December 18, 2011

Endurance addict embraces the snow!

View from my apartment today's winter wonderland that is Banff.

Skiing Cascade Fireroad

Being a runner in Banff has it's benefits for sure - living at 1400m sure is awesome altitude training, and the network of stunningly beautiful trails in my backyard ain't half bad either. But I spend a good portion of my year hauling myself out of the door in the cold and snow and just dreaming of green trails and temperatures above zero. Yep, I like to ski - but in my heart of hearts I'm a runner who just wants to run on snow and ice free roads and trails.

I love snow (on skis or snowshoes, but not so much in running shoes)!

But I'm trying to make the most of the weather and I today I made it out cross country skiing with 2 friends, probably the first time I've cross country skied in a good few years. My technique is bad but it was so much fun just to enjoy the snow as it was coming down all day and was truly a winter wonderland. That said, of course my outing also had a slightly ulterior 'training' motive. Being an endurance addict I ignored all better judgement and signed up for a cross country ski loppet this past week. Race day is nicely soon enough - Jan 22nd - time to get some skis on and practice a bit, yet not too far away that I'll have time to get overly concerned with the details, and done before I need to really start being concerned too much about long runs (important given I now work a 48hrs/ 6 day work week, so have one day a week to get long runs in).

Oh, did I mention that the loppet is from Lake Louise to Banff. It's only 72km :) It'll be an experience to say the least I'm sure. Bring on the snow!

December 8, 2011

TNF 50 mile Endurance Challenge San Francisco

Find my race report of my final race (promise!) of the year by clicking here.

And a big shout out to Bryon & Megan of
m for their awesome coverage of the race as it unfolded on twitter as well as the great post-race analysis.

Happy trails x

November 26, 2011

Into the Runner's Mind

My running buddy in Vancouver, BC Johnnee, has recently started up a podcast - Into the Runners Mind. Being as Johnnee and I are good buddies it is not the shortest of interviews (well, we don't get to catch up often!). Check it out at:

November 23, 2011

Martin Parnell's Marathon Quest Anniversary Run - Dec 31st, Cochrane, AB

You think you run a lot? Well did you run 250 marathons last year? Martin Parnell, a wholly unassuming Brit living in Cochrane, Alberta did in 2010, and all to raise funds for Right to Play. I had the pleasure of meeting Martin at Comrades this year andhave seen him a few times since and the more I have chatted to Martin I am amazed about his dedication to raise money for Right to Play through setting up amazing challenges without the aim of self-promoting whatsoever. He just appears to love to run and loves to inspire kids to be active.

Martin will be celebrating the one year anniversary of the completion of h
is Marathon Quest (250 marathons in one year) guessed it, running a marathon! Everyone is welcome to come join Martin to run anywhere from
2.5km to the full 42.2 in Cochrane on Dec 31st. Personally I can't think of a better way to end the year :)

November 13, 2011

2012 Race far...

With needing to book vacation time off work and with ultras now typically selling out months in advance it always comes to this time of year and I start sitting down planning what races I might do next year. Of course, it is hard to plan so far ahead sometimes but in a sense sitting down and thinking about what I want out of my running year, what goals I would like to achieve and what courses I would like to experience and challenge myself against is a good thing to do for any runner.

The list I have come up with for 2012, now it is down on paper, looks pretty ambitious to me! If I do actually realize all these races then it will be an action packed and demanding 12 months for sure. Maybe I am trying to bite off more than I can chew, but on the other hand, if my body and mind are able to do all of this, it would be a dream. I have tried to choose races that complement one another, races that are a mix of old favourites with less pressure and more about sharing good trail times with friends, to big goals that I have no idea how they will pan out and even if I can achieve them. There are quite a few races which are repetitions from this year, which may seem odd but to be honest, any racer learns a lot from the first time completing a course and so some I would like to go back to with my new found knowledge and see if I can improve.

So, with no further a do, my 'plans' (race entries, body and mind permitting) are:

March 17th - Chuckanut 50km, Bellingham, WA, USA
April 7th - American River 50 miler, Scaramento, CA, USA
April 22nd - London Marathon, UK.
June 3rd - Comrades 89km (downhill), Pietermaritzberg to Durban, South Africa
June 23rd - Western States 100 miler, Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA, USA
August 31st - UTMB, Chamonix, France
September 29th - UROC (Ultra Race of Champions) 100km, Virginia, USA

... I also have 2 or 3 other races September onwards that I am eyeing up and have pencilled in, but will wait and see a little on those.

Oh, and as for Chile being my last race of this year.... all I can say is that I have zero will power, that Chile reinvigorated me to hit the trails and have pure and simple fun, so I look forward to lacing up my Montrails and seeing how I do in the Marin Headlands in 2 weeks time.

Happy trails x

November 9, 2011

Monday 28th November - Ultimate Fit Centre in Canmore - Winter Training Tips

On Monday 28th November I'll be speaking at Ultimate Fit Centre in Canmore about Winter Training. Come along for some useful tips and advice on how to brave the dark, snowy and cold winter months yet keep your training progressing. The evening runs from 6.30pm to 8.30pm with my talk, Q&A session and then a chance for some shopping!!

Hope to see some of you there, and if you know for sure you are coming, please comment on this post so we can plan for numbers!

October 16, 2011

Ultramaraton de los Andes, Chile - ESPECTAULAR!

Yesterdays 'Ultramaraton de los Andes' 50 miler in Santiago, Chile has to be one of my most fun races of the year, which is really saying quite a lot given how much fun I have had this year. But with this being my prize from winning the Canadian Death Race in 2010, it being a real destination race and one to wrap up the racing year with, there was a lot less pressure than at most other races. It was great to be in Santiago with quite a few of the North American North Face athletes (TNF are the race organizers/ sponsors) but really with most of the field being Chilean or some other South American nationality there was not the usual expectation of who might win, who might beat who etc.

North Face did a great job of adopting me as the lone Montrail/ Mountain Hardwear athlete for the weekend so there were fun times even before the race with team meals, a group run with the local TNF store runners and they even picked me up from the swish W hotel at 3am to take me to the race start, just a 20-min drive from central Santiago.

Having spent most of the summer training for World 100km and then having followed that up with Run for the Toad (trails, but flat trails) I knew that I was unprepared for the over 4100m of climbing (plus same of descent) that this race would encompass, but hey ho - I'd done a few Sulphur hikes, a scramble up Rundle and a slow slog up Edith/ Cory pass in Banff in the few weeks prior to at least warn my quads that they were in for a beating.

With the race starting at 4am we had a good 2.5hrs in darkness. Just like at Western States I used both a headlamp and a handheld flashlight and was glad to have both. It's always amazing how dark it is out on the trails even with fellow runners all with flashlights around. We had about 5km of flattish trail to start and then the first of the major climbs started with avengance. It was hands on the quads, try to look up, and keep on going. I was in a small group of men and knew I was lead female but was just focusing on the climb. It as actually over pretty soon, we crested the top and began a steep 'a la Canadian Death Race' descent. Sometimes it was definitely a case of just going for it and hoping you stayed upright on the shrubby grass and loose soil.

The maple leaf flag on my hydration pack (code - 'I'm Canadian - please speak to me in English if you can!') soon paid off as I struck up a conversation with John Tidd, an Argentinian/ American runner (who ended up placing 2nd male). I was soon surprised that Ian Sharman joined in the conversation in the inky darkness of our descent, Ian had come into the race tired and was already resolving to make the smart decision to drop. He played along for a while though and ran with me, which was good to have some conversation and company.

However despite this early company by about 22km I somehow ended up totally on my own. It was cool for a while, I was soaking up the fact that I was running through the Andes in the darkness all on my own and could just about pick out the silhouetted mountains. I don't think I have ever focused on course flagging so much, the trail was not really much of a trail and often sent us randomly up or down scrubby grass slopes in a slightly haphazard fashion, it was certainly not a case of just follow a well marked trail. As Tim (Twitmeier) would say after, 'what was the deal with the cow pat field?!' and indeed, I saw a few cows (including one dead one!), a few stray dogs and I learned the lesson for not speaking the native tongue when some marshals called out to me something I didn't understand in Spanish, before I promptly ran into a muddy/ cow pat filled ditch. Awesome!

After some time of running alone I just hoped I was still going in the right direction. Yes - I was following the flagging but I also remembered that we would intersect with the 50km course and hoped that I somehow hadn't gone astray and onto that course. But no, I soon came across a course marshall sitting all alone seemingly randomly in the middle of a cow pat field. In the dark. Well, it seemed like a slightly odd marshalling point, but at least I was comforted that I was heading in the right direction. It was good also to have to get a little 'passport' clipped at 12 points along the course to ensure that no one cheated, but it also reassured me that I was always on course.

