WCT Day 3 – #deadmanwalking

I woke up.

No cramps. No vomiting. No pain.  No death in general.  Tah-dah!

Phew – I’m so glad that the shellfish didn’t kill me. WON’T be doing that again. For reals.

Turns out I slept so fitfully I didn’t even hear the chaos in the girls’ tent just over from mine. They’d left the screen unzipped about an inch, and in came da mouse…apparently it was an animated 5 minutes of mouse flinging to get it out.  The mice had left our camp mostly alone.  A net bag holding my stove and tea kettle over by the campfire got a nibble, but that was it.

Happy to be alive (and mouse-free), Day 3 looked promising, despite the face it was our longest scheduled distance on the trail (16 km) hiking between Tsusiat Falls and Cribs Creek. Day 3 foggy beach walk

The morning held an ethereal quality as we slowly made our way along the beach surrounded in fog, with the sun trying to shine through.  Hikers moved in quiet bunches, each finding their own pace. Eventually the fog engulfed the hikers in front of us and we were seemingly alone on the shifting sands.

That’s when we noticed figures on the massive rock formations in the sea.  Hugh didn’t bring his glasses on this trip, and was convinced that these were campers who’d found their way out to a rock during low tide. But upon closer inspection, the “campers” were actually large bald eagles!  Just hanging out.  I’ve never been that close to a bald eagle before!!Day 3 eagles are coming

Day 3 hole in the wallThe fog continued for a couple of kilometres along the beach, and at one point, just past the Hole in the Wall, I could swear – absolutely – that I could hear singing.  Hugh scoffed, and called me crazy. (And that’s a fair judgement – haha.)  But I swear… the voices rose and fell, like they were caught in a breeze and tossed to shore, then muffled again by the mist. My ears fought against the sound of the waves moving on the shore, trying to pick up the melody. I’d hear it, stop walking, then it would disappear. It was so beautiful. Haunting.  This continued on for about 20 minutes.

We took a rest break, leaning up against some rocks on the beach. (It’s all about finding the perfect rock or log that supports your butt and your pack at the same time. That way your whole body gets a break.)  Peering out to sea, I watched as the fog seemed to thin and fade directly in front of our stretch of beach, revealing a fishing boat and two – what appeared to be – traditional sea canoes.  For a brief moment, I could put bodies to the voices, this time talking and laughing, when the curtain of fog dropped as abruptly as it had lifted, and the boats were swallowed up again and all went silent. So magical…

The beach trail ended when we hit the official Ditidaht Indian Reserve lands, and we moved back onto the forest trail which curved inland to avoid the impassable headlands.  The trail began to get a little more technical with mud pits and root-y terrain. After we had just finished a particularly sticky climb, we met a group of hikers, one of which was wearing a pair of Crocs wrapped in duct tape.  Apparently his boots fell apart hiking through the mud on the South side, and this was his only solution – game on!Day 3 Nitinat Narrows

We reached the Nitinat Narrows just in time for lunch.  The Narrows is a tidal passage about 3 km long, and wide enough that hikers can’t cross without the use of the ferry.  The cost of the ferry is included in the hiking fees for the WCT, and M. (holder of the paperwork) had all of our receipts for passage.  I bribed Hugh with a mini Baby Ruth bar to get him to holler “Hey you guys!!!!!”  across the channel to catch their attention…not long after, the ferry chugged to life and came across to fetch us, bringing us to the other side.Day 3 crab shack

Et voila, our first “fast food” of the trail: the Crab Shack.  Locals serve up fresh crab (hauled right out of the water in front of you!) and salmon with a baked potato for $25.  As well, they have a cooler full of pop and beer, bags of crispy potato chips and cheezies, and chocolate bars.  Yuuuuum.  Hugh and I were on a bit of a budget, and we knew there was another food opportunity the next day, so we spent our pennies on pops and deliciously salty cheezies and chocolate.  I also gnawed on a protein bar to make sure I was getting enough fuel for the rest of the day.Day 3 Mr Crabs

We still had about 11 km left to go.

Hugh and P. had both expressed reservations about today’s hike simply based on length. And it was true test of endurance, especially with a heavy pack.  Exhaustion  impacts people in different ways.  I’ve been there on hikes in the past, and I get that…when you’re so beat that you can barely speak, you lose your appetite completely, and you adopt that 1000-mile stare at the end of the day.  I’ve had my friends almost force feed me my food to keep me fueled in order to boost strength in these situations.  It’s not pleasant, when the last thing you want to do is just be left alone to zone out. But it’s important.  No fuel in the tank, and your hiking days can turn into excruciatingly long treks through a wild blur.

