2017 has been full of ups and downs in running. After starting 2017 injured, recovering and running Boston, I was coming into the summer feeling like I was on an up. I was working with my friend Melissa @ We Run the World Coaching, and exciting for a summer of trails.
On July 1st, I raced the Powderface marathon, one of my favorite annual races. About 2 km’s into the race I rolled my ankle, it was on the bad end of rolling, but didn’t stop me from continuing. It took another km or so for the pain sensors to give up and from there through around 40k when it started to speak to me again. After the race, my foot was really sore, I iced it and took some ibuprofen, and assumed it would calm down in a day or two. It was a little swollen, but wasn’t terrible.
I took a couple of days off, and tried an easy run. It didn’t hurt at all to run on, so I decided to keep on keeping on. The following weekend was Sinister 7 and I had jumped onto a team. I ran leg 3, which is around 30 km’s, and has a lot of climbing. I had a blast and ran hard. I ran the week after Sinister, with my foot a bit sore, taking it easy, hoping it would heal on it’s own, but the following week it was very evident that I needed to take some time off. Luckily Melissa is a super star Duathlete, and started to prescribe bike workouts.
We spend a week in the middle of summer in Cypress Hills. I was so looking forward to trail running in Cypress. Instead I spent the week on my bike, plus doing easy family hikes. It was a fantastic week. I had a blast doing the bike workouts, and loved the time w/ family. No regrets at all.
Once I was back in Calgary, I continued to get my workouts in on the bike, with some pool running thrown in 1-2 times a week. I honestly didn’t have the mojo to go too crazy with the cross training. I had cross trained like a maniac leading into Boston, and was much more zen about this injury. I biked a lot, but not in a crazy, I need to keep my fitness way, more in a I’m really enjoying these long rides sorta way.
I’d been registered in the 100k at Lost Souls, and had been super excited to race it again. Immediately after the race last year, I was thinking of how I could cut time off, and improve on my race. I was still holding onto my 100k goal until early August. The RD had posted a few messages offering free transfers to the 50k, and when he extended his offer a bit longer, I had a hard think on if it was a good idea to jump into a 100k, coming off injury, without many long runs or volume. My hubby, as usual, was the voice of reason. I’m stubborn, and tend to have a hard time letting go of goals. I decided to be smart, and drop to the 50k. It turned out to be the best decision ever.
More background (I promise, I’ll get to the race, soon-ish). This has been one of the driest summers ever in Western Canada. The forest fires have been crazy, and the air quality has been poor. We hadn’t had the worst of it in Calgary, but whenever the smoke blew in we got a taste of what people west of us were dealing with. The week before the race, the fires South-West of us were worsening. Waterton National Park was evacuated, and the fires were getting worse. As we drove down on Friday, the air quality was horrible, it was super smoky, and it was hot. The forecast had called for mid-30’s C on Friday and low 30’s on Saturday. This usually means about 5 degrees warmer in the coulees on the race course. I felt terrible for my friends racing the 100k/100M distances on Friday. At the same time, I was so relieved to be “only” running 50k, and happy that the forecast and air quality should be slightly better on Saturday when the 50k started.
The race started at 7am on Saturday morning (another advantage over Friday, which started at 9am). Lori and I had planned to run the race together, just taking it easy, for a finish. She was much better trained than I, so I was lucky that she preferred a run with a friend over a race finish time.
The first leg is 7 km’s, and is a loop just South of Headquarters (HQ). It’s a nice easy introduction to the day, we took it easy and got ourselves warmed up. We both started with long sleeves, as it was a chilly morning, but knew that we wouldn’t need them for long. By the time we got back to HQ, we were ready to strip off the long sleeves, we ditched them at the finish line and crossed our fingers that Lori’s Inknburn, and my Boston LS’s would still be there in a few hours!
Leg 2 – 8 km’s to Softball Valley
This leg is deceptive, and lets you get a little cocky. You think you’re climbing some good hills in and out of the coulees, I was thinking, I feel pretty good, maybe I’m in better shape than I thought. These hills don’t seem that bad at all. Ha. Jokes on me.
We arrive in the Softball Valley aid station, take a quick pitstop, grab some food, and are off. We are trying to be quick in aid stations this year, last year we burned time like crazy in AS’s.
Leg 3 – 10 km’s to Pavan.
