do this as a relay because 1.) we aren’t skilled enough trail runners to want to try it solo and 2.) we needed to alternate who was watching Andy during each lap. Since we could choose who ran on which laps, I decided to start us off and always run the odd number laps. I can’t even remember who I paced myself off of the first lap, but I ran a conservative 51:10. What I learned during the first lap is that it was approximately 1/2 a mile from “The Den” to the base of the mountain. Then you’d get up the mountain to its peak at just over mile 2. It was then a descent all the way back to start/finish area. Knowing how long it took to get up to the peak would be helpful in later laps, because you could then know if you were going too fast or too slow.

As Dan and I alternated our laps, there was a great selection of food and beverages for the runners. Funny thing is that these items had to be relocated at one point because when I was out on lap 7 a fucking bear came right up to the finish line. It would not move away, even with bear spray and noise. The parks officials came and got it out of the way but holy shit, had I been at the group area and this occurred I would have told Dan we were quitting and done!

Racers could drop out at whatever point they chose. Obviously, soloists generally stopped before teams. The rule was that whenever the final soloist stopped, the teams must stop too. I don’t know what our true tema goal was, but since I’m competitive with my husband I knew I just wanted to run more laps than him (stupid, I know). Dan had had some back issues the week prior so he wasn’t even sure leading up to the race how he was going to feel. After his fourth lap (lap 8) he said he was done. This was at 6 pm. It worked out pretty well because I went out on lap 9 and Dan took Andy to the campsite. I was running with our friend Dylan, who was actually very injured, but it was comical at least. He didn’t want his team to quit yet. When we came after lap 9, Dan wasn’t back yet. Our friends said he was fully expecting me to run another lap. Also, had I stopped at that point I would have felt obligated to go back to the campsite and help out, when really all I would want to do it sit down and have my free finisher beer. So, I had some snacks and headed out for lap 10 with Dylan’s teammate Mark.

With lap 10 finishing at just before 8 pm, I felt like the smart thing to do was stop. I was STARVING and even though my legs felt fine for a lap 11, I knew I would probably pass out from hunger. Had I been able to get out there for lap 11, we could have placed 3rd in our mixed team category. In the end, there were 4 teams that completed 10 laps. They then calculate who ran the 10 laps the fastest to determine placings. We were the slowest of the 10 lap teams, and in the end we placed 6 out of 9 in the Mixed Under 40. The team that won were a couple who sat right near our tent. The husband was running 4 laps and then the wife would run 1. He was training for the Canadian Death Race and yeah, I think he could have lasted all night if the soloists didn’t stop.

We will definitely be back next year. It was so much fun and a really unique experience. I do have to give a special thanks to all our friends from Lethbridge who were there. They really stepped it up and helped out with Andy quite a bit. Andy is so used to everyone from all the other events we do in town and we are so lucky to have these friends who are like family. The race weekend wouldn’t have been possible had they not been there with us.

Coulee Cactus Crawl

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I ran this as an unexperienced soloist in 2013, then as a last minute team member for leg 2 in 2018. This year, my husband and I opted to run as team “Danada & Miss America” for the 25th anniversary event. This event was now lengthened from 20 miles to 25 miles in length. You could choose to run the 5 legs of the race however you want between you and your relay partner(s). The interesting thing for this race that since there are 5 legs to it, you could have a relay of up to five people. Dan and I decided two would be the way to go, and I am very happy with how it all went!

I was nervous the day before the race, as the smoke from the wildfires up north had travelled south to our area. Not nervous just for us as runners, but nervous for Andy as a spectator. He would be outside with us all day at the race, as we would be trading him off at each relay checkpoint. Thankfully, the smoke cleared and all we had to battle through was the heat.

Before the race

We had originally planned for Dan to run legs 1 & 2 and I would run legs 3-5. Dan started off what with what seemed to be a conservative pace. About 20 minutes into the leg, my phone rings. It’s Dan. WTF….you should be running….He said “be ready to run leg 2.” With that statement I had no clue what type of shape he would be in coming to the transition area. He came through in a decent time, and actually had us 2nd in our category (mixed relay <40 years old). I headed off to the 2nd leg.