It was surprisingly chilly, I had taken off my gloves but as we descended a bit the moist air had got trapped in the troughs of the landscape and I popped my gloves back on and kept my jacket on til after 8am. There was even frost on the ground in sections. However as soon as the sun came up the temperatures began to climb along with the terrain and I began to ensure that I was taking on enough liquids and gels/ shot bloks/ salt. As well as the 'passport' check points there were aid stations en route which were well stocked and well manned and I soon fell into my routine conversation of 'Hola!' 'Gracias!' 'No hablo espanol!', which was either greeted with some helpful English and a smile, or some weird look of 'Who's this foreign woman running around like an idiot?' (there were definitely far more men in the race than women, and I would guess that a good chunk of the marshals were not runners, and certainly not ultra runners).

As the terrain climbed the views became more and more spectacular, the muddy cow patch section (which had resulted in feeling like you were running in platform shoes of mud at times) was long forgotten and it was a case of hike, hike, hike. As someone who tends to do more runnable courses I felt like I was moving so slowly (I was) even on some of the flatter sections (which were traverses of grassy hillsides with no real level trail as such). I was convinced that runners would be catching me but no one did and at that point in time I wouldn't have cared if they had. I was running in the Andes, I was looking down over the shiny skyscrapers of Santiago and across to the snow covered mountains on the horizon, there were cacti on the trail (note to self, do not use Andean foliage to hold onto - it will hurt). It was quite simply stunning.

It was around the 50km mark that I began to catch the slower of the 50km runners. Having been on my own really since I left Ian (about km 22) it was nice to see other people out enjoying their day on the trail. The aid stations also began to seem closer together (they had been quite far apart in the first half of the race) which was great as I was trying to drink from those and not have to waste time in refilling my Nathan pack (and just use it for sips between the stations).

By 60km I was definitely beginning to feel my legs a little but I thought the majority of the climbing was done and now I should have a relatively flat and untechnical (now we were getting onto the more urban trails of Santiago) 20km to get to the finish. Oh how wrong
I was! I hit a gravel road climb and up and up I went. Hmm, should have looked at that course profile map in more detail! Fortunately it was around this time that I happened upon Marcello from TNF Brazil. Despite not being able to communicate much we both realized that the other was tired and began to death march up the road together side by side, once in a while exchanging a few words or I would show him my garmin so he could see what km we were at. With the gravel road climb over I again I thought that maybe the climbs were over but I can honestly say that they never were until right at the finish. Up and down and round and about the trail would twist and turn as we occasionally crossed roads or went through urban parks with bemused Santiagians out walking there dogs and enjoying a leisurely Saturday. However at least in hitting this more urban section, we were buoyed along by crossing paths with some of the 10km and 21km runners, as well as aid stations getting even closer together (great as it was now turning into a sunny Santiago spring day).

With the course marshals having been efficient but relatively unenthusiastic most of the day it was a welcome change to see one who started shouting at my in crazy Spanish. I just about made out that I was first female (ok - I know that and I am trying to hang on, convinced that I must be getting caught at the slow pace I am going) and also that I was third overall. He was clearly excited by this and it gave me a little buzz to keep pushing for the final 5km or so. By this point my garmin had died so I couldn't check how close I was getting to the finish line, but it seemed a very long 20km from the 60km mark when my garmin had still been working. Ok I was tired, ok I had lost Marcello by this point (and had briefly caught a glimpse of John Tidd who powered ahead as soon as he saw me behind him!) but even so..... the kms seemed long (and indeed they possibly were as someones garmin read 85km at the end).

But soon I saw a '2km to go' sign and well under a km later I saw the '1km to go' sign - no complaints about those short markings! I pushed to the finish despite the legs feeling the climbing of the day in them, and crossed over the finish line in 9:42:18. Somehow (maybe I've not done as many ultras as I think) this is my 3rd longest (in time) race to date!

All in all a HUGE thank you to the awesome TNF race hosts who welcomed me to Chile and ensured I had a super stay and amazing race experience. And once again a big shout out to my favourite shoe company around, in yet another race my Montrail Fairhavens saw me from start to finish without a hint of pain or a blister.

For more info on the race click here.

October 2, 2011

Run for the Toad - Canadian 50km National Championships

I can't think of any other race that I have competed at 4 times, other than Run for the Toad in Paris, Ontario. There are races that I would love to do every year but with new races popping up or just something getting in the way, sometimes I don't make it to all the start lines that I would like to. But somehow every year for the past 4 I have made the 3h30min flight to Ontario for Run for the Toad. With about 1100 entrants in the 25km and another 200 o
r so in the 50km, it is a huge trail race and the organisation is exceptional. Every year RDs Peggy & Goerge come up with some other improvement to what already seems like an excellent race. I mean have you ever been to a trail race with a kids entertainment tent? Or one wi
th table decorations in the marquee for the post race meal? Or how about one with a bagpipe parade before the race? This year there were even toad shaped chocolates being handed out!

Montrail/ Mountain Hardwear are one of the main sponsors of the event so it is always fun to come and hang out at the booth at the expo to chat with fellow runners and to see the latest shoe and clothing line up for spring. And there is some pretty sweet running gear coming out!

Race day was surprisingly cool to start with. At least it wasn't raining but it had clouded over and the wind was picking up as the 0930am start approached. I knew I would overheat but I couldn't resist starting off in my Geist jacket and gloves, knowing that I could ditch them at one of the aid stations or back at the start/ finish area (as the race consists of 4 x 12.5km loops). And yep, by about 3km I was warming up and pulled off the layers. I had settled into a nice little group with Andy and Daryl and was surprised to see that it took just over one loop for the first 25km runners to pass us (they started 10mins later than the 50km). Taylor Murphy set out well in the lead and another guy had also went out ahead so our little pack were positions 3 through 5.

I know not everyone likes the idea of a course with 4 loops but I find it a great way to split up the race as in addition to each km being marked you can mentally check off each loop as you go by. Plus there are so many other great things about the Toad that even if the course it pleasant rather than spectacular, I just can't help keep coming back year after year.

After my vomiting incident at World 100km I was making extra care to pay attention to how my stomach was feeling. With the Toad 'only' being 50km and a pretty fast course at that, I decided I'd prefer to be a little under hydrated rather than over hydrated with a sensitive stomach. So I took on Clif drink one sip at a time along with the occasional gel or shot blok. It was great to come past the start/ finish each time and have Bruce of Montrail hand me a fresh bottle rather than bother with cups at the aid stations.

Having not really tapered for the race, I have to say that my legs felt a little tired the whole race but I managed to hold a steady pace and it was great to stil
l be in the company of Andy on loop 3, even if he was looking decidedly fresher than I was feeling! I was on pace to maybe catch my course record from 2010 (3:37:33) and as I went into my 4th and final loop a volunteer gave me the extra push I needed by yelling at me that I still might catch my course record. Ok, 12.5km to go - I could dig deep for that long even on heavy legs and off I went, pulling ahead of Andy. It still didn't feel like I was running particularly fast (although the course was drier and in much better shape than muddy 2010!) but I was finally feeling a little more like I was in race mode.

With the final short steep hill done and only about 1.5km to go, I pushed hard and knew I would be cutting it fine to catch my record, so was motivated to stay ahead of Andy as much as anything else! 3:38:01 - 28 seconds slower than last year on what in theory should have been a faster course. But who's complaining - 1st female, 2nd overall and a great social running weekend. Big congrats to Taylor Murphy (3:25:57) and Laurie McGrath (4:28:17) - 2011 Canadian 50km Champions
Top: Kristin & Ryne, happy post race!
Below: With Glen Redpath - 4th overall, 3rd male, 2nd Canadian, 1st in age group!

For a neat video clip that gives you more of an idea of what a wonderful event Peggy & George host, check out this link.

September 25, 2011

Ellie's Annual 10km

It seems like every year I think I'd like to try squeeze in a few more shorter distance races but then another year goes by and I found myself racing Melissa's 10km here in Banff, my first 10km since the same race last year! Being it is one of only 2 running races held in Banff each year (the other being Winter Start 8km in November), I take part just as much because it's my home time race as anything else. Being in a National Park means it is often hard for event organisers to get permits for special events such as this in Banff but Melissa's has been held every year for the last 32 years and brings almost 4, 000 racers to town (for the 10km and 22km events), so is an annula tradition that brings lots of visitors to town for a final busy weekend of the summer season.

Needless to say I had not trained for the 10km at all. I ran 37:37 last year and hoped I could maybe run a similar time this year but with jetlag (I just got back from the UK on Wednesday) and a cold/ stomach bug hitting 2 days prior I was feeling far from like I wanted to push a fast effort. It also has to be said that there are a good few 100 metres of elevation climb around 3km to 5km in the course so it's never a fast race. Excuses, excuses ...

