TrailRunning Canada Issue 6

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FALL/WINTER | 2013/14 | ISSUE 6



Strengthen Your Glutes!


Canada Has Its Best Showing


(ICE) BUCKET LIST Running in Iceland


COVER: Sasha Brown running in Singing Pass(Whistler, BC) with the Blackcomb backcountry pictured in the background.



Photo credit: Brian McCurdy

What’s Inside




Giving Back to the Trails






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Meet the Easts From The West INTERVIEWS

CMRA Director

Rhonda-Marie Avery

INTERVIEW WITH... Jeff Gosselin



















FAT DOG 120 RACE REPORT by Nicola Gildersleeve





Isabel Ostrom Linda Barton-Robbins Gary Robbins Jonathan Schmidt DESIGN & LAYOUT

Giving Back to the Trails A recent series of events made me consider our relationship between dedicated spaces and trail running. First, there were the disastrous floods in my home province of Alberta. Numerous trail races were cancelled or moved to new locations as floods destroyed bridges and trails in many of Alberta’s provincial parks and wildlands. Second, I moved to a new town and discovered the very first thing I researched were public parks and trails in the vicinity. Alberta has an amazing amount of open space; however only a small fraction of it is available to the public for activities like trail running. Sure, I could approach a few ranchers and ask for permission, but finding public lands is simply easier and comes with more certainty when you are provided with trail maps, signage and the chance to run into a fellow runner or hiker. It seldom matters where you are in Canada; it seems trail running and public spaces are intricately linked. Trail running would not be growing at its current pace without our beautiful and expansive parks. The nature of trail, and especially ultra running, means you need a big space to host an event. Since very few of us own

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enough private land to provide a diversity of trails, we rely on public spaces. Perhaps that’s why the trail running community seems slightly different than some other sports. We contribute to the spaces we share by working hard to maintain the trails for everyone to enjoy. In the Calgary region, trail runners volunteer for trail clean up days in places like Fish Creek Park and Kananaskis Country. In regions across Canada trail runners have volunteered countless hours on trail maintenance in their favourite parks. In the United States, it is now common for races to require volunteer hours to secure entry into a race. As our sport grows in Canada this may also be a practice we want to follow to ensure we stay in good standing with park officials and those who grant permits for races. As you dive into this new issue of TrailRunning Canada consider this relationship as you read articles from across Canada and around the world. We think you’ll enjoy

Alex Whyte the inspiration of the East family from Okotoks, Alberta or our feature about RhondaMarie Avery, a blind ultra runner from Ontario. We also explore the globe through Sasha Brown’s trail running adventures in Iceland before turning our eyes homeward to the rugged west coast on the Alberni Inlet Trail and area. This issue is packed with exciting content made possible by our growing team at TrailRunning Canada. Husband and wife team Gary Robbins and Linda Barton-Robbins will be taking over the reins as lead editors of Trail Running Canada’s digital magazine for the next issue and their efforts have helped make this issue our best ever! Stay tuned for future issues with even better coverage of Canada’s fast growing trail and ultra running scene. If you have ideas for future content feel free to email Gary or Linda at or /\/

Jonathan Schmidt is co-editor and administrator for TrailRunning Canada. He can be reached at

ADVERTISING & MARKETING Jonathan Schmidt CONTRIBUTORS Sasha Brown Stacey Cleveland Isabelle East Nicola Gildersleeve Aaron Heidt Keith Iskiw Maxime Lagacé Calum Neff Bob Nicol Isabel Ostrom Jonathan Schmidt Dr. Jenn Turner Kelly Wald Z Scott Winston

Have a comment or story? Write or email us to: TrailRunning Canada 244 Woodhaven Drive Okotoks, AB T1S 1S8 Copyright 2013 TrailRunning Canada



Empowerment. Impossible2Possible (i2P) is a non-profit organization dedicated to using the platform of adventure and technology to educate, inspire, and empower the global community to reach beyond their perceived limits and make positive change in the world. There is no cost for schools, Youth Ambassadors, or students to participate in Experiential Learning Programs and Expeditions. To learn more, please visit

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Photo courtesy Raven Eye Photography | 7


Trail Running Kids: Meet the Easts from the West by Calum Neff The 5 Peaks Sundre Snake Hills Race in Sundre, Alberta was held on July 20, 2013 and is where I caught up with three young trail runners for a lesson in trail running and in life. The first thought that came to mind when talking to these three kids, whose ages tallied together are still less than mine, was “if I knew then what I know now.” From their mentality, to their training, to their diet, these kids are doing it right. Immediately you know they come from a loving home and have an inseparable bond. Chances

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are, if you’ve been at a trail race in Central Alberta you’ve seen them around, but it would have to be before or after the race as they are fast! Isabelle East is the oldest of the three at 11 years old going on 26 with her composed and patient manner. You would never guess that just before the interview she had run the hot and humid Enduro event- 11km with 1000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Her little sister is Iris, who we had a hard time chasing down and keeping still for an interview. At six years old, Iris had just run about as many

Isabelle, Iris, and Ian Easta family of trail runners.

kilometers as she is old and is so little she said that to her “the roots were like hurdles” during the race. Between the two is their brother Ian, who sports a fast looking Mohawk, but it’s his running that is truly fast. At the age of 10 he finished 4th in the 5 Peaks Central Alberta Sport division. During this interview I got a look back at my own childhood and was reminded of the important things in life. TrailRunning Canada (TRC): So guys where are you going to school? Isabelle: We are all home schooled.

Ian: Yeah, so we have more time to run! TRC: Well I’m sure your teacher says otherwise! What sports, other than trail running, do you like to participate in? Iris: I like bouncing on a trampoline and did you know that 10 minutes of trampoline is better than a one kilometer run? Isabelle: I like volleyball, horseriding, rugby, and gymnastics. TRC: I did not know that about the trampoline and will have to try it sometime. Those are some wellrounded sports you like. How do you have enough energy to run these distances? Ian: We are on the Paleo diet, so lots of vegetables and no grain, milk, or sugar.

Iris: Yeah, lots of vegetables [as she pushes out her belly] and the best part is the cake! Isabelle: Paleo cake! The biggest thing about the diet is no sugar but we have recipes to avoid it and still taste really good. Ian: One of our favorite meals is burgers, without the bun, and yam fries. TRC: Wow, so you guys are eating really healthy and have a lot of variation to stay active. What are some tips you have for racing? Ian: It’s important to warm up the body before the race with an easy jog. I also like to do some stretches when I first wake up if I feel anything that is tight. Iris: I like this stretch [as her foot crosses to the other knee and she stretches her hip flexor] and I also like to run with my mom during the race. Isabelle: It’s important to drink lots of water, and during the race I always try to smile and encourage others, it makes them feel better and it makes you feel better too. Ian: Yeah, smiling releases chemicals in your brain! TRC: Great tips- listen to your body, warm up, stay hydrated, and be positive! How about role models? Who do you look up to? Isabelle/Iris: Our brother [as they give him a big hug and his face lights up] Ian: Our favorite runner is Bernard Onsare, he won the Calgary Marathon the past two years, and he helps people.

TRC: It sounds like you guys help people too. Tell me about the “MitoCanada” shirts you have on? Iris: We are MitoCanada.



Isabelle: We help with 5 Peaks and other events. The founder (of MitoCanada) ,Blaine, has a son named Evan who has a disease called Mitochondrial disease. Everyone has mitochondria in their body but anyone can suddenly have them shut down and affect different parts of your body- some people only get it in their legs, or their arms, but Evan got it all over. Ian: So they started MitoCanada to raise awareness and try to raise money for a cure. Evan was struck overnight, they had to take him to the hospital and he can’t talk anymore, or use his arms or legs, and couldn’t eat. We have met Evan three times.

Iris: Ian asked for money to be donated to the charity on his birthday. It’s a really good cause if you are looking for something to do. You can sign up for it. You can go online to and you can get a t-shirt like us. TRC: Wow guys, good for you, that is amazing and such a good organization to be part of. Good luck with the rest of the season. Do you have anything else you would like to add? Iris: Yeah, run hard and get off the road! That means you!

Iris and fellow trail runner BFF Jasmine.

