Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Has Sprung, the Grass has Ris', I Wonder Where My Bear Spray Is??

Well, the grass hasn't exactly risen but the bears are coming out of hibernation. The bear spray is back and has asssumed its' home on the side of my hydration pack. *Sigh.* My friends have also come out from hibernation!! Mike decided on wearing shorts and Steve decided on pajama bottoms on last nights run. What can I say? They are fashionable guys. Here are Mike and Steven in action on Wednesday night. It was great to get out for a run with the boys.

I made it out for 3 easy runs this week, and on tonights run, I finally felt like I'm getting my Mojo back. Phew. You know. The libido. The life force. The essence. The right stuff. What the French call a certain... I don't know what. But, Yeeeeah-baby-yeeah! My legs are back!

That Diablo reeeeally kicked my ass. The little time-out was good and necessary, but it's time to get back in the saddle! What's coming up next? So many ideas....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Embracing Winter

When you live in Banff and winter is long, you need to do one thing: Embrace Winter!! We have another month of it and the ski touring is great this time of year. With the additional day light in the day, I'm hoping to sneak out for a few evening tours. I'll see if I can make it happen. We had an exceptional day out and about.

Keith and the Big Mountain

Me and Secret Agent, John Gow - International Man of Mystery

John, making some turns.

Keith and The Monarch

Hill Training.

Oh, yeah.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Race Report - Diablo 50 Mile Endurance Run and Adventures in Yosemite

I have myself a running hangover. This is what happens when you run in 30+ degree temperatures for 50 miles, evidently. I feel like I’ve been on a 3 day drinking bender, got in a bar room brawl and had the boots taken to me. Seriously. The Diablo 50 Mile Endurance Run 2009 edition was hot-as-hell, oh-so-pretty, tough, challenging and fun! The things I do for fun these days, I tell you. My perspective is seriously warped!

Keith and I have just returned from 6 days in California, where our visit was two-fold. Double the pleasure and double the fun! First, we got to visit Meghan in Yosemite. Second, we got to do that little runny-run on Mount Diablo. Before you get the race report, I have to torture you with the holiday report...but I’ll give you the Readers Digest Condensed Version.

Pre-Diablo, we got to enjoy two short but sweet days in Yosemite, at an amazing time of year. On Thursday, we played tourist and visited everything that we could in the Yosemite Valley. We were on our feet all day walking and enjoying the sights. The waterfalls are huge this time of year and there was water coming off of just about everything. It was simply awesome.

Friday, we got to spend some quality time with Meghan. We drove to Hetch Hetchy for a picnic and a walk and explored some crazy scenic back roads in the area. More incredible scenery and good times-good times!

Meghan is loving life in Yosemite and is recovering from a 2nd place finish at Marathon des Sables. It was awesome to share stories of recent travels and ponder new adventures. Meghan is my National Park sista'!! She fully understands and appreciates the joys of living in such a special place. That Meghan is a lucky and remarkable girl. Thanks for a great visit!

Race Report - Diablo 50 Mile Endurance Run 2009 - Fun in the Sun

Now on to the race goodies. This was my second effort at Diablo. You can read last year's report here. Last year, I ran this event as my first-ever 50 Miler with and ear to ear grin and enjoyed every moment. In particular, I appreciated and enjoyed the challenge of this course, the scenery, the steep climbs and descents, the people and the super-fantastic race directors Sarah and Wendell. This year, I couldn't stay away and brought my honey along for the fun. Keith has been building his mileage and confidence gradually over the past year and was stoked to be running his first trail marathon on this tough and challenging course. We got there early enough to enjoy the pre-race vibe and hang out with friends Doone and Tim Watson of Calgary and Glen and Tanya Meeth of Auburn. We spotted Gretchen ready to rock with red braids bouncing and found Danni who Keith ran with. The ultra world is a small world and I love it for that!

At 7:00AM, the air was already warm and I knew the toughest challenge of the day would be dealing with the heat. Especially when you're a Canadian girl who runs on snow packed trails. My only goals were to enjoy the trails, take some photos and have a good time. On a hot day, I throw all goals and expectations out the window. Really, running 50 miles is challenging enough on a given day, but running 50 miles with 13,340 feet of elevation gain on a stinkin' hot day? Just try and make it to the finish line in one piece. That's the goal!

