March 21, 2011

Chuckanut 50km Race Report

This year was my 3rd consecutive year of racing Chcukanut 50km in Bellingham, Washington. It is a great early season race, a test of fitness to see where I am at and with a super competitive field and lots of friends always taking part, so all in all one fun-filled trail race weekend.
The day before the race I was up early and flew with a friend from Calgary, landing into Vancouver by 9.30am. We spent the day catching up with friends over coffee and lunch and leisurely walking around the city until we met Susan and Mike who we car pooled with down to Bellingham. Although we could have driven down the morning of the race it was nice not to worry about border line ups and getting up quite so early on race morning, plus there were 10 of us crashing at a friends lake side second home just 15minutes from the race start which made for a social weekend.
I had had a cold in the 10 days or so before the race and had been getting over the worse of it before the flight to Vancouver. On the flight my ears were popping all over the place and by the middle of the day they were getting worse; I couldn't un-pop them, I was getting pretty deaf in one ear and it was turning into serious ear ache, hmm - not what I had hoped for and if it carried on this way I was worried it would affect my balance when running, aside from the fact that I was begining to feel a little spaced out. So Jason and I stopped in at a pharmacy and I got dosed up, something I usuall prefer not to do but within half an hour I was beginning to feel a little better so I was glad that I did.

For pre-race dinner we all hit the grocery store deli and got stocked up, it's a great way for everyone to get something they want pre-race and nice and quick and easy rather than eating out. By just after 10 we were in bed with multiple alarms set for 6am.

Getting to the start line about an hour before the race was ideal; time to collect our bibs, hit the washroom, say hello to lots of familiar faces and do general last minute prep. Last year I came 2nd at Chuckanut by 13 seconds, I knew Susannah Beck was not racing this year but even so there would be plenty of competition - namely Darcy Africa and Jenn Shelton. Of course Darcy and Jenn are names I have heard off for years but I had never raced either of them and to be honest I knew little of their racing resumes. No matter, I always believe you just have to run your own race and whilst be aware of the competition not let it influence the way you race too much.
Montraileeees: with Geoff Roes
As RD Krissy Moehl coutned down to the start we were off behind a lead pack of 20 or so men who were pretty much a who's who of North American ultra running...Geoff Roes, Scott Jurek, Erik Skaggs, Tim Olson, Joe Grant, Aaron Heidt, Yassine Diboun, Adam Campbell ... I could go on, but you get the picture ... and I got the idea that us ladies should hold back of these guys! Immediately Jenn, Darcy and I were running together and introducing ourselves to each other. First we were in a little pack and then we were 3 abreast, chatting along and I was enjoying sharing the trail with them.
RD & amazing ultra runner; Krissy Moehl
Chuckanut starts and ends with 10kms on the flat, non-technical interurban trail. As we drew into the first station at 10km I consciously decided to carry on right through. I had my Nathan pack and shot bloks so didn't intend on using the aid stations for anything more than some coke and chips in the later stages. As I moved through I got a little ahead of Darcy and Jenn, and hoped that I could gain a lead; with hills not being my strong point I didn't really want to be running side by side them and feeling pressured on the climbs. I moved up the inclines and could still see Darcy behind me. A few men were in eye sight ahead and they carried on running as I moved to a powerhike. This didn't concern me too much - I powerhike more readily than lots of runners and I'm pretty fast at it, plus I could feel the effects of my cold on my breathing and just couldn't run some of the climbs. As the climbs progressed I really felt I should be running more than I was and was conscious that Darcy and Jenn were likely still hot on my heels, so I struggled on up, ran as much as I could and I realised that I was going to have to use the downhills and the flats if I was to maintain a lead.

I came blasting down into an aid station just before a sustained climb up a fire road and to my pleasant suprise had caught Topher (CEO, Mountain Hardwear) and Scott Jurek. Again, I didn't stop at the station but moved onto the fire road, knowing this was going to be tough. I tried to keep up with Topher as Scott pulled a little ahead but mixed running and powerhiking and slipped slowly back. I stole a couple of glaces back, convinced that Darcy and/ or Jenn must be gaining on me - but they weren't there. As I approached the top of the climb there was a scattering of fresh snow on the sides of the trails and a wind blew through but I was still glad that I had ditched my jacket earlier as the sun was coming out too.

With the fire road done there is a mix up ups and down and more technical trail. The highlight of Chuckanut course has got to be the ridge trail, I stole a few side glances at the awesome views down into the ocean and skipped along the undulating trail. I was totally alone at this stage - I had lost Topher and Scott ahead of me and I wanted to catch them, if for no other reason that I didn't want Darcy or Jenn to catch me from behind.

