Lost in Lethbridge – Lost Soul 100km

How did I end up running in the prairies on one of the hottest and smokiest days of the year?  Well,  I wanted to tick 100km off my list for the year.  I looked for races online  and stumbled onto Lost Soul. Perfect I thought.

I had signed up for this sold out race in December (it sold out in a couple of hours). I figured September in Alberta, on the flat prairies would be reasonably easy.  Hah. To say I underestimated this race would be an understatement.  This BC mountain girl got her ass handed to her.  But let me back up…

We had planned a road trip through the Canadian Rockies (BC and Alberta) and I figured I might as well have fun; well, “type 2 fun” for me.   We arrived in Lethbridge the day before the race (fresh off a week of touristing hard)  to suffocating temperatures and smoke filled skies.  I went to work on race prep.  Most of the stuff in the truck belonged to me (Jason had packed very efficiently with one small back pack

Race gear!

Having prepared drop bags before we left home (another endeavour in and of itself),  my task was relatively simple.  Race nerves were kicking in and the weather was a huge factor.  The week leading up to the race I was not at all stressed, thoroughly enjoying our road trip and incredible scenery.  In fact I told Jason confidently, while the heat would be a factor, running Lost Soul 100km would be like running on hay bales.  Hah.

Faking a smile

We made use of the hotel pool and hot tub. I slept very well the night before and woke up just before 7 am on race morning, to eat breakfast, sort myself out and drop my bags before the race started.  We were staying at race headquarters which made life easy.  We had a two minute race briefing which I dragged Jason to and then we were off.

The course consisted of two 53km loops (as a 100km racer I would skip a 6.5-7 km loop on the second round).  It was hot and smoky and temperatures would start to climb. The air quality index was above 10 and temps were in the high 30s.  The 3 aid stations were located at the intersections of those loops : figure 8s.  HQ (start and first aid station), Softball Valley and then Pavan.  There was also a loop  (North Loop) that would take us onto private land with  unmannned water stations but no crew access.

I had coaxed Jason into crewing for me, though the volunteers and race crew were amazing and it would be quite possible to be self – sufficient on this race.    Jason snapped  a quick photo of me faking a smile and I was off.

  

Nervous nellie…no idea what was really in store for me 😂

Leg 1 was a seven km loop around a shale path and back to headquarters  but the up and down even on that loop made me realize that this course wouldn’t be quite as flat as I hoped ha.  I just missed Jason on leg one…
But he was able to catch me on the next 6-8km ish loop to  Softball valley and give me some coconut water, and spray me down with sunscreen and I was off. He was waiting for me at Pavan and I took care of my feet while he fed me, reapplied sunscreen and filled my flasks.  It was getting hot and the volunteers poured ice down my bra and my cap.  We set off on a roughly 16km loop through private land (there would be no crew access here, merely unmanned water stations – which was amazing).  It would be 2. 5 hours before I returned.

orange 😂

People had already dropped at Pavan aid station on the first round (just under 30km in) as the heat and smoke were starting to take its toll.   Temps were forecast at 38 degrees celsisus (I later found out that by Friday afternoon temperatures had risen to 40 degrees Celsius) I wasn’t too bothered by the smoke, but I could most definitely feel the heat.  I heeded the advice of a runner at the beginning of the race who told me to stick ice down my shirt, hat, etc at every opportunity.  So I did.  I shamelessly had Jason and volunteers dump ice down my sports bra, my back and in my hat.  The ice saved me.

My face matches my orange sports bra 😂

Leaving Pavan was where I started to feel a little rough probably because I had eaten too much too fast  and had to deal with some stomach aches as we climbed some nasty little hills.  Luckily within 20 to 30 minutes my stomach had started to settle down, and I found myself a rhythm climbing and then descending and met some people to run with including a lovely woman named Sherri.  We soon came upon a casualty in the form of a 100km runner (who looked to be fast) in a heap by the side of the road.  He assured us he was okay and that a vehicle was coming for him.   There was a table with bottled water nearby (not the water station) but Sherri told me the private land owners left packages of bottled water for the racers.  I was incredibly grateful and took a bottle of water.

