October 29, 2015

Les Templiers

I knew that I had not had a great year of running so far, that was pretty darn obvious and I couldn't ignore the fact but it was not until I read the iRunFar race preview that the stark reality set in - I had not even toed the start line of a trail ultra in over a year.  Wow.

Needless to say I am overjoyed to have won Les Templiers 75k (well, it was 77k really but let's not get picky) in the Grands Causses region of France this past weekend.  Not only was the win fantastic but the race course was one of the most beautiful I have had to privilege to run on, and the organisation by Odile, Gilles and their team was second to none.  Merci a tous!  I spent a wonderful few days with new and old friends from all over the world - it was nothing short of amazing.

Thanks to iRunFar not only live tweeting race coverage on the day, but for also publishing my race report.  It can be found here.

Below are some photos to try share some of the amazing atmosphere of the event.  In my opinion, yes Chamonix and and the French Alps are stunning, but as a foreigner you are missing out big time if you think that that is all that France has to offer the trail running world.

Medieval villages nestled in the gorges are typical of this area.  Credit: self.
Cheese, cheese and more cheese!  At the race expo.  Credit: self.
Race start/ finish area and our accommodations at St Esteve.  Credit: self.
Sightseeing with my Saffa buddies.  Credit: Jock Green (as he has long arms ;))
Sightseeing with the Saffas.  Credit: self.
Team competitions were part of the fun.  On the ladies side myself, Jasmine and Malika took the European win.  Credit: Jasmine Nunige.
Start line focus.  Credit: DROZ Photo.
Les Americains!  Credit: self.

Village of Couvertoirade, typical of the Aveyron area.  Credit: self.
Comrades reunion!  With Nick Bester (Nedbank manager and former Comrades winner) and Jonas Buud (2nd place and multiple gold medalist).
Cruising section of the race.  Credit: Ski & Run.
Joyful trails.  Credit: Bruno Poirier.
Passing through a village water station mid race.  Credit: Ski & Run.
Finish line crowds at one of the other race distances over the 3 day run Festival of Les Templiers.  Credit: self.
Grinding the uphills.  Credit: Ski & Run.
The views weren't bad.  Credit: DROZ Photo.
With the wonderful Cassie Scallon, strong 4th place finish for my Salomon teammie.  Credit: Greg Salvesen.

Finish line thumbs up for the best trail journalist around :)  Credit: Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.

 Coming out of the darkness and into the first aid station.  Credit: DROZ Photo.
Having taken the lead, coming into 2nd aid at 48k.  Credit: Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.
Jasmin Nunige (Switzerland) pushed me all day.  A pleasure to race with her.  Credit: Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.
Top 4 women.  Cassie Scallon (4), Jasmin Nunige (2), self (1), Anne Lise Rousset (3).  Credit: Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.

September 20, 2015

Grinding Glaciers in Revelstoke

Having slowly been working my way back from niggling injuries (which are still far from 100% gone) I decided less than two weeks ago to race Glacier Grind 44k in Revelstoke this past weekend (a 5 Peaks race).  It was the perfect balance of being close enough to home that I could commit to the race not too far in advance, and yet it was far enough away from home that I'd get to experience the fun of racing on new-to-me trails.  The 44k distance and amount of climbing (around 2400m, and same of descent) was great too as it made it a good challenge yet not anything too extreme.

Speaking at the race briefing the evening before the race, with Adam Campbell.  Photo: Amy Golumbia
The race profile was relatively straight forward - complete an undulating loop of a few kms to warm up before hauling yourself up some huge mountain ascent that seemed to grind on for a very long time, play around in the alpine and some rocky sections for a while whilst admiring some pretty lakes swirling in the mist, before bombing back down the mountain on one crazy fun long descent to the finish line.

Alpine lake along the course.  Photo: Amy Golumbia
A runner in the swirling mist.  Photo: Steve Shannon Photography
 As usual I showed my weakness is long uphills climbs and I hiked a huge portion of that, but I was relatively good at just putting my head down and getting to work.  Well, I didn't put my head down entirely as we'd been warned at the pre-race briefing that there were both black and grizzly bears active in the area so my eyes and ears were open, but the most I saw was some fresh berry-filled poop on the trail and some footprints in the mud.  But the bears were definitely around with one racer I talked to having been (un)lucky enough to see 3 separate bears during the race.

