Tag Archives: Trail Running

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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Last Chance marathon, Bellingham, 31st Dec 2016: Race review

Hello and happy new year.  I hope your 2017 is off to a good start 🙂

So, I managed to find a race to run on the very last day of 2016. I can’t think of a better way of finishing off a year than with a race – a lovely trail marathon at that. The race was The Last Chance Marathon in Bellingham, Washinton. That’s just a hop, skip and a jump over the border to the USA from home-sweet-home in BC, Canada.

There were two events, a marathon and half-marathon. For the marathon, we ran two out-and-back sections on the interurban trail, starting at Fairhaven Park Pavilion with the turn around at Clayton Beach. You can probably guess that the half-marathon was one out-and-back section. There was an early start if you wanted it, an hour before the main start at 9 am.

It was a lovely route on undulating soft trails, under a canopy of trees and peering through the trees in some places you could see the ocean. The day was damp and chilly, and towards the end, we got to run under falling snow which didn’t come to much but, hey, it was lovely to run with the snowflakes floating down in front of you.

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Happy Runner at the Last Chance Marathon. Thanks to Takao Suzuki for photo

I really enjoyed this marathon. The last one I’d done, I started too fast and finished with a painful hobble for the never-ending second-half. This one, I paced sensibly and finished strong. Always a good feeling 🙂 I finished mid-pack which I’m always overjoyed with when doing any marathon or ultra.

This was a great event: a lovely course; great aid stations; great organisation; great post-race food (vegan option of yummy spicy soup)

I used this race as my final long training run for my next ultra. Hmm….that’s going to be the Coldwater 100 miler on 21st January. I can’t believe that I’m trying another 100, that I’m heading into that great unknown again…yikes!! As well, it’s in the desert. Hope it’s not too hot as it’s freezing here. I’m thinking about going to the sauna for heat training 🙂

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Hoping to finish strong! Takao Suzuki photo

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Everybody got a nice ‘buff’ and finisher’s medal. Billy’s showing mine off.

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!!!

Sky Pilot, solo, trip report… and… Icebug Anima3 Bugrip shoe review

 

Sky Pilot is a fantastic and deservedly popular peak located fairly close to Vancouver. Despite its proximity to such a major city, the dramatic rock walls, pocket glaciers and craggy summits give this area a remote alpine feel – Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn

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Near the summit of Sky Pilot

I signed up for the Icebug Ambassador programme at the Sinister 7 last month. The programme allowed runners to buy a pair of Anima3 BUgrips for only $79. In return we were asked to post feedback from three runs on the Icebug Canada Facebook page. I had previously used Icebug Zeals and was enthusiastic about trying another pair of Icebugs. I can tell you the Ambassador programme is turning out to be a lot of fun!

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Icebug Anima3 BUGrips

The Icebug Anima3 Bugrip is billed as a lightweight running shoe that can handle any terrain. BUGrip is the name of Icebug’s grip technology for the most slippery conditions. The sole is made of a special rubber compound and has 19 integrated steel studs. Icebug say these shoes provide the best possible traction on anything from dry asphalt to pure ice.

With their steel studs, my first impression was these shoes were most definitely meant for snow or ice. The sole looked like grippy winter tyres! But, not wanting to wait for the seasons to change I put my Anima 3 Bugrips to the test for the first time on a hot August day!

I took them on a popular BC scramble – Sky Pilot near Squamish. I knew there would be plenty of different types of terrain to try them on. What a fantastic day!

The approach to Sky Pilot is pretty easy. You hop on the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish. From the top of the gondola it’s a nice hike into an alpine bowl where you cross a non-crevassed snow field on the lower section of Stadium Glacier to reach the fun scrambles.

If you’re interested viewing the route here’s a link to my Strava of the day.

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So, how were the shoes? In summary, super comfortable and they handled all the terrain of this trip really well.

Some details…

First, the most fun part! The route I took on Sky Pilot (I think it’s the most popular route) has two crux sections of difficult exposed scrambling (one is class 4 and the other class 3). (Just so you know I’ve had plenty of experience scrambling and climbing so I wasn’t being reckless doing this on my own)

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The pink ribbons show the route!

