This past Sunday was the Grizzly Ultra 50k (Relay for us). It was held at the Canmore Nordic Center about an hour west of Calgary. We ran it with a team of 5, Lori, Danielle, Myself, Sheila and Alison. It was a blast, and our team did really well – especially considering that other than Lori and I, the other ladies really didn’t have a lot of trail experience.
The morning started fairly early. The race organizers had held package pickup out in Canmore on Friday and Saturday, but since none of us live out there, or would be staying out there before the race, we opted for race day pickup. They had asked people to have their race packages picked up by 7:30 am on Sunday morning. That meant leaving Lori’s house around 6:15 to ensure we were there on time. Once we were at the Nordic Center, package pickup was super smooth, we got our shirts, bibs and the shared team timing chip. The first leg started at 9am, so we had some time to hang out, use the bathroom, etc.
Lori ran the first leg, it was 14 km’s long and had an elevation gain of 309 m’s. She completely rocked it finishing in a time of 1:15:44 (that’s a 5:12 / km pace!!).
Danielle was next. Her leg was 12 km’s long, with an elevation gain of 385 m’s. It’s listed as just slightly more difficult than the first leg because of the added elevation. She also was super speedy with a time of 1:11:33.
I was third. My leg was listed as the most difficult (lucky me 😉 ). It was also 12 km’s long and had 510 m’s of elevation gain. My official time was 1:16:53. (More details below…)
Sheila was fourth. Her leg was 7 km’s long and had 272 m’s of elevation. It had quite a bit of single track and is a more difficult leg than the 7km’s would lead you to think. Her time was 57:03.
Last but not least was Alison. Her leg was 5.7 km’s with 215 m’s of elevation. She had never run on trails before, and totally brought it home with a time of 38:25.
Our team ended up being 8th of 36 all women teams! Pretty darn good IMO!! Especially since we weren’t going into it with any desire to compete, just to have fun, not break any ankles and do the best we could.
Here are our final stats:
Pos#59 Bib#576 Team Marga-Relay-Ville Time: 05:19:35
So as for my leg’s report: I went into this slightly petrified of one little section – the coal shoots. When we did our practice run of this leg, they had us running DOWN the coal shoots. They are an extremely steep section of path where the ground is ground up coal, when we did the practice run, we were literally grabbing onto trees to keep from sliding down it. There were more seasoned (read: brave) runners that threw themselves down it, but we were much more cautious.
As I started running on Sunday, I thought, wait a sec, we’re running this backwards… WHAT!? YAY!?! That means I just have to climb up the coal shoots, NOT go down them! This set my mind at ease, and I really could enjoy the first few km’s of running. So the coal shoots are almost at exactly halfway through the leg. The first 6 km’s are mostly downhill, and mostly single track. It’s a blast to run, I turned on the gas, and felt like a kid again running these trails. My splits over the first 6 km’s were: 5:40, 5:18, 6:02, 6:21, 6:02, 6:16. I think my total time was around 35 minutes at this point – which I was totally thrilled with! The bottom of the coal shoots is the lowest elevation point that you reach on my leg though, so it slowed down a lot from here. I walked up the coal shoots, and continued on, running the flats, and the slight uphills, but
walking power hiking the steep ascents. I will admit that I didn’t go 100% all out on the second half. I’m in the middle of marathon training, and I kept reminding myself that I was heading into a 75km week of training! I wanted to push it and do well for my team, but I didn’t want to completely bag my legs (or even worse, injure myself). It was a continual climb and push up to the highest elevation on the route before I finally got to run my final push to the transition area as another bit of down hill. My second 6+km splits were: 7:50 (walking up the coal shoots), 6:23, 7:10, 6:35, 6:17, 5:16 (downhill!! yay), and the final 320 m’s at a 4:28 pace.
Overall the race was a blast! It was really well organized, with great food and support at the transition area. If you’ve ever been to the Canmore Nordic Centre, you know that there is a complex network of trails that are used for hiking, running, mtn biking, xcountry skiing, etc. It would be VERY easy to get lost! Each leg was labeled very well, and it was always easy to tell where you were supposed to be going, and to know that you were on the right track. Cudos to the organizers, and trail markers!
There is talk about Lori, Danielle and myself doing the full 50k next year (EEEEK!)… I’m not committing to anything at this point, but I’m certainly considering it, and would love to come back and run this in some form next year! For some reason running (not racing) a 50k on trails is not as intimidating as racing a full marathon (which I’m doing in a couple months)… so maybe!!
Have you ever run an ultra? Which one? What did you think?