These Short Dark Days

It’s November, so the rain has arrived, the frost has covered our yard more than once, and our day light hours are much shorter.  I will admit, I have caught myself humming the tune of “November Rain” by GnR from time to time. Those cold, wet, dreary nights that have come upon us during this month seem to draw that song into my head. It happens every year, I am sure of it. Perhaps it’s time to bust out some Axel Rose moves as I saunter down the road…..

My hibernating habits are stronger now too. As the sun begins to set before 5pm, I find myself drawn to warm, dry, and well lit spaces, and avoid being out in the dark unless necessary.  I sleep a little longer and my sweaters and wool socks are getting well used already, and Winter has yet to officially arrive.

Fall and Winter running usually means many soggy runs, and often mud caked shoes.  I don’t mind this so much about winter, especially if I am in good company as I was this past week.  In fact, it can be invigorating to finish a run, soaked to the bone, enjoying a warm cup of coffee… or two and a bowl of oats. With just one more race in 2015 to compete in, my motivation still remains high.  One more Ultra, one more push for this body, and fingers crossed, it’s a good one. In the meantime, I am layering up; hoods, gloves, merino wool socks, as well as multi-layered outings which to be honest, sometimes makes me feel like I can hardly move, waddling around like the Stay-Puff-Marshmallow…. but it’s worth it, just to maintain some heat.

Running has always given me peace of mind. It’s allowed me to shed frustrations in an instant. It has made me stronger.  Stressful situations can easily melt away once my feet are moving. I have also come to realize in the last week, during more news of unnecessary deaths in so many countries, including France, Beruit, Lebanon, Mali etc. that I am extremely fortunate to be where I am, doing what I do, with people I love, and not having to fear for my life each time I step out that door to go for a run. Not everyone has this privilege. Not everyone can choose to live in a safe place. Not everyone can simply run in order to allow for daily stressors to disappear. But we can. We are the lucky ones. We can run from nothing, just to simply run. We can run from our homes, but can always return to a safe place.  I only wish more people could experience that feeling. I only wish it were that easy. And so, as I put my shoes on tomorrow for my run, and allow my freedom to be expressed by means of movement, I will think of those who cannot, and hope that someday, they too can find peace, and peace of mind, through whatever means is available.  Ultra runners may be strong, but I think we can argue that none of us are as strong as those who are running from devestated and war-torn countries in order to make a better life for their children.

Love over Fear a video that has been circulating on media recently. It certainly struck a cord.

Daughter’s Run



The seasons have changed from Summer to Fall. The rains have returned to water our garden and bring some mud back on the trails. Cooler mornings have begun creeping in, but not cold enough for frost, and daylight seems to be slipping away, but there is still enough light during a morning run to hold off on wearing a headlamp.

Tis’ the month of our local marathon, and most years I gear up and focus on running a strong Victoria marathon along familiar roads, with familiar faces lining the streets while having the opportunity to sleep and eat at home. It’s perhaps the most relaxing atmosphere to have before a race. This year however, after more focus on trail 50km races and my first 50 mile event in August, I wasn’t exactly ready to hit the tarmac flying at full speed. The thought of getting my legs spinning upon that surface on a daily basis was far from appealing. However, like many people, I have a Thanksgiving weekend tradition, and that happens to be running our local marathon, even if I am a little under prepared.

October 11 2015 marked the day I would run my 20th marathon here at home. I wasn’t ready to run a fast time, but I was ready to enjoy a beautiful day, no matter what the outcome. And that is exactly what I did.

I knew a podium finish would be tough considering my road fitness, but after 19 marathons, I figured I could still run strong, not falter, and get close enough to a time that would satisfy my Fall marathon ideals.

The month before this race, I was enjoying time on the trails up at Sun Peaks where the Canadian 50k trail Championships were held under the Dirtyfeet race series. That distance, on those types of trails, fit me just fine. The flowing nature of the route with some great climbs and fun downhills, left me enjoying my adventures in the trail running world even more. I continue to be motivated to improve my abilities as trail and Ultra runner, but there is a time and place for road racing as well. This is where the Victoria marathon comes in.