The warm-up is over, it’s starting to warm up outside, the climbs are getting a bit more serious, but I’m still feeling pretty good. I make a goal to drink a serious amount of my Hammer Electrolyte drink before Pavan. I know that Leo’s got Skratch at Pavan, so I can refill there. The smoke is not too bad for us, there are some coulee’s where it’s trapped and we smell it, but for the most part, the air is clear. This is good and bad, because it also means that we are going to get full sunlight, there is not much for shade at Lost Soul. Through this leg, even thought it’s warming up, every once in a while we’ll run through a coulee where the air is till cold, it’s so refreshing. The wind is also picking up, and the breeze on the tops of the coulees feels great.
We roll into Pavan around 25 km’s into the race, my legs are starting to feel the distance, but still feeling good. Leo is running Pavan, and everything is on point. Lori and I both get some Skratch, and I fill my bladder completely full with ice. It’s getting HOT. We both decide that we want beer when we pass through Pavan again.
Leg 4 – 16 km’s North Loop back to Pavan.
As we roll out of Pavan, someone is handing out freezies, UM, YES! The North Loop is deceivingly hard. There are some good climbs in the first half, a good stretch running on a gravel road, the sun was really starting to beat down during this section. I was so thankful that I had filled my bladder with ice. It was noisy though, and the ice rattled as I ran saying, ‘Terry has ice and you don’t!’, SORRY LORI! We were counting down to the next climb. Crazy I know, but all the running was getting OLD. We arrived at the climb, and got to work our way up up up to the Top of the World! I love the views up here, last year we were on top during sunset and it was amazing. Tiny tear for not getting to see sunset on our run… oh so tiny though because my legs are getting tired, and my hip flexor is getting sore, so yay for only 20k left, not 70! After the hills the course turns back south along the river, it’s nice and flat and an awesome little windy trail, which is great, except the sandy spots, which due to the dry year have grown. Running in sand is HARD. So we walked a bunch of it. Luckily it’s an ultra, so that’s encouraged.
I’m pretty excited when we roll into Pavan again. I’m so hot, and my legs are getting tired. Mental note, biking is not running. We take some time at Pavan, get some food, dump sand out of shoes (Lori changes her socks – I am jealous), I get my bladder refilled with ice and water, and we head out again.
Leg 5 – 7 km’s back to Softball Valley
My legs are really feeling the distance now, but we’re so close. It’s also really hot. Just keep moving. There are 3 big hills on this leg (the 3 bitches), they are almost a relief from the running though. I think I’m in better shape for the hills than for the flats. I keep moving as fast as I can, which feels ridiculously slow, one of those moments, where you feel like you are running slow, look at your garmin, and you’re actually running ridiculously slow. Oh well, just 7 k, I can do anything for 7 k, and at least we’re running not walking. We walked a LOT of the last 20k last year, and whenever I think walking might be easier, I think back to last year and know how much walking sucks, so I suck it up and run.
I’m so happy to get to Softball Valley. Last leg. Phew. Plus the next leg is the shortest, and only has the one climb up to HQ. We grab ice at Softball Valley, I’m totally overheated at this point, and trying to manage it as best as I can. I’m drinking a lot of water, moving slower, icing myself.
Leg 6 – 6 km’s back to HQ and the Finish!
The best part of leg 6 is that it’s the last one! And I’m not running 100k. This leg is really flat running, I’m still running really slow, but I’m running. My heartrate is so high, and my effort is hard, but I keep moving forward, I’m also watching for women around us. I had in my mind that sub 7 hrs would be an AG award (from looking at last years results). We aren’t making 7 hrs, but we are just over. My competitive side does not want any girls to pass us. We make it to the hill up to HQ, and climb it, the climbing is easy compared to the running. At the top of the hill, I have to run for 200 m’s , which is hard but I’m so glad we are almost done, and I’m not going to let anyone else pass us, whoops, except for that one guy… but no girls!
We finish with smiles on our faces in 7:07. I was so completely spent and overheated. I ended up as 4th in my age group, and am super thrilled that after a less than stellar training season, I went home with a rock. After reading race reports and talking to friends who raced the 100k/100M races on Friday, I’m very happy with my choice to race the 50k, the 100k would not have gone well. Despite the heat, the smoke, and terrible race conditions, it was such a fun weekend, and I’m already planning to be back again next year!