Today’s food stop perked everyone up, and we moved forward refreshed and ready; however, fatigue caught up not long after and it was slow going through the rest of our day through all kinds of terrain.  There were plenty of stops.  A lot of stops.  So many, many stops. It’s a double-edged sword: the more you stop, you get a mini break, but the longer your day, and the longer you are on your feet with a heavy pack driving you into the ground. Choose your poison.Day last 11 km

We arrived at Cribs Creek, slogging along the last bit of beach to our destination – just around 41.5 km from where we started a few days ago.  We didn’t even bother seeking out prime real estate and ditched our bags closest to the last tent pitched on the North side of the beach.  Hugh had his tent set up and was inside before I could say Jack Daniels.

The beach was full of campers all eating dinner and settling in for the night.  I mostly remember the feeling of the cool, silky, superfine gray sand on my puckered feet, clomping across the beach to stash the food bags, use the loo,  and find more water, and setting up my tent near Hugh’s on a little sandbank. I may have eaten a cold meal that night…I know Hugh probably scarfed down crunchy Ichiban inside his tent, cougars and bears be damned.  With Hugh tucked away and fading into dreamland, and P. going about his nightly routine, I sat on a log with M. watching the night creep in.

Tomorrow – Cribs Creek to Walbran Creek

 

WCT Day 2 – #redtide

Day 2 reflectionIf I die tonight, tell my mother I love her and my father that he is a good dad.  Tell my brother he rocks. Tell my husband I chose him for the happiness he brings me. Tell Oliver he is a strong young man who can do anything he sets his mind to, and to not be so hard on himself. And tell Hugh that his is good and kind, and that he is going to do amazing things in this world and touch the hearts of many people.

I’m sitting in my tent at the end of day 2 silently freaking out.  Today I ate something I shouldn’t have and the consequences could be deadly.

***

Day 2’s agenda was to hike from Darling River through to Tsusiat Falls (14 km), and the morning started out beautifully with breakfast and a show thanks to the gray whales.  They were just offshore, as usual, and we watched as they dipped and dove through the water. And we even saw one whale breach three times!  Beautiful.Day 2 breakfast beach treasure

After eating breakfast and packing up our gear, checking in with each other for any miscellaneous aches and pains, we hit the trail.  The day was filled with beachwalking, ladder climbing, and strolls along mossy, slippery boardwalks.  We saw the whales quite a bit, and goggle-eyed sea lions watching us from the water as we walked, just their little heads poking up. Very curious little fellows.Day 2 trail shots

We passed the site where the 253 foot iron steamer Valencia sunk offshore in 1906, losing more than 125 lives.  Of the many vessels that sunk off this Graveyard of the Pacific, public outcry for the Valencia was the loudest, and helped push for the further development of the WCT and the building of the Pachena Lighthouse in 1907.

Why the fuss? Hard to imagine in this day and age of instant news and social media.  But reading the Valencia‘s account is bone-chilling, and apparently the wreck surpassed all but the sinking of the Titanic in terms of “sheer horror.”  The passenger ship became engulfed in fog, and the hull was pierced upon the jagged West Coast rocks. The captain chose to jam the ship into the rocks about 30 yards offshore rather than sink in the deep water.

Passengers were tossed overboard [by the pummelling waves] almost immediately. Women and children were lashed to rigging out of reach of the sea. ‘It was pitiful to see women, wearing only night dresses with bare feet on the frozen ratlines, trying to shield children in their arms from the icy wind and rain,’ writes freight clerk Frank Lehm.  Daybreak brought a grisly spectacle. ‘Bodies hung suspended from the rigging like flies in a web. Once rigor mortis had run its course they loosened their hold and tumbled into the water or onto the deck with a flaccid thud.  More corpses drifted between ship and shore, scoured of flesh and features as if by a giant cheese grater,’ Graham writes.  One lifeboat finally made it ashore and its crew soon found the telegraph trail, made it to the lineman’s cabin, and cabled Cape Beale.  Another vile night passed as rescuers struggled along the trail and ships sailed from Victoria to lend assistance. ~ Ian Gill, Hiking on the Edge

There were survivors, but not a single woman or child lived through the ordeal.  No remains of the Valencia can be see from the trail, although we did pass relics of other wrecks, including a boiler, and anchor and other bits and pieces.Day 2 more trail shots

It was actually at Trestle Creek, where we spotted the anchor on the beach, believed to be from the shipwreck Janet Cowan, where I made a really dumb choice.Day 2 Anchor

