December 28, 2010

Snowflakes and Smiles on the Road to Recovery

Today I ran for 9 minutes, walked for one. I repeated that 3 times. I am ecstatic! It was a dark and snowy run. It was about minus 5 as I headed out after work and ran listening to the crunch of the snow under my feet and seeing the street lights reflect off the bright white snow. And I ran for total 27 minutes!! Yes, you are reading the right blog, Ellie the ultra trail runner is ecstatic with a 27 minute road run :) Since getting injured (SI joint) about a month ago I have not been able to run at all until last week. Instead it has been regular physio sessions, twice daily physio exercises and the stepper and recumbent bike at the gym. It's been easier than it would have been at any other time of year as I had planned to take December as an easy month anyway but to go from running almost daily to no running at all has not been fun! Skiing has been my saviour to at least somehow be able to get outside and enjoy the mountain air.

Last Wednesday, about 30mins after getting the ok from the physio, I was trying my first run on the treadmill. 1 minute run, 1 minute walk. 5 times. It was slow, it was painful and it was frustrating after all the work I had put in to heal fast. But having stuck to my run schedule I am seeing I can now run 27mins in less pain than I could run 5 minutes in just 7 days ago - yay! After my first attempt at running on the treadmill I have done all my runs outside, at first I thought this would be frustrating to head out of the door for a run to come back less than 30 minutes later but at least it seems like a real run rather than a painful treadmill session.

So if all things carry on going well then I hope to be running for one full hour in a weeks time! Of course, I am sure there will be set backs and there is still some pain when running and it is hardly at a killer pace but at least it is moving in the right direction. My first race of 2011 is a half marathon in Vancouver in mid-February. I had hoped to get some short fast work outs in the try improve my half marathon time, and there is still some chance of that, but if not it will be a race for the fun of it and I'll just be glad to be back racing!

My 14 day schedule, of which I am now on day 7, has been:

Day 1 - 1min run, 1 min walk, x 5 = 10mins

Day 2 - rest

Day 3 - 2min run, 1 min walk, x 5 = 15mins

Day 4 - 3min run, 1 min walk, x 5 = 20mins

Day 5 - rest

Day 6 - 4min run, 1min walk, x 5 = 25mins

Day 7 - 9min run, 1min walk, x 3 = 30mins

Day 8 - 9min run, 1min walk, x 4 = 40mins

Day 9 - rest

Day 10 - 14min run, 1min walk, x 3 = 45mins

Day 11 - 20min run

Day 12 - 9min run, 1min walk, x 5 = 50mins

Day 13 - 14min run, 1min walk, x 4 = 60mins

Day 14 - rest

December 10, 2010

Ellie's Gear of the Year 2010

In 2009 Montrail's Mountain Masochist won Gear of the Year award from Outside Magazine, and ever since then has consistently left the shelves of Canadian running stores and hit the trails within days of arriving in the store. I know lots of friends who always stock up on Masochists each time they visit the States as they are like gold dust in Canada. Well here are some of my picks for Gear of the Year from the Montrail and Mountain Hardwear line ups from 2010 (it's a hard job to have to test out awesome gear but someone has to do it ....)

Run Jacket
I LOVE the geist jacket. Small enough and light enough to stuff in a pack or tie around your waist, yet warm enough to keep out a chill and block out the wind. My go-to running jacket for a wide range of temperatures. Great reflective pattern that is subtle yet higly visible. Nice ventilation and pockets to keep the essentials safe.
Trail Shoes
The Rockridges are a super all round shoe. I happily wear them on road to get to the trails yet they'll take a fair amount of abuse from some pretty gnarly trails too. Light weight, roomy toe box and you forget you are even wearing them (a sure sign of a good shoe). Can handle lots of miles. If you like these, look out for the Montrail Fairhavens for Spring 2011, another great all rounder that is designed for both road and trail, and lets face it - we all have to run on a bit of tarmac from time to time!

Run Tights
It can get pretty darn chilly in the Canadian Rockies so winter running in shorts is just not on even for the toughest of runners (please, I don't want anyone to try prove me wrong!) I love MHW's Super Power Tight as they are snug without being too skin-fitting tight, they have good length so no chilly ankles come popping out and they are basic and black, which to be honest, might not be exciting but let's not bring attention to ourselves when running in spandex!
After Run Jacket
It's so pretty! It's so cosy! It's the MHW Nitrous down jacket! The Nitrous is not a heavy down jacket but ideal for those slightly chilly days when you need something quick to warm up in after a run. It packs down small so I often take it in my pack in case the weather turns nasty mid run. And it looks great for everyday wear too!
So there are my favourite run peices of 2010, maybe a few ideas of what to buy your favourite runner for Christmas!

Happy trails,
Ellie x

Socks: the Worst Christmas Gift?

Socks are typically one of those Christmas gifts where you think someone is seriously lacking in imagination if they buy them for you. But not all socks are created equal and I think I will be finding this out more in the next few months of running as I test out all the various types of socks in the Drymax range. I had the chance to get some samples and as they fell out of the package that arrived in the mail yesterday I wanted to get them right on and test the Cold Weather Running ones out in the snow, just too bad I'm injured right now! So maybe instead I'll hit the stepper or the recumbent bike in the gym and try out a pair of Hot Weather Running socks or Running Lite Mesh socks...there are just so many different sorts tailored for every running environment possible I'll have to be doing lots of runs to try them all out.

I used to wear any old socks I found in my drawer but as I moved to one or two favourite pairs I realised that this meant not all socks are created equal. On moving to Banff I certainly learnt that you can't confortably run in the same socks all year round - minus 30 to plus 30 and even the feet feel the difference. I'm particularly looking forward to trying the Drymax Cold Weather socks after I got frost nip on my ankles when running the other week in snow (with the wrong socks on). I'll also be keen to try out the Maximum Protection Running socks which are specifically designed for us ultrarunners: I'd never thought of the importance of different socks for different lengths of run until I wore the Team GB kit issued socks at the Worlds. Initially I thought I wouldn't like them as they were to thick - but after 100km of tarmac pounding I was so glad of that extra cushioning to help protect my all important toes.

Anyway, if you are looking for Christmas gift ideas this year for that hard to please person....maybe some Drymax running socks will be the best gift they could receive! Click on their link on the right hand side of my blog to learn more...

Next blog post for you Christmas shoppers will be my favourite Montrail and Mountain Harwear pieces of 2010!

December 6, 2010

Skipping a race, riding the recumbent bike, it can only mean one thing........Injured!

This past Saturday was TNF Endurance Challenge 50 miler at Marin Headlands in California. With a $10, 000 pay day for the win and not bad earnings for 2nd and 3rd place either the sign up list soon become an all star role call of North American, and some European, ultra runners. Given I was racing the World 100km roads 4 weeks prior TNF would not be a key race but I couldn't resist signing up to pit myself against some serious competition and to hit some new trails.

After Worlds I took a full week off running, I was in the UK with family and friends so plenty to do and I squeezed in one awesome hour road run in Tower Bridge area of London before jumping on the plane back to Banff. Within 2 days of being back in Banff winter and flu season hit with avengance. It was minus 35, I had a cough, a runny nose, I ached and had headaches and an unsettled stomach. It was all I could do to stagger into work, sit at my desk and stagger home again. On a few better days I began gym season and got some good short runs in on the treadmill, some elliptical work outs and even did some swimming and weights, which I notoriously avoid. I got over the worst of my cold and got some hill work in - a trip up Sulphur mountain in the snow and some steep inclines on the treadmill.

The weekend before the race I decided to do another trip up Sulphur - nice and easy but just get some hill memory back in the legs. I hiked/ ran up to the base of the trail from my house and began to feel a nagging pain in my SI. I had felt tiny (and I mean tiny) twinges once or twice the week prior but now it was much more intense. Having had this injury before and it being the only injury that has ever stopped me from running entirely, I relucatantly made the call to head downhill and home. Downhill hurt more so it was a long slow walk home (and I was super glad to have stuffed my MHW nitrus down jacket in my pack!)

As soon as I was home I messaged two Banff friends both of whom recommended the same physio and I got an appointment for the Monday, 2 days later. Until Monday I couldn't walk the 10mins into town and got the bus instead. I got a taxi to my physio appointment. This wasn't looking good. Hugh worked wonders and sent me away with some exercises and optimism that I shouldn't cancel race plans yet. Wednesday saw another physio appointment and on Thursday I flew to San Francisco hopeful I may still be able to race.
Friday was a fun day spent at the Mountain Hardwear offices in Richmond with other Montrail runners. It was great to meet more of the team and talk about exciting Montrail and Mountain Hardwear product developments (ssshhhh, it's secret!) In late afternoon Ryne, Jackie, Kristin and I headed iout to the hostel which was right by the race start. Before we headed out to pick up groceries I decided I better see if I could run for 5 minutes, afterall it's one thing to drop out of an ultra but I'd look damn stupid dropping out only 5 minutes into a 50 miler! I ran on the grass , first on the flat and then testing a very short incline as I suspected that downhills would be the worst. After less than a minute I knew I couldn't race. Ryne told me to run 20 feet without limping, I focused on my breathing but I couldn't run without a limp. I contemplated running on the toe of my right foot but then figured this wasn't really feasible for 50 miles. I considered side stepping down hill, but again figured that this method would be far too slow! Basically I so wanted to race I was willing to consider anything but I shook Ryne's hand, gave Jackie a hug and agreed not to race.

