August 18, 2014

Squamish 50k

What a fun weekend of trail running activities Gary and Geoff have created up in Squamish, BC!  Friday evening a Film Fest, Saturday a 50 miler, Sunday a 50km and a 23km AND another set of films at the Trails in Motion Film Fest.  All in all, a fun and busy weekend of socialising with trail buddies and enjoying the soft and springy, but also unrelentingly hilly and technical, trails of The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada.

The weekend started off with helping the awesome Meghan and Bryon of iRunFar with the 50 mile race day live coverage.  This involved an early start, finding myself in a tutu by 6am (thanks Solana!), waiting patiently in random spots trail side and attempting to master fast tweeting with not so good cell coverage.  Fun times and great to see so many out of towners taking up the challenge of our technical backyard (Mike Wardian, Gary Gellin, Cassie Scallon, Paul Terranova, to name a few).  Of course any day on the Squamish trails ends at the Howe Sound Brew Pub, although rather unusually for me this was a pre, rather than post, race burger and fries so I skipped sampling one of their many on-tap beers.

iRunFar trailside race coverage

With Meghan & Solana/ iRunFar reporting.  Credit: Solana Klassen

By Saturday evening I had joined good buddies Susan and David, so we got back to our accommodations at Quest for an early night.  My head hit the pillow and I was out like a light until my alarm was blaring at 4.10am and it took me a few minutes to remember whether the race was today or if I had already run it the day before!

Squamish 50km was going to be a low key, hard training run for me rather than a key race, but of course the day prior talk had started of where I would be in the overall field and whether I would hold off all the 50/ 50 men (those running both the 50 miler and the 50km), given this is included the awesome Mike Wardian - this was no easy challenge people were trying to set me up for.

Credit: iRunFar/ Meghan Hicks

A few race highlights included:

- The pace seemed to go out super slow.  I was in the top 4 right out of the gate, and stayed round about there for most of the race.

- I move like a slug on the uphills so truly appreciated Mike Wardian, Dave Cressman and Brian (?) catching up with me.  This forced me to pick up the effort a little and with a run/ hike combination I held my own with the boys until the top of the first big climb (around 14km), I then decided to go playing on the downhills and got a nice little lead.

- On passing through Quest it was great to see David and Chloe out supporting, as well as a lively crowd of other cheerers, a little boost before I headed up the next main climb with Brian (?), he ran the whole thing, once again with a run/ hike shuffle I kept up.

With Chloe at the race start.  Credit: Chloe Gendron.

- Super to see my friend Des Mott at the 32km aid station.  Squamish is a re-birth of Stormy, my first ever 50 mile race, and I had been the lamenting the absence of faces from years gone by.  I remember meeting Des at my first ever ultra back in about 2004 so it was great to have him out on the trail and helping keep us runners hydrated on what was increasingly becoming a hot and humid day.

Credit: iRunFar/ Meghan Hicks

- I was now picking up the pace a little as I moved in the latter stages of the race, so super to have Chloe assist with filing my pack at the 40km station as I headed off for the final 10km which had 2 little climbs in it.

- At top of Mntn of Phlegm, some 4.5km to the finish, Solana and Jay told me I was some 2 mins behind 2nd place guy Eric.  Little did I know this was super strong skier Eric Carter, otherwise I'd have known better than to lay chase.  I caught Eric on the 2km flat tarmac section to the finish and  I held onto his coat tails until he out kicked me by 2.4 seconds at the end.

Less than 1km to go, duking it out with Eric Carter.  Credit: Meredith Terranova

All in all a super event, and one I can highly recommend if you like a little technical single track in the sunshine.

With 3rd place woman, Ann Signorella, and RDs Geoff and Gary.  Credit: Mike Wardian.

Full results of the 50km are here.

Hand crafted finishers trophy!

