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Monday, October 10, 2016

THE GOLDEN ULTRA: 3 DAY STAGE RACE

I signed up for the Golden Ultra way back in the spring. After moving to Vernon at the end of August (2015) I decided I would try and do some races that were more local to me. This was only my second race in the past year! I had a pretty fun 2 months off school and spent most of it gallivanting from one adventure to the next. I was feeling confident that I had done enough to toe the line at this event.

Day 1: BLOOD, 1000m of gain over 5km

I had no idea what to expect from this run. Uphill events are definitely not my strong suit. I've always looked at going uphill as a means of getting to go back down. But there would be no down...only up. I didn't really prepare myself for how steep the climbs would be. Maybe that was a good thing!

The race started at 4pm on Friday night from the base of Kicking Horse Mountain. The energy was really great and it was fun to catch up with some friends who were up from the coast doing the race.

To sum, you go straight up a ski slope for 5 km and in that 5 km you gain 1000m. Of course, there were times we were running/hiking on a logging road style of road which linked up the horrendously steep ski hill climbs together. It was pretty much head down, hands on knees and power hike. I was aiming for a pace that was hard but not blow myself up on day 1 hard. I seemed to be leading a train of men which kept me on my toes.

Day 1: 1000m of ascent over 5km. Photo by: Jay Klassen
I found myself in 3rd place and could see 2nd place ahead of me. I didn't want to go any faster and was happy to let her be ahead of me/ I couldn't of catched her even if I tried. Turns out 2nd place was Joanna Ford, who I ran some miles with a year earlier at Fat Dog 120. Alicia Woodside was out of sight and leading the women's race! The last 1.5k were on beautiful rocky single track trail and that was by far my favorite part of day 1's course. I finished up 3rd female in a time of 1:05.

It was a bit chilly at the top of the Gondola so Alicia, Katie Wadden and I jumped in an outdoor hot tub at one of the hotels at the base of Kicking Horse. This was incredibly amazing. Eventually we changed and made our way over to the Friday night pasta dinner and awards ceremony.


Day 1 podium. Joanna Ford, Alicia Woodside and me! Photo by: Jay Klassen
Day 2: SWEAT, 60km, 2500m of ascent

The start of this race was right in town down by the foot bridge. At 7:30am it's a bit of an early start but judging by last years finish times, we needed it! My legs were feeling pretty good from the previous days effort and I was excited to explore 60km of beautiful Golden trails. We started off running along a gravel path that parallels the stunning Columbia River. After roughly 1km we pounded the pavement very briefly before heading into the trails.The first 20km or so were awesome! The trails were flowy and fast however they lacked much in the way of elevation gain and I kept wondering where that gain was going to come from. I had been told that you basically go uphill for 34km but so far it didn't seem this way. Then all of a sudden the vertical came...and came...and came. I had been running with Joanna Ford for a descent amount of today's run and our chit chatter came to a bit of a hault. We stayed together for a little bit but eventually she passed me and was quickly out of sight. 

I can only describe the ascents as relentless. Once we started going up it didn't stop for a good 14km...or so it felt! However, there was so much beauty to distract your mind/body from the task at hand. The canyons and the ridges are simply spectacular. You'll just have to go experience it for yourself! 

Beautiful trail cut into the ridge line. Photo by: Jay Klassen 
Needless to say I was more than ecstatic to reach the top of the gondola where there was an aid station. Joanna was just leaving the aid station as I made my way up to it. Seeing her didn't make me rush out of there however...I just needed a minute to get myself together and prepare to switch gears for a long descent down the mountain. The descent immediately after the aid station is awesome- rocky, bouldery fun! However the downhill mountain bike trail to the base of kicking horse was a bitch! I realize I am starting to sound whiny but man this run was just kicking my ass. The trail was groomed and steep and I wasn't really even running. I was simply breaking and preventing myself from barreling down the hill ha. However, I am sure the pounding on my quads was made ever more potent from the fatigue I experienced from the ascent. The good thing is, that section was pretty short! I finally got to the parking lot at the base of kicking horse mountain and was directing into the trails by a woman dressed up as a giant lobster. That made my day! 

Once I got into the trail I began to walk. I must have been in a real funk or perhaps I just needed to give my legs a minute to adjust for what was to come...a lot of actual running. I had 20km of rolling single track ahead of me and I was pretty excited about it. After a couple of minutes I pulled my big girl pants and ran...slowly, ha! The next 20km were fantastic. I was strong enough to run the majority of it and I even made a friend! His name is Sean who is currently living in North Vancouver which is my old hood! He was having a bit of a hard time but I thought he was moving well. He was moving well enough that I didn't want to pass him. We ran the last 10km or so in the vicinity of each other. Once we finally reached the road with 2 km to go he thanked me for getting him there. I found this rather confusing because I ran behind him the entire time and it felt like I should be thanking him for pushing me to this point! The last 2 km on the road/gravel path were rather enjoyable. I felt strong in those last few km and was stoked to be crossing this finish line. I guess my lack of racing this year had made me a bit soft. This run was challenging and I'll remember it for a long time...or at least until the next adventure that kicks my a$$. I ended up 3rd female again today in a time of 7:23. 

