December 22, 2009

Sparkling, Snowy, Smug Satisfaction Run

So I headed out a little relucatantly on my run this evening. Yet again it was going to be a cold, snowy run in the dark. Even on my walk home from work I could hardly see a thing as it was windy and snowing and I had to practically close my eyes to see anything at all. But I was pretty good at not procrastinating and just heading out of the door and as soon as I got off the main road I was loving it! A fair amount of wind blown snow had accummulated at the side of the road and with my head light shining ahead into the oncoming snow it was like I was running in one of those little snow-storm shaker things - sooo, sooo pretty! Just like a Christmas card scene :) It almost seemed like I was standing still as I had very few visuals to focus my eyes on and with the snow bombarding me head on that for a while I thought I was on a treadmill battling ahead against the wind but never actually going anywhere! It was a total escape and I was so 'in' my run I felt like I could run forever. Definitely one of those runs where my spirit was soaring, I had not a care in the world and I felt so smug that I was having such an amazing time running knowing that most people are never be able to appreciate the fun that us runners can have in the cold and snow, battling the elements. One little quote sums this up:

"The more I run, the more I want to run, and the more I live a life conditioned and influenced and fashioned by running. And the more I run, the more certain I am that I am heading for my real goal: to become the person I am" George Sheenan

Happy Running!

December 20, 2009

An awesome weekend of Running & Skiing

This week Banff got let out of the deep freeze and suddenly going outside seemed so much more appealing and fun! I also think my perspective on warm weather has changed - it was about minus 8 over the weekend and this seemed like super mild weather, whereas I would have probably been all bundled up in such temperatures a month ago! Anyway, on Saturday I got a decent trail run in and just loved the fact that I didn't have to be totally bundled up - I had less layers on, no gloves, no tocque, breathing was easier and I actually enjoyed the fresh air after a week in the office rather than feeling that I was just running to stave of hypothermia! I ran by Rundle Riverside which seems a little used trail, probably because it starts a few kilometres down a closed road at the far end of the Banff Springs golf course so takes a while to get to, but I kind of like that as it splits the run into stages. The only evidence of others on the trail were some pretty big prints in the snow - I'm guessing that they were either cougar or a decent sized wolf but I was happy enough as they didn't look too fresh! Though when I did first spot the tracks I decided it was best to switch of my iPod so I was a bit more in tune with my surroundings, just in case! The trail was in much better shape than when I last ran it - less ice and a nice thin layer of snow to get a grip on so it was pretty easy to get my 2 1/2 hr run in and I loved the gentle rolls up and down. Though I will admit by the end of it my hamstrings were feeling pretty shot, which is a reminder that I need to find a good massage therapist here to get the stiffness worked out! Yet another thing I miss about Vancouver is my regular massages which were killer painful but killer effective, courtesy of Bobby Crudo.

Sunday I decided I should make the most of the mild weather and headed up to Sunshine for a ski. Instead of getting on my downhill skis I decided to give tele skiing a go, which I've not done for about 3 years. I was wondering whether this was total craziness as I headed up on the first chair lift but I guess skiing is rather like biking - once you've got it you never forget. I did some easy cruising runs and was just loving it - mild temperatures, fresh light snow falling and some awesome tele turns! I had planned to head down early so I could get another daylight run in but was having too much fun so instead stayed on my skis until my quads were screaming for a break! I'm definitely going to get more tele'ing in this winter and it'll be good for strengthening for my quads for sure :) In fact today will probably prove to be pretty expensive, I had grabbed some Volkl rentals from a rental shop in town ( - they are awesome!) but now am at least going to do some window shopping for my own gear :)
So once I was back in town it was getting dark but was still determined to get a run in as I'd had so much fun on my run yesterday. As it was dark I did a little loop mostly in town but also threw in one lap of the Fenland loop - about 3kms on pitch dark trails - it was so picturesque with light snow reflecting in the beam of my headlamp and just a trace of snow on the ground. Perfect ending to one stellar weekend :)

December 14, 2009

Running in the heat of the day

Today was my first run in a whole week!!! This week has just whizzed by, being busy at work and some evening work functions too, so I had hit the gym a few times but everything kept conspiring against me to get a run in. The temperatues have been pretty cold too and yesterday I spent the day skiing at Lake Louise with a group of British travel agents. All I can say is that they were a lot tougher than me - it was about minus 28 at the base and they were raring to stay on the mountain all day, fortunately there was an inversion so at least it was a little warmer higher up on the mountain :) So today was my only free day this weekend which meant my only chance for a daylight run and I thought the forecast was for slightly warmer temperatures....hmm, think I read the wrong forecast! I checked the temperature when I got up this morning and was dismayed to see it was minus 35 - whaaat! Not even colder :( So as I have often done since moving to Banff I left my run until the middle of the day when hopefully it would be warmer. I set out at 1pm when it was a mere minus 26.