A huge thank you to ALL the volunteers who put in many hours of hard work to make this event a hugely fun and successful event, and a thank you to all my various friends who gave me rides over the weekend (Kim, Meghan, David and Jeff) so I can maintain my no-car existence :)

July 20, 2014

Speedgoat, Slowgoat, Stellargoat

'Welcome to Karl's party' was the call over the loud speakers as racers started to assemble at the start line of Speedgoat 50km at 6.30am yesterday.  And that for sure set the tone of the day; this was a race where there was so much energy and excitement, so much positivity and help from the aid station volunteers that it might threaten to overwhelm the breathtaking natural beauty of the race course if the course but not so amazingly stunning itself.  I've been lucky enough to run in many places but this course in the Wasatch mountains of Snowbird is definitely high up on the list of just plain pretty courses; whether it was the rocky and still slightly snowy scree slopes, or the meadows of wild flowers, or the fun technical scrambles, there was always something making a very good effort to distract you from the fact that you were ploughing your way up some long and steady climb to the course high point of over 3300m.

Seven weeks ago I ran Comrades 89km in 6h18, and I knew that coming into Speedgoat that it would take an amazing effort to run this course, some 39km shorter, in the same amount of time.  At the end of the day I posted 6h53 for what turned out to be a little over 52kms and I'm very happy with my 3rd place finish.  Speedgoat was always going to be a test of (1) how I would perform at altitude and (2) how I would perform on a true mountain course.  I don't like to be pigeon holed into doing only one type of running as that would mean missing out on many amazing races, but I know that my strengths are in more runnable courses.  I had to have a chuckle when I looked at the profile of the Speedgoat course and figured that there was about 2.5kms on flattish runnable terrain on the entire course!

Overall, the race panned out pretty much as I expected - after the first 9 miles and approx 800m of climbing I was in 8th place.  As I had feared, I was struggling with the altitude and my general weakness on uphills on the runnable climbs, plus it always takes me a while to warm up.  But as soon as we hit the descents I picked off a couple of places, despite being careful to not hammer hard, as I knew there was still an equally big climb, in addition to many smaller climbs, to come that I would need solid quads for.  The later climbs I found myself keeping apace with the runners around me, despite hiking practically all of them, and found the steeper climbs, although very tough, was were my decent ability to powerhike paid off.  And then once we were over Hidden Peak (approx km43) for the final time it was time to hammer hard down the final big descent (which also had a new mini climb in it!) to enjoy the finish and ensure I wasn't caught by Hilary who was just 2 minutes back of me at the top.

All in all, it was great to mix it up and do a race that was different from a lot of the runnable stuff I tend to do.  I now know what I can work on to improve on, and I also know that although the altitude likely slowed me down, I still managed to run well enough that I would race again up high - which is a good thing as I'm excited to be heading to Montana for The Rut 50km, another Skyrunning World Series race, in September!

Click here for my post-race interview with

Thank you as always to my sponsors: Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, Clif, Nuun, Udos Oil the Machine, Drymax socks, Sundog Eyewear, CEP Compression Canada.

Gear I used on race day included:

Montrail Bajada shoes
Drymax Max Trail Pro socks (during race)
CEP Compression socks (post race)
8 x Clif gels, 1 x pack of Clif Shot Bloks, Clif hydration drink.
Mountain Hardwear Mighty Power Cooler Sports Bra, Wicked Lite Tank and Cool Runner Shorts
Sundog Dialed mela-lens sunglasses
Nuun (post-race hydration)

Approaching Hidden Peak after 1st climb.  Photo: iRunFar

Glad to have almost made it to top of first climb! Photo: Paul Nelson Photography

Hello Meghan! Photo: iRunFar

Heading down to Mineral Basin.

Congratulation Anna who won for 2nd time! Photo: Paul Nelson Photography

Speedgoat top 3 ladies: myself (3), Anna Frost (1), Kasie Enman (2).  Photo: iRunFar

With the Speedgoat himself, pre race.  Thanks for an amazing race Karl!  Photo: iRunFar

Towards Ridge Trail

End of Ridge Trail

June 23, 2014

Coast Mountain Trail Series: Buckin' Hell 21.1km

As I frolicked down a technical descent, through old forests with soft pine needles and not so soft rocks and roots underfoot this past Saturday I had two thoughts:  (1) I'd forgotten how much I love technical trail running and (2) this is classic Gary Robbins :)  Gary, along with Geoff and Linda, host the Coast Mountain Trail Series, which are various mid distance to 50km races in North Vancouver and Squamish.  There is a reason why Gary is the course record holder at HURT - he likes technical and he knows where to find those type of trails in North Van!

