Still last. Well – 4th from last. Or something like that.
The final race for the Southern Alberta 5 Peaks trail running series was at the Canmore Nordic Centre in the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Following a week of cool weather, snow flurries and the like, Saturday was blocked in with fog hiding a spectacular bluebird day.
I signed up for the “Enduro”, which was 14.7 km, I believe, for this particular race. My strategy behind signing up for this race was that it’s a nice longish run in preparation for the half marathon I have in two weeks.
Organization: You know what, out of all the 5 Peaks I’ve been to this season, I have to give it to the Southern Alberta crew. Informative, rah-rah emails leading up to the race; great location using the main lodge at the Canmore Nordic Centre; lots of sponsors and vendors pop-tented at the start/finish line; and hey, a good sound system with lots of tunes throughout and a fun race director MCing the whole thing. LOVE the super samples given out by the Clif and there was some cool 5 Peaks gear for sale. Parking was spacious, and package pick up was swift. Got a 5 Peaks toque with my reg package along with a mini Builder Bars, Kicking Horse coffee, etc.
Course: The 14 km Enduro had its very own course (yay! Love this as opposed to doing two laps of a shorter course). The course came with hills, technical bits and crazy gorgeous scenery. After leaving the start line, the course ran up into the mountains and the majority of the run took place weaving through the trees. Being in the mountains and inhaling that crisp, cool pine air = wow. Good to be alive.
My run: After the helpful bear spray demo (spray was mandatory for this race) we were off! The Enduro runners began at 9:30 am, and I seeded myself about ¾ of the way to the back. Super excited. The course began with a gradual incline (where I was passed by the remaining ¼ runners), which then became kinda a steep road up the hill, which then turned into like, a gnarly (not in the kewl way) hiking trail.
Oh my gosh – SUCKING WIND, dude. All the way. For two kilometers of UP – sucking wind. All I could think was: I shouldn’t have had that beer last night; I should’ve left earlier yesterday to drive from Edmonton to the mountains; I shouldn’t have slept in my car; I should’ve trained more; I should’ve stayed home. I was sad and sorry.
I regained my breath sometime between kilometers two and three, and then suddenly – miraculously – the trail evened out and I was a runner again! My pace went bonkers as I juked through the trees, leaped over roots and zipped through snow-covered trails. I was Chariots of Fire. I was Rambo. I was John McClane running over broken glass in Nakatomi Plaza. I was awesome. (No, really – that’s how I felt). I was out of the fog and it was a bluebird day above.
The kilometers flew by after that. I chatted with some nice ladies on the trail, stopped to take a few selfies beneath snow-covered peaks, etc. The trail rolled through the forest, with some more uphill and steep downhill, but those proved to be some good active recovery moments. Of the two aid stations out on the trail the second one had water plus a selection of gels (Salted Caramel GU!) and chewy bloks – so spoiled. But by the time I’d sucked back the sugar, and was on that final four kilometers, I was beat.
My feet hurt, my body slowed down to a crawl and I was sooo tired. Am assuming this was a case of going too flat out on the midsection of the race. All that superhero running I’d done was totally catching up to me. I truly was enjoying it – and trying to make up time for those first two kilometers of “hiking” – but clearly going for it had some consequences.
The last few kilometers were at a shuffly little pace. I walked any remaining hills. Saw a squirrel and a deer. Shuffled down the last stretch towards the finish line. Right when I was in view of the crowds, I started to feel tiny clenching muscle balls in my calves. I stopped twice to try and stretch them out. Something down there was not going well. Made it across in 2:16…ironically a few minutes longer than my 5 Peaks 16 km run in Terwillegar earlier in the year!
Either way, all good. There was still a lot of food left and I sat and had a snack while I listened to the announcer give away prizes etc. Very peppy, happy little atmosphere in Canmore. Being one of two Athena racers I was also presented with a wicked awesome 5 Peaks swaggy medal – best ever.
I had so much fun at this race that I think I’ll go out of my way to make sure I do another Southern Alberta 5 Peaks again next year. Good times. The only thing that would make this race better would be beer.*
*I’m not sure the 5 Peaks folks roll that way on the race grounds, tho – so general imbibing takes place post-race, in town or at at a campsite. I did, after all splurge on a campsite for my second night in the mountains – haha. No more sleeping in the car.