Golden Ultra

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”).

Climb:

 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.

Conquer:

                  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.

Cruise:

                  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.

Final thoughts:

                  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.

Finishing the Climb

Finishing the Climb

Finishing the Cruise

Finishing the Cruise

Elk Lakes Hut with Toddlers

In mid-July, we packed up our family and headed in to the Elk Lakes ACC hut in BC to enjoy a weekend in the backcountry.  I had booked the hut in November of 2016 and managed to book the entire hut, so that we’d ensure the hut was filled with friends with toddlers as well.  We started our hike from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park at the Elk Pass trailhead.  We followed a portion of the TransCanada trail which travels uphill with approximately 200m elevation gain.  At the top of the pass you can stop at a picnic table and have lunch before heading south along the power lines for a 200m elevation loss to the Hut. The Elk pass trail has recently been upgraded and was relatively easy to push our double chariot the entire hike into the hut.  I would not recommend biking this route with a chariot.  At the top of the pass, entering BC there is a fantastic totem pole style gate that you can pass through and is a great photo opportunity for your weekend adventure. 

The hut is large and has all the amenities of home.  There is a fire pit outside the hut, so check fire advisories if you are planning to have a camp fire.  A short walk away is a flowing stream in which to get your water.  Make sure to purify or boil your water and use the buckets labelled for water hauling to get the water from the creek and Drinking water for water already boiled.  We hiked in on the Friday, hiked to Elk lake and upper elk lake on Saturday and then hiked out on Sunday.  From the hut to Upper elk lake was easily doable for my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old walked a good portion of it.

Important things to remember!

·       When you get to the hut (or any ACC hut) have an adult go in and trigger all the mouse traps, and push them out of the way of little fingers.  Mouse droppings can harbor disease.

·       A queen sized fitted sheet will fit perfectly over 2 of the foam mattresses in the hut and it’s way easier to deal with than having a flat sheet.

·       We just brought 2 sheets, a throw blanket and one 5-degree barrel sleeping bag for 4 of us.  The upstairs sleeping area was very warm.

·       Don’t leave your toilet paper in the outhouse!  I left a full role in the outhouse in the morning and it was all gone by early afternoon as day hikers and backpackers go right past the Hut outhouse.

·       Bring some toys for the kids, we brought a couple of beach buckets, shovels and squirt guns would be a good addition.

·       Bring bear spray!  We followed the trail of a grizzly all the way back from the hut to the top of the pass.

·       If you are lucky enough to have conservation officers staying at the parks cabin next door, you can ask them to take your dirty diaper bag!  We did this on our trip and friends did it last year and they were happy to take our garbage bag of diapers!

·       Make sure you lock up the cabin when you leave for the day, as day hikers are walking through and will come into the hut if it’s open.

This was a fantastic backcountry weekend with small kids.  It really didn’t have any fantastic views and the hike was nothing to write home about, but we planned this trip to expose our kids to a backcountry adventure to a hut.  I am glad we did the trip, but I probably wouldn’t do this one again during summer.  I might do it in winter, although skiing up and down the pass pulling 100lb chariot might be a bit of an adventure.  I think this was a fantastic backcountry hut trip with toddlers and look forward to our next hut adventure.

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Powderface 21

I have only run one other half marathon and that was the Kelowna half around 10 years ago.  It was a road race, I was incredibly slow and right in front of the kilometer 17 marker, I broke my foot.  I finished that race and when I got to the finish line I was told they’d run out of medals and I’d get one in the mail, which I never did receive.  My running experiences have never really been that great in the past, but I always wanted to be a runner.  My past injuries limited me in my running aspirations, but I’ve finally figured that all out and after building a base last year, I’m “racing” some longer (for me) distances this year.  The Powderface 21 was my first experience of a trail race over 7km’s.

I signed up for powderface last fall with two friends.  When I would think about the run, I had this idyllic picture of the three of us running through the mountains, like a picture I recently saw of team Salomon running in Chamonix France.  That Idyllic picture wasn’t destined to be, so once I realized it was just going to be me, my idyllic picture just switched to the image from Sound of music, where Maria is running through the alpine wildflower fields.  Once I was running, I couldn’t get the image of the dwarf from Lord of the Rings when he was running trying to keep up with the elf.  Huffing and puffing.  It’s funny how different reality is from what we imagine things will be.

