Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Run for the Toad Race Report

Run for the Toad 50k in Paris, Ontario was kind of a big deal for a number of reasons. It was the Canadian national 50k championships, Dave and I were traveling across the country to race it, it was my main fall race and, likely, my last race of the year. In short, I wanted to do well.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I had been dealing with a few minor niggles - a sore knee, tight IT band, stiff ankle and lingering cold - so my training had been decent but not amazing. Still, I thought I was in good enough shape to go under four hours at the Toad, which would be in the top-five fastest times for that course.

Me, Stacie, Kristin and Dave before the race.

Conditions on race morning were ideal - cool and overcast - and I felt great. We had a leisurely morning (by ultra standards) at the hotel and then headed to the race to get ready for the 9:30 start. There we found Ryne and met George, who, along with his lovely wife Peggy, have been organizing the Run for the Toad for 12 years. Both Peggy and George are incredibly kind, warm and welcoming and have limitless enthusiasm for their event. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better organized trail race in Canada and I'd highly recommend it to anyone.

After the opening ceremonies, which included music and speeches, the 50k solo and relay runners headed to the starting area to wait for the canon to sound signifying the start of the race. Stacie, Kristin and I lined up behind the elite men, I gave Dave a kiss and wished him luck in his race, and then we were off.

The course is four laps of a 12.5k loop with rolling hills through the forest, fields and a couple of campgrounds. My plan was to run a conservative, but not slow, first lap to get warmed up and learn the course, and then pick up the pace slightly for each subsequent lap. Stacie and I ran the first couple of kilometers together, but then she took off and I let her go and stuck with my plan.

Feeling good after the first lap.

I ran my first lap in 56:29 which was exactly where I wanted to be and I was feeling very comfortable heading out on lap two. By about kilometer 18, I started to get some worrisome tummy rumblings that I hoped was just gas, but was reluctant to test that theory in case I was wrong. Minutes later, my worst fears came true and I was dashing into the bushes to heed the urgent call of nature. This would be the first of five such unfortunate pit stops I would have to make over the next 30km.

In between bathroom breaks, I tried to run hard and make up time, but too much time was lost. I finished in 4:14 and 3rd place. Results here. Not exactly the result that I had hoped for, but the best race I could pull off under the circumstances. (My friend Stacie won in a smoking fast 3:57 - only the second woman ever to break 4 hours! - and Dave started strong, but wisely decided to call it a day at 44k when he felt an injury flare up.)
Post-race with coach Ryne.
Now I'm going to take a little break from running and racing to rest my mind and body and focus on other things that I enjoy...and pick my races for 2014! I think I'm ready to take on a 100-miler. Yikes!!

Happy fall everybody! :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Review: The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket

It's been awhile since I've written a review so I thought I would give some feedback on my favourite new fall running piece: The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket. Click here to find out why I think this jacket rocks.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dirty Feet Fun at Sun Peaks

Last weekend I ran my 9th race this year (14 if you count the 6 TransRockies stages separately): The North Face Dirty Feet 50km at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops. It was also my 5th Dirty Feet race. And I turned 35 just over a week ago. How's that for numbers.

If you've read any of my previous Dirty Feet race reports, you know that I'm a fan of these events. Race directors, Grace and Phil, do a fantastic job of of creating scenic courses on trails that are challenging yet runnable and always extremely well marked. I also like the low key nature of these races. They feel more like a supported group run with friends.

Because Dave had to work on Friday, I got a ride to Sun Peaks with a couple of friends who were doing the 50km relay so that was fun. Then I met my parents at the resort where we were stayed at my aunt and uncle's new condo. I was having such a nice time visiting with everyone, I kind of forgot about racing altogether.

Staying just 5 minutes from the race start was great as it meant that I didn't have to get up too early. I had a solid sleep but then difficulties finishing my breakfast and while I didn't think much of it at the time, it was the first sign that something wasn't right with my tummy.

Sure enough, 5km into the race, my stomach started hurting and I felt like I was going to be sick. I decided it was just the climbing (16km off the start!) and things would settle down once the trail flattened out a bit. It didn't and I struggled with GI issues for the rest of the day. So it goes. At least I got some practice romiting (running+vomiting) and didn't get any on me. (For a girl who can barely spit on the run without dribbling down her chin, that's significant.)

