Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tunnel and Sulphur Mountain Epic

This photo is taken looking towards my destination of the day: Sulphur Mountain. I was standing on the top of Tunnel Mountain when I took this photo.

Every day I look at Tunnel Mountain and Sulphur Mountain, but I had never run up both of them on the same day! I started by circumnavigating Tunnel and then I ran up it. I was going to do 2 laps and call it a day, but then I saw Sulphur off in the distance and I thought: "Why not?" I ended up walking almost all of Sulphur, but it was a brisk walk. I was moving extra slow today. A wee bit tired, perhaps? Total time on feet: 5 hours Total ascent: I don't wear an altimeter, but around 1200 metres of elevation gain....and then one big giant 900 metre descent back to my home at the base of Sulphur Mountain. It's no small wonder why my quads are bursting out of all of my pants. Tortured myself with a cold water bath afterwards, and a few trips back and forth to the hot tub. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Brrrrrr. Must finish with cold but never want to. Hot tubs are much more enjoyable than cold tubs!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The BEST Recovery Run Ever

Well....after a most enjoyable weekend on Orcas, I really didn't think things could possibly get better, until I went for my run today!! It made me realize how exceptionally fortunate I am to live where I do. No, I can't go for runs year round in green forests of moss and fern....but I get to run in Banff National Park!

About five weeks ago, Keith and I went in to Skoki Lodge for my birthday. It is a backcountry lodge located in one of the most gorgeous corners of the park and we had such a great weekend. While we were skiing in to the lodge, I said to Keith: "Ya know, under the right conditions, I could run this in winter!!" Well.

We have had a gorgeous weather week here, clear and sunny and no snow. When I woke up this morning and looked at the forecast and saw the sunshine, I knew today was my day!! And what a day it was:

Looking back at Mount Temple

Just me and my shadow following the skidoo track up to Boulder Pass......

I got lucky and got a lift up the Lake Louise Area Ski-Out, which meant I avoided a 4km steep, boring slog. The lift just made my day, because it meant I could definitely make it to Skoki and get to enjoy more time in the high alpine! People come from all over the world to ski and hike at Skoki, because it is that special. In winter, it is a fairly challenging ski for most people. You have 2 passes along the route and you start with a gradual climb up and over Boulder Pass at 2345m:

Why do they call it Boulder Pass?

Then you get to descend a little ways and cross a frozen lake.....the snow was perfectly packed so I could actually run without sinking to my neck. But if you stepped off the pack you sank. Deep. I only had to dig myself out a few times!

Bookin' it across Baker Lake

Then you climb Deception Pass - elevation 2474m. From the pass it is a big steep descent all the way to the lodge at 2165m. Phew! Then you eat some cookies, turn around and do it all again!
The cookies were REAL good.

UP! UP! UP! Looking towards Deception Pass

Looking back from Deception....I came from there!

At the lodge, they were surprised to see me. I don't think they see too many runners in February. I also ran into two Park Wardens on skis who were VERY surprised to see me! I walked with them and visited for a bit....they were having a great day in the sun and taking their time.

When I reached the top of Boulder Pass coming out, Mount Temple was there to greet me. From there it was a nice 8.6 km cruisy descent back to my car. What a day!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Orcas Island Race Report

Let me start by saying: I love the Pacific Northwest! Good people and good times are always the backbone of a great race. So, a big Thank-you to Race Director James and his lady Alison for putting together a great weekend!

After a relaxing drive from the Vancouver Airport and a beautiful ferry ride across to the island, I was feeling pretty happy to be back on Orcas Island on a clear and sunny day!! I checked in, got myself settled in the five-star camping at Camp Moran....and blast up to Mount Constitution for sunset.

As I was saying....good people and good times the backbone for a great race....and it helps when you have mother nature to provide you with some sweet trails and some perfect weather. Despite a course make-over due to snow on Mount Constitution, the new and improved course was so great. I LOVED THIS COURSE!

As well as the sweetest course, this race was just the coolest little event and loads of fun. Where else could $40 bucks buy you: 2 nights accommodation with other smelly ultra runners, an AMAZING course, the yummiest apres-race food , BEER (and not the crappy stuff, love the Fish Tale Organic brews.....), massages AND a blue grass band!! Very cool.

Camp Moran is pretty special!

This course had all of my favorite things: lots of up and down on beautiful rolling singletrack, lots of challenging climbs and thigh pounding descents and fantastic scenery! I had a big smile on running this course: how could you not running through the woods on Orcas Island? The forest is magical: a green carpet of mosses, ferns and huge trees. Throw in some sparkling lakes, cascading waterfalls and outrageous views of the islands and you get the picture. Maybe the SUNSHINE interfered with my ability to be non-judgemental, but this course was a pleasure.