I just have to rave about how much I loved the grip of these shoes on rock slab. I had no idea how they would perform and I took my trusty approach shoes as backup; they stayed in my pack!. The soles and metal studs on the Animas were fantastic. I would say their grip and confidence I felt wearing them on the rock was equal to that of approach shoes with their sticky rubber.

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The soles gripped this rock slab – class 4 scramble – really well

The shoes also felt great and grippy on the steep loose talus of which there was lots, and narrow ledges and gullies.

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Near the summit

The snowfield lower down was pretty soft with sun cups and the shoes performed as well as any other shoes on this. When the snowfield became steep and a hazard, I put on my Yaktrax.

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The snowfield of Stadium Glacier

Also, before the snow field there is a long, steep section of loose scree. The Animas gripped this stuff with confidence. Zero slipping and sliding!

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They were also great for boulder hopping.

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As for the fit, the shoes felt comfortable straight out the box. They felt flexible and cushioned. I didn’t have any hotspots after 7 hours of wearing them. I couldn’t get the women’s shoes in my size so I have the men’s version but they fitted my feet well. The only thing I didn’t like – as expected the studs made a bit of a noise on rocks but I soon stopped noticing that.

I didn’t use the shoes for running on this day. I was recovering from an ultramarathon. and just wanted to hike and enjoy the slower pace. But, I look forward to running in these shoes soon.

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A selfie at the summit!

While writing this, my thoughts turned to a friend I used to climb with. Years ago, I remember him telling me of his early climbing days in Scotland in the 1950s. He and his buddy wore nailed boots. They climbed stiff grades using nails or studs for grip on the rock. Footwear looks very different today. But the technology might resemble that used by the pioneers of climbing! I wouldn’t be able to climb in these shoes but for scrambling they are great. I’m hoping they will work really well for mountain running too.

Are any of you mountain runners? What shoes do you use?

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.

 

A story of the Sinister 7 100 miles. Race review

You can fail at something you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love – Jim Carrey

You never know until you try – others and me

After weeks of planning, race morning had arrived!! Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned for the very long queue at the portable loos (duh! – there’s always a long queue) so with less than 2 minutes till start time I found myself jumping out the loo, pulling off my long-sleeved top, stuffing it in my race pack and then shouting abuse at my race pack; it had a serious parts failure. Forget it, I would have to sort it out during the race. I had to get to the start line!! I hugged Peter then jogged across the grass into the starting area on the main street of Blairmore. The gun fired. I kept on jogging. I was off!!

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Waiting in the loo queue

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We’re off!!

So started my first ever 100 mile ultra, the Sinister 7, on a sunny July morning in 2016.

All my doubts and fears about not doing enough training for this race disappeared as I started running. I was happy. It was a lovely day. I was in the middle of hundreds of other runners all enjoying themselves. Pure joy. Instead of doubting myself, I made a plan to go as far as I possibly could and to keep on smiling for as long as I possibly could.

 

Leg 1 Frank Slide 16.5 km, 502 m elevation gain

Leg 1 felt great. I started nice and slow and it felt easy. Yeah! Despite much of the leg being on road I loved it and was so glad to be out there running. I said hello to a British guy who was also a solo runner. He said he still had jet lag. Jeez, how can you run this event with jet lag!!

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Leg 1

Early on, the route crossed the massive debris field of Frank Slide. In 1903 The Frank Slide buried part of the mining town of Frank. Millions of tonnes of rock slid down a hillside. Between 70 and 90 people were killed, most of whose bodies were never recovered; a sobering thought.

Leg 1 was flattish at the beginning with some climbing on cross-country ski trails later on.The finish was a steep little drop down into Transition Area 1 where Peter was waiting. He told me I was doing great and a little ahead of my target. I checked in with myself. Even though I was a bit ahead of myself I felt I was not going too fast.

I grabbed some snacks, filled my hydration bladder back up to the brim, hugged Peter and headed into the wilderness of leg 2.