The course was a cloverleaf design, which meant numerous opportunities to see my parents and friends in the transition area (for the relay). Getting support along the course is always appreciated, especially when you're feeling crappy. There were four legs in the relay so that's how I broke down the course in my head.

The first leg started with a brief jaunt through the village and then a little ways up Mt. Morrisey, back down to the village and then up to mid mountain. The most beautiful section in my opinion was the second leg which was all up in the alpine around Mt. Todd with amazing views in every direction. What goes up must come down and that's what we did in the third leg for almost 15km to arrive back in the village from mid mountain. The last leg went up and down Mt. Morrisey on a mix of single and double track trails. Total elevation gain and loss over the whole course was 6100 feet or just over 1860 meters.

By that final leg, I had nothing left. Having consumed less than 300 calories for the whole race (most of which came back up) I was just trying to make it to the finish line. As I neared the top of Mt. Morrisey, about 8km from the finish, I saw someone approaching me from behind. I had been expecting it to happen for awhile as I had been walking much of the climb - clutching my volatile stomach - but was still bummed when it happened, especially when I saw it was another woman.

Having held the lead for over 40km, I was reluctant to give it up so close to the finish so I tried to pick up the pace a bit and hoped my mediocre downhill running skills would be enough. I was able to hold my position but didn't gain any time. Every time I glanced over my shoulder, this other woman was still there.

Finally, we reached the flats just 2km from the finish and I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach so I had to slow down. The other woman pulled up alongside me and we chatted briefly. She mentioned having fallen and gotten lost on the second leg, which confirmed to me that she was a solo runner and not on a relay team. When I asked her, she said that no, she was on a team with her brother. Whew! As she took off, I wished her well and told her I'd see her at the finish. I then walked most of the last kilometre.

It definitely wasn't my prettiest race, but I finished and somehow managed to place first amongst the ladies and third overall (results here). I still don't know why my stomach was so upset. I've been meaning to experiment with more real foods in training and racing so this experience has certainly motivated me to get on it.

I'd intended to do the ultra on Saturday and the 16km mountain race on Sunday, however, based on how I felt Saturday, I decided not to do the second race. Instead, I hung out in the village with my parents and cheered on Dave, who came up Saturday afternoon and did the mountain race (and placed second!).

Saturday, August 31, 2013

TransRockies Race Report

Where to begin? I guess this adventure started about a year ago on a long run with Mel Bos. I had known of Mel for awhile but it was only recently that we had met up for a couple of training runs. At some point, one of us - we can't remember who - mentioned an interest in stage racing and we both agreed that it would be fun to try. So the seed was planted and a few weeks later we were signed as The North Face Ladies open women's team for the TransRockies (TR) 6-day stage race.

That was waaaaaay back in August 2012. At the time, we planned to do lots of training together; however, life, injuries, conflicting schedules, etc. got in the way and we only managed a few runs together so neither of us really knew what to expect when we arrived in Buena Vista, CO (separately, as Mel flew down and Dave and I drove). Fortunately, we got along well and didn't have any major blow ups like some teams we heard stories about!

Going into TR, Mel had been off running for a bit with injuries while I had been racing quite a bit through the spring and summer. As Mel is one of the strongest runners I know, I was secretly hoping that her time off and my consistent training would work as an equalizer so that I would be able to keep up with her. Not a chance! I had underestimated Mel's return to fitness and then had the misfortune of being sick with one thing or another for most of the week so I was definitely the "weak link" on the team. (Even 100% healthy, it would be hard to keep up with Mel. The woman is a machine!)

Now back to the start of the race...

Day 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge (20.9mi/2,375ft gain)
The first stage was relatively uneventful. The most exciting thing to note is that we finished a mere 26 seconds ahead of the second place women's team - road (and trail!) speedsters Shannon and Alex of Team FITS Socks - who did a good job of keeping the pressure on us all week.
Several hours after the end of stage 1, I was hit with a horrible migraine that almost ended the race for The North Face Ladies. I spent most of the afternoon either curled up in the fetal position in our shared tent or scrambling to the nearby grove of trees to vomit up all the oh-so-important fluids and calories that my body needed for recovery and fueling.
Finally, I sent Dave a fairly pathetic text requesting a rescue. With only 12 hours until the start of stage 2, I knew that I needed to be somewhere cool, dark and quiet (i.e. NOT tent city!!) for the migraine to break if I had any hope of continuing on. Totally by coincidence, Dave showed up seconds after I sent the text and he whisked me away to a campground near the start of second stage. (On our way out, we stopped in for the awards ceremony and to let Mel know the plan and that I would - hopefully! - meet her at tomorrow's start.)
We got the campground around 7pm and I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up around midnight to pee and was extremely relieved to discover that my migraine was gone and that I was REALLY hungry so I had some yogurt and a granola bar and went back to bed.

