Tag Archives: Running

DNF at the Sinister 7 2017

8 Aug

Upon finishing my first 50km trail race a few years ago I knew I would eventually try a 100 miler.  I didn’t think it would be the Sinister 7.  I had run in the relay a couple of times, and although it is a well organized race in a location that I love with beautiful rocky mountain views,  a lot of the race isn’t on the type of trails I enjoy running on (logging roads, quad trails, etc). Despite this, after seeing a friend had signed up to attempt it solo I decided why not give it a try.  And convinced my friend Adria to sign up as well.  The race director, Brian Gallant, has made some changes incorporate more single track trail so thats a plus.  The Crowsnest Pass is pretty close to home, and it was taking place on the last weekend of our honeymoon so I wasn’t working.  Fortunately I have a great husband who agreed to crew me and was fine with spending a portion of our honeymoon to do it.

When I signed up in December my goal was to try to get up to 100 miles a week, or at least as close to that as I could get.  But in March I injured my achilles somehow (too many treadmill miles in winter, or just too many miles in my new Altras… I’m not sure).  I tried physio, acupuncture, chiropractor….. I spent hours burning this special herb around my achilles which was supposed to have anti-inflammatory powers.  I cut out sugar and all other things which promoted inflammation in the body and started drinking tumeric tea and taking omega-3s.  None of these things fixed the problem and for about 3 or 4 months my achilles would ache and get creaky after every run.  I could still run and it didn’t hurt a lot, but it didn’t feel normal.  After both the Sun Mountain 100k and the Wildhorse 50k it got swollen and it hurt to walk for a day or two.  Anyways, all of this is to say my training wasn’t where I would have liked it to be.  In addition to this we got married a few weeks before race day and then went on our honeymoon so there wasn’t a lot of time to train then either.  Maybe I should have backed out of the race, but I really believed I could finish it.  Especially after I discovered Prolotherapy.  A few days after the wedding the sports doctor at my physio clinic finally agreed to give me a prolo injection.  Basically she injected 5ml of a combination of dextrose, saline, and lidocaine around my injured tendon.  I had done some reading about this and knew there was a large chance it wouldn’t work.  Two days later I went for a short run.  Much to my surprise I felt no aching and afterwards there was no creaking!  I did a longer run of about 32km the weekend after (while in Portland, Oregon) the injection and still no pain/creaking.  This seemed promising for getting through 100 miles.

We arrived in the Pass on the Friday afternoon before the race.  Brett and I, plus my friend Adria who was also running, were staying in a cabin out in Beaver Mines, about 20 minutes from the race start.  It was warm in the cabin and none of us got the best sleep.  We woke an hour before we needed to leave to make time for coffee and oatmeal.


The race started at 7am on Saturday morning (July 8th). The Sinister 7 is broken up into 7 legs and can also be run as a relay.  The relay sells out in seconds each December as soon as registration opens.  You gain 6400m of elevation over the 161km course, and get 30 hours to finish it.

Leg 1- Frank Slide.  According to the website this leg is 18.3km and has 535m of elevation gain.  There are a lot of people starting this race, and in our attempt to start slow, I feel that Adria and I wasted a bit of time.  I wish we had gone a bit faster while it was still cool outside instead of getting stuck in the back.  Although I’m sure it made no difference to the outcome, if I try again I will try to start closer to the front.  Adria and I decided we would try to run together until we naturally separated. During this leg we also met up with my friend from Edmonton, Virginia, who was attempting the 100 miles as well.  The three of us ran together for a few kilometres, discussing our training (or lack thereof).  This leg is pretty easy, has some pavement, and takes you through the site of the frank slide at the base of turtle mountain.   I think this portion took us just over 2 hours.  As you can see from the photo below, we had some nice scenery but the trail itself wasn’t my favourite to run on.


Leg 1.  Photo by Raven Eye Photography

Leg 2. Hastings Ridge.  17.2km and 852m of elevation gain.  Adria and I set off for this leg together as well.  I already could tell it was going to be a tough day.  I was hot and my stomach wasn’t feeling 100%.  I could also feel a stitch coming under both ribs.

