Tag Archives: Trail running

Elk Valley Ultra

9 Aug

I had signed up for this new 50km race in Fernie as soon as I heard about it because it’s only about an hour and a half from where I live.  The race could be completed solo or as a team of 3, and so was broke up into 3 different legs.  I didn’t really give it much thought, or look into the course, until after my failed Sinister 7 attempt a few weeks ago.  Like most runners (I assume), as soon as that was over I could spend some time looking at course details of the next race… and what I noticed was 2800m of elevation gain (yikes!).  Since Sinister and the post-Sinister death cold I had been rewarded with, running had felt hard and I struggled to run even the slightest incline.  I had been on part of the course before though, and I knew the views and flow-y trails would make up for the challenging course.  I spent the weekend before the race doing two back to back 20km runs with around 1400m of elevation gain each to get ready for leg 1 of the race.  It was tough, and I felt tired.  But I was excited to get out and race.


Walking to the start line!

The race starts in the Annex Park, which is pretty quick to get to regardless of where you’re staying in Fernie.  The temperatures this summer have been pretty hot, and so the race start at 6am was great.  My friend Adria (also signed up for the 50k) and I left our hotel at 5:30am to walk over to the start.  Brett and Sam would be meeting me later at the 2nd/3rd transition area.  It was nice and cool in the early morning, but not really cold enough to NEED a jacket once the race started.  After a quick wait in the port-a-potty line, we were off.  Adria and I ran together for the first couple of kilometres as we left the park and moved towards the trails.  Soon Adria zoomed off and I noticed Naomi, another Kimberley runner, was next to me.  We joined the long line of “runners” as we continued the long hike up Mount Fernie.  I felt like I wanted to hike faster because I was breathing comfortably, which in a race felt wrong,  but I could also see it would be difficult to get anywhere since there were many people on the single track in front of me.  Really I knew this was a good pace because I didn’t want to feel like death during the second half of the race.  Eventually we reached the top, and started some fun technical downhill/rolling trails (aka Heikos Rocky Road) over to Windy Pass.  I was able to pass a few people on this downhill portion, and it felt good to run fast.  I caught up with a couple of guys, who I ended up running behind for the next 10km or so.  We chatted for the next hour or so, making the time go by pretty quick.  After the downhill section there is another climb back up to Windy Pass, followed by a mostly downhill section all the way to the 1st aid/transition station. I loved running down the old growth forest section of the trail.  Huge trees and lots of shade-  it was getting hot out!


Unfortunately I didn’t take pics on race day- but this is from the weekend before

At aid station one I found Adria.  She had decided to drop out due to knee pain, and didn’t want to make things worse for her 100km race next month.  I filled my water bladder, grabbed some jujubes, and kept running.  The section of the race just after leaving the aid station was quite flow-y and fun.  Then there was a long climb up a wide trail that seemed to go on forever, followed by some fun downhill running, and then the stupid trail…. it kept going UP…. and UP.  It was so steep and it seemed to never end.  It felt way harder than the leg 1 climb. I wanted to use my hands and just crawl up.  Finally the climb was over and it was time to run again.  Many sections of this leg were shaded, fortunately, otherwise that climb would have been a lot worse. I had told Brett to meet me at aid station two 4.5-5.5 hours after the race start, but it took about 5 hours and 50 minutes for me to get there.  I think my watch said I was about 37.5km in at this point.