Day 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes (13.3mi/3,058ft gain)
I awoke this morning feeling grateful that my (and Mel's) race wasn't over, but I was wiped out from the migraine. It usually takes me a few days to get my strength and energy back after a bad one and at TR, that just wasn't an option so I carried on the best I could. Thankfully, it was a short day with a crazy, steep climb that wasn't runnable (at least for 99.9% of us) and a fun, long descent so I had the opportunity to get my legs back under me.
The view from Hope Pass was stunning and I couldn't help but think of our friend Jeff Plant from Penticton who in a few days would be going over it twice as part of the Leadville 100mi course during which Dave would be pacing him.

Again, The North Face Ladies took first in our category, slightly ahead our friends from Team FITS Socks, which meant that we would be wearing pink again tomorrow. (The overall leaders in each category receive a shirt to wear the next day. We ended up with six pink shirts!)
Being quite a short stage, we had plenty of time in Leadville where we stayed the night at Jeff's cabin.

Day 3: Leadville to Camp Hale (24.4mi/2,489ft gain)
This was a long stage nicely broken up by Dave and my friend Meggan with her two girls who were cheering us on at various points along the course and waiting for us at the finish. Seeing friendly, familiar faces gives me such a boost.
It was a solid, but not outstanding day for us and we managed to increase our lead a bit. We ran steadily; sometimes chatting, sometimes not. Because most of my long runs are done alone, I'm more used to running in silence than keeping up a conversation so I didn't mind the quiet times.
I was finally starting to feel better today and my appetite was improving too. The camping set up at Nova Guides was really quite nice and I was glad that we would have two nights here, which also meant that we didn't have to pack up in the morning - yay!

Day 4: Camp Hale to Red Cliff (14mi/2,786ft gain)
This was probably my best day of the whole week. I slept well and woke up ready to tackle stage 4 - another short one with lots of elevation change. Mel was similarly fired up and decided that we were going to go out fast and hard...only she forgot to tell me her plan!? :) Heading out of the starting area at what felt like a full on sprint, I did my best to stay with my partner in pink. Finally, when the the climb got too steep to run she turned to me with a smile and confessed that the fast start was no accident.
We hammered today both on the climb and descent, which was wicked fun and I'm not a big fan of downhill running, and by 11am we were drinking beers and eating fish tacos on Mangos patio in Red Cliff. By 11:30am, I was drunk. That's what one beer will do to a dehydrated ultrarunner! Pathetic! My hopes of ever winning a beer mile are crushed.
As I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that my throat was a bit sore and scratchy so I took some vitamin C and forgot about it.

Day 5: Red Cliff to Vail (24mi/4,088ft gain)
Today, I woke up with a head cold. Boo! Just when I was starting to feel healthy again after my stupid migraine. I felt pretty crappy during most of today's stage and just kept thinking about nice it would feel to be curled up on a couch, drinking tea and reading magazines. I did not want to be running and my negativity really put a damper on our team spirit (sorry Mel!). But we got through the day and it wasn't all bad.
The trails were really beautiful - great views and lots of single-track. Plus, we finished in Vail and had time to wander around and do some shopping. (I bought a big bowl of ice cream for myself and Mel bought gifts for her family. You can see where our priorities lie.)
We also decided to check into out Beaver Creek hotel a day early and I swear that there was joy in my heart when we pulled up to the Comfort Inn.

