Category Archives: Training

Club Fat Ass North Shore Enduro Trail Run

Hello!

My running mojo’s been gone for months now. But I’m hoping with the nearly-here summer I’ll get that mojo back. The summer … and joining in with some running groups.

And so, with a can-do attitude, I went along to the Club Fat Ass North Shore Enduro event this morning in North Vancouver, BC. The Club Fat Ass people are a fun, relaxed group to run with and they put on a lot of cool events.

And look, here they are this morning at the gazebo at the Lower Seymour Conservation Area in North Vancouver. I’m the little head right at the back. We’re about to start.

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Their North Shore Enduro is a six hour event with numerous course options. And there’s absolutely no need to run for the whole six hours!! I did one of the ‘Lynn Peak Loop’ loops. This gave me 13.7km and 897m of elevation gain. Yeah! A good solid workout.

But more than the workout  I loved being back running the Lynn Valley trails – my favourite trails in North Vancouver. I’d been away too long. The majestic trees in Lynn Valley always give out some kind of spiritual energy. And I soaked all up. All that lovely woodland chi.

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Here’s me at the top of Lynn Peak.

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And there was still snow up there.

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For a new season’s running, I got some new shoes: Brooks Cascadia. I last ran in Cascadias two or three years ago and today reminded me of how much I used to love them. They went on my feet fresh out the box this morning. And they were great! They were comfy and grippy and responsive. They did the job just nicely on the rooty, rocky, wet, snowy, steep North Shore trails.

So, after finding contentment in the woods today I can’t wait for my next trail run 🙂

Here’s a link to my strava if you’re interested in the route.

Have a great Sunday you guys! Enjoy every moment.

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Trail running, encounters of a fun kind, and my next race – Glencoe Skyline…

Good afternoon!!

I’m back in Scotland 😀 … visiting my brother and sister … but also, my next exciting race is on the horizon. It’s this weekend! More later…(it’s in the mountains 😀)

But first, a wee training story.

A couple of days ago I went on my first run since getting here. I parked at Lomond Shores on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The start of my route was up a steep rickety country road. I was heading for the hills 😀.

As I was puffing up the tree-lined road feeling hot and sweaty – it was a muggy afternoon – I saw ahead of me a funny sight. An elderly man with a very large blue suitcase on wheels was perched at the top of the road looking down at me.

“Do you think I’m lost?” he shouted to me.

I laughed to myself. Have you seen the movie “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared”? I’d seen it recently and also read the book of the same name. That story came to mind when I saw the gent and his very big suitcase ahead of me.

“I think you are” I shouted up.

I ran up to him smiling. He said he had just got off the bus from Skye. Now, the bus stop was on the main trunk road and, as he had discovered, it was a bit of a hike from the bus stop into Balloch, to where he said he was headed. As he was speaking I couldn’t help but notice a badge on his jacket. It had the words Yukon Legion printed under the Canadian maple leaf. I asked him if he was from Canada and he was. He’d lived in Ontario for more than 60 years (in Wayne Gretzky’s home town he proudly told me)

But here’s the thing, 84 years ago he was born in Alexandria, a mile or two from where we were now standing. Well!! That was that! My mum was born in Alexandria too. So, this man and I were both Scottish and Canadian and we both had roots in the same Scottish town a stones throw away. How amazing!!

His name was James “Jimmy” Taylor and he was on a trip in his birth country, travelling by bus, finding hotels or B&Bs on spec. He had gone to Skye to buy some Harris tweed and had been astonished at the cost of his hotel in Portree (£125). (I guess it’s more expensive if you arrive on spec instead of using hotels.com!) He told me he had a brother in Balloch, close to where we were standing. I asked him if I could phone his brother so that he could come and pick him up. “Oh no I can’t do that” he said. Love it! That reply is so Scottish, we don’t like to bother others even kinsfolk.

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James Taylor. Nice to meet you!

We chatted about shared things Scottish and Canadian. I’ve mentioned in other posts how I often meet runners with Scottish connections while doing races on Canadian trails. This leads to long conversations about Scotland and Canada and their connections. Today was no different!

Anyway, I wheeled his heavy suitcase down the steep country road retracing my steps (he said it was too steep for him to take the suitcase himself) and pointed him in the direction of the nearest hotel.

I waved bye and headed back up the road to the hills.

I ran up onto Stoneymollan Muir on the John Muir Way and Three Lochs Way. Loch Lomond and its surrounding mountains were partly hidden by clouds but still, it was so beautiful to be out there breathing the pristine air. My high point was Ben Bowie and from there I headed back to the car and thought about Jimmy hoping he had found a room for the night.