So overall I had a fun time, I was joking that after my DNF at 90km a few weeks ago I can finally say that I have completed the 100km distance... it just took me 2 weeks to do so! I didn't have the energy to push really hard and especially found breathing hard with the cold. It was a suprisingly sunny and warm day too - 25 degrees! - which made it great to hang out after the race. I repeated my 2nd place from last year, despite running 20 seconds slower (on a slightly altered route) so I guess I can't complain too much.

Last year at the time of Melissa's I had been in full 100km training mode so remember hitting a 3 hour long run after the race, in the afternoon. I was suprised how heavy my legs felt and realised that even if I had 'only' raced 10km - it was still much faster than I was used to! Given this year I had no real need to get a real run in like that, I instead made the most of the awesome weather by a run/ powerhike up and over Sulphur Mountain. Two and a half hours, 23km, so not a hard effort but a great way to be outside and enjoy the weather, because at this time of year in Banff you never know when summer might abruptly end and the snow start to fall....

Next up... Run for the Toad 50km in Ontario on Saturday with fellow Montrail team mate Ryne Melcher, and then 2 weeks later TNF 50 miler in Chile!!! Very undertrained for a mountain course but it's all going to be about having fun and sightseeing along the race course :)

September 15, 2011

World 100km (well ok, 90km..) Race Report

D. N. F.




Well, that certainly was not the outcome I had been hoping for. In fact it is far off what I had been hoping for. I went in the race fully crossing my fingers for (but of course, never expecting) the win. I knew there would be a strong ladies field but despite the fact I won at World 100km in 2010 I didn't have a perfect race there in many ways and hoped that I could run faster than my 7h29. Mid way through the race this year I would have been delighted at finishing under 8h30. Goals had been substantaily adjusted whilst I continued to put one foot in front of another. But in the end I got to the point where I really felt I could not continue to put one foot in front of the other. I had got the the point of walking. And I don't mean power walking. I mean plus 10min per km pace. It looked pretty lame ;)

I started out fast. The course was 10 x 10km loops and the atmosphere lived up to all expectations. It was a-buzz at the start with lots of people around as it was also the Dutch 100km champs as well as there being a 50km race and a 10 x 10km relay. On the first few loops I soaked up the atmosphere of locals out cheering, many of whom had set up water and sponge stations in their gardens, or had opted to bring their lawn chairs out whilst barbequeing and cheering. Banners streamed over the streets and with a 10am start their were cheerers out right from the start. I aimed to hit 4.20 min/ km or so. Basically I wanted to run between 42min and 43km per 10km loop. This was ambitious and immediately put me out in the lead for the ladies field. I didn't especially intend to go out in the lead but I'd been prepared to take the lead if that is where my pace put me.

By the 3rd loop I got even faster than this and appreciated when the GB crew told me to slow down. I'd simply got carried away and then on my 4th loop focused on checking every km split and soon reigned it in to a sensible pace. Ok, back on track I thought.

The weather conditions were warm and humid, something I am totally unused to, in Banff the air is exceptionally dry and my final run in Banff before flying over for the race it had been a fresh minus 1. I knew I should take care to keep cool so was sponging myself at every opportunity and taking water form the kids along the side of the course between the two GB feedstations which were located at the start/ finish area as well as at the 5km mark of each loop. All still going well. Marathon in approx 3h01 and 50km in approx 3h37. The legs were still feeling good and no niggling pains were appearing. Awesome.

A little into the 6th loop I began to slow. My stomach was beginging to feel a little off. Not awful, just not great. The eventual winner (of Russia) slipped by me to take the lead. Of course not encouraging but the bigger concern was my stomach and just a general feeling of wanting to sleep. I just felt plain tired. At 60km I pulled in to see Brian, Walter and Anne at the GB station. I told them I just wanted to stop. I had no energy. It wasn't that my legs were tired, it was just I didn't feel like battling on for 40km. Things had gone downhill quick and I felt like I didn't have my usual will to fight. The GB crew tried to get my going, they asked if I would regret quitting tomorrow and I said I knew that I would but I really didn't know I could carry on. I took off my bib and say down. I was done.

Well, that's what I thought. After sitting for maybe 5 minutes the crew continued to talk to me and I knew I had to give it another shot. Bib back on and I was off before I could change my mind. My stomach was still not feeling great and I moved on as solidly as I could. 40 more kms didn't seem overly far but I wasn't in the spirit to push hard but I knew my race still had plenty of time to turn around.

At 65km I pulled into the GB crew of Adrian and Peter. My stomach definitely didn't feel great now. They offered me all sorts of choices of things to eat and drink but none of it seemed remotely appealing at that point. Then my stomach turned and I vomited. Having had this happen at Western States, I was actually quite positive about this - hopefully now I had a fresh stomach and could start getting on board new calories for more energy. It was also much harder to quit half way through a loop (though is was a still a tempting thought at this point). Ok, off I went again with a bottle of coke in hand which I drank in very tentative sips.

Now I was running each 5km betweent the stations at a time. I would pull in, get a few words of encouragement as well as some coke and Clif drink on board and then would psyche myself up for another 5km. I was still at the stage that the thoughts of anything more than liquid was just not bareable, though I did force a gel at one point, knowing that any calories would help. At 78km I pulled over to the sie of the road and as I vomited for the second time a very kind Dutch lady came to offer me a baby wipe to blow my nose - much appreciated as I had no water to clear my mouth. Nice!

Now I decided to stick entirely to flat coke. It was possibly my electrolyte drink that was upsetting my stomach (despite it being what I always take, the pounding on tarmac is never easy on the stomach). Just before 80km I ran past Jason Loutit of Team Canada. I told him it was getting tough but I was feeling surprisingly good and 20 more kms seemed totally manageable. I was delighted at the thought that I might finish the race under 8h30, not bad considering the things I had gone through. From 80 to 85km I took no walk breaks!!! Woo hoo!!! This was my first entire 5km run with no walking since 65km, and I was finding that although ladies were passing me as I would pull into the aid stations for a few minutes I would then gain on them again once I was moving.

By now I had resolved to enjoy the race as much as possible and was waving at supporters and followed Amy's (Team USA) lead and high fived kids along the side lines. I am sure supporters wondered why the runner who had led the race for the first 50km was now so delighted to be close to an hour off the lead lady! I was just happy it was almost over and hopefully 1h30 and I would be done.

But as I was at the 85km mark I didn't feel great again. It would be the final slump that I couldn't pull myself out of. My 5kms of running had zapped me and it was the first time that I walked out of an aid station. I tried to run but it was a short lived shuffle. I walked. I suddenly just couldn't run. Despite having switched to entirely coke my stomach was feeling upset again and the legs like lead, there was no energy left in them. From 85km to 90km it was a long slow walk, I maybe ran 500m (though it was maybe only 200m). I was done. Pam (Team USA) ran by and I was so touched when she told me to come with her. But I just couldn't. I would run maybe 20m and then grind to a stumbling walk. I crossed the start/ finish at 90km and then continued the few hundred metres to the GB crew. Just before then I met my Canadian friend Dirk who came to my aid as for a third and final time, vomiting ensued. I was definitely done. 10kms was just not possible. I was checked out. I could not believe I had been running so positively just 7km before, sure I would make it to the finish, and now I was a weak and stumbling mess.

All in all - why did the stomach fail me? Who knows? I think the humidity is likley. I am questioning the cleanliness of the sponges and the water at the aid stations. Other than that, it's hard to tell.

Did I go out to fast? I'll never know. My stomach went before my legs had the chance to fail me. I personally don't think I did and I don't think my fast pace early on was the reason for my bad stomach.

Other than that, I will admit, if I'd have been allowed I'd have run that final 10km later in the evening. I'm not planning on DNFing again. Thoughts of Anita Ortiz braving it out to a slow Western States finish this year kept me going for more than 20km. As Anita has said, 'I'm just not a DNF kinda gal', but I'l also have to concede that I DNF'd this one and Anita is even tougher than I can ever imagine. Absolute respect.

Onwards and upwards (fingers crossed!)

Happy trails, Ellie x

August 27, 2011

Fixed on Floradix: Pumping the Iron!

I guess it might not be somewhat surprising that after Western States (it being my first 100 miler) I was somewhat tired. Of course, if I told this to a non-runner, they would say 'Doh! You have just run 100 miles, of course you are tired!' I guess part of the trouble was I was so excited with my race result and the fact that summer had finally arrived in the Rockies that I was just raring to run even more! So after a week of rest I eagerly bounded back out onto the trails and was having fun except I just felt sloooooooooow. Like I was running in toffee with lead weights in my shoes slooooooooow. The worst was probably when I turned around only a little over half way through a normal 2-hr planned road run. I promtly planted myself on the couch and seriously did not want to move. I NEVER turn around on a run. Just NEVER. But the toffee like feeling in my legs was so bad that it didn't seem worth plodding away any more. In fact, it didn't seem possible to plod away anymore.