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Transition area 1

 

Leg 2 Hastings Ridge 16 km, 937 m elevation gain

I think Leg 2 was my favourite stretch of the day. The scenery and views were beautiful and I still felt great. It started with plenty of up. I hiked up as quickly as I could. A couple of blokes passed me with little speakers on their packs. The music was a nice distraction. Once up on the ridgetop, the views were just spectacular. We were in the middle of an old forest fire area and the trees were sparse, grey and withered. The views across the Canadian wilderness were jaw dropping.

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Striding upwards on leg 2

I chatted to a relay runner and finally figured out how to tell who was a solo runner and who was a relay runner. The solos had yellow numbers on the bibs and the relay runners white numbers. Duh!

After the ridgetop with some flattish bits and some rolling up and down, there was a lovely long downhill. I love running downhill. Down and down and down we went. There was some lovely single-track; that added to the thrill. For the last few kilometres I eyed my fellow solo runners and it quickly dawned on me that most who were doing the race at or around my pace were using trekking poles. I felt like the odd man out.

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Finishing leg 2

Leg 2 finished at Transition Area 2/3 in Blairmore. It was incredibly busy. But, like a shining light, there was Peter making sure he was in a spot where I would easily see him. My transition felt really chaotic. The porta-loos required an extra 30 metres or so of travel to get to them! You really don’t want to walk any further than you have to in a 100 miler!! Peter later told me I had missed a loo that was closer.

After the loo stop, Peter guided me in and out of the jumbled crowds of people and tents to the spot where he had set up camp. I regrouped, restocked my pack then got moving again.

 

Leg 3 Willoughby Ridge 35 km, 1327 m elevation gain

Leg 3 was a long loop around Mt Willoughby, up and up and up; then down and down and down; finishing back at TA 2/3.

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Out on leg 3

I spent much of the middle section of leg 3 chatting to a guy from Edmonton. I’m really sorry “guy” but I didn’t even ask your name. Somehow, in these far-flung races, I find myself meeting people with Scottish connections and chatting about all things Scottish. “Guy’s” wife had Scottish roots; in fact, she had Isle of Lewis roots; that’s where my dad was born. My Isle of Lewis roots go as far back into history as is traceable. Anyway, we passed a very enjoyable few kilometres going up around Mt Willoughby chatting away about the Isle of Lewis and other Scottish things.

Just after the halfway point of the leg, I realised I was keeping “guy” back. He was a little behind his target time for reaching TA 2/3 and his team handover. I said to him to run on ahead. Thinking I would keep him in sight, I jogged on but pretty soon I encountered my first difficulty of the race. There was a checkpoint half way round this leg and foolishly I scoffed down too many crisps and smarties. This seemed to be the cause of a bad, bad tummy pain, which lasted for a good couple of hours. I couldn’t do anything but walk a long section of downhill waiting for what felt like a huge ball of trapped gas to eventually disappear. Any running caused pain. A lot of burping went on!! While I was in the middle of this gassy spell I chatted to Milan (sorry Milan!!). He and his wife were doing the solo too and I saw them at various points throughout the race. Milan was so encouraging to me and I thank him for that (they are now Strava friends J).

Thankfully the stomach distress had disappeared by the last couple of kilometres. And so, pain-free, I was able to stretch my legs and enjoy running the lovely downhill back to TA2/3 with all its little tents and people and an announcer who was quite wonderful and welcoming. Peter was there, wonderful and welcoming too. I changed my shoes and socks while Peter exfoliated the dirt from my legs with a hot towel. Bliss! I had grabbed some mini sized potatoes from the food next to the finishing funnel. They didn’t taste of much but seemed to be just what I needed. I wolfed them down. I got some snacks from Peter too and some wonderfully delicious cold cola.

Ready to rock again, I sneaked out onto the little steep hill, which was the exit from TA2/3. The announcer spotted me and shouted me on. Boy, I felt like royalty.

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Transition area 2/3

 

Leg 4 Saddle Mountain 17 km, 675 m elevation gain

Leg 4 started with a stiff climb up a ski hill. I ran for a minute or two with a young lad who was doing the relay. He congratulated me for my solo run. I told him to run on as my slow pace was obviously way to slow for him. He speeded up, waved back to me, wished me well (what a polite young kid!) and sprinted into the woods. That was the last I saw of him. I wonder how his team got on.