Runners grinding their way up to Eva Pass.  Photo: Steve Shannon Photography
 The biggest kudos has to go out to the volunteers at this race and the Revelstoke National Park staff - whether they were runners from further afield or Revy locals, many folks stood out in the cold and drizzly rain for many hours to ensure that we stayed on track, didn't get eaten by bears, but did get to eat the usual aid station food.  It was a grey fall day and although it was warm at the lower elevations, by the time we were up at the high point of Eva Pass, I was definitely pulling out my jacket to stay warm on the descent over rocky slabs and through lush moss and fungi filled forests.

Volunteer ensuring we all arrived safely atop Eva Pass.  Photo: Steve Shannon Photography
 My friend Liza from Canmore led the female charge on the uphill and it honestly didn't surprise me - Liza is a strong and competitive adventure racer, mountain biker and runner - and well, she's just more of a mountain lady than I am.  But Liza and our fellow friend Fitzy were within sight on the final portion of the climb up to Eva Pass so I was hopeful that I could catch them both on the descent.  Unfortunately before I caught Liza I also caught my toe in some mud and before I knew it I'd splatted down onto a rock and bruised my knee.  To be honest I was more annoyed that my gloves were now super muddy and wet rather than bothered by my knee, but with a bit of on-the-run thinking I took off my wet gloves and instead used my arm sleeves to keep my hands warm.

Typical Fitzy ... and volunteer unicorn.  Photo: Steve Shannon Photography
Surface scrapes from getting a little too familiar with the trail.
 The final descent through what can only be described as an enchanted forest was far too much fun - a nice grade to pick up the pace and yet enough technicality to slow you down.  All the better was that on the final few kms of descent I caught a total of three men to secure an overall 4th place finish and 1st female.  Liza was not far behind over the line as 2nd woman.

Enchanted forest.  Photo: Stephanie O'Brien
All in all a great course, amazing volunteers, awesome to catch up with so many Banff/ Canmore buddies, and lots of fun to be back racing again - albeit at a low key event and still with much progress to make in terms of working through aches and pains, and working back to full fitness.

Top 3 ladies.  Photo: Jan Herman
Rainy Revy recovery run the day after the race.
Valley running in Revy.  Photo: self.
Pretty ceramic medal :)

September 7, 2015

It's been an uphill battle

Fair to say that 2015 has been a bit of a disaster in terms of my running so far.  I keep saying that there is still time to turn the year around but now sitting in early September I realise that the pages of the calendar are flicking over fast.  However, ever the optimist I'm determined to keep plugging away.  This year I've had niggling aches and pains and various little injuries here and there for what seems like most of the year and so I've struggled to attain the consistent training required to be in good running shape and racing fitness.  After Mont Blanc marathon in late June I came home to Canada hobbling with a messed up tibilais anterior and was ultimately forced to take a few weeks totally off running, not exactly what I'd had planned for the middle of summer when beautiful mountain trails were calling.  But instead I hit the tarmac of my road bike and like every injured runner in Vancouver - I climbed Grouse Mountain like a demon.  Grouse Mountain has various trails of about 3km in length which climb around 850m, and then there is the delightful gondola which whizzes you back to the bottom - allowing for a tough but very minimal impact workout.  It's a huge old powerhike and I'm not sure I've actually got any better at my poor climbing skills but it was certainly fun just to be on the trails, especially on the Grouse Quadruple Quad Crusher day with my buddy Jer (that's my made up event for completing the Grind, BCMC, Skyline and Flint & Feather trails all in one outing, about 12.5k with about 3200m of ascent).

Thanks to the orange helmet man for going on some very slow bike rides with me :)

Langley Medio Fondo.  88k ride in 3h00, it'll do for a rookie :)

Jer and I on our 4th climb up Grouse, the coffee after the 2nd climb was a life saver :)

A leisurely day above Elfin lakes with some of the most super people ever :)
Barcelona for some Salomon filming.  A manic trip but such fun and squeezed in a few ok runs like this.

But of course I was excited to get off the bike and speed the hiking up to running as soon as I could,  and have been slowly building up in the last month or so.  I've put no focus on running pace other than my weekly trail intervals with my running club, because in all honesty I'm in such a running state right now that even just building steady, easy running will get me in better shape.  A friend at our running club the other night asked me what pace I'm running tempos at,  erm ....  I don't run tempos (well I do, but definitely not right now).