Next day I walked into the medical centre (an at-most once-annual occurance for me) and as luck would have it there was a walk in appointment available in 10 minutes. My luck got even better when the doctor not only was a friend of a friend, but also knew about my running and was a runner himself. He totally understood that I didn't want to just be told to take a bit of time off running. Though he did concede that maybe more sleep might make me feel less tired! But he was more than happy to do a blood test and explain what he was looking for and what levels I should be looking for as a runner, rather than just as someone who was mildly active.

Less that 24hrs later he called me with the results (got to love small town living in a mountain community!) and said that I was not anaemic but my levels of stored iron (ferratin) were low enough that this might explain some of my lethargy. He also said that my B12 levels were a little low and getting those higher could only help.

So for the last few weeks I've added B12 and Floradix Formula to my daily regimen that already included Udo's Oil. I've also been focusing on getting lots of leafy greens and beets every day. Floradix (made by Flora, who also make Udo's Oil) is chocked full of liquid iron (most easily absorbed, rather than the tablets) and vitamins. I've definitely been feeling much better for it. Although I've always said that I prefer to eat real food over taking supplements I definitely feel there is a place for the right supplements based on good medical advice. I personally feel too many people buy things off the shelf based on thinking what's good for them rather than following advice on the basis of tests. And it is also important to take the right supplements rather than simply believing all that the packing says.

It was also a good reminder that it can be worth once every so often getting tests done to see where you are at, especially when training for or keying for a big race. Next big race for me...World 100km, 2 weeks today in Winschoten, Netherlands!

Happy trails (and tarmac!)


August 22, 2011

Edmonton Marathon Revisited

Every time I run a road marathon I realise how much I enjoy them and swear that I will fit more into my race schedule but usually that doesn't end up happening with too many ultras getting in the way. So as I lined up for Edmonton marathon yesterday it was my first road marathon since the same race a whole year prior, and as ever I was training for an ultra so hadn't trained specifically at all for the marathon. I had no idea where I was at in terms of pace and was mostly using this as a training run for World 100km in 3 weeks time and as a gauge to see where I am at.

This meant I was very unsure of what pace to go out at, I wanted a solid run but I didn't want to blow up mid-way by going out too fast, and I didn't want to kill myself as I want to carry on decent mileage training this week before starting to taper off a little before World 100km (Sept 10th, Winschoten, Netherlands). It was just the evening before that I decided to target a 2h50 to 2h55 finishing time, or 4:02 to 4:09 min/ km pace. Edmonton is a flat course with a few sneaky little rolling hills in the final 10km so typically produces fast times. My PB was at Edmonton in 2010 at 2:49:54 (with a nice little sprint finish to get under 2h50!)

Immediately I went out ahead of pace, on about 3:55 min/ km pace. But it felt easy. I was unsure what to do - maybe I had more leg speed in me that I had thought? Maybe I would pay for this at the 30km+ mark? I kept thinking of Coach John Hill from Vancouver Falcons and I suspected he would have been telling me to back off a little. But I decided to roll with it and if a few kms were a little fast then better to learn now than at Worlds. About 10 men pulled ahead of me, I was lead woman and I was left running solo with a couple of men in sight in the distance. I was glad to have my garmin to help me monitor my pace and stop myself from going out even faster.

I am not sure where it was, maybe as early as the 10km mark or so and I found myself running with one other guy, who I found out to be Shane Ruljancich (member of the Canadian Mountain Running Team). Shane and I got chatting, established that we were looking for similar finishing times and settled in to a good pace, side by side. For a few kms I didn't check my pace at all as we chatted easily along and the kms felt easy. I then got back to checking pace and noticed that quite a few kms were hitting sub 4:00 min/ km and it crossed my mind that maybe I was going a little too fast, but equally I was prepared to risk this rather than pull back, lose time and also lose my new running buddy.

It was a hot and sunny day (it got up to 30 degrees) and very early on I was wishing I had a handheld water bottle. The aid stations were every 3km or so but once half a small dixie cup got spilt I was left with just a tiny mouthful of water or gatorade to quench my thirst. This was made worse as I was taking on my Clif Shot Bloks and my mouth only got drier. At a couple of stations I managed to grab 2 cups and later on I even used a sponge to get water, but for pretty much the whole race I knew I was not getting enough fluid on to really do my best.

We ran through the 1/2 marathon mark at 1:23:38. I was happy with this; it was ahead of my 2h50 to 2h55 target but not crazy fast and I was still feeling pretty comortable. Shane and I were still running side by side and we soon began to gain on and then pass a few guys which was a confidence boost that we had paced ourselves better than some, and I was also glad to see Shane gaining a few positions in the mens field.

By 30km I was definitely beginning to work a little and I was wondering if I was going to pay the price for my faster-than-planned pace. We had now hit our 2nd out and back section where although the course appears very flat on the profile it actually has a few gentle rolls that you begin to feel at this stage in the game. Shane and I were still clocking our splits which began to vary a little depending on the slight hills, but still stayed within the 4:00 min/ km range. Our conversation was now short comments rather than a flowing conversation as we began to work harder, or I did at least; Shane appeared to still be on cruise control.

The kms stretched out, each one seeming longer than the last, as I counted them down one by one. I took on my last gel with a small amount of water but I was definitely beginning to feel the effects of not being able to get enough gatorade and fluids for the heat of the day. Although I was working it was more the fact that I just felt I needed calories and liquids that was making the run hard. Even as I hit the final km I didn't have my usual finish line push, but I hadn't lost pace either and was delighted to roll over the finish line, 1st place woman with a new PB of 2:47:14. More than being delighted with a PB I was just happy to get a few bottles of water and a banana on board within minutes of crossing the line.

All in all, I didn't go out to get a PB so I'm super happy with getting one but oddly not stoked about it as this wasn't an 'A' race so it wasn't something I was specifically dedicating my training towards as a goal. I am more happy that I felt steady throughout the race, a have the confidence that I have got some road speed in my legs for the Worlds, and I feel only a little tired today which is indicative that I didn't push crazy hard to get a good time and that 42km is really a good little 'jaunt' and I should be more than prepared for World 100km. I'm also pretty excited that I clocked the 17th fastest female British marathon time so far for 2011 :)

Tonight will be a trail run, no pushing the pace, just stretching the legs out on some soft spongy trails to minimise the impact, and then hopefully a few more solid road and treadmill runs in the next 6 days before I start to taper a little....
Big thanks to Brian Torrence (elite director) and all the fab volunteers who make Edmonton a super event, and one I'll be sure to go back to in future years.

July 16, 2011

Powderface 42

After a big-hype race like Western it is always fun to get out to a low-key local race and just enjoy some fun times on the trails with friends and the trail community. That was what Powderface 42 was all about for me today and lots of fun it was indeed! It was just over an hours drive from Banff in the foothills near Bragg Creek, Alberta so I hightailed it out of work on Friday and shared fun time around the campfire that evening with friends. I was totally not in race mode, my legs have been feeling pretty heavy after WS100 and as half of our camping group were not actaully running the race, it wasn't the most motivating atmpsphere for a race - it was just fun times with friends.

With the alarm going off at 6am I was still not in race mode and was wondering what on earth I had got myself into when I had eagerly accepted a spot at the race a few weeks earlier in a post-WS100 high. But of course by the time the shoes were on, a good cup of coffee down (thanks Nadja!) and then off to race start and chatting with fellow runners I was more in the mood to explore some new trails.

And wow - what beautiful trails! It was soon sunny and warm, not a cloud in the sky and the trails were thankfully varied and had great views. Mentally I knew that 42km would fly by (it wasn't even an ultra!) and when I had a little wobble in my positive attitude on the long steep slog around the 18km mark a fellow Brit, Carl Price, who I have met at a few other racersaappeared out of nowhere at just the right time for some friendly company and chit chat to distract from the hardwork.

Coming into aid station 2. Photo: J. Cagampan

By 25km I had hit a groove (clearly an ultra runner if it takes this long to warm up!) and was enjoying the rolling terrain with the big climb well out of the way. I hiked the ups (still not much gas in the uphill legs) but I blasted the downs and cruised along the rolling flats. I also like to think I would have done Nicki and Brenda proud - two of my Alberta running buddies who I have never seen on the trail without a beaming smile of sheer delight and enjoyment on their faces. Fun, fun, trail times :)

But ok, I do admit I got a little competitive and when I saw my buddy Fitzy at an aid station with about 10km to go, I made sure I gave him a friendly elbow out of the way as I stormed up the hill (well, at leat until I was around the corner and could start powerhiking again!) The final 10km or so we passed half marathoners both on their way out and in (they had started 2hrs after the full) which was a great set up for us to all cheer each other on and motivate each other up the final few hills.

