Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's a Brand New Year.

What are you going to do?

New Year. New Trails. New friends. New Adventures!

Past year. Quality time on my favorite trails. Good Friends. Family. New Adventures. Inspiring places. Good people. Life Is Good.

I started sifting through my photographs for this post, to do a retrospective of the year in photographs. I'm off for a hot weather escape this week and I thought I could do the post quickly before I left town for the week. What I quickly realized after being sucked in for hours looking at my photographs of the year is this:

Holy shit. It's been a good year!

Pretty profound, huh? I won't rehash it all for you and I barely touched the surface with the photographs. I had a lot of great adventures this year on the trails of Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. I saw a lot of new places and new trails. Adventures by myself, adventures with my hubby, adventures with old friends and adventures with new friends. I'm going to borrow a quote from Meghan, who borrowed it from Edward Abbey:

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. ~Edward Abbey

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hardrock Dreamin'

It's that time of year.
Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's 'Tis The Season and all that....but for me? Me, I'm dreamin' of Hardrock. It's the time of year to plot, obsess, dream and scheme about future races, adventures and holidays. I've been obsessing for months on end. Am I the only crazed Ultra runner out there with this particular disease?

The dream list is growing weekly. It's mostly a list of random places and trails all over the world, but there's certainly a few dream races in there as well. I'd like to run another 100 Miler this upcoming year, either Bighorn 100 in Wyoming or Hardrock in Colorado. I seem to be drawn to the big, challenging and scenic runs because that's what I really enjoy. I sure do love mountain towns and mountain places. Truthfully, I'm O.K if I don't get into Hardrock, I would love to go and volunteer, pace and mark the trail just to get a taste of the event. You know, a little reality vs. fantasy. But I'm realistic, I know how crazy tough it is but I think I'm up for the task. You never know until you try, right? At least that what my mom always said. So many races, so much to see!
I've got a lot of adventure runs that I'd like to do locally and abroad. Locally, I'd like to do a multi-day adventure run in Waterton National Park or Jasper National Park this year. I'd love to have a go at the John Muir Trail. I need to do further explorations of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia! Bryce, Zion...Canyonlands and Death Valley....oh America. You're too big. The Wonderland Trail. Circumnavigate Rainier! Mount Saint Helens....the Tetons! Don't get me started on Europe. In France, I'm obsessed with the Grand Randonee Trails. They criss-cross the whole damn country. The Pyrenees. Italy and the Dolomites. Circumnavigate Mont Blanc! Why not? I ran the Dublin Marathon a few years back and discovered the the Dingle Penninsula. Loved it. I've got to go back and do the Dingle Way. Plus, it makes me laugh ever time I say the word "Dingle" out loud. Dingle. Tee-hee. So many trails....

Last year, I checked a few things off the list: pacing someone at a 100 mile run (check), running an epic 5 day run in my own backyard (check), running the Grand Canyon (check), exploring trails in Point Reyes(check) and running a 100 Miler(check!) Throw in some great races in beautiful places and it was a great year.
I've put a few things on the calendar to escape from winter and keep me motivated. I'm looking forward to exploring some new trails in either Death Valley or the Mojave Desert in early February. I'm also excited to explore a different corner of California and meet friends old and new at Coyote Two Moon in March. We'll see what 100 miler comes my way for the year, but I'm dreamin' of some new mountain adventures in beautiful mountain paces. How about you?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Big Chill

It's been a challenging week to be a runner. I missed a few midweek runs with the cold weather descending on the valley and dipping into dangerously cold. By Friday, things had warmed up to a balmy -19c and I was desparate to get outside. I ran up Sulfur Mountain and then headed back down to the Fenland Trail. By that time the wind had picked up and it was c-c-cold again. I hid in the forest, resurrected the IPod which I haven't used since last winter and did laps of the 2km forest trail. In summertime, this would be the most boring of boring runs, but in wintertime everything gets transformed into a magical winter wonderland! That's good because I did 6 laps. I ran for 5 hours and felt pretty good about it.

For the weekend, we were looking forward to skiing in to Egypt Lake Shelter, but when the weather was forecast to be below -30c we thought it was best and safest to NOT wake up in a little cabin in the woods. Instead, we skiied up Healy Pass and then returned to the comfort of home. It was a cold day and I was having difficulty staying warm despite a ski that climbed for 8km!! It was the right decision for us. It was a beautiful day and you could see and feel the cold all around us. Stu and Anna continued up and over the pass and enjoyed a night at the shelter, while we scurried home to the hot tub. :)

On Sunday morning it was -30c in town and Keith and I were glad to enjoy a lazy morning. By mid-afternoon it was -25C, practically tropical so we headed into the forest behind our house and up the hill to try and get warm! We did a kick-ass short but sweet run of 1 hour with some tough climbing and I couldn't believe how strong Keith is. He hasn't lost any of his fitness and he's so excited to be back running. He was giddy to be ripping around in the woods, even in the -25C.