The race starts by climbing all of the way to the top of Mount Diablo. It's a great climb and a most enjoyable way to start the day. The views are fantastic, the single track is sweet and the flowers on this particular day where gorgeous. It's also a nice way to start the day because you are pretty much forced to start slow due to the horse trail of people climbing along with you.
It's also sociable! I followed the backside of Jennifer Ray up towards the summit. Jennifer mentioned she was the race director of the Skyline 50k, which runs on the first weekend of August. You could tell she was enjoying her day.

Jennifer enjoys the singletrack.

It was a beautiful morning on the mountain and by the time I reached the top 2 hours later, it was already hot!
We enjoyed some great single track off the back side of Diablo, before it joined up with the double-track from hell and started going steeply downward.

I had fun running with Beat from Berkeley, who took some pictures of me in my happy place. Just rolling along on the double track, before the killer descent. Thanks, Beat!

Shortly after, the course gets so steep that the trail disappears out of view. And so begins the quad thrashing descent that appears so early in this race.

After the killer downhill, you head off on a 5 mile loop through some nice rolling ranch country. It was heating up out there and I stopped to soak my jersey in the lovely little creek at the bottom, before heading back into the exposed hillside and into the direct sun.

Coming back towards the aid station, Doone and Tim came running by which confused my sun afflicted brain, as they had been running ahead of me all day. It turns out they were going the wrong way out of the aid station, but it took me a few minutes to figure that out. By the time I made this realization, it was too late and they had disappeared down the hill. I felt so bad for not stopping them!
The section into Rock City was a bit of a blur and I found myself alone for most of it. That was alright with me, as I was enjoying cruising through the woods on some fun single track. I left Rock City alone and continued into the shady woods feeling strong, smooth and smiling. I got my camera ready as we descended further and further into the woods, wondering when I would see the front runners. When the leader appeared, I was stoked to see it was Beverly Anderson-Abbs leading the charge and she was flying! I gave her a huge cheer of: "Woooooohoo! Go Bev! You're a stud!" It broke her concentration, but it made her smile!

Next came this guy, who most definitely appreciated my cheering. It was Rob Cain, Age 55 from Ashland Oregon, motoring along. Hot damn. 55? Rob, you are the man! What a great race he ran! Please let me run like this in 5 years and 10 years. I want to be them. Healthy, strong and kicking-ass for many years to come.

Then there was Alan Abbs, just cruising along, doing his thing. I heard that Bev and Alan had been busy the previous day, directing their own event the Sunsweet Tehama Wildflowers 50k in Red Bluff. It looks like a great event in a very pretty place. But damn, if I ever directed a race, I'm pretty confident I would be sleeping in the next day. Possibly with a hangover.

O.K. Here is me in the woods. Do you notice the difference?

And here is Rick Gaston, who ran a great race on this day. I realized when I saw this photo that we have something in common: we both have ridiculously muscular legs. Except his are brown.

I also found Donald on the trails and introduced myself along route. I asked him this profound question: Are you Donald!?! I have been a fan of Donald's blog for awhile and always appreciate his great writing and sense of humour. This is the photo I got of him:
The trail really did descend into an inferno of heat on this section. I ran into Paul Charteris at possibly the hottest point on the course, as I was walking back up the hill.

Then there was Glen and Tanya Meeth....

...and the lovely Danni!! We didn't get enough quality time this weekend, so we are going to join forces and go to Western States Camp in May. I am so looking forward to it!

When we emerged from the shade of the forest and hit Rock City, I put away the camera and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. We were fully exposed to the sunshine in all of its' mid-afternoon glory and I found myself gearing down to make the climb up to Juniper. I was slowing down and seemed to be stuck in neutral.

Me So Hot!!