My race plan was to break the race into 3 parts.  The first third was to just settle in and get comfortable, the second was to assess whether I was running a sustainable pace, fuel and hydrate and the third was to decide whether I’d race the last section or if my goal was to finish.  I think I seeded myself well at the start, I really didn’t have to pass many people and I’m never one to overestimate my ability, so I didn’t get passed by people.  It didn’t take long for the group to spread out, and somehow out of 80 runners I ended up running pretty much the entire 21 km by myself.  I don’t normally run on by myself on trails as I have a huge fear of Bears.  As soon realized there were no other runners in sight either behind or in front of me, I came across a large pile of fresh bear scat.  I kind for freaked out.  I knew I couldn’t catch the group just ahead without burning out a bit, so I stopped and waited for someone to catch up, and I waited and waited.  Finally, I just decided to keep going on my own.  I kept to my plan for that first third and was feeling pretty good when I got to the first aide station.  At this point I was about an hour into my run and I had not eaten anything, I grabbed a couple of M&M’s from the aide station and kept running. 

The second section of the race is where I started tripping.  I was tripping a lot, and it took me a while to realize it was because I hadn’t been fueling well.  The day before my race I’d had a salad for lunch and dinner and breakfast was a piece of toast, so I started this adventure on empty and after an hour of running in the hot sun, I was starting to see the results of not fueling.  I’ve never been good at eating while being active.  Our running joke has always been “if there’s an apocalypse I will be the last person standing” as I can literally backpack for days with very little food.  But, running long distance is a different beast.  Still running on my own, I heard some rocks falling down a slope to my left, thought of the bear scat behind me, and tripped and took a header into the bush.  I jumped back up, as that’s not the way to face any kind of opposition on the trail, but nothing came of it.  As I continued stage 2 of my race my tripping increased which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was an out and back section of trail, so soon the leaders started passing me on tight single track, going the opposite direction.  The amazing thing about trail racing is that everyone is so supportive!  As they passed they all gave me the “good work”, “nice job” comments and I still can’t believe the trail running culture.  It’s a super supportive bunch!  My race pretty much continued with a few stumbles until just before the third aide station, when the two girls running just ahead of me ran into that lovely bear I’d been watching for.  They came running back and we waited for three more to join us and ran forward as a group of 6 making lots of noise.  Within a few minutes we all separated and I was once again on my own.  Towards the end of the run I wouldn’t even run downhill as I was worried about tripping and hurting myself.  I have really come to realize that the body that has always been able to push through with very little food, can’t push through without when running.  I managed to run the last 3km’s to the finish line and was happy with my 3hr 16 min finish time.  I came in 8th out of 16 in my category and I’m happy with those results for my first race.

My major learning was that I need to figure out how to fuel and run as well as figuring out what to use as fuel.  I will be testing out ideas over the next month and look forward to my next race at Blackspur. 

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My 5 top tips for camping with toddlers!

·       Get them involved in planning! 

o   We start talking about camping early in the week before we even start packing for camping.  We talk about where we are going and what we could do while we are on our camping trip.  If we are heading to Banff, we’ll talk about some of the different hikes we could do, we could hit their favorite playground, ride bikes, see waterfalls ect… get them excited and when you talk about it be over the top excited about it.  Your excitement will feed their excitement.

·       Bring food they love!

o   We try to bring food the kids love when we’re hiking.  They wake up to a cup of hot chocolate in the morning, which they only get in the mountains.  Knowing what toddlers will eat can be tricky, as it changes every day, but there are usually some tried and true things that are guaranteed to be success when it comes to food.  Make as much as you can beforehand and freeze it so you can heat it up fast when the kids get tired.  We often bring quesadilla, freeze bean and rice burritos (wrapped in tinfoil) and throw them on the BBQ or in the fire to warm them up, spaghetti sauce is always easy as well.  Our kids also get visited by the “mountain bunny” on all our hikes.  The mountain bunny poops Hershey’s kisses on the trail when they aren’t looking.  This is a great way to keep them hiking.  When on holidays in Iceland it was a Puffin that was leaving treats on the trail.

·       Teach them about the world around them!

o   My daughter has turned four this year and we’ve been talking more and more about the world we live in.  When we were in Zion, Utah we talked about the canyons and how canyons are formed.  When we are in Banff, Alberta we talk about glaciers, how the mountains were formed, the Ice ages, fossils, wildlife and foliage.  We talk about protecting nature and treating wildlife with the respect they deserve.