Then a few weeks ago I heard about the inaugural Salomon Valley to Peak race being held in Vancouver - 20k with 1600m of advertised climb (it ended up being more like 1800m) and very little descent.  It seemed like a great fun event and a good race to test my legs on (non-ultra, little downhill pounding) so on Saturday my super buddy Anne Marie picked me up bright and early (thank you for helping me maintain my car free life!) and we drove the spectacular Sea to Sky highway to Whistler.  In all honesty I went into the race with no focus (I'd done 2 hikes up Grouse the afternoon before) but just keen to have a fun day and get my competitive mind set back.  Well, it was fun - once I got to the finish line!  No, I shouldn't say that - it was an amazing event but bear in my that my fortes lie in ultra distance running on flats or downhills - so for me this was pretty much a 2h40 suffer fest to drag myself up a mountain and focus that every km counted as there were only 20 of them in the race!  I think in part I need to learn that powerhiking is ok (and also get better at uphill running) as I just get despondent when I hike SO much.  The bulk of the climbing was done by the 10k mark so then spurred on my a flying glimpse of local trail runner Gemma cheering at an aid station, I then buckled down and blasted any short downhills and tried to push the flats.  It was all going great til the course markings got a little minimal and I took a few very brief wrong turns which knocked my mindset once again.  Adam Campbell (who had already finished the race and come back down the course to cheer) was met with a rather grumpy Ellie some 1km from the finish.  But by then the course was steep and rocky and he told me to 'get my hike on' - well, if Adam is telling me hiking is ok, I'll go with it :)
I don't recall this snow on race day - maybe that means I was actually focusing on running hard.  Photo: David McColm.

Whistler alpine is stunning.  Photo: David McColm

Enjoying a small amount of downhill :)  Photo: David McColm.

Finishing at over 2100m at the peak of Whistler with a bluebird sky day and a dusting of recent snow on the ground it was definitely one of the most spectacular finish lines I've been at, and even worth all that hiking to get there!  I came over the line 3rd place woman, which is really neither here nor there since my aim was simply to toe the start line of a race in a beautiful setting.

With Eric (2nd male), Will, Anne Marie (1st female) and Tom at the finish.

I hardly dare say it but for now the rehab seems to be going well and running progressing slowly but steadily.  As such I'm hoping to keep training sensibly but consistently with the aim of toeing a few more race start lines before years end.

After my finish at BMO Vancouver Marathon back in May (just 3 days after losing a hand cast post hand surgery) my running club coach described me as 'perseverance in motion', so I'm keeping that in mind and will hike and bike as much as needed to maintain the motion whilst I get back to running, but I'm not giving up on this running thing quite yet!

Playing around in the alpine with Tom & AM post race.  Photo:  Anne Marie Madden.

Post race cool down.  Photo: David McColm.

July 24, 2015

The Great Climate Race!

Most of my blog posts tend to be about races I've run or training updates, but this post is an all out promo of a new 10k (and 2k fun run!) that will be held in Vancouver, BC this coming November.  There are two main reasons that this is a race I'm super happy to support and try encourage you, the reader, to run!  Firstly The Great Climate Race is being organised by my friend Ben West.  Ben was a participant of the Kintec/ NSA marathon training group that I helped lead this past winter.  The first evening the group met on a dark and cold December evening there was a mass of excited runners.  But as is typical with these groups, each Sunday and Tuesday there seemed to be a few less folks, or folks who would only show up once in a while.  But each and every week (or actually two times a week) Ben would be there come rain or shine; despite this being his first marathon Ben had already fully grasped the fundamentals of training and a successful race day - consistency!  It was super to see him succeed after much hard work when he completed the BMO Vancouver marathon in early May.  So Ben is a runner and friend which is good enough reason to promo 'his' race but the even better reason is that The Great Climate Race is not just any old 10k race on the Vancouver seawall, but it is one with an environmental awareness and fund raising goal, specifically around solar power.

The Great Climate Race (10k and 2k) will be held on Sunday 8th November, starting at Second Beach in Vancouver's beautiful Stanley Park.  Full details of the event, and how to sign up, are here.  And to keep up to date with race happening and news, follow their facebook page here.

The event intends to increase public awareness of climate change while raising funds for local solar energy projects.  A portion of all registration fees go to one specific project (this year its for the Stanley Park Ecology Society) and all participants also have the opportunity to raise funds for additional projects through our peer to peer fundraising platform on our website.
There is more information as to why The Great Climate Race is focusing on solar power here.

In Ben's words, "We want our event to give everyone an opportunity to do something meaningful at the local level and give folks a sense of connection to viable climate solutions. We are hoping this event will help expand climate awareness and action beyond the "usual suspects" who take part in rallies and protests".

