February 18, 2010

Get a-clickin' to help some Kids...

See the message below that I recently received from Mountain Hardware. Normally I'm not big on forwarding these things - but hey, it's pretty darn easy to click on a website (even if you're an injured runner I think your fingers are still ok, right?!) and it's all to help kids get outside - can't do much better than that....

Mountain Hardwear’s Send a Kid to Camp campaign is back again. For every click on the “Send a Kid to Camp” button found at
www.mountainhardwear.com/givesback.aspx Mountain Hardwear will donate $1 to the cause, up to $40,000. You can and should come back each day until April 15th and click the button until we’ve reached our goal. The following organizations are part of the 2010 Send a Kid to Camp program:

Big City Mountaineers – Denver, Colorado

City Wild – Denver, Colorado
Girl Ventures – San Francisco, California

Kismet Rock Foundation - North Conway, New Hampshire
Outdoor Outreach - San Diego, California
San Jose Inner City Outings, Sierra Club – San Jose, California
St. Louis Inner City Outings, Sierra Club – St. Louis, Missouri
SOS Outreach - Avon, Colorado

Summer Search - New York, New York
Youth Enrichment Strategies (YES) - Richmond, California

So get a-clickin' every day!

February 16, 2010

Back on Track with a track-style 50k!

After my little 'going off course hiccup' at Orca's last weekend I was glad to have another race coming up this weekend to get 2010 off to a better start. Yesterday it was the Frozen Ass 50km in Calgary, a pretty low key event that I was looking forward to to see some Vancouver buddies again and also get my first Alberta ultra checked off. I knew that the course was flat but didn't check out the specifics too much until a few days before the race when I found out it was 25km out, turn around and 25km back on a pretty straight cycle path that runs down the side of a canal. Montrail team mate Ryne Melcher confirmed on race morning that the course had 20ft of elevation change tops and I seriously think that could be right - this was going to be a road style ultra! Ryne also panicked me a bit when he told me that there was zero flagging on the course but as soon as we were en route I realised why - there were a few curves, a couple of road and bridge crossings but other than that it was run 25km straight to your drop bag, turn around and repeat. Ok, I think even with my sense of direction I could cope with that :)

Race morning was relatively warm as it has been so far this year and the temperature hovered around a few degrees above zero for the duration of the race. A couple of wind exposed sections were a little chilly but it was a 'no-tocque day' which is awesome by my standards! Certainly better than the minus 29 temperatures that I had heard of from the year prior. I went out at a good pace, trailing behind Ryne who went off in his usual bullet style fashion but in the lead train of runners. Pretty soon the straightforwadness of the route hit and I wished I had brought my iPod as we spread out and I found myself running about 100m behind the nearest runner. But with two aid stations on the out portion - at 8km and 18km - this was a great way to split up the course. I was amazed to see a few people out cheering along the course and it was nice to pass by some locals just out for their usual weekend run.

Ryne had predicted my finish time to be 3:45 which I thought was pretty optimistic but then I also know he can be scarily good at predicting my finish times so when I got to the turn around aid station, quickly downed some coke and left I checked my watch - 1:53 - pretty spot on for 3:45 if I could keep up the pace. The run back to the start/ finish was definitely easier psychologically - I now knew the course and I was on the home straight. Soon after the turn around I saw my friend Mike heading in the other direction, probably only 5 mins or so behind me. Given he is injured I was glad to see that he was still running at a good pace but I could see from his expression that he wasn't exactly having fun!

It was great to pass runners still heading to the turn around and get a boost from the other runners. As I started to approach the final 10km or so I caught and passed the guy in front. was feeling like I wasn't running well and was really focusing on my posture but clearly I was still running well if I was gaining on the runners ahead. Then just coming into the final aid station - 8kms to go - I caught another runner as we had to wait a few moments for a train to pass before we could cross over the tracks. We exchanged a few words but by this stage I was just gunning to get done as my hips, glutes and hamstrings as usual were starting to seize. I just wanted to get to the finish. I pulled ahead of the guy and now had the extra motivation to keep me going to the finish - I didn't want him to over take me!