I am definitely a climber and not a down hill runner.  Thankfully the trails weren’t particularly technical, and using poles was a huge bonus.  Thank you to all the people who suggested I use poles for this race because my poles saved me. After some hills and steep downhills we were able to run a nice river section.  Coming back to Pavan for the second time,  Jason was waiting, bless his heart and had my stuff ready to go.  I double- fisted gummies, pickles, some salted potatoes and inhaled a spiked frappucino while Jason sprayed me down again with sunscreen.  Even though the smoke was giving cloud cover, the course was extremely exposed and I would have burnt to a crisp.   I left Pavan for the second time in the first loop.

And this was where thing started to go south (at least mentally for me).  It was very hot and the 6km to the next aid station took me much longer than anticipated. There was series of hills called the 3 bitches and trust me they were.    I was so defeated.  I told a woman who was cheering me in when I finally reached Softball Valley I was quitting when I reached HQ; her response “nonsense.  If this was easy everyone would be doing it.”  I contemplated her words. Jason would be waiting at HQ.

I was feeling terribly sorry for myself as I parked myself at a picnic table filled with food: watermelon, chips, gummies, chocolate milk, cheezies, oranges, bananas and pepperoni sticks.  I told some poor volunteer that I wasn’t having fun that I was thinking of quitting when I got to HQ and what was the point.  I ate my weight in watermelon while she listened to me bitch.  I apologized for ranting at her, thanked her and then left.

I then caught up with Bob, a trail runner I had met earlier in the race and it turned out it was 6.2 kmish back to HQ  (not 16km). Apparently math in an ultra is a bad idea. I told Bob I was thinking of dropping.   Bob was quite familiar with the course and told me temperatures would drop significantly at night.  He told me that if I could make it through the first loop without bonking, running at night was a huge bonus.    Bob took off then and I was alone.  Somewhere in the next few km, wallowing in my own misery (which is not like me usually but the  day was turning into a pity party), I kept climbing a ridgeline, and I had missed a left turn (the course is very well marked…I was so in my own head at this point).  Luckily there was a trail runner not far behind me, and I hear shouts of “You’re going the wrong way” (luckily that was the only wrong turn I made all day).  I was so in my own head at that point I had missed the copious pink flags marking the left turn.

Jason snapped this one as I was leaving HQ and heading out on loop 2

I thanked the runner and then hauled my butt down the right path.  I wound my way down the coulees and up towards HQ.   I texted Jason who was waiting at HQ and told him I was done.   I approached the bridge which was less than a km from the finish and I couldn’t remember for a second which direction I had come from.  Climbing up the last short climb, I was with a 100 miler who was dropping and I told her I wanted to quit (see the theme).   I said I thought I could make it but I didn’t want to.  She encouraged me to keep going.

Looking slightly stunned on race morning 😂

 

I cried because I thought I was done (and I didn’t care).  As I ran into HQ marking the end of the first loop, I was Miss Debbie Downer.  That is not my personality at all but I had never felt so sorry for myself in my life.  As my friend David would say, I was having a paddy.   And of course, the race announcer was announcing every runner’s accomplishments as they came in to HQ and all I wanted to do was slink off.

Jason was waiting for me, and I told him I was done, that my legs ached.  He looked at me in bewilderment –  are you sure?  I parked myself on the pavement, guzzled the spiked frappucino he handed me and sulked.  I hadn’t had the heart to turn in my bib just yet.  “Will you still love me if don’t finish this race?” I demanded.  Jason just looked at me and laughed.   I later found out that 33 percent of the 100 miler racers finished and 44 percent of the 100km racers crossed the finish. It was a scorcher out there and huge respect to every single runner who toed the line.

I looked at the finish line arch (right beside the aid station) and thought it would have to wait another year.  Jason looked at me and goes, “Well, it’s cooler at night”.  I told him I thought I could make it to Softball Valley one more time (which was 6.6 km give or take) so I could at least run a little.  I told Jason to call it a night as I would likely be dropping.  The problem was, I wasn’t sick or injured, I just didn’t to walk 54km, I wanted a cold shower and cold beer.  But I signed myself up.   I left HQ at around 7 pm, with strangers cheering me on and still not happy.  But I would feel better about myself if I dropped at 60kms instead of 54 km. At least that was my twisted reasoning.  As I left HQ for my second loop, I could hear the race announcer go, “and she’s halfway done, this is in the bag.”  Haha.  As if.