Three weeks leading up to the race, I decided I would take the plunge and enter the race. I fit in some road runs, and even a couple of pseudo road workouts. I’ll be honest though, they felt awkward, slow and more taxing on the body than any trail run I had done this summer. The roads can be unforgiving and somewhat monotonous on the body, whereas the variety trail running offers allows the body to recover quicker as the feet land on softer surfaces.

In any case, I was going to join the crowds on that morning, prepared or under prepared, and just go and run. And honestly, I am happy to have made that choice as it was by far the most relaxed marathon race I have ever run.  I rarely lost the smile on my face, and was so fortunate to see familiar faces cheering the whole way. My body, unrested really, felt better than expected, and I managed to finish strong, capture a 3rd place finish, and witness some great races from some incredible people that day.


As I have said before, some of the people who inspire me most are those who are running their first race, others who are still racing at the age of 80+, and those who run for a cause or loved one. Running brings joy to so many of us. Movement is medicine, no matter how fast or slow we may move through our lives. We are not meant to be sedentary beings. We are social, we are caring, and I believe we all function better when we are moving our limbs, alone or in a crowd. There is no need to take everything so seriously. I learned this the hard way when I was a competitive swimmer. Being too tough on ourselves when we miss our goals can be too much to take on mentally.  My advise, just smile and appreciate all those runners, whether they fly or shuffle along. Cheer for others as they cheer for you. And remember to just keep moving.

Celebrating my 20th marathon at home was wonderful. Thanks Victoria, and all my supporters near and far.

9 Hours Later….

I once attempted a 50 mile race. This was back in December 2013 at The NorthFace (TNF) challenge in San Fran.  Weeks before that race I was experiencing some new nagging pain in my inner leg, but it came and went, so I thought very little  of it. As runners know, we are often good at ignoring minor signs of injury in order to keep moving along, and this is what I was certainly doing. I also had an ongoing pelvic injury/issue which had stuck around for months (I was a bad runner/patient and didn’t rest when I should have!), but had still been running well that season, so it seemed silly not to keep on plugging away.  In any case, that little nagging pain, turned out to be a stress fracture (most likely) at the lesser trochanter of the femur. It wasn’t diagnosed until the following March, so you can imagine the frustration I was having day after day, unable to identify this pain.  That pain, which became quite excruciating at times during TNF race, caused me to think twice about running the full 80km’s, so I pulled out, disappointed at my defeat, but glad I didn’t make things worse for myself.

So, fast forward to 2015.  That 50 mile distance was still unattempted and unfinished. It had become the new nagging issue in my head rather than an injury.  I very much wanted to conquer that distance, but it still scared me, it still made me think I wasn’t quite ready to be on my feet for so many hours.   In fact, the longest I had been out prior to Saturday’s race was during Trailstoke last year.  Having missed a turn, and added on about 5km’s, I was out for a little under 7 hours and around 54km’s.  It was a frustrating race for me, but my body held up, which gave me some confidence that a longer race would certainly be possible, especially if I was in good health.

To be honest, when I put my name into the Squamish 50 race earlier this year, I wasn’t 100% sure I would actually end up there.  My Summer schedule wasn’t set, but in the back of my head I thought it may be good to find a new race at that time of year, despite the fact that I love the event and all it has to offer.  But, as August approached, and I had put off entering anything else, Squamish 50 remained on the table.  I knew the last 50km’s of the course quite well, but still, the idea of being out there for so long, on a slightly injured ankle, frightened me a bit. I was nervous. This was perhaps the first time in years that I had felt so anxious about a race. I questioned my training, my ability to fight through discomfort, my ankle stability, and wondered if I would just make a fool out of myself and have to pull out of the distance once again.  In the end though, the story had a happy ending (albeit I did have some moments of regret, frustration, anger, fatigue, and maybe some wimpering when I jammed my ankle and bailed quite a few times during a good chunk of the race).

So, here is the recap of my very first 50 mile race.  Perhaps I now feel like I can call myself a “real” Ultra runner, but maybe that only comes once you finish 100 miles….

It was 3:30 AM when I woke on Saturday. I had woken up frequently during the night to check my watch, so it wasn’t much of a struggle to wake naturally before my alarm that day.  With little appetite at such an early hour, I barely managed to eat breakfast, and all I really wanted to to was just start the race.