The course was probably 50% snow covered and 50% bare tarmac cycle path but the last few kms were pretty much snow covered and about 1/2 of the last 200 metres was slushy deep snow - not exactly conducive to a stylish sprint finish! So I stumbled into the finish - 3:48 - 4th place overall, 1st woman, a 50km PB for me and CR by about 38mins :) I'd been chasing Ryne's red Montrail shirt for the last 8kms but there was no catching him, even with pneumonia he'd placed 3rd overall in 3:46. Mike ploughed in around 4:30 and promptly used the surrounding snow to ice his legs - an awesome effort given his injuries.

Overall the Frozen Ass is an awesome race. With a limit of just over 100 runners it is a low key affair but Gord of Gord's Runnng Store does an awesome job at putting together the event. For just $40 we all got a race hoodie, a race bag with water bottle, energy bars etc and after the race there was plenty of food even until the last finisher came in. And a really nice touch was a race photographer who had a photo of each competitor printed up to take home by the time we got to the finish line (well I guess it's a nice touch if you're looking good in the photo!).

I raced for the first time in my Montrail Rockridge's and loved them! I'd had a pair of old Montrail Streaks in my drop bag at the turn around just in case I needed them but never gave them a 2nd thought. For a race like the Frozen Ass with a mix of road and snow (or trail) I can't think of a better shoe than the Rockridges. I just love them - and they come in very cool purple :)

February 12, 2010

Knee Knacker 2010 - 16 more days to get your name in the lottery!

Yep, that's right folks it's already time to decide if you want to race in THE Canadian 50km race of the summer - The North Shore Kneeknackering North Shore Trail Run - or KK as it is affectionately called. KK works on a lottery system for entries and deadline to have your name in the draw is February 28th. They'll then do the draw about 2 weeks later - LIVE at North Shore Athletics on Lonsdale!

I raced KK for the first time last summer and it lived up to it's awesome reputation. Great training runs, great camaraderie, awesome volunteers and such professional organisation. It's not the fastest of courses - men's CR was broken last year by Aaron Heidt in a killer time of 4h39 and the women's CR is held by Susan Evans in 5h18. So you can probably figure from those times and the name of the race that it is a course with lots of climbs and fun filled descents on some of Canada's best and gnarliest trails! But the trails are just stunning and the sense of achievement from racing this course are just out of this world.

Check out details and if you like the sound of it - get your name on the list by Feb 28th!

February 10, 2010

A New Year, Some New Shoes!

There is nothing that makes me happier than getting a new pair of trail shoes! I mean after a few runs trail shoes soon become muddy, beat up and lose their shine so the novelty of having a brightly coloured, pristine looking pair of shoes that hold the promise of so many fun times ahead on the trails is just something else. And with the new Montrail line up for 2010 now hitting the shelves I know there are some awesome shoes out there all waiting to be laced up and hit the trails!

Of course the award wining Masochist is here to stay. Having won 'Gear of the Year' award from Outside magazine last year this shoe is an awesome all rounder and if you are thinking of getting a pair it might be best not to think for too long; I know in North Van for sure the Masochists were like gold dust in 2009, selling out in many of the stores who struggled to keep stocks coming in. I can highly recommend the Masochist (and check out my posting from Nov 17, 2009 where I reviewed them).
New in the Montrail line up for 2010 is the Rockridge. When I first got these shoes and popped them on I was yet to be convinced until I took then for a run. The Rockridge definitely have a rommier toebox than the Masochists which creates a feeling of more space for the foot. I was concerned this might make the overall fit of the shoe feel a little loose but with a snug grip at the heel this wasn't a problem at all. The Rockridge would also be an ideal shoe for those just transitioning from road shoes as the fit felt more like some road shoes so would ease the transition. That said, I wouldn't class this as a shoe just for new trail runners - it is a great versatile shoe that I would feel comfortable running on pretty much any surface in. Tonight I covered snow, tarmac, ice and even that crunchy gravely snow/ ice mix that accummulates at the road side and felt like I had good traction on them all! Due to the lightness of the shoe and the breathability of the mesh on the toebox I might be slightly hesitant on wearing the Rockridge on very wet runs but other than that it is an awesome shoe that I will be wearing a lot, especially on my runs which incorporate both road and trail.