Heading out after 54km.. just over half way

As I was climbing, I saw two deer.  They stopped and big eyes peered at me.  It was surreal and stopped me in my tracks.  As I made my way down, mostly by myself, I met a 100 mile racer named Heidi who was moving quickly.   She was very happy to have found me as she had been feeling a bit down as well.  I told her I was thinking of dropping at Softball Valley’ she told me I wasn’t dropping that I was moving so well, and asked me if I needed everything.  She asked me if I wanted to hike it in to Softball Valley with her and so we did.   Heidi gave me a pep talk all the way down to Softball Valley and was definitely my trail angel. Jason surprised me by showing up at Softball Valley for the night loop and I almost cried.    I told him to go to bed and I would text him later.  I left Softball Valley and as I made it to Pavan the weather was cooling down, and slowly I stopped feeling sorry for myself.

This was early.. 30km ish but already 😂

I drank two glasses of chocolate milk, ate more pepperoni sticks and then headed out for a night loop (there would be no dropping for 16km as we were headed out to do a loop on the private lands again).  Luckily, I had company at night.  I climbed the ridge by myself, looked at the glowing orange orb that was hanging in the sky.  It was eerie but beautiful.  I didn’t want to be alone, so I waited until some headlights I saw a little behind me caught up to me on the ridge.  Not long after, Bob and his son who was pacing him, caught up with me, and I ended up running with them for the rest of the night.

Somewhere on this 16kmish loop, I realized I had blisters, etc (I had changed shoes and socks and applied foot glide earlier but hadn’t really dealt with my feet because they hadn’t been bothering me).  I made a note to deal with my feet at the next aid station.   This night loop on private turned out to be a beautiful loop though, as I found a second wind power hiking/running with new trail runners I met. As we made our way into Pavan for the final time – I realized there was only 12km left.  The finish line I was almost certain I wouldn’t reach seemed within my grasp.  It was almost 3:00 am.

Laughing at the start line…before rhe carnage..

Bob who was a veteran of the Lost Soul Races was gunning for another Western States lottery ticket; he had a schedule and so we were allotted a specific amount of time at each aid station. Worked for me. The longer I sat, the less likely I was to get moving again.  I parked myself in a chair and had my blistered feet tended to by a really good looking volunteer ha.  He told me that it didn’t matter what time I crossed the finish line – I would get a finish.    I was cheered by that thought.  Another volunteer offered me fresh cooked salmon but I couldn’t handle it.  There were cheeseburgers too – but sadly I couldn’t handle that.  I had chocolate milk, gummy worms, pickles and pickles (yes I ate gummy worms and pickles together, and also chocolate milk and pickles together too) and more pepperoni sticks.  The fact I was able to eat solid foods at all at this point was a miracle to me.

We definitely made up time at night; the hot temperatures of the day had slowed many racers including me, to a power hike and shuffle.  As a result my legs weren’t destroyed and I was actually able to run parts of the second loop when it was flat.

Bob’s son Lucas (who was pacing him) had decided to run with us to the finish.  We climbed two nasty hills (the First 2 bitches – yes that was what the hills were named – short and steep).  Bob would lead the downhills while he let me take the lead on the climbs.  Part mountain goat he called me.  Alas, I felt more like a sloth but would take all the encouragement I could get.

As we entered Softball Valley  I had two glasses of chocolate milk, and ate more pickles and gummy worms (Jason found gummies and pickles crammed into my hydration pack).  I pretty much lived on that and watermelon all day. We were on the home stretch and I couldn’t believe it.  I was trying to do math and Bob laughed.  He reassured me we had plenty of time.  This last stretch was flat save for a last short climb to the finish.   We ran and walked through the cool dark of the night, keeping our eyes peeled for pink flagging.

Shortly before reaching the bridge, we heard a runner going, “excuse me, excuse me” as he flew by.  I was surprised anyone was moving this fast so late in the race.  That turned out to be Dave Proctor (I believe it was him and not the second place finisher) a local runner and elite athlete who was en route to winning and setting a new course record for 100 miles (yep we got beaten by a guy who was out on his third loop while we were finishing our second). To add insult to injury Dave had apparently run 170km from his home in Okotooks to Lethbridge over two days just prior to the race.  I couldn’t believe it.  He was gone, and we were left to finish our race.

As we wove our way around the river and approached the last short climb to the finish, Bob stepped aside and told me to take the lead on the climb, and so I did.  As I power hiked up the climb I started to cry again.  But this time I was crying because I knew was going to finish a race that just hours earlier I thought was out of my reach.   As I ran the last pavement section, clutching my poles and through the finish chute to cheers, all I felt was relief.   A photographer was waiting and her camera flashed (as she reminded me to take off the headlamp). And yep, I earned one coveted ticket into the Western States Lottery.

