Sunday, April 27, 2008

Smells like Spring.....

After last weekends deep snow adventure, I was very pleased at the recent arrival of.....could it be? Warmer weather? A thaw? Possibly, maybe, smells like spring!!!

I awoke at 5:30 in the morning - because there was a couple of robins having an orgy outside of my bedroom window and they were screamers!! Also, was getting light out. I drifted back to sleep only to be awoken by the alarm dog, barking at a large bull elk grazing on the teeny tiny sprigs of greeen grass that magically appeared when the snow receeded. Hey - the snow receeded!! A week ago - shin deep, but the last two days it disappeared. I decided to get up and have a hot tub, only to be assaulted by the smells of spring in the backyard. The smell of wet, rotten, grass mixed with a winters worth of Norman doggie-doo.......ah! The smells of spring!!

Keith and I have two Adirondack chairs in the middle of our kitchen - on most mornings, one of our favorite rituals is to sit in them, visit, drink coffee and wait for the hot cereal to cook. It's a great ritual. Our friend, the sunbeam is finding its' way into the kitchen much earlier these days for us to enjoy. I lazed the morning away, waiting for it to get a few degrees warmer before I ventured out for my last long run pre-Miwok (yay!!). I'm sure glad I waited, because by the time I got out there - the sun had heated up the day, melted everything in its' sight and things were warming up and the smell of spring was everywhere.

I decided to drive up to Lake Minnewanka for my run and was hopefull that there might be some semi-dry trail and signs of spring. I wanted to run in the sun and feel the heat on my skin. The shoreline trail was fantastic - warm, drying up quickly, sunny and glorious.....

Oh my Gawwwwwwdd.....Leslie's in a short sleeved jersey!!

Officially, Saturday April 26th was the first day that I put on shorts and a T-shirt!!! Woooohooo! Alright, I had to start in arm-warmers and a vest, but the moment I hit the Lake Minnewanka shoreline, it was hot and sweaty. Yessssss! Hot and sweaty! Surely, a sign and smell of spring - a sweaty Leslie. The lake is still frozen, but the south-facing trail was dry.

The smells of spring were everywhere. The smell of cold snow and rock in the shade, the smell of sheep shit on Sheep Point (Norman isn't the only one leaving a winter's worth of souvenirs)....the smell of the sun warming the pine forest, the smell of warm dirt on the trail, the smell of moist rotting leaves and still lingering, the smell of ice and snow.

Deep in Sheep Shit - Sheep Point

The Shoreline Trail

The view from the campground

This campground on Lake Minnewanka shoreline is another one of my favorite summer places. We once spent a long weekend here on one of the busiest weekends of the summer in the National Park - and saw a couple other people.

Another sure sign of spring, my bear spray is now easily accessed on the side of my hydration pack where it will remain for spring, summer and fall! Though I didn't see any signs, no diggings, no footie prints, it is now bear season. The G-bears and B-bears have woken up and they love the Minnewanka shoreline for the same reasons I do - it is the first place to melt and they love the smells and tastes of spring.....don't we all??

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Favorite Places in Summer

As much as I enjoy winter and skiing in the Rockies, I have to say: summer is the season for me. Part of the reason is that for so many months a year, the backcountry is snowbound. There are all of these incredible places BURIED under many feet of snow. So summertime, is like treasure hunting. There are 4 National Parks here, all with treasures to be found! But you only have 12 weeks to find the treasure - that is part of the appeal of summer. You have 12 weeks to get out there and find new trails (and there are lots of them) and re-aquaint yourself with the old classics, as well. It's almost overwhelming!!

Running towards Yoho Glacier

One of the many places I love is Yoho National Park. I am getting very familiar with the trails of Yoho....The Iceline Trail, Whaleback, Twin Falls, Yoho Lake, Yoho Glacier, Burgess Pass, The Emerald Triangle, Emerald Lake......I can hardly wait!!! I look forward to the thaw every year, so I can go run the trails and enjoy one of my favorite campsights.

