Archive for September, 2015

Up on a hillside to watch the supermoon eclipse!

LDSC_0228They say there hasn’t been a lunar eclipse as good as this one for over twenty years, and that the next one like it is nearly another twenty years away. So how could we NOT go out to check out this eclipse of the supermoon? Especially considering that the day – and the evening – here in Port Alberni were crystal clear. Perfect viewing conditions.

They’re calling it a supermoon because the moon is unusually close to Earth (at the nearest point on its elliptical orbit) – so it looks bigger than usual. Especially when rising. The eclipse actually started before 6:00 pm here, but it hadn’t even risen above the horizon at that point here on the west coast. Dave and Valerie and I (and Xhosa of course) headed out from town just after 6:00 – into the sunset! Dave had a spot in mind, an east-facing slope above some logging roads, where he figured we’d get a good look.

All set up and ready for the show, as the setting sun lights up Mt. Arrowsmith.

All set up and ready for the show, as the setting sun lights up Mt. Arrowsmith.

We are going to Africa for a one-week race next month, so this was the perfect chance to try out some of the freeze-dried meals we are going to have to use there. We set up our chairs, and got Xhosa settled in her bed, which Dave had brought along for her, and her blankie and sweater on (she only looks tough). What a view – facing Mt. Arrowsmith – watching the sky turn pink then inky blue over the mountain as we ate packaged pad thai and packaged chicken and rice – wondering when and where the moon might rise.

I realized that we were missing much of the eclipse out here, and that the moon would be rising totally eclipsed – in other words, very very dark. There was still a dim glow in the sky over Mt. Arrowsmith, and I had a feeling we might miss it – not notice it until it was much higher in the sky. After a time I noticed a dim pink glow off the edge of one of Arrowsmith’s peaks, so I trained my binoculars on it.

First views! That littlepink glow on the horizon, just right of centre, is the risingmoon infull eclipse!

First views! That little pink glow on the horizon, just right of centre, is the rising moon in full eclipse! (Click on the pic to view it bigger – you CAN actually see it).


The moon, in full eclipse. Very cool how three-dimensional it looked, a big ball hanging up there. (Which is basically what it is, I know – but when it is brightly lit it looks so much more two-dimensional).

And here's the moon around 45 minutes later, higher up now, just starting to come out of total eclipse.

And here’s the moon around 45 minutes later, higher up now, just starting to come out of total eclipse.

And sure enough – it was the moon! Completely risen, its full disc barely discernable, just above the mountain’s edge. I quickly snapped a few pix while it was still close to the horizon – amazing how quickly it actually moves once you are looking at it through a telephoto lens. It was just past 7:30 when it came into view, and we stayed and watched the eclipse right through until the end – nearly 9:30. What a show!

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Heading to the Golden Ultra, mountains of British Columbia, in a few days: How I trained

Photo: Dave Best/Golden Ultra

Photo: Dave Best/Golden Ultra

I’m leaving in two days for the Golden Ultra. Multi-day staged races are definitely my favourite ultramarathon format, and this one intrigued me as soon as I heard about it. Most multi-day ultrarunning events are kind of the same from day to day – usually between 20 and 50 km of hilly running per day for five or six days (and sometimes with a 70 or 80 km overnight stage thrown in). But the three-day Golden Ultra (aka Blood, Sweat and Tears) is different:

Day 1 (the Blood) – 5 km, but with 1000 m vertical gain

Day 2 (the Sweat) – classic 55 km mountain ultramarathon (2500 m vertical gain and loss along the way)

Day 3 (the Tears) – a 20 km trail run on rolling, relatively flat, trails (total 400 m vertical gain and drop)

So this is more like three completely different races, each one suited to different types of runners: hill-climbers OR ultrarunners OR half-marathoners. Few people are all three! (And there is the option of entering for just one of the days… but of course it is the full three-day event that captivates me).

So, for me, my main goals are:

  1. Don’t blow my legs out on the first big-uphill day, because there is still a long way to go.
  2. Don’t let my feet swell after the 55 km ultramarathon day – or I won’t be able to run the final day.
  3. Try to train well at running so I won’t be embarassingly slow on that third, supposedly very runnable day.
  4. Don’t get injured – because I am racing the 7 day Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert, only 4 weeks later!

So, now, how have I gone with my training to achieve those goals?

The big uphill: 300 vertical metres of this. And we did it twice!

Hiking the Inlet Trail with Nikki last year. I’m on this trail nearly every week.

1. Well, I’ve done a real lot of hill-climbing (as well as a little bit of leg weights) so I think I am in the best climbing shape I have ever been. In the last two or so months I’ve done Della Falls (still waiting for Dave to do that blog post), Mt. Arrowsmith, Mt. Adder, Mt.Klitsa, Mt. Albert Edward in Strathcona, the Castle Crag/Mt.Frink/Albert Edward loop in Strathcona and – the highlight of the summer (blog post not uploaded yet, sorry!) – the Buttle Lake to Mt. Washington Augerpoint Traverse! These hikes all have elevation gains of 1000 m or more. And I have also trained on our usual “back yard” uphill hikes a lot too, like the CPR trail, and up the start of the Alberni Inlet Trail (same hike I did with Nikki Scott last year, when we were prepping for the Squamish 50k. Coincidentally, Nikki is one of the organizers of the Golden Ultra!).

2. I’ve trained as well as I can so my feet won’t be “shocked” by the effort and swell. I’ve done a lot of really long days – in particular, those three big Strathcona days three consecutive Tuesdays: 8.5 hrs then 9.5 hrs then 13.5 hrs. I’ve also done a lot of back-to-back days – either two big hikes in a row, or a big hike followed by a hilly run. So my body is pretty accustomed to that kind of thing: the amount of hours and the fatigued muscles. And I will have electrolyte pills along (and use them) for the race. And I’ve just ordered new Injinji compression socks for running and recovery too. Those are the things you can do to try to minimize foot swelling. Beyond that, there still is a little bit of a luck-of-the-draw component there. But I think I am set up pretty well.

You get up on a beautiful plateau with lots of little tarns. You can see theMt.Albert Edward ridgeline behind me here - I'll be going up it around the right side of the photo, thentraversing it to the left. You can't see the peak of the mountain yet from here - it's behind the ridge.

Heading up Mt. Albert Edward in July. I did lots of big mountain hikes and runs this year.

3. Well… I am still not a fast runner. I was really good with my long hikes training… but probably could have done a bit more with the long fast runs. I did get going on some HIIT (high intensity interval training) which supposedly helps with speed… also have been taking iron supplements these last two months. Low iron is a very common issue with female runners, and I definitely have problems with that.

4. And then I will just have to go safe and smart. I am probably in the best shape I have ever been in my life (at age 51!!) – maybe not my fastest ever, but definitely my strongest, and recovering really well and quickly after big days. So I am in good shape in that department. I’lljust have to be careful, and make sure I don’t get hurt.

So there you go. I leave here Thursday, flying into Calgary and then driving out to Golden. The race starts with that first short but steep leg on Friday afternoon, so I will have some time up my sleeve to relax and get a good sleep there the night before. I’ll be staying at the official host hotel, Kicking Horse Lodging’s Glacier Mountaineer Lodge (which has a hot tub and sauna!) – so many thanks to the race organizers and the host hotels for arranging this! What a treat, to have such luxurious accommodation while running such a wild and rugged multi-day ultramarathon. Wish me luck!