Stage 2: Top 3 females


STAGE 3: TEARS, 20km, 620m ascent

At first I thought stage 2 should have been called ``Tears``. However, it all made sense when I woke up on Sunday morning to an aching body, wondering how I was going to race 20km. The good news is, I wasn't alone because most people were hurting. I started off pretty conservatively and just allowed my body to find its natural rhythm. Again, Joanna and I were pretty close together and I ran pretty close behind her for the first half of the race. Alicia, who had been feeling nauseous the day before was way out ahead and I assume Katie Mills, who won stage 2,  was as well. All of a sudden though her and another guy were right behind me. I guess they had taken a wrong turn which had costed them about 5 minutes. I tried to reassure her that she would most likely hold onto 1st place overall no matter what she placed this day because she had a huge lead going into stage 3. Her and I ran together for a short while and then I let her go ahead of me. At this point, I was pretty happy with where I was at. I knew barring any disasters I had locked in 3rd place overall and I wasn't about to make up 12 minutes to take second place. I was feeling surprisingly good (once I warmed-up) which allowed me to run most of the rolling terrain. I really just wanted to run happy, or as my friend Hozumi calls it "comfortably efficient". I came in 4th female for this stage and 3rd female overall. Click here for full results.

I am pretty happy with how the weekend turned out. I got to explore new trails in a wicked place and catch up with friends and make new ones! The race was very well organized and the volunteers were outstanding. On day 3 there was a volunteer jumping up and down in the forest as she cheered us on. She was still jumping and cheering upon my return through that trail some 15km later. It's people like that who make me smile.

Thanks so much to Magi and the Golden Ultra crew for creating an amazing race! I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone! If you are someone who likes a challenge, you will most certainly find it here!

Alicia, Katie and I stayed at the Glenogle Mountain Lodge and Spa, which is owned by a wonderful lady named Doris and her husband. They are a German couple who built the resort. I believe it is for sale. Doris was such a delight and even made us complimentary traditional German fried pancakes on Sunday morning. We ate them after the run and they were sooooo amazing!

GEAR:

SHOES: Helios SR and women's Helios 2.0 - I like the Helios SR if I am on more technical terrain and the women's Helios if it's non-technical or shorter distance.

SHIRT: I really am obsessed with the La Sportiva Speed T-Shirt. I love having a zipper on the front in case I get really hot, which I always do.

TANK: I love the La Sportiva Sprint Tank. It's super light and comfortable.

ARM WARMERS: If you don't own the La Sportiva Ultra Arm Warmer, GO GET THEM! You can get them at Capra Running in Squamish! Highlights: they include mitts, thumb holes, and a spot for your watch to pop out so you can still read it while you're running!

TRUCKER HAT: I just love a good trucker hat while I am racing.

HYDRATION PACK: Ultimate Direction Jenny Pack.

SOCKS: Defeet Monkey and Donut socks.

Happy Trails!!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

STEIN VALLEY TRAVERSE...IN A DAY

This summer has been a real whirlwind of a good time. Essentially, I had 2 months off of school and I wanted to make the most of it. I had very loose plans and left my schedule open to bounce from one thing to the next and make random spontaneous decisions. It's been a gas and I now feel ready to go back to school!

THE STEIN AND "THE DREAM":

Long before Peter and I were together he had this dream of doing the entire Stein Valley Traverse in under 24 hours. He had attempted it a couple of times but fell short due to weather.   

Peter and I have been to the Stein Valley twice previous to this experience. He took me there when we first started dating (2008/09) and we did a 38km out and back run starting from the trailhead in Lytton. Peter has a deep love for the Stein Valley and I was stoked to be here with him. 

Fast forward 4-5 years (2013) and we found ourselves once again heading to the Stein Valley. This time we planned on fast-packing the entire 90ish km trail in 2 days. We went very light and fit everything we needed into 18L packs. We brought a 1 man-tent, jetboil stove, neoair matresses and shared a sleeping bag. We both drove to Lytton, dropped a car and drove the other to the Lizzy Lake trailhead in Pemberton. Due to some sore feet and a storm we ended up taking 2.25 days to do the entire traverse. We didn't care, we were stoked. This was the first time Peter had successfully gone from one end to the other and again I was elated to be sharing this experience with him. 

Fast forward another few years (2016) and we find ourselves hiking in the Monashees a week or so ago. It's our first time in the Monashees and we're blown away by how amazing it is and are stoked it's within an hour and half drive from our home in Vernon. Feeling inspired I began to contemplate how I wanted to spent the last week or so of my summer break and the Stein Valley Traverse in under 24 hours goal silently crept into my thoughts. There must have been something in the air because Peter says, "we could go do the Stein" and immediately I said "YES!!!!". We got back from our trip and the planning began. 

THE MAIN EVENT:

We left Vernon on Tuesday morning and dropped one car in Lytton. We then drove our other car to the Lizzy Lake creek trail head in Pemberton. Our scheduled departure time was 12:30am and we each managed a few hours of sleep before leaving. I had everything I needed in an old Salomon 13L vest pack and Peter was wearing a brand spanking new Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 20. We decided to do the first section in the night because it's pretty straight forward. When Peter first did this trail back in the 90's, you could drive a car 11km up to the road to the proper trail head. However, this road was washed out many moons ago and was never restored. When we did this section last time it was really overgrown and the dew factor made for a pretty wet event. Thanks to Richard So and the VOC, all but the last 1.5km were brushed...yipeee!!!


Photo by: Peter Watson

We made good time hiking our way towards the Cabin. The night sky was clear and hiking under the stars was immaculate. The navigation was pretty straight forward up to this point but we started running into some issues on Cheery Pip Pass before the descent to Cultha Lake. It was dark and foggy and we could hardly see through the glare of our headlamps. At this point, there were only cairns to follow for navigation and it was slow going. If you look at our GPS file, we were creating squiggles all over the map. Although it was slow going, Peter always had an idea of which direction we needed to head and we'd eventually pick up another Cairn and get back on track. I think it may have been helpful to have been doing this section in the daylight which would have meant starting at 1:30am...just a thought.


