Monday, April 26, 2010

Undeniably Spring

Here in Banff, we try not to get to excited about spring for we know that the moment we allow ourselves this pleasure, mother nature will deal us another round of winter.

But I can't help it! The last couple months have been crazy with abnormally warm temps, I've been running dry trails in the valley and this morning, the world out my front window is all about spring. I can't hold back my excitement any longer - it's here! It's heeeere!

There's a thick coat of frost blanketing everything: the neighbors roofs, my car, the grass.

There's a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains.

There's a small herd of elk on my front lawn. Or what's left of my front lawn.

The sounds of robins, magpies and grey jays have been waking me up early as well as the sunshine which is peaking through my window earlier and earlier.

Too say I'm a little bit excited for this change of season is an understatement.

The word
anticipation comes to mind. Anticipation of all the good things to come in the next week, month, 5 months. It's trail running season, baby. It's here, it's now and it's exciting. I got things to do and places to go. I got lists. I got adventures in the works.

On Saturday's run, clearly Simon had spring fever as well. He bust out the Vibram's and even the snow wasn't going to stop him and his 5 toed footies from running 28 kilometers on the Rundle Riverside trail. Damn, dude.


Simon joined myself, Monica, Nikki and a Suzy for a run which was admittedly a whole lot faster pace than I am used to. But it's all good. I can bust it out if I have to. But this one left me feeling like I had run a race! It's good to run faster than you are used to once in awhile and it's fun to go fast! Mother Nature did her spring thing - we got slammed by this storm on the way home and shortly after it was snowing hard and blowing harder. We put our heads down and headed back to civilization and the Canmore Nordic Centre as fast as we could. I think we were out for 3h30min in total.

The next day, I had a blind running date with a friend of a friend, named Leslie. We'd never met before, but being a Leslie - she was cool. This was the longest run she had ever done!

I dragged her out on a lovely rolling loop, with some lakes, some streams and some dead things. Hmmm. The signs and sights of spring. Time to keep running....

We also hit my favorite view point of Lake Minnewanka, where I was surprised to look down from above and see that the lake is breaking up quickly. Last year, it was late May when the ice broke. I was also surprised that the trail I was running, the C-Level Cirque trail had gotten a make-over. The trail work must have been done last fall and the result is awesome. The trail was rutted and nasty and now it's a smooth, runnable hill climb of about 10 minutes, complete with a bench at the top. It's a well used trail, so the trail work was needed and appreciated. It's still a lung buster though - the grade is steep, but the view is rewarding.

We were out running around the woods for 3h52min. I'm having loads of fun re-visiting these trails - trails that have been buried for the last 6 months. It's kind of like meeting up with old friends: comfortable, relaxing and fun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Fling Continues...

The Spring Fling continues.....

It was my first road ride of the season on Thursday night and it was a perfect evening for a ride. Cycling in April is usually a toe-numbing-blue-lipped-wind-chilling-experience. Instead, I got sunshine, warm evening temperatures, great views and big ol' Bighorns. What a great night, as you can tell by my chitter-chatter I was a happy, silly girl.

I *heart* my bike.

Grand-daddy Bighorn


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Fever

Tunnel Mountain - Thursday, April 9th

Was this picture only taken last Thursday? Let's fast forward 8 short days. Here's a video clip from Saturday's run:

Tunnel Mountain - Saturday, April 17th AM

It's been glorious, sunny and downright hot for the past 4 days - and I've been reveling in every moment. On Wednesday evening, I bust out the short sleeves and went for a run on a muddy trail. On Thursday, I dusted off the road bike and put on the cycling shorts, a jersey and arm warmers for the first inaugural bike ride
. On Friday, I found myself lunching outside in a tank top having a picnic. On Saturday, I put on the running skirt and sleeveless jersey and drained my 2L Camelback bladder in world record time.

Saturday's long run was all about playing in the woods with some friends just for pure F-U-N. Hugh, Monica, Katherine and Martin came to town to join me for 5 hours of good times, on Banff trails. It was the Ultimate Banff Tour with the bonus of getting lost and a river crossing! Really, what could be better than that? Hugh's photos here.

A Very Happy Man

My goal was to be out on my feet for 7 hours - so I bid farewell to the friends, refilled my water and kept going. I wanted to get some elevation and practice my "power-walking" so I marched myself uphill and tagged the top of Sulphur for another 1.5 hours. Phew. Sulphur is still snow bound, top to bottom. It was hard going - with the hot weather, the snow on Sulphur had turned into heavy, deep slush. My reward for all of the hard work, was a ridiculously fun, slippery, slidy, slightly out of control, reckless, kick-ass descent. 7.5 hours later, I rolled into home giddy, muddly, tired and hungry. As a bonus to an already great day, our friend Deb was in for a visit. Keith and Deb were equally giddy from a great day spent on the slopes.