Day 6: Vail to Beaver Creek (22mi/5,200ft gain)
Woo hoo! The final day had arrived. As long as disaster didn't strike, we were in a good position to win the open women's division. Course wise, this was my favourite stage, but because of my darn cold, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have healthy. The cold had entered my lungs and I didn't know how my breathing would be so we took it easy on the first climb and I was able to maintain a moderate pace. The downhill seemed to go on forever, and we were cruising along towards Avon with a few other runners until I caught a rock and went down hard, with my left knee and right elbow bearing the brunt of the impact. With no real injury other than some broken skin and trail rash, I picked myself up and kept going.
After running on the roads through Avon, we hit the trails again for the last push before the finish in neighbouring Beaver Creek. A combination of factors - heat, climbing, fatigue, illness - led to my next trick: a full on bout of hyperventilating. I was doubled over on the side of the trail completely unable to get my breathing under control and starting to panic. Oh, and the noises I was making - so embarrassing! Mel and the other runners around me were awesome in trying to help me but there wasn't anything anyone could do. After what felt like a long time but was probably only a couple of minutes, I was able to pull myself together and we continued on. At this point, we were less than five miles from the finish, but Mel wouldn't let us run any more of the uphills, which was probably wise, so we power hiked and I was feeling fine again by the time we were done climbing.
Then we flew down the hill to the finish. It was great to be done! I made my way to where Dave was waiting and then continued on to the Medical tent to get my wounds cleaned up. After that it was off to find beer and pizza - the best post-race combo ever! (And a tasty way to make up the extra 10,000+ calories burned this week.)

TransRockies is the premier stage race in North America and rightly so. It is incredibly well organized, covers beautiful and stunning terrain, and the staff and volunteers are AMAZING! They really go out of their way to ensure that everyone is having a good time. For example, want a toaster at the finish line? You got it! Hot water are 5am(!)? No problem! Full fat yogurt? Coming right up! Like I said, they're amazing.

Also impressive are all the people that we met. The event attracts runners from around the world and we bonded both on and off the trails with fun and talented athletes from all over...from Germany to New Zealand and Arizona to Alaska. Canada was well represented too, especially BC with podium finishes in almost every division.

Over the course of the week, we were fortunate to receive some fantastic prizes for our stage wins from TransRockies race sponsors: Nathan, Balega, InknBurn, Rudy Project, Skirt Sports and others. Thank you! I'd also like to thank my friends and family for all the words of encouragement before, during and after the race. Finally, I'd like to thank our team sponsor, The North Face Canada, for supporting us for this event and so many others.

Other TransRockies related links:
Photos from Raven Eye Photography

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 IAU World Trail Championships

The last few races I've done have gone pretty well so I don't know if it's pessimistic or realistic then to assume that I'm due for a bad one. If you race often enough, it will inevitably happen - even if you're doing all the right things in terms of training, nutrition, rest, etc. My only hope was that my bad day wouldn't strike at a big race, like the IAU World Trail Championships.

Fortunately, the stars aligned and I had a good run in Wales to finish 7th in the women’s race, 49th overall – yep, I even beat some dudes. (Full results here.) The funny thing is that I wasn’t even aware of my top ten placing until some time after the race when Ryne, my coach and our Team Canada manager, told me, which was great because it meant that I got to run my own race without stressing about my position. (This lack of competitive fire drives Dave crazy but I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am.)

Check out the stunning Welsh countryside in the background.
The days leading up to the race were pretty relaxed. My travels couldn’t have gone smoother and I arrived in Llandudno, the picturesque host city, on Thursday feeling calm and rested. Ryne was already at the hotel and the rest of the team wasn’t expected to arrive for a few hours so we headed out to grab some lunch and wander around.

That evening we had our first team meeting. Our Canadian crew was made up of four women (me, Bev, Stacie and Suzanne), two men (Rob and Sebastien), Ryne and a few family members. It was a great group of people to hang out with and everyone was really nice - obviously, we're Canadian, eh! :)
Team Canada in our matchy-matchy outfits.
Friday was filled with various pre-race activities, including the opening ceremonies and checking out the course, and the time flew by. Before I knew it, it was time to organize my race stuff and go to bed.

There was some tossing, turning and clock checking throughout the night but I still managed to get some sleep and awoke relatively well rested. After getting dressed and scarfing down my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with chia seeds and almonds and a cup of black tea, Stacie (my awesome roomie for the trip) and I headed down to the lobby to meet the rest of the team to walk over and catch the shuttle to the race start.

Once we arrived at the race site, there was some time to hang out, pose for photos (see below), make multiple trips to the porta potties and do a short warm up and then all teams were requested to line up under their respective flag for the procession to the starting line.
Big smiles before the race.
The race began on a beautiful historic old stone bridge with the first kilometre on the road and all uphill to the start of the 15-kilometre trail loop that we would run five times. (We would run this short road section at the end of the race too just to punish our quads a bit more.)