Campground with a View

The Takakkaw Falls campground is quite unique, it's not quite a backcountry campground and not quite a frontcountry campground. You park the car and you have to walk only 1 km to reach the sights. So you can pack like you are car camping, but are surrounded by backcountry wilderness!! You can bring the comfy camping chairs and the extra thick sleeping pad (and the beer and the chocolate!)

Sun on Takakkaw Falls

The most amazing thing about this campground are the falls themselves. "Takakkaw" is derived from the Cree word for "it is wonderful!!" and every campsight enjoys a view of the falls! The falls are massive as well: the highest point is 384 m (1260 feet).

The Takakkaw Falls are huge and loud and it is way better than T.V. They thunder and growl and you can hear them rage all night, yet somehow, it's soothing. I've seen mountain goats climbing the cliffs surrounding the falls while I sip my coffee in the AM.....aaaaah! It's wonderful!! Only 2 more months....

I can be there in one hour from Banff, hop on my cruiser and schlepp all of my gear in to enjoy some mountain "luxury" camping. How sweet is that?? I can't wait for summer....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Banff in April

How quickly things change!

After enjoying a few weeks of spring-like weather, winter is back!! We all knew it was too good to be true as there are frequent snowfalls in April......but I for one, had been lulled into the false notion that maybe, just maybe, spring was around the corner. But yes, the great weather was just a tease. I should have known better! To think I was in Diablo a week ago and it was 90F!!

On Friday morning, I woke up all confused and sleepy. It was so dark in my bedroom and so quiet. I had been planning on doing a long run and was quite looking forward to it, so I got up and looked out the window and there it was: a foot of snow!!! Hmmm. That could make for some very challenging running!

My front yard!

I decided to go out anyways, afterall, it was a beautiful snowy day. I just modified the program a wee bit. There was just too much snow to actually run on the trails, so I decided to do the Leslie Power Trudge for 4 hours, followed by a indoor bike ride with my hubby. A date and a movie and a bike ride - woohooo!

The Power March. The Power trudge. The Power hike! (Sometimes, I call it the death march.....) Whatever you want to call it - I went out trudging around in the snow on my favorite (snow covered) trails. It was awesome! Nice and quiet and very pretty. I managed to run a few bits and pieces, but mostly I was just walking really quick, there was just too much snow!

My super-cool rose colored shades

The Spray River Trail (it was shin-deep!!)

Little Castle in the Woods (The historic Banff Springs Hotel)


Monday, April 14, 2008

Diablo - Race Report

Just came back from California and the Diablo 50 Miler and it was EPIC! I'm not even exaggerating for effect - this was one tough and challenging course.

My thoughts on the Diablo 50 Miler:

Beautiful scenic course, extremely challenging terrain, great people, devilishly hot (you know I had to make that hot-devil-hellish-diablo analogy at some point), incredibly well organised and for me, FUN! Oh - and it was hot. And tough. And did I mention it was hot? It's called Diablo! The Devil! Ai! Yi!Yi!

Hot and Bothered

Devil Rock

For me, this was my "debut" 50 Miler. My favorite trail runs are the long ones that are scenic and challenging and the Diablo delivered on all counts! It was gorgeous scenery and it was crazy challenging.

First Summit

By crazy challenging I mean a whole lot of great singletrack, some technical, lots of plush rolling trail, but mostly a HUGE elevation gain and a whole lot of elevation loss. And then REPEAT. Fortunately, I like to go up and I like to go down.

Let me rephrase that. I like to descend. Basically, this was the course profile in Leslie-speak: 8 miles BIG up, 8 miles BIG down, 20 miles of shorter but just as nasty up and down in the middle, followed by 5 miles BIG up and for the grand finalee-9 miles of BIG down. A huge descent for the last 9 MILES!

That explains the difficulty I had getting out of bed this morning. It is true at least for me about the "discomfort" being worse on Day 2. I have warned the husband to stay away from the quads, please. They are a wee bit sensitive. But it's all good!!

A Big Descent - It just kept going and going and going......down, down, down.