Not too far into Leg 2 I told Adria to leave me.  I had to slow down and try to get rid of my stomach and stitch issues.  I took a combo of pills (ibuprofen, some pills to prevent stomach cramps, and electrolyte pills).  I practiced breathing slowly and did some stretches.  This seemed to help.  Leg 2 was actually pretty fun and had some good trail and views.  I enjoyed the steep downhills and even the uphill.  I noticed my legs felt more tired/crampy than they should after only having run about 35km and this worried me a little.  It was pretty shaded and it wasn’t hellishly hot outside yet so I didn’t think I should be too dehydrated already.  Despite my issues I wasn’t too far off my predicted time for this leg, and I saw Adria leaving for leg 3 as I was coming into the transition.  She offered to wait for me but I didn’t want to slow her down.  I sat for 15 minutes eating freezies and drinking ginger ale.  Adria’s crew (3 great folks from Lethbridge) and Brett had a nice station set up under a tent so we could sit in the shade.  I stuffed my hat and bra with ice, put ice in my water, and started off for leg 3.

Leg 3. Satan’s EFFING Sack (aka Willoughby Ridge).  31.4km and 1357m of elevation gain/loss.  This leg started with a long climb up a logging road.  And I’m pretty sure that continued for the majority of this leg.  There was no shade.  It felt like I was in an oven and my legs were moving so so slowly.  My stitch came back soon into this leg and proceeded to get worse through the 6ish hours it took me to finish this section.  I couldn’t run any of the downhills without it feeling like I was being stabbed in both ribs.  Eventually it got so bad I couldn’t run any flats either.  And I was getting so hot I could barely move to walk the uphills.  So many people started passing me, and even though they were walking as well they moved so quickly out of sight.  For the first time in a race I made many stops to just sit on the side of the trail, feeling like I wanted to just lay down and go to sleep.  I had heard this leg is the killer for many soloists, but I had naively assumed since I had run a couple 100km races there was no way I would quit before I at least made it past that distance.  I had underestimated Satan’s Sack, however.  I stopped at every stream and splashed water over myself, but every time I did this I had to stand back up and feel like I was going to black out.
I don’t remember smiling on this leg and I also don’t remember photographers.
Eventually I reached the last aid station on this leg and sat to cool off in the creek that was next to it.  I had stopped eating by this point because my mind wasn’t functioning and I kind of forgot about it.  I ate several orange slices and a packet of maple syrup, hoping maybe if I ate and sat for a few minutes my stitch would go away.  Leaving this last aid station we started a climb into the woods.  FINALLY some single track!   I saw a relay runner sitting on the side of the trail looking worse than how I imagined I looked.  Somehow this made me feel better about my situation.  While I was happy to finally have some runnable forest trail, I was sad that every time I tried running the stabbing pain came back.  I needed the endorphins from running but I couldn’t run!  Just when I thought it was all downhill back to the transition there was another very very steep climb.  I had to keep stopping for breaks and the mosquitos and black flies were buzzing all around me.  No part of this race seemed fun.  I kept thinking I just needed to get to the transition and then I could quit.   But then I knew I still had time before the cut off so I was trying to force my brain to stop being so negative.

Finally, I made it back to the logging road I had come up in the beginning of this leg and I knew the transition was close.  I tried to run at this point as it was all downhill but it hurt too much, and now I kept feeling like I was going to puke and I couldn’t breath.  I got to the transition and immediately sat on the grass as volunteers put ice on the back of my neck and offered me freezies.  Virginia came over eating a slice of pizza and told me she had dropped during leg 3.  Her training had gone well, but she was also having a terrible time out there and didn’t feel it was worth it to keep going.  This made me want to quit as well, but I decided to take a 30 minutes rest and hope that by this time my stitch would go away and I could finish leg 4 at least.  I ate some french fries and had more ginger ale while Brett got my pack ready.  I kept alternating between wanting to quit and wanting to keep going.  Eventually I had to make a decision as there were only 15 minutes left before the cut off to start leg 4.  I grabbed my poles and my pack and started slowly up the trail for leg 4.


Leg 4.  Saddle Mountain.  Once out of the transition area, this leg actually started off nice enough on a trail through the trees.  I got a call from Adria- she had gotten lost and did an extra climb up the ski hill on this leg.  I encouraged her to keep going and let her know I was probably a couple hours behind her.  I power hiked as fast as I could (which was still a sloth pace) and then we came to some runnable section.  I started running and the stabbing pain came back.  I had been out for over 12 hours and had felt terrible for 99% of that.  I wasn’t having fun.  Normally during a trail race even when it’s hard I still have moments of “I’M HAVING SO MUCH FUN.  I LOVE RUNNING!” moments that make the pain worth it.  But that didn’t even happen once during my 72km of Sinister.  I was in pain, I had no idea what was wrong with me, and I wasn’t having any fun.  I decided I was done.  I called Brett and told him I was turning around and I wanted him to pick me up.  I then called my sister and then my mom as I walked the 2km (I hadn’t made it very far into this leg) back to the transition to hand in my timing chip.  I was happy with my decision.

