This past weekend I ran the Ironlegs 60k in Kananaskis. It was my second official ultra (my first was the Grizzly 50k last fall). It’s a little strange to think of it as my second ultra. I trained all last summer for the Grizzly, it was a big deal, and it was hard. Ironlegs was definitely hard, but my thoughts going into it were much more nonchalant. I purposefully tried to not take it too seriously.
Start to AS1 (Powderface) 10.5 kms
The race started at 6 am at Station Flats, just west of Bragg Creek. It was dark when we parked, and the sun was just coming up as the race got underway. The first 10 km’s are rolling hills towards the Powderface trail parking lot. Lori and I were slow getting going, hiking any hills and letting the rest of the field speed off into the distance. I had taken two rest days before the race, and my legs needed some time to get warmed up. I joked that we had a 20k warmup and a marathon to run, no big deal, right?
We arrived at the Powderface AS (approx 10.5k) in around 90 minutes. We each grabbed an Oero, and had a quick pitstop. We hadn’t been going long enough to need any fluid refills or anything else.
AS1 (Powderface) to AS2 (Elbow) 13 kms
We left the Powderface parking lot, and started the climb up to Powderface Ridge. The next 8 km’s (5 miles) is almost all climbing as you gain almost 700 m’s to get to the high point on the course. There were a few short runnable sections, but for the most part we power hiked. Lori and I are both good power hikers, and we made good time here, passing a few people as we went.
What goes up must come down, right? So we started the 5 km descent down to the Elbow AS. The first section of the descent is fairly runnable, having a nice grade. I mostly took the lead here, as I like to bomb the downhills a bit more aggressively than Lori.
We arrived at AS3 (Elbow) approx 23.5 km’s and each found our first drop bag. I had all sorts of things in my drop bag as I had no idea what I would want, and had never run a race where I needed a drop bag before. I restocked a bit of food, mainly my homemade gel, and put some duct tape on a couple hot spots that I had on my feet. I also had 2 cups of Coke, and a couple handfuls of chips. I was clearly meant to run ultra’s because chips and coke are two of my favorite things in the world.
AS2 (Elbow) to AS3(Powderface Road) 15.5 kms
The next section was up and over Ford Knoll trail, and then onto Ford Creek Trail. Before the race had started, in his pre race chat, the RD had given us a word of warning regarding Ford Creek Trail. He had said that it would take some of us 3-4 hours to run this 12 km stretch. I had run this trail last year on a training run with Rob, and a couple others. It had been a 36 km run, and my longest trail run to date, and had taken us around 5 hrs to complete. I was pretty confident that we could get the 12 km’s done in under 3 hrs, and we did, but it did take us a solid 2 hrs. I think I must have had amnesia. Ford Creek trails is a unrelenting, difficult trail. It has a lot of steep climbs, a lot of it is grown over, there is a lot of water, and cow shit, making for mud that is basically made from shit, there is not a lot for views, and it just feels long. We were very thankful when we turned back onto Powderface Creek trail, and even more so when we hit AS3 at the Powderface Road.
We were in and out of this AS fairly fast. I had my bladder in my pack filled with Gatorade, as it was the electrolyte beverage of choice (better than Ultima in my opinion). I also had some more coke and chips, and we were off.
AS3 (Powderface Road to AS4 (Powderface, aka the party station) 9 kms
The next few km’s were going to be more power hiking, climbing up to the saddle on the Powderface creek trail. We climbed for approx 3 km’s, power-hiking most of it. My feet were starting to get sore, and they were completely disgusting having been soaked with muddy, shitty grossness on Ford Creek Trail. I had clean socks and shoes waiting in my drop bag at AS4, and I was eager to get to them. Through the Ford Creek section and this section we continued to pass people as we went. As far as I remember we were not passed by a single person. Our approach to starting slow and keeping a steady relentless pace throughout was working. After we peaked the saddle and started to head down towards the parking lot, we picked it up. My legs were working well, and though the ground was rocky and my feet sore, I ignored them and kept on trucking. I had one split in the 5:xx/km and a couple in the 6:00’s and felt really good about this pace being past the marathon point of the race.