All three kids did great at the Central Alberta 5 Peaks Trail Series. Isabelle was first for females under 15 in the Enduro category for the second year in a row. Ian was first for males under 15 in the Sport category, also for the second year in a row. And Iris’s debut found her in second place for females under 15 in the Sport category. /\/

Calum Neff is a Trail Running Canada and The North Face ambassador who this year completed his first two ultra-marathons with a course record at the Creemore Vertical Challenge 50km followed by a 4th place finish at the 125km Canadian Death Race and a 102nd finish at the World Mountain Running Championships in Poland just a month later. You can follow his progress on his blog or Twitter @TheNeffFace. Photo credits: PG. 8 Calum Neff PG. 9 Neil Zeller Photography courtesy of 5 Peaks. | 9

Q&A with Adrian Lambert, CMRA Director by Keith Iskiw TrailRunning Canada (TRC): Tell us a bit about the CMRA and the benefits of being a member? Adrian Lambert (AL): The Canadian Mountain Running Association (“CMRA”) is the governing body for mountain running in Canada. Mountain running is a subset of trail running which features significant amounts of el evat i o n c h a n g e . Sometimes courses are only uphill, and sometimes they are both uphill and downhill. We org an i ze n at i o n a l and international mountain running races in Canada and we select and manage the national mountain running teams. A membership in the CMRA is required to enter the national championships

TRC: What would one have to do in order to qualify for the world championships for long distance and Mountain Running? AL: Runners can qualify for the World Mountain Running Championships at the Canadian mountain running championships held in late June/early July. Nationals is also a qualifying race for the NACAC Championships which will be held in Mexico next July. Qualifying for the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge is through an application process. The selection committee will take into account long distance trail running results and mountain races.

Canada has always had the potential to be very successful in mountain running, but the challenge has been to bring the best runners into the sport. and is required for all national team members. Members free





Canadian Running Magazine, discounted entry in the 5 Peaks trail running series and discounts at various independent running stores across the country.

TRC: Canada has really improved recently on the world stage. What will it take for us to get into contention for the top prizes? AL: We are excited about how the team has been improving in the last few years, and this was particularly emphasized with

the men’s team achieving a top 10 finish at this year’s World Championships. I think Canada has always had the potential to be very successful in mountain running, but the challenge has been to bring the best runners into the sport. In the last few years, we’ve started to see runners from various backgrounds and from all over Canada come into the sport. Every year as more people get involved, it gets more and more competitive and that pushes everyone to greater success. We are also very fortunate that our best runners are also great role models and excellent ambassadors for the sport. As more people follow in their footsteps, the team will only get more successful.

TRC: Where do you see the sport moving for this point in its development in Canada? AL: Trail running is hugely popular in Canada at the moment and we want to bring that popularity to mountain running. We aim to introduce a national championship regional series next year that will allow runners to compete across Canada in mountain races to qualify for the national championships. Our national team will continue improving, and in the next few years our goal is to come away from worlds with a medal, either individually or as a team. /\/

Keith Iskiw is a trail and ultra runner from Kingston, Ontario. You can follow him at | 11

Seeing the Trails a Little Differently by Kelly Wald It’s been an incredibly fun year of meeting and running with many people in the ultra running community. This past summer I’ve been ticking off some kilometres with one particular runner that will inspire and humble you with her relentless perspective on endurance challenges. Rhonda-Marie Avery is an endurance athlete who “sees” each challenge in a different way because of a visual impairment. My first time running with Rhonda I found it hard to believe she couldn’t see the trail the way I did. I also came to understand some particularly sunny parts of the trails that she couldn’t see at all, but somehow she’d coast on through them. Bravery, instinct, and determination are apparent in every run with Rhonda. Trail Running Canada (TRC): Can you give us a brief description of your vision? Rhonda-Marie Avery (RMA): I have Achromatopsia complete. This means I have no cones in the back of my eyes. I rely on rod vision (night vision) all the time. It makes any day time “looking” particularly difficult. It leaves me with 8% vision (legally blind) and no colour vision. I’ve had this condition since birth. It’s fairly constant. TRC: You took on three big challenges this summer, what are they?

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RMA: I was trying to mimic an “ultraman” which is a three day extreme event held in Hawaii. The problem with the event, and the majority of ultra events, are the time limits that I cannot meet. So I pieced together the following events, two of which were not registered events but self organized adventures. These were: July 20 13k tethered open water swimming, July 28 - August 1 - 500km tandem biking and August 8-10 Dirty Girls 48hr race in which I was aiming for 100 miles. TRC: Why did you decide to take on these challenges? RMA: Disabled athletes are often subgroups within an “active” community. We tend to have special categories, which isn’t a horrible thing, but can be limiting if there is something in particular we wish to take part in (like a 100miler). And many disabled persons do not believe they can participate in anything active in general. I think in order to create small changes you must demonstrate big changes. I personally do not like not being thought of as a contender. Especially if it’s because of my difference; whether that’s because of my disability or my gender or my over active stubbornness. I have been raised in a generation where the first thing disabled people learn how to do is “fake it”. There are people who did not know I

was legally blind as they only ever saw me in particular settings (well memorized footings for me). The second thing disabled persons of my generation were taught by society is to accept limits. That we must adapt to the “ablest” world. I will never ever accept limitations. These events were my way of saying hey it sucks I’m not personally fast enough to do the ultraman but damn it, I can still do it! Watch me try! TRC: Had you done any open water swimming before deciding to do this? RMA: I’ve done two triathlons previous to this. A try-a-tri and a sprint. I had no basis to assume I could swim long distances. However I had no basis to assume I couldn’t either. TRC: Can you tell us about the bike endeavour? RMA: My bike experience with tandem riding is the same as my previous swimming experience. The idea of finding strength to get

up every day for five days to accomplish a distance is one thing, but to be attached to another individual’s ambition and motivation while doing it is a different dynamic. Having no control over speed or brakes or steering presents a huge letting go of control. We are taught to trust no one in this world. Usually that includes not trusting ourselves. Giving in and completely trusting a tandem captain and giving everything of yourself to push us up a hill reinstates belief on so many levels. TRC: Saving the best for last, the 48 hour run with a goal of 100 miles, how did this go? RMA: This was the hardest piece. I’d never run over 50 miles before. And genuinely would admit to NOT being a runner. I tend to fake this part. My loathing of self descriptives trumps my want to stop running. I love the feeling of letting loose on a trail but can’t do this unless it’s dark. So in this event I had six different guides/pacers

throughout. I can’t imagine being my guide. I’d drive me crazy! They all tolerated my needs and whining. We plugged away at the distance. I think I gave up four times. I tried to have a nap the second morning which just resulted in tears and the knowledge that I’m not capable of letting it go yet. The last time I gave up I said “well,100 miles is just a number so I’ll get as close as I can”. At one point I couldn’t commit to anything but one more step. Then one more. I ran alone in the dark both nights Fear chased me. Freedom flaunted in front. I plugged in to some good tunes and replayed every detail all my guides had given me throughout the day; root, rock, right, left, log, jump ... There was no point at which I can tell you I knew I could do this. I merely knew (ultra community aside) there was a world of people who considered “disability” a limitation. And that, entrenched underestimation of who I am, of who other disabled people could be, filled me with motive if not motivation.

Rhonda is part of the Salomon Flight Crew, I caught up with the Scott Burger at Salomon Toronto about their team member. TRC: How did you first hear about Rhonda and her quest to mimic an ultraman event? Scott Burger (SB): I was introduced to Rhonda in March through a customer in the store. Joe told us Rhonda’s story and intentions. Before he had a chance to ask if we could help out, my response was “I’m in, tell me what she needs and we’ll make it happen”. The year before I had heard rumours of an amazing visually impaired athlete who had tackled Dirty Girls, and once I put two and two together I knew there was a fire burning here and that we wanted to fuel it. Distance athletes need the right equipment and we were honoured to be asked first. A few weeks later Rhonda hit the trails with us and it was love at first run. | 13

TRC: Rhonda said, “The second thing disabled persons of my generation were taught by society is to accept limits. That we must adapt to the ablest world. I will never ever accept limitations”. Do you feel that what Rhonda is doing will change the way people see disabled athletes? SB: Absolutely. I had a fantastic dinner with Rhonda the other night. She informed me of many ambitious ideas that were floating inside her head. I threw an idea out there but made the mistake of noting that it would be very difficult, disability or no disability. Rhonda turned to me, grabbed my arm

and questioned “Are you saying I can’t do that?” I felt as though her list just got one more addition. We all have disabilities in life, but some are more evident than others. Role models like Rhonda should be seen as a guiding light for those who want to accomplish goals that society deems too difficult. If Rhonda told me one day she was going to walk on the moon, my response would simply be,”I can’t wait to see that”. /\/


Rhonda is currently planning for 2014’s adventures which could include an End to End run of Ontario’s Bruce Trail which is approximately 885 km.