The next morning I woke at 3.30am as Jackie was racing the 50 miler and Kristin the 50km. Just to be sure the vitamin I of the night prior had not performed supersonic miracles I went out to try abother run. It was 4am, it hurt, and in the pitch black with my headlamp and few sounds. I knew that more than wanting to race I just wanted to run. 8 days with no running and I was craving a run.
What can I say? I am disappointed, Ryne (who was ill) and I hiked up to Pirates Cove to cheer on runners and then went to offer any aid to our friends running through Bootjack and just glimpsing the trails made me want to go explore the course. But I am putting this in proportion - lots of other runners were ill or injured too so this made a bitter pill easier to swallow (Devon C-H & Tracy Garneau didn't start, Krissy Moehl dropped) as I was not the only one on the sidelines. I have had a stellar year beyond all my expecatation so I have a lot to be very happy with! When I once talked to Gary Robbins, whining about my constant aches and pains, I so remember him saying, 'Ellie, we are all running that tight rope betwen training as much as possible and being injured'. Let's just say I have fallen off the tight rope at the moment, but I will be climbing back on just as soon as my body allows.

It was a lot of fun to see the race from the sidelines, Montrails Geoff Roes and Dakota Jones lead a strong mens race until Miguel Heras blew by them in the closing stages. Geoff finished 2nd, Dave Mackey 3rd and Dakota was 4th. In the womens race I was cheering for fellow Montrailee Joelle Vaught but also fellow Brit Lizzy Hawker. After Lizzy's 3rd place at the Worlds I so wanted her to find redemption and win in Marin, but she finished 2nd (behind NZs Anna Frost) - an outstanding effort given Lizzy was fighting a serious cold/ flu. Joelle came bounding over the finish line, smiling for her 4th place, and to top off the Montrail results Luanne Park placed 4th in the 50km (rocking her new Montrail Rogue Racers).
And Bryon Powell of probably ran more miles than anyone in covering the race on his website and twitter. He really got the buzz going around the race, so check out
Happy Trails, whether they be snowy or muddy!

November 23, 2010

Motivation Night - Banff Lululemon Athletica - Tuesday Nov 30th

If you live in the Bow Valley come our next Tuesday to the Banff Lululemon store (121 Banff Ave)! I will be speaking along with some other locals on how to stay motivated over the winter months. I'll be sharing my thoughts and experiences on how to keep training on days like today when it's minus 33! Come along at 8pm for about 1.5hrs. No actual running required! Details below:

Guest speakers:

John Coleman – Performance Coach with the National Para-Alpine team and National Ringette team.

Ellie Greenwood – Elite Runner:
Second in the infamous Canadian Death Race in Grand Cache
Winner of Elk Beaver 100km on Vancouver Island , setting an unofficial world trail 100km record.
Winner of the Scorched Sole 50-miler in Kelowna , BC
Winner of both the Edmonton and Calgary Marathons
World IAU 100km Champion

Kat Feeney – Nutritionist at NuRoots, Canmore.


John and Ellie will combine their experience of maintain motivation from the psychological and physiological aspect.

John will focus on the 3M's that matter; meaning matters: “What is the meaning behind what you do? Why are you doing what you do and or why are you interested in starting something new?” Momentum matters: The question isn't “am I contributing to my momentum”, it is “how am I contributing to my momentum”. And the next question is “what momentum am I contributing to?” Moment matters: John will talk about the importance of being present in the moment when deciding to be motivated.

Ellie will speak about how she stays motivated during the cold winter months in order to get enough mileage in to remain competitive in the spring. Ellie will touch on the importance of goal setting (both short and long term), discuss a healthy training routine and talk about how the balance between being tough on yourself and also knowing when to step back can keep you motivated.

Kat will focus on seasonal whole foods and strengthening immunity. She will also be providing a list of recipes for you all to take home.

The floor will then be opened to discussion.

November 15, 2010

IAU World 100km Road Running Championships

Just before I headed off to Gibraltar for the World 100km Championships I read Devon Crosby-Helms blog about her course record setting win at the USATF 50 mile champs at Tussey Mountainback where she had a perfect race; everything came together and she ran strong and fast and felt great throughout the race. It reads like a runners dream. It would be fair to say that I didn't have a 'Devon-day' at Gibraltar but this was a race that I had logged several 140 mile weeks for and many more 100 mile plus weeks, it was my first time I was proudly wearing Team GB kit and I wasn't going to give up without a fight.

I flew to the UK about a week before the race. I chilled with family and focused on having fun, getting over jet lag and going on a couple of easy runs to spin the legs out. Early Friday morning Team GB assembled at London's Heathrow airport and a few short hours later we touched down in Gibraltar and made our way to our floating Athletes Village, a cruise ship, our home for the next 3 nights. That afternoon our whole team headed out to recce the course and stretch the legs. Although on a map it looked like a pretty straight forward course (few wiggles around before hitting 19 x 5km loops) we soon saw that it was some tight twists and turns, uneven surfaces in the docks area and some hills which would be sure to take their toll by the 19th time we hit them. I think everyone adjusted their predicted pace after seeing the course.

Saturday passed quickly, last minute preps of bottles and food, a team meeting to go over the finer details of race rules and organisation and lots of carb loading at the buffet meals provided on the cruise ship. Like someone said, I think the ship's crew were rather bemused that such a slim looking bunch of people could consume so much food! I'd had my usual niggling hamstring pains and was rather concerned that despite a 2 week taper they were still bugging me more than I would like. I therefore decided to risk putting myself in the hands of our Team GB physio David and was glad that I did so as after some stretches and ultrasound my legs felt much better.

The opening ceremony on Saturday evening was a great chance to properly see all the other countries represented and catch a glimpse of the other racers, but after the lively ceremony we all headed back to the ship for an early and eerily quiet dinner before hitting bed by just after 9pm.

I don't think neither I nor my cabin-mate Emily (Gelder, 2010 spartathlon winner) really needed our alarms as we were eagerly out of bed my 4.30am quick breakfast, throw on the kit and by 5am we were wondering what to do for the next 1.5hrs other than pose for silly photos in our GB kit in the small cabin.

By 6am we were off the ship and walked the few hundred metres to the race start line. It was still dark (and would be for the first hour or so of the race) and it looked like it was perfect racing conditions, mild yet overcast. Soon the race was off and I almost immediately settled beside by GB team mate and 2006 World 100km champ Lizzy Hawker. With not being allowed to race with a garmin and there being no km markers until 10km we had to go by feel for our pace. All was going well until the lead bike faltered on which direction to take and suddenly all racers had stopped and we were standing in the street shouting for directions. Someone took the lead and we were off again, I suspected in the wrong direction but we then got back on course and I held my pace back as others rushed off at a much increased pace in mild panic.

After the initial twists and turns we then moved onto the main 5.06km loop which we were to complete 19 times. The first few loops were good to preview and assess how to tackle each part of the loop and I was feeling calm and strong. I soon needed to hit a pit-stop and after not spotting the port-loos on one loop I then found them on the next loop and nipped inside leaving Lizzy to carry on ahead.

My mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law, neice and aunt were all there to cheer me on and after a few loops I was glad to be able to check with them as to how many loops I had done as I was already losing count by the sixth! I was so focused on trying to track my splits per loop that I couldn't count the loops too. I aimed to run about 22mins per loop which would be approx 44min/ 10km and a 7h20 finishing time. Initially Lizzy and I went faster than this so in a way I was glad of my pit stop as this meant Lizzy and I were no longer running side by side as I feared if we carried on that way we would run each other into the ground and both blow up early.

I focused on taking on fuel from the start. At the start/ finish of each loop each country had a feeding station set up where I was grabbing gatorade and Clif shot blocks, whilst leaving picking up plain water from aid stations out on the loops. It was great to come into the start/ finish area as I had not only my family cheering me on but also the Team Canada crew!

I rolled past the marathon mark in about 3h02, this I thought was ok - fast but not crazy fast. However I was already getting a little concerned by how much I was feeling my hamstrings. I know I can run on mashed hamstrings but was worried whether I could run 55 more road kms in the state they were feeling already. It was around the 50km mark (about 3h34) that I shouted out to Team GB crew as I rolled through one more loop, 'my hamstrings are shot'. I was preparing them for the fact that I might need help by the end of the next loop. So it was at about 55km that I made my first stop at the feeding station, on all others so far I had grabbed a bottle or Clif shot blocks on the move. David immediatly had the physio table up and before I knew it his elbow was working wonders on my hamstrings as I downed a couple of paracetemol with gatorade.

I got up off the physio table and was back running. I knew I had lost time but knew it was unavoidable, without David's elbow working it's magic my race would have been over, at least now even if I had lost maybe 5mins I was still on the race course. My hamstrings felt much better but my legs felt just plain heavy. I had not forseen this being an easy race but I was scared by how tough it was feeling already. I still had about 45km to go and I was seriously considering dropping. My pace had slowed, my legs felt awful and I knew that one day my racing streak would come to an end but so didn't want it to be here at the World Championships. A French coach had been calling my splits behing Lizzy (rather kind if rather odd) and now it got to 5mins I said 'Merci Monsieur France but don't bother now' and I could tell he agreed, I was clearly not looking strong.