5:20 found us at the start line. I gave my last nervous look at my husband, turned the head lamp on, and stood amongst a group of runners who were ready to conquer the beautiful trails of Squamish.

Unlike a road race, very few people were in a rush to battle for a lead spot.  There were many many many……more km’s to come. The daylight was slowly creeping out from the dark sky as we made our way along the regional trails of the town before hitting single track goodness at about 11km’s. Along the way, I managed to have a little chat with super downhill Ultra star (and winner!) Cassie Scallion from Colorado.  We had met briefly in March while racing Chuckanut, but it was nice to chat once again.

The first climb, much to my surprise, was more of a scramble than I imagined. It was short but sharp, but nonetheless a great way to warm the body up to what was in store for the next “few” hours. I love going uphill, and don’t mind powering up when I can, even it’s in the form of hiking rather than running, but to be honest, my downhill skills have never been strong, and to make matters worse, I was so worried about my ankle. I had been improving these downhill running skills over the last year, but still, the thought of spraining it again after less than a 3 week recovery form the initial injury, made me even more cautious and therefore, quite slow on each and every downhill section.  Looking back, I think I could have taken more chances on those downhill sections, braked less, saved my hip flexors (which started to scream at me from 25km’s in!), and run at least 20 minutes faster over the whole course. However, my cautionary skills allowed me to finish uninjured, and to that, I thank myself. Sometimes you just have to take that chance.

Within the first 40ish km’s, I had the chance to play leap frog with Cassie. Her incredible downhill skills blew me away. I was in awe and could take some major pointers from her!  I moved well on the uphills and flowing single track, but each slick, dusty downhill killed me.  However, having company in this back and forth fashion, allowed me to stay motivated.

Once we hit the ‘big’ climb, which I personally love in this course due to it’s mostly runnable terrain, I caught the lead lady Amanda, had passed Cassie, but knew I would be seeing her fly by me in the km’s to come. What goes up, must come down, so that long uphill meant a long downhill which I was dreading to some degree.

Fast forward a little bit, and this is where my body and mind went downhill. I began to loose focus, I was running alone after Cassie took a strong lead, I was nauseous, my head was pounding, I was overheating, and stumbling a lot. The hip flexors were on fire, my ankle felt rough, the sun was beating down, and I wondered what I was doing out there.  Looking back though, I think I had taken in fewer calories at this point, made the mistake of not getting some ice at the past aid station, and the negative thoughts overtook me for almost 25km’s!

At 62km’s good old Garmin gave up and shut down. I was partly glad to see it die on me. I was tired of watching my pace shuffle along (not that ‘pace’ really matters, but I lost motivation to push). All I could do to keep me mildly ‘in the game’ was knowing that at Aid station 7, there would be cold water, hopefully ice, salty food, and a wonderful husband to keep me going. I also tried to convince myself that I was doing a measly 50 miles, while some people battled trails for 100 miles in rougher terrain. Suck it up Cat, you can do this!

Aid station 7, I love you! This was honestly one of the best moments of the race.  What a crew of volunteers. They doused me in water, shoved ice in my pack, passed 2 warm, unappetizing cups of coke my way and I shoved a handful of salty chips in my mouth, chased by a salt tablet and m and m’s. What a sight us runners must be at times! We are like wild animals, making odd noises, shuffling in and out of the stations with an occasional smile, some grumbling and mumbling, but believe me, we are ever so thankful for this havens along the way.

However I may have looked, I thanked them, had some words of encouragement from my man, and all of a sudden, knowing what lay ahead of me for the next 10km’s, I found another level of strength.  How is that even possible?  After hours of feeling sorry for myself, questioning why I would enter a race like that when clearly 50km’s is enough, and feeling so much fatigue and discomfort in my hip flexors and some in the ankle, I somehow found myself, my true racing self, and bounded (well, kind of…..) up the trails and smoothly made my way towards the centre of Squamish.

With less than 2km’s to go, I could see a lovely lady cheering me on.  The amazing Anne-Marie Madden had come out to see me finish my first 50m race. Her voice and motivation made this one of the most wonderful ways to finish strong. Thank you AM!