Trestle Creek was a great spot to stop for a break, and many other hikers had the same idea. We bumped into folks from our camp last night, and then also a large contingent hiking from the South. As we snacked and people-watched, I observed that a bunch of Japanese hikers weren’t nibbling trail mix or protein bars; instead, they were full on cooking a meal, with their stoves out, pots bubbling, etc.  It seemed like a lot of work to me!  I usually save my cooking for mornings or evenings only while on the trail.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the menu was comprised of shellfish, which was undoubtedly harvested from the very beach upon which we were sitting.  The hikers coaxed the meat out of the shell using a gold safety pin and then dipped it in a sweet chili sauce they’d brought along. The side dish was steamed seaweed.Day 2 red tide

I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t they know about red tide? How the higher levels of neurotoxins in the algae could then cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in all the mussels, clams, etc?  This was a big deal at the WCT orientation – harvesting is off-limits and consumption could cause death.  But here they were, happily noshing on a free meal from the sea.

I poked Hugh.  “Check that out!  Don’t they know that’s not cool?”  And then when one of the ladies went to wash her dishes, she used the freshwater source as opposed to the preferred method in the WCT literature – the ocean.  “OMG – does no one read the WCT rules??”  I was high on my rule-book horse.  What kind of eco-monsters were they letting on the trail?? So many people disregarding the environment, etc.

But then I decided I wanted a photo of the shellfish (because the zoom on my camera wasn’t good enough), and went over to speak to the hikers. Oh man, they were soooooo nice and sooooo hospitable.  Really, really lovely people. They laughed and joked, and said sure I could take a photo as long as I didn’t work for Parks Canada.  They told me all about their hike, their cooking… and then they passed me the safety pin.

Ugh.

Even in my regular, at-home existence I don’t eat shellfish. With my father highly allergic to shellfish, we just never had it around the house growing up. In my adult years, I’ve tried out a variety of it (gagged through oysters, plugged my nose through mussels, etc) but it never really was my thing.  And here I was, taking photos of these nice people and trying to get to know them, and then boom!  I’ve got to partake.

They say going on the trail brings out things in your life that are forever present. Issues you need to deal with, reoccurring challenges, all of it is magnified.  And here I was: I just can’t say no. I didn’t want to be impolite, to offend anyone, to cause a situation of conflict. I politely declined once, twice, three times. They kept asking. Offering.  So, I just did it. I ate it. Regardless of the fact I could die. And the fact that this choice also made me a ginormous hypocrite.  Epic fail.

I mentally plugged my nose and scooted the tiny portion of meat to the back of my mouth, as to avoid any tastebud contact.  I chewed. It squidged about in my mouth. I chewed some more. They were all watching me so carefully.  I swallowed, and smiled. They smiled when I smiled.  I thanked them and complimented the food. One of the ladies brought over a new pot of seaweed, and they started feeding this to me as well, telling me it was sweet (it was). It was fine – I could eat however many pots of seaweed as necessary to get me through the rest of the conversation. But then one man said he was going to get me a “good one.”

No! Not another! Nooooo!  I politely declined, but of course the pin came my way, this time dunked in chili sauce. “Is good!” the man insisted.  Another death sentence down the hatch.  Then two more.  I wrapped up my visit and got back to my crew.  It was time to move on. But my head is spinning…What have I done?Day 2 cable car

Right after our break came our first cable car in order to cross the Klanawa River, which required all hands to be on deck.  We sent P. across, then M., and then Hugh and I together.  The 10-second thrill was quickly replaced by the need to start hauling oneself via rope, hand over hand, to reach the platform on the opposite side of the river.  I’m really glad all four of us worked together to get across the Klanawa! In retrospect, keeping it to one person and one bag per cable car is the best way to go.Day2 cliffs

Just two more kilometres through the rainforest along a cliff we caught glimpses of tonight’s home sweet home, Tsusiat Falls.  We scrambled down a set of ladders to the beach and scored a sweet set of spots all together in a little driftwood fortress, complete with a “living room” for our campfire.Day 2 fortress

The fresh water source for this beach was Tsusiat Falls themselves…lovely falls with a little “swimming hole” at the bottom (again, people were swimming, bathing, brushing their teeth and washing stuff in this small body of water…the same water we were filtering to drink. But post-shellfish-madness, I’d given up my fight on the subject and just had to let that go in my mind. After all, I could be dead tomorrow).

The beach was really spacious with lots of room for tents and campers. Hugh started the campfire. This particular beach was crazy good for driftwood, and Hugh made a great fire. Mind you, it did take a little patience. We quickly discovered that no matter how bone dry the wood felt, it didn’t burn easily and it took a while to build up strong, hot embers.Day 2 campfire

After dinner, I went for a wander up and down the beach, soaking my feet and legs in the water, letting the waves push and pull, push and pull.  It refreshed the body and the soul.  Bedtime came soon enough.Day 2 Tsusiat Falls campground beach

Day 2 beachDay 2 Tsusiat Falls

***

All I could think was that I was truly going to die. Tonight. Miserably.