In my training for Comrades I had done a decent amount of my training on trails but had stuck to the least technical trails I could find.  It was therefore a delight to be back on trails where it's less about speed and more about your ability to rock-hop, leap over roots, hurl yourself around tight corners and jump down rocks and other gnarly mountain biking features.  Ok, there was also a fair amount of plain slogging up hill, given Gary had packed some 1300m of climbing (and same of descent) into this half marathon distance course, but that was good to given I've got Speedgoat 50km in just four weeks time.

All in all it was a fantastic day on the trails; the sun shone, we got to hang out at magical Deep Cove at the end, and I got to watch my friend Kim nimbly tip toe up hill ahead of me (well at least until she got so far ahead that I lost sight of her - congrats on the win Kim).

A definite 'to-do' race and a North Shore classic.  I'll be back next year for sure.

Photo: Solana Klassen
Photo: Solana Klassen
Chilling at the Deep Cove finish line.  Photo: Nic Browne
Me (2nd), Kim (1st) and Chloe (3rd).  Fun times!

Sharman Ultra - New Ventures

For the 0.01% of you who read my blog meticulously, you may have noticed a 'coaching' tab appear on the top bar a few days ago.  That was indeed not an error and I am delighted to announce that I will now be offering my coaching services as I work along side Ian Sharman for Sharman Ultra.

Please check out Sharman Ultra here and Ian's announcement of me joining the team here.

I'm very excited to spread my knowledge and experience, and help fellow ultra runners achieve their running and racing goals!

Ian and I at American River 50 mile finish line, April 2011.

June 9, 2014

Thank yous, Photos and Race Memories

Comrades.  Wow, that was one tough race and a big battle but a battle I'm so happy to have fought.  It was an ugly win, but one I am so happy to have achieved :)

You may have already read my race report over on iRunFar which goes into how the race played out but I wanted to post some thank yous, some photos and some random race memories here:

The Thank Yous
  • Nedbank for including me at part of the Green Dream Team.  It was my 4th time racing for them and a great experience as always.  Personal thanks to Nick, Adriaan, Patrick and all the race day 'seconds' (crew).
  • My wonderful sponsors who support my running all year long, through the tough training and the racing highlights: Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, Clif, Flora, Drymax, CEP Compression Canada, Nuun Hydration and Petzl.
  • The Medical Crew: Chris Napier at Restore Physiotherpy, Dr. Jim Bovard, and Bobby Crudo RMT.
  • Ian Sharman for his coaching tips over the last few months, I'm pretty stubborn but I'm very glad I listened and trusted Ian!
  • My 'people' - my mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law and niece.  For their cheering, support and for a relaxing catch up post-race.
  • My friends, including Mikey P, Ran, Jackie, Susan, Ryne & Kristin.  I might not have seen you all much in the last few months but you were always there when I needed you!