Photo by: Peter Watson
One aspect of the Stein that I love are all the boulder field crossings and there are a plenty. I cant imagine having a 50-70lb pack on (as most do) and maneuvering along them all. Kudos to those people! The boulder field traversing by Tundra Lake is by far one of my favorite sections of the entire trail. I have never seen a lake so blue. There are no words to describe the beauty of this lake. You'll have to go see it for yourself!

Tundra Lake. Photo By: Peter Watson
Before we knew it the skies had opened up (literally and figuratively) and we were heading into the exposed ridge traverse before the descent to Stein Lake. The ridge system reminds me of the false summits at the end of the Fat Dog 120 but MORE! I took stock of this last time I was here and had mentally prepared myself, however, there's always more than I think! The descent off the ridge is a bit hairy. The trail is STEEP and the ground is loose and route finding isn't easy. You are constantly losing the trail. You wont get lost here but route finding is just slow.

Photo by: Peter Watson
We were elated to arrive at Stein Lake. This would be our first intentional stop. We had done a measly 38km in almost 11.5 hours, which was an hour and a half faster than the last time we did it. Last year I had a friend tell me her and some friends (who had never been to the Stein) were going to run the stein and expected to do it in 11 hours. I warned them that I didn't think that was very realistic. If you were going after it, I think an extremely fit person with experience on this trail (and mountain experience) could complete it in roughly 16-18 hours.

Photo By: Peter Watson
The next 55ish km are pretty fun. There are no really big climbs or descents however the trail is constantly going up and down. You can definitely run along this section but not all of it. There are a ton of scree slopes and due to the rain that was falling the rocks were super slick. The river along the valley bottom is beautiful and the cable car crossings are a blast.

New trail work! Photo by: Peter Watson
The last time we were here the trail was in terrible shape. Due to a fire in 2009 the alder growth was horrendous and there were hundreds of downed trees. After that trip we decided we wouldn't come back until the trail was cleared. In fact we had just chatted about going in ourselves to help clean it up. Luckily, BC Parks had hired a crew to clear it this year. THANK YOU!!! The work they did was outstanding and the trail was incredibly enjoyable.

Photo by: Peter Watson
As with most long adventures, we got to a point where we were ready to be done. Night was coming and we had roughly 25km to go. The timing was tight and we had to keep on pace to ensure a sub 24 hour finish. We finished with 23 minutes to spare in 23:37! A 12 year long dream of Peter's was finally in the books. As far as we know (Peter did his research) this is the fastest known time for this trail. We are both keen to know just how fast it can be done! Who's up for it!?

MY GEAR:

La Sportiva Speed T-shirt: I love this shirt so much. When I first got into racing I wore a bike jersey because I liked the pockets in the back and the zipper in the front. It's great for cooling off!

La Sportiva Tech Trucker Hat: I like sun and rain protection and I feel cool when I wear it :)

La Sportiva Ultra Arm Warmer: These arm warmer's are so bad ass. The have a thumb hole and a built in mitt!! The mitt came in handy keeping my hands warm in the rain and protection on the scree/boulder fields.

La Sportiva Helios SR: These have been my go to shoe ever since La Sportiva discontinued the Crosslite. They are so light but have enough protection to be warn for the long haul.

Long-tights

Shorts

Petzl RXP: This is the new fancy version of the one I have.

Petzl spare battery: I love this!

Petzl e-light: This is an emergency back-up.

Defeet monkey socks: I seriously love these socks. I think they are made for cycling but I've been wearing this model of sock (images vary) for 10 years and rarely have foot/blister issues.

Patagonia Houdini windbrePaker: I just love this piece.

OR Helium Waterproof jacket: I love this jacket but it was almost too warm to wear it most of the time...even in the rain.

MEC Uplink Jacket: This is my all time favorite jacket. It was my really warm layer I brought. I ended up wearing it at night when it got really cold and it kept me super warm. I also used the same one on our PCT trip and it's still going strong!

Food: miss vickies Salt and Vin, PB and J wraps, assorted GU's and vanilla powerbar gels, cliff bars, assorted candy, honey stinger waffles.

Bear Spray! We hooted and hollered a lot too!

Pristine. I used this for all my water fills, however Peter didn't. He seems to be ok so far!

Peter carried the other essentials: bear bangers, sport shield, bivy sack, first aid kit, Delorme inReach, cell phone, leuko tape.

My next race is the Golden Ultra in 3 weeks time!!! So far I've only stopped in Golden for beer! I'm looking forward to actually checking out the trails!!!

Nicola




Monday, May 2, 2016

DIRTY FEET: KAL PARK 25KM RACE REPORT

My initial plan was to run the BMO Vancouver Marathon, however I found out there was a race in Vernon that same weekend. Having done the BMO 3 times already I figured I should be doing the races in my new town. It would also be a great way to meet new runners and connect with the community.

I signed up for the 25k because up to that point my longest run had been 18km. Juggling both school and work has proved time/energy consuming and I just don't run as much and for as long as I used to. However, I run the perfect amount for where I am at in this stage of my life!

The coolest part about this event for me was that it was entirely self-propelled. I sold my car a few months back and my mountain bike is now my source of transportation, It took me roughly 30 minutes to bike to the start/finish area. Luckily, Peter was working at the event so I could pass off my stuff to him.

I don't really know a whole lot of people in Vernon so I was super stoked when I saw Shannon Penway and her fiance Joel show up! It was a beautiful sunny and warm day and I was excited to get my first race of 2016 underway.