I was bundled up from head to foot and actually kept warm for the whole run. I had to be pretty careful to keep my face covered so my cheeks wouldn't freeze but for the most part I got my gear sorted and on with my run. The only real trouble I had was breathing, I was breathing in through my mouth which meant cold air sucking into my lungs, which was made doubly worse when breathing hard on the uphills. I tried to do my yoga breathing through my nose technique but to be honest it was impossible - either my nose was streaming or it was frozen up and no way could I get in enough air that way! Oh well, humans are so amazingly designed I am sure we can cope with breathing in cold mountain air through our mouths!

It took my quite a while to get into the run but I got 2 hours in which although it not crazy long (I'm beginning to get seriously worried about Orca's 50km at start of February!) is good enough given the weather and how tired I was. A few thoughts kept me smiling and laughing at myself throughout the run - 1) Fellow VFACer Rick completed the Honolulu marathon yesterday and I am sure is busy sunning himself and drinking mai thai's today! 2) My friend Drew would be thinking I have gone totally mad - he's a runner but is from Africa and is currently sunning himself in South Africa, 3) Mike and I did a training run in Squamish in August - 5 hours in 35 degree sweltering heat - wow, that's a whole 60 degrees warmer than today! (photo here to reminisce of those hot hot days!)

December 7, 2009

Pitch Black, Minus 27, Going for a Run. Dedicated or Insane?

So it was a little cold today; minus 30 for my walk into work, but during the heat of the day things had warmed up and so when it came to my evening run it was a mere minus 27. I was going to go run and it never really crossed my mind not to. I mean there is a perfectly good gym up the road that I could have gone to, I could have taken a day off or I could have gone to yoga class instead, but I never really considered any of these alternatives as I'd had it in my mind that I was going for a run, so that was what I was going to do. I got out of work a little late, had a few things to do and then before I knew it I was heading out for my run not only in minus 27 but also in the pitch dark; one of the blessings of Banff being there are few lit streets but this also proves a challenge for night running.

So I knew I'd have to put a fair amount of gear on and in the end I got it pretty perfect (or maybe the body is just pretty amazing at regulating itself). I headed out in:

- Montrail Streaks
- Full length tights
- Windproof pants
- Long sleeve base layer
- Another long sleeved layer
- Windproof jacket
- Tocque
- Mitts
- Fleece neck tube

It was at this point that I realised that any Albertan who claims that they run in shorts year run is plain LYING!

I looked like a cross between an obese yeti and a bank robber, and all of a sudden I was very glad it was dark! Most importantly I popped on my new Black Diamond head torch which I was keen to try out.

Very soon my fingers were freezing, I momentarily contemplated going back for heavier mitts but instead opted for scrunching my hands up into tight fists and soon the blood was pumping back into my finger tips with that awesome melting feeling :) I adjusted my neck tube so it covered my ears and my chin and soon only my eyes, nose and mouth were poking out. As I turned off the highway and onto the unlit road up Tunnel Mountain I felt good but realised that even if I was going to struggle there was no way I could stop on this hill - I would just get too cold if I stopped for even so much as a millisecond. Soon my lungs adjusted to breathing in the cold air and I was feeling pretty good. Only one vehicle passed me, the town shuttle bus, and god only knows what the driver thought seeing a bundled up runner slogging it up a totally unlit road on a pretty chilly night, fortunately he didn't stop to ask as I'm not sure what I would have said! I that is when I realised that if anyone saw me who was not a runner they would definitely class me as insane, but for anyone who runs we all know that when we have to get a run in, we just do - we don't think about the logic or the sense of it, we just lace up our shoes and get on with it.