I tag teamed with this guy on the climb and we entertained each other as we climbed slowly up to the summit. He said he had been curled up in the bushes in the shade for awhile, before I joined him. He had scared a few hikers who were frightened with his sweaty, delirious appearance, complete with taped nipples. So funny. Does anyone know this guy? He was entertaining as hell! Somewhere on this stretch, Doone caught up to me and passed me and I was so happy to see her. Right next to the Juniper aid station, she saw a family having a picnic which she mistakenly thought was the aid station. Evidently, she almost dug into their picnic before realizing the error of her ways!

Summit #2 - Phew.

Summit Aid Station, Leslie and Doone taking a breather.

Incidentally, does this woman look 52 years old? We shared many great stories over the weekend. My favorite was hearing about Doone's experience at the Boston Marathon in 1978, which she ran in cut-off jean shorts. She's awesome.

While I was dawdling up top, Doone got a head start and it took me a looooong time to catch up with her. The hardest part of this course by far is the last 8 miles, with the majority going downhill. Now I would consider myself a good downhiller, but this descent was relentless and humbling. It really hurt, but at least I had gravity taking me closer to the finish line. I would almost slow to a crawl on the flat sections and Doone would catch me on these sections. When the terrain finally mellowed out, we ran the last few kilometres together. I was so glad for the company and we finished it up together which was a great ending to a fantastic day on the trails of Mount Diablo. The wild turkeys were there to greet us near the finish line, which was an extra bonus at the end of a long, hot and crazy day in the sunshine.

I had a great day! Everything about it was enjoyable. I did surprisingly well with the heat and I think my strategy of soaking my shirt, head and hat whenever I could paid huge dividends. It kept my core temperature down and my head cool. The big surprise was my finishing time, I had gone a whole lot faster than last year and improved by 50 minutes! That was a bonus to an already fun day.

Keith, really had a great run and enjoyed all aspects of his day. I was thrilled to see the look of excitement he had in his eyes when he was talking about his experience: the pleasures of the trails, the scenery and the people that he met along the way. Thanks to Sara and Wendell for another fantastic race in a very special place!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A little something to be EXCITED about!!

Keith and I are off to California tomorrow. We will be flying to San Francisco, driving directly to Yosemite to see Meghan and then running my first race of the year, the Diablo 50 Mile Endurance Run. Yiiiiihaw! Keith will be taking on the Marathon. Neither of us have goals, we just want to take some photos, finish and have fun. We are pretty darn excited.

It looks like it is also going to be an opportunity to connect with some new friends that we have met on the trails and some blogging friends (has anyone come up with a word for that yet? How about Blog-amigos? Froggers?) over the past year. We are going to meet up with Danni and local friends Doone and Tim Watson from Calgary. I hope to see Paul Charteris, say hi to Donald, Evan of Alaska, reconnect with Neil S(who we ran Stinson with), Gretchen and others, like Rick and Catra! Ooooooh! And I just spotted our friend Glen Meeth on the starters list. We had the pleasure of some quality time with Glen and his wife Tanya at TransRockies. It's going to be fun. I only hope I have the good fortune of spending some time with some of these folks on the trail this weekend! It's going to be fun.

Happy Trails!


Monday, April 13, 2009

Australia – Part II - Playing Tourist: Adventures in Mount Buffalo National Park, Royal National Park and Blue Mountains National Park

After Norma's race, we had a couple of days to enjoy the area before we flew back to Sydney. My plan in Sydney was to go to Royal National Park, to run the Coastal Trail and then head up to Blue Mountains National Park, to enjoy 3 days on the trail.

The day after the race, Norma was moving amazingly well. We got to enjoy a morning of leisure with all of our new friends and had a wrap up breakfast and awards presentation and say our thank-yous and good-byes. The first thing we did, was to go for a 2nd breakfast (a full on Aussie fry-up with eggs, bacon rashers, fried tomatoes and mushrooms). It was one of the best things we did all day! Fuelled by coffee, we were ready to go play tourist and take a closer look at the beautiful surrounding area. We took a short road trip to Mount Buffalo National Park where we spent the day sightseeing. It was another gorgeous place, with scenery that changed every 5 minutes.