So, leg 4 went up and up. After a while, there was some familiar ground as it shared a short section of trail and an aid station with leg 3. Panting up to that aid station I stumbled across a solo runner going DOWN! Yikes, I can’t imagine going the wrong way down a hill in an ultra. He said he was going down to help someone who was in a bad way. This piece of news really confused my tired brain as I had travelled pretty slowly along the trail for the previous few kilometres and hadn’t seen anybody in a bad way. There were plenty of people in the vicinity, including an aid station only 2 or 3 minutes away, and I didn’t feel like I had to turn around and go back down to help. I couldn’t have!!

Leg 4 was where my little jar of energy began to run out. I felt tired but was still feeling hopeful. Although running was feeling more and more arduous, I was still able to run the flats and downhills slowly. The solo runners around me were of a similar pace. I wasn’t going backwards. I made sure I was taking in my hourly calories and kept trundling along with sugar-fuelled pick me ups.

I saw Milan halfway through this leg. He and his wife still looked great. As we chatted, I gazed in wonder to our right. There was Crowsnest Mountain in the distance. It appeared menacing. Leg 6, the hardest of the race, circled Crowsnest Mountain and the 7 sisters. I felt there was no way I was going to be able to complete leg 6. However, that was still hours away.

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The Menacing View

The latter part of leg 4 went on forever. There was a long, straight rolling section and I could see loads of runners in the distance all with their poles. I talked to a guy called Eric. He had done quite a number of ultras including the Squamish 50/50. The 50K he had done with his dad and he said that was a really special experience. Eric disappeared into the distance. I think he did really, really well in the end.

Finally, I trundled into TA4. It was beginning to get dark. The daylight hours had almost passed! I was still on target. I had done a great 50 miles. But what are 50 miles in a 100miler!!! Ha ha! Only half way!!

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Finishing leg 4

TA4 was busy too. I sat on the grass and ate delicious hot potatoes. Peter had luckily found a convenient parking spot on the highway right next to the course. At the car, I changed into a warmer top and restocked my race pack. Peter had bought me a veggie sandwich at Subway and I packed that for the road.

 

Leg 5 Mt Tecumseh 29.6 km, 763 m elevation gain

Leg 5 was surreal. It took me into the Canadian wilderness in the crazy dead of night and to the furthest distance that I’d ever run.

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Starting leg 5

We started with a long straight road where I chatted with Kyle. Last year Kyle had made it to the end of stage 4 exhausted. He’d detonated and didn’t continue any further. Now, a year later, he told me he “had it”. He was going to finish the 100 miles. There was no doubt he would (he did!) He was so inspiring. I saw him a couple of times during the leg. Awesome, Kyle!

The long straight roads went on for a while. I was really getting tired by now and was mostly hiking with a little shuffling. Early in this leg, we moved into the night. The sky was full of stars and the moon just a slither.

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The road led upwards into the pitch-black forest. I switched on my head torch and followed my light beam up and up and up through the tunnel of trees. The trail was wet and muddy. I walked round huge deep puddles while trying to keep myself from skidding in the deep mud.

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I spent much of the high section of this leg either just in front of or just behind Hilary. Hilary had an awesome pace. With her poles, she hiked really fast, faster than I was able to jog. We exchanged ultra-running stories and I enjoyed her company. Hilary had done a number of ultras. She told me about the Lost Sole 100 km in Lethbridge. She said it was a lot of fun, very tough, very hot, and had lots of up and down. One to do in the future!!

At some point when I was alone negotiating the puddles, I heard country and western music in the distance. It got louder. Then I saw a very bright light approaching and heard the noise of an engine. I stopped at the edge of the trail in the tunnel of trees. In the midnight darkness, an ATV appeared, music blaring from it. In the vehicle, were 3 young guys, all wearing similar checked shirts. They stared as they drove by me. They looked at me as if I was bonkers. I looked at them as if they were bonkers. I was taken aback by this weird turn of events and as the ATV disappeared into the darkness, I lost my footing in the slippery mud and fell backwards into a deep mud bath!

I extricated myself. Cleaning the mud off my legs and bum with my Buff, I caught up with Hilary. Hilary very kindly lent me one of her poles at a couple of other dodgy spots. Using the pole I inched past puddles on narrow ledges of dry land.