Here I decided on a few things - 1) I couldn't drop so early, I at least had to go a decent distance, 2) the wheels were falling off but they were still attached by a tiny strand of dental floss and I was going to use that dental floss to get them fixed back on more securely, 3) I was going to crawl to the finish even if if took over 9 hours, we only had 3 women on our team so all needed to finish to be in contention for a team medal, I wasn't going to let Emily and Lizzy down as both of them still looked strong, 4) I never want to run 100km on tarmac again so I better finish it this time as otherwise I'll have unfinished business and will need to run 100km on tarmac again, 5) this is crazy as I really never want to run this again but I may change my mind and if so I won't get on Team GB again if I look like a pansy trail runner who drops when the going gets tough on roads, 7) Three team GB guys have already dropped, Team GB are going to look right flaky if I drop too (note guys - this is no criticism to you, I know you were all ill & ailing!), 8) my friend Jackie is the toughest coookie I know who completed her first crazy hard 100 miler in 42hrs, Jackie must have felt way worse and I'll do this for her.

So off I was again running and with far happier hamstrings but still feeling awful and with all these thoughts whirring in and out of my head. I was going through ups and downs and can so clearly remember thining '7 more loops, I can do that' but then I got the 6 more loops to go and just had a melt down on team GB crew. Suddenly 6 more loops seemed unfathomable. I would feel ok coming into the feeding station but within a few hundred metres of leaving I was wondering how I would get around the the next 5km. So I split it down; they had shortened one loop due to our wrong turn at the start and Norman Wilson of IAU/ Team GB was directing runners onto the short loop so now I was running from the feeding station to Norman, then onto the BP gas station where a local was cheering me on, 'C'mon GB, lookin' great darlin'' ( this was a blatant if well intended lie on his part, I was looking deathly). I had given up all hope of winning or even placing well and was just doing this for the team. On leaving the feeding station with 6 loops to go I knew I would be ok if I got the 4 loops to go and I knew that 6 loops/ 30km was the same distance as one of my standard evening run routes in Banff. I thought of all the times I had run the Lake Minnewanka 27km loop exhausted after work, if I could do that then then I could do it now at the World Championships.

As I came into the feeding station with 5 loops to go I could see Team GB crew looking at me warrily and then stunned, I flew through, grabbed a coke and was off. I have no idea where this second wind had come from but I was a new caffeine-charged-woman and I could do this! Now don't get me wrong, I was still;not doing great but I had picked up the pace significantly and a switch had been flipped in my brain. I had even got my humour back and shouted out to Pete, Brian and Matt of Team GB, 'I'm never running on tarmac again', but it was said with a smile :)

With 3 loops to go I stopped at the feeding station again, I needed some chips as I had gone off my Clif Shots. I was munching away on my Walkers salt & vinegars when Andy said, 'You're only seconds back from 2nd place Ellie, and the longer the your spend eating those chips, the more time you have to catch up'. That was it, I was out of that station ...without even saying to Andy that I had thought I was in 2nd already.

Monsieur France was as stunned as I was by my second wind and began calling rather more optimistic splits. On entering the penultimate loop Norman who was standing on the side of the course casually said, 'You can catch them Ellie', to which I calmly replied, 'I know I can'. I picked up the pace a little more and began searching for an Italian singlet and Lizzy in the crowd of runners looping the loop. With about 7km to go I saw both Monica Carlin and Lizzy. For a millisecond I contemplated sitting behind Monica quietly but I knew I had no time for that so I floated past her and less than a minute latter I passed Lizzy with the words, 'She's on my heels, we need to go now'. I knew from Lizzy's sigh that she was struggling to pick up the pace but I didn't dare look back to see if Monica was following. I just ploughed on and came into the start/ finish with one loop to go and I was in 1st place at the World Championships! I so didn't want this to come to a sprint finish so I focused on extending my lead and praying that my now painful quads would hold for just 5 more km. As I hit the uphill out of the dock area I thought back to pushing the final hills in Chuckanut with Ryne of Montrail urging me, and as I got to about 1km to go I ditched my coke bottle and went for it. I had to take a corner wide around a slower runner I was lapping and the thought crossed my mind that I would be so annoyed if taking that corner wide meant Monica caught me! But I needn't have worried, I crossed the finish line in 7:29:05, about 90 seconds ahead of Monica, and with Lizzy a couple of minuted back of her.

When people have said to me this past week, 'Wow, what an amazing race you had' I don't think the have realised that in many ways I ran a bad race and ran a lot of pretty ugly miles. I won, I'm World Champ (and stoked to be so!), but like I said at the start of this post - I didn't have a 'Devon-day'; I didn't win by running beautfully, I won by being stubborn, determined and dedicated to my team....

A couple of other thoughts...

- Thank you to Team GB - it was a real plaeasure to meet you all and race with you. Look forward to seeing you at many more races to come! Congrats to us ladies for World Team Gold and to the gents for European Team bronze. Woo hoo!

- Thank you to Team Canada - you cheered for me as loud as if I was wearing a maple leaf and it was great to see you all (especially Denise McHale who ran sub-8hrs and Mel Bos) run so steady

- Thank you to 'Lookin' Good Darlin' BP gas station-guy. I really meant it when I said you kept me going.

- Am I happy with my time? ....Well it's a PB so no complaining here, but I may have to revisist 100kms on tarmac to see what can be done...

- Walking down stairs sideways can be an alternative when going forwards or backwards is not option post-race.

And here are a few links to a little more info about the race....

October 4, 2010

One Toadally Awesome Running Get Away

This year was the 3rd year that I raced at Run for the Toad in Cambridge, Ontario as part of Team Montrail. I love this event for so many reasons; with a Montrail booth at the race expo it is a great weekend to reconnect with the guys from Montrail/ Mountain Hardwear office and learn about exciting new product developments, with 1350 racers in the 25km & 50km races the event has a great buzz and I love chatting to fellow runners, and set in Pinehurst Conservation Area the race is a beautiful 12.5km looped course on easy trails with pretty fall colours.
Ryne and I jetted off and flew to Kitchener, just about 30mins from the race course, were met my Mike of Montrail/ MHW and then started off the weekend with a catch up over a pizza carbo loading meal in a great pub, whilst holding off on the beers!

The race expo is open the day before the race so we all headed down to the site to get ready. Ryne and I went out for an easy 10km run to check out most of the course and it looked like it was in great shape. RDs George and Peggy Sarson pay amazing attention to tiny details and pride themselves in their preparation of the course. Since last year, narrow sections of the trail had been widened (a real bonus given the number of racers), a set of stairs has replaced a worn out section of trail, mulch had been used to fill ruts in what had been mud, and it honestly wouldn't suprise me if the course had been vacuumed of leaf debris! It was in excellent shape. After our scouting out of the course the post-race massage therapists were already there so it seemed a shame to not let them practice their skills on a couple of eager runners! It was then back to the Montrail booth to talk the racers who were coming by to pick up their packages. I always really enjoy this part of Run for the Toad - chatting to runners (many of whom are new to trail racing), sharing stories and reconnecting with faces from the past 2 years. Before we knew it the afternoon had flown by and itwas time to head back to the hotel and get ready for race day - yay!

With Ontario being 2hrs ahead of Alberta I was glad of the 9.30am race start - not too hard on the body clock and no super early wake up call. After a pretty standard pre-race brekkie of bagel and a cup of tea (thanks for the Starbuck run Mike!) we had time to hang out at the Montrail booth and do last minute preparations. Rain had been forecast and it was pretty cool (about 6 degrees), so it was just a matter of hoping that the rain would not be too heavy and might hold off for at least some of the race. Although this wasn't a key race for me I'd got a decently fast target time in mind, in part so I could see where my training was at for Gibraltar 100km in 5 weeks time. The Toad course is non-technical trail, a small amount of tarmac and flat trail with gentle ups and downs, so it a very runnable and fast course. I'd decided to start out with Ryne and aim for 55mins per 12.5km loop, for a nice round finishing time of 3:40, which would be 14mins faster than my CR time of last year (and also rather conveniently it would be one minute faster than Gary's finishing time of last year)!

Wtih the 25km and 50km both starting at same time we let a few runners go off ahead and then I settled into pace by Ryne and Andrew of the Guelph Running Zone store (who was racing the 25km). We hit the 1km marker at dead on 4.00mins. I wasn't panicked by this fast pace as I was prepared to take some risks in going out faster than I normally might. With 4 loops I had my strategy; loop 1 - set the pace, loop 2 - solidify the pace, loop 3 - over half way, loop 4 - push to the finish.

On loop one there was a fair amount of company on the trail, I was with Ryne and Andrew for a bit, I chatted a little to 2nd place female in the 25km, and before I knew it I was done one loop in 53mins and change. I heard Steve, the announcer, call out that I was leading the 50km race but I also heard him call out Ryne's name so knew Ryne was just behind me, which I was more than happy with. On the 2nd loop I could see 1st place female in the 25km just ahead of me and although it took me forever to catch her it was great to have her pull me along and help me maintain my pace. I passed her about 1/2 way around the loop (and reassured her that she was still 1st in the 25km) and now worked on keeping my pace and calling out to 25km walkers who I was passing. The 2nd loop was definitely the most challenging for the volume of slower people I was looping past and having to weave betweeen in the process. As I fields of the 2 distances are mingled it wasn't overly obvious to the vollies that I was lead in the 50km which I quite liked, I was just running along, running my own pace and not attracting any attention - stealth racing!