Kelly Wald is The North Face Trail Ambassador for Ontario.

The Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series Presented by

Dion running snowshoes available in Canada at

Interview with Jeff Gosselin

us more about this and what you’ve learned?

a trail runner, what are your other motivations?

by Maxime Lagacé

JG: Triathlon is a beautiful endurance challenge, but it demands the investment of time and money that I’ve never really been ready to continue to do. Trying Ironman was a little boy’s dream, and then I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii.

JG: Basically, I think we all chase a personal destination. Every day, I make choices considering my availability and that enables me to be simply happy. I am lucky to have a couple of trail running friends in Quebec so it’s always nice to spend

There are not a lot of folks I know who are members of the Canadian mountain running team, third place finishers at the North-East North Face Endurance Challenge (2013), first place finishers in dozens of competitions since 2011 and finishers of the Ironman World Championships (2009). In fact, there is only one person I know who is all of this. His name is Jeff Gosselin. With his background as a triathlete, Jeff took the Quebec trail running community by storm in 2012. Arguably, his most notable performance was his second place finish at the XTrail Asics in Orford. He finished only milliseconds behind David Le Porho, who recently won the 2013 Canadian Mountain Running Championships held in Mont Sutton, Quebec. I had the chance to speak with Jeff about his background, his job, his interests, his training and his experience at the 2013 World Mountain Running Championships in Poland.

TrailRunning Canada (TRC): Who is Jeff Gosselin? Where do you live? What are your hobbies? What are your passions? Jeff Gosselin (JG): I was born in Rivière-du-Loup and I’ve been living in Quebec City for almost 4 years. I’m a fundamentally positive person who tries to progress and learn from each situation. I’m a teacher in EPS (physical education) at secondary school MarcelleMallet in Lévis. I love my job and I feel lucky to be able to ride or run to school before my day begins. TRC: What brought you to trail running? JG: I would say “raids” (long distance trail events) that I’ve always noticed on television when I was younger. I always told myself that those people looked cool. I always knew that one day I would do this too. Last year was the year everything changed. TRC: You were a triathlete and you even participated in the Ford Ironman World Championships. Can you tell

I think we all chase a personal destination. Every day, I make choices considering my availability and that enables me to be simply happy. Today, I’m not ready to say my triathlon journey is finished, but I get more satisfaction and freedom on top of a mountain or on trails in the woods. TRC: What favorite shoes?



JG: I use 5-6 different pairs in rotation depending on the terrain... None in particular! TRC: You once said: “I think that’s what we’re searching for: what are our limits.” As

time with them combining our shared passion. There is also something even deeper with trail running people in Quebec...the community is warm and humble. We feel at home as soon as we meet them. TRC: This year at the Northeast The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miles in United States, you finished third, which was unexpected by many. Did you do specific training | 15

for this competition? What contributed to your success? JG: Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” It’s a question of preparation. If it appeared to be a surprise, it’s because I wasn’t known yet by the trail running community, but in the bottom of my heart I carried the conviction to do well. As preparation, I ran all winter on mountains and on snowshoe trails. I ran about 120km/week. Therefore it wasn’t luck at Bear, but a good first experience in an

TRC: How did you like your experience at the World Running Championships in Poland with David Le Porho and the other Canadian runners? JG: First, I was there mainly for the team. Initially it wasn’t in my plan, but when David and Alister G. proposed that we all go together I thought it would be a really great team experience, so I decided to go along. I modified my plans for the summer to participate - I was even registered for other 2 ultra races (Sky Trail des Écrins and the 6000D).

TRC: Do you do intervals or tempo for your training? Can you tell us what your long runs look like? JG: That’s the kind of thing I could talk about for hours … I like to do intervals, but not without doing volume in basic endurance training. I prefer specific training approaching competitions and a long block of endurance before starting the real season. As for my long runs, it depends on the location and time I have. This year, I did a lot of “shock” weekends with Guillaume Millet. I think it pays to know that your body

It’s a question of preparation. If it appeared to be a surprise, it’s because I wasn’t known yet by the trail running community, but in the bottom of my heart I carried the conviction to do well.

ultra that I had prepared for. The other thing which is hard to explain is a firm conviction in my mind. Whatever you decide to undertake, if you have any doubts, you open the door to failure.

In Poland it was a great experience in which team spirit really improved the adventure. No kidding, we made some good impressions compared to the other teams.

TRC: Do you practice other sports besides running?

Performance wise, considering what the Ugandans did, let’s admit the placing was of secondary importance (they took the top 4 places.) Otherwise, the Canadian team finished in 10th position on the scoreboard, which was the best performance for a while. I was very happy to contribute to it.

JG: During winter, I try to spend some time doing cross-country skiing, which is a good complement to running and I like the speed it provides. Otherwise, since I’m a physical education teacher, I’m interested in all sports.

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interests me, but to go there without any specific preparation would be a mess. I think I’m waiting for the right opportunity. TRC: Would you prefer spend a day with Scott Jurek, Dean Karnazes, Kilian Jornet or another person? Who do you choose and why? JG: Seriously, I just finished Eat and Run by Scott Jurek and I would like to talk to him in person about his life choices and determination. With Dean, it would be for other things. He had a thirst for recognition, attention. I think I would try to know where it all comes from. In the meantime, I’ve been following Kilian in his Quests for a while now so I’d like to spend a training day with him to understand the phenomenon. In fact, with anybody, I’d try to withdraw a maximum of information, that’s for sure! TRC: How do you see the XTrail Asics in Orford this year? Do you believe in your chances to win?

is able to push itself, but we also need to include the key to all training: rest!

JG: The XTrail is a race that finished badly last year. This year, there will be no confusion.

TRC: Would you like to participate in high level competitions like UROC or UTMB? Do long trail races (100 km or more) interest you?

TRC: To conclude: do you have a quote, an idea, or a life lesson that you would like to share with us?

JG: Combining a professional and personal life and integrating that kind of event in a year is not impossible, but it demands tough choices. Honestly, the scale

JG: The only limits that exist are the ones we set for ourselves. /\/

Maxime Lagacé is The North Face Trail Ambassador for Quebec & East.


THE WEST COAST AT ITS RUGGED BEST: Running the Alberni Inlet Trail and Other Local Adventures by Isabel Ostrom | 17

This summer I spent a lot of time at the family cabin on beautiful Sproat Lake, located on the highway to Tofino and close to the town of Port Alberni. Every summer I try to persuade various family members to tackle some epic hikes with me but it is definitely harder to find trail running partners. For this reason, I made a concerted effort to connect with some like-minded locals this year, long overdue. The Port Alberni area is definitely one of Canada’s best-kept trail running secrets. Port Alberni is located at the head of the longest (48k) inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Thanks to the local forestry industry, there is an extensive network of old (and decommissioned) logging roads that open the doors to the back country. Some

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of the best trails are a bit hard to get to in this regard, requiring a mountain bike or 4WD to get to them, but they are well worth the effort. The good news is, there are also some great trails you can get to by car. One such trail is the relatively new Alberni Inlet Trail, which I read about in a local travel brochure. The girl in the tourist information centre looked aghast when I explained that I wanted to run (not hike) the whole thing. Despite the brochure warning that it is a “back country trail and is not without hazards� I test ran the first 4k of the trail alone to see if it actually was runnable. This section of trail starting at Ship Creek Road is mostly sweet, steep, scenic single track snaking through mature forest taking you to an excellent viewpoint of Port Alberni. Satisfied, I returned

to the cabin and made plans to tackle the entire trail the following weekend. On short notice I found a willing local, Greg, to join my husband John and I on a planned 24k out and back. Well, it turns out that after the first 4k the trail gets much more challenging. Down from the Lookout you lose significant elevation only to gain and lose it on a regular basis. Definitely a quad burner. It was a warm day and although most of the trail is in the big trees (yes there are some massive ones) it was a challenge settling into any kind of running rhythm due to the dry, slippery arbutus leaves that covered much of the trail and the steep, rugged sections that describe the local topography. The trail along the inlet is technical single track that

follows an old telegraph line. Although it is a constant up and down you are rewarded with some incredible views, particularly at Lone Tree Point and where the trail turns inland about 4k from China Creek. From here the trail is a little harder to find so you have to keep your eyes peeled for flagging. The end of Stage 1, at the 12k point, spits you out in the middle of nowhere on a logging road - not at China Creek, as anticipated. As we had run out of water and had a very thirsty dog with us we chose to cross the logging road and follow another trail that we spotted which took us through China Creek Regional Park. This was a good choice as the trails in the park are very runnable and wind through mature trees and across new foot bridges that span the scenic creek. By the time

There are other easily accessible and runnable trails in the Port Alberni area and to help me pick the top trails I spoke with two local ultra runners and trail volunteers who blog about their adventures, Jackie Windh and Dave Gilbert. In addition to the Inlet Trail, Dave and Jackie’s top picks include: CNPR TRAIL

This is on an old rail bed from Underwood Cove to Franklin River, south of China Creek. If we had looked hard enough after running the Inlet Trail we would have found the trailhead on the road leading to the marina. While the distance is only about 4k, Dave says it takes a lot longer because there are river crossings (and no trestles). Be forewarned - to drive from Port Alberni to China Creek and beyond is on a logging road.