·       Be flexible!

o   This is one that I struggle with myself.  If I have a plan I find it hard to deviate from that plan.  Having two toddlers is teaching me to be less rigid with my plans.  Sometimes a big hike, is just not in the cards and you can tell when you wake up it’s just not going to happen.  We have never been sit around the campground people, we are usually up early and want to get on with our day, but we are starting to appreciate hanging out in the campground and playing.  We play soccer, we play with bubbles, we bring their run bikes, we go to playgrounds.  This time in their lives is all about building their love of the outdoors and about nature.  This is not about you!  You need to put yourself aside and for a few years while you build their love for camping, put yourself and your goals second and their happiness first.

·       Bring the right Equipment!

o   Make sure you pack what your kids will need to be comfortable.  I have spent a night in the backcountry with no sleeping bag and freezing cold because my daughter wouldn’t sleep in hers because it wasn’t warm enough.  Plan for everything regarding weather, bugs, sunscreen.  We usually have a large Northface duffle packed full of gear.  We pack down jackets, rain jackets, rain suits, tank tops, t-shirts, long sleeved shirts, shorts, runners, hiking shoes, sandals, tuques, mitts, buffs, sun hats and the list goes on.  Basically, bring everything, because the one thing you leave behind will be the one thing you need.  This is for car camping, for backcountry you need to be more strategic and look at multipurpose items.

This should get you started in planning a camping trip.  The most important thing is to have fun.

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Hike Southern Utah with Toddlers – 3 Must do activities

We recently hiked Bryce Canyon and Zion with our 2 and 4 year old toddlers and here are some of the amazing adventures I’d recommend doing with toddlers.

1.     Hike Kanarra Creek – Kanarra Creek is a 3.5-mile round trip trail.  It’s considered a moderate trail, but I’d consider it easy if you are an experienced hiker.  The trail crosses a small river several times as it meanders up the canyon until it arrives at a slot canyon.  You don’t have to walk far up the slot canyon and you’ll find yourself at a picturesque waterfall.  There is a ladder that goes up the waterfall to a second waterfall, but as I had a 2 and 4 year old with me I decided not to go up and check out the next level.  My husband did and took pictures and we agreed that the first fall was the nicest and it’s not worth the risk of carrying the kids up a slippery ladder to see what is at the next level. 

a.     Before doing this trail, we checked the flash flood report and talk to the parks people in Zion to make sure risk is low as we are not familiar with slot canyon flash floods.

b.     Rent proper footwear for the hike.  We rented Water hiking boots and water socks from the University of Southern Utah in Cedar City for $4 or you can also get them in Springdale for around $20.

c.     Bring $10 for parking.  There are envelopes to put your money in and you take the Yellow copy of the parking ticket and put it on your window.

 

2.     Bike Zion Canyon – There are several places to rent bikes in Springdale.  Rent a bike and toddler trailer for 4 hours and bike up Pa’rus trail.  It’s a paved pathway that follows the river.  Once you get to the road you can continue biking up the road.  Bikes must pull off to the side for busses to pass, as they won’t pass a bike.  The only other traffic on the road are parks people and hotel guests.  You can stop at Zion Lodge and enjoy a picnic on the grass, then continue to the riverside walk parking lot and cruise back down the canyon enjoying the views.

a.     If you plan to picnic lunch at the lodge bring your own food.  The food at the lodge is quite expensive and not that great.

 

3.     Hike Bryce Canyon – Peekaboo Loop approximately 5.5km. Stop in at Bryce Canyon and Hike Peekaboo loop to Navajo.  Park your car at the bus parking lot and jump on the Bryce Canyon Bus.  Take the bus to Bryce point and start your hike on Peekaboo Loop.  You’ll weave your way to the canyon floor relatively quickly.  Hike amongst beautiful towers and get amazing views.  Than hike back up the Navajo loop trail.  The trail up will be a bit strenuous, but the views are worth it.

Hiking Kanarra Canyon

Hiking Kanarra Canyon

Hiking Peekaboo Loup in Bryce Canyon

Hiking Peekaboo Loup in Bryce Canyon

Biking Zion Canyon

Biking Zion Canyon

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My 5 Favorite Podcasts!

I listen to podcasts a lot, in the car, when I’m running and when I’m cooking supper, here is a list and small blurb on my 5 favorite podcasts.

 

1.     Science of Ultra – Ultra Marathon and Trail Running Expertise

·      This podcast is hosted by Shawn Bearden PhD. 