The race steadily climbs up for the first 5km or so. I had no prior knowledge of where the course went but I do run on these trails fairly regularly so I knew what was in store. I was around 4th woman as we began a steeper ascent up the lookout trail. In training, I typically run/power hike this hill but my body didn't want to walk, so I just kept running. It's interesting how I never know how my body is going to respond in a race. I would never had anticipated running that entire hill but I did and then made a small challenge to myself to run ALL the hills for the rest of the race. I was 3rd by the top of the climb and quickly passed 2nd as soon as we began the descent. I had first place, Ginny Sellers, in sight by the bottom of the hill. I met Ginny a few years back as her husband is who taught me how to do Lactate Balance Point Testing. She was proving to be much stronger than me on the climbs and it took me 10 minutes or so to catch her. We chatted a little bit and once the trail started to descend again, we parted ways.

The rest of the course is pretty rad. The most challenging section is up a trail that gradually ascends forever. Hills aren't my strong suit but I made that challenge to myself to run all the climbs and just kept running. I knew eventually this would lead to some rad downhill!!! I tried to push the descents as much as possible since this is where I can make up the most ground. It was a pretty hot day and I started to get little twinges in both my quads and later in my calves! I started to take it a little easier after that as it would come and go. Luckily I only had about 5 km left and managed to hold it together all the way to the finish line!

Finish line. Photo by: Joel Payeur


I was super stoked to finish in a time of 2:27 as the first female. More so, I was excited to be out racing with a bunch of people who inspire me to do my best! I was hooting and hollering with excitement all over the course. The views are so amazing in Kal Park and the terrain is quite varied. I highly recommend this race to everyone. There was an 8km and 50km as well. The 50km is 2 loops of the 25km course. Thanks to Dirty Feet for putting on a great event. Can't beat a finish line by the lake!

Thank you to La Sportiva for making awesome shoes that allow me to feel like I'm flying! I wore the Helios SR for this event which is a perfect shoe for the desert trails. I wore the new Speed T-shirt. I am a big fan of t-shirts when I race as it protects me from the sun and chafing! The zipper also allows for more ventilation! On the bottom I wore the Andromeda skirt which is the comfiest skort I have ever worn in my life. For hydration I used the Jenny Pack from Ultimate Direction however it looks as though they have a whole new line of packs and this one isn't made anymore.

When I haven't raced in a while it's easy to forget how much fun it is. I also never push myself in training as hard as I do in races, and it's great to remind myself what I'm capable of.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

LIFE IN VERNON!

Howdie! It’s definitely been a while since I last posted and a lot has changed. Directly after the Fat Dog 120, Peter and I moved to Vernon, BC, which is considered the hub of the North Okanagan. We nestled into our new place and quickly set out to explore some of the many trails in this part of BC. Although the mountains don’t soar as high as the one’s back home, the views are plentiful and instead of having the ocean in my backyard, there’s crystal clear lakes a 10 min bike ride from home. I am not going to lie, I am a bit of a baby when it comes to mountain biking. I pretty much stopped riding while living on the Shore but I've taken it back up again because the XC trails up here are so fun!

A few of our favorite places:

1) Kal Park: Trail Running and Mountain Biking

My La Sportiva Helios are the perfect shoe for the trails here!
2) Ellison Park: Mountain Biking, and lake side Rock climbing & bouldering

Ellison Lake which is a great place to go for a swim post mtn bike! 

3) Enderby Cliffs (in Enderby): Trail Running/Hiking


4) Bluenose Trail (on the way to the Aberdeen Columns): Trail Running/Hiking


5) Mount Rose-Swanson (Armstrong): Trail Running/Hiking


6) Cougar Canyon: Rock Climbing


7) Aberdeen Columns: Rock Climbing


9) SilverstarMountain: Hiking/Trail Running/Mountain Biking (haven’t explored much of this- next year!)
10) BX Falls Trail: short and sweet but pretty!


The main reason we moved to Vernon is because I am attending the Okanagan Valley College of Massage Therapy to become an RMT (registered massage therapist). This school rocks! I can’t say enough about the quality of the program here. My classmates are pretty awesome too. A few of them own farms! One of my classmates, Jada, has laying hens and brings us eggs! 

There 39 of us total! 
I get to walk to school every day because we only live 4 blocks away! We are right in the heart of downtime which is super close to groceries, restaurants, coffee shops etc. This brings me to my next list…

Great eats in Vernon:

1) Intermezzo: OMG! This is some seriously good food. This is a fine dining Italian restaurant kiddie corner to our apartment.
2) Bamboo BeachFusion: Really delicious and unique food.
3) Naked Pig: The place to go for a great beer, also has great food, especially BBQ.
4) Wasabi Sushi: It’s where I work!!! The sushi is great and really fresh J
5) The ItalianKitchen: Great mussels!
6) Hungry Jack’s (Enderby): Awesome breakfast and soooo inexpensive!

One of the coolest things about Vernon is all the local produce. In the summer there was pretty much a farmer’s market every day of the week and a lot of the specialty grocery stores continue to sell local produce from local farms.


 As far as running goes, I knew my mileage would take a backseat to school. Doing well in school is something that is really important to me and I will forego running to get extra study time in. It seems to be paying off because I am doing really well! I used to be a pretty terrible student in high school but my previous 4 years of university really helped develop my study skills. I never thought I would love school as much as I do because I really didn`t enjoy university that much. However, this program is super hands on which is great because I am a kinesthetic learner. We have a couple practical classes which are awesome. This is where we get to learn and hone my stroke techniques. Were constantly practicing on one another and sometimes I have to pinch myself because I get massaged as part of my school day. 