Some runners let me into our hotel as I hadn’t taken the room card key.  I got up to our floor and banged on the door until Jason let me in (sorry neighbors).  It was 4:45am in the morning.

As a BC girl, I thought it would be nothing to run in the prairies of Lethbridge. But boy did I get my ass handed to me.  I don’t think I have ever had so much doubt going into a race and the day was such a roller coaster of emotions and a mental battle. I learned a lot about myself and just putting one foot in front of the other even when I didn’t necessarily feel like it.

I am so grateful to the amazing volunteers, trail runners, and crews who cheered me on and all the people who wouldn’t let me quit even when I wanted to.   Special thanks to Jason, for being crewing and whose presence cheered me up immeasurably at each aid station.

P.S.  I picked up my last drop bag later that morning and told a volunteer I thought I was going to be running on hay bales not short steep coulees; he started to laugh and said he had heard that repeatedly from BC runners.

Note: As I was hobbling up to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier the day after, I asked Jason how me felt about me entering the Western States Lottery (I reassured him I had a slim shot of getting in on one ticket :p).

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Brunswick for Breakfast

With summer flying by and us determined to cram as much adventure as possible into each weekend, this past Sunday morning found us tackling Brunswick for the first time.

Having passed on a Saturday opportunity to run Panorama Ridge with friends (we spent the day floating on a unicorn floatie in Golden Ears) I was determined to get in some trail time and the more vertical the better.

Initially, we had considered tackling a hike/trail run in the Squamish area, but being Ironman Canada weekend, we opted to stay off the Sea to Sky as much as possible and save Squamish for another weekend.

After several back and forth exchanges about what to do and where, we found ourselves en route to Lions Bay and Brunswick Mountain Trail head. Brunswick has been on my bucket list for some time; we had  a short window of opportunity to tackle the hike and neither Jason nor I had previously done Brunswick. He also loves to scramble. Win win for both of us.

We got to the trail head shortly before 10 am and as expected cars lined the road a km plus down from the trail head  (many of those being people who planned to hike the Lions – which shares the same trail head as Brunswick).  We wedged the truck into the first spot we could find.   I texted my sis our plans including what time we would be back.   (Just in case, I told her).

The first few km were innocuous enough being gravelly/switch back type roads.  Just past 2km, the road forks; to the right is the start of the Lions trail  and to the left the trail to Brunswick peak  The trail head starts to narrow and there is plenty ofunderbrush.  There were several creeks and a log bridge to cross.   All the uphill. If you haven’t tackled Brunswick before, you are in for a treat.

The last couple of km were steep & straight up through dirt trail and then the real fun begins.

On the first part of exposed sheer rock,  I met a 70 plus year old gentleman (?!) coming down who told me that this was just the warm up and to have fun.  That we had another hour or so to go. My heart sank.

Right around this time Jason announced he didn’t want to keep going because of the flies or mosquitos that are swarming us.  Given that I am literally on the side of a rather exposed rock face one foot wedged in a crevice and two hands on the side of the mountain  and we have climbed straight up for almost 2 hours, I ignored him and kept climbing.  I  told him we could decide when we got to a ledge.  But I kept climbing.   And so did he.  (because he couldn’t find a lunch spot or a ledge to sit on he later tells me).

I am not afraid of heights, but I am not a mountaineer either and as the climb grew more exposed I could feel a knot in my stomach.  I focused my eyes on the people ahead of us, and just kept climbing.

And then the vistas opened up and I could  see the turquoise waters of Brunswick lake below us.   I turned around and J. has scrambled up the side of an adjacent rock face and was peering over a cliff, waving.

My heart stops.  Other hikers/runners who seem him gasped.

“Come join me” he says.  Nope, I say, and keep climbing to the opposite peaks of Brunswick.   There is nothing  like scrambling up exposed ridges and sheer rock faces (some of it loose rock) to bring you to your knees. And yes, I was afraid.

I pride myself on being adventurous but I was particularly aware (as I scrambled on my hands and knees and butt slid) that the mountains are always in charge, and why carrying the 10 essentials is critical. Though our day went well,  I could easily see how things could go sideways in a hurry. I wouldn’t want to spend an unexpected night on Brunswick mountain and definitely not unprepared.