·      All of the guests on the podcast are incredibly knowledgeable.  Most are Doctors, Researchers, high level athletes and coaches

·      Podcast episodes last between 45min to an hour, which is a great length for listening to on a run.

·      This podcast is incredibly educational for anyone looking to get into some longer distance running.  I’ve learned a lot on recovery, genetics, nutrition ect.

 

2.     Trail Runner Nation

·      This podcast still has a lot of great content without quite as much pure science. 

·      The hosts are funny and discuss great running topics with Dr’s, coaches and athletes.

·      Another great podcast if you are looking to get into some longer trail running.  They have great tips and tricks if you are on your way to Ultra.

 

3.     True Calling Project – Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life

·      A great podcast if you are looking to make changes in your life.  The host is a psychotherapist and former military.  He has some good guests that who discuss how they ended up in their careers.

·      I have found the best episode so far was episode 18 (How we can stop pursuing the “thing”)

 

4.     Outside Podcast

·      The outside Podcast is a series of different outdoor related stories.  Many are based on stories that have been written in Outside magazine

·      These stories run 20-45 minutes

 

5.     Stuff you should know

·      This podcast hosted by Chuck and Josh discusses everything from science to music, from history to pop culture and pretty much every topic in between.

·      I’ve been listening to Josh and Chuck for years and they have so many random interesting podcasts.

·      There are commercials in the newer episodes, but they didn’t have commercials in the first several years.  Also, if you are new to this podcast you will have a ton of episodes to choose from!

I hope you give one or all of these podcasts a try and enjoy them as much as I have.

My Experience with Mindful Running

My first introduction to mindfulness was in 2013 when I decided to study Hypnobirthing while pregnant with my daughter.  “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment”.  I studied mindfulness every night for about 6 months until going into labor.  Although my labor didn’t go as expected I learned a lot in those 6 months of study.

Fast forward to 2016 when I took up running.  I ran every day and the hours I spent running is where I worked through all my life’s hurdles.  Over several months of running and thinking about my life, where it was headed and what was important I started to work through the huge challenges I was facing and eventually over time my runs became less and less about figuring things out and increasingly about being in the moment and enjoying life for what it was at that given time.  So, what started out as a method to work through my problems morphed into what I’ve described in the past as meditation while running. 

These days I still work through my problems on some of my runs, it seems the older I get the more I deal with when it comes to uncertainty about work and relationships, what school to put my kids into, am I overscheduling them or should I put them in another sport, am I a good mom and a good person.  However, more and more I am running mindfully.  Focusing on my surroundings and enjoying my running time for what it is, a break from all those worries and an escape from every day stress.

I have found that mindful running is enabling me to become centered and grounded.  I listen to what my body is telling me and adjust my training run accordingly.  If my body is completely exhausted I let it rest, knowing that I will be strong again tomorrow and I’ll be back on the trails.  Mindfulness while running has also opened a whole new world of truly appreciating my surroundings.  When I’m out in the mountains I stop to enjoy the views or the colors in the sky as it changes from blue to pink at sunset.  I’m learning to appreciate all the small things that in the past I may have taken for granted. 

What started as being mindful while running has now permeated my entire life and the lives of my family.  We appreciate sunrise together every day.  My small children sing “it’s a beautiful day” over and over and we discuss all the beautiful things around us and how much we appreciate the opportunity to experience them.  We consume less and experience more.  We were always a family that appreciated experiences, but I feel like we appreciate experiences so much more now and we are less material than ever before.  I still have a long way to go in my practice of mindfulness and I still have many challenges to work through, but I think actively practicing the art of mindfulness is helping me appreciate my current situation and move through any challenges that arise.

 

Mindful Running

Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment.  It has generally been practiced while sitting quietly meditating, however the idea of mindful running has become increasingly popular.  Running while being completely present in the moment and accepting whatever comes without judgement can literally take you farther than you thought possible.   

Focus on the present moment – Focus your thoughts onto your current experience while running.  Try to let go of your day to day stresses and enjoy your run.  When thoughts or daily stressors enter your mind allow them to wash over your like a wave and let them go without getting fixated on them or trying to figure out answers.  Allow your mind to let go of everything that is happening in your day and your life other than running. 