I’m tucked away in my tent for the night, after a such an amazing day, and I keep going back to the shellfish.  What a stupid thing to do.

Part of me is like, HA! Sucker, give it up – you’re going to be fine. Stop playing the victim and love that you lived in the moment.

The other part  is whacking me in the face with a phone book – you just threw away your life because you avoided honesty in expressing your opinions and beliefs just to avoid a (possible) conflict, dumbass!!

Only time will tell.  I fall asleep to the setting sun and the melody of crashing waves.
Day 2 Tsusiat sunset
Tomorrow – Tsusiat Falls to Cribs Creek (if I live, of course.)

WCT Day 1 – #westcoastbestcoast

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Day 1 walkingGo West!  Cheesy but oh-so-accurate when it comes to the siren call of Vancouver Island. I decided to go on a little walk-about along the West Coast Trail (WCT).  This is how it happened, for reals.

History: The WCT is part of the ancient paths and paddling routes used for trade and travel by Aboriginal peoples.  The 75 km route was further developed in the 1900s to assist with the rescue of shipwreck survivors along the “graveyard of the Pacific.”

Why: Why not?  The WCT is reputedly one of those epic hikes that I’d tucked away in my brain for a rainy day. When my cousin M. said this was the summer he was going, I kinda hinted I’d love to come along, and he was cool with that.  He was bringing his dad, uncle P., and I added my son, Hugh, to the roster.

Trail stats: The trail is supposed to be a miserable grind through unruly roots and muddy bogs, along slippery boardwalks & bridges and precarious bridges & ladders. Black bears, cougars and wolves await around every corner and up each tree, waiting to pounce and eat you for dinner.  If nothing else fails, the hypothermia will get you and the mice will chew their way into your gear and nibble all your trail mix, pooping as they go.

So, yeah.  Sounds like an awesome challenge, right?Day 1 good luck dog

Day One

“Your pack is way too heavy.” Albert hoisted my pack back onto the picnic table. “Open it up, let’s see what you’ve got in there.”

I had no intention of taking out a single thing from my 52 lb pack for the West Coast Trail. I was, however, entertained by this marauding stranger with the pick up truck, the Chinese music blaring from the stereo and the feather in his hat.  He had stopped by the campsite next to ours at the Pachena Bay campground, and I figured he knew the campers.

I quickly discovered  Albert’s M.O. was to stop at any site with hikers that looked like they were heading out on the WCT, offer them tea, advice and conversation, and in return, ask for some boiling water (for the tea) and the open mind to accepting a resume for any future tour guide or construction needs. Some people were receptive, some were not. He was ousted from the neighbouring campsite.

“Sleeping bag – okay. Tent – yes. What’s this? Your food is a hundred pounds!  There’s way too much in here.” Albert pulled out my trail mix bag in particular. He pointed to the M&Ms.  “You don’t need this much chocolate. You should give some to me. I love chocolate.” When I laughed off his request, he moved over to visit with uncle P. and cousin M. for a bit.

“Who IS that guy??”  Hugh, my son, had stayed hidden in his tent during this exchange, and had just emerged to pack up his gear and scarf down some breakfast.

Albert was a good guy.  He told us stories of the trail, life on the island, and the lies Parks Canada tells about “red tide” and paralytic shellfish poisoning. “I eat shellfish all summer long and I’m fine. They don’t want you to harvesting anything, that’s all.”Day 1 leaving Pachena Bay

It was day one for the four of us on Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail.  We were hiking 75 km North to South from Pachena Bay to Gordon River with the intention of taking 6 nights and 7 days to work our way through the coastal temperate rainforest and sandy beaches. Hugh and I were pretty stoked to hit this trail.  I’d hiked with Hugh before, and also with M. I had a good idea of their capabilities and hiking styles.  It would be my first time with P.

Today’s plan was to hike 14 km from Pachena Bay to Darling River: an easy stroll on well-groomed, rolling trails through the rain forest.  We dutifully took and-we’re-off photos in front of the WCT sign near the Parks building where we’d received our maps/tide tables and had our mandatory orientation. Crossing Pachena Beach at low tide, we spotted the forest trail markers (floats/buoys) and headed into the trees to find the path.Day 1 Pachena Bay

This was my first hike ever through a cedar forest with towering trees, a fern-covered floor and a somewhat eerie stillness.  The dirt footpath muffled our footsteps, and the farther we got from the beach, the darker and quieter the forest became.  We often didn’t see or hear other hikers coming towards us until they were a few steps ahead.  In fact, the first wave of hikers coming from the South were fairly early in the day, making tracks to complete their journey on the WCT.