I completed the 2nd loop again in just over 53mins and was glad to have Steve call out my name and then spot Mike and Bruce of Montrail/ MHW who passed me a new bottle of Cliff drink and a pack of shot blocks. By now it had started to rain (after only about 20mins or so into the race) and although I wasn't cold it was miserable weather and it was definitely a case of just keep moving and get this job done! On the 3rd loop the trail was starting to get a litle muddy in sections but was still holding up pretty well and I had the company of more 25km runners who were on their 2nd loop. This was great because although I was out on my own in the 50km race there were lots of other racers around me and I used them as moving targets to catch! The course really is nicely rolling, some trail in woodland and other sections out on grass in the open. There is only one short steep hill, which as Westerners Ryne, Gary and I always have a little laugh about. Admittedly it is very steep and grassy but it is also literally a few metres, so it's tuck the head down and your at the top in 5 seconds, but the way some locals describe this you might be mistaken for thinking it's Mt. Everest!

Coming into the start/ finish for the start of my 4th and final loop I was on 2h41mins. Steve called out that I had 1h13min to get the course record and although my legs were tiring I knew I would get under 3h40 unless I totally died. Throughout the race I didn't really think about being caught at all. I was pretty sure that there was not too much female competition and having not had any of the guys challenge me earlier in the race I doubted that they would be able to catch me now unless I just hit the wall. One advantange of my recent road marathons is I know that if I can race the last 8 tough kms of a road marathon then I can hold a pace at the close of a trail race because nothing compares to the last kms of a marathon!

By the 4th loop practically all of the 25km runners and walkers were done so there were much fewer racers on the course although I was starting to pass some 50km racers. The couse was now really chewed up as the rain was still coming down and with about 1200 runners doing 2 loops and another 150 or so doing 4 loops, a lot of feet had squelched in the mud. Some sections were fine but others were a total mud bath and reminded me of school cross country. I walked some short hills as I simply couldn't get the traction to run, I skirted along the sides of the trail and I helter-skeltered down some of the hills with zero control (demonstrated by the fact that I body-checkied 2 fellow racers and fell over once)! To be honest I was having a hard time on the muddy sections as I was trying to maintain my speed and also having to avoid fellow racers who I was passing. The one bonus was that focusing on the trail and staying upright made the last few kms fly by :)

Before I knew it I had summited Mt Everest for the 4th and final time, which marked 1.5kms to the finish line and I put down the hammer for a solid finish. The last section was thankfully not too muddy so I could get a good push to complete the course and roll over the line in 3:37:30. 1st place overall - yay!

So all in all a result I am very happy with! Of coure placing not only depends on how you run yourself but who else shows up, so I'd like to thank Taylor Murphy for being a no-show (and also wish him a speedy recovery). Big thanks also go to Gary for giving me a time to beat from last year, and to Ryne for his coaching (but don't think that means I'll start paying you for it Melcher!) Thanks also to all the Montrail peeps for a fun filled and inspiring weekend, and for designing the Montrail Fairhaven - out in sping 2011 and I'm on love with them already having worn them at the Toad. But the biggest thank you of course goes to Peggy and George and all the vollies, what an amazing race you put together - look forward to seeing you next year!

September 26, 2010

Turning Up the Speed!

Yesterday I raced in Melissa's 10km road race in Banff, my first 10km race in four full years! I have squeezed in a few 8km and 5km races in the past few years but to be fair my racing resume definitely has more ultras than anything else on it. I'd initially signed up for the 22km version of the race but will my other races lined up decided to step down to the 10km and in a sense was excited to do so as I knew it would be the more competitive of the 2 distances. I was mainly excited just to be racing in Banff, being in a National Park there are few organised races and lots of restrictions but Melissa's has been running for over 30years and attracts over 4, 000 runners - most of whom are from Calgary.

We have had a pretty bad weather summer and 4 days before the race we got our first dump of snow in town and temperatures were hovering just above zero, but come race morning it was a balmy 12 degrees and sunny and everyone was smiling knowing how lucky we were.

The race started at a leisurely 10.30am so I jogged the 10mins to the start line from my house with a friend, did bag check and a warm up. Even doing a warm up is not usual for me, but with such a short race I knew it was essential. A last minute visit to the bushes proved fateful - as I scrambled back out I hit a marshy section and got both feet soaked - nothing like wrining your socks out 5 mins before a race start :) It was also now kind of irreleavnt that I had my light weight road shoes on - any shoes are like bricks when wet!

The start was a little scrambled as someone muttered 'go' andthen about 2 seconds later someone let off a horn and in a slightly confused dash we were off. I started 3 or 4 rows back as I knew there would be some fast runners and didn't want to bolt out too fast. I tried to see how many women were ahead of me and had my position soon confirmed by a cheerer who shouted out I was 3rd woman. It was fun to run down the main street, Banff Avenue, before we peeled off to start a significant climb (check out the profile on my garming link below). This is where I knew I would have the advantage and without feeling like I was pushing too hard I passed a few runners and moved into 2nd place woman. At the turn around at the top of the hill Lisa Harvey could see that I was not too far behind and I chased her on the long downhill stretch. By the base of the hill I was just seconds behind Lisa but I knew she would have the advantage, the experience and the speed on the flats. As she pulled further ahead at about the 6km mark I didn't chase, I knew that with 4kms still to go I had to run steady. It was great however that I always managed to kep Lisa in sight as that pulled me along the gradual ups and downs and she was my focus rather than pace or anything else. At 2kms to go I saw my friend Leslie, who had just come home from a crazy mountain ultra in Italy, she yelled out 'You're Banff''s only hope Ellie' which made me chuckle and the thought of only 2kms to go rather than Leslies' multiday mountain epic made me push a little harder. Here we had a gradual uphill that seemed to go on and on and I just longed for the turn around. Lisa made the turn, I followed a good bit behind and crossed the finish line 19 secs back of her in 37:37. PB!! I had hoped for a PB, even though Melissa's is not a fast course and I have not been speed training, I have improved a lot as a runner since by previous PB at Vancouver Sun Run in 2005. Now of course I am tempted to try more faster road runs to see what I can do... Afterall, I did a one day taper for Melissa's and in the 7 days prior to that ran 128miles in training - likely one of my highest mileage training weeks yet!

One week until Run for the Toad 50km in Ontario....

Six weeks until World 100km Road Running Championships in Gibraltar....

Best go run!

September 18, 2010

Geeky Garmin Girl

Well, ok - that might be a bit of an exageration but I have joined the ranks of runners with a GPS tracking my every move and after two runs with it I am very much in love with my new toy! Until now all my training has been done based on time goals rather than distance goals and even with my shiny new Garmin I think I am going to keep it that way. I found last winter when I first moved to Banff I decidely did NOT want to know how far I was running when I was adjusting to the altitude, slogging through snow and skirting slowly over ice patches. I was happy to come home knowing I had logged X many hours and that time on my feet and effort was more important than precise miles.

That said, it has been fun to already do two of my fairly regular training routes and find out how far I am running. Fortunately the distance has been a pleasant suprise, I half imagined I would think I was running further than I actually was but in fact it is the opposite :) I'm also looking forward to the element of I will now track my mileage with zero effort. At the start of the year I started a training log with all my workouts but that lasted all of a few weeks until I would forget to do it and then try to remember my workouts weeks later. With my Garmin all I have to do is put it on and then once in a while plug it into my computer and hey presto - lovely maps and stats of my runs!

Being a bit of a techno phobe I opted for the pretty basic model - Forerunner 110, and I have so far managed to use it with no problems which shows how user friendly it is. Ok, it might not have all the bells and whistles of some of the other models and it might 'only' have 8hrs battery life, but I will be honest here - I never log 8hr training runs so the battery life will be no problem! And for any races longer than 8hrs, well there are usually some mile markers along the way so I'm not going to obsess about splits.

So all in all, I think it's going to be lots of fun and I think that's as good a reason as any to use a GPS. Got to go, I'm off to analyse my splits and pace of todays run.....

September 13, 2010

Vote for Vancouver's Homeless Community

The running link to this post is tenuous, but hey - it's for a good cause so please read on...

Pepsi Refresh Projects are set up sp not for profit organisations can nominate themselves for funds to support projects that benefit a community. Organisations set up their profile on the website and then anyone can vote for a project every day until voting closes (2 month cycles) and the project with the most votes wins the funding.

In the current cycle (just started so lots of time to vote daily until October 31st), First United in Vancouver is trying to win $25K of funding to support their storage facility for homeless people. This is such a simple but smart concept. How hard must it be for homeless people, they have so few possessions and yet those possessions must mean so much, but there are times that those possessions become a burden. How often when living in Vancouver did I see homeless people fiercely guarding their few bags or shopping cart of possessions? Yet their possessions barred them access to many things we take for granted. What to do with your shopping cart of life when you want to go take a shower at the community centre, or even buy something in a store? First United therefore has a storage box system where homeless people can check in their things knowing they are safe and giving them the freedom to go off and do what they need to do without carting around their things and giving them the automatic label of 'homeless'. Such a simple idea yet can have such an impact on homeless people's lives.