The Random Race Memories

Ok, race reports are nice but there is not always room for the anecdotes that make up the day, so here are a few random memories :)
  • Pre-race I wondered where Kerry Koen, a South African runner was at this years Comrades as I'd enjoyed meeting her in previous years.  She then appeared at the sidelines mid-race just when I needed a friendly face and some moral support!
  • Nothing beats watching the sunrise over African farmland an hour or so into Comrades. 
  • As I stood right at the front of the runners on the startline, pinching myself to believe I'd actually made it, relatively, uninjured to that spot.
  • When I didn't need all the Clif electrolyte drink in my bottles I poured it over my head, I just hoped I wouldn't become a sugar trap for insects!
  • Seeing Frank Stebner of Vancouver for a hug at the startline and then he was one of the first people I saw at the finish line.  A little bit of home, half a world away.
  • When the wheels felt like they were falling off oh so early in the race, wondering if I'd be tough enough to death march 50kms.
  • Amy Sproston showing up pre-race with green nails to match the Nedbank kit, we all then copycatted her; ultrarunning is all about looking good afterall!
  • My physio appointment with Chris the day I flew out to South Africa, I think the advice for the mental approach was just as important as the actual physio treatment.
  • At 30kms 'to go' thinking that it was way too early to be counting the km markers one by one.  At 21km, trying to convince myself that I had 'just' a half marathon to go.
  • Patrick of Nedbank telling me that I was too far back of 1st and 2nd to catch them, but that 4th was too far back to catch me.  Well, I always say a race is not done until the finish line ...
  • Going through Pinetown at about 12km to, two female marshals cheered me with an insane amount of enthusiasm and it definitely powered me up that hill. 
  • Seeing the timing car and the Nurgalieva twins ahead of me for the first time at less than 5km 'to go'.  Even then I wasn't really thinking about winning, I was just thinking about running as fast as I could.
  • Ian Sharman passing me when I was a walking mess with about 20km to go, and then passing Ian back with about 800m to go - I knew he wouldn't be expecting that :)   It was great to have such a friend among a field of 16, 000 runners be next over the finish line behind me (note, Ian was 'jogging' a sub 6h30 time for a training race).
  • Seeing two Union Jacks along the course and a huge Maple Leaf at the sidelines in the finishing stadium.
  • Spending time in the VIP area at the finish and meeting so many Comrades legends.  I was in awe, especially when I then spoke to Bruce Fordyce on Nick's phone.  Bruce told me in 2013 that I could win Comrades, I decided he knew what he was talking about and I decided to believe him :)
  • Hearing Amy Sproston's story of how her injury flared up at 23km to go so she walked the remaining distance to the finish line and had two beers en route.  I am sure Amy is disappointed but she showed true Comrades class and earned her finishers medal.
  • Having to walk down stairs backwards to get to the press conference.  It' been a long time since I've been in that much pain, and it never felt so good!
  • At the press conference reminding Norrie Williamson (Scottish/ South African Coach/ Comrades expert) that he had asked me when I first met him in 2011 how I was going to win Comrades with such a slow marathon PB ;)

The Photos
Start line in Pietermaritzburg
Finish line :)

With Nick Bester, Caroline Wostmann and Bongmussa Mthembu (mens winner)

With Camille, Frida, Sophia and Amy

With Bruce Fordyce, 9 times winner

With Nick Bester, former winner and Nedbank team manager

With Jonas Buud, consistent gold medalist and top master (7th overall)

May 5, 2014

BMO Vancouver Marathon

BMO Vancouver marathon is an event of mixed experiences for me; 2008 - my first sub-3 (yay!), 2009 - my first DNF (boo!), 2012 - 2:42 for the win and a PB (yay!), 2013 - another DNF (boo!), and then this year - just a nice solid jaunt around the course with lots of friends and team mates both running and cheering.  With Comrades 89km just 28 days away the aim of yesterdays race was not to race too hard, but to get a solid effort in all the same.  I still need to get some solid training in this week for Comrades so if I raced too hard then the recovery time for the marathon would eat into the training time for my A race - not a good idea.    I am more than happy with my 2nd place, 2:43:04 finish time yesterday, mostly for the fact that I felt great at the finish and feel great today so I know that I can still train well this week.

A training race like yesterday also has added benefits of working out a few race day details for Comrades.  I am now set on the shoe and sock combination that I'll sport on June 1st in South Africa, I got good practice at grabbing bottles from a the table and remembering to look out for elite stations on a race course, and I had the added benefit of running the first approx 23km with Wayinshet Abebe Hailu (Ethiopia) which was great as we took turns sharing the pace, something which might also come in useful at Comrades.  All in all I got exactly what I hoped for out of the day, and had great fun doing so with so many Vancouver Falcons team mates to chat with at the finish line and share our accomplishments together.  A huge shout out to Kim Doerksen who nailed her marathon in 2:36:59 for the win, to Bryan Andrews who ran a great race and surely helped Kim to that time both on race day and in training, and to all VFACers who competed in the marathon, half and 8km.  In the full marathon all 7 VFACers who raced all came in sub-3 - nice work!