It was a gruelling start to the race with approximately 900ft elevation gain in the first four km. I love uphill running so it was good for me! After the big climbs, it was rolling for a bit before a fairly gradual, fast descent. The course was wonderfully varied and challenging, for sure, but almost entirely runnable and there was only one km of really technical running.
Navigating my way through a tricky bit.
Lap one was spent learning the course. On lap two I focused on settling into a comfortable pace. By lap three, I was happy with my position and just cruised along high fiving the crowd and throwing in some airplane arms for fun (and for Shannon). I spent lap four wishing that it was lap five and by lap five I was super excited to be on the home stretch.
Although I had been warned to expect cold, wet weather in Wales, we had perfect conditions. It was even a bit hot for running so I was grateful to have brought some salt tablets. Unfortunately, over the course of the day they dissolved in my shorts pocket because I was dousing myself with water every chance I got, so I ran out mid-race and had to resort to licking the salt off my forearms. It wasn't a bad plan, but I had put on a thick layer of sunscreen in the morning so the taste was a bit nasty.
Already thinking about the post-race beers!
I crossed the finish line in 7 hours and 12 minutes and was greeted by my teammates Sebastien and Rob, as well as Rob's wife Hilary and new baby, Gwyneth. It felt great to be done and I was happy to hear that the guys had had good races too. Not long after I finished, Stacie came in and we all headed down to the river to soak our legs.

Bev and Suzanne also had solid finishes even though both had been suffering with stomach issues for much of the latter part of the race. It just goes to show how stubborn ultra runners can be! Our women's team finished in 4th place in a very strong field so we were all quite proud of our efforts.

After the race, we were shuttled by bus back to our hotel and had just enough time to get cleaned up before we had to head out for the closing ceremony and awards banquet. We were all pretty bagged after a long day so we didn't stay long and I was grateful to crawl into bed that night.

The next morning we said our good byes as Ryne, Stacie and I caught a train to London for a day of sightseeing before heading back home.

London Bridges not falling down.
It was amazing trip for a number of reasons but what has left the strongest impression on me is the spirit of people everywhere. I was buoyed by the energy of my teammates, my competitors, the Welsh folk and the race organizers, volunteers and spectators (especially the French supporters - they were incredible). Everyone was bursting with goodwill and it was infectious.

I'm looking forward to enjoying more of that positive vibe at the TransRockies race in Colorado next month!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

On the Road with Betty White

We acquired our new VW "Betty White" in March after retiring "Roy" in the fall and decided the best way to get to know our new camper van was with a road trip. (Really we were just looking for an excuse to go road tripping.) Dave poured over his extensive map collection and put together a kick ass itinerary that included stops in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada.

And while we're calling it a road trip, it was really more like an adventure trip because we spent as much time on the trails as we did on the road. Here's a photo summary of our trip...

Made it to the Lake Waldo campsite (west of Bend, OR) only to find it closed. Oh well, guess we have the place to ourselves.

Running part of the Waldo 100km course - definitely on my race wish list for 2014.

Great views from our Mt. Ashland campground.

Did an out-and-back on the Western States 100mi course. Another race I'm hoping to do next year.
Posing by a giant sequoia tree in the beautiful (but very dog-unfriendly) Yosemite National Park.

I have so many photos of Dora trotting happily along behind Dave. This one was taken near Mammoth Lakes.
Heading out on the PCT/John Muir/High trail near Mammoth Lakes, CA. Great altitude training for TransRockies!

A random scenic shot.

 At the top of Piute Pass near Bishop, CA. Check out the weird cloud formation over our heads.

The next day, I ran a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail...

...while Dave biked it.
And then in Sisters, OR, I biked and Dave ran.

Our final outing was on the McKenzie River trail west of Sisters. The old growth forest was amazing!

Finally, it was time to head home.

I'll post more photos of the trip on Facebook. You probably have to be my friend to see them, but if you're reading my blog, then you probably already are!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Return to Sun Mountain

What a weekend! Dave and I celebrated our fifth anniversary on Saturday, which is pretty amazing especially considering that we were "living in sin" (as my dear Grannie B would say) for over four years before getting married and because my previous relationships were more likely to be counted in weeks rather than months or years so hooray for us and hooray for love. Marriage is the best endurance event ever! Okay, enough of the mushy, gag-inducing stuff...