The road took us up through Eucalyptus forests, across high alpine plains and lakes, past sheer rock cliffs and above tree line into the high country. The rock formations above tree line were crazy, with strange clusters of round smooth rock sculpted by Mother Nature. The trail system looked to by expansive, with single track running all through the park from the valley floor and into the high country. Mount Buffalo would most definitely be a great place to run! We took it easy on this day but still enjoyed a short steep hike of 1.5k to the high point of the park, the Horn. I could not believe that Norma managed the rocky walk up and down with relative ease. At the top, our view was completely hazed over with the smoke from surrounding bush fires. It was pretty funny to be at an overlook with a commanding view of all of the mountains of Alpine National Park and seeing…..nothing! We rounded up the day with a picnic by Lake Catani and some quality relaxing.

Hazy and smoky views at Mount Buffalo

Let's Go Snow Tubing at the Dingo Dell!!

Top of "The Horn" Mount Buffalo National Park

Norma and Jason

The next day, we spent the day in the car and took a road trip out of the mountains, into the flat land and back to Albury. It is really dry in this corner of the world and we were told that there had been ongoing droughts and subsequent fires, for 3 years and counting. During the race, we had run through large forests of old burns. The silver forests of dead Eucalyptus were eery, but quite beautiful! Just outside of Albury, we came across something completely different. Lake Hume looked to be a man-made lake, with ghost trees poking out through the water.

Good times.

We flew in to Sydney early and my plan was to get to Royal National Park and run the Coastal Trail, all in one day. The Coastal Trail was a 29km run which is so close to Sydney, but a world away. The Royal National Park is the 3rd oldest National Park in the world, behind Yellowstone (#1) and Banff (#2)!! It sits just South of this huge city, remotely located, an island of wilderness which you can access easily by ferry. The trail was recommended to me numerous times, by many different people. My plan was to stay in the park at a remote wilderness hostel and enjoy a couple of days of running. The plan changed when I was offered a lift into the park and the chance to run a 20km section of the trail instead. At the end of my run, I would take a ferry back to the city and sleep at the youth hostel in Cronulla where my gear was waiting for me.

My run started from Garie Beach, where I filled my shoes up with sand in the first 10 minutes of running, despite my gaiters. The surf was up and the swells on the ocean were huge! There was a lot of debris on the trail because of a massive amount of rain that had fallen in the previous 24 hours. For this Banff girl, the heat and humidity felt smothering and downright hot, even though it was overcast and only 18-20c. I was a sweaty mess.

Garie Beach - starting out.

Rough and Scenic Single track

The day was moody, humid and overcast which just added do the dramatic effect. As I climbed up and out of the beach, I got glimpses of views into the park: a sprawling mass of dark, green, steamy, impenetrable forest. It was truly an oasis, a world away from the city.

Despite the terrible forecast and the high humidity, I never actually got rained on. The ocean swells were hammering the shore line and the beaches that I crossed were covered in debris from the recent storms. I think the weather had people scared as I only saw 2 other people on the trail all day.

I ran into the village of Bundeena and headed straight down to the ferry dock to catch the 6:00 ferry. I was tired, hungry and sweaty and ready to sit down and have myself a post-run feast. At the ferry dock, 6:00 came and went and I began to have a sinking feeling. Where was the ferry? There were no signs, no schedule, no evidence of a ferry even existing. I flagged down the first two people I saw and they told me that the ferry wasn't running because the ocean was to rough. I was stuck. No bus service. No local taxi service. I was soaking wet, it was getting dark and I was hungry and stranded. Fortunately for me, the nice people took me home, where I put in the emergency phone call to my uncle in Sydney to come rescue me. They were SO awesome, that they drove me to meet my uncle half way between his place and their home in Bundeena! Ah, the joys of travelling and meeting good people. My uncle was fantastic and gave me a hard time for not phoning him when I arrived. We picked up my gear in Cronulla and I got to enjoy a great nights sleep and some quality time with Uncle Ronny. The next day, he drove me out to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, where I was planning on getting 3 long runs, in 3 days.

I really didn't know a thing about the Blue Mountains National Park or the town of Katoomba, but I knew it was a mountain town in a very pretty place. Sound like something familiar? Like Banff, perhaps? I knew that Katoomba would be the kind of place that I enjoy. Great scenery, lots of trails and the type of good people that you find only in mountain towns. Naturally, I felt very at home in this place. I loved it.