And strangely enough it was one of those races where I swear my legs feel better after the race than they did before! Some aches and pains are gone, and sure - they are a little tired, but I somehow feel looser and less lead-legged than I did at the start line. Yay!

Icebathing it post-race. Fitzy, me, Phil & M-J. Photo: Nadja

Nadja & Fitzy all smiles post-race

Sunny fun times on the trails for sure, and a big shout out to the Powderface organisers (Bruce, Doug & team) and vollies who were just excellent for such a relatively small local race, as well Out There store in Calgary, the main race sponsors who made sure everyone went home with a nice goody bag and Mountain Hardwear race shirt.

One final WS100 note: if you really want to hear more about my WS100 race then check out Running Stupid podcast with Ken Mical.

July 13, 2011

And the winner of the CEP compression draw is...

Mel B congratulations! You have won yourself a pair of CEP compression socks or sleeves (your choice). As ever, this draw was conducted by my usual high-tech process of asking a friend to text me a number between 1 and 68 and I them counted down the comment list until I got to the winning number :) Photographic evidence of this draw selection process is below! Mel you were 56th down on the list.

Mel B please email me at and I will put you on touch with the folks at CEP for them to mail out your prize.

Happy running and happy recovery in your compression socks xx

July 6, 2011

Compress Those Calves! (and the rest of the legs)

Compression socks. Oh, those stylish knee-highs that either make you look like (a) you are back at school, (b) like you must be a sooper-dooper-fast runner, or (like me) (c) make you look like your legs are really short and this is why you don't play field hockey. But that said, with compression socks having being around the running scene for quite a number of years now they look like they are here to stay, and quite rightly so.

As ever, with these things I will not go into all the scientific surveys that show improved circulation both during and after work outs, and increased blood flow and recovery, but I'll simply say that compression does seem to work. Although I will admit that I am yet to try my own scientific study which would be to run a race in one regular sock and one compression sock and see which legs feels better the next day ;) I'm seriously tempted to do this, except for the fact that I mostly wear compression for recovery rather than actual racing, although I have found the calf sleeves great in longer races as they provide the benefits of compression whilst still allowing me to wear my favourite socks on my feet.

I had tried on various 'compression' socks in stores and was so so on whether they were worth the money. But last year I checked out the CEP booth at Edmonton marathon and finally found a pair of compression socks that seemed worth the investment. Firstly I was impressed that I got measured for them - I mean it only makes sense that you wear the right amount of compression, would you buy a pair of running shoes without getting your feet measured after all? And I can honestly say that I think wearing my CEP compression socks after Comrades and for the 22hrs of flying to get back home after was one reason my legs recovered so quickly after that 87km of tarmac pounding.

So yep, I am delighted to now be on board with CEP and why not check out their site . As well as making compression socks and sleeves, I am excited to soon try out their compression shorts and the very latest product in their line - Clone - a pair of tights designed for recovery that are pesonally tailored for each individual after being measured in something like 41 points on each leg!

And it's always nice to spread a little love, so if you would like the chance to win a pair of totally free CEP compression socks or sleeves please simply post 'compress those calves!' as a comment to this bost on my blog (not on my Facebook page). Entries will be drawn on Thursday 14th June at 5pm MST. Only for Canucks and Yanks, sorry to all others - I'll try have more give aways soon.

June 30, 2011

With a Little Help from some Friends. My First 100 miler Race Report

Wow. What a day!

I had trained hard but was unsure if I had trained hard enough. In knew the course, but not much - having never stepped foot on it before. I knew the competition, and wow - there was going to be some serious competition.

About 5 days prior to the race I was a bag of nerves. Last minute packing and prepping and a feeling that I really wasn't prepared in so many respects. But the day before, and even the minutes before, I was bizarely and unusually not nervous at all. I was concerned that it hadn't set in that I was about to run 100 miles. That's 160km! At Western States! That'll be the most well known 100 miler in North America! Ellie you should be terrified! Oh well, we were at Squaw, it was 5am and we were soon scampering up the snow covered escarpment. Too late for nerves now, we were racing!
I let a whole pack of ladies move ahead. I'm slow on hills at the best of times and decided that at mile 1 with 99 left to go was not a time to try to learn to run hills. But my power hike is decent so I kept in the mix as we crested the top of the escarpment and the sun rose over the snow. We hit the first descent and I shouted out 'it's a beautiful day!' Yep, I really did, and I think fellow runners agreed, though were possibly a little less vocal in their sentiments.

The snow was fun, my focus so absorbed in my footing that I could relax and not think about anything else, especially as Meghan was kind enough to yell out when I took a step or two off the yellow flagged route a few times. Thanks Meghan! There was no trail, it was just follow the flags and try to stay (mostly) upright.

Once we left the snow it was good to hit the trail though and gain a little speed and rythym. The field soon spread out and I would catch a glimpse of a runner here or there but I was mostly on my own. My aim was to get to 55miles/ 90km to my crew at Michigan Bluff in a state they would be proud of. It neatly split the race into a first longer half where I would be solo and a 2nd shorter half (45miles/ 60km) where I looked forward to seeing my 2 sets of crew regularly and having my pacer with me. 2 mini races seemed mentally much easier than one massive 100 miler!

Early on once we cleared the snow I just couldn't get my groove. My legs were just heavy and I didn't seem to have much energy. Nothing was exceptionally wrong, it just seemed harder than it should at this early stage. And soon nagging pains appeared. The usual suspects of tight hamstrings and tight glutes. i think I even promised myself to go to the physio when I got home at this stage :) I tried to remain calm but I wasn't one quarter into this race and it was hurting. I tried to ignore the fact that I had 120km (yikes!!!!) to go and already I was feeling less than ideal.

My first melt down at an aid station was on 4 of the best volunteers all day. I had learned to hand my handheld to one vollie to refill with water, my pack to another to fill with electrolyte drink and now a 3rd vollie was telling me to eat calories and not just fruit, whilst the 4th calmed me with his Dundee accent (my home town in Scotland!) Now just 5 days after the race this whole section leading up to Michigan Bluff is a jumbled mess in my memory - which is probably reflective of how I was feeling at the time. Downhills were good, uphills (even small ones) I was walking) and flats were so so. I made it from one aid station to the next, asking each one as I left where the next one was. Mentally I set tjhese as check points as well as distracting my grumpy brain wioth some math - calculating percentages done of the whole race, or the portion to Michigan Bluff, and taking it 10km at the time.

The canyons were fine and suprisingly cruisey and uneventful miles. The whole day I was amazed who hot it wasn't! The canyons were in fact a mental boost - I enjoyed the downs and hiked out of them, deducing that even if I was feeling stronger I probably wouldn't have been running much of them anyway. I was 4th female, and had heard progressively less encouraging times of how far back of the lead the further I moved on. Not really what I wanted but I just needed to try maintain my position. Then the worst came - whooooosh! - Kami ran past like she was on a 10km training run. Breezy, light, strong. I had my cap in the creek at a time. I looked a mess. She offered if I needed anything but I just whimpered that I was ok. I wasn't. I was beat, mentally as much as physically.

Move. Just move. One foot in front of the other. Keep on moving. The hamstrings were better (Tylenol from the aid stations, thanks Sean!) but I still lacked energy and as my stomach began to bloat I realised I had to stop drinking and eating for a bit but this was hardly going to help the energy levels. I had no choice. After maintaining my (rather hefty my female standards) 127lbs at the first few weigh ins, I now felt I wasn't digesting anything in my stomach. Some relief came on the climb out of the canyon below Michigan Bluff where finally I hiked with a guy for a while. I had spent hours running alone, so even a short conversation and the noise of someone elses footsteps nearby was so welcome. I pulled ahead but not fast enough, as I was hiking a section I really knew I should be running I saw Nikki behind me. I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked and then Nikki caught me. I'd never met Nikki before but now we were powerhiking and chatting (well Nikki was chatting and I was feeling nauseous) and again, the company was great event though she pulled ahead of me and left me in 6th as I bowled into the mayhem of Michigan Bluff in 6th.

Michigan Bluff - first crew and supporter accessible point in this snow year. 90km done! Jackie pulled me into the shade, I downed some coke, my weigh-in confirmed I was 2.5lbs up. I was a snivelling mess (they had heard through the grapevine already that I was not doing good). Jackie was just getting me fixed up when Ana had to suddenly jump back - ah well, least with some serious vomiting I was probably back to normal weight and sporting a new stomach :) Jackie told me to back off on the salt, she gave me a new pack, told me to drink water and one gel before I got the Forest Hill and Ryne at 62m/ 99km. She kicked me back out onto the trail. It's the best thing she could have done.

