I love volunteering at races. It gives a different perspective to things and makes you realise just how much time and effort goes into organising these running events. For somebody like me that likes to race a lot, it also allows me to put something back into the sport that I love, to give encouragement to other runners and to help them to have a successful race.
A few weeks ago, I volunteered to help out on one of the aid stations during one of the 5 Peaks trail races up in Edmonton. I spent 4 hours handing out water and gatorade to people I had never met, laughing and joking and generally having a great time. Along with my aid station buddy, we clapped and cheered for a good couple of hundred people racing that day - some new to trail running and needing that reassurance, others experienced but still clearly grateful for that encouragement. I loved it!
Aside from the benefits of seeing people achieving their goals, volunteering for 5 Peaks also brings a free race entry to one of their events. With Iron Legs 50 miler fast approaching, I decided to use my free entry on one of their hilly races, to help me prepare for the inevitable climbs that I will be facing in just a month's time. I really wanted to do the Chickakoo race - I went to the Chickakoo area back in May with the dogs and we absolutely loved it. But that race was just a week before Iron Legs so I opted to race at Sunridge instead. With 1,800 ft of climbing over the 8 mile (13 km) course, I knew it would be challenging and it was just what I needed.
We'd had some heavy rain during the week prior to the race but we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine on race day. However, the trails were extremely muddy and slick, and during my mile or so warm up, it was clear that it was going to be hard work out there as my shoes were caked in mud adding at least an extra inch to my height!
I've done the 5 Peaks races in the past and they really are lots of fun. They offer the short "sport" course and the longer "enduro" course, and I have always opted for latter which usually comes in at around 15km. Both distances can be extremely competitive so you never know who you're really up against nor how your race will pan out.
|Out on the course at Sunridge,|
and just moved into 2nd place
PC: 5 Peaks (Andre)
The course was two loops and my plan was to run steady but work the climbs to see how I coped. I didn't know the route so didn't know what to expect, but it had a good mix of flatter sections and some pretty hefty climbs with it being located in a ski area. I actually did ok on the climbs, but it was so muddy and so slippery that we were literally clinging to tree branches and using our hands to scramble up some sections. I was laughing and smiling the whole way, loving getting dirty and sliding back every time I tried to take a step forward. It was also mostly on single track trails with lots of twists and turns. Some of the downhills were quite treacherous with tree roots and mud and on the first loop, I found myself tentatively running down the hills, but getting more reckless as the race progressed.
I had no idea where I was in the race until I started my second lap when I was told I was third lady. I was pretty happy to hear that I was top 3 and was quite happy to settle for that, but after the long, steep climb up the ski slope, I started to gain on second place and eventually passed her with around 5 km still remaining. We were pretty evenly matched on the climbs so I knew that I needed to put some distance between us on the flats and the downhills if I wanted to stay in second. I'd been running pretty relaxed, but now I tried to put in a bit of effort and managed to put a good 5 minutes between us by the time we finished. I never saw the first lady - she must have been well ahead - but I finished in around 1 hour 20 minutes for second lady and 12th overall.
|Happy to finish 2nd lady at Sunridge|
PC: 5 Peaks (Andre)
We hung around for the presentation and it was great to hear that the 3 ladies on the podium were all in their 40s, finishing ahead of some much younger ladies which made us all feel really happy - yay for ladies in their fourties!
It was a great morning that went far better than I was expecting, and the result certainly gave me some confidence going into Iron Legs next month.
I was intending to go back out on the course afterwards to do my 20 miler, but I decided instead to do that on Sunday. So today, I headed over the Devon to try out some different trails to get in my 20 miles. I had no idea where I was going but it was so much fun exploring and I managed to get the distance as well as the climbs with over 3,000 ft - no wonder my legs are so tired after yesterday and today!
The trails in Devon are beautiful with views of the river and rolling hills through gorgeous, lush green forests. Various loops mean you can keep adding bits on and with stairs called "Legs of Fire", and hills such as "Hoodoo Hill", you know for sure you are going to get a good workout! The trails are actually close to town but they also feel very wild and remote, and with warning of "moose in area", coyotes and "other wildlife", it really does make you feel like you are in touch with nature and in the middle of nowhere. I absolutely loved it and with 5 Peaks also arranging a race in Devon, I may well just put my name into the mix for that one too.
|Just some of the trails in Devon|
With Andy finally being home for a couple of weeks, next weekend we are hoping to head out to the mountains again. I have back to back 20 milers to do so I'm hoping to get some good climbing in somewhere if time allows as my final preparation for the biggie next month. I'm still not a brilliant climber, but I am a better climber, and that alone makes me happy and far more confident about the race. I guess time will tell - 4 weeks to go!