Race report – Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Women’s Run & Walk 2015

Training run = success!

The Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s annual Women’s Walk & Run had a blue-sky day and soaring temperatures for this mountain trot through the woods.  A perfect race weekend!

So excited that I managed to run 10K (surrounded by other people) and I didn’t die.

Top three things about this race:

1) the location (location, location)
2) the super nice, easy-going people (organizers, volunteers & runners)
3) the thoughtful touches, like cold aromatherapy towels post-race

RMSC tents
 I’d heard about the RMSC’s annual run in Canmore from a friend who’d run it last year and said it was a blast.  The event – aimed at celebrating women and in support of the charity “Rethink Breast Cancer” – included 5K, 10K and half-marathon options and was a very open-arms approach to participants of all fitness levels, babies, strollers, etc. I hovered over the keyboard when the registration opened  (January 1st!) and signed up right away.  The Saturday races (May 23) sold out first, and quite a bit later, the Sunday races (May 24).

The registration process was smooth, and all my questions were answered personally by race organizers over email – nice touch. Package pick up was in both Calgary and Canmore leading up to the race, and then on site the morning of, which was very helpful for us out-of-towners.

Being at the Canmore Nordic Centre, I had confidence in the venue and set up.  The sound system was a little squawky at first (during the warm up session my husband complained that even his “heavy metal ears are bleeding”) but it got sorted out fast enough.

The expo had the most I’d ever seen at a run, with a variety of vendors and charity groups.  Happy to see the 5 Peaks crew on hand, and they even gave me an awesome cup.  After the warm up, we had a chat about mountain animal safety and then boom! Off went the half-marathon runners, quickly followed by the 10Kers – all pretty much on time.

I truly think my only organizational observation on the down-side would be that the aid stations had trouble keeping up with water for the runners.  The first aid station was only a few km into the race and there was a bottleneck of runners waiting for water to be poured (keeping in mind the half-mara runners had already gone through, along with many of the 10K runners). Ditto with the second table. The third one was the best in keeping up to the hefty demand of thirsty runners. The volunteers were working as fast as they could – I don’t think they realized how many ladies would be stopping for water…the energy drink provided was not as popular.

After the race, each participant received a delightful cool aromatherapy towel, and a gift bag from the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. full of product! Wow – so thoughtful!  The post-race snacks were fruit and Honey Stinger organic waffles, and then inside the Nordic Centre was a buffet of penne and pasta sauces (veg options available), plus a leafy salad and bread sticks.
RMSC swag

Course: The 10K track was a double 5K loop with a sufficient number of hills for both testing your mettle and active recovery. It was all on the wide paved paths on the Nordic Centre grounds, hence one of the reasons we didn’t need to carry bear spray in this race.  The half marathon runners used the 10K course plus were out running along the road up to the centre – a long, hot slog. Much admiration for those ladies!

My run: My husband came out to the mountains for my race, and it was really, really special to have him there.  We actually went into Banff rather than Canmore for our overnight, and stayed downtown at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge.  We started the day with a visit to the Wild Flour bakery where I snarfed down a ginger blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. I’d had a banana earlier as well, and sipped my Energy&Endurance leading up to race time.

Out of tradition, I positioned myself near the back of the racers to start.  My goal for this race was to be a training run for my half marathons a few months away. Saturdays are typically my “long run” days and even though the training schedule only called for about 6K, the timing was awesome for this weekend. My “easy run” pace on the treadmill is about 13:20 min per mile. I was hoping to maintain that and get ‘er done.

Right off the bat, I could see there were little rolling hills on this course, plus a long slow descent/ascent thrown in for good measure. Last year, my tactic with hills was to walk up and run down.  This year, I’m trying to train a bit on hills, so the new method is to keep running (read: teeny jogging micro-steps) up, crest & push through keeping pace, and then letting gravity pull me down. Sounds reasonable, right?

For my first five kilometers, I hung in there always running, but on that second loop, I started to throw in some power walking, especially on that long slow hill in the middle of the course.  I was pretty much sucking wind really hard the whole race, but managed to keep moving, and totally surprised to see that my pace was not my usual 13:20 but rather moving between 10:42 and 12:45 min per mile, depending.  That’s a big deal for me.

In the end, I came in at 1:16 hrs on my Nike running watch.  Very happy with the time, as it’s a benchmark and I can’t wait to work on improving!

Would I do the RMSC women’s run again?  Well, since my latest thing is to use running as an excuse to travel and/or get to the mountains, then YES, I would do this one again. May is a great month for me to get back into outdoor races, and I can see this one being a regular.


Race report: Blackfoot Ultra (Baby Ultra)

slow runnersIt’s an absolutely humbling thing to be running my very first ultra race, knowing I’m at the “baby” level… when that very number of 25K is huge for me.

Amazing runners of all age, shape, speed and ability scampered about the 25K loop in the Blackfoot-Cooking Lake Provincial Recreation Area, completing 100K, 50 mile, 50K and 25K races; not to mention the kids’ ultra. Crazy awesome!