When seeing Jackie and Ana I urgently told them to get a message to Ryne not to push me. I knew Ryne would be eager to pace me and keep me going to do well. I wanted him to know that a wreck was arriving and he needed to go easy. Some where between Michigan Bluff and Forest Hill I began to feel better. The stomach subsided, I trundled along steadily and took a gel, and knew that within an hour I'd have Ryne pacing me and I'd 'only' have 60km to go.

Forest Hill was busy, Ken put ice on my back (bliss!!!), I drank a refreshing coconut water, changed my shirt, shoes and socks and told Ryne, 'Ok, I'm in 6th. I want to try maintain this, and if not then try for top 10. I might want to come back next year'. It might have seemed ambitious but this was basically me telling Ryne, 'I ain't going to win this thing', something I had certainly thought about and discussed with Ryne pre-race. Sean who had seen me at my worst, had to laugh - was this the same person who had looked like she was ready to drop a few hours before, now saying she at least wanted to be top 10. Yep, I was feeling better and getting back fighting!

Ryne and I rolled out of Forest Hill and within less than 3 mins I overtook both Nikki and Anita. Yay - back in 4th! And now it was time to just click the miles away, still 60km to go so no need to go crazy, just chat away the miles with Ryne. I think he got a dose of verbal diarhea from me for the first hour or two - it was so awesome to be with a buddy finally and not running solo :)

Ryne would tell me about the terrain coming up and I'd run ahead dictating the pace. I was running some easy hills or taking only the briefest of walk breaks, it finally felt like I was making in roads on the miles ahead and on my speed. I was concerned not to get caught by women but Ryne also was repprting back my pace and was confident that I must be gaining on at least some of the 3 women ahead.

I'd had some blisters all day but nothing serious, they were there but runnable. It was only coming down the descent to Rucky Chucky river crossing that I hit a rock with my little toe - yowza!!!!! This prompted me to take off my shoe and sock, Topher came along and in a slightly more subtle way told me that I just needed to run on it and it would be fine. At this point I had not much choice anyway, so back on went the sock and shoe and I jumped into the raft for the short river crossing with only the smallest of delays as a got some more fuel on board.

On the otherside of Rucky Chucky we hiked the 3km or so upto Green Gate. My powerhike was still good and although it was cooling a little I tried to keep to the shaded side of the trail whenever I could. I can't recall if I was in 3rd or 4th at this point but Kristin and ken told me that I was looking much stronger than that ladies ahead. yeah. well they would say that I thought!! However, I did have to concede that I was feeling ok. My stomach was still sensitive but I was obviously managng to get enough calories on in one form or another and knew when to back off and let it settle for a bit. But the energy was coming in ebbs and flows and as we began to approach Auburn lakes I'd more than once said to Ryne that it could still end up being a death march to the end. With 40km to go the kms seemed to become longer and I tried to knock the thoughts out of my head that I still had almost a marathon to go.

As I came into an aid station I mentioned that my stomach was really not great and a vollie immediately directed me to the ginger ale. 2 cups of that, a salted potato and off we went. I'm, then not entirely sure what happened but suddenly I was out of a slump and again back rolling along the trail. I think Ryne wondered what was going on too, I think he was concerned that maybe I was pushing too soon, but I knew I had to make the most of feeling good and I was powering along.

Coming into Browns Bar with just 17kms to go Ryne and I got out our headlamps and agreed to part ways. I was certainly not running even splits in the this race and there was no way Ryne could have predicted that I was going to surge this this.

So off, I went, bowling down the trail, flashlight in hand to aid my vision on new terrain and solo in the dark. I was loving it. I was feeling strong, I was running awesome new trails, and I was going to make it to the Western States finish line (something that earlier in my race had seemed unfathomable)! Next up, I saw HWY 49 aid station - I nice descent to pick up some pace, I yelled at Kristin and Ken that I didn't need anything and they yelled back that I was 3 and 9mins back of 2nd and 1st. OK - let's get moving! Very soon I passed Tracy and her pacer, I didn't think she would follow me but I still pushed hard ahead. I saw another guy periodically ahead and then passed him but felt safe on the dark trail knowing that other runners were still around. As I moved along the trail in a steady rhythm I saw another runner ahead, I gained on them and their pacer, and I passed....Kami! Oh my gosh, I had about 4 miles to go and I was leading Western States and I was running scared. Kami had looked like she was still moving so I knew she might follow and now literally every step would count.

Down to the lights and noise of No Hands bridge and I raced through. Jackie ran after me - 'you need anything?'. 'No!' and I I was gone, I knew I couldn't let up at all if I wanted this win. It was then along the trail by the side of the river I saw two little eyes reflecting in my torchlight, I swung my torch up and saw the blig dark hulk of a bear mid trail. What!!!! You have got to be joking me! I turned to look back and saw a headlamp coming, I just prayed it was a guy and not Kami, thankfully it was. My shouting alone had not budged the bear but with the two of us yelling it climbed a tree and looked down on us as we scurried by. I flashed my torch back to check that it was not following and noted the distance on my garmin to report it's location to the vollies at Robbie Point up ahead. Now I began to climb up to Auburn, hooting and hollering up the trail until I popped out onto the tarmac at Robbie Point. Still I was pushing as hard as I could. Had Kami followed me? Was she gaining on me? Run, run, run!

Then all of a sudden Jackie was running alongside me and soon Ryne, Kristin, Ken (, Ana, Topher and Geoff. They were so excited for me as I approached the track at Placer High. All I could say was 'I'm not there yet!' But soon I was, and all I can say was that run around the track in Auburn was pretty sweet :) It was a rough road to get there but worth every second, and I certainly couldn't have done it without a little help from my friends xx

Photos: Faccino Photos & Bob McGillvray @ Drymax Socks

June 11, 2011

Out There! Calgary, this Tuesday!

Click on image to enlarge for more details. See you there!

June 4, 2011

The Spirit of Comrades (87km, South Africa)

5.20am in the dark and humid streets of Durban. A mass of huddled 16, 000 bodies of nervous anticipation. 4th row back, side by side with Kami and Lizzy. A myriad of languages around. The South African national anthem sung. Chariots of Fire blaring over the speakers. Boom - the pistol is shot and we are off! A sprint start, picking up the feet to avoid falling in the crush of racers pouring forward, eager to make their way along the 87km of tarmac inland (and uphill) to Pietermaritzburg as fast as they can. I let runners pours by me, I keep an eye on Kami, hoping our starting pace might be the same, and I'm grateful it is.

I love the darkness, it hides the four lane highway of the opening kms, it brings a calm and a collness, it sets a muted tone which helps me to not go out too fast. I had agreed with Norman (Wilson of UK Ultra) to shoot for a 6h30m finishing pace, but to be prepared to reassess in the first 10km if it feels too fast. It will put me at two back to pack marathons at aroung 3h07 pace, plus a bonus 2.6km, oh and about 2000m of ascent and 1400m of descent thrown in.

I'm excited to be part of the Nedbank team, one of the main sponsors. I'm sporting their kit and in less than an hour it is light and my sunglasses are down and Kami and I are getting cheers for beong towards the front of the women's frield and for sporting our green Nedbank kit. For the first 20km I double fist packs of Clif shot bloks, take water from the aid stations and pop salt tabs early (no repear of AR50 here!). The water stations are busy so it's a juggle to try run the inside bends (the shorter route) and grab water too. I soon learn that if you pass the water station you grab at least 2 baggies, one for yourself and one to pass to another runner. It's just one early sign of the Spirit of Comrades.

kami and I exchange short conversations, the pace feels good and we hit the first nedbank station at 66km to go (Comrades km markers count down to the finish). i grab my first bottle of Clif dribk and a Clif gel. We are already climbing the first of the 'Big Five' hills - Fields. Many people come to South Africa to see the Big Five (lion, elephants etc). Comraders come to run the Big Five. I repeat their names in my head like a mantra, 'Cowies, Fields, Botha, Inchanga'. I don't bother with the final one (Poly Shortts); I know that once I hit that I will be in survival mode.

So far the hills are fine, typically a couple of hundred metres of elevation gain over 2 to 3km. They remind me of my training on Mount Norquay Road in Banff. Steady, runnable, and dare I say it - enjoyable.

I have my handwritten wrist band so I remember where the Nedbank support crew will be. This breaks the race down and the first time I spot Norman it is thumbs up, I feel good and I know I am around 6h30m pace (I have a few course graded splits noted too thanks to Norrie Williamson). The crowds are amazing; hooting and hollering, cheering and cooking up a storm on their braais. There are quieter sections to enjoy but we are passing through lots of villages and small towns and as we are now on narrower roads the supporters are close and the atmosphere is electric. The Spirit of Comrades.

