Thursday, 11 October 2018

A Mini Trip to Canmore :-)

This year has flown by and I can't believe that we are almost in mid-October already and that Javelina Jundred is just a couple of weeks away. It seems a little crazy that we've already had snow here in Alberta and yet I'll likely be experiencing temperatures in the 80's or 90's when I race in Arizona at the end of this month. Will I be prepared for the heat? I have no idea, but I do know that I am ready to deal with whatever gets thrown at me and will adapt to the conditions as I see fit on the day.

My training for Javelina has gone pretty well and I'm feeling fit and ready to run 100 miles again. Even with the cooler temperatures and snowy weather we've had for the past month or so, I haven't let it deter me from running outdoors nor let my focus waiver, and I've actually had some pretty good sessions in recent days. The variety in weather has made it more interesting for sure, and having completed a 20 mile + run in blizzard conditions one weekend, I did another 20 miler in perfect fall conditions just a week later and I was in my absolute element as I admired the vibrant colours whilst running the local trails.

Snowy run one week ,,,

Snow melted and back to autumn the following week :-)
Of course, living so far north now means that we have exceptionally long days during the summer months but much longer nights in the winter months and I am already noticing the darker evenings when I go out after work to do my run. Running in the dark has never bothered me, but it does make it difficult to keep track of your pace when you can't see what you're doing and I'm finding it hard to hit my target pace based on feel - sometimes I'm too fast, sometimes I'm too slow, but at least I'm getting out there and doing it!

One of the things I'm really happy about is being introduced to the Leduc Runners. This small group of runners is gradually expanding as more people get to hear about it, and I'm so grateful to have met such an amazing bunch of folks that are fast becoming good friends. They are so welcoming, so encouraging and so positive that it really isn't difficult to enjoy their company.

Dark night runs with just a couple of the Leduc Runners :-)
It was due to this group that I ended up being a part of a relay team at the Grizzly Ultra last weekend. Being Thanksgiving weekend, I didn't want to spend a long weekend at home on my own so I had already decided to head to Canmore to watch the race and hopefully catch up with a few old friends. I'd been for our midweek run with the Leduc Runners on the Wednesday evening and it came up in conversation that there could be a leg open for a relay team. I hadn't intended running in the race but I did offer my services if nobody else was available and so it was that I eventually ended up joining Julie, Vanessa, Sarah and Adam on the Yogi Bear and Boo-boos Relay Team.

I drove down to Calgary on the Saturday and stayed there for the night close to Fish Creek. I spent the afternoon pottering around Fish Creek with the pups before heading over to Aubern Bay Dog Park which used to be our local when we lived there a couple of years ago. It was great to see it finally open - when we left, it was going through some improvements and I have to say that our pups loved the changes :-)

Fun at Fish Creek :-)
.. and fun at Auburn  Bay Dog Park :-)
I had a lovely evening snuggling up with the dogs in the hotel but we had to head to bed early as we had an early morning drive to get to Canmore for the race the next day.

By 7am Sunday morning, we were on the road and as we headed west towards the mountains, the sun was rising in the east and casting a beautiful pink glow over the snow that was lying in the fields and on the mountainsides. In my rear view mirror, the colour of the sky was breathtaking as the sun started to peak up on the horizon and I really wish I could have snapped a picture to capture the moment. As I drove along, a herd of deer headed across the farmland, stopping to dig in the snow with their hooves and searching for the grass underneath whilst a fluffy, considerably well fed coyote wandered across the opposite field looking for his next meal. I was feeling so happy and absolutely loving the drive whilst the dogs slept peacefully on the back seat having been woken far too early compared to their normal weekend routine.

As I neared Canmore, the familiar views of Yamnuska and then the Three Sisters came into sight and I started to get that excited feeling of being back in the mountains again.

The Grizzly Ultra takes place on the trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre and since the first race 6 years ago, it has certainly grown in size and popularity. When I first ran the race solo back in  2012, there were around 300 runners - now there are in excess of 1000 which creates a great atmosphere on the day.