If you'd like to learn more there is a great article about November's Great Climate Race here.

Hope some of you can join The Great Climate Race on November 8th for a fun and fast (if you want it to be!) event with a great cause at its heart!

July 7, 2015

Stumbling from one race to the next. Now let's regroup :)

About 10 days ago I ran the Mont Blanc 42.2k.  Wow, it was a stunner of a course!  Bluebird skies, warm temperatures, glistening glaciers and flower filled alpine meadows.  It really could not have been more beautiful, but man oh man was my 4th place finish, in just over 5hrs, ugly.  Mont Blanc was just four weeks after Comrades so I knew it was unlikely to be a great day but I had hit as much trail time as I could to build some climbing and descending legs, and I think this helped ... but not enough.  It's a course that I think I could do well on (runnable sections and then some great powerhiking and semi-technical descents) but I'd need more focused training and fresher legs.  Wanting to fall asleep just 4k into a race never bodes well for a good day, but it's been a busy spring with travel, coaching work and ongoing hand rehab (from my bike accident back in March) and I did what I could.  I was so grateful to share some miles with Albert of Salomon Spain who motivated me along and I was very grateful for the crewing of my Salomon folks - Arnaud and Philipp especially.  And I must admit, misery loves company so when I saw that Blake (Salomon Australia) had dropped part way it made me feel better that I was not the only one having a bad day - sorry Blake, get better soon!  Mind you, Max King rocked the course for 3rd and he'd run Comrades too - so I don't really have any excuses.

The day after Mont Blanc a bunch of us Salomon folks headed to Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees for the week to prep for Kilians Classik 25k and 45k the following weekend, and generally spend sunny days talking shoes and gear, hanging out at 1800m and having fun as a team.  It was a super week despite the fact that is soon became evident that my niggling tibialis anterior was really not at all happy.  I spent more time with physio Arnaud than I did running, but I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to do that and I still got to see some great places and spend time with super people.  A huge thanks to Greg Vollet, our Salomon manager, for a super week and for supporting me when I was not able to run much.  Kilians Classik itself is a great celebration of trail running, and I at least managed the 10k fun run and the kids race on the Sunday (though I will admit I was happy to sweep the kids race rather than try stay ahead of some very fast kids!)

After a whirlwind 12 days in France I am now back home in North Van and have had to concede that I won't be racing Leadville 100 miler in late August.  This year so far has been very bumpy in terms of training due to general niggling pains and the bike accident.  Now I have to accept that Leadville is less than seven weeks away and I am semi-injured and not especially fit - not a great combo to head into a tough 100 miler at altitude.  Leadville will be there another year and it is still very much on my bucket list but for now I need to not think about races and trying to squeeze in training, but instead think about rehab and fitness.  Hopefully I can have a better second half of the year.  In the meantime, here are some nice pictures of fun time in France.

A bientot
Ellie x
Mont Blanc finish - no way I was going to walk over a finish line even if it was uphill!  Credit: Drew Pattison.

Strong Salomon ladies atop a Pyreneen peak.

10k easy run - just happy to run.  Credit: Jordi Saragossa.

Silly celebrations with Martina Valmassoi.  Credit: Jordi Saragossa.

Mont Blanc: Misery in beautiful surroundings.  Credit: Jordi Saragossa.

My buddy Jan.  Great fun times, just don't mention that I'm old enough to be his mother (Salomon is taking good care of the future of trail running!).  Credit: self.

Yes, that is Mo Farah.  Yes, I was like a giddy school kid.  Credit: Jordi Saragossa.

Not bad for a race finish line after about 2700m of climbing and 1600m of descent.  Mont Blanc marathon, Chamonix.  Credit: self.

Remi, Blake, Martina and Jan cheering in Kilians Classik 45k runners.  Credit: self.

Yes, I went down this at slug pace on a dodgy leg, no - it was probably not a good idea :)  Credit: self.

Font Romeu wild trails.  Credit: self

Kristina, one of my coaching clients, rocked the 80k for 6th at Mont Blanc and then cheered me to the finish of the 42k the next day :)  Credit: Drew Pattison.

French food - mmmmm :)  Credit: self.

Leading out the kids race at Kilians Classik.  Credit: Jordi Saragossa.

Chamonix: stunning.  Credit: self.

Tiptoeing on a short walk on dodgy leg :)  Credit: Jordi Saragossa.