I will admit I didn't add on the extra portion to this route that I sometimes do, but even so it was 48mins from door to door which felt great. And maybe runners aren't insane but just have very short term memories, because within five minutes of being back home I was telling myself that I really should have added on that extra 15mins to my run!

So am I dedicated or am I insane? I'd go with neither and just say I'm a bloody minded runner who won't let anything get in the way of me and my run!

December 6, 2009

First day of the ski season!

I can't believe that I have been in Banff for almost 4 weeks and yet until this morning I was still to hit the slopes!! I'm not the biggest of skiers but I do love it and definitely having lived here for a month it was long overdue that I got my skis on. Unfortunately I'd made my plans before the checking the weather and decided to go regardless; it ended up being one very cool day! I decided to hit Sunshine, even though I prefer Lake Louise I didn't fancy the extra travel time. Eager as I was to get back on my skis I got the first shuttle bus and was on my first run by 0930. Unfortunately the sun had yet to hit and warm anything up at all so the day started at minus 20 before wind chill - yikes! I was bundled up with as many layers as possible but I just feel the cold and kept having to make a dash to the chalet to defrost before hitting another run. The only thing that kept me going was the awesome snow - it hasn't snowed much in the last few days but the base is fantatsic and fab for some fast, groomed runs. It never did end up getting much warmer (and if it did, then the wind picked up and cancelled it out!) so I didn't stay up as long as I planned. Oh well, I'm just hoping it's warmer next Sunday when I am skiing with 25 British travel agents at Lake Louise! Another bonus was I ended up hitting the gym and getting a decent cardio workout in there :) The photo is one of about 2 I took, as it was too cold to get my camera out and gloves off! - but you can see that it was a stellar Alberta winter day - blue, blue skies, not a cloud to be seen and freakin' freezin!

December 5, 2009

Ploughing away on the snowy roads

I've not had the chance to run much in the past 2 weeks as work has been manic! Poor excuse I know but sometimes it just has to give as there have been literally not enough hours in the day. So today I was determined to get out there for a run but I must admit the thought of curling up on my sofa for a nap was much more appealing as I'm just wiped right now! But I pulled on the layers - two long sleeves plus a thickish windproof jacket, tights, shorts, wool socks, tocque, neck tube and ski mitts - and I was ready to brave the elements. It has thankfully warmed up today so it was a mild minus 7 but with the wind chill it felt much cooler. I'm finding I'm having to experiment with layers because the worst thing is to get too hot and sweat and then cool off and literally freeze but on the other hand it's pretty miserable to run and freeze because of not enough layers in the first place! Today I got the balance pretty spot on :)
I decided to head out along the road to Lake Minnewanka, I used to cycle this route a lot when I lived here 10yrs ago and knew it would be a quiet road yet it undulates nicely to keep some interest. It took me a long time to get into the groove and if it wasn't for the fact that I won't get a long run in for another week I would have quit and turned back early on as I just felt sluggish. There is definitely more uphill on the out leg of this route which although tough was mentally good to think that the return would be easier. It was also nice that a car passed about every 5 mins or so, so I didn't feel like I was out in the middle of nowhere on my own.
The road was snow covered and could be slippy but for the most part I got good enough traction. I was wearing my Montrail Massochists and feel that trail shoes are good enough for the conditions so far. Lots of people have recommended yak-traks or something similar but to be honest I know they can be a bit finickity and I'd prefer to have the odd slip than to be fussing with extra gear.

I had my iPod on for the entire run, music has become my crutch now I am always running on my own. In Vancouver I probably did about 80% or my runs with friends and although I enjoy running on my own I am finding it tough to stay motivated especially on a longer run now all my runs are solo. So today David Gray came with me and he was perfect for the just over 2hr run :) Right pace, right tempo and mellow enough that I didn't block out the beautiful surroundings. And this really is a beautiful route, it was a shame that it was a little overcast but the wide, snow covered roads and mountain peaks around really are stunning, and I was pretty happy to make it all the way to the lake at the end of the road. This will definitely become one of my standard routes and I know there are options to lengthen it by going on some lakeside trails. But for today 2hrs seemed plenty long enough, which is rather worrying as I know 2hrs is really not that long at all but it was all I could keep my legs going for. Hopefully a catch up on the sleep and I'll be back motivated and energized!