We enjoyed a well earned lunch at the top of Brunswick  which has spectacular vistas.  On a clear day there is a 360 degree view of the Howe Sound, the peaks of the Lions, but even with some cloud cover it was beautiful. We loitered for a while but mindful of the fact that coming down would take just as long as going up had, we stayed less than an hour at the top.  Jason was like a mountain goat on the way down.  I was butt sliding (and maybe whimpering a bit).

“Stand up” he says as I am crossing the ridge. Nope.   2.5 hours after starting our decent (not including a half hour pit stop at the creek to soak our dirty feet and tired legs) we are back at the trail head.  Tired but very happy campers.

Overall it took us about 4.5 hours give ot take of hiking time plus a couple of hours of loitering.

Brunswick is an incredible trail hike/run but if you are afraid of heights this might not be for you. More info on this hike can be found here: http://www.trailpeak.com/trail-Brunswick-Mountain-near-Vancouver-BC-1153

P.S. We carried extra food, water, fully charged phones, first aid kit, bivy, whistle, blanket, extra jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, 4-5 liters of water between the two of us, extra shirt, salt pills  (I confess, we forgot the headlamp – but I would highly recommend it even if you  think you will be back in daylight). For a list of the 10 essentials click here: http://runningmagazine.ca/video-the-10-essentials-for-trail-running-and-backcountry-adventure/

Happy adventuring!

 

 

 

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Summer dreaming…adventures await

Crossing the peaks...

2014 Adventures on the HSCT – group crossing of David’s Peak:)

One of my favourite parts of summer is all the adventures we get up to.  This year, summer is late in coming and pretty sure some of the places we were able to hike/trail run this time late year are currently covered in snow.   So as of now,  I am  dreaming and planning.

In addition to a planned two week BC road trip this summer, here are some places on our list (okay my list and maybe I can cajole him into some of them).

At the top of our list, Wedgemount lake glacier.  It would be a first for both of us and may be an over night trip. Apparently there are tenting platforms and thinking of a summer night spent on snow capped mountains ad glacial waters, not to mention stargazing makes my heart soar.

Brunswick Mountain: I missed out last year because our trail running group did it when I was racing sky pilot (ok race is a strong word).  The scrambling required for Brunswick would be right up his alley, but  I may be a little chicken.  Brunswick  is definitely on both of our lists.

And some of my perennial favourites, the Howe Sound Crest Trail, Coliseum Mountain, Garibaldi Lake/ Panorama Ridge and Crown mountain. Crown was cloudy last year so hoping for a sunnier day for spectacular views.

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Climbing along the HSCT (2016)  (Photo credits: David)

 

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Crown Mountain (September 2016)  J. loved the scrambling but I was a scaredy cat

And this photo is not technically a summer adventure but it is one of my favourites.

 

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Oregon Coast 50km (October 2016 ) Not technically summer but just because:)

We will see if I can talk J. into some of the hikes.  Looking forward to another summer of adventures.  Hopefully the snow melts and summer arrives soon!

Looking to add to this list – so suggestions welcome:).

 

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This too Shall pass

“This too shall pass.”

I ended up in my PT’s office this am for the second time in almost as any months, having tweaked my ankle again.  I was not happy. 

The latest injury is courtesy of orientation run this past Sunday in Squamish as I marched through the beautiful trails, decidedly not happy after blisters and a jammed/bruised ankle.  Somewhere before 10km I tweaked my ankle, but apparently not enough to quit (or I was just too stubborn to bail). I had just about recovered from an ankle injury and was starting to log significant mileage.  I couldn’t believe this.

The good news despite a swollen ankle 48 hours afterwards, there are  no torn ligaments and I should be on the bike by the end of the week.  However this definitely means a few weeks of lay off from running and a different perspective.   I know in the grand scheme of things, this truly is small potatoes . There are much worse things in life.

But I’m still mad, and still pissed that all the work I have put in is set aside albeit temporarily, and training is stalled.  I do remember a life before running where I was very happy and yet it is crazy to think how big a part of my life running has become.

The danger lies in letting running completely define who I am and to draw my worth from being able to run.   The onslaught of social media does not help; admittedly  I am as guilty as the next person of playing the comparison game.

Jason reminds me that life (and running) is not a competition with someone else. And he’s right. I think back to why I started to run, my own reasons and not for anyone else. I run for the joy, and the fun;  I run to challenge myself and find the edges of what’s possible.   And I need to have a healthy enough perspective that when I am sidelined temporarily from running, that it doesn’t completely derail me.  But it’s hard.

