Sunday, October 24, 2010

Last Days of Fall

It's the time of year when day turns to night far too quickly. The last days of fall are usually a lot more snowy and this year, we've been fortunate to be enjoy some extra days on the trail. Every day that I wake up and there's no snow on the ground I feel compelled to get out there. Every day I think: One. Last. Day.

It felt like a long week at work and I didn't get out once except for a few leisurely stolls by the river. By Thursday night, I had the excess energy growing inside of me that demanded I get out and do something, anything. I laced up the shoes at 5:40 and headed out for a quick run up Tunnel, for sunset. As I mentioned, the days are getting shorter and shorter and it won't be long before I get up in the dark and I go home in the dark. But for the moment, I can still make it out for a run at sunset. Tunnel Mountain is always a short, quick escape: from my house, it's an hour round-trip.

Last light on the trail

Mount Rundle

Harvest Moon Rising

After that run, all was well in the universe. Friday turned out to be another great day, so again, I was compelled to take advantage. Monica even took me to a place I had never been, up Pigeon Mountain. The trailhead is less than 10 minutes from Canmore, South facing with great views of the Bow Valley, Three Sisters, Wind Ridge, Centennial Ridge and Mount Colemmbola. It's also a major wildlife corridor and on the open slopes of Pigeon Mountain, a Grizzly Bear had been excavating. We didn't see the bear, but we saw plenty of evidence of his hard work. It was a great day to enjoy the scenery and catch up with Monica.

I've been enjoying moving at a more leisurely pace this time of year, lots of walking, a little running. I feel like a Grizzly Bear going in to hibernation. I'm moving slow and still eating more food than the average bear.


Angela paid us a visit on Saturday, I haven't seen her since Tor des Geants so I got to get a blow-by-blow of her days on the trail after we parted ways. Naturally, we went for a hike. It didn't take long for us to get in the familiar rhythm of power walking up the mountain, driving forwards and upwards with the poles in hand. Keith, Angela and myself visited Rockbound Lake, in the Castle Mountain area and scrambled high above it to explore the Stuarts Knob area. It's awesome. I need to come back here with my friend Stuart, and climb, ummmm, Stuart's Knob.

Keith and Angela

Castle Mountain

The Colors of Rockbound Lake

The Castle

This morning, we awoke to a grey sky and a snow-covered Cascade Mountain. Finally, I can sleep in, relax, drink coffee and hibernate. I'm staying in my Cave today and lovin' it. I think it's time for second breakfast. This Grizzly Bear is hungry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Video: Tor des Geants, Day 3

On Day 3, we started in the dark at 5:00 in the morning and eventually climbed our way out of the forest, into the sunshine and the top of Col de Champorcher. After a short descent down the other side of the pass, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Rifigio di Miserin: a fully functioning farm on the shoreline of a high alpine lake. It was a glorious morning to be in the Alps with my friend Angela and some new friends....

Tor des Geants - An Italian Adventure Part 5

We left Cogne on a calm and warmer-than-expected morning. Immediately, the rhythm of the Tor des Geants began to establish itself. The trail through the forest started by climbing and the fatigue and lack of sleep was soon forgotten. The sun came up revealing yet another beautiful day on the horizon. With daylight, a heavy, thick coating of frost appeared from the earth. On this day, it got even colder when the sun came out.


Quickly we climbed, out of tree line and into a open, barren landscape to arrive at our first aid station, the Rifigio Sogno di Berdze. Through the dark of the morning and into the twilight of the day we had already climbed 1,000metres.

We took a longer than usual break, to enjoy a Espresso, the wood burning fireplace and a bathroom break. We also ran into Craig, who was celebrating his birthday. He'd taken a unique approach to his race and had been in motion for 3 days, forgoing any sleep and just staying in motion. The birthday boy was in fine spirits, but he looked like shit. :)

A final push with another 300metres of elevation, took us to the top of Fenetre Di Champorcher, our high point for the day. I had thought that this would be an easier day, with only 16km of climbing followed by a massive descent to the bottom of the Aosta Valley. As we started our descent, I was surprised to find that my legs were not working well. In fact, they weren't working at all. I was hopeful that my legs would loosen up and eventually, I could cruise the downhill. I had to be hopeful, because according to our route map we were about to descend over 30 rolling kilometres and drop from Champorcher (elevation 2,826m) to the town of Donnas (elevation 330m).