Focus on what you feel in your body – Once you let your daily stresses go, you can start to listen to your body.   Don’t judge, just observe.  Listen to your breathing, how do your legs feel, how does your body feel.  Are you feeling labored, like you really don’t want to run, or is your body feeling strong like you could keep running forever.  If you feel some discomfort you can investigate that discomfort further.  Is it a sharp pain, where your body is trying to tell you to stop, or is it just discomfort because you are pushing yourself and you can accept it for what it is, discomfort that will make you stronger.  Running brings out your inner strength and mind over matter.  For me, it takes about 5km’s of huffing and hating life until I settle into my happy place, and I can bounce in and out of that happy place so many times.  Accepting the discomfort and moving past it knowing you’ll find that happy place again is how you can become stronger and run further.

Focus on what you see and hear around you – Feel the connection to the trail and to the nature that surrounds you.  Be grateful for natures beauty and happy to be able to explore and enjoy it using your feet as a vehicle.  Notice the smell of pine needles in the sun and listen for the trees rustling in the wind.  Notice if you are running past rivers, creeks roads.  Absorb all this information with acceptance and appreciation for what it is.

Do not judge yourself – Don’t judge the thoughts and feelings that are passing through you as good or bad and don’t try to change them.  Don’t judge your body or your performance.  Accept that you are trying your best and that this is where your body is now.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t get faster or run longer with time and training, however it takes time and many hours of consistent training.  Accept where you are now and how hard you have worked to get to your current level training.  Enjoy the journey you are taking to increase your strength, stamina and health.

During the practice of mindfulness, you try to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. Mindfulness means living in the moment, instead of letting life pass you by.  When you are running appreciate the fact that you can run and enjoy the trails as so many people never get out to enjoy what you are able to experience.

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Alpine Club of Canada – Cameron Lakes Hut with Toddlers

The Alpine Club of Canada Cameron lake hut is a 1929 Warden Cabin in Waterton National Park.  To access it, after entering Waterton National Park, turn right on the Akiamina Parkway and drive approximately 13km.  Park at the road closure gates.  Starting at the road closure gates it’s a 2km ski in to the hut, which you’ll find on the left side of the road.  The ski in can easily be done on Backcountry or xc skis or on snowshoes.  It’s a slightly rolling 2km and is a very busy area with lots of people doing day trips, so although it’s not track set, there were tracks to follow.  The hut is fully stocked with everything you’ll need for a comfortable getaway.  There are two family sized beds on the main floor and one big loft with a ladder that leads up to it.  The beds each have good plastic covered mats, so you just need your sleeping bags.  The hut has a heater and lights, no need to worry about bringing in wood or making fires.  Water needs to be boiled and can be obtained by melting snow, or from a small creek nearby.  If you want to plan a Cameron Lake trip, book early, as the hut books up a year in advance.

Our spring Cameron Lake hut trip was a great success and I’d recommend this trip to anyone that is wanting to try a backcountry trip but is still a bit nervous about sharing a larger hut, or backcountry tenting with kids.  The Cameron lake hut is the perfect size for 2 families.  We skied in on backcountry touring skis, as we find it easier and more stable to be on fatter skis with skins when pulling heavy chariots and wearing backpacks.  We have 2 toddlers ages 2 & 3 and we use 2 chariots.  At this age the three-year-old could ski or snowshoe in, but we always try to make our trips as fun as possible for the kids, so we bring a double and single chariot and they each get their own space for the ride in.  This increases the chance of a meltdown free trip into the hut.

We have 4 adult sized sleeping bags that we zip together, so that each adult will sleep with one kid in a large sleeping bag.  Because our kids don’t like sleeping in sleeping bags, we generally end up having the sleeping bags open and the adults will fight for covers while the kids roll all over us cover free keeping us awake.  We brought in a soft sided cooler, so we could keep yogurt and milk cold for our one night there.  We cooked our supper earlier in the week and reheated it at the cabin.  We like to bring Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice) on camping and backcountry trips.  It’s not ultra-light to pack in, but it’s a great dish that covers all the food groups.  For the kids, we pre-made cheese quesadillas and brought carrots, raspberries and raisins.  The backcountry is not a time to test out new foods, so we always bring food that’s guaranteed to be accepted by the kids.  We also bring treats that they normally won’t get at home, so they have cookies, chocolate and Nutella in the backcountry to make these trips that much more appealing.  We generally don’t bring a lot of toys on any of our trips, as our kids have become great at playing with what is on hand, whether it’s pots and pans or just playing in the snow and building snowmen.  For this trip, we did bring their shovels, which were a huge success.  Kids LOVE to shovel snow and that kept them busy for hours.  Our friends also brought food coloring, which can be mixed with water to paint the snow.