Here’s some pictures of my run!

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Follow the waymarks!

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John Muir Way signposts

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View to Loch Lomond

The race I’m down to do this weekend is The Glencoe Skyline. Woo hoo, a real mountain race. It’s 55 km and 4700 m of elevation gain and it’s the final race of the Skyrunning extreme series.

Here’s a description of the race taken from the website …

The third and final 2016 Skyrunner® World Series EXTREME race, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™, will be held in Scotland on Sunday 18th September. The course is widely regarded as the most challenging mountain running race in the world, which features long sections of exposed scrambling including the famous Aonach Eagach and Curved Ridge.

Yikes!! What am I doing!!  Can’t wait!!!

The Hamster Endurance Run 24 hour. Race review

It was 3 am on a hot, humid night and I was at a picnic shelter at Lake Padden in Bellingham, WA. The day had been cooking hot.  I was wiped out and barely able to walk having been on the go for 19 hours, running the 24 hour race at the Hamster Endurance Run. I was running as many 2.6 mile loops of the lake as I could in 24 hours and didn’t think I could do any more. I wondered how many laps I’d done. My fried brain couldn’t work it out but I knew somebody had told me a couple of laps back that I’d reached 100 km. My feet were killing me. I  was very, very tired and hot and just wanted to stop and rest. So I did.

I lay down on my back on the parched grass. I was half in, half out a sleeping bag lying next to Peter who was snuggled up sleeping, resting, having crewed all day for me.I  tried to sleep but couldn’t so I looked up at the stars. The sky was so lovely and clear. My eyes searched between the stars for the meteor showers that I’d been told would very likely be visible that night. The stars twinkled and jumped. Lying there stargazing my body slowly relaxed. I gazed. I thought. I relaxed a bit more. I thought a bit more: about my mum and dad, also my brother Callum. Surely they must be up there in the black, twinkly infinity with all the other souls who have gone before us.

I lay there for half an hour. I didn’t see any meteor showers but the stars and the thoughts of my family moved me to get up.

And then, I could walk! I walked. It felt easy. Yeah!

I set off again into the night round and round Lake Padden with a few other runners and some bunny rabbits for company.

I managed a few more laps running into the dawn and another hot day. At 6.30 am I stopped. Once more I was spent. I’d done 31 laps and thought my race was complete. But, you never know what’s round the corner! Half an hour later, after a nice rest, the sight of  2 fast guys (Neil and Scott) fighting out their final laps spurred me on to do another lap. I don’t know how I managed but I ran that final lap. I didn’t shuffle or walk-I ran! So, I finished my first ever 24 hour event. My total was 83 miles-32 laps. I was first female! I was 2nd overall! A huge surprise.

The Hamster Endurance Run was another wonderful ultra-running experience with new-found friends and tremendous volunteers. The organisation was 10 out of 10. I entered this race after my DNF at my first 100 miler in July. My goal for it was not to give up, to keep going through the night when things got tough, to practice for another 100 mile attempt sometime. I am so happy I succeeded and more. Thanks again to Peter. He was there with me crewing again, maintaining his vigil through the night. A star!

Some photos from the event 🙂

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The female 24 hour podium

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The female 12 hour podium

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The male 12 hour podium

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The aid station/lap counters

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Nap and lap!

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Kelly the RD cooking dinner

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2 runners resting!

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A summer day at the Lake

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I saw this trail 32 times

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Near the beginning. I’m on the left.

 

Four and a bit weeks till my 100 miles! Yikes!

I love this winter photo taken near Dumbarton, my home town. Being in the middle of a stinking hot spell here in BC, it’s really hard to imagine deepest winter right now.  As well, it’s really hard to imagine that in just over 4 weeks I’ll be putting my toe on the starting line of my 100 miles!! Wow! Scary thought!!! I signed up on 1st January, a crazy New Years thing and now it’s upon me. It is the hardest physical challenge I’ll ever have attempted. It’s scary. I have no idea if I’ll get to the finish line. I’m embracing that!

I did my LAST LONG RUN at the weekend, the Chuckanut Mountain trail marathon. That’s how close the race is.


I have been kind of following the 100 mile training schedule in Krissy Moehl’s great book “Running your first ultra”. I haven’t nearly managed to get in the total mileage that is recommended in the book. I’ve topped out at 100 Km on a couple of weeks. I keep telling myself that humans like me run 100 miles on less mileage than even I have done and I’ll be OK! Really, I’ll be OK!

Anyway, getting back to Krissy’s book. I love her words of wisdom that go along with each week’s schedule. For week 43 (which was last week for me) she writes some great advice which I wanted to share. (From page 156 of her book).