That's a net descent of 2,496 metres over 30km. Ouch.

Climbing to the sunshine of Col de Champorcher: 2,826metres

On the other side of the pass, we were surprised to find a little lake, another Rifigio and a working farm with a herd of donkeys to greet us. Somewhere between the donkey stampede, the giggling, a pit-stop-in-the-woods, the video and the sleep deprivation, I lost a strap off my pole. We spent almost 10 minutes looking for it. Eventually the velcro strap was found firmly attached to the back of my ass.

During this time, we were also passed by an older french couple who wanted no part of our giggling, photo taking and overall Joie de vivre. We were to spend the day juggling position with them and I made it my goal to get them to crack a smile. They remained stony faced and Tres Serieuse.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I was still having fun, but my legs were not cooperating. They hadn't loosened up and it appeared, that they were not going to. My shins started to get really angry, really quickly. So, rather than suffer through every running stride, I began to walk. Ang was also suffering with some knee pain, so she was more than happy to walk with me.


It was a beautiful descent through a lush forest and back in to civilisation to the village of Chardonney. This was to be a wonderful day with a real taste of the Aosta Valley as we rolled through village, after village, across cobbled streets, through dark forests, raging streams and peoples yards.

The village of Pontboset was warm and welcoming, but the streets were empty. It was evident that the tourists had gone home for the season and we were going to be the last visitors of the summer to enjoy this beautiful place.

Unfortunately, my shin pain went from bad to worse. While I was enjoying my incredible tour of the villages of the Aosta Valley, my legs were hating the hard surfaces of the road and cobblestone. My walking strides were punctuated with sharp stabbing pain, enough to take my breath away. I plodded on and distracted myself with lots of photos.

Eventually, a thought niggled it's way into my brain. If I was having this much trouble descending a perfect trail, how on earth was I going to descend off a rugged high mountain pass in the middle of the night?

Leg Soak

By the time we reached the village of Hone, I had decided that my race was done. It was actually a really, easy decision. I could barely walk, the pain was intense and I just knew. Sharp, stabbing pain is never a good thing. Since I've been running, I've never had any pain before in my lower legs before. I thought maybe I had disabling shin splints or worse yet, a stress fracture. Either way, there was no way I was going to be heading out on a mountainous, rugged, technical, ass-kicking, high alpine mountain trail in the state that I was in. I could have gone easily uphill, my climbing muscles were working great, but the problem was getting back down the other side. No. Way.

It was a beautiful day and as afternoon turned to evening, I was still enjoying my surroundings. I was almost relieved to be done and it was the easiest decision I ever made. As we reached the town of Donnas, the sharp, stabbing pain in my shins had reached epic proportions and it was literally, taking my breath away.

The Road to Donnas

Upon arrival at Donnas, we had a virtual support crew of attentive friends there to support us. Tim and Ahvi were running around getting us food and icepacks. It was awesome. I told them I was done, but they didn't believe me.
I pulled off my compression socks and shoes to reveal a hot, red swollen shin and ankle. My range of motion in my ankle and foot was non-existant. I couldn't point or flex my toes, and it hurt to force the motion.

The stoic french couple, also arrived at the aid station. They were clearly exhausted, but their eyes were still sparkling. I was very surprised when the woman approached me and gave me some muscle rub as a peace offering. She leaned over quietly, discreetly and said to me en francais, "I love that you are doing this with your friend. I am impressed with your team spirit and you are having so much fun. Such good friends are hard to find." And she gave me a small, coy, secretive smile.

We also found Max at the aid station. He was all taped up and getting ready to go. You can't slow a good mountain man down. Almost 3 and a half days later, Max rolled in to the finish line of the first edition of the Tor des Geants. The French couple made it as well. It turned out the grumpy French guy was the oldest competitor of the race. He was 70 years old and he kicked my ass. Turned out they had Joie de Vivre after all. Craig also made it to the finish line, to complete his 7 day experiment in sleep deprivation and enjoyed a memorable birthday in the Alps. As for Angela, she's a superstar. She persevered and was one of only 15 women who finished.

I've never been so impressed my whole life.