 

Learnings:

Its’ a long trip to get to Waterton for just one night, so if possible I’d book the hut for two nights.  Waterton is pretty much closed in the winter, so don’t plan on doing much of anything in town.  The only place that was open was the hotdog stand.  No matter how close you are to another family, staying in small huts with toddlers will be a challenge.  You don’t have your own space and your families won’t follow the same rules or schedules.  Prepare for some challenges.  These trips are tough for toddlers, they are on an emotional roller coaster that runs from really excited to over tired.  Prepare for the melt downs and take a breath, it’s so worth it in the long run and even the worst meltdowns will be forgotten and the fun memories will remain.

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On turning 39

Today I turn 39 years old.  My three-year-old says I’m “so so old” as she spreads her arms as wide as they can go.  I have always hated my birthday in the past, I don’t like getting older, I’ve equated it with getting slower, fatter, grumpier and achier.  As you get older, life beats you down.  Dealing with toddler tantrums, relationships with friends and family, body injuries and soul injuries.  It gets overwhelming and it’s exhausting.  But, there is a decision that must be made at some point in life.  If you are heading towards 40 and look around you, you'll notice that we are all in the same boat.  No one gets to 40 without scars from life, some are luckier than others, but we all have our scars. 

There comes a point where you need to decide if you’re going to make this life amazing or if you’re just going to let it run its course.  For me, it came as an emotional trauma that changed me over night.  My life has done a 180 degree about face. Instead of watching I’m doing, instead of sleeping in I’m waking early, instead of walking I’m running.  I’ve left my 20’s and early 30’s in the past the way a snake sheds its skin. I have left behind the fear, anxiety and self-doubt in a pile on the side of the trail.  

Year 39 is a new beginning.  In year 39 I’ll climb mountains, I’ll run till my body is exhausted and I’ll ski down hills that make my legs wobble in fear.  I’ll love more, laugh more and live more than I have in the past 38 years.  Because,  I now understand what life has been trying to teach me all these years, I am strong enough to take on anything that it puts in front of me.

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Am I an athlete?

The Oxford dictionary defines an athlete as “A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise” and Wikipedia defines it as “a person who competes in one or more sports that involve physical strength, speed and/or endurance”.  I have always wanted to be an athlete, but have never really considered myself a true athlete.  Growing up I show-jumped horses, which a lot of people would say isn’t a sport as the horse is doing all the work.  If you have ever tried to get a horse around a course of 4 foot jumps you would know how hard it is on your body.  However, I never thought of myself as an athlete.  Throughout my young adult years I dabbled in short distance triathlon, open water swimming and road biking but I was never competitive, so not an athlete.  Last year I came in 4th out of 27 people in the 7km Rundle’s revenge race in  Canmore, Alberta, but I didn’t consider myself an athlete because there were only 27 people in my race and most of the people in Rundle’s were running either half or ultra distance, so my 7km’s seems so insignificant.  And this year I skied the Panorama skimo race I came in 1st but it was “only the recreational division and there were only 3 people in my race”.  So am I an athlete?  I struggle so hard with this question.  Yes, many people consider me an athlete, but at what point will I be good enough to consider myself an athlete?  If one of my friends had accomplished what I’ve accomplished over the past few years I would consider them an athlete, so why do I have a double standard where I expect so much more from myself than from others?  I think this phenomenon is very common and we need to be kinder to ourselves.  I am working hard to see myself as others see me, but I wonder at what point I’ll truly see myself as an athlete. 

 

At what point do you consider yourself an athlete?

Fernie Lizard Skinner Race – 2017

On February 21, 2017 I attended my second skimo race of the season, this one in Fernie.  Also, this was my first overnight trip away from my kids.  I didn’t know what to expect from this race.  I’ve only skied Fernie once before the Lizard Skinner race and I really haven’t been downhill or backcountry skiing since I got pregnant with my daughter in 2012.  Before having kids, I was happy skiing blue runs and the odd black run.  I was never a person to push my boundaries that much with skiing, just enjoyed spending nice happy days in the mountains on easy runs. 