November 22, 2009

One Fab Run and Some Time on my Feet

Yay! It's the weekend - time to get some daylight running in! This weekend the plan was to run both days as I have to work next weekend so it'll be at least two weeks until I can next get a decent longish run in. I've lived in Banff before - for one summer 10yrs ago and for one winter 4 years ago - so I know some of the trails and have been starting out by hitting those and then I'll get to work on new routes. Yesterday I headed out to 'Rundle Riverside' - this heads from the Banff Springs golf course and along the side of the river all the way to Canmore. I didn't make it to Canmore but it was a great run, probably 50/ 50 trail/ road. The first section of the trail was super slick - the water had frozen on the trail and then there was a light layer of snow on the top just to make it extra hard to see the lethal ice. I got a little frustrated as I was so keen to run but soon the trail became more open so more snow had hit the trail and I got a good grip. There was no one else on the trail and I only had animal tracks to follow which was pretty neat. It was a nice mix to do some trail and some snow covered road and by the time I hit home I'd been gone 2h33, with prob about 10mins of stops so felt pretty good :) It was mild too - hovering around zero I ran with my tights up to my knees, a light weight jacket and no tocque - wow!

Today I thought I would do a bit more of a hill workout so decided to run to the base of Sulphur mountain goldola and then power hike up to the top. For some reason my head wasn't quite in it today so I struggled on the 3km or so road run up to the base of the gondola, it was runnable but I wasn't feeling it so was just willing myself on (in part not to lose face to the cars that were whizzing past!). Once I was on the trail I was pleasantly suprised by the number of other people out hiking and also by the soft packed snow underfoot. I had anticipated that it could be pretty slippery but it was fresh pack all the way up and if I'd had more energy I could have run a lot of it, but instead I plodded slowly up, covering the 5.6km in just under an hour. At the top I took a few photos and bundled on a few more clothes for the downhill which I knew would be cooler. The downhill was a blast! Not too steep, but just steady all the way with switch backs and easy footing. Then it was back onto the tarmac for the final run home. This was definitely a 'time on my feet' workout, I never felt awesome; I felt that I should be going faster and feeling stronger, but at the end of the day it was almost 2h40 of being out there and being on my feet :)

November 19, 2009

The Solitude of Night Running

I love night running. I have always loved something about the way that going for a run in the dark makes it a totally different experience from a daylight run. You only have to run the same route in the light and then in the dark to get a feel for how they are worlds apart.
Tonight I had an awesome run on what I have named 'the Tunnel Mountain Loop'; it's about an hours loop that I have found and it works great as it is mostly on a super quiet road so I don't have to worry about traffic not seeing me, and even if there is a vehicle there are no street lights so my little headlamp bobbing away is very visible from quite a distance.
A good 40mins of this run is on a totally unlit road that climbs gradually up and then flattens out to rolls up and down. On any night this would be awesome but I am loving it right now with the snow on the ground and the snow covered peaks. I tend to head out right after work when the final tiny remains of daylight are fading. This means that I can start out seeing the ever distant silhouettes of the mountains glowing white on the sky, but before I realise it it is totally dark and the longer I run the more stars start to pop out from the dark sky. The snow underfoot is awesome too as it makes everything so much clearer - I can see my footsteps below and it was eerie tonight to see that my footprints from my Tuesday night run were still the only ones at the side of the road, bar a few animal tracks.
When I ran this route on Tuesday I saw not a single car on the unlit section, and although I saw 6 tonight (positively busy!) there were still so few that I felt that I was in a world on my own. This is one of the main things that I love about running in the dark; because you can see so little you truly run in the moment and can get totally lost in your thoughts as there are so few visuals around to disturb you. There is also, for me at least, the slight apprehension of what might jump out from around the next dark corner! More than once tonight my headlamp caught a reflective sign ahead and I jumped a little thinking it was an animals eyes shining back at me! I have fond memories of simply running to keep up with my friend Bill on a night run in Squamish, I didn't care if I killed myself - I was going to keep up to the chatter and the headlamp of Bill running ahead! Or another time when Bill and I ran very early one morning from Deep Cove (North Van); again it was snowy and to run through the forest in the dark with the branches literally laden with snow was great....until Bill started to mention ghost stories!! But regardless of the fact that I always run just a little bit scared in the dark, there is nothing better than getting out in the dark, escaping from the rest of the world and just zoning in on the few footsteps you can see ahead...