And so, after 9hours and 12 minutes, I ran across that familiar finish line and gave one the most passionate race directors I know, a big hug. Gary Robbins, you are truly incredible.  Your races are tough, so very very tough, but they are also incredibly well organized and without a doubt, spectacular.  Your crew of volunteers couldn’t have been better and the pink flagging that dressed the trails of Squamish are still envisioned in my head.



I learned a lot that day. I also realize that my 50 miles, barely covers what some Ultra runners do. And however I may have felt in a portion of that race, doesn’t take away how I felt when I finished strong at 80km’s.

I’m not quite ready to get training yet. I respect my body too much to do that.  I want to return to feeling normal before I do anything too strenuous, and I am appreciating having my legs up a little more this week.  Have I thought about doing another 50 mile race you may wonder?  Ask any runner after they finish an epic event, and I doubt anyone (despite the discomfort), would say ‘No’. There are too many trails to explore out there, and each one is so unique. It’s hard to get bored of trails. So, yes, I would race another 50 mile event, but give me some time to recover before I set any goals.

Cheers Squamish 50! And a big thank you to Compressport for keeping my legs happier in the trail shorts and socks once again this year at the race (no blisters!). Thank you Julbo eyewear, Frontrunners Victoria, and of course Joe for all of your support. Happy running everyone.


Super trail runner and cheering squad, Anne Marie Madden

Race interview

Race interview



Awards post race with race director Gary Robbins


Hazy skies in the Shuswap the day after the race

Summertime. Mountain time. More time please!

The heat of the summer has been strong, sometimes over powering, but nonetheless, inspiring for some mountain get aways with some post-adventure lake dipping. To be honest though, I am hoping that the rain returns (preferably on the week days…and during the night), so our reservoirs can return to normal levels, our trees can thrive, and the wild fires can be dampened.  Despite my love of long summer days, I worry about our land and the path that our planet is taking with changes in climate.

During some amazing Summer weekends, we’ve been finding a few Alpine meadows to play in, beautiful rocky peaks to admire, and creeks to cool off in mid/post run.  These outings have been rejuvenating to say the least.  And although I haven’t been racing as much this summer, I have found more energy in my trail outings in recent weeks after a major drop in energy during the Spring to Summer transition. Low iron levels, busy work schedules, moving and unpacking, and perhaps a mild case of burnout left me backing off of intensity and seeking more rest than I had needed in the Spring. I am hoping my body is bouncing back and readying itself for a very long run.


Most weekends we found trails that lead to beautiful views. Some of which I had experienced in the past, and others which were new. Above is our very own Vancouver Island view of Strathcona Park.

Back country camping/hiking and then running up to Mount Albert Edward is always rewarding. It was my second time running the route a few weeks back, and the first for Joe. Conditions couldn’t have been better that weekend, and the mountain energy was appreciated (as was Helen Mckenzie lake at the end of a long hot day!)

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We climbed up and down these trails, fuelled by Alpine views and without any physical issues, however, the following day while running on road and flat chip trail, I somehow managed to take a wrong step and roll my ankle mid step, resulting in a mildly ugly foot and lower leg. Those dangerously easy routes are things to avoid apparently! It stopped me from running for a few days, and knowing more mountain trips were coming up quickly (not to mention a race in 3 weeks time), I stuck to the pool for a little therapy in order to avoid more ligament damage.



With the healing coming along nicely thanks to a little rest, massage, physio, good old Compressport socks, and knowing a long tough race was approaching, another weekend in the mountains with back to back trail runs was welcome.  I used some caution on the downhills as my foot and ankle were still a little angry and jammed up, but this mini 4 day getaway provided me with some much needed time off of work.

During my time as a tree planter, I spent many months exploring various areas of this beautiful province. One area I had always loved was the Chilcotin’s in the interior of BC. I had spent long summer days working in the Northern part of the region, replanting clear-cut landscapes, fighting off mosquitos and avoiding close counters with bears, but hadn’t yet explored the South Chilcotin’s which is accessed via Pemberton or Lillooet.  And, after watching Adam Campbell‘s mountain running video which was filmed in the Chilcotin’s a few years back, and having talked to a few friends who had ventured into Tyax Lodge for some mountain biking, I was determined to get to this region as a runner (rather than slaving away as a tree planter!)


