Archive for category British Columbia
It’s been very dark and wet in Port Alberni so when our friend Richard called and suggested hiking up Mt. Arrowsmith we jumped at it! And a nice rare clear day too!
This is a 1000 metre climb, and since Jackie is in training for an upcoming race, she opted to go with her full water bottle vest she is trialling. As you can see, the trail is not easy to find when everything is covered in snow.
The scenery was very nice being snow covered once we got high enough. We saw fresh cougar tracks crossing our trail about half way up.
There was no snow at the Cameron Lake trailhead, but after a couple of hundred metre elevation gain the snow started and got deeper and deeper until it was about a metre deep with higher drifts.
We ended up, at the far side of the loop, not being able to clearly find the track. So we took the safe option, rather than risk wasting 15 minutes at a time, over and over again trying to find the trail, and just retraced our tracks back down. A very fun and beautiful day.
And if you have a couple of minutes and want a laugh, check out this video of Fergus (Yorkie-Chihuahua cross), with icebergs hanging off his fur, after four hours of hiking through the snow, still full of energy and having a good play:
I woke up Saturday morning feeling amazing! I had got plenty of sleep – which is rare on multi-day races – and my legs felt great in spite of the previous day’s big uphill. My summer spent climbing mountains around my Vancouver Island home was really paying off. Today I would find out if my downhill training was also sufficient, as the 55 km route was basically one big mountain climb: starting in the town of Golden at 785 m, hitting the summit at 2365 m at our 31k mark, then descending over 1500 m back to town.
A few days previous, the forecast was for rain, but luckily that had mellowed to a total expected precipitation of only 3 mm for the day, with expected temperatures at town-level of around 8C. Of course things can change quickly in the mountains – but that had me make a last-minute decision to not carry my rain jacket after all, and just take a light nylon shell instead. Jacket, hat and gloves were all required gear: all things that I think any of us would have carried on this route anyway, required or not.
Three of the three-day racers who had run the previous day chose to DNS, so the field was now down to 48 attempting the full distance. It was just getting light in Spirit Square, downtown Golden, as we headed out: first for 3 or so km down the road alongside the river, then veering left to start the climb through the forest.
There were a fair few locals in the field, but the rest of us had no idea of what to expect from the route. What a surprise to find that we were rising along the lip of a spectacular canyon! Its irregular lip was on our immediate left – a completely jagged and eroding edge, and from there a 500 m (1500’) dropto the rushing river below. Don’t stumble! Signs warned that this was sensitive mountain goat habitat – I sure wished I had time to hang out here with my binoculars. But the race clock was ticking… I snapped some pix and kept going.
I climbed for a while with a nurse named Jen from Golden- nice to have someone to chat to as we plodded upward. I was faster uphill than her, which gave me the opportunity to get a bit ahead of her and then stop to take pictures (nice when I can actually have people in my photos!) It got colder and windier as we ascended, now along a forested ridgeline, and I soon stopped to rug up, very glad that I had chosen a thick fleece toque for my required-gear hat.
The terrain got rougher and rockier, and by around 1pm Jen and I were in the clouds. You’ve all been there, you know the routine when climbing a new mountain: :this one has got to be the real summit.” Around the third false summit, nearly 2pm, Jen said “We’re gonna be tight to make the aid station cut-off.”
What?? I hadn’t even looked at the cut-off times because I had just assumed I wouldn’t be chasing them! “Yes,” she said, “It’s a 6:30 hour cut-off to Aid Station #2”- which was around the 33 km mark. We were 6:20 into the race, and we could actually see some figures silhouetted in the fog at the next summit (which, hopefully, was the real one). I pushed hard – do NOT want to be DQ’d up here! – trying to balance the need for not generating too much lactic acid in my quads as I ascended with the need not to miss the cut-off.
And we made it! And there was a race volunteer up there with both bad news – the aid station is another 2 km ahead – and good news – it’s an 8-hour cut-off. We still had an hour and a half! (“Oops, sorry!” laughed Jen!). This was at least the actual summit. From here, we followed a very narrow, rocky (and somewhat scary) ridgeline. Jen was much faster than me on that type of terrain. I caught her momentarily when I made the aid station, but then didn’t see her again for the rest of the day.
I was very cold when I hit the aid station – which was the top of the same gondola we had finished at yesterday. My core temperature was actually totally fine, but my hands were cold to the point of barely being able to use them. I needed to eat, but I knew that I could not stand still or I would chill instantly.
Fortunately, there was a little room there, toasty warm, where we could sit to eat! There were two racers already in there recovering from mild hypothermia, and the safety director looked at me, worried, when I entered, asking me all the proper questions to assure that I was OK and not in need of aid. One of the racers was still very cold, unsure if she would continue or not, and the safety director was monitoring her, taking her pulse. The other racer gradually warmed up, and he headed out as I ate.
I spent maybe ten minutes in there, eating as many chips and pretzels and drinking as much water as I could stuff in. The icy wind shocked me when I stepped back out – had I really been running in such cold? But I knew that I would be losing altitude very quickly from here, so I started to run. Down rocks, then eventually down a switchbacking gravel path below the gondola, down down down to the resort we had started at yesterday, then through the parking lot (waved on by race volunteers cheering us on and directing us) and into the forest and down and more down.