Due to record snow fall earlier in the week that saw Canmore receive something like 30cm of snow in one day, there were some changes to the event this year, the main one being that we would no longer be running 5 different legs but rather just 3 - this was done in the interests of runner safety and also to protect the trails from the damage that over 1000 pairs of legs could cause as a result of melting snow and churned up mud. Considering the curve ball that was thrown at the organisers in the couple of days leading up to the race, they did an amazing job in making sure things still went ahead, and despite the changes, everything still ran smoothly and everybody appeared to have so much fun.

Team camp area - change from the norm due to the snow
Keeping warm!
For our part, the Yogi Bear and Boo-Boos team did great, finishing 7th 5-person mixed team out of 87 in 5 hours 16 minutes. Sarah got us off to a great start, and then I followed on leg 2, running the 14km Grey Wolf leg which was nicely undulating with a couple of long, drawn-out climbs.

With leg 1 having already ran the Grey Wolf loop, most of the snow was already trodden down and made for some great running. Some sections were pretty slow going due to the number of runners trying to stay on the compact snow and walking up some of the hills, so the faster runners had to run in the deeper stuff which was at least ankle deep and quite heavy going when trying to get a grip and overtake people. There were a couple of icy sections where I was doing a little dance whilst trying to stay on my feet, but in general, I felt quite strong and really enjoyed the run, The forest trails were gorgeous, and when we reached a clearing in the trees, the views of the snow capped mountains against the beautiful blue skies were outstanding.

LEg 2 - Grey Wolf
PC Ken Anderson Photography
The team hung out together pretty much all of the day, huddling up around the heaters whilst waiting for team mates to finish. Adam, Julie and Vanessa each added to the team's success by having super runs on the shorter but more hilly legs.

Yogi-Bear and Boo-Boos - What a team :-)
The pups also had a fantastic day thanks to Julie's husband Kasey and their son Brady who looked after Wilson and Tillie for a good couple of hours, taking them for walks and keeping them entertained. Brandy came too, but she'd overdone things a little bit the previous day so she was quite content to wait in the car and sleep. Needless to say, after a half hour at the dog park prior to driving home, all 3 dogs were absolutely exhausted after a busy weekend and for once they slept for the remainder of the afternoon and the entire evening, only moving to follow me when I headed off to bed.

Of course, being Thanksgiving we had the Monday off from work and I was home alone. I was meant to have been meeting a friend for coffee but the weather had turned again so we agreed to postpone to a later date. This freed up my day and so I spent some time once again at the dog park before heading out for a 6 mile easy run. I wasn't planning on taking Wilson - he had been so tired last night that I really didn't think he would be interested - but as soon as he saw me putting on my running shoes, he plonked himself down next to me, leaned against me and then started licking my face whilst his tail gently wagged. I knew what he wanted and when I took out his running harness, he went crazy with excitement. It was a wonderful run with my boy - nice and cool, a little snowy, but so much fun. It can be hard sometimes having 3 dogs and making sure they all get the attention they deserve, but I always make sure they each receive that one on one time where I get to bond with them in one way or another, and for Wilson, it's through the sheer joy of heading out for a run with me.

World's Best Running Partner :-)
We missed Andy immensely with it being Thanksgiving, but we still sat down to a turkey dinner together, the dogs joining me at the coffee table to have their little plate of food that even included half a brussel sprout. It made me a little sad that Andy wasn't there to share in the joy and happiness with us, but I was also extremely grateful that I wasn't entirely alone - how could I be with Wilson, Brandy and Tillie showering me with doggy kisses and slobber whilst waiting for their slices of turkey?

Thanksgiving Family Dinner :-)
I was back into the normal routine again on Tuesday and I've since had some more good training sessions this week, including a 5km tempo run this evening where I managed to get close to 6.30 miling again. It has been a very long time since I have been able to run that quick, and whilst I may have been gasping for air due to the pace, the legs did feel good. I know 5km is very different from the 161km that I'll be running in a couple of weeks, but that run tonight made me feel quietly confident that maybe I am on track for a good run on the 27th and that I will achieve my goal.

I'm now on my taper for Javelina Jundred and the mileage has really dropped which is giving me some time back to start preparing mentally for the race. I can't believe it has come around so quickly, but I'm feeling ready and getting excited about heading back to Phoenix :-)

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