All the northbound walkers were in good spirits and a few ladies apologized for their smell.  I couldn’t smell anything but I totally get where they were coming from at the end of a long trek!  Mmm that greasy feeling. But the big news on the trail that morning was actually a yearling black bear – with no mama bear in sight – hanging out by a nearby creek.  We didn’t see it… And then another set of hikers reported on the same bear, that it was now up a tree.  We still didn’t see it… The anticipation of seeing a bear faded as we continued on.Day 1 through the forest

Throughout the day we crossed bridges, ascended and descended several short ladders, and had a few cool rest stops.  Giant fallen cedars with their intricate root systems exposed towered above us as we passed by, housing a whole plant walls and newly-created eco-systems.Day 1 sea lions

Before we saw them, we could smell them: the sea lion rock just offshore was home to mammoth, lolling sea lions barking away at each other.

We visited the Pachena Bay lighthouse and chatted with the lighthouse keeper. He reckons he sees about 10,000 strangers a year walk through his white picket fence gate.Day 1 Pachena lighthouse

Getting  close to our destination for the night, we passed through the Michigan Beach camp, with loads of floats hanging in the trees. Day 1 Michigan Beach

Michigan Beach had a decidedly Bohemian feel. Talking to a couple of campers there, we learned that the gray whales were super active up and down the coast, and were particularly frisky today.  Almost immediately, we saw a whale exhale explosively through it’s blowhole right offshore, followed by the slow curve of it’s back and a showy little dorsal fin – spectacular!Day 1 Gray whales

We continued along the beach, with the sand constantly shifting beneath our feet.  Our pace slowed down a bit as we struggled to master walking in the soft sand. Two kilometres later, we arrived at Darling River, a lovely little camp area with a fresh water source fed by a small waterfall, and room in the forest and on the beach for tents.  Our very first night beach camping!  Hugh and I set up right on the beach with our tents, careful to watch for the hide tide markings (as not to be swept away unexpectedly in the middle of the night).Day 1 Darling River

Hugh hit the sack shortly after his tent was up. I wasn’t too surprised – it was an eventful first day with our very full packs.  I ate supper alongside our companions who each prepared their own dehydrated meals. It was neat to sit on large pieces of log driftwood, watching for the gray whales and listening to the ocean. The weather was warm without being hot, and Pacific smelled, well, like the sea.

M. kindly had brought back some filtered water for us all at supper, but as the sun set I needed to get more for the night and for tomorrow’s breakfast. It was dusk, and the “better” water was as close to the falls as possible.  Nobody was around the fresh water source anymore, and I kept thinking about our orientation session, where we were instructed to keep an eye out for the sneaky cougars… bending down or appearing small (ie. when one is busy filtering water) can lead to a potential cougar attacks as they’d view you as prey.

Boy, oh boy, I kept singing songs to those bears and cougars and I climbed over logs towards the waterfall.  I splashed my way across the stream to a gravelly sandbar, so that I could be out in the open and watch the forest on all sides.  It took forever to pump the water… the water on the North end of the WCT is a lot more silty, and requires frequent cleaning of the ceramic filter. And it never fails that when I go to get water, I somehow get covered in it as well. So, about 30 minutes later I singsonged my way back to camp, water splotches all over my pants, but unhindered by local predators.

As the sun finally dropped behind the distant outcropping, I sat in my tent, with the fly and the screen pulled back (no bugs!), sipping fresh water and contemplating the darkening sky. A good first day.Day 1 Darling River beach view

Tomorrow – Darling River to Tsusiat Falls

 

 

 

Race report – SeaWheeze 2015

For people who like bright shiny things, never-ending youth and quirky west coast vibes, SeaWheeze is the half-marathon for you.  With 10,016 registered (and in the end 7,640 participants who chipped their shoes and ran) this is the largest race I’ve ever been a part of. And it was fun.SeaWheeze 2015

Organization
Given the sheer size of SeaWheeze I was suitably impressed by the swift, smooth organization and bunches of happy volunteers. Registration for this race goes down almost a whole year in advance, and sells out in less than an hour after opening. Lulu keeps runners hooked with fun prep including a pair of Lululemon shorts in the mail (for training!) and an app that covers a half-marathon training program and other interactive goodies.

On the ground in Vancouver, sponsors included Saje and Kind, among others, and there was a lot free stuff given out pre-race through social media (gift cards) and even upon arrival (a few lucky participants randomly had their hotel paid for). Key Van City hotels had room blocks, and some kicked it up a notch by jumping on the SeaWheeze band wagon – Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, for example, gave us a welcome card, Evian and house-made granola bars, plus a comp runner’s continental breakfast the morning of the race.