Last night, things had warmed up to a most enjoyable -10c, which was aaaaawesome so we jumped back on the Tuesday night program, the Sulfur Mountain night run. There were big smiles and sounds of "Weeeeeeeee!" in the woods. Yay for a week of normal temperatures in the forecast!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time Flys....

Sometimes, I actually pay attention.

My spidey-senses were tingling today! That little sixth sense in the back of your brain that says....there's something you should be aware of. I was browsing my blog to see what I was doing at this time last year and I realized a few things:

#1: I HAVE A GREAT LIFE! I'm shouting that one at the top of my lungs. Let me repeat. I HAVE A GREAT LIFE!!!

#2: At this time last year I was doing the same thing(s) with the same peep(s). Running, ski touring, complaining about the weather...but smiling while complaining. And finally.....

#3: It's my Blogaversary!

I almost forgot all about it. While birthdays, anniversaries, holidays are typically not things I pay much attention to, the Banff Trail Trash blog has been a little surprise joy in my life. It's been the inspiration to capture some images of this amazing place that I live, to share some stories of time well spent on the trails and most surprisingly to network, connect with and meet some pretty cool people. Who knew? So, thanks y'all. I really enjoy sharing my place with you and I really do love to hear from you! And for those of you that I have never heard from, please don't be shy: I'd love to hear from you. That's an open invite. And you don't even have to pretend you like running really, really, really far!

Happy Blogaversary to Me!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Arrival of Winter

So this morning in Banff....

Current Conditions: Banff National Park
-30 °C
Observed at: Banff
Date: 10:00 AM MST
Monday 7 December 2009
Temperature: -29.9°C
Dewpoint: -32.9°C
Humidity: 75 %
Wind: SSW 9 km/h
Needless to say, it was a little frosty for my run yesterday. I had forgotten how much more challenging running is when it is cold outside. It's still enjoyable and it's still achievable but it just feels like a bit more work! Hard work. I ran up Tunnel Mountain because it's a good choice on a cold day. It's quite sheltered and you generate a heck of a lot of heat with 300m of elevation gain. But then I got too sweaty and then I got cold. I ended up on a 2km trail flat loop trail in the woods, running around in circles going really, really fast to try and warm myself back up. It was kind of funny and it definitely wasn't the right pace for a long run! After I got warm, I headed back up the mountain for another sweaty lap and then charged back home before I got cold again. So I carry extra layers in case that happens...and a dry toque and gloves....and hand warmers just in case....

And, and...AND it's a lot of work! I felt super tired when all was done, but I managed 3 hours and change. Fortunately, the scenery made up for the effort and it was the kind of perfect blue sky day that made it all worthwhile.

It's been a gorgeous week in Banff, with lots of sunshine. The full moon ski on Wednesday night was soooo much fun and spectacular! There were 7 of us who headed out to howl at the moon, but mostly it was just me doing the howling. It was clear and cold and so bright that we didn't need headlamps. We took the last gondola up to Sunshine Village, had us some dinner and then headed out. With the light of the full moon, we climbed out of the resort and above treeline and made 3 short, sweet, enjoyable runs. It was pretty magical to see the mountains and all of that high alpine scenery all lit up by moonlight. The visibility was incredible.

On Friday, I went for a run with Keith for the first time since TransRockies and Post Stress Fracture. It was awesome to be running with my honey again! He is pretty happy to be back at it and it was fun to see the joy back. We did a half hour and then I headed out for a couple of hours along the Spray River by my lonesome. It was a grey day and it snowed lightly the whole time I was out. Again, I had forgotten how much more effort it takes to run in loose snow! It's like running in sand.
Grey Day on the Spray
On Saturday, Keith, Anna and myself went for a gorgeous ski tour and spent 4 hours stomping around in the snow. It was cold and the snow was crusty and wind blown, so we mostly hid in the forest and got some exercise. After our ski day, Anna, myself and Oscar The Dog got in a sweet little 45 minute run in the forest behind my house. Oscar thought it was great! It was a fun day.