At aid station two (which is also transition three) I got Brett to fill my water bladder with Heed, but forgot to grab ice for my hat/bra.  Both these things were a mistake.  I took off for the “4km loop” (more like a 6km loop) in the provincial park, looking forward to seeing Brett, Adria, and Sam again in less than an hour.  Turns out I don’t like Heed, but now it was the only thing I had to drink.  Oh well- at least it was cold.   I felt uncomfortably hot now, and I regretted not remembering ice for my hat.  A lot of the 6k loop was shaded, and consisted of mostly runnable single track.  I didn’t notice any significant climbing on this section, and soon I was back at the aid station. At this point I had ran just over 43km according to my watch, but I knew the course would run long.  Still, 9km more didn’t seem so bad.  I stuffed ice everywhere, and started off for the finish.  We ran down a stretch of dirt road and then a wider dirt trail and eventually to mushroom head.  I found it difficult to run due to the slight incline, so switched to a run for 10 seconds, walk for 10 seconds routine.  Two girls came running past me and I was amazed that they were able to run at this point.  Finally, with about 4km to go, the downhill back into town started.  I caught up with one of the girls who had passed me as she was having a leg cramp.  I gave her some salt tabs and we shuffled together up the last little hill.  Now I just wanted to be finished, so I started running as fast as I could, passing another girl, and finally getting to the Annex park path.  I could see the finish line, but it still seemed so far away.  I wanted to stop and walk, but somehow kept running.  FINALLY I was there, after 7 hours and 44 minutes.  I crossed the finish line and immediately sat down in the grass with Brett, Adria, and Sam.  They then informed me I was probably 4th or 5th female. Damn.  I hadn’t expected to do that well and now knowing I was so close made me wish I had started faster.  I later learned I was just 1 minute behind the 3rd place female finisher.

We sat in the grass drinking beers/cider/ginger ale/coke and waited for the rest of the Kimberley folk to finish.  Becky Bates, a rockstar runner from Kimberley, finished 1st female (in just under 7 hours), only a couple weeks after finishing 5th (female) at Hardrock.  Paddy Humenny, Naomi’s husband, finished about an hour or so before me, and in 5th place.  The overall winner finished in under 6 hours!  It was a nice afternoon sitting and drinking and telling race stories.  At around 5pm there was a free dinner for racers.  I was happy to see they had vegetarian options.  Veggie burgers, salad, and baked beans.   I think there were pulled pork sandwiches for the meat eaters.  Our race entry also came with a free beer ticket.  Eventually we had to leave to head back to Kimberley because the father in law was visiting, and so we didn’t have time to stay for the award ceremony.


Sam-enjoying lounging in the sun

I’m pretty sure this was the hardest 50k race I’ve done, but it was also so much fun.  I’m thankful I had a good day out on the trails and never experienced any low moments.  Considering how close it is to home I would definitely run this race again next year if the timing is right.


A few years later…plus a race report!

17 Jan

It’s been awhile.  I’ve finished a Medical Lab Tech program, ran a few ultra marathons, moved to Kimberley, BC, qualified for the Boston Marathon (to run in 2018), and got engaged.  Now that I am running more exciting (in my opinion) races, I thought it would be a good idea to start writing in this blog again as a way to remember these experiences.

Brett (the man), Sam (the dog), and I moved to Kimberley from Edmonton just over a year ago.  Going back to school for 2.5 years was challenging, but it allowed me to get a job in a smaller town and live close to mountains.  Leaving Edmonton was an unexpectedly sad experience for me.  I have some pretty great friends and running groups in that city, and in my excitement to move to the mountains I forgot how difficult it would be to not have those people near me.  Still, moving to Kimberley was the best decision.  We have access to many so running/hiking trails, outdoor and indoor rock climbing, lakes, skiing, etc.