Playing around at the transition area for leg 2

I had messaged him before heading off stating I would run leg 2 & 3 and hope he could do 4, and then I would do 5. This is what ended up happening. Dan was recovered by the time it got to leg 4 (which was just leg 2 in reverse) and his main issue was the pressure the water belt was putting on his stomach. At the end of leg 2 we were still in 2nd place, but then during leg 3 (when presumably other teams had a fresh runner take a spot) I slid our team down to 4th place. This was the longest and most challenging leg, and I was happy to have a little break.

During these breaks we were basically just shuttling Andy and ourselves to the different transition areas. Andy was a CHAMP! It was hot out, but we kept him under umbrellas and in the shade. With the help of our friends who were also running as teams or spectating, we had such a great crew surrounding us. It’s awesome to have a random selection of people to pass your kid off to when you have to use the bathroom before heading off on your leg of the relay!

My pale-skinned men waiting for me during leg 3!

So Dan made up some epic time in leg 4. We were in 4th in our division when I came in after leg 3. When Dan tagged me off for my portion of the race he had climbed back up to 3rd place. With our friend Nick on the team in 4th place, I knew my burnt out legs (which had already ran 10 miles) would have some work to do in order to stay ahead of his fresh legs (he was running his first leg of the race).

Andy fell asleep finally during leg 5 and the post race celebration

I somehow mustered to hold on, bringing our two-person relay in with a time of 4 hours 23 minutes even. I was really proud of how Dan and I adapted the race on the fly given how he was feeling, and how we were able to hold on and place in our division with just two of us! We had so much fun that day with each other, our friends, and with Andy. We are looking forward to our upcoming race weekend in Fernie, where we will be doing another relay together. This one is a set two-person relay, and thankfully a lot of our same great friends will be out there too. Hope Andy does as well as he did here!

Post race beverages and fun!

May Races

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I had two races this month: Red Deer Half Marathon and the Willow Creek Wilderness 10km. These are both races I ran last year. And they are both races I did worse at this year.

I have done Red Deer Half numerous times. My slowest time for Red Deer is somewhere around a 1:56 (this was before I really started taking my training seriously) and my fastest is in the 1:42. Considering I ran a 1:37 and change at the Police Half in September, I was incorrectly assuming I could maybe break 1:40. Of course, I didn’t take into account how shitty my training has been going this winter and spring. I also seemed to forget that the Red Deer course is actually a bit challenging. While the city of Red Deer is lower in elevation than Lethbridge, the course winds along the Red Deer River with many sharp turns. There are also numerous little hills throughout that put a strain on your body.

I started off the race too fast (of course) but I felt good the first 5 km and thought I was settled in to keep a 7:30 min/mi pace. But mile 4 was a 7:35 and then mile 5 was a 7:49. When mile 6 hit an 8:20 and it felt like my legs had already ran a full marathon, I knew I was in trouble. My husband Dan caught up to me around mile 8.5 and he jokingly said “Don’t let your piece of shit husband beat you!” (He says he’s a POS because he does not train NEARLY as seriously as I do) Well, I was able to join him again by mile 9, and it did push me to keep on trucking. I had told him we should just run together the rest of the race, which we did, but once I got up the final hill and had the last 400 m downhill to the finish line I decided to just fucking book it. Well, he ended up passing me at the finish and I lost. This is the first time my husband has gotten a time better than me in a half marathon. And it sucked.

I ran a 1:43.20. Dan ran a 1:43.12. Last year, at 7 months postpartum I ran a 1:42.28. I know race times can change year to year. But I really didn’t think I’d be a little bit slower than last year. But then, I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have the same time to train like I did last year on maternity leave.

My body doesn’t recover from races as fast as it used to either. I’ve done back to back race weekends before, but doing the Willow Creek 10km this year after doing the Red Deer Half was maybe a poor choice. My time, just like Red Deer, was slower than the previous year. I ran a 48:25 (slightly longer than a 10km) but last year I ran a 47:48. My body was just dragging. I did have fun because our friends Chelsey and Adam were there too, and they won the female and male categories. I came in behind them in 5th place.