With still more than half way to go my hamstrings, glutes and hips are beginning to hurt. It's nothing new and I know that although unpleasant, I can run through it. I am a step or two ahead of Kami for a section but from the cheers from the sides I know she is not far back. We are in 5th and 6th. I know the 'Russian twins' (Elena and Olesya Nurgelieva) and Lizzy are ahead for sure, and learn that so is Farwa Mentoor, lead South African female.

I have now fallen in with a male runner. Eloi is talking with the crowds and thanking them for telling him that he is 5th female. he is a joker and helps me to soak up the fun. As Kami passes me, Eloi jibes me not to let her go, but for now I have to. the legs are beginning to hurt and I can only hope that I might catch her later, but I am a little disappointed to have slipped into 6th.

We hit Inchanga, Eloi chatters endlessly and all I can do is make short replies and thank him for hauling me up the 3rd hill to Drummond. Half the kms done; now onto the 2nd, flatter half. Eloi is a like a pacer offering me advice. I tell him I am cramping, 'Ok just relax whatever is cramping'. I tell him that my hamstrings are hurting, 'We are all hurting, we just need to keep running'. I start to walk on a small hill, 'No, not yet!' I don't dare disobey, I run the hill and soon crest the top. Eloi is the epitome of the Spirit of Comrades.

Up ahead I see Lizzy, I soon gain on her and in the hubbub of a water station pass her without being able to exchange words. I am happy to be back in 5th and Nedbank crew advise me that I am 2mins back on 4th. We pass through the Green Mile (cheering section) with 25km to go. I am still working but I am beginning to get a second wind. I spot my parents with their Scottish and Canadian flags. I am waving at the crowds and just soaking up the noise and the energy.

We are now on rolling country roads. It's now just about clicking off the kms. Run steady. Fuel. Relax. Keep up the pace. Out of the blue I let out a yelp of pain. Blister! I'm annoyed, I'm not going to let something as silly as wearing socks too thick for my shoes and the heat ruin this race. I recall Gary Robbins writing about how blisters only really hurt when you start running on them and after a minute or two the psin fades away. Ok then, one more reason not to be tempted to walk. Thanks a lot GR!

We pass through the 22km to go mark and Eloi mentions, 'don't worry, everyone finds the last 2okm tough'. All I can think is that it is tough already and we still have 2km to go to get to the 20km mark! Keep on moving. Keep on moving. Keep on moving. For now I have gone off gels and bloks so my strategy becomes to grab two baggies at each water station, one of energy drink to take salt tabs with and one of water to pour over myself to keep cool. The temperature is starting to climb. By the time I get to 20km to go, 19km to go, 18km to go I am feeling stronger and stronger. The finish is now in my minds eye and I know I'll make it. At around 17km to go I slip ahead of Eloi, the field is now spread out so I am running solo but passing men reasonably frequently as there are always a few runners in view ahead. And in Comrades it's never realy possible to run solo, kids want to high five you, ladies call out 'go sista!' and other words of encouragement. I'm flying high on the Spirit of Comrades even if I am pushing hard.

At about 9km to go I hit the final hill, Poly Shortts. It is gradual but seems tough so I switch to run, powerhike, run, powerhike and keep up with the runners around me. But when I spot Farwa ahead of me I know the walking has to end. That's 4th place Ellie, just run! So I run. It's slow. It's not pretty. But I ease my way past Farwa and into 4th. Wow - Ellie gaining a position on a uphill, that's unheard of! Now I definitely can't walk! 7kms to go and I'm watching for every km marker. It's count down time. The road continues to roll but I continue to run and soon I feel that I am on the flats and descent into Pietermaritzburg. It's tough but it's awesome. Many people had warned me in the days preceding the race that Comrades is tough for newbies. Elena and Olesya (who one again claim top two spots) have raced Comrades nine time and have 2h26m marathon PBs. How do you go against that? I am (barely) a 2h49m marathoner and a Comrades newbie. But I've run a smart race, I've soaked up the Spirit of Comrades and I'm stoked to be powering into 4th place. For the final 1.5km or so I've got a motorbike literally 2ms in front of me and a TV camera in my face. Ok, time to enjoy - I might never experience this again! On entering the stadium I am handing a rose and hold it high as I enjoy the crowds, but I am also wondering how many corners there are before I hit the finishing straight. I chuckle to myself, the stadium is turfed - aaaaah, bliss - finally I am back on my natural running surface :)

What can I say? 6:32:46/ 4th place and 6mins back of Kami and 8mins back of the twins. I am delighted and now have the answer to my question, 'Why have so many people run this race 10+ times?' It's the Spirit of Comrades.

Big thankyous to:

- All of the Nedbank crew
- Norman and Anne Wilson
- Ma & Pa Greenwood
- Montrail/ MHW, Drymax socks, Clif, Sundog Eyewear.
- Eloi of Boxers Running Club.

May 16, 2011

Marathon Talk Interview!

With a bit of shameless self promotion as well as a shout out to an awesome podcast - check out Marathon Talk at Lots of awesome interviews with all sorts of distance runners from all over the world, an amazing source of information and inspiration. Oh, and my interview is on episode 71 :)

The count down is on...

13 days until Comrades 89km in South Africa...

Point to point, uphill from Durban to Pietermaritzberg...

Taken place since since 1921...

16, 000 competitors...

It's going to be a blast!

I can't wait :)

May 7, 2011

June 14th - Talk at 'Out There' in Calgary

Date for your diary if you are in the Calgary area on Tuesday June 14th when Out There' outdoor store will be holding a special Montrail evening. Come along to 151 - 8th Avenue SW just after 6pm where I will be talking about stepping up from 50km to 'real' ultra distances, like I did last year when racing my longest race to date - the 125km Canadian Death Race in Grand Cache, Alberta. I'll try to share some insights on how I changed my training, learnt to run longer in both time and distance, as well as what you need to think about when setting goals to run 100km plus. Brief outline of the evening:

6.15pm - My talk with short Q&A session after

6.45pm - Short run (so wear your running gear!) - pace will be easy (promise!)

7.30pm - an hour of shopping with special sales, and some food & drink!

Look forward to seeing lots of you there :)

May 5, 2011

Creaking Along

I am a bike commuter. Since moving to Banff from Vancouver I bike a lot less (well it's a smaller town!) but I still have my well-worn, well loved second-hand Vancouver commuter bike that I use most days when weather allows. It's well used and well abused. Generally in Vancouver I would get it serviced once a year or so, whilst riding it daily, year long in steady Vancouver rain and on the dirty city streets. Once in a while I would put a little oil on the chain and pump up the tyres, but other than that I would expect it to be a reliable mode of transport for lots of miles on very little TLC. I've lived in Banff for 18 months; it's not been serviced since the move. However every time I get it serviced I hop on and feel like I've got a new set of wheels, smooth and strong, and I wonder why I didn't get it serviced months earlier.

You could say that my maintenance of myself in many ways is similar to that of my bike. I work hard and run hard, try to get enough sleep (but often want more), eat a balanced vegetarian diet but go little more complex than that. I'll go for a massage or physio when I need to and if I get into a routine, but often months can go between appointments. My typical answer when someone asks if I take supplements is, 'No, I eat food'! And generally I like that principal; I feel that despite running a decent amount and training decently hard that it is still possible to get what I need from real food rather than mixing supplements and popping pills.

But there is always room for improvement and I had been hearing great things about Udo's Oil, a blend of oils perfectly balanced to ensure the correct ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. More and more ultra runners have been finding benefits from Udo's, primarily in aiding recovery (and thus allowing higher mileage or more harder/ intense runs) as well as helping lean up. So when I was approached by Udo's I was really keen to try their product out with no-commitment - I could just see how I liked it. They said that about 85% of athletes felt a difference once they began taking it, and whilst it is hard to prove I certainly feel that I am recovering better whilst maintaining high mileage (with Comrades and Western both coming up soon!) I won't go into the scientifics (I work in tourism, not in the nutrition industry) but check out more about Udo's Oil at

I'm delighted to now be part of Team Oil The Machine (along with a long and illustrious line up of names such as Scott Jurek, Krissy Moehl, Anton Krupicka, Yassine Diboun, Jen Segger, Joe Grant, Adam and Lauren Campbell...need I go on...).

Needless to say, this machine is going to stay well-oiled, and maybe I should apply the same principals to my much loved bike too :)

April 22, 2011

New Banff Run Club

Well I think even here in Banff we can finally say that spring is in it's way! It has been a long winter this year (it was snowing on my cycle into work yesterday, and although this morning the snow had stopped it was still a chilly minus 9) but slowly the snow is melting off the trails and the roads are looking pretty bare.