We planned our wardrobe.

Heeeey! See that? The big mountain? Over there? That's The Monarch!

Making a few turns...

Super-Keith breaking trail for the ladies

So, the Arrival of Winter brings new adventures and new challenges. I'm embracing it with a celebratory hot tub for a weekend well spent.

Align Center

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Full Moon Fever

I had a busy and fun weekend this past weekend and stayed close to home. I'm embracing winter and all things wintery. It feels good to be back in the flow of things and getting out there and enjoying my weekends. I work Monday to Thursday, so every weekend is a long weekend! This past weekend I did the solo ski tour on Friday, went for a fantastic 4 hour long run on the Minnewanka shoreline on Saturday and had a long day ski touring on Sunday. It was a most enjoyable weekend! The shoreline on Lake Minnewanka was incredible and while it had icy sections, it was mostly bare and dry. The trail is on a South facing shoreline at a lower elevation, so it's a bit of an anomaly to find a dry trail in November!
Lake Minnewanka shoreline trail - Saturday's Run
But this week I'm excited for something else this week: it's a FULL MOON! With a forecast of clear, sunny and cold this should be a great week for enjoying the moon outside in all of its' winter glory. Tonight, a few of us are heading up Sulfur Mountain to howl at the moon and tomorrow, we are going up to Sunshine Village to have dinner and head out for a full moon ski tour. Should be fun! The weather is forecast to be clear, sunny and cold all week: -10c to -20c all week with no snow in the forecast. It has been snowing at the higher elevations pretty much non-stop for the last couple of weeks, so I'm ready for the sunshine, as well as the full moon!

Our town: from the Top of Sulfur Mountain - Wednesday Eve's Run

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ski! Ski! Ski!

The Banff and Lake Louise area has had a *fantastic* start to the ski season and that means that we are keen to be getting out. Last weekend we made it out for a tour off of the Icefields Parkway and couldn't believe how much snow has fallen! It's like mid-February out there, there's pantloads of snow already. The good news is it's been relatively snow-free in Banff, but it's snowing in them thar' hills. It even rained yesterday in town, but judging by my experience today, it snowed lots of dry and fluffy snow at the higher elevations. Woohoo! I headed out for a solo-tour, basically just stomping around Sunshine Meadows and climbing a few mellow hills for some green run powder turns. Safety first and all. The snow was perfect. The downside of skiing solo is that you have to break trail for 4 hours! It's a good thing I like breaking trail. I got some serious exercise and was out there for 4 hours with a big smile on my face. For a grand-finalee, I stomped up the biggest hill of the day and finished my day just in time for sunset on Standish Mountain. It's a big, white world out there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Grand Canyon Adventure

My trip to the Grand Canyon, was a fairly spontaneous one. I had never been to Grand Canyon National Park before and was totally stupefied when I first saw it: the Grand Canyon is a vast, immense, bewildering, mind-blowing, behemoth of nature. It's sheer enormity is dizzying and it is Grand in every way.

In the past few years, as I built up my distance and started running longer and farther than I ever have...the idea of running across the Grand Canyon just got stuck in my mind. I thought this would be a super-cool way to see and enjoy the Grand Canyon. As I met more people in the Ultra running community, the consensus was that the Grand Canyon was indeed an incredible place for a run. I heard all about how tough and challenging and beautiful it was and I knew I had to do it. A great big run from rim to rim to rim: R2R2R!!

My run started in the wee hours of the day, when Keith dropped me off in the darkness of the South Kaibab trail head at 5:40 in the morning. I've never been so excited to run off into the darkness by the light of my headlamp(s)! I was giddy. Running new trails in new places is just exciting stuff, if you are me. The descent into the canyon was a whole lot of fun. The trail was wide, steep and strewn with boulders and erosion bars. There was an awareness of a deep, dark abyss out there somewhere nearby in the darkness. The morning was clear and cool and the stars were still out, but it didn't take long for daylight to make an appearance. It's hard to run in the Grand Canyon if you're a first-time visitor like me, because every corner and every view stops you dead in your tracks.


First glimpse of the Colorado River

Sunrise on the Grand Canyon
In my stupefied state of wide-eyed-amazement, it took me a couple of hours to reach the river. I was moving slow and I wasn't in a hurry. I came across my first mule-train of the day at the bottom of the canyon. It was cool to see them go through a small tunnel and cross the bridge over the Colorado, but it was less fun to follow them through the dust and dirt (and shit and piss...) the short distance to Phantom Ranch. I filled up my water and hit the trail, excited to get the day going.