This trail is approximately 17 km return and you get to it by following the signs to Stamp Falls. The trailhead is on the right hand side, about 500m from the parking lot. According to Jackie, this is beautiful rolling terrain alongside the Stamp River, all on a winding path of hard-packed dirt – and apparently it never gets muddy, even in the middle of winter! It’s a really good choice if it’s raining, or if there has been a lot of rain over the past few days (pretty common in this neck of the woods). Lots of wildlife too.


There are a few ways to access this area, but the main entrance is south of the Visitor Centre off the Port Alberni Hwy (#4), on the left hand side. There are a variety of wellmarked nature trails that can be as short as 3k or can connect with other looping trails to make your run much longer. Dave said he’s run 50k in there! Another trail you can reach in this area the Log Train Trail, which is 25k long and runs along an abandoned 1920’s era railway branch line at the foot of the Beaufort Range.

EXPLORE MORE! Information about the Alberni Inlet Trail:

Dave and Jackie’s blog:

we reached the China Creek marina we had gone 14.5k with over 655m of elevation gain (and about 1400m gain/ loss). Didn’t have enough in the tank to run back. After our run I discovered that the Alberni Inlet Trail is part of the Vancouver Island “Spine” trail network. The Vancouver Island “Spine” Trail is a proposed 700 km non-motorized trail system from Victoria in the south to Cape Scott at the northern tip of the Island. The route

is an inland path that passes near many communities, yet retains its wilderness character, follows historic routes and uses some existing trails. Check it out at /\/

Isabel Ostrom is a freelance writer, trail aficionado and the co-editor of Trail Running Canada magazine Photo credits: PG. 17–19 Isabel Ostrom | 19

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Running Trails Through

by Sasha Brown | 21

When asked about our recent monthlong trip to Iceland, I typically start to stammer and stutter, spitting out strings of unrelated words: “Mountains... trolls... overwhelming... surreal.”

South iceland near Skogar en route to Fimmvörðuháls trail.

Curious icelandic sheep.

When I try to make sense of Iceland, thousands of things come immediately to mind and each competes for favourite moment, scene or activity. Imagine asking an 8 year old about their first day at Disneyland, and you’ll have a sense of what I mean. Writing about Iceland is no different; I start a sentence or paragraph, leave it dangling and unfinished, and start another. When I look at my page however, I see themes of “Surreal”, “Epic”, and “Awesome”; words that are otherwise so overused they are almost devoid of meaning. Never have I been to a place where these words, and the emotions they evoke, apply so perfectly. I love where I live and I am proud of the brilliantly lush rainforest that defines Vancouver’s North Shore. Yet I believe as trail runners, we constantly seek the alpine; it is among the rugged, vast beauty and sweeping vistas that we truly come alive. Imagine the most beautiful alpine you have ever seen, add in a line of single track. Now throw in a few powerful waterfalls, stark black lava, glaciers, and some steamy hot springs. Imagine that this alpine extends for thousands of kilometers and give yourself 24 hours of daylight during which to explore this wonderland. Welcome to Iceland.

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After seeing some pictures in Bike magazine in 2009 (it was the picture of the year), we decided Iceland was a destination we had to explore. Four years later, we planned the details of our trip, ensuring we would spend as much time as possible playing in the trails in both running and mountain biking gear. Our plan included a 3-day guided running trip with Arctic Running, immediately followed by a 3-day mountain biking trip with Icelandic Mountain Guides, after which we planned to explore the varied wilderness on numerous hiking and running trips. Although we had dreamed of it, we were completely unprepared for the extent to which we were touched by Iceland’s powerful beauty. Our first taste was on the 3-day, 100 km (give or take) Dettifoss running trip in the north part of the island. We felt incredibly lucky to be on a running adventure with three or four guides-in-training each day as we quickly learned that in many areas of Iceland, marked trails as we know them are not necessary and almost nonexistent. On day one of our run, from Mývatn to Eilífsvötn, the variety of scenery was staggering; every corner brought new visual delights. In the 41 kilometers, we crossed treacherous lava

fields, complete with caves, crevasses, and sulphuric steam rising from the ground climbed mountains and leapt from thúfur to thúfur. We were especially enchanted with the latter, much to the surprise of our guides. Thúfurs are mounds created by heaving frost, and in English are apparently referred to as hummocks. Running across them requires a bounding of sorts and visually they are striking as they create a barren sub-arctic landscape. Sheep watched us as we ran by, but otherwise we were completely alone in the desolate vast Icelandic wilderness with no trees and no trails. We had never seen landscape like we saw that day as we travelled from the arctic to the moon and to Mars. We finished by the gorgeous alpine-esque lake, Eilífsvötn with a greeting crew that appeared much like an oasis with a kitchen tent. That evening, under the midnight sun, we realized that our first venture into the Icelandic wilderness had provided us with our favourite day of trail running. Ever. That’s quite the compliment to Iceland.

Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Fog rolling in, WestFjords.

Days two and three did not disappoint as we made our way from Eilífsvötn to Dettifoss and along Jökulsárgljúfur, known as Iceland’s “Grand Canyon”, to Asbyrgi. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe; think Niagara Falls without the pavement, gift shops and tourists. From Dettifoss, more waterfalls, impressive rock formations and brilliant greens accompanied us on our journey, as we descended into the canyon, explored caves, saw rivers and glaciers, learned about | 23

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Hornbjarg, hornstrandir west fjords. | 25


Hornbjarg, hornstrandir westfjords.

the unique geology formed by eruptions and ran through more beautifully desolate landscape. We even met trolls who had been turned into rock and are in fact, lava formations that resemble figures in the distance, especially when the fog rolls in and are a big part of local folklore. As if this place wasn’t magical enough. We followed our running trip with a 3-day mountain biking trip amongst the otherworldly beauty of multicoloured Landmannalauger region. There are many trails in this awe-inspiring area to explore, one of which is the famous 55km Laugevegurinn hike, the route of the famous Laugevegar Ultra that ends in Thórsmörk . Though we were on our mountain bikes, and it truly was exquisitely fun, my trail runners felt neglected, and I vowed to them that I would return to provide them with some exercise. The trails would be perfect for running. This

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area has many huts (book in advance), any of which would be perfect base-camps for further exploring other trails in the area. Thórsmörk is an exquisitely lush valley and the end of the aforementioned Laugevegurinn hike (or ultra). The end of the valley is the aptly named Godaland or “Land of the Gods”. Later in our trip, we took the 4-wheel-drive bus to the hut here, an amusementpark like experience in and of itself (regular 4WDs cannot cross the necessary rivers). The hair-raising trip was well worth it, as this might be the most beautiful place I have ever been. These are not words I throw around easily; they must be earned. Godaland and the Thórsmörk Valley provide more sensory overload with three large glaciers looming above, soaring rocky formations, brilliantly green gorges, and icy waterfalls. It is easy to imagine that

Hornbjarg, hornstrandir west fjords.