Check out the Rockridge, Masochist and the other Montrail 2010 shoes at http://www.montrail.com/ where you wil also see what sparkly colours they come in, just waiting to get splashed with some dirt!

February 9, 2010

Orca's Island 50km Race Report

I was so stoked for my first race of 2010. My last race was Run for the Toad in early October so it has been quite a break between races and I just couldn't wait to fly back to Van and then travel down to Orca's Island (one of the US San Juan Islands just south of Vancouver Island) with friends to race and hang out with running buddies.

I had trained harder than I normally would for a low key race like this. I've been pretty paranoid about losing my running ability with my move to Banff and I was determined not to let my fitness fall so people would thing I had turned into a slouch in Banff! But that said with long runs having been slow and snowy and any faster runs having been on the treadmill I was pretty unsure of where my fitness was at. All I could hope was that my altitude training would pay off!

I caught a super early flight on the Friday from Calgary to Vancouver and had a chilled day in the city shoppping and having lunch with non-running friends - awesome prep to forget about the race ahead as there would be plenty of anticipation as I travelled down with friends Mike, Jackie and 'other' Mike. So by the time we reached Camp Moran which is the base of Orca's race I was pretty dead beat and ready for some quick food and an early night. Despite being exhausted I didn't sleep great - but then I hadn't expected to with 11 other runners creaking and snoring in the bunks in our cabin! I had my alarm set for 6.30am, 2hrs before race start, but needless to say I was awake well before that (note to the guy who was eating dry cereal in the dark at 5.30am - it really is impossible to eat cereal quietly - though you did make a valiant attempt)

Race morning was awesome - I couldn't believe how warm 10 degrees was feeling after being used to running in minus 10 or colder, so I had no hesitation about wearing just shorts, t-shirt and arm warmers. It was clear skies too so we were confident that the rain would hold off. By 8.30am RD James Varner led us up to the start line and with a few brief words we were away. I went out pretty fast and clocked that I was ahead of Shawna (Wilksey) who I knew would give good competition and also noted that I couldn't see Krissy Moehl around (and rightly guessed that she had switched to the 25km). So I was in the front 6 or 7 so runners and the pace felt good but I was worried that I was just so excited that I would go out too fast. It felt great right away to be running on soft, spongy, snow free trails so I spent at least the first hour with a stupid grin on my face just from enjoying the spring like run :)

I soon got into a steady pace and as usual noted that I sucked on the uphills compared to the runners around me but soon caught (and even passed) them on the downhills. I was happy with this and the fact that there were a few guys around me but just ran quietly along. As I looped back to Camp Moran for the first aid station at just over 9 miles I was feeling strong. I was totally stoked, if a little suprised, to see Matt Hart and Chris Downie heading back out of the aid station and thus probably only 4 or so minutes ahead of me. Wow - either I had gone out way too fast or those mind numbing treadmill runs were paying off! I also didn't see Shawna so knew I had got at least a bit of a lead on her. I never spend long at aid stations as I hate to stop on the run so I quickly downed some coke, grabbed a handful of chips and was back out on the course.

Orca's course is pretty variable - there are definitely some killer climbs but I have to admit they seemed more managebale this year than last, probably because last year I was in 3rd place til near the end so was pushing literally every step of the race. The power line climb has got to be the worst - just steep pitches and although the runner ahead of you might not look far ahead you can just never seem to catch anyone. But that said, the rolling terrain in between is just awesome and there is a section where the 50kms runners run counter current to the 25kmers which I love just for the fact that we all pass a few encouraging words between ourselves and it's nice to spot out for friends on the 25km route.