My uncle delivered me to Katoomba early enough that I could go enjoy a few hours on the trails. It poured rain on the entire drive into the mountains and the clouds were sitting thick and low. But it was warm and the moist air was lovely. It was a few degrees colder in the mountains that on the Coastal Trail, to make the temperature just perfect. Moist, but warm! On my first run, I had my first glimpse into the park on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. It was pouring rain and I was out running in a sleeveless jersey and shorts. It was so much fun tearing around on the trails in the rain. I was soaked to the skin, filthy and having a ridiculous amount of fun. Every now and then the clouds would lift and I would catch a glimpse of some massive cliffs off in the distance. The trails, the scenery were incredible and much more than I had expected! I ended up with a solid 3 hour run and who knows how long for distance.

Leslie Of the Rain Forest


I was so excited for my run the next day because I had the entire day to enjoy. I was keen to get out into the park and see as much of it as I could, on the trail. I had grandiose ideas of attempting something really long, like the Six Foot Track, a 46km long historic walk but I realized that there was waaaaay too much good scenery to see in Katoomba. I decided to piece together one long day of running all the short and scenic day treks of the area. That morning, when I returned to the Prince Henry Cliff Walk and the clouds started lifting to reveal the incredible scenery, I was pretty happy with my decision.


I ran at cliff level for about and hour and a half before descending the Golden Stairs down into the valley. This trail was an adventure of roots, rocks and mud and was cut straight through the cliff to descend into the rain forest below. I said good-bye to the sunshine, because running in the rain forest was pretty dark.

Everything was alive and green and the forest was loud with the sounds of Bell birds and insects. I never actually SAW a Bell bird, but I sure heard them. My first destination was a place called Ruined Castle, a rocky outcrop in the forest. It was a short upward scramble up to the Castle which had me grabbing roots and rocks to help me up the slope. Apart from the scramble, the Ruined Castle trail was a pleasure cruise through the rain forest. It joined up with the Federal Pass Walking Track which took me back to civilisation and past the Scenic Railway Terminal. After running in the woods by myself for 4 hours without seeing people, it was a little shocking when the trail dropped me abruptly back into the tourist zone of the Railway Boardwalks. It was just like being at home and going for a run on Mystic Pass and arriving back at Johnson Canyon, the most popular walk in Banff National Park. Or, the same claustrophobic feeling that I sometimes get when I arrive at the top of the Banff Gondola on my afternoon run. Come to think about it, it's the same feeling that I get when I drive from Banff into the city. Anyhow, within 10 minutes the people had all but disappeared and I had the trail back to myself. Phew.
The trail provided me with a great view of the Three Sisters, this little gem of a rock formation on the Escarpment. It had turned into a hot and lovely day and I was just cruising away the day in the rain forest. I connected up the Dardanelles Pass Walking Track and Federal Pass as a bonus loop before continuing onward and upward, returning to the top of the escarpment via some crazy amazing trail with lots of waterfalls and overlooks. I continued cliff-side all the way to Gordon Falls before calling it a day and making the return journey back to my hostel. When I got back sweaty, happy and content I had been running for 8 hours. A great run in the park! My roommate shrieked when she saw me, because as well as being filthy and stinky, a couple of leeches had gotten a hold of me in the rain forest and I had blood stains all over my white jersey. I was having so much fun that I hadn't even noticed. Ewwwwww.

For my last day, there was still some new trails to connect up and this time I used the Furber Steps to descend down from the escarpment. This trail was in way better shape than the Golden Stairs and I managed to stay on my feet for this descent. A quick tour of some of the shorter trails in the railroad area and an excursion onto a fire road not on my map, took me about 4 hours of running time. I was one happy girl. 3 days and 3 great runs in a beautiful place!
Uncle Ronny collected me and took me back to civilisation, where I got to relax and enjoy and evening with my Aussie family, before heading to the airport in the AM. Sigh. Whirlwind Aussie Holiday Over. How lucky am I?!? Total, about 33 hours of Aussie trails under my feet. Kilometres? Who the heck knows. Fun? Yep!