The main final climb is Chinscraper, famed for being a gruelling climb. To be honest, I think it's not as bad as it's made out to be - at the worse it is a 15 to 20 min powerhike interspersed with running on the flatter sections, and I didn't feel bad hiking quite a bit as some sections are so steep that trying to run them would gain little time for a lot of effort. Up, up, up, a quick smile for Glenn who always takes photos on this section and soon the uphill grind was over - yay! Before starting up Chinscraper someone had said that I was 24th overall, but I was more concerned that I had no idea how close or far back the other women were so I knew I now just had to push the downhills and the flat interurban to the finish in case they were close. I powered down the fire road and love this section; wide, non-technical and down, down, down, getting time in the bag. So I rolled out at the aid station before the final 10km along the interurban and could once again see Topher and Scott just ahead. A quick pit-stop for some coke and I was off. My garmin read 3h29min - ok, 50mins to get the CR and I'd run 44min on this section on the way out. I passed Topher and Scott who encouraged me along and on the long straight section ahead I could see several guys spaced at intervals of about 100m apart ahead of me; moving targets and I was going to get them! This is when my garmin came in useful, I could glance down and see I was clocking about 4m10s per km, good enough to get CR but I couldn't slack too much. However it was also painful to feel how slow some of the kms were going as I literally counted them down one by one. Of course the CR was pulling me to the finish line but also the fact that I had no idea where the other women were behind me pushed me along too, I didn't want to get passed so close to the finish when I might run out of trail. But I was safe as I pulled back into Fairhaven Park and enjoyed the hundred metres or so of downhill tarmac to the finish line - 4:12:22! Female CR!
Jenn Shelton, Darcy Africa and I heading out on the Interurban. Photo: Glenn Tachiyama
All in all, a better race than last year. I was 7 minutes faster and ran a smarter race as went out faster so had enough left at the end but not too much. It might also we worth noting that by running 7 minutes faster I moved up only one place in finishing positions from last year (16th overall from 17th overall) despite the general consensus that that course was a little muddier and therefore slower this year. Geoff Roes knocked 7mins off the mens CR and there seems no end to this race getting more competitive by the year. Bring on Chuckanut 2012!

Pacific North West trails at their best! Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

March 17, 2011

Fast, Female and Inspired

This past weekend I took part in my first Fast & Female event since I became an ambassador for this great cause. Fast & Female was set up by Chandra Crawford, Olympic Gold medalist in Turin, and since it's inception 6 years ago the foundation has gone from strength to strength, now regularly hosting events all over North America. The idea of this not-for-profit foundation is to empower young women from ages 9 to 19 years old through sport. One day events are held with the aim to inspire young women to participate in sports, encourage them to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, and to foster confidence in their everyday lives.

So at Canmore Nordic Centre (cross country ski venue of the 1988 Calgary Olympics) the girls had a really fun day set up for them. The morning was spent out on the snow (and it was a gorgeous sunny, zero degree spring day) with national level female cross country skiers teaching them drills and helping them with ski techniques. With an awesome goodie bag for every participant it was great to see them all in their pink toques and pink t-shirts as they later cheered on some of the competitors at the National Cross Country Championships that were taking place that weekend.

As I was taking part in this event as an inspirational speaker I feared I might have a challenge getting their attention indoors for 45mins when I was sure they would prefer to still be outside skiing. But as I did my presentation (focusing mainly on perseverance in the context of my World 100km Championship win) they all listened on attentively and I was super impressed with their focus and interest, especially as I was talking about running to a group of mostly skiers. They had keen and relevant questions, and it was great to hear that some of them have already started running as an activity and to help with their ski training.

The afternoon was then filled with yoga and zumba dance so by the time the event was winding down it had been an action packed day for everyone involved.
With Fast & Female still expanding and developing in its set up, I can only recommend that you click on their logo to the right of my blog to find out more. If you know any young girls who get a chance to participate in an event, please encourage them to do so, or if you can get involved in volunteering or donating - it's an awesome cause.

My favourite question after my presentation had to be one that was asked with a small hand raised very politely and rather cautiously, in a quiet but interested little voice:
'Do you get butterflies in your stomach before you race?'
...and yes, I might not be 9 years old any more, but I still get butterflies before I race :)

... the butterflies will be flying this weekend. Roll on Chuckanut 50km in Bellingham!

March 10, 2011


K-Country, Alberta

Best view in the house

I feel the need to start this post with the reassurance that I spend 99% of my working hours behind a desk, in front of a computer, plugging away on email and the phone doing various admin duties. I like my job...especially on the 1% of the time when I am not doing admin and get to go heli-snowshoeing!!!

It has been a snowshoeing themed week after I was contacted by the Canadian rep for Dion snowshoes who offered me a pair to trial. Yes please!!! I think Derrick had read my blog and thought, 'Wow, has this girl not learnt how to embrace Canadian winter yet? Get off that darn treadmill, get out of the gym and get yourself doing some snowshoe fun'. Afterall this is what real Canadians do to stay fit and have fun when their running trails are waist deep in the fluffy white stuff.

I am absolutely thrilled to have some Dion snowshoes, they are a running/ racing specific model so super leight weight yet durable and not heavy and cumbersome at all. I can tell that I will be running like a natural in them in no time. Plus it will be exciting to have another way to get a running workout in whilst adding some variety and embracing the wintery weather that we get for many months here in Banff.