I wasn't sure how I would do mentally, only because I have never run that far. I was interested to see if my brain would get me to the finish line or if it would question every ache and pain and challenge that it was presented with. I decided to think of it as just another long day of adventure. I knew I would be out there for 12 hours-13 hours-14 hours, whatever. It was going to be a long day and I was prepared for that and I would finish when I would finish. You are done when you are done. I was even prepared to be done, even if it wasn't at the finish line. I think it is realistic on a hot day on gnarly terrain to NOT finish. I'm a realist. With any endurance sport, there always exists a good chance of NOT finishing and I'm O.K with that!!

If you were this baby Diablo cow (it's a special breed), things would be much simpler mentally! Right now it is thinking: I am a cow. I am a cow. I am a cow.

Fortunately, I felt good, the scenery was distracting and I had a great day. I also worked hard at keeping cool - afterall, I'm from frickin' Banff and it was frickin' 85F. Yikerz. I drank a ton and at every single creek crossing or water source I wet my head, my hat and took my shirt off and soaked my jersey. A few people got a good blinding glimpse of this white Banff girl peeling off her shirt.

As always, I met lots of good people on course and at the aid stations. It was great to catch a glimpse of all the faster runners on the out and back, Bev Anderson-Abs rockin' the course at age 44 - how does she do it?? Talent and hard work is my guess. It was excellent to see Scott Dunlap of A Trail Runners Blog also making it look easy and most importantly, the man seems to enjoy himself and his running! A big smile for all.

Speaking of a big smile, I was fortunate enough to also meet Chihping Fu on course and although he was suffering, he was still smiling. I'm not sure who has the better smile: Chihping or Scott??

Chihping takes a lot of great photos on course - I discovered and enjoyed his photos when I was looking for more information on the Diablo.

It's all in the attitude!

I spent some quality time on trail with Nancy, Mark from Redding, Paul Charteris from Davis, Chihping and many others. I enjoyed some brief but quality time with my friends Jamie, Tasha and Hugh from Calgary. Hugh got some great photos as well.

Superstar - Super Hugh!

Tasha and Jamie

I also got to meet Catra who also could be voted least likely to be 44 years old. Last year, I got so much pleasure reading Catras PCT Adventure blog, as she journeyed on the PCT for 2000+ miles. From my perspective as a stranger, it was compelling reading to follow along with someone elses adventure. It has definitely planted the seed of a long through-hike/run in my brain. Thanks for sharing Catra! At the end of the day, I was looking around and thinking: These are good people.

From a visitors perspective, the variety of terrain in Diablo State Park was mind blowing - there were grasslands and meadows of wildflowers, some shaded forests and creek crossings, desert landscapes with sagebrush, rolling fields with oak trees, wild rock formations, dry open exposed rocky climbs and plenty of gorgeous panoramas wherever you looked. I stopped frequently and took lots of photos.

Even the critters were different! I saw a little blue snake, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, heard the frogs and crickets singing, enjoyed the geckos and lizards, wild turkeys and a raccoon! All that within spitting distance a sprawling mass of humanity. Thank goodness for green spaces in urban areas-it keeps the people connected with nature and helps keep them sane. The multi-use trails were impressive as well: people bird watching, horse back riding, ranching and mountain biking.

Grrrrrr.....Men In Uniform!

From an athletes perspective, the crew at Pacific Coast Trail Runs are incredibly well organised. They put on a great show. Everything was smooth, the course was sweet, the aid stations perfectly located and well stocked and there were some down right sexy volunteers waiting on me hand and foot. Thanks!

Anyhow, to wrap it up, I finished. Yay for me! I even finished strong and I had enough energy to work it a little the last 9 miles and play a little game of chase. The temperatures started to cool just a little and I got to chase the sun and a few people, all the way to the finish line. Just in time. It was turning from dusk to dark pretty quickly. I managed to pass a handful of people, maybe 6 or 7 in the last 9 miles of my effort.

Then there was a couple of things that made my day at the end of my long run. It's the little things, right?!? First, there was the last creek I crossed. It was clear and cold and I stood it in it for a looong time and wiggled my poor tired feet. It felt soooo good! I got the giggles. Second, while crossing a meadow not far from the finish line I heard the wild turkeys. When I called back to them, the entire forest erupted in a chorus of gobble-obble-gobble, with me calling and them answering. The giggles again.