So, if you had hung up your running shoes over the winter or were hibernating at the Sally Borden gym then now is the time to get OUTSIDE and RUN! A great way to keep you motivated is to join the new Lululemon Run Club. There will be an in-store info session at Lululemon (121 Banff Ave) on Wednesday 27th at 8pm, and then the first weekly run starts the following Wednesday (May 4th) at 6pm.

So dust off your running shoes and come and join. All abilities (from total beginner) welcome, and best of all - it's FREE!

For more info check out

April 15, 2011

And the Winner is.......

EUGENIA! Eugenia, you have just won yourself a pair of Montrail trail shoes - yay! You were selected by a very official process of me texting a friend for a number between one and sixty-seven, and just in case I thought Jason might cheat and select his own number I then counted up from the bottom of the list rather than from the top - tee hee. For proof of this voting process - please see the picture below :)Eugenia - please email me your mailing address on and I will get the voucher out to you (which you then mail into Montrail for them to mail the shoes to you).

For anyone wanting to check out the latest line up Montrail shoes at

April 11, 2011

Awesome River 50 miler

View from my desk in Banff, April 7th - day I left for American River

Ok, the race is actually called American River 50 miler but I had such a delightful 3 night stay in Sacramento for this fab race that it really needs to be renamed 'Awesome River'. My blog posts have been pretty infrequent recently as I've been laothed to post moaning-mini reports about trying to struggle through slushy yet deep snow, failing to find snow-free trails, and MORE fresh snow ... in April. So it was delight that I left Banff in the midst of a snowstorm on Thursday afternoon and about 7hrs (and a few airport sprints in my Montrail Rogue Racers) later I arrived in warm, palm-tree-blessed, sunny Sacramento. To make the journey even better by checked luggage arrived too (in Seattle, that had been in seriously in question).

Day prior to the race I transit-ed it out from my hostel in Sacramento (19th century manor in downtown, a 10-bed room to myself, could this get better?) to Fair Oks for package pick up. I chatted with a few runners, met the Montrail rep Justin and picked up some hot-pink compression socks for my plane ride home. I then headed back into the city and soaked up some sun whilst exploring the historic area as well at Capitol Park. All in all, it was a great day and I was back in the hostel cooking up some pasta by 6pm, and in bed by 9pm

California oranges - now you don't get those in Banff National Park!

Sacramento State Capital and PALM trees!!!

My alarm went off at 4.10am after a night of tossing and turning. I hadn't slept well but felt rested and was relieved when the taxi I had booked actually showed up to take me to the race start. I was there pretty early but always like to have spare time for last minute prep and used the time to pick up some tips from volunteers who knew the course. I had checked out the desciption and the profile but it is always nice to get some specific tips, and I was glad to hear that the climb on the final 3 miles or so was really not as bad as it looked.

At 6am we were off, it was barely getting light so in was beautiful to run as the sun came up over a misty and cool morning. Kami Semik and I introduced ourselves to each other at the start, we had never raced before but of course knew that we were each others competition, I checked around as I'd expected to see Tracy Garneau but noted that she wasn't there. The first 27 miles of the course are pretty much straight, flat paved bike path. Kami and I ran side by side for the first section just chatting along. I noted that we were hitting averages of about 4:15/ km which was a little faster than I had planned but it felt ok and although I had been warned that it was easy to go out too fast on this course I decided to roll with it. It was great to chat to Kami but I am not always very talkative when racing and didn't want us to push too hard to soon, so I dropped back and tailed her a little, hoping I wasn't being annoying by hanging on her heels, but really not wanting to stay side by side. The weather was perfect at this point, cool and crisp yet sunny and we knew it would heat up. I was relishing running in just shorts and a t-shirt, having been able to leave the bulky layers back in Banff. A couple of times the path rolled a little or we dipped into the trail a little but Kami and I were still together. At the marathon mark (we think it was a little short) we rolled by at 3h05 which I was happy with. Shortly thereafter we came to a major aid station at the end of the paved path at Beals Point. I grabbed my drop bag, took some extra shot blocks for my pack and carried on through. I was trying to drink from the stations by stopping briefly so I had my 2l pack with Clif drink for in between - yet hoping I could avoid having to waste time filling that. I was mostly eating shot bloks and realised why I routinely stick to the these, as I tried a gel I got about 1/4 of the contents in my mouth and spent the next mile trying to get the rest off my hands, gloves and everywhere - nice!

Heading out of Beals Point I was glad to be done the tarmac, although it had been traffic free and scenic as it rolled right by the edge of the American River running on tarmac seems to pass so much more slowly. Although I had a relaxed and got into my run I was not feeling lost in my run and was concerned that I had maybe gone out too fast in trying to stay with Kami. As I looked ahead Kami seemed so much more relaxed than I felt. But now I could relax and enjoy it a bit, we had about 50km/ 30 miles in the bank and were hitting the trails where miles always pass so much faster and are more fun!

When I say Kami and I ran side by side, this is what I mean...Photo: Jesse @ Montrail

The trails were awesome! They rolled up and down but no incline was so steep it couldn't be run. If I powerhiked it was a for a very short stretch before I either got back some energy or peaked at the top of the hill to run down. As I bowled along I suddenly felt like I was easing ahead of Kami. Before I had been ahead of her or she ahead of me but we were always at the same pace. Now I could feel that without intentionally meaning to I was pulling a little ahead. I decided to use this and make a break. We had 30km to go, she may well still catch me but if I could get a lead now and maintain it, it could help if I tired later on.

The aid stations were excellent. By now, although I was energized, I was tired and so having aid stations every 5 miles or so I simply ran from one to the next. I would pause, get on board some coke and chips and energy drink, and carry on. If I ever I was tempted to stay long or hike a hill, I didn't dare - I had no clue how close, or far behind, Kami was. As I got into the last 20km and then 10km, I was working hard. My legs felt like they were seizing but I just kept pushing knowing that every step I took and the faster I took it, the closer I was getting to the finish line at Auburn. I'd been keeping an eye on my Garmin for pace and knew I was doing ok but I was also aware that I was bound to slow on the steep hill in the final 2 to 3 miles. At this point, the views were fantastic, I was passing a few men, and people were encouraging me at the aid stations but I really took little of this in. It was head down and push forward. I had to laugh as I had seen photos of this section of the course from when my friends Leslie and Keith had run it a few weeks prior, and although I was enjoying myself I could only think how much more they must have enjoyed it as a leisurely training run and having the opportunity to soak up the surroundings.

The final hill came, and not a moment too soon. I had been told that about 1/4mile was a hike and the rest was runnable, which was great info to have and pretty spot on, I even thought that the 1/4 mile was short! In the runnable section (now I'd hit tarmac again) I would walk a few steps only to force myself to run - get this done, and don't let Kami catch you! Scott Jaime was just in eyesight in his Pearl Izumi t-shirt ahead, I looked up and just focused on not losing ground on him. For the final 2 miles there were mile markers which seemed 2 miles part, but as I hit the final 1/2 mile I knew I was near the finish as I could hear the hubbub of the finish line. By now it was flat, so it was push to the line and - wow! 6:25:42. I was done. Kami came in 9 minutes later looking much more calm and collected. I soon realised why the last section had been so tough, being unused to heat I had not taken on enough salts and was seizing seriously. Without wanting to seem too much like a prima-dona I was escorted to the massage table by 3 men helping me with my gear etc. I knew I had to get electroltyes back on so before I got on the table I downed some coconut water. Felling a little better I now tried to get off my shoes and that was when all agony broke lose in my right calf - aaaaaaargh! Well, if I was going to cramp big time, having someone to hold me up and a massage therapist to work my calf was a good time to do it. Needless to say the massage wasn't pleasant but was definitely just what I needed (along with lots of salts and liquids).

RD Julie ensuring there were no collapsed runners at the finish line! Photo: Bob@ Drymax

I am really happy with my time. It is good marker to see where I am at and I have never run a 50-miler this early in the year. It's great as a marker for Comrades and Western coming up, and a big lesson in running in warmer temperatures (because I am fully aware that it wasn't actually anything like hot!). It was also great experience to run side by side with a competitor for so many miles, great mental training and experience, as well as an absolute pleasure to share the experience with Kami.

So as I reward if you have read this far - for winning AR50 I received one awesome pair of Montrail trail shoes!! Fair to say I already have a few pairs so if anyone would like them just post a comment 'shoes please!'. If you make a comment without that, I'll assume you don't want them :) 'Shoes please!' comments must be posted by 6pm MT Friday 15th, and I'll then post who won them. They can be any current model, mens or ladies and any size - your pick! Pics will be added to this post shortly - but for now, I gotta go run (literally!)
With fellow Brit/ N. American Ian Sharman (4th male). You can tell that Bob @ Drymax socks took this photo - our feet are in it perfectly, yet Ian has lost the tops of his head ;)