After living in North Vancouver for the past 31 years, it`s been really refreshing exploring and getting to know a new town and the areas around it. I missed out on a few of the local running races in town but I plan to work them into my race calendar for 2016.  

I have a week off now! Super stoked to relax, do some running, and some baking...and of course studying for exams I have after the break. 

See you in the trails!

Nicola!

Friday, July 17, 2015

KNEE KNACKER 50KM RACE REPORT

I set a goal sometime last year that my focus for 2015 would be my 5th Knee Knacker. Its been years since I have been able to run it at my full potential.

I didn't do any early season races and took a month off work in March to go on a rad climbing road trip through the USA. I managed to sneak in some running amongst a lot of climbing and came back feeling strong and fit.

A couple weeks after returning from the trip I ran the Shuffle 29k in Powell River. I was set on trying to get as close to the course record as possible and ran my way 12 minutes under it. This was a confidence booster and it felt good to put in a balls to the walls effort.

One week after that I ran the BMO Vancouver marathon. Since I had just run a really hard effort (and was feeling the effects of that leading up to the marathon) I had very low expectations for the marathon. However, even with an early porta-pottie stop, I still managed to set my best time ever of 3:01.

I took a couple weeks to recover from this one mostly due to a tiny niggle in my quad which was a sign to take it easy anyways.

At some point during this time I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for the Fat Dog 120. Now I was trying to juggle 50km training with 120 mile race training. In the end, I think I ended up doing more long slow runs versus any type of speed work and I think this may have effected my outcome at Knee Knacker...but more on that in a second.

For the first time since I ran the Boston Marathon I was actually taking this race very seriously. I was going to do a proper taper and I spent a lot of time visualizing race day. Peter was going to crew me so I wouldn't have to stop. I was psyched to put my best foot forward and knew that my competition were similarly matched.

The weather leading up to race day was pretty shit. I went for a run on the Wednesday before the race and had doubts whether or not the race would even happen. The air quality was extremely poor and there were fires burning all over the province. Luckily, it was very windy on Friday and it blew all the smoke away. Best of all, the temps had dropped and race day was looking like it was going to be the coolest it had been in a month (by 10+ degrees!)

I found myself standing next to Darbykai (winner) at the start line. We hadn't seen each other in a long time and took the opportunity to catch up. The first split is my toughest. I am not a strong hill runner. I have trained myself to be half decent but I am never going to be the first one up black- ever. Most years I would walk/run the first hill but I knew I had to get in that single track somewhat up front. It can get really bottle necked and I didn't want to be slowed down. I watched as a few women sailed away but I settled into a nice pace with my friends Marieve and Tara Berry. The 3 of us stayed together all the way until cypress with Tara and I staying together until the cross country trails.

I was working going up Black. I wasn't pushing too hard though and if I were to do it over again I would go the same speed. If I was stronger climber, I might be able to run more of the little steep run-able hills. Although the temps were down, it was humid and I was sweating a ton. I was surprised to feel rain at the top of black mountain. I came in 2 minutes behind the leader, Darbykai to the Cypress aid station. At this point there was another lady 30 seconds ahead. The next section rolls quite a but and the lady ahead of me was a strong hill climber. It took me until the cross country trails to pass her. Tara was right on my tail here as well.

The terrain from the Cypress XC trails to Cleveland dam are my Jam. The trail is both technical and flat or downhill. I always use this section to gain time and have the time of my life doing so. This is my favorite part of the entire trail. I was hopeful to catch up to Darbykai on this section. I ended up running down with a couple guys who were great downhill runners and we had a blast making our way down the Hollyburn shoot. I was nearing the British Properties and had yet to see Darbykai. I honestly don't think I could have moved any faster. This worried me ha. I came into Cleveland Dam feeling a little spent. I have never worked that hard in the first half. I had set a PB on my first split (to Cypress) and matched my fastest 2nd split (to Cleveland). (side note: yes, I know all my KK splits intimately!).

No time to chit chat, I could see Darbykai on the road going up to Nancy Green. I had gained on her which was a relief. I grabbed my pack from Peter and began the climb up the road. I haden't taken in much fuel on the descent down to Cleveland so I hammered back a lot of water and some fuel. My face was incredibly hot. I was able to run about 3/4's of the climb but when the other guys around me began to walk, I did to. Meanwhile, Darbykai was sailing away in the distance as she ran with ease up the road.

Things turned a bit south on the Grouse section. My split was slower than in many previous years. I think I had tuckered myself out. I was notified that Tara was 30 yards behind me and I had to dig really deep to hold her off. I knew from previous years that if you go into the Grouse section with tired legs, you get WORKED! There are so many little undulations that are SO runnable...unless your tired.  Well, I was tired and walking most of them. Once the trail began to trend downhill I felt myself come back life a little bit. Oddly, it was on this section I began to feel little muscle cramp twinges. I had been using elite (liquid salt solution) in my water so I was a bit surprised. I wasn't carrying any back up salt pills on me (at the time) which was a mistake.

At this time I feel as though I am just holding my own. I am in second, I am feeling OK, and there is only 1/4 of the race left. I just passed my good friend Matt Berry who is experiencing a little bonk which reassured me that I could be feeling worse.