Tunnel Mountain - Saturday, April 17th PM

It was such a beautiful evening, that we decided to go for an evening walk up Tunnel Mountain. I think the "bonus walk" was actually good for my legs - a nice way to wind down the day and stretch out my tired ass. We went to bed early and slept real good.

On Sunday, Deb and I headed to Cascade Ponds and ran a loop to Johnson Lake. It was my first time out here this season. Only a week ago these trails were ice bound and the lake was still frozen. This week, the trails were dry and the ice had disappeared! It was a wicked fun, twisty turny dance through the woods. I love this trail - it was dry and there were crocuses out on the South facing slopes. I haven't been here in months and I'd forgotten just how pretty Johnson Lake is in spring:

Deb and Cascade Falls

What is Spring, without The Swing?

Needless to say, after a weekend like this I got the fever. Spring Fever. I'm thinking the 20c in April makes up for the -20C we had in October. I'm going to enjoy it while it's here.

Check out this post from the same date, April 18, 2008.

So, keep your sunny side up, up!

Keep your sunny side up, up!
Hide the side that gets blue.
If you have nine sons in a row,
Baseball teams make money, you know!
Keep your funny side up, up!
Let your laughter come thru, do!
Stand upon your legs, be like two fried eggs,
Keep your sunny side up!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Rare Breed

This past weekend, I got to enjoy 3 runs in 3 days. With the spring-like weather, I have forgotten all about ski touring. I was reminded of the wrath of winter, when we got hammered with a little spring storm on Wednesday. It probably would have been better to be skiing, but out I went into the snowy woods. Having a 100 Mile race on the calendar in June, has me running scared. Only 2 months to prepare is what my subconscious is telling me.

After a snowy run with Keith on Friday, Angela came up for the weekend to run around the woods with me. We got 6 hours on our feet on Saturday and another 3 on Sunday. Time on the feet, right?

Saturday morning's warm-up on the Spray River -Quarry Loop, was so pretty with the fresh snow and I was beyond excited when we spotted these ridiculously fresh prints in the snow. I was sure it was a smaller Cougar, until I got home and I looked at the photos. Then I just got confused. I had myself a 5 toed mystery on my hands. A Rare Breed.

Cougar's have 4 toes, wolves have 4 toes and claws and this doesn't look anything like a bear. What the hell was it?

Rare Breed.

I sent my friend at Parks Canada a note, who is knowledgeable in all things big and fuzzy. I asked for help identifying the mystery animal, because I thought I had found a mutant Abominable Snowman or Killer Snow Turtle.

Her response to my photo was this:

I've had that situation before and our best guess from what we can see is
that it's a cat -- could be a lynx with the hard snow or a small cougar who
has double registered (but not perfectly) over its track to give the five
toes. That would also explain the deep centre pad mark. Whatever it is --
take your bear spray!
So, the mystery was solved and I learned a little something. Who knew animals walked in their own tracks putting back feet in front footy prints? Maybe the cougar was just grumpy like me and didn't want to get his/her feet all cold, wet and snowy. The rest of the run zoomed by pretty quick like, that's the nature of being in good company. She's a rare breed that Angela!

It turned out to be a beautiful day and in the 6 hours we were out running, lots of the snow melted down in the valley. It's 4 days later and it's disappearing quickly. There are double digits forecast for the next 3 days! It's supposed to be 17C on Saturday. Whoa.

We followed Saturday's run up with 3 hours on the shoreline of Lake Minnewanka. Keith joined us for the fun and we ran into Steve and Brenda. It's always laughable when you run into people you know in the middle of nowhere. I think I've been out there every weekend for the last 2 months. It was dreamy, as always. It was good to run something fast, flowy, runnable and cruisy. Not that we were fast, but we were flowin'.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Snowy Sahara!

As I ran through fresh snow today, I couldn't help but think about Meghan who is currently running through the sand of the Saharan desert. It was hard work running through the snow today - running in snow requires extra power, a shorter stride and good posture. In fact, it's a lot like running through sand. I couldn't help but think about her, running, through the sand and the vastness of the wind-swept wilderness of the Saharan Desert.

Keith, showing off his good posture

Meghan's competing in the Marath
on des Sables - a 7 day stage race through the Saharan desert in Morocco. She had a hard day yesterday, on the longest stage of 82.2km. It was hard for me to imagine how she was feeling, as I ran along in my cold rocky place. I can't quite fathom trying to run through the sand for 7 days in 40c heat. Needless to say, I was sending good thoughts her way.

I lifted this photo of the Marathon des Sables website - I was glad to find a photo of Meghan looking strong today. That's a 16 pound pack she's wearing, as competitors have to carry their own supplies and food. It probably weighs less now, as she eats her way through all of the food she's carrying :)

She's a world away from Banff in the Saharan desert - but I imagine it to be similar in it's enormity, vastness and wildness. Wilderness is wilderness - and the Sahara has got to be a pretty wild place.