Running has shaped so much of who I am in the past few years, given (and taken) in equal measures.  I used to be able to be completely selfish with my running but in the past few years, my priorities have shifted;  running is a part of my life, but not all of it.      And at the end of the day it  doesn’t matter how many races I have or have not run or how many miles I logged.  My family and closest friends me don’t care how far or how fast I can run and to be honest, if I run at all.  It’s only me who cares so deeply.  I suppose that is  worth bearing in mind as I work my way back.

 

 

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Long weekend adventures

While it seemed much of the running community was off in Winthrop, racing, cheering and crewing at Sun Mountain,  J. and I disappeared off to Squamish for some long weekend camping (sans reservations…gulp).  !  I have to admit I did have a bit of FOMO about not being in Washington this weekend, but our weekend away was just what was needed.

We decided on Paradise Valley  (Thanks to Alley for the great suggestion)  and at the end of the road (passing lots of cars on the way, we found a secluded spot to ourselves) – we later saw cars double parked, and a tarp literally by the side of the road.   J loves to “explore” while I will happily make reservations.  I am the worrier while J. knew we would find somewhere to camp.   He is often right.

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Hut Lake

Rushing creeks, towering snow capped mountains in the distance and best of all, amazing weather.  We spent the days exploring and hiking to two different lakes  (Starvation lake and Hut Lake), laying in hammocks and playing in creeks in glorious weather and drinking lots of beer.  We even had the lake to ourselves on one day (well except for a few mosquitos).   One of the lakes involved a 6km round trip hike (which I was delighted about….J. not so much).

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Starvation Lake

 

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Afternoons playing in creeks and lying in hammocks

 

It was so nice to disappear off the grid – where we cooked by the campfire, and slept in the kitted out truck (no more tents for us).  He even used foil to make egg cups where we could fry eggs over the fire.  I managed not to set myself on fire haha.

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At night we could hear the creek rushing beside us, and the stillness was amazing.  I didn’t really want to come home.  We managed to get a routine going – camp fire coffee tastes the best – and even found a discarded grill which over which we cooked our meals.

 

It was a bit of work to get everything packed and going – but so well worth it to disappear for the long weekend.  We even played in some waterfalls on our way home.

 

 

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One of my goals has been to write more this year.  Since my last post was in January and it’s now April, I would say I am falling a bit behind.

So, catch up.  This winter has been tough (well tough in Van city terms), rain, snow, and very scant days of sunshine.    I have logged a lot of miles in rain, snow, treadmill and Jason has even put screws in my old running shoes so I could partake in ice running.

After a “let’s see what happens and I just want to finish” 2016 year of running,  I put my head down and decided I wanted to put in the work again.  I hit my first 100km week ever (albeit at a tortoise pace but I don’t care).

For the last 10 days or so  I have been rehabbing a rolled ankle (sustained recently on a very adventurous trail run with Alley, which saw slippery bridges, snow, 3 falls, a bruised wrist and a rolled ankle between the two of us).  I ended up on my back, and realized after the fact, I tweaked my ankle. whoops.  Of course that didn’t stop me from finishing out the run.  Stubborn I  am.

Any how, I was not happy – but after a week of icing, heat treatment, balance exercises and anything else I could dredge up on the internet, I am back on my feet.  Not all back and not quite ready for trails yet but getting there.  My physio appointment is not for a couple of weeks, but I am slowly on the mend.  Also, pretty sure my physio would yell at me for running on the ankle but runners are a stubborn bunch.  I know 10 days is nothing in the scheme of injuries but it made me super crabby not to be able to run.  My run walk in the sunshine today has made me deliriously happy.

As for goal races this year – Squamish 50 (my nemesis) is on the list again.   I swore I would never run Squamish again right after the race  (in fact I told J. to shoot me if I wanted to sign up again) but somehow found myself on ultrasignup come registration day.

I also decided I wanted 2017 to be the year of my first 100km  Of course I didn’t really look carefully at the course description.  Exposed, 40 degrees, in a Lethbridge and apparently snakes on course.   I  didn’t really think this through mostly because registration sold out so quickly.

That is my race year in a nut shell (I might add races as the year goes on) but for now, that is it.  I have learned that racing 10 races a year doesn’t bode my well for me.  Partly because my body can’t handle that. Also  races get expensive, and maybe most importantly, trying to balance work, a social life and a supportive but non – runner partner means I get to be a lot less selfish with my time than I could once upon a time but it’s a trade off  I  happily make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elfin Lakes Adventures

 

J and I have had some prettys good winter adventures over the holidays and with our recent spell of cold and snow (aka deep freeze), I was eager to find another mountain adventure.