Gettin' hitched at the finish line of the Peach City Half Marathon.
Dave and I also had the opportunity to run Rainshadow Running's Sun Mountain trail races in Winthrop, WA this weekend. Sun Mountain was my first ultra way back in 2010 so it holds a special place in my heart. (It also prompted my first ever blog entry.) That year, Dave and I both ran the 50k race and had planned to again. However, after a quick recovery from the Vernon Dirty Feet 50k two weeks ago, I made the last minute decision to run the 50mi this year. (Dave ran the 50k again and not only shaved over 17 minutes off his previous time but also took first place!)
From 2010: Nervously awaiting the start of our first ultra.
Having just re-read my 2010 race report, the most striking differences between the races would have to be the weather (cold and wet in 2010 and hot and sunny in 2013) and my attitude towards walking hills. I seemed really bummed out about it three years ago coming from a road running background when you just don't walk...ever. Now that I'm a trail running veteran (ha ha), I actually look forward to some power hiking breaks as it's a good time to get in nutrition and stretch out the hamstrings.

It's also interesting to note that I'm still using the same Nathan hydration pack which now is stained and has holes in the mesh pockets where hungry mice have nibbled through to get at my gels, but is still totally functional.

Tiptoe through the tulips...or lupins!
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama
I've done five 50 milers now and Sun Mountain has been the best one for me by far. I felt calm, relaxed, strong, in control and happy the entire race. I'm kinda a spazz so for me to achieve any one of those emotions for more than five minutes at a time is remarkable but to experience them simultaneously for seven hours and 19 minutes is virtually unheard of.

My stomach didn't act up. Heck, I didn't even make a single pit stop in the bushes. Everything just went really smoothly. Within 15 minutes of crossing the finish line, I was downing pizza and beer - a pleasant and welcome change from my usual post-race nausea and vomiting. 

The only negative thing I can come up with (and it wasn't easy to do) is that I felt a bit lonely out there. I didn't see another runner from the 50mi race after about 35k in and, other than a handful of 50k runners who passed me late in the race, I was alone out there. Fortunately, the course and views were exceptionally beautiful and there were plenty of bright and cheery volunteers and wildflowers along the way to distract me.

She'll be coming 'round the mountain (Patterson) when she comes...
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama
Huge thanks to James Varner and Candice Burt of Rainshadow Running for another memorable day on the trails (and for the post-race East 20 pizza and kegs of beer)! Full results for the Sun Mountain races can be found at Ultra Signup. And check out the official Sun Mountain race video by Steven Foreman and photos by Glenn Tachiyama.

I'm taking a bit of a break from running now before I begin my preparations for the IAU World Trail Championships in Wales. Bring on the bon bons and soap operas! :)

Going, going, gone!
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The North Face Dirty Feet 50k Race Report

If someone asked me to design a race course that not only played to my strengths but was also stunningly beautiful, I don't think I could do much better than The North Face Dirty Feet 50k course in Kalamalka Park near Vernon. With long, runnable climbs and fun, flowy descents that were more interesting than technical, this race was perfect for me. I even encountered a big brown bear along the way - how cool is that?!

With the 50k race starting at 7am, Dave and I decided to drive our new VW van Betty White up to Vernon on Saturday to camp out. This was partially for practical reasons and partially because we wanted an excuse to take BW on her first road trip.

Our drive up valley went smoothly and we tootled around a bit once we got to Vernon trying to decided where to camp for the night. After checking out a few forest rec sites and one rather unappealing private campground, we ended up at the lovely Kekuli Bay Provincial Park located on Kalamalka Lake.

Here we are...Dora, Dave, me and Betty White
We relaxed for a bit, had an early dinner and caught up with our friend Neil who was doing the Dirty Feet 25k race (along with Dave) and was camping nearby. Then we set multiple alarms for 5am and went to bed. I had an okay but not great night of sleep, which isn't uncommon for me before a race, and awoke before any of the alarms went off. Getting up at the crack of dawn isn't so bad when the day breaks as beautifully as it did on Sunday.

As I dug into a steaming bowl of oatmeal, I admired the clear blue skies and listened to the cheerful chirping of some little birdies. It was very peaceful and I had a good feeling about the day. Having recently had a couple of blah weeks of running when I struggled to mentally and physically commit to my training, I wasn't sure how I'd make out in the race, but in this one happy moment, I knew that it would be okay. Whatever happened.

