Category Archives: trail running

So, what are you training for?

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It’s been over two months since my last post.  I did a post about closing out on the year 2019 and talked about what was ahead.  I titled that post “2019, the New Normal”

Funny thing about that title now that we are two and a half months into 2020….

Obviously, this post comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I live in Alberta, Canada.  I am a teacher.  We just found out a few hours ago that all Alberta schools and daycares will be closed indefinitely.  The past few weeks have been crazy following the pandemic around the world, but now there is action being taken here.  It is so surreal.

I’m not going to talk about the pandemic, give my two cents on social distancing, tag exponential graphs (but those are pretty cool.  Because in a few years there’ll be Math 30-1 Diploma Questions related to this outbreak).  But I want to talk about what this means for me personally in running.

A lot has been going on in the running world lately once this started to take off.  Tokyo Marathon limited their field to just the elite runners.  And then fast forward a few weeks and now London and Boston have been postponed.  Those are just the big races.  Tons (I’m assuming thousands) of smaller races around the world are being cancelled.  

I had originally planned on doing my first running post of this year until after our annual Moonlight Run, which was scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 21st.  I’ve done a Moonlight Run post every year, so I figured I would do one this year even though I thought the race would be ugly for me.  My training had gotten a good start in January, but some extreme cold temps made it hard to get motivated.  They cancelled the event early last week, after the Alberta government put forth an initiative to not have events of greater than 250 people congregate.  It was bitter sweet, but that’s when everything started getting real.  This year, my race schedule was actually very odd for me.  I have been reflecting on it a lot, and I realized that this year, I had no races booked where I would have a flight required.  Nothing on either end of Canada, nothing far away in the US, and nothing overseas.  Everything is drivable.

Looking back on my race results on this site, the last year I never needed to take an airplane to get to a specific event 2012, because in 2013 was my first RunDisney event at the Wine and Dine Half.  So everything from 2012 and earlier were just your basic, local races.  In 2014 I went back to Disney for Dopey Challenge and Disneyland for Dumbo Double Dare.  I also did the Tyranena Beer Runhalf marathon in Wisconsin and a Mustache Dache 5km too.  In 2015 I went out to California for two Spartan races with my best friend, along with hitting my dream goal of qualifying for Boston while running the Vancouver Marathon. Oh, and I did Disneylandagain.

2016 led to a small half marathon back in Wisconsin and then straight into this big race called The Boston Marathon!  WOW!  I went and had foot surgery in summer of 2016.  I recovered and went to run the Disney races again in January 2017.  I then went back to Disney in 2018 for the Star Wars races, did two small July races in Wisconsin (Firecracker Four or Beer Garden 5km).  And then my first ever international was the Berlin Marathon! Finally, in 2019 my husband and I travelled to the edge of Canada to Haida Gwaii to do the Totem to Totem Marathon and then I did my fourth Abbott World Marathon Major with the New York Marathon.

::::breathe::::

The main races we had planned this year were going to the Whitefish Half Marathon in late May (that has not been cancelled at this time.  We are really hoping we can get to it).  We are going with a bunch of friends and driving down to a cabin in Montana.  Not as fancy as New York City, but tons of fun non the less.  We are also planning on doing The Lone Wolf out in Fernie, BC again.  It was so much fun last year!  That is in June.  And in September, I am giving Lost Soul Ultra 50 km another try.  Oh, and I am most likely having a second foot surgery this fall.

I’m not sure how this all aligned, but I feel extremely fortunate of where I have gotten to travel to to do the hobby I love dearly—RUN.  I have had 7 straight years of amazing trips and memories made all surrounding running.  And this year, while those trips may look a little different, the memories are going to be there.  We have to make the most of what is given to us.  These next couple of months will suck for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but in the grand scheme of things, as long as we take care of our selves the next coming months then we have the following years ahead to look forward too.  I will in fact finish those Abbott World Marathon Majors….London and Tokyo, I’m coming for you!  I want to requalify for Boston.  I want to find small niche races all around North American to participate in.  I want to have fun running.