So, heading to Fernie I was pretty worried and didn’t really know what to expect.  It was my first time doing a Skimo race other than the COP Vert180 in Calgary.  I drove to Fernie on the Friday morning before the race to give me time to explore the mountain, ski the downhill sections and decide what I’d do on Saturday.  My options were to just do the ascent and bow out after I got to the top, or to do the whole race knowing that the descents would probably scare the pants off me.  I decided to sign up for a lesson when I got to the hill Friday afternoon to learn how to ski Saturday’s course. Standing at the top of the first descent, I looked down the run and tried to figure out what the heck I was going to do.  But, something in me has changed over the past 3 years.  I am no longer letting fear overcome me or dictate what I will or will not do, so I pointed my skis over the edge and slowly picked my way down that steep section of hill. I also knew there was a second descent that would need to be done during the race, but I figured it couldn’t it be harder than the steep sketchy downhill I just skied.  Well, my instructor helped me find the second run, and it turned out to be an icy, mogul filled, relatively narrow run with alder branches sticking up all over it.  The first section of this run was doable, I just went to the internal mantra “over, over turn” which I learned when I was about 3 years old and learning to ski.  However, the last short section was steep and icy.  I fell, got caught on alder shrubs and was a total mess. 

Sitting back in my hotel room that night I was eating Oreos and pizza, because how else would an athlete fuel the night before a big race, and I just wanted to drive home.  Over and over in my mind I just kept repeating, “what are you doing?”  “why are you doing this?”.  I couldn’t help thinking I should be home, snuggled up with my 1 year old little moose and not preparing for something that I obviously should not be doing.

On race morning I woke up fully intending to ski the ascent, call it a work out and not do the whole race.  The skimo community was great and as we were getting ready, and I was given some fantastic tips by a few members of the national team.  I got ready, did a bit of a warm up, but not too much as lord knows I need all the energy I can muster just to finish the race.  Being a complete newbie to this whole race thing, I let everyone else know it as well by taping my number on upside down (008 became 800) and I also had to carry my avalanche shovel on the outside of my pack (apparently, a no no) as I realized that morning that it wouldn’t fit into my fantastic little lightweight skimo pack I’d received for Christmas.  I set myself up at the back of the pack at the start line, with all the split boarders and people wearing heavy touring gear.  The race started and everyone bolted off into a little ski run shuffle.  I was at the back thinking “wait a sec, why are all these people running, it’s not a sprint”, but I soon learned that you need to get that little run in otherwise you get totally left behind, which I was.  I plodded along in my ultra-light skis and boots, thinking I should be closer to the front, or at least ahead of all those wearing heavy gear, but I wasn’t.  I ski up at what we call in my family “ranger pace”.  It’s the pace at which you could trek for days and not get tired.  I did manage to pass some people on the uphill section and just kept pushing, hoping my idea that I could slowly reel people in at my steady pace would work.  And my strategy would have worked better if the race was 8 hours, but it’s not.  For the top people, it’s less than 2 hours.  I was happy having passed a few people and plugging away, until I got to an icy knoll and slipped and fell (this is on the ascent, I fell going uphill).  It was so icy I couldn’t get straightened out to start skinning up again, so after flailing around for a while trying to figure out what to do, I took off one ski and walked up until I got to a flat spot and could get re-adjusted and start skinning again.  At this point all those people who I had passed had passed me once again.  I did a great transition to the boot pack section, put my skis back on and decided to ski to the top of the descent and just check it out.  I’d make my decision at that point if I was going to try it or not. 

It was just me on my own at the top of that black run in Fernie.  I had to decide for myself, am I going to be the athlete and the person I’ve always wanted to be, or am I going to turn back and not really pursue this sport.  After staring down that hill for several minutes, being passed by people and lapped by elite racers, I dropped into the run.  What is the worst that can happen?  I fall?  That’s ok, I’d just get back up.  I side slipped a lot of the run, feeling a little guilty as I was messing it up for those that would come behind me.  I think it probably took me at least 15 minutes to get down that one section of the race, but I did it, and I was going to keep on going.  I got to the second ascent section and I was feeling good.  I was happy to start climbing again.  I gained on people, I have no idea how, I passed people!  I got to the second bootpack section and hiked up to the top of the second descent.  I knew it was going to totally suck, but at this point there’s no way I wasn’t going to get down that hill and finish my race.  The top and the mid-section of my run went well, then the bottom section came and it was steep.  I later told my husband the theme song to my race would be the sound of side scraping ice on skis.  I got part way down and totally stuck, I couldn’t go forwards, backwards or turn due to the alder branches and ice.  So, I took off my skis.  It was icy enough that I had to walk backwards down the hill kicking my boots into the ice several times a step until I got to the bottom.  Quite a show for the ski patrol guy at the bottom I’m sure.  I felt like a fool, but I got to the bottom, put on my skis and got to the finish line.  I knew I was last, but I finished it, on my own.