elves, in Lord of the Rings style, inhabit the area. Godaland is the terminus, or start, as the case may be, of the glorious 25km Fimmvörðuháls hike that starts, or ends, in Skógar. This trail is a must-run from either direction. Most go from Skógar, passing 22 incredible waterfalls, the still steaming Eyjafjallajökull (the volcano that erupted in 2010 shutting down European air travel) and end by descending into the brilliant green Thórsmörk valley. At one point on this trail, I stopped suddenly in amazement, turned completely around and then just start laughing at the absurdity of so much beauty in one spot. Majestic glaciers, ravaged ragged rock walls, vibrantly green valleys and multi-coloured rhyolite mountains were all

within view. Experiences like this are difficult to capture in words, pictures help, but also fall short. A single photograph that contains brilliant greens, stark blacks, waterfalls, glaciers and red mountains, quite simply looks busy and messy; it also looks like a product of photoshop. In person, our brains have this remarkable ability to make sense of things in a way that a camera, or words on a page, simply cannot. Tell any Icelander that you are visiting the Westfjords, and a look of envy will become apparent. The Westfjords are remote, even for those from Iceland, and hold a mystique that is palpable. The uninhabited Hornstrandir peninsula, accessible only by boat, makes a fantastic hiking and trail-running destination (bring your

tent, and all supplies you will need for the duration). Craggy mountains, dramatic cliffs, more birds (including the uber-cute puffin) than you can shake a stick at, brilliant greens, wildflowers and waterfalls are abundant. From Hornvik, the trail to the iconic Hornbjarg, known as Iceland’s most beautiful bird cliffs, rounds out the third (in no particular order) of my three favourite runs. This trail followed craggy coastline, dotted with dramatic waterfalls, before ascending through fields of wildflowers to the plunging cliffs inhabited by thousands of birds. Though we are not birders, it was hard not to be impressed by the numbers of birds nesting in the vertical walls. As we sat above these cliffs, we realized we were in a place relatively few people have seen which made it even more magical.

Running in Iceland has generally become more popular in the last few years. One of the guides postulated that this is linked to the recent economic difficulties faced by the country. Globally, there seems to be some support for the theory that in poor economic times, running’s popularity increases. In the US, for example, running took off in the 70s when the economy took a hit following the Vietnam War and again in 2009 coinciding with that nation’s financial meltdown. Regardless of the reason, it is an exciting time to visit Iceland with your trail runners. Trail running feels pure, fresh and undiscovered in a way I hadn’t experienced before. There is almost no trail running industry in place; in fact, most runners wear road-running shoes and carry water bottles. | 27

LOGISTICS AND THINGS TO KNOW: Be prepared for cold wet weather. We were told this, and were still surprised by how cold, windy and wet it could really be. In fact, be prepared for snowy conditions even in the middle of summer. It is unlikely that you will encounter snow, but you might and you’ll be glad you have the necessary clothing. Bring a GPS and know how to use it. Trails are often only roughly marked, and fog, mist or rain can come in quickly and annihilate visibility. If you like specific fuel, bring it. While the food in Iceland is phenomenal, it is difficult to find gels, energy chews or specific bars. Do your research and book in advance, particularly if you’re visiting in the summer. If there is something you do not want to miss, book it in advance as well. Domestic flights can be purchased for very inexpensive rates when purchased early. Consider a guide for at least part of your trip. In the high-tourist areas there are markers and perhaps enough wear in the ground to resemble a path, but otherwise the routes are true cross country. Without a guide (or three guides, as the case may be), I’m convinced we’d still be roaming the Icelandic wilderness with the trolls and elves. With a guided trip, you are sure to see the most spectacular places as guides are extremely proud of their country and will make a point of showing it off. If you are going in the summer, bring eye-shades for sleeping. Earplugs are also recommended. We were extremely surprised by singing birds ALL NIGHT LONG. Really, they do sing all night. You’d think that would be delightful, right? It is for the first three minutes. Icelanders LOVE their swimming pools. Bring a bathing suit with you everywhere you go and mentally prepare yourself to see speedos.

Technical gear has not yet made its mark in trail running and some seasoned runners don Icelandic wool sweaters WHILE running. To be clear, Icelandic wool sweaters are not the merino tech wear we’ve become accustomed to wearing. And to be fair, these observations are based on the four trail runners we met, but this small number itself speaks to the newness of the sport. We spent many days in the trails during our time in Iceland, and other than the four guides we met, we did not see a single runner. If you go to Iceland, you will invariably spend time in Reykjavik. Explore this amazing city, with its vibrant nightlife, and music scene. If you want to go for a trail run while in the city, do not worry, there are many options. Arctic running offers a guided tour, there are beautiful trails toward Keflavik (the airport), and if you have a car or want to jump on a local bus, the Hveregerdi area is easily accessed and offers an exciting glimpse at geothermal power at its most beautiful. Steaming streams and bubbling mud pots abound. It is a wonderful way to be introduced to the raw power that lies below Iceland’s ground.

about their favourite, most spectacular, trail run. One of the guides asked me this question earlier in our trip, and it has since been everpresent in my mind. I have traveled many continents, and believe that I live in one of the best trail running towns in the world, so it is notable that at least three of my top five trail runs occurred in Iceland. The mythical everchanging landscape, the friendly hardy locals, and the phenomenal cuisine get under your skin, and the feeling of wonderment lingers. We have vowed to return, as we cannot wait to revisit to spend more time in our favourite trails, and explore others. The endless daylight and midnight sun was thrilling, but I cannot think of a better vantage point to experience the magnificent Northern Lights, so will put this on the bucket list. It seems that easily we have more than enough reasons to plan another trip to this wonderland and perhaps next time, I’ll return better equipped to talk about this surreal, epic, awesome place./\/

Landmannalauger and Thórsmörk are accessible with 4-wheel-drive only. Be warned, when they say 4WD, they do not mean a Lexus SUV. They mean a something with a snorkel. If you don’t want to rent one as they are very expensive, 4WD busses are able to get to these locations.

I have been suffering from Iceland-withdrawal from the moment we stepped on the plane to travel home. I have started asking runners

Be prepared to be overwhelmed. I guarantee that you too will be speechless when trying to describe the sensory overload.

Sasha Brown is a trail and ultra runner in North Vancouver, BC. Photo credits: PG. 20–28 Brian McCurdy

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My First Ultra-Marathon


by Z Scott Winston

Squamish50 (#SQ50) was insane. I quite literally could not believe it was reality. Starting out, I felt great the first 10k. Friends were all around me; perfect weather. I felt light and fast. Then the big hill. 15k in I was already wasted: my legs were gone, I couldn't breathe right and I really did not think I’d be able to finish. At 20, nausea settled in, and then my calves, both, simultaneously, completely seized and I fell over in the kind of pain that leaves no doubt in a child’s mind there is no such thing as Santa Clause or even Hanukkah Harry. Then I puked. The first of more. Aid stations offered a lifesaving but short-lived reprieve, but my legs never really came back. Walking induced anger and running made me contemplate cliff jumping. Quads felt like shredded pork and I was pretty sure the devil himself had his fingernails buried inside my calves. An acquittal from the dark side came around 30k when I heard the familiar voice of my friend and recent running mentor Linda Barton calling out my name. She'd been

running the 50 mile course – which had started four hours before my own – and had caught up to me through my trail of murk and shadows. As if resurrecting a man from the sweet release of death she got me focused and for about 5k jumpstarted my humanity. It was enough, and I set her free from the shackles of my sloth at the next aid station and felt that tinge of slight hope returning that I might actually pull this off. At about 40k in I realized I'd be fighting the time cutoff but could just make it if I could get up to a fast enough pace. Then I hit “Mountain of Phlegm,” the frustration of which can only be understood by subjecting yourself to the artistically creative sadism that is this maniacally brilliant course. I actually stopped, looked up, up at the sky and screamed “GARRYYYY ROBINNNSSS!!” How I prayed my curse would at that moment find its protagonist. Right then I broke out into madnesslaughter which was the only thing my mind had left to offer my current situation. I remember thinking, “I will actually trade life in order to finish this before the cut-off.” I gave it everything I had – not if the wretched, rotting, half-

human corpse of the purest most undiluted nightmare was chasing me with a rusted German straight razor could I have pushed harder. I pulled the devil’s nails from my limbs and put them into my brains – all this grey matter just getting in the way anyhow. Enough highvolume profanity to blind a nun, more gel flavoured mouth-puke, and I began getting some much needed downhill and encouragement from wrong-place-at-thewrong-time rock-climbers, far too afraid of my obviously murderous state of mind to offer anything more. I looked at my watch and calculated that in fact I just might have given myself enough to just barely make it in on time. But my math skills are shockingly poor and I didn't dare trust them. It wasn't until I passed an angel-aura’d volunteer who painted my thoughts with gilded diamonds by uttering the simplest of phrases “500 metres left, you made it!”

said I did not at that moment produce tears of glory. Months earlier Gary had convinced me to run my first ultra. I hadn't so much as run single race at that point. An entire season of dedicated preparing, trying, and mostly succeeding, to follow a training program Adam Campbell had graciously prepared for me was coming to this one moment in my life and about to be made real. I made one final turn, I could hear the sound of the finishline emcee and music and I felt the power of the entire universe fill my legs with life. I made it to the finish line at 9:55. The cut-off time was 10 hours. There is no way to describe crossing the finish line of your first ultra except to say it was the greatest single-second experience of my life. Will I be back for more? Do fairy tales run upon the clouds? Yes Gary, yes they do. /\/

I’d be omitting the greatest service to story-telling if I

Z Scott Winston of Vancouver, BC has run one ultra marathon, Squamish 50K and one for 48k over the Knee Knacker course for a training run. He swears he’ll do one again, but for the time being, he’s going to get ready for ski season. He works for Arc’teryx and lives with his beautiful wife, Rae Riggs and their cat, Puck. | 29



Canadian runner Meggan Franks.