Once BW the VW was all packed up, we headed to the race site. We were running a bit late so I had to forgo my warm up. Oh well. The race started with nearly 4k of gentle climbing so I bypassed warm altogether and went right to hot and sweaty. I went out with the lead men at what I felt was quite a conservative and comfortable pace. By the time we started descending, I was in third place and held that position for the duration of the race. (I finished the race in second overall so either I got by one of the lead men without noticing it or someone dropped out. I'm still not entirely sure what happened.)

The 50k course was two laps of the 25k course and there were two substantial climbs per loop followed by sweet, single-track descents. There were few flat sections of the course - it was very rolly polly, swirly twirly and tons of fun! And the views - wow - just amazing! Every direction you looked, it was picture worthy. (See for yourself on the BC Race Review website.)
Photo credit: BC Race Review

Photo credit: Furlan Fotography
Fortunately, much of the course offered some shade because it was hot..really hot. I'm guessing high 20s and maybe even in the low 30s. I had packed along some salt pills and thank goodness I did. I think I would have been in serious trouble otherwise. Even after taking all my salt tabs and as much eLoad as I could get my hands on at the aid stations, I still felt pretty dehydrated.
I wasn't even close to a negative split for my two laps, but I felt like time flew by on the second loop and before I knew it, I was cruising down the finishing chute and then, after a brief stop to grab some food, I continued down to the lake for my first - brief - dip of the year. Ahhhh...so refreshing!

Now I don't want to cherry pick my races and I don't expect to love every trail I run, but it feels really good to find a course that you're excited about on a day when you're feeling good and conditions are favourable. That doesn't happen every race so I really value the times when everything falls so perfectly into place.

For more info on the Dirty Feet trail series (plus all that good stuff like results and upcoming events), go to their website: www.dirtyfeet.ca.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Off to the Races

I hadn't intended to do the Oliver 10k this year, but when our plans to go away for the weekend fell through, I decided that it was a good opportunity to support a local race and catch up with friends involved with the Interior Race Series. Knowing that the top three runners in each age group received a bottle of local wine had nothing to do with my decision to race...really...

Since the course included pavement, gravel and grass sections, I decided my new Hyper-Track Guides from The North Face would be a good choice, and they were. (My shoe review can be found here.) I was disappointed with my time as it was a lot slower than last year, but I still managed to finish as the top woman and took home a nice wine and cheese basket so I can't really complain. Results here.

I was also planning to run the Ratter trail half marathon down in WA, but I've been having some left hip/glute/hamstring issues so I decided to take the weekend off from racing and volunteered to sweep the course instead. (Dave ran the Rattler 9mi and finished first! Results here.) This is a fantastic, low-key event put on by my friends Alison and Sam Naney from Methow Endurance and I'd highly recommend checking it out.

I have a couple of races planned in the coming weeks: The North Face Dirty Feet 50k and Rainshadow Running's Sun Mountain 50k so May is going to be a fun - and busy - month with lots of time spent on the trails. (And the highway as we head out on our first road trip in our new VW van "Betty White".)

Happy spring running!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Diez Vista 50km Race Report

To run or to race; that's the question I've been asking myself since reading Ellie Greenwood's recent blog post about her experience at the Two Oceans marathon in South Africa. In it she says, "...I needed someone to help me 'race' rather than accidentally lull into just 'running'."

Her statement has made me consider my approach to racing (or is it running?) and it was on my mind at the Diez Vista 50km this past weekend in Port Moody. Leading up to this race, I wasn't very excited about it and I think it was mainly due to my uncertainty of the unknown, namely the technical sections of the course, which a number of people had warned me about.

I know I'm not a strong technical runner. It's something that I've been meaning to work on, but as often happens with things we don't like, it's just easier to avoid doing it, so I generally choose less technically challenging trails for training and racing because that's what I'm comfortable with and do better on.

Fortunately, the worst of the technical running made up less than 10% of the total course and there were plenty of long climbs, which I love. In fact, after the first ascent, I had a slight lead on the other top ladies but any time gained going up was quickly lost on the downhill that followed as they blew by me like I was deadfall.

As uncomfortable as I was through this rocky, rooty, slippery section, it was impressive to see how quickly - and agilely - other runners were tackling this treacherous terrain that was so much harder than anything I've ever run before. It was inspiring!