So you can vote every day. Click on the link, keep it in your favourites and vote every day til Oct 31st.

Also, if you are on facebook, do a search for 'Run Change' - in August the first 5km run/ walk for homeless people was held in Vancouver. I'd read about a similar project in US cities in Runner's World but this is the first I have heard of in Canada. Homeless people were invited to come out and participate in the 5km run/ walk in the False Creek area. I just love this concept, I mean as runners we all know that if we're having a bad day or feeling down, we can just pop on our shoes and go for a run - it's like a happy pill to many of us. That feeling of freedom and relaxation, the joy of the the pure and simple movement, of being able to chat and laugh with fellow runners and escape from the stresses of every day life, the sense of achievement of running distances we never thought possible. I can only imagine what stresses and hardships homeless people must face, and I can only hope that some of them will be able to experience the joys and self-confidence boosting feelings that running brings. And if I am going on a run I don't want to bring my wordly possessions with me, I want to drop them off somewhere the storage facility ar First United.


August 24, 2010

Where are my road shoes anyway? Edmonton Marathon Race Report

It was the usual sort of scenario that got me to the start line of the INTACT Edmonton Canadian Derby marathon this weekend. A friend sent me the link to the website, I figured it was a fast course and it was in my new home province so why not? Always fun to try a new race and winning Calgary marathon in May had got the road running bug back into my legs and mind. Of course, before August 22nd rolled around I had got myself in way too many trail races and instead of my initial thoughts of training specificially for a road marathon I once again found myself tapering down from ultra-trail mileage and quickly trying to get some turn over back into my legs in prep for the marathon.

Despite being in my home province, Edmonton is still a good 5hr drive from Banff but it was a fun road trip and Mike and I soon arrived at our accommodation for the weekend - Mrs. Cherniwchan is an 83yr old Ukranian lady and a close family friend of Mikes, and simply the best person to stay with for a race. We had food in our mouths practically before we were in the door and the beds were snug and warm with 100s of covers like no hotel bed ever can be.

Saturday afternoon was spent eating, relaxing, picking up race number and checking out the expo. The expo was small but I spotted a booth selling compression socks and calf sleeves. I'd been looking into getting some for a while and as my legs had been feeling pretty lead like after hoping back on the running band wagon pretty much right after Death Race I soon snapped up a pair of calf sleeves and figured I needed all the help I could get. For some reason the pre-race fuelling led us to West Edmonton Mall (largest shopping mall in the world. I hate shopping) and into the fun-fair area where Mike and I got our competitive mentalities honed on a few rounds of 'whack-a-mole'. I am sure that such a game can only be found in Alberta! Later in the day a friend of Mikes was kind enough to drive us around a good portion of the race course, which although I never think essential it was great during the race to have an idea of the course and landmarks ahead. Having not slept much the few nights prior I was in bed by 9.30pm, asleep by 9.35pm and the next thing I knew my alarm was blaring at 5.30am.

It was a short and worryingly bumpy 30min drive to race start where we could park within 100m of the race start/ finish at Northlands horse racing track. The reason for the bumpy ride become evident as we parked up and realised Mike's car had a flat, oh well - we had a race to run and car mechanics could be dealt with later!

The race venue at Northlands was awesome - tonnes of indoor space, lots of parking and well laid out. After a quick few hellos to some Vancouver friends who were also racing the full and the half, we made our way to the start line for the 7.30am start. A quick rendition of O Canada and we were off! I was confident to go out in the front of the pack as I was hoping I could scrape together a 2:55 or so finishing time despite the Death Race legs, and if I could post that time I figured I would be in top 10 to 15 runners overall. That said, I went out a little too strong and at the 1km mark posted 3:49 - oops, best calm down a little as I was meant to be on 4:08 kms! I reined in the pace a little and settled into a rythm and kept diligently checking my splits at each km. I was a little up but getting back on track and noted that Mike, who was out for a training race and aiming for 2:59, was on my shoulder. I yelled at him that we were 2mins up on my pace and this was only about the 5km mark, but I knew it would be easier for me to tell Mike to ease of his pace than for him to actually do that!

The course basically goes out and back to the start and then out in the other direction and back again, and pretty much remains pancake flat the whole way. On a map it looked simplistically dull but with the main route being along a pretty tree lined street, through shopping and well-to-do residentital areas it was suprisingly scenic. And of course the advantage of any such route is the steady stream of runners moving in the other direction to distract you when the going gets tough.

I passed throguh the 21km (and therefore almost 1/2 way) mark in 1:23:50 and had a little chuckle at myself. I have not run many half marathons so my PB is a not overly speedy 1:23:34, and now I was cruising along in a marathon only seconds off that. Although I realised this was a fast split I wasn't too concerned as I'd got 2mins ahead of pace in the very early kms and since then had held much closer to my intended 4:08 kms.

Because both of the turn arounds were loops it meant I couldn't see where 2nd place female was behind me so for all I knew she could be 20 seconds or 20 minutes back. This in a sense was good as it meant I never relaxed and never took my lead for granted, I just had to keep pushing in case I only had a small lead. Come the 30km mark I rather feared that my Death Race legs might get the better of me. I was tiring and thinking that maybe I had gone out too fast but I so didn't want to look stupid and post a slow finish to the race, so I dug deep and nestled in with a small pack of men and ploughed on. The 3 guys were chatting away as if they were out on a Sunday morning training run and I was rather glad that they didn't spark up too much of a conversation with me, as I was clearly breathing and working a lot harder than them!

I can vividly recall the last 8kms of Calgary marathon (in May) being tough, like really, really pushing-it-to-the-brink tough. But this time that toughness never really quite got me. I was pushing hard, I couldn't go any faster and I now just wanted to get this race done, but I was always in control and feeling mentally strong. At 36kms we hit the only hill of note in the race but with marathoners now in steady flow in the other direction they cheered me along and got me up the hill. By this stage I was churning out pretty solid 4:00kms and knew that if I could hold that pace that a sub 2:50 time was on the cards...just. I was blown away that I had come to this race really thinking my legs were toast and now a landmark PB might be happening.

For the final few kms I was urging on the next red km marker and toeing behind the lead-female bike. I had two bikes with me for good chunks of the race, both were ladies and it was great to have a little female company on the road :)

I pulled into Northlands, spotted the tower that I knew was near the finish line and powered in focusing on that. I was passing half marathoners and peeled into the finishing chute seeing 2:49:40 on the clock. There was no way I was letting that clock hit 2:50 before I was over the line so a final sprint push brought me over the finish line at 2:49:57 (or 2:49:54 chip time). Wow! I was stunned at my time and the fact that 2 TV cameras and 3 mikes started following me around until I could compose myself enough to spout out some incomprehensible-elated-excited-shocked-finish-line-ramblings.

Overall I am stoked with my result. The course is undoubtedly fast - very minimal elevation and not too many twists and turns. However I had not specifically marathon trained, my legs were not feeling chirpy pre-race, and although lower than Banff, Edmonton is still at 2200ft. I would totally recommend this race to anyone; the venue is awesome, the course scenic, the field large enough but not huge, the post race brunch tasty and the welcome from the elite director Brian Torrance superb. A few other things to note:

- Have you ever had blueberry perogies day before race day? Me neither, but they worked (thank you Mrs. Cherniwchen)
- Calf sleeves - I raced in them, they felt great, I'd wear them again. Hard to tell if they helped but I'd like to think they did.
-Congrats the Marilyn Arsenault, Katherine Moore, Mike Palichuk and all other sea dwelling Vancouver-ites who raced with less oxygen than they are used to. Nice work!
-A post race brunch of eggs, pancakes, fruit and coffee included in race entry and consumed sitting on real seats in a marquee is awesome for an event of this size!
- It takes a really long time to drive from Edmonton to Calgary at max 80kms/ hr on a spare tyre :)

Happy running and enjoy the end of summer (or at least that's what it seems like with the chilly mornings here in the beautiful Canadian Rockies)

Ellie x

August 7, 2010

Your Favourite Trail Race!

So often I talk to a friend or read a magazine and find out about some awesome race....the day after it took place. Hurumph, means you have to wait a full year to go run said race, far too long for any impatient runner. I mean there are the big races that everyone hears about but there are so many other little gems out there too that are just fun to be part of. So let's get this discussion going...what's some neat race that you've done, got on the cards or are hoping to get into? Doesn't have to be big, doesn't have to be official, certainly doesn't have to be an ultra.

For my part, it's the Rubble Creek Classic held nr Whistler, BC on Sept 26th this year. 26kms, but oh my, it's one massive climb, the fun n flat and oh so scenic alpine cinder flats, and then one blasting, knee crushing descent. Big on scenery, low on hype and only one friend cracked some ribs last year! rubble/

Please leave your comments, I'll look forward to seeing if there are any...when I'm back in from my run...

Happy Trails,
Ellie x

August 3, 2010

A Date with Death. 125kms of Mountain Magic

Eight short weeks ago I was kindly offered a spot in the Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache by the Alberta North Face rep (TNF sponsor the event). I ummed and ahhed, took the plunge and then began haring madly up any hill in sight in my quest to become a mountain ultra runner in less than 2 months. This would be my longest race to date and with 17, 000ft of elevation change it wasn't going to be a walk in the park, but more a hike up a mountain (or two).