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This September, Canada sent a team of mountain runners to Poland to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships. DESPITE this being the 29th year of the race, which is hosted in a different country each year, very few have ever heard of the race, never mind the sport. Mountain running in Canada continues to gain momentum as it grows in popularity, but it still lacks acceptance from the nations governing body of athletics, giving even more meaning to the term MUT (Mountain, Ultra, Trail) runners of such a broad sport. Mountain running, just as the name implies, is hosted on mountain trails around the world with significant climbing and descending, which is where the sport can differentiate from traditional trail running. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), which is the governing body of athletics from track and field, to race walking, and cross country, as well as the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA),

set the regulations for course requirements and athlete standards, including qualification and anti-doping. There are many variations of mountain races over differing distances, terrain, and amount of elevation change. Each year the World Championships’ course style alternates between an “up” course format and an “up and down” course. Races that are mainly up must be in the range of 12 kilometers long and have 1200 meters of ascent for the senior men and 8km with 800m elevation for the senior women. Up and down courses cover similar distances to an up course, but have less elevation requirements because downhill running can be very tough and just as fatiguing as climbing. Last year’s race in Italy was all climbing, meaning this year’s course had to include both ascending and descending.

Canadian runner Mark Vollmer.

The race directors in Poland, while still meeting the format requirements, set up the course a little differently by starting and finishing at the top of the mountain, so runners started and finished with a climb when normally races of this style begin with climbing and finish with descending. This year’s race was hosted at a ski resort on the outskirts of Krynicka-Zdroj, Poland, just 10 kilometers north of the Slovakian border. For the safety of athletes, the course started roughly 400 meters below the summit to allow an uphill start to thin out the pack before starting the gnarly descent. Athletes still found themselves charging down the mountain in a large dust cloud with little room and time to select their footing over the loose rocky terrain. Unfortunately, this fast and hard downhill took its casualties throughout the

races with twisted ankles and other fall-induced injuries. After almost three kilometers down the mountain through a lush forest the trail opened up onto a black diamond ski run where the switchbacks began. A majority of runners were slowed to a hike, hunched over with their hands on knees climbing as quickly as possible. Atop the switchbacks the first aid station awaited with possibly the biggest surprise of the day--carbonated water. It was impossible to find water with “no gas” throughout town and now even the race was serving it. The course then returned to the forest and onto single track trail for the final two kilometers of climbing back to the summit. Lap one complete. For the senior men they would complete this loop three times for a total of 13.5km and 838 meters of ascent and descent. The senior | 31

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Races that are mainly up must be in the range of 12 kilometers long and have 1200 meters of ascent for the senior men and 8km with 800m elevation for the senior women.

women as well as junior men (under 19) completed two laps for a total of 9.08km and 561m of elevation gain/loss. Starting off the morning of races to get the rest of the Canadians pumped up, Mathieu Ladoucer braved the mountain course as the country’s only junior racer. Completing his two laps in perfectly even splits earned him a 57th place finish in his first championships. In the senior men’s race it was nearly no surprise, but still awe inspiring and impressive to see the East African country of Uganda take the top four places with the winners time being 54 minutes and 22 seconds. Canada’s top finisher was Kris Swanson of Tumbler Ridge, BC in 36th place with a time of 1 hour and 55 seconds. Overall the men’s team pulled off a tenth place finish, their best placing at the IAAF World Championships.

with a 44th place finish with Sarah Bergeron Larouche just two spots behind. Almost the entire field finished within a 10 minute period of each other. As a team, the Canadian women had one of their best placing in recent years, and despite competition being at its strongest, they finished 12th out of 17 countries. Off the course the Canadian spirit was just as strong, standing out as a team that stayed together the entire week sharing stories and laughs around the dining table long after other teams had gone their separate ways. The team enjoyed exploring the town, cheering racers as part of the town’s yearly running festival, and partaking in the championship ceremonies waving the Canadian flag proud. If you couldn’t find the team, you could hear them chanting “C – eh – N – eh – D – eh – GO CANADA!”/\/

Meggan Franks led the Canadian women’s team Photo credits: PG. 30-31 Lois Robocon PG. 32-33 Calum Neff | 33

2013 IAU World Trail Championships Race Report by Stacey Cleveland The last few races I’ve done have gone pretty well so I don’t know if it’s pessimistic or realistic then to assume that I’m due for a bad one. If you race often enough, it will inevitably happen even if you’re doing all the right things in terms of training, nutrition, rest, etc. My only hope was that my bad day wouldn’t strike at a big race, like the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World Trail Championships. Fortunately, the stars aligned and I had a good run in Wales to finish 7th in the women’s race. The funny thing is that I wasn’t even aware of my top ten placing until some time after the race when Ryne, my coach and the Team Canada manager, told me, which was great because it meant that I got to run my own race without stressing about my position. The days leading up to the race were pretty relaxed. My travels couldn’t have gone smoother and I arrived in Llandudno, the picturesque host city, on Thursday feeling calm and rested. That evening we had our first team meeting. Our Canadian crew was made up of four women (me, Bev, Stacie and Suzanne), two men (Rob and Sebastien), Ryne and a few family members. It was a great group of people to hang out with and everyone was really nice - obviously, we’re Canadian, eh! Friday was filled with various pre-race activities, including the opening ceremonies and checking out the course;

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and the time flew by. Before I knew it, it was time to organize my race stuff and go to bed. There was plenty of tossing and turning throughout the night but I still managed to get some sleep and awoke relatively well rested. After getting dressed and scarfing down my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with chia seeds and almonds and a cup of black tea, my roommate Stacie and I headed down to the lobby to meet the rest of the team to walk over and catch the shuttle to the race start. Once we arrived at the race site, there was some time to hang out, pose for photos, make multiple trips to the porta potties and do a short warm up and then all teams were requested to line up under their respective flag for the procession to the starting line. The race began on a beautiful historic old stone bridge with the first kilometre on the road and all uphill to the start of the 15-kilometre trail loop that we would run five times. (We would run this short road section at the end of the race too just to punish our quads a bit more.) It was a gruelling start to the race with approximately 900ft elevation gain in the first four kilometers. After the big climbs, the trail was rolling for a bit before a fairly gradual, fast descent. The course was wonderfully varied and challenging, but almost entirely runnable and there

was only one short section of really technical running.

field so we were all proud of our efforts.

Lap one was spent learning the course. On lap two I focused on settling into a comfortable pace. By lap three, I was happy with my position and just cruised along high fiving the crowd and throwing in some airplane arms for fun. I spent lap four wishing that it was lap five and by lap five I was excited to be on the home stretch.

After the race, we were shuttled by bus back to our hotel and had just enough time to get cleaned up before we had to head out for the closing ceremonies and awards banquet. We were all pretty tired after a long day so we didn’t stay long and I was grateful to crawl into bed that night.

I crossed the finish line in 7 hours and 12 minutes and was greeted by my teammates Sebastien and Rob. It felt great to be done and I was happy to hear that the guys had had good races too. Not long after I finished, Stacie came in and we all headed down to the river to soak our legs. Bev and Suzanne also had solid finishes even though both had been suffering with stomach issues for much of the latter part of the race. It just goes to show how stubborn ultrarunners can be! Our women’s team finished in 4th place in a very strong

The next morning we said our good byes as Ryne, Stacie and I caught a train to London for a day of sightseeing before heading back home. It was amazing trip for a number of reasons but what has left the strongest impression on me is the spirit of people everywhere. I was buoyed by the energy of my teammates, my competitors, the Welsh folk and the race organizers, volunteers and spectators. Everyone was bursting with goodwill and it was infectious. /\/

Stacey Cleveland is The North Face Trail Ambassador for British Columbia.