I really hope that my road race times can get back down closer to where they used to be. But I may have to just start to accept that this may be my ‘new normal’ for some time.

Spring

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Well, Spring came late with winter never seeming to end. I *think* we can finally say that all the snow is behind us…even though a snowfall occurred last Saturday night and left the trails wet and muddy for the local 5km Rita’s Run this past Sunday. All of it is melted and now we can move onto Spring and Summer, right?

It’s been 3 months since my last post. That’s the longest, by far, I’ve ever had between postings. Anytime I have an idea to write, I am either busy with school work, busy with life work, busy with parent work, busy with wine-work….I just don’t have the energy to make it up to my laptop in the evenings to write a post. When it’s my ‘down-time’ I now just want to relax on the couch. So with that, I never even did a post about my Moonlight Run results from March, haven’t updated anything about how my training this Spring is going, my latest race this past Sunday, and what the next coming months look like.

Moonlight Run 10 km was held on March 23, 2019. Weather was great for this race, and there wasn’t any crazy snow or crazy cold. My overall goal for it was to do better than I did last year. Now, my husband thought this was a stupid goal because he said it was a no-brainer. Last year, I was 5 months postpartum. Of course I would be faster. But, my training had been all over the place since going back to work that I didn’t want to hold my breath.

The race went as well as it could for me. I finished with a 45:17 and was 1/52 in my 30-34 age group, 6/246 in female and then 38/455 overall. Claiming my age group award was the best feeling in the world. Last year I was 3rd with a 47:13. So shaving close to 2 minutes off is definitely on the right track for a comeback!

I opted to not do a lot of races this spring mainly to save money and to also focus on just getting the training in. Having no races in April was probably a first for me since 2012????!!!! Crazy, huh? I also during that time decided to stop my run streak. I made is 135 days straight of running at least a mile a day. I had had it in my head I would streak for a year, but I think it was running a toll on my body. I have bigger goals for this year than just running a mile a day, and getting rid of the streak will help with that.

This past Sunday I ran in the 5m Rita’s Run, which raised money and awareness for Mental Health. It was the first year this race was put on, and they had an awesome turnout for both the 5km and 10km events. there were 231 who completed the 5km and 67 who did the 10km. I think there were more registered, but the unseasonal weather that came through may have caused some people to just sleep in that morning.

The course was in the river bottom and while it was a pretty course, it definitely was not a course to get a personal best on. It started very narrow, had lots of turns, and then ended up measuring over 3.1 miles (3.24 miles on my watch). I hope they can sort those things out for next year. It made it more challenging for myself as I was running with Andy in the stroller. I’m glad I only did the 5km with him because all the sharp turns and narrow pathways did prove a challenge. The extra distance was also not fun with the stroller when I wanted to just be done. We did manage on finishing 2nd overall! 24:07 was our chiptime, and we placed 2/63 in age group, 2/169 female, and 6/231 overall.

So now what? Well, the big task this month is the Red Deer Half Marathon. That’s really what my training has been building towards this winter and spring. I would like to run a decent half marathon time for myself. I feel confident I can get under 1:40, as I ran a 1:37 and change in late September. However, I was training for Berlin right before that and had had more time to get quality training in while on maternity leave. Maybe I can run my ‘best’ Woody’s RV Red Deer Half time? 1:42.28 is the time to beat for it.

I’ve also started doing trail running during the week in preparation for my summer and fall events. I’ll have to do a different post all about my trail running trials and tribulations….hopefully that gets written in less than 3 months!

2019 Race Plans

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The kid is napping, I finished my Sunday chores, so I am going to try to push out a blog post!  It’s early February, and I will say that the last month has been tough on me for running.  With the holidays and the year end of 2018, I was getting my daily runs in for the December Holiday Run Streak that our local store puts on.  But other than that, my physical activity was going downhill.  Work has been tough, and managing work with being parents and wanting to still do the same level of running and training I did before Andy is even tougher.  And it’s not even the ‘before Andy’ that is the most challenging.  It’s the now being a working parent.  Maternity Leave was a godsend and I was probably close to the best shape of my life by mid July and August of last year.  I ran my best 5km ever, was feeling strong AF and also felt like a pretty bad ass mom.

