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!