Come race day I was pretty confident that I would finish the race when I listened to many people (who promised that the race was not as deathly as the organisers tend to imply) but still knew that only about 1/3 of starters completed to full race in 2009 and had warning from some who said it was one seriously challenging enterprise. Needless to say after the 6hr or so drive from Banff with my friend Mike I arrived in Grande Cache feeling much nervous anticipation. We arrived middle of the day, day prior to the race, but the afternoon seemed to zip by with package pick up, prepping drop bags, pre race meeting etc. But my most important task that afternoon was to meet up with the Adventure Science guys who were doing a study on gait analysis at the race and had got me on board. They filmed me doing some short runs to camera and I answered some surveys for them, they also explained the questions that they would need to ask me at each of the 5 aid stations on the race course. It was a great way to feel part of a team and importantly the Adventure Science folks would act as my crew at the aid stations. This was a big relief as Death Race has only one drop bag on the course (at 87.5km) so having access to gear at 4 other points would be invaluable rather than having to rely on aid stations.

Death Race is a little unusual for an ultra in that it starts at 8am in order to allow as many racers as possible the 'oppotunity' to run in the dark! This is just one indication that Death Race is a little quirky. The other main quirk is that at 110km you take a jet boat across the Smoky River, but only if you have not lost a silver coin that you are given at the start. No coin, no boat ride and you are DQ' 110kms into an 125km race! Many competitors run Death race as a 5 person relay so I would hate to be a relay runner that loses your teams coin!

The 8am start and the fact that Grande Cache is a small, isolated town meant that setting the alarm for 6am was plenty time to crawl out of the tent, wolf down some breakfast and head over to the start line. Lots of locals were already lining the streets and starting their cheers 'Go Death Racer' that we would hear throughout the day.

As the gun went off (a mountie firing a rifle into the air - this is small, mining town Alberta afterall!), we raced over the line and jostled to get a good position on the opening 1.5km road section before we squeezed into the trail. With 418 solo starters and probably about the same number of relay teams it was a busy start to an ultra. I immediately fell alongside Denise McHale who introduced herself and we chatted on and off for the first leg. I knew that Denise would be my main competition and that being an adventure racer she had far more experience at long duration racing. Everyone had warned that with a net downhill over 19kms that on leg one it is easy to go out too fast so I checked that I was taking it easy. Pacing, pacing, pacing would be key to finishing this thing. On the first small inclines I saw Mike ahead of me slow to a power hike, I took note and followed suit - no need to try run the hills now - save the legs for later.

The first aid station was a zoo, I ran in, filled my hydration bladder with water from the aid station and then moved along to the Adventure Science tent which stood out nicely. There I popped gatorade powder into my bladder, took some extra bottles and answered their survey questions whilst draining a coke and grabbing a bag of chips. I was pumped and moving fast until one of the crew, Keith, said 'you've only been in 2mins'. Ok, I could slow a little and make sure I refuelled properly. For legs 2 and 4 I had planned to use my poles, Ally thrust them into my hand pre-set at the correct height, wow - this crew were pros!

I headed out and was excited to be getting really into the race with the 1st 'easy' leg done. As I didn't know the course I wasn't sure where the real climb up Mt Flood would start but I soon adjusted to running with my poles in my hands even if I wasn't really using them on the flatter sections. I can honestly say that even so soon after the race there are whole sections I cannot recall at all and the climb up Flood and Grande are two of them. I have brief recollections, chatting to Clint who I know from Banff, advising an ultra runner on how to try recover from already being sick, passing a runner who was struggling, but other that that I have vast chunks of amnesia about this section of the race! I can only put this down to the fact that I was so focused on the task in hand that I really was not taking note of the surroundings like I normally would. I do recall heading down Grande, a famed steep and teacherous descent. I met up with Simon (Denato) and Steve (Russell) at this point and it was great to chat and follow in Steve's confident steps down the dusty and sometime rocky, steep, steep trail. Leg 2 circles back to the start/ finish line in downtown Grande Cache so I enjoyed coming in and being cheered along by spectators. Again, it was a quick transistion as I Denise was literally seconds behind me and I headed out to leg 3 for 19kms of running with total 1000ft of elevation loss.

I enjoyed leg 3, it was easy to check off the kms and feel that you were making real progress, there was a rubbley descent that reminded me of the North Shore trails in Vancouver and then we hit grassy sections and what looked like prime bear territory! When I saw some bear poop and what I was convinced were bear prints I started hooting and hollering as a cruised along pretty happy (I later found out that a friend had been charged by a bear on this section during a training run!). I crept up gradually on Ricky, a young US guy with only 4 marathon finishes under his belt who was out attempting his first ultra. It was super to chat with him for about 15mins as we plodded along, he was so eager and as a 2:26 marathoner with such an obvious love of running I really hoped he would do well.

The aid station at end of leg 3 marked the 65km point. I rolled in at 6:49. One of the questions Adventure Science asked us at each station was 'Are you exceeding or meeting your expections?' At this point I was far exceeding my expectations but a little leary that I may have gone out too fast. I was feeling the heat a little (it was 3pm and super sunny), I was only half way and I had the infamous Hamel mountain looming. To top it off I looked up and saw that my friend Phil (Villeneuve) had dropped. Seeing Phil at this point was proably the toughest part of my race day, if he had dropped what was in store for me? But I knew that I was going to finish this race even if I had to crawl to the end, I'd not signed up to go away without my finishers silver coin and I didn't care what I had to do to finish.

I zipped out and up onto leg 4, poles once again in hand. I was blown away by the fact that I was now 2nd overall in the race, with only the demi-god of ultra running Hal Koerner about 30mins ahead of me. The first section up Hamel was lush and leafy and jungle like but very steep so I was talking to myself to keep going and chuckling at the thought of Hal Koerner being the only soloist ahead of me, certainly not soemthing I had envisioned pre-race day! Emerging from the forest at the base of Hamel I continued to power hike and was blown away my the amazing mountain scenery - rocky, rubble trails, views for miles and the sight of stick-men like vollies silouhetted on the ridge that we were making our way up to. There was no way I was running this, but I hiked as fast as I could knowing that Denise was probably still close behind. On the ridge there was a short out and back section before we began the rocky descent down. Denise was no longer in sight and I was now running totally solo, save for the occassional relay runner. My hydration bladder was drained so I stopped and refilled it with water from bottles in my pack and willed myself to run the flat sections even though even the slightest incline was now proving a challenge. I clearly recall the 80km marker and mentally noted that I was feeling pretty ok about the thought of another 45kms to go, now that the main climbs were over. Soon I popped up to the drop bag station manned by vollies at the start/ end of Ambler loop. I set out to do the 5km loop and once back grabbed my headlamp from my bag and dumped my empty bottles. At the pace I was going I doubted I would need the headlamp but it was race rules and who knows what could happen over the now 32.5 remaining kilometres. As I headed out of Ambler I saw Denise come in, ok - that meant she was 30mins behind me but I knew I should keep pushing in case she had a strong finish. I barrelled down the dirt road, great downhill grade to pick up the pace and soaked up the cheering and shouts of 'Go Death Racer!' from locals passing by on their quad bikes. At 100km I popped out of the trails and into the roadside ditch for 2kms to the 4th and final aid station.

By this point I was totally pumped. Jason of Adventure Science had been my main crew for the day and exceeded himself at this point. He told me to come get my coke (which I'd forgoten about by this point) and he had tipped out the contents of all my drop bags for me to see. Seems a minor thing but my this stage I coudl hardly recall what I had in the bags so to have it all laying there on the ground for me to pick and choose was awesome! I had contemplated changing shoes and socks here as my feet had begun to fell it a bit of the last leg, but now I think I was so pumped all pain had gone. I left the aid station, spirits high and said to Jason, 'I'm on 11:21, I've got 3hrs and 23km to get this course record'.

Immediately out of the aid station was a steep hike and I spotted a guy coming down, he was confused by the routing but I said I'd seen no other flagging anywhere so we carried on up. The trail soon levelled to beautiful single track traversing the hillside in a forest. It rolled up and down and I'd got energy back in my legs so was even running the hills. My only concern was there was zero flagging. The course had been immaculately marked all day and I was cursing the fact that we were now so close to the end and I was doubting the route. Luckily I had packed the course map so pulled it out and was reassured that I was going to right way. 10kms soon passed and I dropped to river level, handed my coin over to the ferry man (I hadn't lost it - phew!) and soon I got a personal jet boat ride across the river. The river had steep canyon walls and with the light diming at about 8.20pm it was simply stunning. I hoped out the boat, thanked the vollies and hiked up the trail. Was Denise catching me? Could I snag this CR? Could I get sub 14hrs? I had so many things to keep me pushing and with the finish line almost in sight and the evening light fading on the beautiful flat to rolling Sulphur Rim trail, I truly was loving this race even in the closing kms.

There was a final uphill on dirt road which I hiked and then out I was on the tarmac of Grande Cache. Even though I didn't know the road I knew it was a small town so the end must be in sight. I turned the corner, saw the finish line and sprinted (well, it felt like it even of it might have been more of a hobble!). Final time: 13:28:39! 2nd overall! New women's CR by 52mins! I'd even broken the previous mens CR! - of course so had Hal Koerner (in 12:45:38) but that meant I had run the 2nd fastest time ever on the Canadian Death Race course!!