En route to this amazing interior BC environment, we fit in a great run up to Elfin lakes near Squamish on day one of what became known as “training camp holiday”




We set up camp lakeside just past Pemberton,  a location we had once visited 7 years before, and admired more breathe-taking views around us


Once we finished the slow drive through canyons, along rivers and lakes, and dodging landslide rocks and boulders, we arrived at Tyax lodge and headed uphill for some gruelling climbs and much deserved views


I should mention too that this route is one in which most people take on as a downhill adventure rather than and all uphill grind.  With sandy soil and dry conditions, this made for a tough mountain bike route, and a much smoother (albeit tough) run route.  Nevertheless, we got our needed views and avoided the in coming storm that had been threatening that afternoon.

Day 3 of ‘holiday camp’ found us on a wonderful gradual climbing route (again, most people get flown into the Alpine and ride down this trail). Gun Creek trail has such a diverse landscape. It varies from river side trails, forested single track, sandy rockslide scrambles,  burnt out forests, Aspen groves, and of course some Alpine landscapes. The full route is 30km one way, but based on time and planning, we managed to fit in about a 40k return route.


Amongst the young trees heading up Gun Creek, testing out my new Julbo eyewear!


With only a half day left, we woke early on day 4 and ran up to get some amazing views at Joffre lakes, as well as taking in some more flowing trails in Squamish before fighting traffic and ferry lines to make it back to our beloved island.

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It’s times like these that make me wish I was still in school, where summers are free and full of week long, or even month long adventures.  However, in ‘real life’ we must work, and be responsible adults from time to time.  Finding time to get into the mountains and enjoy what summer has to offer keeps me motivated though.  These days on the trails have not benefitted my road running abilities, but it has given me a boost of energy that I was lacking in June and July. There are not nearly enough hours in the day, days in the week or months in the year to fulfill all the lists of places I would love to experience. I’ll take one at a time for now though, taking it all in.

We live in such an incredible place. BC has endless offerings and endless beauty. I am ever so grateful to live here and have the opportunity to use my own body to get me to these heights. Although I have seen beauty all over this planet, there is something extremely special about our own surroundings.  Here’s hoping there are more trails to find, more mountains to explore, and more energy to gain from wherever I may roam.

Oh those views

Oh those views


Soaking it in

I have been on the go for weeks now. Moving, traveling, racing, working and even a small amount of socializing when I am not completely worn out from my busy days. With 3 big races in May, and one more at the start of June, I have taken some time to back off of my feet for a short period of time.

May began with the Canadian Long Distance Mountain Champs which was part of the Dirtyfeet series in Vernon.  I absolutely love the trails in Kal Park, and to run 50km’s of those trails made for a perfect day.  Despite bailing at 18km’s, kicking a sharp rock into my medial ankle bone (which now has a nice little bump), and almost falling face first when I tripped on a root on a downhill, the race went smoothly and was a close even split for the two loops.


Kal Park

Two marathons came back to back at the end of May. Both felt decent, and it’s not something I would necessarily do again, or even suggest anyone else try, however, I gave the experience a go, and had the opportunity to run amongst some wonderful athletes in both Ottawa and Calgary.


The Ottawa marathon is a world class event. The line up on race day in both the marathon and the 10k is incredible. It’s an honour to race amongst these elite runners, and to witness the speed during the 10k Canadian Championships the night before (which saw Lanni Marchant and Natasha Wodak battling for a win and racing some incredibly fast times).  Ottawa hadn’t been in the original plan for this Spring, but when offered a spot at the race only a few weeks prior, I decided to take it on and see what these 50k trail legs could do on the road.  Rooming with Krista Duchene made for a great weekend as I could feed off of her positive and intelligent attitude towards sport. And, to make the weekend even better, I managed to pull off a decent time of 2:42, and see Rachel Hannah début in an amazing 2:33.


Two of Canada’s best marathon ladies

Post race with Rachel Hannah (Top Canadian in 2:33! Incredible!)

Post race with Rachel Hannah (Top Canadian in 2:33! Incredible!)

With only 6 days to recover, I wasn’t sure if the Calgary race would happen (or be a smart choice), however I was going to be there visiting friends and family anyway, and, by the Wednesday morning, I felt mostly ‘normal’ and decided to take a chance and run another marathon that weekend. It wasn’t an easy feat, nor was it pretty at times as one of my Hamstrings decided to act up, cramp, and cause me to walk for a while.  However, I held onto 2nd, and avoided injury in the end.