I lost Hilary again for a while. I was on my own in the darkness in the woods. This was when I had my one and only animal encounter of the day. It wasn’t a bear or a cougar. It was a cute, baby, bunny rabbit caught in the glare of my head-torch. We looked each other in the eyes. The bunny then hopped away into the darkness.

Shortly after that, I heard voices; I saw a light in the distance. I didn’t think I had travelled far enough for it to be the next CP. But what else could it be? Well, it was a huge gathering of lights and people and noise in the middle of the woods seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was a party! I trundled past further into the darkness. I was getting more and more tired. Then I reached the lights and the people of the next CP. The volunteers there were amazing. This was an intersection between leg 5 and leg 6. The volunteers checked my water and cleared out my sweetie wrappers as I sat down and emptied my shoes and socks of the mud and grime that had got in during my mud bath.

Shortly after the CP, I came across the 2nd party of the night. Hanging around the trail were some shadowy partygoers. They asked me how my race was going. I said “really good”. They followed up by saying I looked like I could do with a beer!! For sure, a beer was the very last thing I needed!! I trundled on, away from the party lights further into the darkness.

It became more and more clear that my thoughts in the weeks leading up to the race were very likely true: that I may not be able to finish this race. It was really tough going up and down the trail as I neared the end of leg 5. Many leg 6 relay runners breezed past me. I saw a couple of other leg 5 solo runners who were in worse shape than me. I also saw a male solo runner who was finishing leg 6. He must have been one of the leaders in the race. So inspiring. I cheered him on and gained some strength from seeing him. But, I was at that point where even walking was difficult; when you just want it to be over; when you somehow manage to keep going but your legs are yelling at you to stop.

Peter and I had checked out the end of leg 5 earlier in the week and eventually I saw that vaguely familiar stretch of trail. And, in the distance, I saw fairy lights! The end was in sight! The end was a steep little downhill into a funnel of lights surrounded by darkness and noise. I crossed the line; out of the darkness a voice asked me my number. “198”, I said and burst into tears. Peter was right there waiting for me as he had been at every transition area. Jeez. How long had he been standing in the cold looking for me? I had done well up until leg 5 keeping to my target times. But now I was behind and he must have been waiting for ages.

Flailing around in the transition area, I was exhausted. I was pretty sure I was not going on, but not 100% sure. “Will I or won’t I?” I kept repeating this. I got my hydration bladder refilled just in case. One of the volunteers asked me if I wanted medical help!! Crumbs I must have looked bad. I sat down and refuelled. I gave myself 15 minutes. After these 15 minutes, if I felt a lot better I would set off on leg 6. Leg 6 was the most difficult leg of the entire race – 36.2 km with 1093 m of elevation gain, a circuit of Crowsnest Mountain and the 7 sisters. It would be longest, hardest stretch of the course. Quite likely I would be on my own. I contemplated the enormity of that task. It seemed impossible to me. I didn’t receive any thunderbolts of energy or inspiration. And so, I gave in to my doubts about my fitness and my mental toughness. I couldn’t do it. In the dead of night, with Peter beside me, in the otherworldly space that was TA 5/6, I decided my race was over. I gave up.

My chaotic mind told me I had failed. I was sad. But underneath my jumbled thoughts, I was OK. I had done my best. I had run 70.5 miles over tough terrain in just under 19.5 hours. This race has a low finish rate. I was definitely not alone in DNFing. I had got further than many. I kept thinking of a quote I read somewhere, “The biggest winners are all failures who tried again.” I would try again!

After a few hours of sleep in our tiny green tent at the Lost Lemon campground, Peter and I packed up my Toyota Yaris. It was full to the brim with camping gear and running gear. We drove 1000 km back home. Despite the long drive and squashed legs, I recovered really quickly. The Sinister 7 was an amazing, super-cool adventure and as Peter said, “a lot of fun”.

Almost finally, 2 pictures of my wonderful race crew. Peter and Big Teddie. Thank you guys!!

 

 

Finally,

You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honoroubly. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure, Persist! The world needs all you can give – E O Wilson.

All photos thanks to Raven Eye Photography and Peter Malacarne 🙂

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!