Canadian Death Race is one beautifully scenic and challenging course. Not once did I get bored as the course was ever changing and challenging. The volunteers and community of Grande Cache are exceptional - never have a felt a race take over a town so much and be truly welcomed and appreciated by the community, from honking their horns when they saw you running the short stretches of highway, to the local church organising the breakfast before the awards, they fully embrace and welcome the race.

Check out the race website, details of Adventure Science and an interview with the Calgary Herald at:

World 100km Championships Here I Come!

After much waiting (or so it seemed to an imatient runner!) I found out last week that I have been selected for Team GB for the World 100km road running Championships in Gibraltar in November! My time at Elk Beaver got me on the team and it is still taking time to sink in, afterall only one year ago I was daunted at the prospect of running 100kms anywhere, let alone at the World Championships! The only thing that is really daunting now is the thought of running that far on tarmac! Still, I plan to mix up my training with plenty of mileage on flat, fast trails, along with road running and even getting back on the treadmill in part to reduce the impact on my body and in part to get some variety in. Also if anyone knows anything about Gibraltar it is likley that is basically a rock in the sea on an incline! This had me worried on what the course might be like (just how many loops and how hilly!) but I have since found out that it is pretty flat 7 loop course - phew!
I am so looking forward to representing GB, wearing the team kit, taking my training to a new level and racing with the best from all over the world (including lots of Canadian and US friends).

More officialdom about the race can be found at:

July 12, 2010

Returning to the Knarly North Shore

This past weekend was 'Canada's Knarliest 30-miler' - the Kneeknackering North Shore Trail Run - which winds it's way up and over the mountains of Vancouver's north shore from near Horse Shoe Bay all the way to Deep Cove. With 200 racers making the journey along the Baden Powell trail this is one of the biggest ultras in Canada and numbers would be far larger if it was not for a cap imposed by the various districts the trail passes through. With a lottery to get into the race, many who don't get picked end up volunteering anyway and so come race day there is one volunteer to every racer! Needless to say this is one seriously slick and professional trail race with a kick ass party atmosphere of sunshine, great trails and practically the whole of Vancouver's trail running community out in force. I love it! In 2008 I didn't make it through the lottery, so in a sense I trained for 2 years for the 2009 edition of the race and ended up far exceeding my goal of 'about 6hrs' and posted 5h36mins, placing 1st female, 8th overall and 4th fastest female time ever!

Coming back in 2010 (with a lottery exemption) I was unsure how the race would unfold. I had not been on the technical north shore trails since Septemeber of last year and was unsure of my climbing fitness. Might seem lame - but just get out on a section of this trail and you will realise why I had my doubts - there are rocks and roots all over the place like no other trail I know and the first 1/4 of the course involves pretty much a power hike up Black Mountain (some of which involves clambering over boulders). The course climbs 8, 000ft and descends another 8, 300ft so flat sections are few and far between!

I had got to Vancouver the week prior and went for a couple of runs - one from Cleveland Dam up to Hollyburn Lodge and back, and one from the Dam to Deep Cove (the final 1/2) - on the course to refamiliarise myself. This was great, I was pleasantly suprised that some sections semed to have got shorter (!), but I was also mildly alarmed that I appeared to have lost my nimble footing on the technical terrain. I therefore went into race day knowing I was fit but doubting my ability on the course. I took it easy the week prior, maybe not the best game plan for Death Race in 3 weeks time but I couldn't bear the thought of hitting KK tired given the nature of the course.

The course splits neatly into 4 quarters - start to Cypress (mostly the Black Mountain climb), Cypress to Cleveland Dam (lots of downhill, little significant uphill), the Dam to Lynn gazebo (ups, downs, twists & turns), the then to the finish (inc. Seymour mini-grind and a downhill blast to the finish). I knew that I was never going to fly up Black so I went out steady and focused on getting this least favourite section of the course out of the way. Suprisingly I found I really enjoyed it and for 20mins even had the privelege of being ahead of Gary Robbins - a new race experience for me! I didn't think I would have much female competition so hoped to stay fairly close to the top 10 men and also had my sights on Suzanne Evans' CR of 5:18:57. When I had finished last year I thought 5:18 would be tough but possible, and came into the race this year in the same mind set. With this being a pretty competitive race of 22yrs standing and Suzanne being an amazing runner I would be priveleged of I could snag the CR at KK.

After peaking at Black I powered down to Cypress and passed two men just before the aid station. Friends from Pacific Road Runners man this major aid station each year so it was great to see familiar faces, though I didn't want to get too caught up in the party hoopla this early on. Later on RD Kelsy Trigg said she had noticed that I had my 'race face' on - into the station, grab a few mouthfulls of coke, and off! As I left Cypress I knew I was in 11th place (and I later found out, about 1 min up on my time from last year).

As I had just passed 2 guys I didn't want to get caught so this kept me pushing on the ups and downs that were to come. Soon I had hit Hollyburn Lodge from where it is practically all down hill to the dam. I LOVE this section, I was skipping and dancing over rocks and logs and just enjoying myself, as well as being happy to see that there was really very little mud on the course. I was totally on my own (and pretty much had been since the start of the race) but didn't mind at all. It was also great that the temperature was still cool and cloud cover was keeping us out of the direct sun on the open sections, it had been upto 28 degrees in the week and there had been a lot of talk about the humid heat being a factor in the race. Down the Hollyburn chute, over Brothers creek and I spotted a vollie by a sharp turn that we had to take. I cornered tight and bam! Man down! Feeling a little silly I got right up and carried on running without so much as dusting myself off. As I ran I got over the shock and knew it would just be some surface scrapes.

Cleveland dam is an open section - a tarmacked parking area and lots of walkers out and about. I knew that Sibylle of Club Fat Ass was manning this station so it was great to get cheered in by the 20 or so vollies and lots of speactators there. I decided not to spend time filling my Nathan pack and instead drank off the stations (water and gatorade) and just use my pack for my Clif electrolyte drink and shot blocks in between. I had purposely decided not to check my 1/4 splits from last year either, I didn't want to be obsessing about time the whole race. I'm a true believer that you have to run what you feel on the day and can't look at targtet times too much. I later found out that I was 6 mins up on my 2009 time at the dam and I knew at the time that I was lead female and about 9th overall.

Leaving the dam there is the only real road section of the KK - one mile all up hill to the base of the Grouse Grind. I ran a bit, walked a bit, ran a bit walked a bit. And in doing so passed one guy and spotted my friend Mike up ahead. I had to laugh at this, only days prior Mike had claimed that he ran this road every single time in training. Well I guess not on race day - though to be fair his power hike wasn't slow either! We got back into the trails and negotiated a few minutes of lots of hikers heading off to go up the Grind, and we bracnhed off to continue on BCMC. I was feeling pretty good and although hiking a lot I soon caught Mike. We chatted for a bit, I hadn't expected to pass him so soon but he wasn't having the best day so it was good to talk a bit and check in on each other. But I knew I had to power on so I left Mike and was glad to get to a more rolling section where I could get back into my running groove a bit. Once again I was on my own on the trail but didn't mind as I was feeling good, the course is exceptionally well marked and I know the route inside out so didn't have to worry about taking a wrong turn.
I popped out to cross Mountain Highway and stopped briefly to take on some fluid at the aid station and hear that Gary was only about 5 mins ahead! I soon passed my friend Kerry who had pre-swept some of the course and was now running to the finish whiist shooting a cool little video montage. Kerry gave me some encouraging words and told me I was running faster than the guys ahead of me, which I wasn't sure whether to believe or not!

The three quarter mark at Lynn gazebo aid station is at the top of a little hill which I sometimes struggle to run, but today I didn't have to force the run just to look good coming into the station! Again, there were lots of familiar faces ready to assist at the aid station if needs be, but with a quick check on my watch whilst taking on more fluids (it was getting hotter) I knew i shouldn't hang round if I wanted to still have a shot at the CR. the next section is in the busy Lynn canyon area but I managed to avoid knocking over any tousists by just shouting loudly - figuring that they would hear me even of they didn't speak English! This section also forms part of the Dirty Duo 50km and I was recalling training runs on these trails from years ago - every little section of trail has it's own memories! After some downhill there is quite a stretch of gradual uphill before the approach to the Seymour grind. The Seymour grind is a short, steep hike made hard because it is at a stage in the race when you are feeling tired. Just at the base section I saw a runner ahead and was alarmed to se it was Peter Findlay!! Peter is in his early 50s, held the KK course record for years and is KK royalty! He looked like he was running steady but slower than me so I snuck past him with a quick hello and tried not be be psyched out that I had just passed the KK King! At this stage in 2009 I was tired. I remember strumbling and tripping simply because I wasn't picking my feet up enough. This year, I was obviosuly getting a little tired but basically felt strong to power up the hills and to the top of the grind. From the top of the grind it is downhill to the finish, bar a few little killer ups very close to Deep Cove. I got to the top of Seymour grind and saw my watch flick over to 4h40 even. I had exactly 38min 57secs if I wanted to get this CR! I knew it was possible but could be tight and I could not let up at all. I didn't pause for a second, I simply hit the downhill and began to hammer. Down, down, down, try avoid mountain biker. Down, down, down, little up, down, down, cross first road and be very glad the vollies were there to stop the traffic. Down, down, down, oh..runner ahead ...oh, that looks mighty like Mark Bennet..oh, I've gone past him..oh, he's quite (ok, very) fast..oh well, down, down, down, gotta try for this course record and really don't want sprint finish. Down, down, cross next road (more nice trafffic warden vollies, thank you), freak...that's Gary ahead, re-enter trail, down down, 'Hey Gary, how's it going'. 'Ellie!!!!! What the.....?!!'. 'Excuse me Gary, I don't care about beating you but I'm just sneaking past, I need to get this CR!'. Down, down, chit chat to Gary, down, down, oh... little ups, little ups seem like mountains, Gary blast past, try keep up, man can he power hike, down, down, lost sight of Gary, up, up, man these ups are tough but gotta keep powering, gotta get CR. Feel better than last year, no drunken stumbling into tourists, good footing, down, down, oh, there's the daylight of Deep Cove-yay! Outta the trail, onto the tarmac, woo hoo, darn that Gary-man, he's just finished, sprint, push hard, only enough energy to raise one arm at the finish, oh, I do believe I just ran 5h 06 something!