It might seem crazy having your last decent length long run this weekend, five weeks out from your 100-mile race. My plan for you is that you are rested and feeling very recovered come rest day, In your first 100, I encourage you to go in feeling rested first, strong and fit second. The trickiest part about this is that you may struggle mentally with confidence in your training. It is easy to doubt your fitness and preparedness as you get further away from your last long effort run. I have learned over the years of racing that my best performances are when I am the most rested and even feel a bit undertrained. It is my belief that one run too many (overtrained) is 100 times worse than 10 runs too few (rested).

Great advice from a legend of ultra-running. These words will be with me for the next 4 weeks. I’m working on my mental toughness seeing my physical toughness is a wee bit short!

Musings from the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon

I was in Toronto last weekend! It was marathon weekend!  Another great training day for my ultras. Bonnie’s Dream Team tell of the conditions for marathon day.

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Bonnie’s Dream Team FB post

 

People who come out as cheerers are so amazing. The push they give you is priceless. Lots of Love to you, Bonnie.

I’m amazed I got myself to the start line. The night before a race is always restless but this night-before was almost torture. My hotel room was right next to 2 rooms hosting a rowdy party. Grrrrrrr. I politely phoned reception twice and politely yelled in the corridor. The revellers eventually trouped out to take their party elsewhere. They came back at 3am. The only consolation was there were less of them at 3am than 11pm. I was so stressed by the whole thing I got no sleep. Not a wink. I told myself running sleepless would be good training for my 100 miles!

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The Start

Like Bonnie’s Dream Team said, the marathon was cold, wet and windy. The last 8k, as always, was hard! I thought I had blown my pacing and at 8k could see myself slowing and slowing then slowing some more to the end. But, at 4k to go I found myself running beside another girl and without saying anything (we were too knackered) we helped each other to pick up the pace for those last kilometers; a LONG straight section. The fine rain was pelting into us. I was cold. Every piece of me and every piece of my clothing was sodden. It felt so awesome to run with Danielle (I saw her name on her bib). We were wet marathon sisters trying to finish strongly. And we did.

Crossing the oh-so-welcome finish line Danielle and I emotionally thanked each other for the support. Then I looked around for a space blanket. I was freezing. I had been thinking about a space blanket for 4K. In fact, I thought I would ask nicely for two. Sadly there were none. Never mind. I would use my ultrarunning mental training, be mentally strong and transcend the cold. Not easy!

Onwards to the medals. Wow! The medals! All I could think of was “that’s a big medal” Truly, it was the biggest marathon medal I had ever seen. All I could think of was – this is going to ruin my “travel-light”journey. I had a plane to catch the next day!

Laden down, I hauled the medal to the bag collection area. Thankfully I had wrapped my change of clothes in plastic bags. Our bags were outside and my bag was almost as wet as me.

Where to change?! I spied 2 small white tents. One had a W on it and the other an M on it. I opened the flap on the tent with the W. Yes, it was the right place to change. I squeezed myself in among wet, shivering runners all unashamedly stripping off wet clothes and replacing them with dry stuff. This wasn’t easy in the cramped, cold, wet tent. It was fun, though. We all chattered about how hard the last part of the race was, how cold we were and how hard it was to change our socks while having to hobble on one leg; there was nowhere dry to sit. We were a tribe of warriors. Or nutters! It was so good to get these dry layers on.

I later found out that my time of 3 hours 55 mins and 6 secs counts as an age-group Boston Qualifier and a “Good for Age” qualifier for London. Woo hoo what an awesomely, brilliant day! Thank you Toronto.

 

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The Large Medal

 

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MarathonFoto pic. Heading to the finish line. Yeah!

Resource: If you’re interested in a route description for the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon here’s a link. I did a quick piece of pre-race googling and this was the first page my clicking took me to. It seemed a comprehensive route description so I didn’t look further.

5 Peaks Alice Lake enduro trail race review

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Runners chilling out at Alice Lake. Photo by Rob Schaer

“When you hit the pavement-sprint! There’s only 200 metres to the finish” These words jumped into my consciousness, coming back to me from the pre-race briefing 90 minutes earlier. I saw the pavement…  and sprinted. Not very fast! There wasn’t much left in my legs after an all out 1 hour and 25 minute effort. I was coming to the finish line of the 5 Peaks Alice Lake 13 Km trail race last Saturday-16th April.

What a great race and great course. Loved it!

The setting was the beautiful lush Alice Lake Provincial Park near Squamish, BC.