Festival
That’s right, folks. This isn’t just a run (aka half marathon) in the park, this is a full-on weekend festival with yoga sessions, shopping* and an after-party in Stanley Park. The day before the race, pick up your package at the expo and you could get your running up-do on, take in some yoga classes, brand yourself Lulu with a temp race tat, and get your nails done all SeaWheezical. You could even buy race beer, SeaWheeze’s own Curiosity Lager at the Sunset Festival or at select liquor stores across BC and Alberta.

Course
The course was a 21-km delightful tour of downtown Vancouver, complete with a snazzy bridge (did you know bridges could go uphill?) and a loop of Stanley Park. Along the route there were any number of cheerful distractions from drag queens and mermaids, to pianists and scientists.

My run
Should you go into a half-marathon untrained?

Not advisable.

Did I do that?

Yes.

And I will make no excuses. I was lazy. I’d booked so many hiking trips this summer that running really fell off my radar. And running a half marathon really should involve daily and weekly training commitments to prepare the body and mind for the actual event.  I was, however, tuned into my body, and knew what I was working with. Months of chiropractic visits for my knees and back, and deep tissue massages have been paying off in a number of different ways over the past few months.

Still, I was nervous. I considered cancelling the trip. But the Facebook SeaWheeze chat group was sooo encouraging and supportive that I got on that plane, husband in tow.  Once I arrived in Vancouver, I got cold feet again.  I even considered dressing for the race, going to Starbucks for a few hours, splashing some water on my face, then returning to the hotel to see my husband and telling him the race was great. And just not doing it at all.

In the end, I just sucked it up and went.

I seeded myself in the back. (I kind of knew there was no PR going down today.)  I was in the appropriate corral for a 2:45 pace, but for the life of me I couldn’t see the pace beavers among the throngs of people. I just shuffled along until about 7:30 am when my group was finally released onto the course.

It’s always a curious thing to run alone.  Just you there to slow you down, or encourage you on. Just you to blame if you don’t like how it’s working out. Or you to congratulate if you’re kicking ass.  So, I just … ran.

Right off the bat, I loved the little hills – pushing through on the ascent and flying down on the descent. Lots of active recovery time with hills.  I even ran the Burrard Street Bridge – exhilarating!  I’d found a comfortable pace, and planned having a GU gel about every three miles, and water whenever an aid station popped up.  I ran for 14 km before I took a walk break, and like breaking the seal on a boozy night out, that was the end of that.

When I stopped to walk, all the familiar runners with whom I played tag for more than an hour now passed me, along with a slew of others I’d never seen before, and suddenly I was alone again in a new crowd by 15 km.  Gone was the girl in the tiger stripes who sang to herself and yelled at runners who weren’t looking where they were going; gone was the girl in the pink tank with YOGA RUN PARTY tattooed on her shoulder; gone was the girl with the black ponytail in the Lulu bug shorts; you get the picture.

In taking those couple of walk breaks my splits went from 36 min and 34 min, to 41 min and 50 min = blergh.  Lack of training was apparent in the latter part of the race for me. It’s certainly where I could’ve used that percussive hiss of BPM (I ran without music) or another hill for motivation. The flat flat flat flat flat seawall was my demise, the monotony only broken up by the occasional cheer team, DJ or mermaid strategically placed by SeaWheeze…!

The last kilometre was a tough one. I passed the final aid station, grabbing some water and eating half a banana.  Not long now!  I bopped through to the end, and the announcer called out my full name, my hometown, and told me I was looking good (awwwww). My time was 2:43:54.

After that it was confusion and shuffling: awarded a finisher’s medal shaped like a golden carrot, given a cool cloth for my face and a runner’s kit from Saje, a Kind bar thrust into my hand, a recovery blanket tossed over my shoulders, a Lulu hat perched on my head and then I was ejected back into the crowd where I found my husband cheering me on.

Thoroughly enjoyed the race, and kudos to Lululemon for the entire festival weekend and the hype they create around the event for the runners.

Goals for next time:
1) train – use the SeaWheeze app!!
2) plant self behind pace beaver at the race
3) arrive early to shop

*Shopping
The shopping, mind you, does deserve it’s own special mention…

Lovers of Lululemon are, quite simply and respectably put, fanatical. The exclusive SeaWheeze showcase store at the race makes fans go mental, lining up in the wee hours of the morning for the opportunity to buy gear. At full price. Most of the clothing goes home with the fans, but a fair portion of it appears online to the highest bidder at double and triple the original prices. It was assumed this was the mad masses of general public who ravaged the racks in past years.