Later that night, at dinner, everyone I talked to agreed that this section – between the aid station at 33 km up top, and the next aid station at 44 km, was much longer than 11 km! (I think several km longer). But the terrain was pretty fast – some mud at lower levels, nothing too bad.
And then abruptly I emerged at the same bridge where we had crossed over the Kicking Horse River that morning: just 3 road km and I would be done! I still had pretty good running legs (well, maybe “jogging” is the better word here). A local woman on a bike rode with me and encouraged me the last 500 m, pointing out the finish tent (I thought I was much further out) and motivating me to pick up the pace for the finish – and, to lots of cheering, I made it in.
It was the multi-day racers who killed it today! In all four categories, multi-day racers took top place, finishing ahead of runners who were “only” doing today’s 55k. Notable were the two Open category (under-40) winners.
California’s Jorge Maravilla tore the course to shreds, finishing in an incredible 5:53:37. “It was hard,” he told me. “I’ve never done a race with so much vert.” And the women’s winner, Ailsa MacDonald of St. Albert, AB, put out an equally impressive performance, finishing in 6:18:33 to take second overall! Apparently Ailsa is new to trails, currently making the switch from running road marathons – so I think we will be hearing a lot more about her! Full Day 2 results can be found at https://timing.zone4.ca/results/21166f7b-91f4-8d83-c871-2d7caa6d1559/.
There’s nothing like that feeling when you cross the finish line after a tough race and the tears well up just a bit in your eyes. But no time to dwell on that – I was a good hour longer than I had expected, finishing in 11:25 (cut-off was 12 hours!). Time to get warm clothes on, enjoy dinner with my fellow runners at the adjacent Island restaurant, then get back up the hill to sleep before tomorrow’s final stage
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:
- Don’t blow my legs out on the first big-uphill day, because there is still a long way to go.
- Don’t let my feet swell after the 55 km ultramarathon day – or I won’t be able to run the final day.
- Try to train well at running so I won’t be embarassingly slow on that third, supposedly very runnable day.
- 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?
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.
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!
Well, the previous week I’d run/hiked to the top of Mt. Albert Edward and back – a total distance of around 32 km. I had considered adding on the side-loop that would go over Castle Crag Mountain and Mount Frink as well – but after receiving some advice that the navigation was pretty tough on this loop, I decided to bypyass it. That day. But this week, I was back!
Other than this first shot, all the pix were taken on my phone, so they are not that great. And then my phone died before I made my first summit. Stupid thing. Anyway, Read the rest of this entry »
Jackie’s solo hike-run to summit Mt. Albert Edward, Strathcona Provincial Park – 32 km with >1km elevation gain
Wow, now this was fun! It has been a very hot and dry summer – not great for the garden or the salmon, but very good for getting up in the mountains, with little or no snowpack. (Dave and I did that Della Falls/Love Lake run back in June, and there was no snow at all up there – whereas when we did that same Della Falls route in September, late summer, a few years earlier there was not only snow up there, but Love Lake was still totally frozen!) So, while Dave was away in Iceland, I decided to head up to Strathcona Provincial Park (less than a 1.5 hr drive from here) and do a run/jog up to the peak of Mt. Albert Edward. Read the rest of this entry »
Oops. Well I did not mean to do this hike in a dress. I had dropped Dave and his daughter, Valerie at the Nanaimo ferry that morning (they were flying to Iceland for a week of hiking!) and figured I would hike the Arrowsmith CPR Trail loop on the way home, since I would be driving right past the trailhead. That would make for perfect training for my upcoming three-day ultramarathon, The Golden Ultra, which I would be running in less that two months – lots of Read the rest of this entry »
Dave and I had a great mid-July hike with Ron and Brett up Mount Adder. They were planning a trip a couple of days later to Mount Klitsa, and invited us along on that too. I was totally excited about that – I’ve wanted to do Klitsa for years. My old Tofino friend, artist Mark Hobson, had told me about it, but somehow I never had a chance to get up there. Dave couldn’t go this time – he was packing, leaving for Iceland the next day – but I jumped at the chance! Read the rest of this entry »
This was fun – hiking with new friends! We had met Ron through Dave’s sister – he is a trainer and runs a gym here in Port Alberni. Ron invited Dave and me, along with his friend Brett, to hike up Mt. Adder – one of the many mountains up near Sutton Pass, halfway between Port Alberni and Tofino.
You never know what you are up for when you do a tough hike with Read the rest of this entry »
Jackie raced her ultra yesterday in Patagonia and I needed a long run and the weather was awesome so I headed up the China Creek Watershed. I parked on the Cameron Mainline at the yellow gate and started up the long hill.
I ventured off the main road to Read the rest of this entry »
Jackie just finished a 132 km hike in Patagonia before her ultramarathon so I’m wandering the mountains here with Rich.
We parked at the yellow gate at the Port Alberni side of Cathederal Grove and walked down the road to the flagged trail start. Read the rest of this entry »