Lost Soul Ultra: A Run Through the Coulees by Bob Nicol Have you ever wanted to experience something that may be a little bit out of your comfort zone, maybe a trail run adventure that will test you both physically and mentally? If you answered yes, this event might be right up your alley. Right in the middle of the prairies is home to one of the most difficult and I believe most unusual foot races in the country. A relatively unknown ultramarathon event called the Lost Soul Ultra located in Lethbridge, Alberta which just completed its 14th year early in September. I had the pleasure of tackling the 100 miler for the second year in a row, other options include the you would think more manageable 50km and 100km distances, but that is not the case. This is an event that hits you with unforgiving terrain, varying temperatures and hills, lots of hills (the website lists the elevation change at 3,600 feet per 53km loop), but I am not convinced I have

a sneaky suspicion that there is more than what they are telling us. The event may be small in number of participants which is done on purpose to maintain that small intimate event feel, it is big in every other department including volunteer support, organization, course layout and flagging, epic vistas and most important in my books the fun factor is off the charts. In the two years that I have run this race, I have seen a number of familiar faces and the support and encouragement from the organizers, volunteers and other runners is second to none. Those that are lucky enough to get registered for this event before it sells out are in for a treat and an experience to remember for a lifetime. This is a run that I would definitely come back to year after year, not only for the ever changing challenging course thanks to Mother Nature and the ever scheming, how

can we make it harder this year‌.oh yes, add more hills, race organizers. But more importantly for the friendships that I have made and hope to continue to make every year I am lucky enough to return. /\/

You can read more of my ramblings and sometimes misguided adventures on my blog at winnipegbarefootrunners.

Bob Nicol is The North Face Trail Ambassador for Saskatchewan & Manitoba. Photo credits: PG. 35 Alan Lam | 35

View From the Front – Aaron Heidt’s Death Race Report by Aaron Heidt I like to plan. I’m a planner by profession. A list maker. A lover of Excel spreadsheets. When I prepare for an ‘A’ race, I develop a detailed training plan. I track everything. I try out many different shoes and fuels to find the items that work for me. I memorize the course, the aid station locations, the food available and I provide my crew (wife, 5-year old son, and 2-year old daughter) with detailed directions on where to be, when to be there, what to bring, how to lay it out and what cues to give me. I know what parts of the course I am going to attack and which sections I will hold back on. So when my wife, Lisa, asked me the night before the race how much climbing the race had and I replied “probably about 12,000ft – you can usually count on 1,000ft for every 10km” she was shocked – “You don’t know???” “No” was my reply, “I didn’t check. But I think the two major climbs are about 5000ft a piece and the rest of the course is flat so I doubt it is over 12,000ft.” (It’s 17,000ft). Lisa’s expression indicated that she was not confident that I was ready. If I was being honest, neither was I. Thing was I broke my right knee on the 21st of April. As breaks go it was pretty tame. A vertical fracture of the patella. Stable. Clean. No surgery required. But it was not part of the plan. The fall occurred on the very run in

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which I was congratulating myself on being in such great early season shape. The break resulted in a week of painful hobbling, a May of road cycling, and a June of finding my running legs again. July is what remained for training. For me, psychologically, the only way to deal with the injury was to put all racing plans aside and to just try and regain fitness. When I did mention the possibility of still racing – to friends, family, or my physiotherapist, who I was seeing weekly – eyebrows were raised. As a result, I had not committed in my mind to racing the Canadian Death Race until the week before. The night before, I still didn’t feel very committed. I actually thought seriously about not starting. But the wonderful thing about running and racing is how simple it is and how, after some time at it, your body and mind know the routine. As soon as the gun went off, I was racing. I wasn’t thinking about my knee. I wasn’t thinking about my lack of preparation or lack of confidence. I was just racing. I break my ultra-racing results into two categories: (1) “managing” races and (2) “racing” races. Managing races are the norm. These are the races where your quads start going on you early and you need to baby them to the finish line. The races where your stomach isn’t accepting the fuel

you’re providing it and you’re trying desperately to figure out how to get calories. The races where the heat is causing full body shut down or the altitude is giving you a crushing headache. In managing races the predominant thoughts are about managing your body to get to the finish line. I like these races. I enjoy the challenge and the problem solving. I learn a lot about how my body works and what my physiological weaknesses are. I even manage to gain the occasional podium in

not dominant. Racing races are where the predominant thoughts are about racing: splits, speed, competitors, and course records. For me, these races might happen once a year. Maybe. But they are a powerful sensation and once a year is enough to come back for more. Race after race. For the Canadian Death Race, all indicators pointed to a managing race: Lack of logistical preparation, short training block, unconditioned quads, etc. etc. etc.

I had not committed in my mind to racing the Canadian Death Race until the week before. The night before, I still didn’t feel very committed. I actually thought seriously about not starting. these races. But I certainly don’t love them. They are not why I run ultras. I run ultras because I love the feeling of racing: Of my mind asking more of my body and my body responding, the feeling of strength despite the feeling of fatigue. I love when the determination of achieving a goal pushes pain and fatigue to the very back of my mind – present, but

When I’m asked what leads to a racing race – What conditions? What preparation? What training? My answer is always that if I knew I would do it every time. Of course, it is slightly simpler than this: Good conditions, lots of preparation, and a large base of race specific training all increase the likelihood of a racing race. The real science is in figuring out

the intricacies of these components. Or so I thought. To be fair, the conditions at this year’s Canadian Death Race were pretty great for me. It started relatively cool and clouded over. The course was wet but puddles that could swallow a horse or small car are apparently standard for this race. As it started to heat up I was descending off of leg 2, Grande Mountain, and as if on cue the thunder clouds started to roll in as I started leg 3. Apparently, there was a crazy storm on top of Flood and Grande Mountain. The 95% of racers that were still on these mountains were hiding under bushes as hail pelted them mercilessly from above. The insanely steep “trails” to get off the

mountain were turned into mud luges. For me it was a pleasant summer shower along a beautifully wooded valley trail, and by the time I started climbing Mount Hamel – the crux of the course – the sun had come back out and the mountain weather was very pleasant. So, I was lucky on the weather front. In terms of race preparation and fitness – things were definitely more questionable. Yet, despite this, as the race progressed and I continued to ask more of my body it diligently responded. This course has some gnarly sections – they call it the “Course from Hell” for a reason. Leg 2 has some of the steepest ascents and descents I

have ever seen in a race. Leg 4 has one of the longest ascents and definitely the most jarring descent I’ve ever ran. Leg 5 is one of the most unrelenting finishes I’ve ever experienced. It is all overgrown and it is all wet. The course also has lots of flat non-technical running that requires real focus to cover quickly and efficiently. Despite this my body didn’t break down during the entire race and was willing to climb harder and push the descents faster, and I managed to clock 5min/km on all of the flat sections of the course. In the end,

I crossed the finish line in 12hours and 30minutes. More impressive, I could still walk the next day and within 2 days, I was hiking in the Rockies with my family. None of the indicators pointed toward this. I’m not really sure why the Canadian Death Race ended up being a racing race and it definitely makes me less certain about how to prepare myself in the future for my next race. I can guarantee, however, that it will keep me coming back for more. Race after race. /\/

Aaron Heidt is a Vernon, BC based elite ultra runner. Aaron’s results include a 3rd place open men’s finish at Trans Rockies, 2nd place at the Tahoe Rim 100 miler, and he is a two time winner and course record holder at BC’s infamous Knee Knacker 30 miler. This was his first time running The Canadian Death Race.

Fat Dog 120 Race Report

The MEC Relay team and Nicola before the 10am start!

by Nicola Gildersleeve I’ll start off by saying that I never wanted to run FAT DOG! I told myself I would never run this race back in 2009 after GPS’ing the last 60km because I couldn’t believe what people had to run after having already run 130km. Two years later I was marking the first 13km of the race and the entire thing was straight uphill. I stated again that I would never run this race. I just thought this course was “too hard” and that you’d have to be crazy to attempt such a thing. Fortunately, I have this issue that when I tell myself I can’t do something I then have to do it. I had DNF’d Western States 100 earlier in the year. I only made it 55 miles, which was a hard pill to swallow. Could I redeem myself at Fat Dog? Do I have it in me to finish 120 miles?