Once that bit was done, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and focus on making up some ground on the gently rolling, runnable terrain. The next 25k or so was quite enjoyable and I was able to cruise along comfortably and enjoy the scenery.

There is one substantial out-and-back section of the course that allows you to see where you are in relation to other runners. Dave (who was having a fantastic run and finished the day in third) passed me along here and told me the other women weren't that far ahead. Sure enough, I saw the top two women a few minutes later and then arrived at the turn-around point myself.

It was at this moment, I determined that I'm a runner, not a racer. Google's definition of "race" is: "to compete with another or others to see who is fastest at covering a set course or achieving an objective." I have no desire to compete with anyone but myself. I was happily running my own race and wasn't interested in chasing anyone down.

I race because racing allows me to push myself harder than I can or will in training. And I like the people I meet. And the new places I discover. And the post-race snacks (and beer!). Those are the best parts of racing for me.

Before the race, I told Dave that my objective was to finish without spraining my ankle (again) and, miraculously, I didn't. To place third and crack the top ten overall was a nice surprise. Full results can be found at ultrasignup.com.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kamloops Dirty Feet Race Report

My race report from the Kamloops Dirty Feet trail half marathon has been posted on the TrailRunner.ca website. Click here to read it.

And they're off! Photo credit: Phil Hiom (Dirty Feet)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Shoe Reviews

I've just posted reviews of two new shoes: The North Face Single-Track Hayasa and The North Face Hyper-Track Guide. Go to the Reviews page or click here to read them. Happy Spring running!

Where's Waldo...I mean Stacey?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Phoenix Marathon

Phoenix marks my tenth - and fastest! - marathon. I've come a long way since my first one way back in 1998 when I struggled along the Vancouver course for 42.2 very painful kilometers. At the time, I was out-of-shape, under-trained and overwhelmed. I was miserable for most of the nearly five hours that I was out there, but once I crossed that finish line I felt like a rock star - a tired, aging rock star, but still a rock star. A lot has changed since then, but my love/hate relationship with the marathon remains.

The Phoenix Marathon was my first road marathon in awhile. Having convinced myself that road running leads to injury, I've avoided it like the plague and embraced the trails, which seem to agree with my lopsided body much better. But always in the back of my mind I knew that I would end up at the starting line of another marathon hoping to have that perfect race when everything just falls into place and running feels effortless.

I came close to achieving that this weekend. There was a brief stretch mid-race when I felt pretty crappy and had to slow my pace a bit but I quickly recovered by taking some salt and fluids and then was able to push hard to the finish. Other than that little blip, everything went smoothly. (Instead of a detailed race report, I've decided just to throw together a few thoughts that came to me while running the Phoenix Marathon.)

In the past, I have had both public and private race goals - the former more modest than the latter. Now, I am more honest with my goals and don't mind sharing them. My goal for this race was a sub-3 hour marathon. And while I missed it by 6 minutes and some odd seconds, it was still a successful race. I was 13 minutes faster than my previous best marathon time (which shouldn't even count because it was run way back in 2005 when I was just a kid!).

I know some people think I'm disappointed at having "failed", but I'm not. I've decided that if you meet every goal you set, then you're probably not aiming high enough. To be achievable, goals should probably fall somewhere between realistic expectations and dreams.
That's me on the right, beside the BMO bear.

I do believe that I'll run a sub-3 marathon one day, but I'm in no hurry to sign up for another road race. As far as marathons go, this one was fast, well organized and relatively scenic, and I may do it again next year. (Boston 2014 is another one I'm considering.) But even with all it had going for it, it didn't inspire and excite me the way so many of my trail runs do.

It's almost with a sense of relief that I'm exchanging my pretty, white road shoes for their rugged, mud-covered trail equivalent and going to find some dirt to play on...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christmas in February

A large box from The North Face arrived today full of gear for me to try out and review (part of being a TNF ambassador - tough job, I know!). The package contained: two pairs of shoes (the single-track hayasas and the hyper-track guide), a Torpedo jacket, a GTD long-sleeve shirt, and a jacket, short sleeve shirt and singlet from the Better Than Naked line.

I excitedly threw on the first things I grabbed and had an impromptu photo shoot in the backyard...

Now I have to decide what I'm taking to Arizona for my race next week. Or I could just take it all.

It's been ages since I updated my Reviews page but I plan to fix that by becoming a review writing machine in the near future. Stay tuned!