Don't you just love that feeling of being totally and completely spent after a hard days exercise? I like it. It's uncomfortable, yet satisfying. It feels like your livin' life.

My tired feet in the creek - also, some great salt stains on my skirt!! Ewwwwww.

Post script - here's what the race organisers had to say about the day:

What a difference a day (or two) makes! As we got ready to sweep the last of the ribbons on Monday, it was 51 degrees outside and the expected high on Mt. Diablo was 68. Quite a contrast to Saturday’s 4:00 p.m. high of 90 – the first hot day of the year, and the hottest April 12th by 10 degrees on Diablo in over 50 years. Even the predicted hot weather didn’t stop 82 marathoners and 113 50-milers from toeing the line on Saturday, although it did add a whole ‘nother level of complexity to balancing food intake, fluids, electrolytes, and effort throughout the day. The finishing rate of the 50, just 73% percent this year, is a reflection of both the afternoon heat and the difficulty of the course.

Many of the marathon runners were lucky, finishing early enough in the day to avoid the bulk of the heat. Jasper Halekas and John Friedman pushed the pace early, with Jasper pulling away as the course took them to the summit for the second time. He came across the line in 4:16, shattering the old course record, with John finishing 15 minutes later. After last year’s fabulous race in the 50, Jasper now holds the course record for each distance. Jody Waters of Ashland, OR, finished first for the women, with Jennifer Hemmen just 5 minutes behind in second. Nearly all the marathon starters were able to finish, coming across the line throughout the day to share in the pizza, conversation, and fun.

In the 50-miler, Erik Skaden and Graham Cooper ran together for half the race, crossing the line together less than 9 ½ hours after they’d started, despite a nasty fall Graham took at about mile 43. Bev Anderson-Abbs repeated as the first place female, finishing third overall in 9:24 and taking 15 minutes off her course-record time from 2007 in the process. Beth Vitalis was back to run with us this year, too, and came in as the last sub-10 hour finisher and the only other woman to finish in the top 10. The rest of the 83 finishers came in throughout the afternoon, evening, and night, most of them commenting on the heat of the day and the seeming endlessness of the last 8 miles. And even many who didn’t make it the full 50 commented that they were most satisfied with their day’s efforts, and that they enjoyed their time on the mountain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Goin' to California

I am off to San Francisco for the Mount Diablo 50 Miler tomorrow. I am VERY excited and a little scared!! Looking forward to a change of scenery, new trails and a run in a beautiful place. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Skoki Spring Fling

Ah - Spring in the Mountains!
I finally feel secure in saying this because:
1. It is in fact April.
2. The temperatures are definitely warmer in the day.
3. I have a sunburned nose. Ouch.
4. I bust out the party pants.

That being said, there will be more snow storms as there is always the possiblility of a major dump in April and in May. But I am going to embrace the unpredictability that is spring and get out there and do stuff whether it is in snow or not!

I just enjoyed the past few days at Skoki Lodge, my new favorite place IN THE WORLD. This was my 4th trip to the area in 4 months. The last two trips I just got to visit the lodge, but this time I got to stay. Yeah! Sweet back country luxury.

We got lots of fresh air, relaxed well and feasted!! It was an awesome couple of days in the backcountry.

I love Keith! (but you know that....)

My Party Pants
(they say "Dancing Queen" on the bum and I only bust them out for special occasions)

Cornice on Deception Pass
Day 1 was a little overcast, but it was still gorgeous. I decided to run in instead of skiing with the rest of the group because I was nervous about falling victim to blisters or clumbsiness pre-race. I ran into the lodge, dropped my pack and ran back up Deception Pass to meet up with the Keith and Laura. The log cabin is always a welcoming sight when you arrive!

On Day 2 I pretended to be a skiier and walked back up the pass with Keith and Laura. While they went for a little tour to make some turns, I did a little hill training up and down the pass. I was there to greet a few skiiers who were on their way in to Skoki. When you are 10k in the backcountry skiing in spring, the last thing you expect to see is some crazy runner girl running up the pass!!