My race went great, I was having loads of fun and I was so busy snapping pictures and checking out the scenery that before I knew it I had completed one 25k loop. I had lots of people to visit on the first lap, but on the second lap found myself largely alone and chasing down the backside of some girl who I never got to meet.....but I enjoyed the chase! It was my first time on a loop course and though initially I had dreaded the idea of 2 loops of repetition, the opposite actually occurred. I found myself chasing down the next landmark and looking forward to what was around the next turn. We got to circumnavigate Cascade Lake and Mountain Lake, scramble up a sweet little climb as well as enjoying the ups and downs through the many-shades-of-green forest. There was a "secret loop" up Mount Pickett where we emerged from the trees on a mossy slope with incredible views....a nice reward at the top of the climb.

And there was the hippee shack....a poly-tarped home made "cabin" with a sweet deck and wood smoke thick in the air. One of my roomates Francis spotted a couple of naked hippees enjoying a wood fed hot-tub and a great view! I had flashbacks of my last visit to Orcas with Jen Silverthorn after we ran the Chuckanut last year: we met an ancient naked hippee at the "spa" at the Doe Bay Resort who enchanted us with his naked yoga and fabulous flexibility. He did the "plow pose" and I swear he had a ball in each eye. Hee-hee. Ah! Good times.....but I digress.

I slowed down a wee bit on lap #2 but crossed the finish line feeling good and smiling! I crossed the finish line with my roomate Arthur and we decided to go straight to the lake for a leg soak. I swear by the cold water therapy although it is tortuous! We almost managed to stand in there for 10 minutes before my lips turned blue. Glen got a great photo of us: ch-ch-chilly!

The post race celebration was great, the food was DELISH and plentifull.....and there was a KEG and a blue-grass band. Hee-hee. If this is normal in the Pacific Northwest, I want guys do it up right!! It is always great fun to get to visit new places and meet new faces, and run some new trails. So thanks ALL! It was a pleasure seeing some familiar faces from last year and getting to know some new friends.

The next day I had lots of time to make my way back to the Vancouver Airport for my flight out. I did "Leslie's Tour of Naps" and went to 3 different pretty places and napped in the sunshine. Now that is a good day to end a fine weekend.

The Pacific NorthWest a great place to run and nap in pretty places! Here are a few pics of my great nap spots the day after the 50k run.....mmmm. nap.

Nap #1 - Chuckanut Drive

Nap#2 - Near Bellingham

Nap #3 Larrabee State Park

Friday, February 15, 2008

Orcas Island or Bust!

This weekend we have the whirlwind trip to the Gulf Islands in Washington! Woohooo! We have to drive to Calgary (1.5 hours) fly to Vancouver (1 hour 15) rent a car from the airport, drive to Anacortes (1.5 hours) and hop on the ferry to Orcas Island (1 hour) Easy peazy!! Then we are going to have a great nights sleep, get up and run 50k on trails! Doesn't that sound fun?!?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shadow Lake Lodge

Just returned from a little run up Tunnel was my first run in 5 days as I had to take a few days off nursing some NASTY blisters!! But all is well.....thanks to some rest and our dry climate, my feet are looking good(-ish? better? enough?) for the race on Orcas Island on Saturday. Yikerz. My touring boots had been giving me some grief on longer outings, so I made some adjustments to them before I went up to Shadow Lake Lodge....OOOOPS....big mistake! By the time I got half way up the 13 km ski-in, I knew I had something big and nasty festering on the backs of my heels, but I sucked it up and just kept going. No surprise: when I got to the lodge and took the boots off I had two scary monsters and one big mess. The week before a 50k race!! But all is poor little feet have enjoyed a few days off and so have I.

Fridays' long run turned into a bit of an adventure as hour into what started as a nice day, a little BLIZZARD rolled in and when I came out of the trees the wind and snow were blowing so bad I was worried about frostbite! So I ended up staying on some trails in the woods and piecing together a 4 hour run.....because it was much cozier in the trees! After that, I came home and did a quickie-presto-chango, stuffed a bunch of gear in my pack, grabbed my skis and drove to the trailhead for my ski-in to Shadow Lake. Phew! And then came the blisters.....

My Big Butt

So I was forced to sit on my duff all day Saturday and Sunday morning. But it turned out to be so AWESOME! If you are ever stuck on your butt for a few days, a cozy backcountry lodge on a comfy couch in front of the fire is THE place to do it!! I relaxed so well, I ate like the queen that I am.....and I polished off my latest book. I relax well. No guilt here. Ever. It was also -31c when we woke up on Saturday morning. That helped me with my decision to sit tight and heal. The next morning when we got up it was only -2c. Crazy. Weather. Here.

