Golden Ultra – Half Pint
The Golden Ultra is a three-day stage race that starts with a climb on day one, a longer run on day two and day three is a shorter rolling run along the river valley. You can sign up for the half pint (climb/conquer/cruise) or the full length which is called blood sweat tears.
The Golden Ultra Half Pint was my first ever multi day stage race and it was the biggest race I’ve done to date (this is my first real year of trail running/ ”racing”).
The Climb section of the race was held at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and consisted of a 720m climb over 3km. My plan was to do this in at a Zone 3/4 effort, which is a strong effort, not really conversation pace. My mantra for the entire three days was “eat early, eat often” as I struggle with eating while active. When I got to the start line at the top of the chairlift I seeded myself at the back of the pack. I always seem to do that, as I really underestimate my ability. After a couple of short minutes the course literally turns straight up the mountain along a somewhat mowed “pathway”. I felt good. I’m a strong hiker more than a runner (at least for now). I turned up the mountain put my head down and started power hiking, keeping my heart rate in the right zones. About half way there is a few steps of flat and then I headed up the steep headwall towards the top of the gondola. This section is basically a stone staircase of singletrack climbing. It’s beautiful. This is where I have some regrets, as when I caught up to a group I allowed myself to be lazy. It would have been hard to pass in this section without running and possibly blowing myself up, but at the same time I let myself settle into their pace and stopped pushing my own. It was an enjoyable section of singletrack hiking and I was able to run the last short section as the trail flattened out and I got to the top of the gondola. It was so great to come across the finish line with my family cheering for me at the top. I felt fantastic and strong. Climbing is my strength.
The Conquer day is a 30km run with 660m of elevation gain. The trail runs a few km’s in on the road and then pops into the woods and is pretty much all single track from there until you pop back out on to the road and run the last few km’s back to town. Once again, I seeded myself at the back, but this time my choice was appropriate. I’m not a fast runner. As soon as we started I could not understand why everyone was in such a hurry. They were all running at least 30km and many were running 60km’s yet they started off at a fast pace (for me) and really didn’t slow down. I was pretty shocked and a bit worried. I gave up on trying to keep with a group and just ran on my own. I felt really good. Once I peeled off from the 60km group and started back towards town my knee and hip pain started. All those months when I should have been doing clamshell exercises to strengthen my butt, but completely ignored my physio…. Well it came back to bite me. For the last half of the race, I could run on flat and had no pain on uphill’s but downhill killed me. I was slow, I got passed a lot and my optimism regarding my decision to be a trail runner, my ability to trail run started to tank. I desperately did not want to walk with only a couple of km’s to go. I kept forward movement until I got to the finish line and was greeted by my amazing family. I love that my kids are so happy to see me come across the line and don’t worry about whether I’m first or last. My thoughts about the Conquer section was pretty much disappointment. The first half felt so great, but the hip/knee pain really did put a damper on this race. This is my first real race though and it’s a learning experience. I learned not to ignore my physio, she’s a smart cookie, and knows what my body needs to keep it going.
After completing 1320m and 33km in less than 48 hours can you really call the 10.5km, 300m (I think) day 3 a cruise? I was worried about my left leg. As soon as I started running I knew it was going to be an issue. I kept pushing through it though. The first few km’s were nice and flat and then we came to a hill and everyone was walking and no one was fast on this morning. The uphill actually felt really good, so I passed a lot of people in this section as energy wise I still felt strong and not too tired. We popped into the trees into some great single track and kept climbing, so I kept strong… then the downhill section started. All those tired runners that were plodding up the hills were now tearing down the downhill and I had to pull off to the side, as I was limping on the downhills. It is pretty sad to step aside and watch 25 people pass you on a downhill. I limped along until I got to a long slightly downward sloping part of the trail and it was comfortable to run. I could see two separate groups of people up ahead of me and I made it my mission to catch them. I picked up my pace and ran the rest of the way to the finish line. I passed both groups and almost caught a third before crossing the finish. Cruise had highs and lows, but I’m so glad I ended on a strong note.
I’m coming back to this race in 2018. I am happy about my fitness and how strong I felt, but the hip and knee pain really put a downer on my weekend. The race itself was fantastic! The trails were amazing, the people were fantastic and the whole weekend was a great family event. I can’t wait to come back and get a re-do for this run.