I'm queen of the world!

This week, I watched the movie Running the Sahara - and it gave me a little taste of the Sahara. The desert surely is a beautiful place. I loved this movie and highly recommend it. It's all about dreaming big and embracing the philosophy of anything being possible, if you just set your mind to it.

So here's to anyone out there - who dreams big and realizes that the impossible is possible.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just Truckin' Good Daddy.

A sign of spring: white legs and white snow courtesy of Mike

On Sunday I was joined by some new friends and old. Them kids were fast! I've got a little work to do on the "speed" side of things, but generally speaking I find the further I run, the slower I get. Back in the day, my legs had some speed - but these days I kind of move like a Kenworth truck. Strong, powerful and sturdy - with the potential for speed, but mostly stuck on cruise control. Kamren, Ed and Jen made us move a little bit faster than usual - and that's a good thing. Sometimes a girl needs to put the pedal to the medal - maybe in a few months my engine will respond, but in the mean time, I'm still cruisin' in the slow lane.


Keith, Mike, Jen and Ed

Fly Mike!

Ed and Jen - the Gazelles

Kamren and Keith

Ater the 35km on Friday, I took a break on Saturday and then ran for 4 hours on Sunday. Keith did NOT take a break: he rode his bike for 3.5 hours and got a 100km under his saddle. My husband has officially crossed the line into the world of exercised induced insanity and I'm so proud. Keith is in training for a "double Trans Rockies". This year he's going to do the 7 day Trans Rockies bike and then, he's following it up the next week with the Trans Rockies Run.

Hot Damn!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Grrrrreat Week!

Last weekend, Iris and I did the "backyard tour" of Sulphur Mountain: a loop from my house up and over the mountain. Along route, we encountered a Scottish man who vocalized his appreciation of my backyard trails. In his lovely lilt and rolling his R-r-r's to the extreme, he exclaimed: "It's a Grrrrrrreat day!" It sort of became my theme for the week. It's my new favorite expression, complete with rolling R-r-r's.

There were runs up Sulphur Mountain...

A few glorious runs up and around Tunnel Mountain with full spring-like-sweaty-base-layer-warm-temperatures:

....and the earliest ever running of the "key exchange" run from Lake Minnwanka to the Ghost, a 35km point to point run.

The "Exchange"

This trail is always the first to dry out in Spring, but this year it's happened a full month earlier than usual. I lost track of how many times I said in disbelief: "I can't believe this is dry". We also had fun naming mountains - afterall, everyone deserves to have a peak named after them!

Iris's Nipple

"I Can't Believe This Is Dry."

We dusted off the Bear Spray and enjoyed a "Grrrrrrreat Day" on the trail. Keith was out of town and had some serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as there were 4 lovely ladies who joined in for the run. Miles was happy to fill in as the token boy.

Miles and Suzy

Devil's Gap

Banff Trail Trash

To round-up the grrrrrreat week, Keith and I enjoyed a day running into Skoki yesterday. Mother Nature was kind to us on this day, as we started our day with a few very cool wildlife sightings. We saw a bald eagle who was migrating through enjoying a pit stop. He was sitting in a tree checking out the view with the back-drop of Castle Mountain off in the distance. I didn't get a photo of him.

Castle Mountain

Then we drove to the Skoki trail head via the 1A highway, hoping to catch a glimpse of this big boy:

This photo was featured in this weeks local newspaper - this large male Grizzly Bear had been spotted on the railroad tracks along the 1A. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of him and we did! Our view from the car wasn't as clear as this image, but one thing we could tell: he was a big boy. It was also the earliest time of year, that I have ever seen a G-Bear.

Needless to say, we were already excited before we even reached the trail. It was a good way to start our day! The snowmobile trail in to Skoki was in great shape and as we made our way up Boulder Pass, we saw something really cool and really rare. We followed the tracks of a Wolverine for almost half a kilometre, all the way up the pass. I've only seen Wolverine tracks once and it a few years ago, almost in exactly the same place. Evidently, there's a big ol' wolverine who lives in the rocks of Boulder Pass!

We cruised in to Skoki in about an 2.5 hours - I left Keith at the lodge to socialize with our Skoki friends and did a "bonus lap" up Deception Pass. I'd be lying if I said it was easy, but it sure was fun. The wind was blowing and there was a full on white-out at the top of the pass.

Deception Pass - on a better day!

Sweet Temple Mountain

Knowing that there will be plenty more snow and storms coming in the next few months, I'm enjoying the spring-like running while I can. It's setting up to be a good year on the trails, if this week was any indication. It was a Grrrrrrrreat week!