While laying in the grass out side the 4Runner I met up with a couple I had been running with on leg 2.  They had planned to run it together as kind of a training run for Fat Dog 120.  The heat got to them as well, and they had decided to quit.  Seemed to be the theme of the day.  I heard someone measured the temperature at 46 degrees on leg 3.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true.  Approximately 15 minutes after arriving back to our cabin I felt terrible.  My head hurt, I couldn’t stand up straight, and I felt like I was going to puke.  Brett had to hold me up in the shower and wash the dirt off my legs/arms/face.  I had told a couple friends I would meet them at their house for a beer before meeting Adria at the next transition and it took all my energy to just get to the car after I showered.  For some reason I felt if I could just get there and drink a beer or two I would feel better.  I didn’t, but it was nice to visit with friends, and they didn’t mind that I needed to lay on the couch and eat all of their olives (salty delicious olives- good post race snack).


About an hour later as I was sitting outside the convenience store (the only place open in the pass to buy food late at night) waiting for Brett, I got a call from Adria.  She had dropped out at the first aid station of leg 5 and was being driven back to race headquarters.  I felt sad that neither of us would be finishing, but obviously completely understood her decision.  We picked her up and went back to our cabin in Beaver Mines. Brett went to sleep immediately, while Adria and I discussed the race horrors and ate buttery perogies before trying to sleep.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I wish I had kept going.  At least until I got dragged off the course for not making a time cut off.  Then, at least, I would’ve have no control over stopping.  100 milers are supposed to be tough.  Maybe I would have felt better once it got dark out.  Although maybe things would have gotten worse, given how terrible and nauseous I felt for days after.  It was a tough year, with only 18% of soloists finishing the race.  I think usually its closer to 40%?  I know when I eventually run 100 miles it’s going to be tough and I’m probably going to want to quit many times. But I have to hope that at least a portion of it will be on beautiful trails and I will feel SOME moments of happiness.   I have been working on my breathing and drinking electrolyte drinks on longer runs instead of plain water, and it seems to be helping.   I can still feel the starts of the stitch pain on most runs, but I’m hoping in time that will go away.

Next year my plan is to perhaps run Sinister as a team of two with my sister… assuming we can get a team signed up.  If not, who knows.  Maybe I’ll sign up to try to run the whole thing again.  I definitely want to finish it one of these years.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

18 Jan

When I started this blog many years ago I was hoping it would help motivate me to train hard and finally qualify to run the Boston Marathon.   I tried personal training, running more miles, doing more speed work, losing 10lbs…. but my marathon times stayed in the 3:40-3:50 zone.  After running a few trail races I decided to quit marathon training and start ULTRAmarathon training.  My first ultra was the Grizzly 50km ultra in Canmore, AB in October 2014.  It was tough, but I didn’t cry or puke, so I signed up for the Iron Legs 50 miler the following summer in Kananaskis, AB.  Iron Legs (2015) race day was rainy and a pretty good running temperature for me, and although I was disappointed there were no mountain views I was happy to not be running in 30 degree temps.  Running the 54 mile race took me less time than expected, and I was happy to finish the race in under 14 hours (and before dark).    After having completed a few ultras (that summer I also ran Rundles Revenge 50k and the Mount Robson 50k), I figured it was time to try running the Vancouver Marathon again in 2016, which I would use as early training for my main 2016 goal- the Black Spur 108k.

I felt confident that I could qualify for Boston at Vancouver because my training had gone well, and running at sea level after training in Kimberley always feels easier.  Buuuut on race day it was HOT, and I clearly hadn’t trained enough on pavement because half way into the marathon my legs felt very heavy and I couldn’t keep the pace I needed to BQ.  I still ended up with a personal best, but was 1 minute short of the time needed to qualify.  This meant I wouldn’t be running Boston in 2017.

After researching all the fall marathons (fall=cold temps), I signed up for the Hamilton Marathon which took place in November on the weekend before my birthday.  Supposedly it is the best race to BQ in Canada, and it meant we would be able to spend some time in Toronto afterwards to celebrate my 33rd birthday.  I don’t think I trained any differently for this race, but maybe running 108km a couple months before did help.  After the Black Spur I took a few days off before jumping back into marathon training.  I didn’t do any speed work leading up to Black Spur, so I incorporated a few yasso 800s and continued to do runs of between 30-40km on weekends.  And most importantly, I ran mostly on pavement.
Brett and I flew into Toronto a few days before the race and were able to check out the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.  I was thankful to visit at this time of year because it meant fewer tourists.