This year, SeaWheeze organizers restricted the first few hours to runners-only shopping and limited the number of duplicate styles in varying sizes, but gear still appeared online within hours of the shop opening. Meaning, runners were selling gear, too.

In my Facebook SeaWheeze chat group, one runner justified herself by saying she’s paid a $128 registration fee, $590 in accommodation, $450 for a flight…if she can re-coup some of her travel costs off a few Lulu sales to fans who couldn’t make it to Vancouver, she will – with no regret. Well, when you put it that way….

Tips for hitting the store effectively, as told to me by successful owners of the bug patterned stuff and the green CRBs, etc:

  • Line up early (to get in first)
  • Work in packs (have a game plan, watch each other’s stuff etc)
  • Wear a sports bra (you can strip half decently to try on stuff on the spot)

I went in the afternoon, long after the shop had been deserted and pared down to what Lulu lifers were calling “junk”, “dregs,” “trash” etc. Each clothing size still did have an assortment of what I thought were nice enough items, but obviously not of the top sellers. My big purchase? A striped headband. Haha. Next time…

Focus, focus, focus (cheesecake) FOCUS

A little put off by back-in-time self who, in January, set a 50 lb weight loss goal for 2015 – seriously, what was she thinking???

Admittedly, I was tracking workouts and weight in the winter and spring months, but was never 100% with nutrition, and randomly went for 1-3 week spurts just doing nothing. So, yeah, my results over this time period were also…nothing.

There is no reason why I should be, at a height of 5’5″, over 200 lbs unless I’m planning on a heavyweight boxing career, which I’m not because I’d cry if I got hit in the face and my glasses got busted up.

I seem to falter around that 200 lb mark. I have gained and re-lost the same 10 lbs since last November, hovering between 210 – 200 lbs. But never truly dipping below 200 and staying there. I mean, imagine how much better it would be for my knees (the running, the hiking) if I was even another 20 lbs down?  I’m actually at the point where I can hear my knees grind.  Not fun.

Last week – thanks to back-in-time self’s goals – I decided I should rise to that occasion and give it the old college try. Again. What’s that old saying? If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up. Well, yeah. Here I am! Starting over! Haha.

What I did differently this week:
– chose a nutrition plan (21 Day Fix)
– chose a workout plan (also 21 Day Fix)
– thought about my choices (take the stairs, walk at lunchtime, plan meals/grocery shop in advance)
– kept active in my downtime (decluttering, gardening, household chores)
– kept my goal top of mind (I want this more than the cheesecake…)Week 1 update

Yep – all total dullsville BUT effective. I went back to the 21 Day Fix program because I’d done this last summer for 3 weeks and lost weight/inches. I know it works when you stick to it. When you do it half-assed, you don’t see the best results. I knew I had to get on board 100%.

Another really important thing I tried to identify were any cravings. I’ve kind of figured out I’m an emotional eater and all sorts of uncomfortable situations trigger my need to feed. Keeping on top of that!  I’m also working on the “just once won’t hurt” attitude (that’s what keeps me going back for more) because until I actually reach my goal (or get close!) the “just once” obliterates progress.

This week, my weekdays were good, but on the weekends I hadn’t planned meals. That created a little bit of mayhem.  (I figured I was “off duty” from meal prep, but that resulted in pizza on Saturday night…doh).  I hit 5 of my 7 scheduled workouts. I had four spoonfuls of cheesecake.  That’s the reality of it all.

Weigh-in time!
Mon, Aug  10 – 208.5
Mon, Aug 3 – 213 lbs

Cotton, Cirque, Chateau: today’s hike is brought to you by the letter “C”

Let me just say, if you feel like going on a little day hike, but you only happen to have, like, the first edition (circa 1971), of your Canadian Rockies trail guide, chances are things have changed. Important things. Like trailhead locations.

Sounds improbable, right? Ha. Well, I won’t bore you with the gory details, but my dear friend, Miz T., her faithful sidekick, Cotton the dog, and I ended up wandering along the Trans Canada highway near Banff in the blazing sun looking for a trailhead that had since moved due to a road extension and fencing off of a drainage underpass.

We gave up – wisely – after about 40 minutes and thumbed through the outdated guidebook from our Chateau Lake Louise staffer days to pick another hike. We wanted something that wouldn’t kill us, with a nice view or destination, and relatively short so we could do a few camping chores that afternoon in Canmore.

We settled on the C-Level Cirque up on the east flank of Cascade Mountain that was easily accessible from the Upper Bankhead parking lot off the Lake Minnewanka Road near Banff.  This trail promised a bit of Bow Valley coal mining history and a pretty cirque to boot. The hike was ~7.8 km return and we figured we could knock that off no problem.