5 Peaks puts on many very popular trail races throughout Canada. Each event has two options: a sports course of 5-8Km and an enduro course of 10-15Km. As well, there’s always a kids race or two. I’ve done a few 5 Peaks races in my time and have always loved their courses. 5 Peaks have tonnes of sponsors which means lots of draw prizes and give-aways. They award medals to the first 3 in each age category too-more later!

Last Saturday at Alice Lake the events were a 13Km, an 8.5Km, a 3Km kids race and a 1Km kids race.

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My Strava map of the 13km

 

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Elevation profile

Race director, Solana said she revamped the course this year. The course was awesome with lots of “flowy runnable lush switchbacks” and lots of -my favourite- fast downhill. The technical parts of the course are single track mountain bike trails. These trails have cool features like a human sized dog-house (you run through it) and a crazy wave bridge. The last downhill of the race is on one of the “premier descents in all Squamish”. Running technical downhills is my passion and the last downhill was the best part of the route for me. Here, I was in a group with 2 other racers and we flew by many others. What a great feeling! But ouch…after that last downhill you turn right onto a 1.5km slight incline all the way to the finish. A weary plod took over!

But I did manage to pick up my knees for that last 200m of pavement.

The post-race festivities were fun with food, random prizes, games, banter, first, second and third receiving medals on the podium and age-groupers receiving medals too.

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The race bling. A cool camping mug for the post-race brew

I was rewarded with a second place finish in the age 50 to 59 age group. That meant I got to stand on the podium and receive a beautiful porcelain medal. Wow! Cool!

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Age group medal!

I’ve mentioned before that I love using shorter races (shorter than ultra distance!) as tempo training runs. So it was a good training day in my 100 mile journey. I’m still on course.

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I’m on the right

 

Cottontail 12 hour race report – running loops in Seattle

From 7am till 7pm last Saturday, Easter Saturday, I took part in the wonderful Cottontail 12 hour race at Carkeek Park in Seattle. There were 3 races – the 12 hour event, a 6 hour morning event and 6 hour afternoon event. The races are hosted by by Endless Trails, a non-profit run by Matt and Kerri. It’s a low-key, small race with a great atmosphere.

 

 

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Matt and Kerri

For the race, there is a 1.93 mile loop with 436 ft of elevation gain and a 0.54 mile loop. Basically, you run as many loops as you can – in any combination of small and large loops -in the time available. Mostly the loops consist of lovely single track – bliss! There are lots of hills and stairs and not much flat.

I noticed that another runner gave the title for this event on his Strava page “12 hours of hill repeats” which was a great description I thought!

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One of the many hills

 

As always I enjoyed meeting new runners. That is one of the things I love about running races in new places. Here’s Mary Ann who I met in the morning. She also has a blog

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Mary Ann

 

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Mary Ann’s cottontail

 

So, I started at 7am and kept going till just before 7pm when the clock stopped and time to run any more loops had run out! I ran strong and loved the event.There was an aid station stocked with lots of great food and drinks. Drop bags were kept there too. Almost every very loop I stopped and grabbed a bite to eat and a drink. I listened to the sounds of the forest and the sounds of people chatting. There were plenty of folks out and about in the lovely park enjoying the Easter weekend. The sounds of the sweet little birds chirping and cheeping kept me company for much of the day. Not so tuneful were the crows with their ear-splitting cries. They caused a hullabaloo now and again through the day. I listened to some motivating songs for a short portion but mostly I just practiced mindfulness, listening to the sounds and watching what was around me. The day flew by.

There is something neat about seeing how many loops you can do. I’d done a 6 hour event before but never a 12 hour. My only strategy was to keep going and I succeeded. I managed to run a lot of it but here’s a pic of me walking and enjoying the gorgeous views over Puget Sound.

 

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Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

 

Here’s another showing a few of the many steps on the course!

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Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

 

I thought one of my loops got missed somewhere along the way in the final results. Counting the bumps on my Strava elevation profile was confirmation. My final total was 25 big loops and 2 small loops so 49.33 miles with a whopping 11,100 feet elevation gain for my day!

Here’s a link to my Strava

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What I learned

For 100 mile training, I think there are many advantages to using a 12 hour race on a small loop to get in your mileage.

  • The psychological benefit of having an aid station every 2 miles is immense
  • You get to know the course intimately, meaning there are no surprises and you can chill out give your mind a break from wondering what is up next
  • There is less planning involved. You only need one drop bag
  • You can very quickly build up elevation gain with only a small amount of gain on each loop. I did 11,000ft. It sure didn’t feel that much

I also learned that “2 Toms Blister Shield” which I mentioned in a previous post works a treat. I had no hot spots on my feet. This was the first time I used this product and so far highly recommend it. Likewise my Altra Lone Peaks 2.5’s were awesome today.

 

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The end of the day