My mom flew in the night before the race, so her and Brett made a plan to meet me around the half way mark.  I drank many litres of Nuun the day/night before the race, and had a dinner of butternut squash ravioli.  My friend from Edmonton was also running the Marathon, and her husband was running the half.  Her sister gave us a ride to the start, where we spent the 30 minutes before the race waiting in a port-a-potty line until just before it was time to start. My initial plan was to stick with the 3:30 pace group for the first 10-20km, because this was the time I needed to make sure I could actually register for Boston.  In previous years you need to have finished a marathon about 2-3 minutes faster than your qualifying time to actually get in.   I also planned to take a gel every hour, and drink water from the aid stations if I felt thirsty (which ended up being just 2 or 3 times).  By the end of the first km, I decided to run based on how I was feeling.  I didn’t want to regret running slower than I felt I could.  The race is very flat and starts on back country roads.  The first half went by very fast, and I was on pace to finish in under 3:30.  I saw my mom and Brett, threw them my arm sleeves, and was happy to start the second half of the race.  There is a long slightly downhill section in the second half, and then a very short trail section, before an out and back along the waterfront trail by the lake.  I enjoyed the short section where you could see other racers heading back to the finish.  For the last 5 or 6km I ran with a girl from Halifax, who had also graduated at St.FX.  It was her first Marathon AND she was going to qualify for Boston!
I finished the race in 3:25:22-FINALLY qualifying for Boston. I stuck around and waited for my friend to finish and then it was time for recovery beers.


Terrible photo near the finish- I think I was yelling something at my mom as she took this.


Weekend Recap

21 Mar

So I had hoped I could figure out how to use the WordPress app for my iPad, but as you can probably tell from looking at this blog- I am sometimes a little electronically challenged.  AND I forgot my camera so I didn’t get to take many pictures to document my trip.

It went something like this:

Saturday– Watched nan open birthday gifts and had brunch.  Ran 6km around Glymill Inn pond.  In shorts!  Got ready for St. Paddy’s Day (Night).  Sherman Downey and his band were playing a Pogues tribute at this bar called Whelan’s Gate.  I’m assuming not many people have heard of him, but he’s awesome!  This summer me, little sis, her boyfriend and Mr. Ex were in his music video for the song BLUE at Gros Morne National Park (I’m somewhere in the lineup of people clapping and holding balloons as he rides by on his bike).

the band!

Our drink choice of the night was a modified “Frenchy’s special”…. basically we had 2 shots of vodka, 2 shots of sour puss, plus some 7-up.  Probably not the best thing to drink all night, but common.. it was St. Paddy’s Day and I was on vacation.

cousin Kathy, Me, and little sis

Needless to say after 8 hours at a bar (gotta love Newfoundland and the bars that stay open past 2 am) we weren’t feeling to great the next morning.. but a night out with my favorite people (my aunts and a few friends from high school also joined us) was just what I needed to stop feeling like a sad little loser.

Sunday- The next morning we met some of the family for breakfast at a place called Aroma’s (“some” of the family consisted of 33 people besides myself).  I tried to make the healthy choice by ordering toast and oatmeal.  The oatmeal was $4 and so I was expecting something a little more than this:
At least it was the reduced sugar kind, right?

I just can’t handle nights out like I used to.  I felt like crap all day, and was forced to walk around walmart for an hour so mom could pick up some things she needed (the town I’m from has 4000 people- fortunately not big enough for a walmart). After a nap and a 7 km run on the hotel treadmill we headed to  my cousins house for a BBQ (and red wine). Finally we had a good meal:  greek salad, grilled peppers and broccoli, and fresh trout.  I don’t normally eat fish unless I’m in Newfoundland, or occasionally dragged to a restaurant like The Keg.
My plan for the next week is to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives so I can get back on track and remember why I was trying to be a vegan a few years ago.

Monday– Skiing at Marble Mountain!  The slopes were kinda icy and we didn’t have much time, but it was nice to do some downhill skiing.

Me and little sis:

Fun day with the sis and momma.  Back to Edmonton Tuesday morning.

Anyone else have sore ankles/whatever muscle goes from your ankle up the outside of your leg from downhill skiing?   Is St. Paddy’s day your favorite day of the year?  It’s always been one of mine!