Post race with Loudmilla, the winner of the Calgary marathon


Good people, good ice cream!


Family time in beautiful places

Following those two weekends of travel and race, I found myself in Whistler once again, for the the fourth year in a row, running the NorthFace Whistler 10k (rather than the half). It’s a favourite event and a highlight of the year, as Dave Clark puts on an incredible event, treats us like gold, and always seems to organize great weather on top of that! With the weather, the people, and the location, it was perhaps the best way to finish off a triad of race weekends


Post race hike with the man


Sunday trail run


Victoria crew. Marilyn 1st in the Half, Jim Fin 1st in the half, and myself 1st in the 10k

Although I managed to run all three races in decent form, I now find myself needing the time to catch up on recovery.  The trails are calling, and the lakes are too inviting to avoid for some open water swims.  Despite the somewhat chaotic way of life over the last few months, I continue to enjoy my runs and the company that comes along with the running world, but I know I have to back off of the volume an intensity in order to recharge. And I honestly know that in no time, I will be ready to start building once again.

I am 9 races into 2015. Three marathons, two 50km trail races, two halves and a two 10k’s. Perhaps I am not a typical runner, in fact, I am possibly far from a typical runner in my racing schedule, and the mix of road and trail I incorporate into my life, however, I am still smiling and enjoying the ride. With amazing support from Compressport, Arcteryx and Frontrunners Victoria, along with family and friends, it’s hard not to enjoy all that is around me in this sport. I am so very grateful for this life I live!

There are no set plans for racing in the near future, but I am sure my body and mind will begin to desire a new focus in the coming weeks.  For now, it’s time to tend to the garden, settle into our new little home and play on the trails more often.  It’s hard to find a balance at times, but it has to exist in order to avoid burnout or boredom. Here’s to a lovely Summer



I often tell my patients that ‘movement is medicine’, and if I truly believe in these wise words, which I do, then I have had a good dose of ‘moving medicine’ in the last month.  There has been so much going on in our lives, that I haven’t had the time to put my feet up and relax, let alone write a blog post. However, I am making an effort to get some writing down now that the settling has begun. It will come in stages, so I can slowly catch up with our going-ons, so here it is, part one of movement…

After finalizing our first purchase of a house in early April, we ventured off to Austria and Switzerland before the big move was  to happen (as well as all the chaos that comes with moving your belongings from one house to another). It was a work trip for the husband, and a ‘tag-along’ trip for me.  Since I hadn’t explored Austria when we lived in Europe, it seemed sensible to go along and explore the city of Vienna which is bursting with ornate buildings and coffee houses, the spectacular Austria sub Alps (since the snow level was still low enough to prevent true Alpine running), the much welcomed thermal baths, and of course, visit our past home and friends in Switzerland.

In a nut shell, Austria was beautiful. The weather was ideal, we managed to find some trails in the mountains, and we moved across the country from East to West with ease despite our lack of German speaking skills.  To top it all off, I found a 1/2 marathon in the city of Linz Austria, and raced the Lausanne 20 10k the night before we left (which is a race I ran in 2010). Both were completely unplanned, and I was unrested for these races, but it was a wonderful way to see the city and attempt to get my Ultra focused legs on moving a little quicker than they are used to. I am not convinced that they went very fast, but I had a blast being out there, running with the Austrians and running with the Swiss once again. Speedy races like those seems more and more foreign to me these days, but I do believe that they are a good training companion to the longer/slower/technical trail runs.

So, to avoid too much writing (as I am now needing to move once again!), here are some photos of our adventures back in April.


Seeing a city by bike is always a must!


Finding some hills in the Salzburg region


Beauty in the sub Alps


The hills are alive!


Cully, our home village




Soaking the sun up in the mountains



Brave Anya taking a dip in the cold lake





Slip Sliding Along

It has taken me three years to finally run the ever so popular Chuckanut 50k.  In 2013 I was whisked off to Kenya during the Chuckanut race weekend (tough choice, but Kenya won in the end).  In 2014 a tough physical and mental battle was occurring in my body as I tried to heal from multiple hip issues/injuries.  This year, well there was nothing holding me back other than the worry I wouldn’t be properly prepared for a very competitive trail ultra race.