I am approaching the last tiny climb at the end of Varley Trail, when I see a familiar face running down the stairs towards me. It's Ellie Greenwood! I tell her to stop running so fast and she tells me that I am 1 minute off the lead. 'Wow', I thought and then 10 seconds later, just at the top of that little climb, both my inner thighs go into spasm. I immediately have flashbacks to the HURT 100 when this happened in January. But that is Hawaii and this is Vancouver, WTF!!! I'm literally reduced to tears because I can't move and the cramping was excruciating. Herman, the photographer is asking me if I am alright and all I am doing is swearing "fu$k, fu$k fu$k, wtf wtf" as tears are rolling down my face. Somehow, my quads relax and I am able to walk a bit before I am back running.

As I am running up the hill to the aid station this mountain biker starts talking to me. "How far have you run?", he asks.  I am in such an emotional mood that answering would take far too much energy and I don't answer. Assuming I didn't hear him, he asks a new question "where did you run from?". Again I don't answer, and when he finally turns his head to see whats wrong with me, I just shake my head and gesture with my hand to stop asking me questions. It was tough coming up to that aid station such a mess. I wanted to be that happy person that I usually am, but I wasn't. I grabbed the bottle of salt pills and filled my pack and got out of there as fast as possible.

I immediately take a few pills. A few moments later something cramps so I take a moment to stretch and take more pills. I could see Tara behind me and in all honesty I just wanted her to pass me so that I didn't have to think about competing anymore. She didn't pass me until the switch backs down towards the pipeline bridge (near Riverside drive). I pretty much had to slow down. My muscles were very touch and go and if I tried to push they'd just cramp. All I could do was focus on keeping the cramping at bay and continue to put my best foot forward. I was actually surprised when I saw Tara at the beginning of the Seymour Grind and it did give me some hope that I was still in it. But, in the end, I just couldn't push the last downhill and had a few more cramping episodes along the way, stopping to stretch until it relaxed.

On the bright side, I didn't cramp from Quarry Rock to the finish and was actually able to run more than I thought I would through that section. I was shocked when I still came in 5 minutes under my previous person best!!!

My goal was do my best and leave it all out there. I really felt like I did that. Even when the going got tough, I still tried my best and worked as hard as I was physically able to. It's tough knowing I was more to give had I not cramped but that's what this is all about. Perfect days are rare when you are pushing the top level of your game. Sometimes it's magical and sometimes its not.

It's funny because looking back I have cramped at 4/5 Knee Knackers. I've cramped when I have used electrolytes and when I have not. The one time I didn't cramp I was coming off an injury and didn't push the pace at all. In my honest opinion, I believe I am cramping because I am pushing myself outside what I have trained. In other words, I am trying to make my body go to a place it is not used to going. It's no secret that I don't do much intensity in my "training". I love to run, I love to have fun and rarely am I pushing myself out of my comfort zone. However, something changes when I race and I have no problem going to that place. I just don't think my body is always ready for it :)

But this is just my theory!

This race was a great learning lesson that if I do want to be competitive, I cant just get away with not putting in the work.

I'd love to thank the women who made me work hard during the race. You pushed me to my limit and kept me on my toes. I'll be a better runner because of it.

On the mental side: Competing is tough, I think so anyway. Its hard when your constantly getting (un-requested) updates every 20 minutes about the person in front of you or the people behind you. Your brain is ALWAYS on and it makes it hard to run your own race. I find myself questioning if I am going to fast, to slow or just right.

My shoes: La Sportiva Helios SR These shoes were perfect. Light. Amazing traction. Highly recommend trying them out!
Pack: Ultimate direction Jenny pack and UD handheld. I just ultimate direction products,
Socks: Defeet Monkey Socks: These are my classic socks. They are fun, affordable and I never get blisters!

Congrats to everyone who ran! Congrats to Darbykai on an amazing performance! The day before the race I said to Tara that it would be great to share some miles with you and I think we shared more than we bargained for! It was my first ultra and it's still my favorite race to date. The organizers do such an amazing job. I'll definitely be back!

Thanks you Peter for crewing me and giving me exactly what I need, which is often a "great job, get out of here".

Thanks Grandma for coming to Cleveland. Which I could have stayed to chat! My dad and uncle Steve were at the finish line. My dad had never seen me race before and it meant the world to me to have him there.

Ok, that was long!


Monday, June 22, 2015

MARATHON SHUFFLE RACE REPORT

The Marathon Shuffle (name is deceiving) is a 29km trail run along the Sunshine Coast Trail in Powell River. I heard about it a few years back but the timing has never worked out for me.

Luckily, but rather unluckily, Peter and I were in Powell River after his surgery which is where he wanted to be during his recovery. 

The shuffle kind of reminds me of the Knee Knacker (KK). People throw around "Shuffle" times like we North Shore-ites throw around KK times. 

For a FREE event, this race offers  A LOT. There is a FREE shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off at the ferry. There is a FREE t-shirt for the first 100 who register and a FREE Townsite Brewing beer after the event at the Shinglemill. The trails are well marked and the trail maintenance volunteers put in countless hours of work. Plus there is a pasta dinner ($15) the night before at Mag Pies. I should mention that its a great excuse to hang out with some awesome people and in a pretty wicked town. They do recommend a donation to PRPaws, the local non profit who up-keep the trails, build wicked SCT huts, and sooo much more. 

I am lucky to have made some running friends in Powell River. This trip I made some new one's too. Every time I go to Powell River, these awesome people invite me to join them to explore new places (to me). All of my friends were also running the Shuffle which was pretty cool. 

I decided I wanted to run hard at this event and test my fitness. I made a mental note of the previous course record which was 3:04. I set out at a petty conservative pace and quickly one of my new friends Steph (badass runner/mother of 3) told me to pass, so I did. I passed a half dozen more people and shortly there after we went up a rather long and steep hill. Because I was now in front of a group of people I decided to keep running up the hill at a decent pace. It went on for much longer than I thought it would and my heart rate was through the roof. I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to bite me in the ass later but decided to put it behind me and do my best. 