So, I managed to snag 5th place overall, 1st place female and a CR by 12m48s. In charging for that CR at the end I also manged to run the fastest time of the day on the final leg. On the 1st 1/4 I gained 1min on my 2009 time, on the 2nd I gained a further 5 1/2mins, on the 3rd leg I was picking it up and ran 9 mins faster than in 2009. But on the 4th and final leg I had smoke coming out of my Montrail Rockridges and ran 14m29s faster than in 2009! Nothing like a good bit of running scared to get those legs a'movin!

By the finish it had got to be a pretty toasty day so ideal for hanging out at Deep Cove, soaking the legs in the tepid ocean and catching up with lots of friends and fellow runners. Definitely for the slower runners it would have been a tough day out there as the cloud cover lifted and the heat really hit come midday. But there were only a few runners that dropped or didn't make the cut off, everyone else was clearly powered along by the thought of Kelsy waiting to present them with their medal at the finish line, and the thought of Honey's donuts at the finish line aid station :) It is amazing that of just over 200 starters, 120 were first time KKs, and I would guess many of them, first time ultra runners. It is a credit to the immaculate organisation of Kneknacker that so many runners are prepared to pit themselves up against some of North America's knarliest trails.

Full race details are at
and race results are at

Side note: I should concede that although I can say that I finished 17secs behind Gary Robbins, in all fairness he had placed 6th at Western States 100miler just 14 days previously. But at least I made him sweat a bit.

June 28, 2010

Scorched Soles, Icy Ankles

This past weekend I headed over to Kelowna to take part in race #4 in the BC Ultra Trailrunning Series (, Scorched Sole 50 miler. I raced in the 50km event (there is also a 25km) 2 years ago and loved it - dusty dry trails, long climbs rewarded by stellar views of Lake Okanagan below and a fun, low key yet slickly run event. This year I decided to sign up for the 50 miler, which I was very glad I did as it was going to be a great training race for Death Race in 5 weeks.
As the name and location suggests this can be a hot race so I was excited to pack just singlet and shorts...until I heard that someone had been out in snowshoes on the upper section of the course just 4 days earlier! The course changes a little most years and this year we were going over Little White which appeared from some photos to still be very white with snow! Nevertheless the forecast for race day was still 28 degrees and full on sunshine so I was glad of the 6am start.

The different race distances start at different times so although there were about 150 racers overall it was a pretty low key group, with lots of familiar Vancouver faces, for the 50 miler start. The course profile is pretty unique with mostly uphill and some flats, but zero descent, for 25km, then down over the otherside of Little White, a flat forest service road loop and then retracing steps for a downhill and flat 25kms to the finish. Dave Papineau (running his first 50 miler), myself and Steve Russell from Vernon headed out in the lead. I stuck with the guys for a good while but soon started to powerhike some of the steeper sections whilst they continued to run meaning that they gained some distance on me whilst still occassionally being in view. I was feeling the effect of zero taper (other than taking the day prior to race day off I had run all week and clocked 19 hours of running/ powerhiking in th preceding 7days) and my legs were heavy on the uphills but I figured that this was a training race so I wasn't too concerned so long as I made it to the finish. At the start of the day I had said to myself that if the going got tough I was just going to think of everyone running Western States at the same time, who would surely be working much harder than I was!

Overall the trail markings were very clear save for a few sections where I got a little panicked as they didn't seem at all obvious. But I would glimpse Dave ahead or soon see some orange flagging so overall knew that I was on course. Although the open sections very bone dry dust bowls, quite a bit of the trails in the shade and up high were muddy and wet from the still melting snow which made for some fun foot work hoping around the really bad sections. As we made our way to the apporach up Little White I caught Dave and was glad to have someone to chat to for a while. We soon hit the snow and zig-zagged acros it following the orange spray markings. The summit of Little White marked 25kms (and the turn around for the 50km racers) but us 50 milers carried on over the top and Dave and I soon saw the extent of the snow! The summit was wide open heathland (which reminded me of the Norwegian fjells) yet with the trail covered in snow and semi melted pools of snow we whacked our way through brush following the markings from one tree to another. Steve had gone out ahead so I could see his feint footsteps which helped too. Dave is one speedy road runner but I think fair to say that he is none too keen on the sort of technical trail that this course had now morphed into! I therefore got a lead on him just before we had to descend a particularly steep snowy bank with the aid of a rope that had been fixed up. All I could think was that we were probably only 27kms into a 76km course (they cut out 4kms due to the snow!) and this was way tougher than I had anticipated and who knew what else was too come! After scrambling down the slope I popped out on sheer bliss - a dry, dusty and slightly down hill forest service road - time to get some kms in the bag! The bliss however was short lived, I couldn't see Steve ahead or Dave behind me so I was totally on my own, clueless of the layout of the upcoming course and unsure of the facilities at the 42.5km aid station so trying to conserve my supplies a bit (some earlier aid had turned out to be just water when I had hoped for some food and electrolytes - note to self: read the website in more detail in future!) At least I knew I was on track as there were regular comfort markers and I just ploughed on knowing that each step would bring me closer to the aid station. After what seemed like an eternity I turned a corner and was stoked to see a fully-manned tent with gatorade, food, my drop bag and two helpful volunteers who informed me that Steve was literally a few 100 metres ahead.

As I left the aid station at 4h32 my spirits were restored - I had liquids and food, had had some conversation and now had motivation to run the gradual uphill forest service road back - I could catch Steve! And sure enough, I soon did. We exchanged a few words but I ploughed on and greeted fellow 50milers running in the opposite direction still on their way out - again, great to see some familiar faces.

At the base of the steep climb back up Little White I saw Jess, who despite not being a super speedy runner is always smiling and is so determined she is a real inspiration, so I was really glad to see that she looked like she was having a good time. I was trying to powerhike the climb as fast as I could, aware that Steve was probably faster than me on the uphills, so I only had a chnace for a brief chat with Wendy, Martha and George on their way down before they hurried me on as they could see Steve approaching from behind. All in all, the climb back up took about an hour and mentally it was great to be at the top again - ok, I still had 25kms to go, but it was all either downhill or flat - woo hoo!

My strength is definitely downhills so I blasted away and loved running through the rocky upper sections that were now flowing wih snow-melt water. Mud and water were splashing up my legs, my feet were soaked and I was loving it! As I had never met Steve before I didn't know what he would be like on the downs and didn't want to give up my lead, now I was in full-on race mode and had given up the idea of 'take it easy, it's a training race'! It was 6h13 when I left the top and I figured I could easily be done in 2 more hours which was great as during the tough snowy sections I had been calculating a 10hour plus day. It's amazing though that although the way up had seemed all very steep, now I was heading in reverse there seemed to be a lot more flat!!! Probably the toughest section on the way back was a stretch along what had been a railway line - flat, steady and straight, with no distractions - time for mental strength to kick in. I hit 9kms to go at 7h19 so thought a sub 8hr race would be a breeze and although I was powering along and feeling good (despite the increasing heat from the direct sun) it was slow. I didn't even grab aid at the final station (4.7kms to go) and ended up running out of water but I just wanted to get to the finish at that point.

I was lucky enough to squeak in under 8hrs - 7:58:49 and proved that running scared in the lead can do good as I gained 25mins on Steve since passing him! As I bowled over the finish line my friend Ward was nicely positioned to slow me down with a hug as he stood in my direct line of running :) Susan (who won the women's 25km - yay!) greeted me and soon got me sorted with water and iced tea. By now it was a really hot day down at the start line and I wasn't seriously degydrated but definitely needed to get some fluids on board, so thank you for looking after one slightly dazed and confused runner Susan!

All in all Scorched Sole once again lived up to being a fantastic race. The oragnisers (Shirlee, Tammy and Dan - thank you!) are so welcoming and friendly and really go to great efforts to look after the racers. Admittedly with the snow this year the course was challenging but the struggles through the nasty sections were worth it for the views and the race experience. I think everyone who toughed it through the snow deserves a big congrats!

More race details and results are at

Happy trails,
Ellie x