Monday, September 9, 2013

Mt Robson Marathon

If you live in my area (Alberta), you’ve got to visit Mt Robson, Canada’s highest mountain. It absolutely towers over all. It’s an amazingly beautiful site. I was so stoked to do the 46km Mt Robson Marathon after one glimpse of that monolith (though when racing I rarely gaze upward). We made it a family affair with Deb and Anna doing the 12.5km and Kjirsti the 3km). All placed but me. But get this... 4 out of the top 10 were in my 50-59 age group. At first I thought it was a mistake, but realized those 2 places I surrendered in the final 1.5km cost me a travel mug. O well, as a family we got 2, that’s enough to clutter our cupboard.

The first half of the race for me was really enjoyable. Incredible location, wonderful trail, stellar weather. I felt really good. It was a pretty decent pace the entire first 23km, but felt extremely manageable. My h.r. monitor confirmed this. For much of that first ½ I was just behind a pack of 6 runners. Once we hit the 4km (500+m vert) uphill, I easily passed them all. Most of my trail running has been going up mountains and I crushed the pack with ease.

At the turn around I was in 10th at 2:05. I didn’t go in w/ any goals, but at that point decided that a top 10 in under 4 hours would be a worthy goal to shoot for.

But very quickly things began to change. In the rocky section along Berg Lake I tripped and took a rolling tumble. This is where I noticed my first calf cramp. Soon after this, I took tumble #2- rolled again (gaining some applause) but really hurt my bad shoulder. On this tumble I felt several more leg cramps...not good.

At the 4km downhill, I wanted to rock, but every sideways motion of my legs initiated cramps, so I took this section real slow getting passed twice- my first "chicked"-the women’s winner and another guy that I later reeled in later as his cramping was worse than mine.

I was a bummer as my energy was good, legs felt fine except for these pesky cramps. I had some pickle juice waiting for me w/ 10km to go, but I needed it much earlier. It didn’t really work anyway, not like the last time it totally shut down all my cramping in the 2011 Ironman Canada. So the last 20km or so were mostly cramp management. I had to totally stop on 3 occaisions and mostly slowed way down.

My down time ended up being almost exactly the same as my up time. When you consider that we gained 850m you realize how slow I truly was coming down.

Surprisingly I didn’t get passed that much. I was waiting for a stream of people to get me. I actually passed a couple guys that died worse than me. Although w/ that 1.5 km to go I was "chicked" for the 2nd time. On the final 2km road section I didn’t have to pick up my legs as far, so I could pick up my speed a bit without the dreaded cramps, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the 2 that went flying by.

So I ended up 12th overall in 4:09. I guess it’s ok. I had no expectations. It was my first true trail marathon (not including the Footstock marathon-which I won- in 2006 that was mostly on dirt roads). The longer distance probably added a good :20 and the 4km hike section definitely slows one down.

As I write this 2 days later I realize how different a trail marathon is. I'm a little sore (especially my right foot from hitting a rock hard that caused crash #3), but not really that bad. A road marathon would have me hobbling around for several days. That's even considering I used a somewhat minimalist shoe (which may have been a mistake). Although my fatigue level is still pretty high. I'll go for easy bike rides the next couple days.

In contrast, my friend Reiner, 2 years ago came in 2nd in the marathon, then because the conditions offered a great window, climbed Robson that afternoon and skied down (normally a 2-3 day  adventure). Crazy.

Next up is the Grizzly ultra 50km in Canmore in a month. Plenty of time to recover and hopefully make some adjustments.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


With an injured rotator cuff I was forced this summer to abandon my Ironman plans. This was the first summer in 13 years I hadn’t done a triathlon. I didn’t really miss the swimming, but I did miss the long bike rides. I love putting in the km’s on my tri and road bike. Instead I discovered a new sport. Not really a new one as it’s as old as the creation of man himself, but perhaps a new twist- mountain running. And I believe it’s going to eventually be a new sport- craze.

Ola, a Norwegian I met at the Euro champs in '09 runs in his native Norway.

Living where I do it was easy to fall into this endeavor. Basically it consists of running on trails that most everyone else hikes on. You run the flats and smaller uphills, but when the angle gets pretty steep you’re forced into a speed hike. In Europe these are called sky runs. They have several sky races, some with 1000's of entries. It’s easy to see why they call them "sky" as you often end up on top of a mountain...hopefully with a ridge top that you can run along. Of course having a spectacular view (though it is hard to look if you’re moving fast).

The first couple times you mountain run your legs are sore from the downhill running (and some old farts just can’t do it b/c of the pounding on the knees), but from then on I find I’m good to go and usually don’t get sore anymore. Another trick to the sport is concentration. You just can’t let your mind wander like you do on the road as you’ll end up tripping on a rock or root. Indeed, pretty much every step must be thought out...there’s no time to day dream. Because of this, the time actually goes by really fast. 2-4 hour runs just fly by. You clear your mind of most everything (except maybe for a tune in your head) and focus on the trail. It’s really relaxing as your focus forces you to block out and quiet the busy workings of your mind.

Another cool thing about mountain running is that you can cover long distances. One of Alberta’s best sky trails is the "Skyline" trail in Jasper. It’s 44 km long and hikers do it in multi day trips. That is if you can get the permits for the camp spots-they’re hard to come by. Yet, if you’re running you just figure out the start/finish shuttle and do it in 1 long day. It’s got 25 km of ridge top running. It’s one of my "to do’s" for this soon to end summer.

Next on my list though is the Robson marathon next weekend. A 49km race with Canada’s highest peak in the background. We only gain 500-700 meters, so we’re not really climbing the mountain. Most of my local runs typically gain 1000m.

A new favorite is what I did last Saturday. A 4 hour run up Wind Ridge. You can clearly see this smaller mountain from most of Canmore. It’s a 1 hour run to the trailhead, then another :45 min grunt to the top, then a wondrous flat ridge run. I love these local adventures that a quick glance up throughout the year bring back good training memories.

Happy trails!