The rest of the race was SOOOO fun. The trails are so lush and the old growth forest is incredibly beautiful. I pushed myself really hard, even on hills I typically wouldn't. However, the run was 29km and I have learned I can push myself pretty hard for that distance. I ended up finishing in 2:52, setting the female course record by 12 minutes. 

I really enjoy the shorter distance races. I find I can push myself harder in a race than in training and it's a hell of a lot more fun.I recommend this race to everyone!!! Thank you to Eagle and Scott and everyone else who volunteered their time out there. 

My La Sportiva's were the perfect shoe for the course. 

Happy trails!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Post HURT DNF Race Report

The start of the race  Photo by: Rob Lahoe
The HURT 100 had been on my radar for the last 3 years. I had actually signed up for the lottery twice before but pulled my name both times because the timing wasn't right. Needless to say I was excited to be on the entrants list.

Training went ok- I had no injuries! However, I was having a hard time motivating myself to get in the miles with the combination of crappy weather and the lack of daylight hours. Weekends were no problem, I was committed for the long haul, however, I was hardly getting out for more than an hour on a daily basis mid week.

While my friend Josh, who was coached by Gary Robbins, was spending his weekend days looping all over the north shore, I decided to take a different approach and just run whatever I felt like. I figured I'd deal with the 'loops' on race day and didn't feel the need to torture myself in training. Looking back, I can see why Gary had him do this! I knew the course had 3 sections to each loop but I didn't quite understand exactly how repetitive it was going to be!

The climb up from the Nature Center
I had a pretty long taper- 3 weeks, which isn't something I normally do but due to work commitments it was kind of the way it worked out. Plus, I know people who do 3 week tapers so I figured it wasn't all that bad!

Once Peter and I got to Hawaii, I was stoked to get running. We went out on the course for a 40 min run and I was super giddy for all the technical running I was about to embark on. If anyone knows me, they know how much I love technical running, especially when it's downhill. Within minutes I was drenched in sweat- something I am not used to. The humidity in Hawaii is an interesting thing. I am not even sure sauna training can really prepare you for it. We spent the next part of the day driving to each aid station so Peter knew where he was going.

The air BnB place we rented was only a 4 mile drive to the start which was very convenient. Thanks Kerry Ward for hooking us up with that!

Race morning came and at 6:00am we were off. Josh, Alicia, and I all started off together, however Josh was gone within seconds. Alicia and I spent the first few miles catching up, which was great. We were slowly making our way up the first climb without too much effort. Slowly, we began to pass people as it became a bit more run-able. Then out of thin air Denise Bourassa appeared out of a bush. She had gotten off course but she was back on track and moving well and I figured it would be a good idea to keep up with her. Probably mistake number one as I was now running up a hill I wouldn't be on any other lap. At the same time, the pace felt fine and I rolled with it. We crested the climb and hit the road and Alicia, Denise and I exchanged a few words here before entering the trail again.



As the trail started to descend I went ahead of Denise and danced down the trail with a smile on my face. I was having so much fun on this descent and passed quite a few a people. Just before the Paradise aid station, I caught up to and passed Amy Sproston who was leading the women's race. I really had no intention of being this far up the pack this early on in the race but I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, so I just went with it.

I left the aid station before Amy but she had caught up to me and passed me very quickly. Because it is a 'race', I found myself getting caught up in it a bit too early. I could tell I was working hard power hiking up the hills but I knew I couldn't keep up to Amy and she was usually out of sight within minutes. Because of this I was really surprised to see her again on the descent into the Nu'uanu aid station. I passed her again and we joked about this becoming a trend. I left a bit before her but again she caught up to me very quickly and I didn't see her again until the next aid station at the Nature Center.


I had already began to feel a niggle in my right hip flexor, which began to bother me on descents. I was also feeling really tired, like eyes heavy tired, a feeling I don't normally get until night time. I literally felt like I could take a nap! Of course, that was not an option and I was in the midst of a really tight race.

So, one thing I didn't realize about this course is that when you go down a hill to an aid station, you turn around and climb right back up that same hill. In fact, you do this for all 3 aid stations. What I thought was going to be a 'loop' course, looked more like 3 out and backs. But this also made it fun because you frequently got to see racers and encourage each other. You also could keep track of how far ahead or behind you were from other runners.



Amy and I departed on our second lap together. We chatted a bit going up the next hill, which was the steepest of them all. Again, before long she was way ahead of me. At this time I was also running near Jamil Coury (who puts on the Desert Solstice 24 hr/100 mile race) but he quickly joined Amy up ahead. Surprisingly, I caught up to and passed Amy again on the descent into the Paradise Aid station. For some reason, catching her always surprised me because of how fast she zoomed away from me uphill. Although it was the hottest part of the day, I told Peter not to fill up my bladder all the way. I did this so I wouldn't have to carry extra weight since it was only 5.5 miles to the next station. Somehow though, on the way to the Nu'uanu station, I started to run low on water. I immediately kicked myself for being such an idiot because now I was in conservation mode and didn't eat as much because I didn't want to run out of water trying to digest it. I also rolled my ankle really bad on the ridge before the descent and decided that downhill play time was over and had to be more cautious if I wanted to get through this run. This was the first descent that I didn't pass Amy on.