Now, I just feel like a mom trying to swim upstream.

I am still doing the Runstreak, and have been running at least a mile a day every day since December 1st.  My first 2019 goal is to continue the RunStreak for one whole year.  It’s not a mileage goal, or a race time goal, but it gives me something to focus on every day and it something that I know can be attainable even when I am feeling overloaded with work and everything else.

As 2019 creeped into existence, I knew I needed to get back in control of my diet and exercise.  It wasn’t awful, but in the last months of 2018 I started buying chips and salsa again for at home.  And I was drinking more beer than my ‘lack of running’ body should be consuming.  The husband and I both went in for body composition appointments at Kinetic at the beginning of January.  My weight was actually better than I expected.  But, weight is a funny thing.  It’s a number to not take too much to heart.  I weighed in at 135 lbs.  The measurements for the body composition though, however, were frustrating (but expected).  I didn’t completely fall of the wagon, but comparing the results to what I had back in June at the end of the Mommy “Time 4 Me” challenge was frustrating.  My body fat percentage had gone up and my measurements had increased in total inches.

This was all expected because I 1.) Wasn’t running as quality of workouts 2.) It’s winter and not race season so I wasn’t in the training mode for anything in particular 3.) I am not able to go to boot camp anymore (damnit, I wish I was still on mat leave!) 4.) our diet had started to creep back into the higher carb amounts.

Husband and I have decided to tweak our eating habits, using the tools I learned during the Time 4 Me challenge.  Lower carb, higher protein.  We’ve also greatly cut the beer intake, and have generally switched to red wine (except I am drinking a beer as I type this……).  I’m not making myself go crazy with this, but we are going to do another body composition early March to see what has happened in two months with some small changes.

The bigger thing is that I have my second goal of getting back into racing shape and loving to run.  I contacted Dean Johnson, who did my race training plan for Vancouver in 2015, and asked him is he’d make a plan for me for this year leading up to my big race in September (more on that later).  If someone makes me a plan to follow, I automatically make it work in my day.  It was also key that I gave him which days work best for me to fit in quality workouts (Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and then have the other days as just my minimum mileage for my runstreak.  I started this Thursday with his set workouts and even though the cold and snowy weather is absolute shit, I have to say I’m already feeling better about myself and the race season ahead.

I know I can’t necessarily have crazy time goals for my races this year, but I need to have some goal.  If I just register for random local races but don’t have a new big race or plan in sight, I’ll get into a rut.  My 2019 race schedule is shaping up to look like this:

-Moonlight Run 10KM in March

-Some local 5km races (possibly with Andy in the stroller) in April and May

-Red Deer Half in May (goal of sub 1:37, depending on how training goes!)

-Lots of trails in June (Coulee Cactus as a relay, Lone Wolf in Fernie as a relay with the husband)

-Haida Gwaii Full Marathon in July (would like to run at least faster than Berlin, with the dreamy goal of sub 3:30…but its a very small race and it’ll be mentally challenging for me).

-Lost Soul Ultra 50km in September (My first trail ultra….more on that in a much later post)

-Police Half Marathon in October (would like to beat my time from this years’ race which was 1:37.39)

-New York Marathon in November (run with the husband and just generally have a blast)

How the next two months go will determine how those 5km’s and Red Deer half goes.  Will I be competitive with the field, or even with my own times?  I’m sure as hell going to try.  When June rolls around and I start playing with trail races, I have the hope that this ignites a new fire in me.  I am really looking forward to July and August, as I will have off of work and Andy will still have daycare Monday-Friday.  I can use those days to follow a trail training plan in preparation for Lost Soul.  As that approaches, a reasonable goal for the race will be determined.  Or maybe not so reasonable.  I have one in my mind, but it may be a bit lofty.

Anyway, with second semester in full swing and a new training plan to follow, I have high hopes for the coming months of running.  And bonus—kid is still napping!