Well – I was sweating like a madman in the first kilometre, wondering why on earth this felt so hard. Ha.  But seriously, this is a graded, well-maintained trail – it was just a little steeper than I expected.  There were lots of people on the trail so I had to stand up straighter and look casual while trying not to pant heavily as they – fresh, perky, etc – passed by.  Let’s blame the altitude, shall we?

We happily immersed ourselves in history – aka catching our breath – as we checked out the remnants of an old building dating back to the mining days in Banff National Park shortly after the 1 km mark.Bankhead

The Canadian Pacific Railway thought it would be more cost effective to supply CPR locomotives by opening its own mine at Bankhead in ~1905.  The coal mining operation included a coal mine and town on the lower slopes of Cascade, and it produced half a million tonnes of coal a year. In Bankhead’s heyday, the mine employed 300 men and the town’s population peaked at 1,500 people with taverns, a pool hall, a hotel and a school.  The Bankhead mines closed in ~1922, and slowly the town began to disappear.  Not long after, in 1930, all mining activity within the National Parks ceased.

Along C-Level Cirque hiking trail, there is plenty of evidence of coal mining in the area from days gone by starting with our rest stop.  The graffiti added to the feeling of an abandoned world.C Level graffiti

Follow a faint trail through the woods behind this building to a large coal slag heap, which is the perfect viewpoint for a distant look at Lake Minnewanka and the valley below.C Level Minnewanka

Rested after our little diversion, we got back on the trail and almost immediately discovered several ventilation shafts from the C-Level coal beds.  It was part eerie and part Goonies for me.  The shafts were fenced off, but you could see the tops of that chain link were bent as people had climbed over to explore.  Although unsafe, I can totally understand the lure of those vents.C Level mine vent

We kept on with our altitude battle, Cotton giving us the occasional disdainful glance as she pulled us onward and upward.  The best part was passing folks on the way down who told us we were barely halfway there…lol.  But all in good company, Miz T. and I got caught up on so many things.  I can hardly believe we worked together for Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts more than 20 years ago!!

Our youthful adventures back in the day took us on a crazy ski road trip to Montana in search of Whitefish but somehow we ended up in Great Falls delivering newspapers with some kid at 0500 hrs; hitchhiking through the mountain parks to the Lodge at Kananaskis where we stayed in an executive suite for the staffer rate of $30, and ate room service in the hot tub; hiking up Castle Mountain and sleeping under the stars at Rockbound Lake, watching a silent storm pass by, sheet lightning illuminating the massive rock walls; taking my little boys – 2 and 1 years of age – on their first backcountry camping trip to Ribbon Creek and watching them giggle as we hung Huey’s diapers from the bear pole… and so much more.  Isn’t life amazing?

Soon enough the trees began to thin out along the trail to the cirque, and we caught glimpses of Cascade Moutain high above us.  The whole grand rock bowl appeared as we emerged from the trees at the base of the formation.  Cirques are typically carved out of the side of a mountain by glaciers or erosion. This was a lovely example of a cirque, with a tumbling rock garden down the centre.  On the left is a faint trail down to a wee tarn, and on the right the trail continues steeply up along the treeline for even better views.C Level Cirque

Miz T. and I hung out at the tarn, throwing sticks in the water for Cotton to help her cool off on this stinky hot day.  C Level Cotton

We ate our lunches and lounged for a bit in the sun, watching Cotton play.  Afterwards, we made good time returning to the car and on to Canmore for a browse through the second-hand store, shopping for dinner stuff and a water fill up at the Canmore Nordic Centre… and then back to the Bow River campground for some R&R.

Mid-year goal check-in —-> are we there yet?

WELL – I’m having a GREAT summer so far!!

I’ve run a race in the mountains, been camping with old friends, hiked the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, gone on two multi-day backcountry hikes, enjoyed time with family and friends… quite spoiled, really.

But … in terms of dropping 50 pounds, I’m totally not there. At all. Not even close.

I’d actually forgotten I’d written that down as my 2015 goal to get lean (by 50 lbs!!!!) this year. Sooo July is done, and that’s a little more than halfway through 2015. In other words, I’ve not seriously been pursuing weight loss goals up to this point. That leaves me 5 months to get back on track.

What’s the plan? Damn good question!

My race training has been totally off lately due to all the hiking (and laziness).  My workouts have been hit and miss. My post hiking food has included a lot of grilled cheese and fries.  Mmm grilled cheese.  Sooo it’s time to turn that around.

My goal this week (baby steps) is to schedule my workouts and plan lunches & dinners for the week.

Boring, right?

But I know if I stick to it, it will work.

Stick. To. It.

One day at a time.