I'll admit, the fun factor was starting to wear off fast! I am sure it was a combo of being mad at myself for making a stupid decision and the ankle roll. I felt emotionless and spent the majority of my time on the way to the aid station thinking about what lay ahead of me and how many more times I had to go up and down these damn hills. My clothes were completely drenched in sweat.  I came into the paradise aid station while Amy was still there. I knew I was slowing down. I had hit a low point. But, there was a lot of encouragement coming from the volunteers at the aid station as well as from my friends and loved one. I left the aid station for my 3rd lap and began the steep slog up the next climb.

On the descent down to the Paradise aid station, I started to feel some twinges which signaled to me that I was low on electrolytes. I am typically not a heavy sweater and rarely experience cramping issues. I had been putting Elete in my bladder at every aid station and took this as a sign that maybe I was working a bit too hard considering the heat. Amy was already a few minutes out of the aid station when I saw her and this was the biggest lead she had on me all day. I asked for some salt pills at the aid station but they didn't have any. Luckily, a wonderful volunteer donated her own supply to me. I took a couple there and put about 8 in a baggy to go.

Roughly 10 minutes out of the aid station both my quads cramped which temporarily prevented me from walking. I stopped and stretched and took a couple more salt pills. From my experience, this combo usually alleviates cramping. Which it did, for about 5 more steps until the same thing happened again. I took 2 more salt pills, stretched, and even sat down on a rock and massaged out my Vastus Medialis, which was where the cramping was taking place. Again, I got up, made it about another minute until BAM it happens again!!! Holy shit! Seriously! Is this really happening!??? At this point I was starting to get really concerned and began doubting whether or not I was going to be able to make it up the freakin' hill. I literally COULDN'T WALK. I only had a couple of salt pills left and I was slowly starting to drain my water supply. I sat and contemplated what to do, hoping that more rest and massage would help. After a while I got up and tried to walk and the cramping attacked again. In a moment of weakness I decided to turn around and walk back towards the Paradise A.S. Luckily, I was actually able to walk downhill so I turned around and started walking back uphill, only to cramp up again. At this point, I was really bummed. People were chronically passing me in all directions and I pretty much let every negative emotion enter my head.

Then a couple of trail angels came walking up to me. Turns out they were part of Denise Bourassa's crew. If anything they just got me to relax and allowed me to think about something else. I was able to tell them about all my woes and they got me laughing. Eventually I got up, walked a bit more and was able to continue walking. However, I was running really low on water at this point and hadn't been eating. I wasn't  able to take in to much because I didn't have much water to spare. Amy was pretty much already at the top of the next climb when I began to descend to the Nu'uanu A.S. It was dark now and I took a wrong turn towards the bottom of the hill. When I went to correct myself I actually started walking the wrong direction back up the hill away from the Nu'uanu A.S. I didn't notice until Kerrie Bruxvoort passed me going down the hill (she had been behind me). It took me a few moments to put it all together but I turned around and followed her to the aid station. Just before I got to the river crossing I slipped and fell between a few rocks and my left calf cramped. It was so painful and I was on the ground moaning in agony. Needless to say, when I got to the aid station, I grabbed a chair, grabbed Peter, went to a corner out of sight and just balled.

Peter, is one stand up hell of a guy. Prior to the race I said to him, "whatever you do, do not let me drop out". He treated me with so much love and compassion and literally did everything he could to get me out of that aid station.  I decided I needed to lay down on a cot and get some rest, a place I was content to stay for the rest of the race! But he got me to eat some food, a change of clothes, and loaded my pack up with water. He was never going to pace me but I told him I needed him to come with me to the next aid station and he obliged. He went to the car and got some clothes to 'run' in and we left the tent. But, on the way down towards the creek crossing I had a melt down. I just didn't want to continue. My legs were stiff and it just felt over. I was in such a negative space and I couldn't get out of it. Again, somehow he convinced me to keep going and we actually climbed all the way to the top of the hill where there was a beautiful view of the city. It was so beautiful that I didn't want to leave and begged Peter just to sit on this beautiful bench with me. In fact, I convinced myself that just sitting there staring at the view was more important than finishing the race.

I couldn't fathom the next 45 miles. How was I going to go another 45 miles with how I felt? How? It was unimaginable. In reality, I had like 22 hours to do so and it was more than achievable. I pleaded and begged Peter to let me stop. This is the interesting part of having your boyfriend as your crew. I don't know if it is just me but I find I get way more emotional around him than I do a friend (if I am feeling negative). I don't think I would let anyone else see me the way I let him see me. Anyone else have experiences like that with their partner in long races when your in a funk?

In the end, we took a few steps in the right direction but then my quads cramped again and I said I was done. Peter finally stopped pleading with me to continue and we turned around and walked back down the hill to the aid station.

I was so happy to be done. But, the sadness I felt the following two days was much worse. I never anticipated the horrible feeling of defeat. I felt very similar to this when I DNF's Western States in 2013. It was hot, I went out a bit fast, got caught up in the competition and suffered a debilitating cramp in my stomach that had me walking for 12 miles until I dropped at mile 50. Literally, this exact scenario happened. I wish I had taken the time to reflect on that experience prior to this race.

I have come around and can sit here and write about it without getting emotional. I have so much respect for everyone who finished, especially those who suffered through things and still had the will to keep going. You are all amazingly inspiring. I was not prepared for the mental challenge of this course and when I come back, I will be prepared!!

Thank you so much to the HURT team. You guys are a riot and it's really refreshing to be a part of a race atmosphere like that. It's crazy that they had the highest finisher rate ever at 49%!!!! Now I know why.

Thanks to La Sportiva for your continued support.

Happy Trails