I had been pestering J to do a winter hike to Elfin Lakes for a while.  This week we made tentative plans for Elfin lakes, weather permitting.  It didn’t hurt that J. had new skate skis he wanted to test out. By Thursday the weather looked like it would hold (sunny, maybe a bit cloudy and not too cold).  We didn’t know the road conditions but with J’s truck which has 4WD and chains we figured we were as prepared as you could be.

Friday night was spent prepping for our adventure as we wanted to get out the door quickly. Saturday morning we were up at 5 am  and  on the road by 6am.  No traffic at that hour  so our drive was reasonably quick.

The roads were dark and the moonlight reflecting off the water along the Sea -to – Sky was beautiful.  The sky was dark but as we drove up the forest service road to the trail we could barely see the mountains silhouetted against a dark sky.  By the time we parked, the inky darkness had faded into light, and a light moon hung in the sky.

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Sunrise in the mountains

As we started our hike, the sky coloured pink.  Travelling in the winter was considerably slower than it had been in the fall/summer.  And at J.’s insistence we had brought our zip sled which yours truly ended towing most of the way up :p.  Also, our packs  were loaded with our gear. J. had even bought a wilderness survival booklet at MEC (given however, there was not a shrub in sight to eat I’m not sure how much the booklet would have come in handy had it come down to it :D).  I grumbled a bit,  as I like to travel fast and light in the mountains, but visions of potentially what could go wrong on winter adventures  were dancing in my head.  So, I carried the essentials (emergency kit, bivy, headlamp, fully charged phone, whistle, extra calories, extra mittens, and a rolled up down jacket and extra fleece layer).  He had all that, plus a compass, lantern with candles, matches, etc.

 

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Entering our winter wonderland

With the stops, equipment adjustments, it took us an hour 15 minutes approximately to the Heather hut shelter.  We pressed on, eager to reach the top. The views began to open up, and we followed the bright orange poles marking the winter trail.  The weather was spectacular; we had picked a good day to tackle this trail.

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Couldn’t resist playing in the powder.

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Few things in life make me happier than this.  Photo credit: J.

J. would turn around every so often and I would be  lagging behind, spotting  yet another photo taking opportunity. The views are spectacular and I could lose myself for hours in these mountains (literally and figuratively).

 

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J. soaking in the views enroute to Elfin Lakes

While Elfin lakes is described as moderately rolling, a full week of running before our adventure  meant my legs were already tired starting the hike.  Luckily J, likes to stop, look around and enjoy the scenery.  He reminds me that sometimes it is good to slow down, to take my time.

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Requisite selfie on the mountains – the only one we actually took together that day 🙂

I didn’t find out until the end of the day, but his feet were hurting the whole way up. The combination of different socks and new skate skis might have done it.  Meanwhile, I kept running ahead to the next marker, or lagging behind to gawk at the scenery. I could lose myself in these mountains (figuratively and literally).

At the top, we found a great little hut with spectacular views. We spent an hour and a half playing at the top, warming ourselves with this little candle lantern J. had picked up.  I also discovered the wonders of reusable handwarmers (so good).  The hot soup we had packed into his thermos and the flask of red wine I lugged up (in addition to the water) was working wonders.

I could have stayed up there all day, but eventually we  headed out as I didn’t want to be on the mountain after dark. (we did have a very good headlamp and warm clothes but still…) The afternoon sun was warm enough I peeled off layers as we made our way down the mountain. We chased the sunset down the mountain and of course my phone died at the very moment I was trying to capture (in my opinion) the best shot of the day (pastel pink colours, the fading contours of the mountains and a wide expanse of water). The whole scene reminded me of a Group of Seven painting. Sadly no photo of that moment, but we did capture some other moments.

 

We made it back to the car after sunset.  I am deliriously happy  (and happy to be done). J. was just tired.  It was an epic day on the mountains and can’t wait for more adventures.   The early wake up call was definitely worth it.

As a p.s  – we make it a practice to tell someone where we are going, when we start the hike etc, and check back in after we are done.  My mom had no idea we were in Garibaldi this particular day, but as we were driving back from Squamish, I see a text from her that reads:  “out risking your life again?” I had to laugh.

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