Organization: I heard about the Blackfoot Ultra through Miz N. back in January, but before we could all get out acts together to plan something out, form a team etc. this race sold out.  Two of us got in to the 25K before it capped. Miz Jill and I would be running together!

The Blackfoot Ultra website is informative, and closer to the race, the Facebook page was a bit more lively with details and updates.  The runners who choose to be involved in this race seem to be a pretty tight-knit community. That was pretty clear when we went to pick up our race kits. At the pick up we received our numbers and our baby-pink Blackfoot Ultra-themed arm sleeves.

Out at the Islet Lake Staging Area at Blackfoot, the race folks were super friendly, all the announcements were fun and punchy, and there was no end to the snacks at the start/finish and throughout the course. Families and support teams had all their gear, too: a mashup of little screen tents, camp chairs, coolers, blankets, books, babies, dogs, etc.  You could tell some people had done this before.

Course: The 25K course is otherwise known as “Death by 100 Hills.”  The loop winds through trees, past lakes, along an equestrian path, over hill and dale. Lots of hills!  The trail itself was mostly sproingy and easy on the knees, and wide enough to go two runners deep with a third passing (none of this single-track nonsense). There were four aid stations along the course plus one at the start/finish line.  God bless the organizers for their generosity in keeping us all satiated: bacon & perogies, licorice, salty potato chips, Clif bars, bagels, loads of fruit and more.  At the end, bison dogs and Dilly Bars awaited.

My run: Off we went, with a crowd of 80 or so runners all doing the Baby Ultra.  I had my small Platypus hydration pack from back in the day and a three-litre bladder of water, a separate bladder with frozen watermelon Spark, a handful of lemon gels, a shot of vodka (for emergencies…), my 5 Peaks Buff, and some Clif bars.

Warm and windy, this is the first time I’d ever run with a hat. I wore my Sauconys, which have served me well so far, my workout pants and a silly “suit” technical tee that actually belongs to my husband as part of his Men-in-Black corporate challenge outfit for MacEwan University. I suppose I should really invest in some “real” running clothes! Haha. I had lots of “Well, thank you for dressing up for the run today” comments. Silly.

The first few kilometres were my usual crapshoot of panic.  People! Running! Heat! Eek!  But I settled down. Compared to my first visit to the rec area when everything was brown, grey and frozen, now it was fresh, green and sparkling.  The ultra runners passing us all said kind words like “Good job!” (SO NICE considering we were being passed by super athletes who were on loop 3 or 4 of the very course we were doing once!)

Other than the quarter-sized mozzies, the occasional animal track in the dried mud (cougar?) and the singing frogs (hello my baby…), there wasn’t much sign of wildlife. Yes, no half-knawed leg o’deer left on the trail like our last visit.

My running watch is set in miles, so thus goes my commentary of things I can vaguely recall:

  • ~mile 2.5 – we came to the first aid station and I gave Miz A. a giant sweaty hug for volunteering.
  • ~mile 3 – outhouse stop to end the potluck lunch fest from work the day before (yes, I had one of everything).
  • ~mile 3.5 – my hands totally swelled up so that it was difficult to even make a fist. I blame it on the warm weather.  They stayed like this until I stopped running.
  • ~mile 4 – my left knee: nothing bad, just present.
  • ~mile 6 – kind of settled down into a rhythm at this point.
  • ~mile 7 – finally passed a couple of pink shirts & a runner from Vancouver whom we’d been playing passing games with for far too long.
  • ~mile 9 – came out of Central Alley relatively unscathed to an aid station where I ate a copious amount of potato chips.
  • ~mile 11 – walked briskly for a bit to ease the legs
  • ~mile 15 – met up with some little tyke who was in the kids’ run – he was a sprinter!

We finished the race, unofficially and by my watch, at 3:59 hrs.

Woohoo!  Our parental crew cheered us in, took photos, gave us drinks and chatted for a bit as we watched more runners come in.  To be honest, I was in a bit of a zone, and probably wasn’t very talkative.

I wanted to get into it and eat the bison smokies and Dilly Bars, but I was kinda out of it.  The temperature dipped slightly after 4:30 pm and clouds began to gather.  We didn’t stay around much longer after that, and then headed home.

Kudos to the organizers, though, who were still giving awards, maintaining their upbeat announcements etc, as if they were fresh as a daisy and not having been there since, like, 5:00 am when the 100K runners started….

My husband had more chippies waiting for me when I got home, along with cheddar/caramel popcorn and some supper.  I ate almost that whole bag of Bacon & Sour Cream in the name of running. A bit cheeky, I know.

Highlights of the race:

  1. Finishing in a respectable time (ie. not on a stretcher or crying).
  2. Running with Miz Jill and having fun.
  3. The crusty layer of salt all over my face.  That was cool.
  4. This was my first half marathon and/or ultra.
  5. I logged my fasted trail 10K.

And there it is.

My next officially scheduled run is the 5K Color Me Rad on July 5th.  A little more colour, a little less running.