We arrived at Powderface (48 km’s), aka Leo’s party aid station, excited and oh so happy to be there! I took another pit stop and went straight for my drop bag as Leo got us some margarita’s, he asked us something about whether we wanted them virgin or not, but I’m pretty sure that was a rhetorical question. A virgin drink at this point in the race would have meant we were taking ourselves much too seriously. We laughed, changed our socks and shoes, and drank our drinks as fast as one can drink a drink when they still have 12 km’s left to run. Karen snapped a picture for us, filled up our bladders and eventually we tore ourselves away from the party to finish this thing off.
AS4 (Powderface) to the Finish! 12 kms
Just has the previous AS stops had done, we got a nice boost from our stop at AS4, we carried on and felt pretty good for the next couple of km’s. It’s amazing what a change of shoes/socks, some food, and pausing movement for a few minutes can do. After the initial boost, we hit a bit of a lull. Lori was starting to feel the heat, she was nauseous, and asked to lead for a bit. We have a rule, that whoever is feeling the shittiest gets to lead. Because when you’re feeling shitty, the worst is having to get your ass whooped by your oh-so-fresh running partner. Even when they don’t feel oh-so-fresh, you are sure they do and want to kick them in the teeth for feeling so good. So she took the lead and we climbed the last few climbs on our way back towards Station Flats. She ate something, a few clouds rolled in, and it wasn’t long before she had come to the other side of the bonk and was feeling better. We passed the turn off for the 50 miler, up Pneuma, and were thrilled to be passing it by, thinking we’ve done enough today, and did not want to climb Moose Mountain at that point. The last 4 km’s were mostly downhill, and both of us were feeling decent for being the furthest into a run that we’d ever been. We also knew at this point that we were going to be well under the 10 hrs finish time that we had been guessing we might hit.
I don’t often get emotional, but I was feeling a bit teary during this finish. Lori and I often get people that marvel that we run these races together, some people remark that we are lucky, others assume that we’ll eventually have to have a hard talk during a race and have one leave the other. Of course, never say never, right? But as we finished up this race we were talking about how lucky we are. We legitimately run almost the exact same pace, even when we’re training apart, we post our runs to Strava, and we’ve run the same paces for a workout. We’ve run races, like SeaWheeze 3 years ago, when we ran our own race, but still ended up in a dead sprint, finishing the race with the exact same time, to the second. We both feel like we’re stronger together. During a long race like this one, there are always highs and lows, and I think that if you’re alone, you’re more likely to give into the lows, or even to burn yourself out during the highs. When we run together, we distract each other during the lows, and laugh and have an amazing time during the highs. If one of us is sucking at eating (usually me) the other will say, EAT SOMETHING YOU FOOL. And then you feel better. I think I can speak for both of us too when I say, even if our finishing times could be a few minutes faster, had we not stayed together, we wouldn’t trade the fun that we had running it together for the better result.
We cruised it in, and about a km from the finish there was a 7-8 yr old boy on his bike, he rode in with us, chatting the whole way, and shouted out our numbers as we approached the finish. We finished in 9:21 garmin time, and I think were tied for 4th female. (I’ll update this once the official results are posted).
We both sat back and enjoyed some finish-line beers, ate some snacks (thanks Ben for bringing food and drinks!). They also had a Physio Therapist at the finish giving some free ART Treatments, so I took advantage and she did some work on my hips. I’m sure this has helped my recovery, as I’m certainly sore, but things feel fairly balanced. Hopefully we can coast our way into the Lost Soul 100k in just over 3 weeks from now! I’m still scared shitless at this 100k distance but am feeling better and better after every successful execution in training.
- 4 scoops Pineapple Skratch in my bladder (320 cal)
- 1 package Skratch gummies (160 cal)
- 12 oz homemade chia gel (1320 cal)
- 1 energy ball (120 cal)
- 1 Oreo cookie (55 cal)
- Chips – approx 3 oz (300 cal)
- 4 cups Coke (200 cal)
- 1 package Reese snack mix (220 cal)
- bladder of Gatorade (300 cal)
Total: 2995, or about 315 cal/hr! Yay, I didn’t think I was eating enough on the run, but when I add it all up, I did great 🙂
(I’m still doubting the calorie total on the gel, I’m going to calculate it properly next time I make it)