In August I ran my first 100km race- the Black Spur Ultra.
It is a 54/108km race that’s held here in Kimberley.  The 54km race consists of 3 loops, each coming back to the base of the Kimberley Alpine Resort.  The 108km race completes the 54km route twice.  I had a group of friends running the 108k as a relay, so they, along with my fiancé, were there to support me throughout the day.  Each leg starts with a hike up part of the main run of the ski hill.  Leg 1 (16.1km, 886m) starts on the round-the-mountain trail (which is it’s own race in June), but branches left at a cutline, so you can hike straight to the top.  This climb probably lasts for a few km, but once at the top you’re treated to some nice rolling single track and fun downhill for the rest of the leg.  This is the most technical leg in my opinion, and it was also the only part of the course I hadn’t trained on.  This leg wasn’t so bad the first time around. I remember trying to hike fast and run when I could, because I didn’t want to have to run in the dark for too long.  I met a runner who had placed 1st in the 54km race the previous year and ran with her for a few km before taking off on the downhill.  I’m a terrible climber but pretty good on technical downhill.  Since it’s the only place in a race I can ever pass people, I take advantage of any downhill and go as fast as my legs will carry me to make up time. Brett had been out for breakfast with his dad and brother, and I finished this first leg ahead of schedule…. I told my friend who was running the relay to let him know I had been through and took off without spending any time at the first transition.
Leg 2 (18.3km, 674m) heads off in the opposite direction from leg one after the short hike up the ski hill.  It climbs up magic line, which seems like never ending switch backs of a mountain bike trail even though it probably isn’t very long at all.  It was starting to get hot already, and I hate running in the heat. This leg went by relatively quickly.  After reaching the top of the magic line climb,  the trail is mostly runnable and is quite pretty.  Once reaching the aid station there is a fun mostly downhill section on mr. toad.  The challenging part of this leg is when you cut left onto a not so well traveled trail and have to run mostly flat or slightly uphill for a few km.  Luckily I met a runner along this stretch and chatting with him helped these boring km go by a little faster.  He was from the Crowsnest Pass and was running the 54k.  Eventually on this leg you reach creek trail, a short but sweet shaded section that actually has some water (most of the trail is pretty dry).   This leads you back to the nordic trails where there’s just one noticeably long uphill, followed by mostly flat back to the transition.
Leg 3 (19.4km, 670km) is probably my favourite leg.   Once through the nordic trails, it heads up myrtle mountain (runnable when not in the middle of an ultra), but then there’s a nice long downhill stretch for a few km- first on single track, and then a wider dirt trail/road. At the end of the downhill there’s another aid station to chill at before heading up sunflower hill.  The rest of this leg feels heavy on the uphill.  I actually  have no memory of running this leg, but it probably sucked because I know I felt very terrible starting leg 4.


I think this was the end of leg 3

Before heading back out on leg 4/1 I attempted to eat some of a grilled cheese sandwich (which worked for me at the Iron Legs 50 miler), and chugged a lot of coke.  This was a mistake, and I felt very nauseous for a long time.  I couldn’t run any of leg 4 until I reached the top of the climb.  At this point my friend had texted me to let me know I was somehow first female, which was both exciting and stressful.  The thing I like most about ultras is that you can take your time and not worry about your pace as much as in a road race.  Now I felt pressure to keep moving as fast as I could…. which was not fast at all.   I didn’t see many people during the second half of the race, and my brain kept trying to come up with reasons to drop out.  It was way too hot, my shirt was crusted with salt from sweating so much, and I couldn’t eat anything.  I was drinking about 1.5L of water every 10km.  I don’t remember much from leg 5, aside from some mountain biker volunteers and high fiving the first place male as he was on his way back to the transition.  Leg 6 was when I finally needed a headlamp.  At first the darkness was a little creepy, but eventually I stopped thinking about bears and cougars and ghosts, and enjoyed running at a comfortable temperature.  At the last aid station in the race a couple of girls from run club were volunteering, and so I had my first sit down of the day.   After a couple of ginger chews, and learning that I was still in first place, I took off to finish the race.  I heard someone entering the aid station as I was hiking up sunflower hill for the last time, and was scared it was the second place female (it hadn’t been).   For the last 9k I managed a rotation of running for 20 seconds, walking for 10 seconds, while listening to Trail Runner Nation podcast on mental toughness.
And then, after running/hiking/walking for 16 hours, 41 minutes and 10 seconds,  it was over.  I finished just before 1am, and unlike my arrival at the transition for every other leg, it was dark and quiet, with just a few people waiting at finish line.  Somehow I finished 4th overall, and 1st female.  Also, thanks to this being only the second year of the race, I get to hold a course record.  I’m sure it’ll get crushed this summer, but until then I will enjoy seeing my name on the website as holding the course record for the 108km race.