5 races in one day – wow! With my incredible ability to waffle, this has the potential to be a long one, but for once I’ll try to keep things short so as not to prolong the boredom too much.
Looking back, last Saturday was superb - 5 crazy runners doing 5 races in one day – what better way to keep us out of mischief on a weekend?!
First up was the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Hot Chocolate 10km race. My best time for a 10k since moving over here is just under 42 minutes – that was at the MEC 10k race last April when I first got here. It was much warmer back then with just a few remnants of ice and snow on the river, and I actually raced in vest and shorts. On Saturday however, it was a nippy -5 but felt much chillier due to overcast skies, and it was so tempting to just hang around the fire pits and heaters that the organizers had kindly set up for us around the start area. The route was a flat out and back course alongside the river and whilst the City of Calgary had done a grand job in clearing snow off the pathways, the first and last 1km were ankle deep in snow and there were sporadic patches of ice still lying on the pathways at times.
The crazy 5 runners did pretty darn well – a win for yours truly in exactly 43 minutes, followed by Nicki in 3rd and Jen and Jo not much further back. Alan just missed out on a win in the men’s race by a mere 25 seconds. It was a lovely little race with a fairly good turnout considering the time of year, and at just $15 to enter, it was good value for money with a hot chocolate for everybody at the finish and pretty good prizes.
|5 Runners doing what they love most - running!|
Next stop was 12 Mile Coulee up in the north of the City, and within an hour or so of finishing our 10k, we were lining up on a sunny but snowy start line ready for an 8km cross country race.
I’m really enjoying the cross country this year and I’ve actually been doing ok. However, I wasn’t expecting too much this time having already raced, so was very pleasantly surprised to finish 5th lady again. I’d worn spikes for this one as the course is renowned for being particularly icy down in the coulees, and UK friends may be pleased to know that my spikes still had mud on them from Westwood Cross Country when I was running for Staffordshire Moorlands over a year ago. I’m not entirely sure how they got through customs but even so, there are now a couple of clumps of Staffordshire mud making their home on a hillside in Calgary.
|Beautiful day for cross country - race 2 of the day|
The 2 lap course was a lovely with plenty of ups and downs, and thanks to the variety and the gorgeous sunny weather, I’m inclined to say that it is perhaps one of my favourite courses so far. The 5 of us did well again and still had a smile on our faces at the end so all was looking good for the next 3 races later that afternoon. We’d already done 18km and were half way through our race day mileage – the rest would be split across the 3 races in Cochrane – a 3km, a 5km and a 10km.
I have to be honest and say that I thought the turnout in Cochrane would have been higher, especially with it being a part of the town’s Winter Festival, but on arrival, it looked like there would be no more than 20 or so runners in all 3 races. It didn’t dampen spirits though, and as the 5 of us pinned our numbers to our shirts, we were still ready for the challenge. The organisers - Quick Silver Running Club - did a splendid job in making sure we were fed and watered throughout the event and offered lively encouragement and support on each lap.
|Snowy field in Cochrane and still smiling, ready for the final 18km|
Deliberate diversion here…….in September 2011, I ran for England in the Commonwealth Trail Championships – a 55km trail race in Anglesey, North Wales. I finished next to last and was absolutely gutted having had the most awful race ever. At the time, my mind wasn't on the race as we were in the middle of planning for our move overseas, and I felt so awful that the lady that finished behind me in that race was Canadian – I felt like I’d let a fellow team mate down, even though I hadn’t even moved to Canada at that time.
Fast forward to Mad Race Saturday, and that same Canadian lady is standing in a snowy field in Cochrane some 5000 miles away from Anglesey, and some 18 months down the line, merrily chatting away to us and waiting to do a 3km race. Not only that, but she’s a very good friend of the runners I had spent part of the day with – go figure eh?!
And so, a 1km loop around the Lion’s Rodeo Ground with ankle deep snow in parts, particularly on the sharp hill shortly after the start that zapped the energy on each of the 18 times we ran up that flaming hill – then a short stretch on the road, before turning back in to the grounds to negotiate an icy and snowy pathway back to the start of the next lap.
We all flew the first 3km – 3 laps? Pah! The 5km wasn’t too bad either although the efforts of the previous runs were starting to take their toll on the legs. We finished the day as we’d started – by running a 10k race. This was the most mentally challenging – tired legs and another 10 laps of that same field, with the sun starting to set over the mountains in the west as the temperature started to drop off – but we all kept going! For me, something clicked and with head down, I went into “ultra mode” – where the brain switches off and you just go through the motions of running, not really thinking about anything but acutely aware of how far you’ve ran and how many laps still to go. “This is ok” I thought – “I’ve done 25 laps at Herriot Watt Uni in Edinburgh, 7 laps at Boddington, and goodness knows how many on the track at Barry and up in Perth – 10 x 1km loops isn’t so bad!” Surprisingly, although my pace was slow it was actually consistent and coming in to finish, I felt relieved and tired, but pretty good at the same time. Mission accomplished, and beer and pizza were certainly on the cards for me when I got home that night!
All in all, it was a fantastic day doing something that I love and in such excellent company. I got to meet even more running friends and I’m happy to say that my running family is slowly growing at last and I feel honoured to be meeting so many lovely and welcoming people. I also went home having made a profit that day too - $45 for 5 races, with a win of $75 and a hat, scarf and medal to boot, it can’t be bad at all.
Since Saturday, I feel that my bug for ultra running is seriously coming out of a long hibernation, and I have again revisited my race plans for the coming months. I have 3 more cross country races to do followed by a half marathon on the roads in March, but after that, it’s back to the trails and the long stuff which is where my love of the sport really lies. I have a 50km race in 2 weeks time – who knows what the weather will be so it could be on road, or it could be in deep snow – but it’ll get me off on the right footing for the next few months. I am now committed to a 100km trail race in June followed by the K-100 relay with the awesome Snot Rockets, and then I have the Iron Legs 50 miles trail/mountain race in August. After that, I can’t decide – I may do a 12 hour or a 24 hour trail race up in Edmonton in September, or I may do another 100km race in October. It’s such a shame that the World Trail Running Championships are this summer and not next year as I'm sure I will have plenty of performances to submit for consideration for selection. However, whilst I would love to have ran for GB again on the trails, no offence Anglesey, but with the Rocky Mountains and so much open trail in your back yard, I don’t think I’m going to miss Newborough Forest too much ;o)