Monday, 15 July 2013

Change of Plan and the Spaghetti Western 15km

Almost a month on from the devastating floods that hit Southern Alberta, it’s hard to believe the impact they had on the surrounding areas when you look at how the clean-up is progressing. Unfortunately, some areas are going to take a little longer to recover, particularly in Kananaskis where roads, bridges and trails were washed away. Whilst I was still exploring and getting familiar with that beautiful wilderness area of Alberta, I do know some parts that have been affected and it is heart wrenching to see the damage that has been caused out that way.

The flooding has also had an effect on the local racing scene with several events being cancelled or relocated to other areas where the damage wasn’t quite as intense. From my perspective, the K-100 Relay had already been cancelled, but the Calgary MEC Race 4 also became a victim as the pathways used for the race route alongside the river are still being rebuilt. Then of course, there was the cancellation of one of my target races for this year – Iron Legs 50 miler.

I so desperately wanted to do Iron Legs as I’d seen the photos and videos from previous years and it looked awesome. Not only did I want to do it as my first proper Rocky Mountain Ultra, but I also figured that it would be excellent preparation for my 100 miler. When news came through of its cancellation, I was so disappointed but fully understood the reasoning given. The trails used for the original course had been battered and it was unlikely that the race permit would be granted, even if relocating to a different venue and revised course. I also personally felt that running Iron Legs anywhere different than the original route just wouldn’t have been the same, and I would have felt like a cheat had I “been there and got the t-shirt” so to speak – it just wouldn’t be “Iron Legs”.

And so, with my other target race being Iron Horse 100 mile Race in October, I needed to find alternative races to help me along the way, preferably a mix of road and trail over shorter and longer distances.

Thankfully there is an abundance of races and whilst it meant travelling further afield than originally intended, there were options and I had a plan.

Edmonton Marathon falls in August – a week later than Iron Legs would have been – and so it fitted in nicely, especially with being a long run. OK, it will be on the roads, but my incentive was that it was a flatter course at a lower altitude than Calgary Marathon, and therefore I am hoping that I can run even quicker. Edmonton also offers complimentary elite entries and whilst it’s been about 3 years since I got anywhere close to their standard of a sub-3 marathon, past and present race performances swung the decision, and I feel honoured to have been granted an elite entry after all.

In addition, with Andy’s parents visiting us for much of September, I figured I needed another long race prior to our holidays. I had already entered the Lost Soul Ultra 50km in Lethbridge, but with the cancellation of Iron Legs, I felt I needed something longer than 50k. I have now switched to the 100k at Lost Soul and I’m really excited about taking part, particularly given all the positive feedback, but it is also quite daunting thanks to being renowned as “The toughest race on the prairies” due to the hilly course, technical trails and the intense heat. The men’s winning time is usually 11+ hours so I know it’s going to be tough, so I’m hoping to pay a visit to Lethbridge in the next couple of weeks to check out the course and to set myself a realistic target once I’ve seen things for myself.

Although the longer runs will no doubt be the key to success or failure at my 100 mile event, I do like to do the shorter races to take me out of my comfort zone, as it’s far too easy to become a long distance plodder. I was hoping to do the MEC 10k race next weekend, but with doubts about it actually going ahead, I had a scout around to see if I could find another short race elsewhere.

Thankfully, my research dug up the details for the inaugural Spaghetti Western Relay and 15km run which sounded like lots of fun, particularly with it being Stampede time here in Calgary, and so it was that I found myself entering the race late on Thursday evening.

East Lake, Airdrie -
start of the Spaghetti Western 15km
The race was held in Airdrie and was organized by Calgary Road Runners and Quicksilver Running Club, so I knew it would be a great event having participated in their races previously. The course was a 5k out and back route which was surprisingly undulating with a sneak of a hill thrown in for good measure, and followed the bike paths between a residential area and farmland.

Whilst the morning had started cool, wet and windy, by the time the race started, the sun was breaking through and it had started to warm up. Unfortunately, the turnout was low and with no disrespect to those that turned up, there wasn’t a great deal of competition. I figured that I wouldn’t really be racing here today and it would be more of a 15km time trial to see how fast I could go. My only other 15km race in the past has been the “Not for Meer Mortals” Meerbrook 15k and although there was a hill today, there was no way it was anything like Gun Hill in the Moorlands, so a PB was pretty much guaranteed. The question was, by how much?

Start of the Spaghetti Western 15
Been an out and back course actually worked quite well as it meant we could encourage all the other runners and give each other a wave each time we passed. I was feeling good, and although a nasty headwind was blowing and slowing us down somewhat on the outward section, I was really pleased that I completed each “lap” in around 21 minutes, especially as the course was slightly over at 5.13km.

The support from the small crowd of spectators was phenomenal and they really spurred me on and as I crossed the line 1st lady and 1st overall, I was greeted with rapturous applause. In the spirit of the Spaghetti Western theme, the prize was a cactus which I absolutely loved and thought was a very original idea.

Post race nibbles were provided and it was great to cheer in the rest of the runners and have a chat to everybody and make yet more new friends, before heading back to Calgary and heading down to the Stampede to see the real Cowboys and Indians.

I really enjoyed the event and was pleased with the run as it shows that I have recovered well from my recent 100k. I really hope they have it again next year and the numbers increase, particularly as the entry fee goes to a good cause rather than lining the pockets of the organizers. This year it went to the food bank, and I’m pretty sure there must have been around $500 towards it.

My lovely little Cactus - not wooden spoons, and not for eating!
And so, with another race out of the way, my focus turns to Edmonton Marathon and here’s hoping that my training continues to go well, I avoid injury, and that everything comes together on race day.

Happy running folks :o)

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