November 17, 2009

Magical Mountain Masochists

At the start of October Montrail (along with the race directors) hosted myself and two team mates, Gary and Ryne, at Run for the Toad 50km in near Kitchener, Ontario. This is an awesome event, in part because of the Tent City race expo that is held the day of and day before the race. It was great fun to be on the Montrail booth and to get a sneak preview at the Montrail line up for 2010. My first question on seeing the shoes was 'So where are the Streaks?' and I was pretty dismayed to hear that they were not to be part of the 2010 line up. I've raced (and pretty much trained) in nothing but Streaks this year and love them so how was I going to run without them?!!! Well, on arriving in Banff, as well as finding all by boxes I'd shipped from Vancouver I also found two boxes of shiny new Montrails - yay! So today I took out my Mountain Masochists for the first time. I expected good things as these shoes won 'Gear of the Year' award from Outside magazine and plenty of friends run in them. As it was an afterwork run and I still don't know the Banff trails that well I went on a road run but knew that trail shoes were the best option anyway as it was hovering arouns zero with damp, slick snow. The Masochists are AWESOME! They felt snug and like they moulded to my feet as soon as I popped them on and after that I pretty much forgot I had them on, which I always consider a good thing in a shoe! I did an hours run on slippy, snowy roads and yet got great traction and an easy ride. They are nice and light weight too so I'd have no hesitation to wear these on a road run again. They'll definitely take place of the Streaks for me, and now I'm just itching to give them a real test on the trails...
Check out the Montrail Mountain Masochist at

November 15, 2009

Ethiopian Adventures

I was lucky enough to get the whole month of October off work so as well as being able to get back to the UK to visit family and friends I decided to do a bit of travelling. I love to travel but hadn't been anywhere really fun since India two years ago. I'd looked at going to Ethiopia for quite some time and my two week trek in the Simien mountains went far beyond my expectations. I'd never been to sub-Saharan Africa so even arriving at Addis Ababa airport was exciting enough. I went on an organised tour, not something that everyone would choose to do but I had been with the same company to a couple of other destinations and they are at awesome at being low key and promoting responsible tourism, as well as saving so much time with organising trek permits, guides etc. I could write pages about the trek but basically I will just say to go to Ethiopia if you have the chance!! October is just after rainy season, so the mountains were green and lush with so many flowers. The Simien mountains are simply stunning, the only place I can even vaguely compare them with is the Grand Canyon; massive drops and sheer cliffs. But what really made it was the Ethiopian people - they were so friendly, so welcoming and so inquisitive - we went into peoples houses in the villages for coffee, we talked to the local kids who were so keen to practise the English, and we had an unforgettable evening dancing Ethiopian-style with muleteers around the campfire - you really had to be there to experience that! Anyway, a few photos to give you a taster of the amazing country...

My First Blog!

For quite a while I've deliberated having a blog, more and more friends have them and I think they're a great tool for sharing stories, ideas and photos but then I'm not sure I want to share all my stories with the cyber world - so I'll see if I become a regular blogger or if I fall off the fad by Christmas! However, having recently (6 days ago!) moved from Vancouver to Banff I've decided that hopefully enough of my Vancouver friends want to hear about what I'm up to in Alberta, plus it'll keep my training honest if I know that people are checking my postings. One of my biggest fears in moving here is that I will fall off the ultra running bandwagon and lose my endurance and speed. So please guys, if I'm not sounding hardcore enough in my postings, please let me know that I need to get out and hit the trails more! But for now I'm off to the gym, I was going to go run but with a niggling, pain in my shin (please no shin splins!) I'm thinking the gym could be a better idea. And besides, I've still got to get an expert Albertans opinion if the tracks I saw in the snow on my 2hr run yesterday were bear prints or not!! Yesterday's run was 2 hours along the Spray Loop trail nr the Banff Springs Hotel. It was so beautiful to be out on the trails, with hardly anyone else there. The snow was packed, so easy to run on and with the shelter of the trees and the fact I'd waited until the afternoon to run, minus 5 felt balmy :) I've even found a back route, running along the side of the rail tracks to avoid the public humiliation of running down Banff Avenue with all the shoppers. Now I just need to get my fitness back and work on my flexibilty too as although the run felt good, my legs were seriously tight. First yoga class on Monday!