In general, I mix my running time between road and trail. As much as I would love to visit the local trail terrain on a daily basis, it just isn’t always feasible. And to be honest, keeping some road leg speed, can be an advantage in endurance races, whether on trail or road.

Chuckanut was to be my first trail race of the year, and certainly not my last.  I did my research in regards to the race. Asking fellow Ultra runners Jeremy Clegg and Ellie Greenwood what I should expect out there that day. Both of these incredible runners had raced this event (Ellie being last years winner) and knew the in’s and out’s, and ups and downs, of the race.  It was obviously a poplar course with both friends, as they had given me a play by play of the race, and it couldn’t have been better.  It gave me some confidence while I moved through the trails, knowing (ever so slightly) what was coming up ahead.

Friday night after work found me heading down South, over the boarder to where the Canadian dollar gets you nothing currently, in the passenger seat of Anne-Marie Madden’s truck.  It was the perfect time to catch up, unwind, and hedge our bets on what the weather would do the next morning. It wasn’t looking like the sun would poke through, so a soggy run was expected.

The threat of rain and wind, and the assurance of mud and puddles had me undecided as to what to wear (like the runners version of what to wear on a first date I suppose!). Jacket on or jacket off? Arm warmers? Water bladder full or half empty?The gusts were strong as we readied ourselves just minutes before the race was to begin, so I opted for a hat that wouldn’t fly off, and threw on a long sleeve over my pack (kind of looking like I was wearing a fashionable shrug…), thinking I would rather have the option to take it off after the start if things warmed up, rather than being caught cold on a higher peak later on, wishing I had something to protect me from the wet conditions. In the end, it was a somewhat useless piece of clothing as it spent the majority of the race around my waist.

The beauty of this race is that is can appeal to both a climber and a not so skilled climber.  Although I am not horrible at moving up hill, I still have some work to do.  Having 10k at the start and the end of the race of rolling, easy terrain, allows people like me to stay in the race a little easier.  For many, the last 10k of flatter, rolling trails (much like what you see on the Goose or Elk lake for you Victoria folk), is not a welcoming aspect of the event.  From approximately 35km to 40k, there is a significant drop in elevation. It’s a perfect place to bomb down the switchbacks amongst beautiful trees, but it can also do some damage to the quads if one isn’t careful.   For me, it was a feeling of freedom going down that last slope, and I kept in mind that in a short amount of time, I would be able to utilize some road speed on the flats, hoping it would give me a gap between myself and the next female runner who was on my heels.

What’s the earlier part of the race like you may ask?  Well, after the first 10k of easier terrain, you begin the first climb. There is some great flowing single track, and due to the rain, a lot of slippery mud, puddles and slick rocks to be weary of. Around the 18km mark is a good long slog of a climb on a logging road, followed by more muddy ups and downs.  The final climb, called “Chinscraper”, said to be the nastiest climb (although it was my favourite for some odd reason), begins around 33km’s, and after that, the downhill slope begins. Overall, the race has some technical aspects, and of course some open and speedy sections. With the rain, wind and mud, I would hazard to say it was a slower run for most people out there. However, it didn’t disappoint. What’s trail running without some dirt and close calls along the way?  I am sure there is a health benefit to mud baths.

One trail race down for 2015 and I am extremely content with the 2nd place finish behind one of the USA’s strongest runners, Magdalena Boulet.  I didn’t expect to place so high up, but I won’t complain about the result.  I know I still have a lot to learn from these trails I am running on.  My confidence has increased in the last couple of years, but there is so much more to gain out there.  This change from road to trail and Ultra running only feeds the fire within.  Running through the woods, weaving over uneven terrain, listening to what nature has to say and hearing my own breathing as I make my way up a mountain, couldn’t be more inviting. Every turn and each new climb offers something different.  The challenges are numerous, but so rewarding. Bring on more dirt and longer runs. Happy running my friends. Enjoy the mud!

IMG_20150321_133906A view from above. Compressport compressed legs in a puddle!

IMG_20150321_172342Care Nelson and I post race, She was one of many Nelson runners that day! A family of strong runners indeed.

IMG_20150322_182410 Taking in some post race treats. Trail butter, oh yes!