Keith and Laura climbing Deception Pass!

Go That Way!!

How is that for comprimise? Keith and Leslie go skiing.....and running!!!

Keith and Laura feelin' good in the Sunshine

How to burn your nose

Apres-ski/run- Me and Laura with big smiles

On the last day, we had a big breakfast, relaxed and procrastinated before heading off. We didn't exactly want to leave paradise. It was a blue sky day and it was heating up quite nicely as we climbed the pass. As I got ahead of the group, I got thinking about Steve's "random act of exhibitionism" the other month and afterall....I was in the exact same place, so I bust out the Dancing Queen Party Pants.

Yep, just running along - another great day in the backcountry for this skinny white girl!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Saturday Long Run - 6 hours

Me so tired! Today was my last long run before my debut 50 miler. All is well- I had a good day and everything went smooth. I decided to do 3 loops from Banff, on a terrain profile similar to my race next weekend! First, I ran out and back on the Spray River Trail (2 hours) and then I ran up Sulphur Mountain (2 hours+) and then I ran all the way around Tunnel Mountain (2 hours). Lots of great scenery!

It was a beautiful calm morning with fresh snow and dusted trees along the Spray River Trail. My footy prints were the first ones on the trail! My first 14k looked a lot like this:

Then, the big climb up Sulphur which is always so pretty. The scenery was pretty dramatic today and I got the full meal deal for weather: sun, cloud, snow, drizzle. The snow was light and fluffy when I started and got progressively more wet and heavy. Lake Minnewanka was shining in the distance from the top of Sulphur Mountain today - that's where I ran last week, right down the middle of the lake!

On the homefront, I got to enjoy the company of friends Anne and Zak for a couple of days and I ran into them at about the 4 hour mark as I was coming down Sulphur Mountain. My cheering squad! Baby Blaze is in the baby backpack. Anne is also 4 1/2 months preggers and was smokin' up that mountain. Congrats to you both!

A quick trip through town took me past the Banff Springs Hotels and a bunch of cigarette smoking guests (bleh! don't you know I've been running for 4 hours??? gross, gross, gross) Banff is busy on the weekend - though I was only in town for five minutes I was glad to get back on the trail, I had that "glazed-over-I've-been-running-for-five-hours-go-away-people" thing going on. The trail behind Tunnel Mountain was pretty icy and I had to pay attention but I got some great views of the under appreciated side of Mount Rundle.

Good times!
Tomorrow, Keith and I are off to stay at Skoki Lodge for a couple of nights with 3 other friends. Woohoo! I am keen to go relax for a few days - reading, eating and napping are all on the agenda.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Love Keith!

My hubby is the best! He just is - he is everything a partner should be: FUN, caring, supportive, kind, flexible, generous, giving, happy, carefree, spontaneous and most of all, loving! The man has got a LOT of love to give. Fortunately for me, he loves me the mostest of all-est. He shares his generosity of spirit and his enthusiasm for living with me, with friends and family and frequently, with complete strangers. He thinks all people are friends until proven otherwise and he doesn't like to say a bad thing about anyone or anything. He is truly, the nicest guy in the world. And I love that. I love Keith!!

Keith and Leslie at the Demolition Derby - yiiiiihaw!

So last Thursday I come home maybe a little tired and worn out after a long day and my honey is down in the basement and he says "Come on down!" He is standing at the bottom of the stairs with a beautiful shiny new bicycle and he says "I got it for you because I love you!"

I love Keith!

Today, I had to squeeze in my run in the morning and I knew I would be pressed for time to get to work. When I got home after my sweet run (see photo for todays run) he says "I ran out and got eggs and made breakfast because I knew you would be hungry!" Surprise! In the oven, Huevos Rancheros....mmm-mmmmm! A post-run feast! I love Keith!

My Pretty Run!

Another random reason that I love Keith - he brought Norman the dog into my life! Norman and Keith were a package deal. I have enjoyed both of them for twelve years and now Norm is fifteen years old. I love this dog so much. Who knew I could love a doggie so much? When I come home from work, this is what greets me daily:

I LOVE KEITH!!! (and Norman, too.)