So all was going great and I was happily running along with one other guy when we came upon an innocent enough looking junction an the approach to a lake. There was no marking and I paused for only a millisecond to shout ' I guess we go right?', 'Guess so' he shouted back and on we carried. I wasn't 100% sure as there had been no marking on either the trail to the left or the right so we went with the right hand trail as it looked the more major of the two and was more the natural progression of the trail that we had already been on. Once carrying along the lakeside Bill and I began to talk a bit as we were both doubting our choice of trail - ok, we still hadn't seen any flagging but this was normal - only junctions get marked and once on a trail there never is any flagging. We saw a fisherman and he said that all the other runners had gone straight on which gave us confidence that other runners had been this way too. But we then popped out of the lakeside trail and I saw the water for refuelling before heading up the Mount Constitution trail and knew I had appraoched this turn from the toher direction the year before. Now I was 90% sure we had gone the wrong way around the lake but still not 100% sure and also didn't know if that meant we had added or cut off mileage. As we headed up Mt Constitution Bill and I began to ask early start runners that we past how many runners they had seen go past already, and when one reported that at least 5 or 6 had been by I was so relieved - even if we had gone the wrong way we had gone a longer way so maybe we'd still be allowed in the race.

I lost Bill as I power hiked/ ran up Mt Constitution, looking for Glen who would be taking photos near the top. This is struly the most specatacular section of the race - as we approach the top views of the ocean and Mt Baker & Mt Rainier appear which are just stunning. But it was pretty soon that my hopes were shattered, I saw Glen and he said in disbelief 'Ellie, you're 2nd overall?' - Oh f**k'! I might be having a good day but I've not over taken Matt, Chris or Sean Meisenner, so I've definitely gone the wrong way.....and taken the short way around the lake. I was gutted, totally gutted - but other than running all the way down Mt Constitution, back around the entire lake and then back up Mt Constitution there was nothing I could do.

The volunteers at the top probably thought I was a pretty miserable first place female because I knew I was now out of the race, so again I quickly refuelled and got out of the aid station fast, not really in the mood to chat or admire the scenery. For the rest of the race - which was undulating rolls and a lot of downhills I just decided to carry on racing. I resolved that even though I was now out of the race I didn't want people to think I was a quitter and I wanted to post a fast time so people would think that I would have won if only I had stayed on course. And of course I had a tiny glimmer of hope that I had gone the right way and the others had gone the wrong way (it would be worth mentioning at this point that I am the eternal optimist!)

And I loved the final switchback downhills, I was in my element - warm weather, snow free trail and just having fun. I then hit the lake shore and knew I had about 15minms of rolling lakeside trail to go and I was pleased that I resolved to run every step and not walk even one little uphill. As I emerged back into Camp Moran and saw the finish line I slowed to a walk and looked out for James - I so wanted to check what I feared..........

and yep, I was DQ'd.

Oh well, that's a first for me and I've got to laugh because if not I'll go totally mad over what in reality is a low key, fun race. Plus I was pretty encouraged to hear that the lead runners had also gone the wrong way (but then turned around and corrected themselves) and the Chris Downie had ummed and ahhed and finally gone the right way. I was just glad that Chris could say that there was definietly no flagging at the junction, as I had started to think I should have slowed down more and would have seen flagging. So I'll just put it down to experience..and maybe study route maps and race descriptions a little more ahead of future races!

But all in all, it was 4h36mins when I crossed the finish line so think I would have finished just under 5hrs had I gone the right route which I am pretty happy with as it shows I don't seem to have lost my fitness. And I'll have a chance to double check in 6 days time when I'm running the Frozen Ass 50km in Calgary. Apparantly it's a really stright forward route......

Despite my little hiccup I'd still totally recommend Orca's for a fun filled weekend of beautiful trails and meeting trail runners. Check out the website and also Glen Tachiyama's awesome race photos