And just when I thought snowshoeing could get no better I got the chance to really get off the beaten track this week with a FAM trip with Kananaskis Heli tours. Working for a tour operator we sell their products to our clients, and wow - I can only recommend them. 3 of us hopped in the heli for an outstandingly scenic 20 minute flight over the Rockies before landing on a frozen lake. There we strapped on our snowshoes and went for a little outing to track wildlife prints and just soak up the silence of the back country......

Not a bad day at the office.

Check out more details about Dion snowshoes at or by clicking on the logo to the right of my blog. You can even by them online direct from the site

Or if snowshoe running is not up your street and heli-snowshoeing is a little more your cup of tea check out

March 7, 2011

Calgary Marathon Style, Shoot & Run Contest!

Want to win $100 worth of Running Room gift certificates? Well it's nice and easy and you have four chances over the next four weeks! This is an online photo contest being organised by Calgary Marathon, check out the details at and then click on 'Contests & Promos'

Get you photo submitted by Sunday each week for a chance to win!

March 2, 2011

NEW Montrail Website!

Just a quick shout out to remind you to check out the new Montrail website For those of you unlucky enough not to be able to get Montrail shoes in your local running store yet lucky enough to live in the US you can now buy the loveliest, zippy-est trail shoes around direct on the website! For the Canadians out there, Montrails can be purchased online from trusty MEC

March 1, 2011

Where there's a Will there's a way...

It would be fair to say that we're having a pretty serious winter in Banff this year. The snow came a little late but pretty much since January rolled around we have been in serious winter mode. Living in the Canadian Rockies this should come as no real suprise but even locals are remarking at just how cold and snowy it has been. Normally we get cold snaps of a few days and then the temperatures warm up again (relatively speaking) but this winter is has been more cold with a few warm snaps thrown in. Not the best running weather for sure!

This past weekend I wanted to get two long runs in and due to working in the week, long runs are either done at the weekend or not at all. On Sunday it was fairly mild (minus 15 or so, and yes I am serious when I say that is pretty mild!) and it was mostly sunny so perfectly ok to bundle up and head out onto the trails and roads for 4h30mins. Unfortunately Banff runners have been forced onto the roads more as with the recent snowstorms the trails are pretty inaccessible right now. There are always a few options like going up Sulphur mountain which is a well used trail so the snow is always packed down, but most trails around here see little human traffic so it's often a case of knee-deep exploration. So Sunday's run was ok - I was glad to be outside, I enjoyed the fresh air and I managed not to get too frustrated with the amount of snow on the trails.

Monday was a different matter. I woke up and it was a snow storm. Ok, I thought - I'm not planning to head out until the heat of the middle of the day so likely the snow will ease off. At about 11am I headed into town to run a few errands and that was enough of a mission: it was still minus 22, but that was before windchill and there was decent wind driving the snow right into my face. I hunkered down into my down jacket and trudged through the drifting snow on the sidewalk home. For while I considered doing 2hrs outside and then going to the gym to finish of my run but I think the point when I decided not to run outside at all was when I was seriously considering ski goggles and a headlamp (so traffic would see me through the blowing snow). Yeah, this was not going to be either fun workout or a quality workout.
So I trudged up to the gym (a friendly local stopped to offer me a ride the weather was that bad). I had one aim - beat my 2h30min treadmill PB!!!

Luckily as this was middle of the day Monday the gym was pretty quiet so I got all set up on my treadmill, it was kind of like getting the car ready for a long drive - everything within easy reach to make this as enjoyable as an experience as possible. Four bottles of water and Clif electrolyte drink, shot blocks, gels and the all important iPod (with fully charged battery). In I plugged myself and off I went.....

As I had run Frozen Ass 50km the week before which is a very flat course I had really wanted to be on the trails to get some elevation and variable terrain in the mix. Well, there might be no roots and rocks on a treadmill but I varied the pace and the incline and even threw in some very steep power hike hills to add to variety.

As the treadmill automatically times out after 30mins this nicely split the workout into manageable chunks as did switching my music every 30mins. It would also be worth noting that 2hr treadmill sessions have become pretty standard for me this winter so to try do a long run on the treadmill was less of a mental challenge for me that for someone who never runs on a treadmill. I had some good company with another woman who was on the treadmill next to me for over an hour, a definite sense of solidarity as I think we both knew that we weren't just running, we needed to run because we were training. There were also the demoralisaing companions who walked on the treadmill at a pace slower than a stroll, and they looked younger than me and not especially unfit. I just tried to ignore them as I ploughed on.

I did have to chuckle at myself as I chomped away on Clif shot blocks, tested out some gels and chugged back my fluids. I would say about 50% of the people in the gym I go to go in order to lose weight so what they thought of me happily muching away on all these calories I'm not sure! But who cares, I kept well fuelled and it was good to practice doing so, sometimes when it is so cold outside the temptation is to not stop to drink or eat so being in a warm gym was good to get back into that rotuine. I also figured that even if the gym was not super hot, it was a darn sight nearer the temperatures that I will be running in at Comrades and Western that it was outside!

So all in all, I plodded on, got a solid work out in and tumbled off the t-mill feeling still suprisingly sprighly 4hrs after I had got on. T-mill PB smashed!

Now please, could we just have some warmer weather please?