Hope everyone else had a fun day, despite the rather rainy conditions!

With some of the elites at Media Lunch.  Photo - Dan Cumming

With fellow trail/ ultra runners Kim Magnus & Sam Lofti-Pour.  Photo - Kerry Ward

With Bryan, Kim & Courtney - part of team VFAC pre-race.  Photo: Dave Palermo

With Wayinshet at the half way mark on Spanish Banks.  Photo - Ryan Allderman

Pacing along Spanish Banks.  Photo - Ryan Allderman

Posing for the camera with 1.5km to go.  Photo - Ryan Allderman

Finish line - photo Rita Ivanauskas

With cheerer April and training buddy Kristin (who raced the half).  Photo - Kevin O'Connor

VFAC Coach John Hill with his 1st & 2nd place ladies!  Photo - Kevin O'Connor

With super star Ferg Hawke (he's come 2nd at Badwater 135 miler, among a whole host of other achievements).  Photo - Jim Hinze

Top 3 ladies at BMO Vancouver Marathon.  Photo - Jim Hinze

April 7, 2014

Another little half marathon jaunt

The half marathon is an awesome distance - long enough that you need endurance but short enough that you also need speed, plus for an ultra runner like me I feel I can jump into one and race a decent effort without too much of a taper, and also recover quick so get right back into training for my upcoming key races the next day.  But all that aside, the real reason that I signed up for the BMO April Fools Half marathon, that took place yesterday, was for a fun day trip with my most awesome running club, the Vancouver Falcons (VFAC).

Every Thursday evening I workout on the trails in Vancouver's Stanley Park with VFAC, it is my favourite workout of the week as we hammer speed intervals hard, push ourselves to the limit, generally get frozen cold and run until we feel like we'll vomit, and yet have the best time ever with lots of fun and lots of laughs.  I'm not sure how this magic happens, but it's a great club and great training.

The Blue Train (aka VFAC - named for our blue singlets) was in full force on the Sunshine Coast of BC yesterday.  I started out the race with new member Alex by my side, Roberto and Anne-Marie just off the front, and there was never a point in the race when I couldn't see one of my team mates up ahead - great motivation.

At the 1 mile mark with Alex
Photo: Rick Horne

The BMO April Fools Half marathon is net downhill, so known for being a pretty fast course but the 435m of descent is compensated for my 285m of climbing, so it's definitely a challenging route.  But it is also a route that plays to my strengths, I'm not the best at hammering out km after km at an even, fast pace on the flat, but if I can run just on feel, because of hills, I find this much easier mentally.  The hills also broke the course down nicely - net downhill for the first 10km, make it to 14km where a long climb begins until 17.5km, and from then to the finish at 21.1km push the pace on the downhills and flats.  There was never a moment to get bored, or to be concerned about losing a few seconds or so on a km, it was more a matter of focusing on the next hill, be it a climb or a descent.

All smiles at 5km
Photo: Rick Horne

I'm super happy that I seemed to pace myself well, I was 4th female at half way, and by around 14km moved into 2nd position which I maintained until the end.  There was no way I was going to catch team mate Kim Doerksen who ran a stellar 1:14:53 for a huge PB; oh, and she was wearing a tutu!  I did run a 46sec PB though for 1:17:42, which I'm super happy with as I really just ran on effort, with the occasional glance at my watch.

With so much downhill pounding on the tarmac I wore slightly heavier shoes than I might have done otherwise, and right now the Montrail Fluid Feel IIs are my absolute favourite go-to shoe for so many runs.

All in all, a fun day out, a solid workout and a stepping stone for longer distance races to come.

Team VFAC!
Photo: Sally Guillano

Top 3 ladies - Kim, Ellie, Anne-Marie.  All VFAC :)
Photo: Nic Browne
Happy trails,