I’d trained on my own for a race where I didn’t know what to expect and I got through it.  I finished it, and I know the next one will be better and so will the one after that.  I didn’t lose this race, I won it, because I pushed past fear of leaving my family for the first time just to get there.  I started the race instead of just skiing for the day, pushing past the fear of being last to cross the finish.  And, at the top of the descents I pushed past the fear and internal voice that was telling me I couldn’t do it.  I am on the road to becoming a trail runner and skimo racer.  This is my beginning.  I can’t wait to see where I end up.

Steep Dreams Skimo, Panorama Resort

Steep Dreams Skimo, Panorama Resort

Steepdreams Skimo Panorama Resort

This past Saturday I took my family to Panorama ski resort in BC for a fun filled weekend of skiing and skimo racing.  Steep Dreams was panorama’s first time hosting a skimo race and in my (limited experience) opinion they knocked it out of the park.

We arrived on Thursday night and checked into Toby Creek Condo’s in the lower village.  We were a bit concerned about having a 1 bedroom condo when there are 4 of us in the family, but the condo was very spacious and worked out great for our family of 4.  An open-air gondola runs from the lower village to the upper village and if you have kids that love gondolas, this might be the highlight of their trip.  Panorama also has an amazing daycare (Wee Wascals Childcare).  I have never left my kids at a daycare on the hill before, but the girls at Wee Wascals were so amazing with the kids, my daughter asked every morning if she got to go to “school” again.

On to the skiing!  I was a bit nervous about my race, as I haven’t skied much in the past 4 years, having been pregnant and had babies with no family support nearby over the past few years.  So, Friday morning we popped the kids into daycare and we headed out to test our legs on the mountain.  I checked out the run I’d have to ski down and determined that it was very doable and not wanting to blow out my legs the day before a race we headed in to the T-Bar lounge for a much-deserved date, which we don’t get too many of since having kids.

Saturday morning, bright and early I headed up to the upper village for a race briefing and then loaded up onto the “Mile High” chair, where the start of the race was located.  I learned from my last race that you need to warm up a bit. My theory has always been that I don’t want to waste any energy as I’ll need everything I have in the tank just to survive, but that isn’t how it is.  I warmed up a bit on my skis to try and get my legs ready for what lay ahead.  Skimo starts are tough to figure out as a new person to the sport.  In past sports, I’ve always been happy to start last and slowly make up ground throughout a race, but it seems with skimo if you start last you end last.  So, this race I actually ran a bit on my skis to get moving during the mass start.  Then came the 800m grind.   The first 10 minutes or so are spent asking myself some questions… “what are you doing”, “why do you always sign up for these things”, but then I got into a bit of a groove and just trudged along.  There was fresh powder on the mountain and the route up the hill was amazing.  At one point, I looked up and we were a line of about 10 skiers climbing a skido width track sided by trees with big fluffy flakes falling and it was that muffled fresh snow quiet, with just the swish sound of skins on snow.  I wish I’d had a camera.  My body always takes a while to warm up and at 400m of vertical ascent I finally really felt like I was in a comfortable pace.  After the uphill ski comes the bootpack section.  This was my favorite part of the race.  It was long and had been set by women the day before, which means smaller steps in the snow vs the giant steps that men seem to put take.  I haven’t skied a lot over the past 4 years, but I have carried up to 50lbs of toddler and gear up mountains every weekend through summer and fall over the past year, which made the bootpack section easier for me.  At the top of the bootpack is the transition to descent.  I’d been practicing transitions and was really excited to have done a good “skin rip” (ripped my skins off in one try while keeping my skis on my feet) during this race.  And off I went, down this fantastic run in amazing fresh powder!  I got about three turns in and almost did a face plant.  If you haven’t seen skimo skis, they are very short, incredibly light and nicknamed “the misery sticks” by people who practice the sport.  I had only skied groomers on my skis, and powder is a whole new world on these skis!  It took me a few turns to figure out to just lean back and hold on, which really caused a lot of leg burnout on my trip down.

I managed to come first in the women’s recreational category.  I learned so much about the sport, and I’ve continued to make new friends in this small sport that is full of amazing elite athletes.

I really look forward to doing this race again next year.  Panorama resort is a fantastic destination for families and Steep Dreams was an amazing race.