So, a lot of runners right now are in a weird spot.  What are we training for?  Well, we are training for the chance to come back fighting once that stage is opened for us again. 

2019…the new normal

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You can take a look at my 2019 race result link to see the events I did this year. And then, if you feel like it, you can click on 2018, 2017, 2016…and you’ll soon realize how few events I did this year in comparison to other years.

This was the first full calendar year that 1.) I was back at work full time after maternity leave and 2.) we would be now parents to our son Andy, who turned 2 in October 2019. Before a child, I could run whenever I wanted and sign up for any race I wanted (obviously within reason). There were really no constraints! Even when I was pregnant, I kept up the running and shorter events. During maternity leave, I actually did have lots of time to run and train because I was off of work and I was willing to take Andy with me to any daytime boot camps he was allowed at. We still could travel lots and my schedule was flexible. Coming back full time to work with a child at daycare and trying to manage your own activities is not for the faint of heart.

Race medals from my 2019 events

I barely remember the winter and spring of 2019, but it was me focusing on just running in general. I did start a run streak during that time to get myself motivated for the season, but stopped in late March due to just being worn out. My husband never understands it, but Moonlight Run in March is always stressful for me. The first race of the year! I ran alright, and now looking back at that 45:17 I don’t know why I was that down. Then Rita’s Run 5km in May and Woody’s Half Marathon. The half was frustrating for me because 1.) Dan beat me and 2.) my time was actually about a minute slower than the year before while on maternity leave. I just felt down about my decline.

2019 race swag

As summer hit, things got better. Switched over to trail season and I had a lot of fun. This was my first year really giving trail running an honest try. Dan and I did a two-person coulee cactus crawl team and actually placed in the mixed division, even beating teams who had up to 5 members. We also did Lone Wolf in Fernie as a 2 person team and had a blast with our friends and Andy that weekend. In July, we travelled way West to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, where I ran the full marathon. What an experience that was! It was a small field of runners, but I was honoured to place 2nd female with a pretty respectful time. With little recovery time and still a busy summer, I had to stay prepped for my first trail 50km Ultra. And I did the Lost Soul Ultra in September, even beating my goal time and placing in my age group.

Special awards

I had one more half marathon race lined up in October before the NYC marathon would come in November. That race never happened, as my world was flipped when I got a phone call late September that my Uncle Ed had passed away. This was my dad’s only sibling. I was shook. I travelled to Longville, Minnesota, for the funeral and to see family. When I came back, I could never get back into a groove. I forced my body through the NYC marathon, thankful that my only goal that race was to run with my husband and our friend and have fun. And since after NYC I’ve just lost motivation.

Am I going to stop running? Hell no. But I need to be a little easier on myself and get back to the root of running—-to stay healthy. Dan reminded me that about two days ago. That is the number 1 reason to run. And now, our number 2 reason to run is to spend time as a family and with our friends. That is something that has changed a lot in the last year or two and I am forever grateful for our running friends. Not just the ones we see at marathon club or races, but the ones we hang out with while in NYC…at beer miles…on our patio…our friends who hosted us while we ran in Haida Gwaii…the ones who cheered me on and crewed never at Lost Soul…the ones we are running with in New Years Eve for a group pub run. The last thing is to be competitive. That may have been a higher point to me in the last years. But it shouldn’t be now. It still matters to me; I’m still going to be competitive. But I gotta remember what is more important.

So 2020, what will you bring? I am registered for the Lost Soul 50km and hope to better my time. Dan and I are also doing Lone Wolf again, and our friend and his daughter are going to come and camp with us! We also plan on having a group of us go down to do the Whitefish Half Marathon in May and making it a fun long weekend with friends. 2019 may have been different compared to my other years, but now after reflecting on it, I’m looking forward to what my running future looks like!

Goodbye 2019…hello 2020!

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!

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.