I got to hang out in my favorite long undies (see photo My Big Butt!) in front of the fire for a few more hours before skiing out. Everyone else at the lodge was in such a hurry to ski out that I got to enjoy a few hours by myself lingering....(did I mention the fire and the couch??)...and then skiied out with the friends. Incidently, the last two times I was on this trail I was running and both times I ran into bears so I was glad that 1. It is winter. 2. There are no bears in winter.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It's My Friday!

I will be the first to admit I am very spoiled. I work 4 days a week and have a 3 day weekend, every weekend! I just got a spontaneous invitation to go to Shadow Lake Lodge for the weekend. Woooohoo! Check it out to see why I am excited. This means I will have to do my long run tomorrow morning and then ski in for 11km to the lodge later in the day....I reckon it is all time on my feet and fantastic training for my future Ultra adventures!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Waterton Weekend Getaway

Smiley Snow Blob!

I have been anticipating a quick road trip to Waterton National Park for a little weekend escape! Love the roadtrip! We had long thought that Waterton might be a great place to go ski touring, it was only a 4 hour drive and our British friends Anna and Stew had never been. So we loaded up our ski touring gear in hopes of exploring some new mountain places. Waterton is a busy place in summer destination but in winter the entire town shuts down. We knew we would have the entire place to ourselves to enjoy! Check out the gas station:

Both Keith and I had visited in summer, but we really didn't have any expectations for the ski touring. Our friends Anna and Stew had never been to Waterton so were all keen to just tour around on the skis and check out the scenery and hopefully make some turns. On our first day, we didn't really have a plan just an idea of where we wanted to go. We got lucky when we saw the Park Warden on the side of the road while driving to the trailhead, so we pulled over and asked him for some advice. Sometimes it just pays to ask the people who know....and he gave us a great suggestion for a tour! Thank-you many times over Mr. Park Ranger!!

The snow is this deep in Waterton!

Hobbit Headquarters

On the first day, the snow was so deep that we were working pretty hard to set the up-track. We also forgot our map (do-oh!) and the visibility was limited so it took us a long time to make our way through the forest towards our intended destination.....

Monkey Girrrrrl

Eventually we climbed our way up and out of the valley onto a beautiful little ridge line. After that it cleared up just enough to see a lake a looooooong way below us and the pitch was perfectly gladed, safe and covered in deep fresh snow so a decision was made to ski it!! Wooohooo! So much fun!! It turned out to be the best run I have had all year in the backcountry and we all enjoyed one very long, fantastic, DEEP powder run.

Happy Anna!

We skiied right onto this lake! Me looking back.....

We returned to the lodge pretty tired and hungry after an awesome day of exploration. The Kilmorey Lodge (the only place open in Waterton) was a pleasant surprise: the food was awesome, the place was cozy and the service was great! We had an early dinner and went to bed exhausted. Good times-good times!

The Brits being British

The next day we decided to return to the same slope for another powder run. How could we not? It was easier going as we had already stomped a trail to our destination and we enjoyed one warmup run on a shorter slope before we jumped in for sweet seconds and yet another great descent down Forum Ridge.

Keith in Anticipation

Stopped by the thriving metropolous of Pincher Creek, a coffee, hit the Subway and didn't stop 'til we got home to Banff! It is forecast to get warmer this to get a few more runs in before Steve and I head to Orcas Island in 2 that 2 weeks away? Oh well.....I have a good running base, right?!?

Coyotes, Frozen Waves and Riding Trees

On Friday, I had to get up early and get my long run done so I could relax and enjoy a weekend of ski touring! The plan was to leave town at 2:00 and drive to Waterton National Park to enjoy a weekend somewhere different! Fortunately I made a date with Steven to get 'er done....and we had a great long run! Thanks, Steve!

Not 5 minutes into the run we saw something cool: a coyote ran in front of us onto the frozen river where he sat down in the middle and fended off some ravens. We then noticed he had yummy breakfast in his mouth.....and when we ran by 2.5 hours later there was a giant patch of feathers and blood but no leftovers on the snow. We also had a little off road excitement when we navigated our way onto and across the river. Right in the middle of the river where a couple of ice heaves that looked like rolling waves, but the photos don't do it justice!

After that we pieced together a great run around town and passed one of my favorite trees up on Tunnel Mountain.....I don't think I was the first to ride this wild horsey....the saddle was well worn! A total of 3 hours+ with a litlle speedy bonus loop on Fenland Trail.

Me being silly...

After the run I had to hurry to get my shit together, get some lunch and hit the road with Keith, Anna and Stew. Yay! Roadtrip!