I was rubber-necking at everything in sight! I am fascinated with the desert landscape, because it is so unfamiliar and new to me. Running amongst cacti and the spiky leaved Yucca is just plain cool. I was amazed with how much water is in the Grand Canyon. The trail climbs the Bright Angel Canyon towards the North Rim and I was surprised to find it alive and flowing with water.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the fall foliage. The colors were still changing and the leaves hadn't dropped yet, making for a beautiful day.

At Cottonwood Campground, while stashing a drop bag - I was passed by some other runners. I hurried to catch up to them and by the time I reached Roaring Springs, there was actually 2 groups of runners who had all hit the springs at the same time. A virtual rush-hour of runners. I chatted them all up while we re-filled our water and learned they were all Arizona runners. My white Canadian legs gave me away in their company! This stretch was going to be the longest without access to water and being super cautious, I topped up my 3L bladder.

On this section of the trail, the trail is incredibly engineered to carve and climb up through the cliff side. The trail is really quite wide, so you can comfortable run without imminent fear of death! I tagged the North Rim and visited briefly with the ladies I had been climbing off and on with before making a quick turn around. I introduced myself to Jody Chase, who was waiting for friends Honey and Liz. On this day, Jody was the speedy one of the group and had arrived 23 minutes ahead of the rest of us!

The North Rim is 1000 feet higher than the South Rim and is largely forested with Pinyon Pine and Juniper, so the views are limited. On the descent, I had fun letting my legs run and cruised back down to Roaring Springs in no time. Jody caught me on the way and we visited for a bit and took some pictures, before she flew by.

Jody, rocking the descent

I managed to drink my entire 3L of water, so I refilled again at Roaring Springs and continued on my way. I half-heartily tagged on with Jody, but the woman was flying and I was playing tourist. I settled into my own pace, taking in the scenery and even stopped to jump in the creek and cool down. The temperatures were perfect, clear and cool in the morning and topping out at about 75F in the day.

I just enjoyed the rest of my afternoon cruising easily and stopping frequently. I hit Phantom Ranch and made a quick pit-stop for a treat: a lemonade and a King sized Snickers bar. Yum.

I crossed the Colorado and just slowed down and took it all in: the fading light, the river, the canyon were all just so beautiful. The Bright Angel trail was a nice change of scenery and follows the river for a kilometer or so, before the climbing begins.

I was pleasantly surprised at this section of trail and I even managed to run a lot of this section. I was feeling strong and enjoying the climb. As the sun went down, it cast a soft red glow on all of the high places within the canyon. The sunlight line just slowly receded on the rocks, until it disappeared entirely. I hit Indian Garden Campground for sunset and it got real dark, real quick.

I learned later that Indian Garden is at 3800' feet, 3060' feet below the rim. I still had 930 metres of climbing to go! The elevation from the Colorado River to the South Rim is over 1400 metres - that's a lot of elevation to gain at the end of a day.

I fired up the headlamps, put my head down and started climbing. It was so dark, I couldn't see the top of the rim. When my eyes finally adjusted, I looked up the mountain and saw a trail of other twinkling headlamps way up high on the mountain. It didn't take me long before I hit the first group of hikers. As I powered up the mountain, I must have passed at least 8 groups in various states of exhaustion. It was a great way to end the day, chasing people up the mountain. It was a fun game and it gave me a little extra momentum to climb up the final stretch of Bright Angel. It's a hell of a climb, it really is incredibly tough to finish the day with such a huge ascent.

All done! Top of the South Rim, Bright Angel Trail.

I was happy to finish strong, all though it certainly wasn't easy. It took me 14 hours exactly and I enjoyed every moment of my day! Keith was waiting for me in the warmth of Bright Angel Lodge, with a big hug and a bag full of warm clothes and munchies. Thanks, honey! We celebrated with pizza and beer to wrap up an incredible day, in a very special place. I am fully, totally smitten with the Grand Canyon. We rounded up the weekend with a day of playing Tourist on the South Rim. What a great adventure!

November is an incredible time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. The weather was great and we had the entire South Rim all to ourselves. The football field sized satellite parking lots were all empty and we were frequently the only ones at some of the viewpoints. For those of you who like to run really, really, really far....well, put the Grand Canyon on your list. The R2R2R run is a helluva' challenge, but a challenge made easy by the epic scenery. For me, it really was all pleasure: a spell-binding journey through a one-of-a-kind landscape.