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I went into the Fat Dog 120 with an entirely different attitude. Being such a low key event, I could take a very relaxed approach to it. The only thing that really stressed me out were the logistics, once I finally sat down and got organized. I had 2 incredible people who were crewing for me (Josh Barringer and Shauna Connaugton) and both of them I had spent many hours out on the trails with this year. My employer, MEC North Vancouver, had put together a relay team and I was super stoked to have them down for the race. My partner Peter Watson, manager of North Shore Athletics, is also one of the race directors and it excited me to know I would see him along the course. The day before the race Nicki Rehn and I drove down to

Manning Park. We picked up our bibs and went to the lodge to have some food. There we met a few other 120 mile runners, which got me even more excited to run. Nicki and I drove to Keromeos and prepped our drop bags, caught up with friends, made new one’s, and sat through a fun prerace meeting. Before long we were eating dinner and drinking beer at the best Thai food place in town. I don’t normally have beer before a big event but I figured it would only serve to relax me, which it did. As we walked back to the Elk’s Motel we spotted a cute diner that opened at 6:30am and decided that’s where we would have breakfast in the morning. I woke up at 7am and ran the 3 blocks to the diner. The diner was awesome and

the 80 year old owner was flirty and charming. I don’t normally have coffee, eggs and toast pre-race but with such a late start time (10am) I decided to have something more exciting than the usual oatmeal. We boarded the bus at 9am that would take us to the Lakeview trail head about 30 minutes up a very scenic logging road.

LEG ONE: LAKEVIEW CATHEDRAL - ASHNOLA I took my place in the back of the pack with Kendell Blenkarn, a co-worker of mine from MEC. Before we knew it the bear banger went off and away we went! After a quick 10 second run over the bridge, I was into a power hike which went on for a good while. I chatted a bit with Diane Van Deren who is a North Face athlete from Colorado. It was her first time running in BC and she was such a delight to talk to. A lot of people were hiking with poles and I was wondering if I was missing

out by not having any. I was hiking strong without them and quickly made my way up the pack without feeling like I was moving “too fast”. Early on in this leg I could feel a hot spot forming in my right heel. I couldn’t believe I was feeling something this early on. When I got to Randy and Lori at the Cathedral aid station I asked if they had any kinesio tape I could cover it with but they didn’t. I knew Peter would be at the next aid station and hoped he would have some supplies to help me out. As I ran along the trails in Cathedral park I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in Heaven. I had heard these trails were stunning and stunning they were. I kept telling myself that there was no other place I would rather be than right here running. I was stoked to finally be on the long downhill to Ashnola where I found myself in a pack with 3 others. Towards the bottom I could hear Peter cheering. He had come a little ways up the trail to cheer on the runners. I told him I had some blisters forming but first needed to hit the little girls room. He ran to the aid station to gather some supplies while I did my thing in the woods. When I got to the aid station I was treated like a Nascar racer at a pit stop. Peter cleaned up my feet, then sprayed sticky stuff on them and then once that was dry he covered my heels in tape. While all that was going on, my coworkers from MEC (Dennis and Allison) were helping out at the Aid station. They were quick to fill up my bladder and handed me any food I needed. I found out that I was 6th overall at this point.

LEG TWO: TRAPPER LAKE - CALCITE PASAYTON RIVER BONNEVIER I ran a couple of km’s up a logging road before starting uphill on a single track trail. At this point I had caught up to the guy in 5th who had been walking the logging road section. Not long after I passed the guy in 4th and then I passed the guy in 3rd. All that passing was done power hiking. After a few km’s I ended up running in one of the prettiest sections all day. The trail was surrounded by burned trees and millions of pink flowers. I felt like I was in a video game because the scenery was too unreal. The flagging tape was also pink so you really had to look ahead at where you were going. I got to the next aid station where I saw my good friends from MEC, Dennis and Kendell. It was so great to see folks I knew along the course. I also ran into my good running friend Sara Elias and we chatted a little bit before she flew away as she was part of a relay team. The next section from what I remember was a little boggy and I remember dancing around some wet areas trying to stay dry. Up until this point the flagging was flawless but I came across Sara and another girl who were having trouble seeing where to go. After a couple minutes I found the next flag ahead but later found out a sign and a couple of flags had been messed with. This was the only spot for the entire day where it was unclear exactly where to go. continued on page 46 | 39



The last thing a trail runner wants to do is not run. All too often, training is halted by a pain in the back of the thigh, sometimes that starts out as a little “niggle” but then doesn’t subside as other muscles get tighter and that small area of pain can grow larger and become more debilitating. This pain can be blamed on the hamstring muscles—the group of 3 long muscles that run from the back of the knee up into the sit bone and can cause grief anywhere along their course. Running is the most common reason for these muscles to become injured, and while high speed running causes acute tears of the hamstrings, long distance running is what leads to chronic

overuse or micro-tearing of the hamstrings that can be more of a frustrating injury to deal with. When functioning on a day to day basis, the hamstring

muscles produce more power with concentric contractions, which is the shortening of muscles. However, they do the opposite of that when they are used for running. During the running gait, the muscles become responsible for dissipating forces through lengthening contractions, or contracting eccentrically. This lengthening, or eccentric contractions are more difficult for the hamstring muscles and they would be better used by continuing the shortened or concentric contractions. Thus, they already have a difficult job just by running. Now add to that all the climbs, uneven terrain, unsteady down hills and the distances that accompany trail running and that explains why hamstrings have an even more demanding role. One of the most common mechanisms of hamstring injuries in runners is using them to compensate for another muscle group that is not doing its job properly: the glutes. Often the glutes “shut off” or are inhibited by tight hip flexor muscles. This is called “reciprocal inhibition” and is a phenomenon that can occur in a number of muscles of the body. In trail runners, because the hip flexors are shortened most of the time while climbing steep

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pitches and descending with small strides, it’s easy for them to win the tug of war with the glutes. Research shows that the most effective way to rehabilitate a true hamstring injury is by using eccentric exercises. The most common error with this advice though, is that this type of rehabilitation is introduced too soon or at the wrong stage of rehab and further breakdown occurs. Also, if the hamstring injury is caused by the above phenomenon “reciprocal inhibition”, strengthening the hamstring and overloading it can make things worse! The problem is a “motor patterning” issue, and to address this, the athlete must lengthen out the hip flexor group and “turn on” the glutes to right the imbalance. Because of the damage sustained to the overloaded hamstrings, some specific mobility exercises may be helpful to restore muscle health there too. Now, there can be other injuries that mimic hamstring pain, such as a sciatic nerve injury, or a low back injury that is causing referral pain. and it’s best to have these ruled out by your trusty goto sports injuries expert usually your physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist et cetera. /\/



 good for lengthening AND strengthening hamstring  keeping spine STRAIGHT  lift one leg and hinge forward  reach with opposite hand to ground  keep back flat and hips level and parallel to ground  return to standing by contracting glute and hamstring of planted leg  do 8 reps per side (8 left and then 8 right)

 meant to lengthen the hamstring muscle and break up adhesions from overuse  place a foam roller, softball or lacrosse ball on the back of the thigh, behind the knee  roll slowly up towards the glute muscles, go slowly especially over sensitive areas  don’t roll over bone, stay in the muscle areas



 meant for LENGTHENING the hamstring  feet about 1.5 feet away from the wall and hip width apart  hip, knee and foot are aligned  start with knees bent, then slowly extend, sliding bum up the wall, come back down and repeat the action 10 times, each time getting further up the wall  get ‘sit’ bones against the wall and keep them there to keep a neutral spine, don’t allow the back to curl, or you aren’t stretching hamstrings anymore.

 helps with GLUTE activation- turning them ON  front knee over ankle  back knee under hip, shoulder, and ear  back heel is vertical  posterior pelvic tilt  SQUEEZE glute muscle  2 sets 15 reps per side

Dr. Jenn Turner is a chiropractor specializing in ART and Graston techniques. She is the Director of both Moveo Sport & Rehabilitation Centre and Optimum Sport Performance and

Health Centre. She is the chiropractor for the Canadian Cycling Team. She lives in New Westminster, BC with her husband, who is also a chiropractor and they are expecting their first child. | 41

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Adam Kahtava (Calgary, AB), during the Powderface42, on the Elbow Valley trail switchbacks heading down to the river near Ing’s Mine parking on his way out to Powderface Mountain. Photo courtesy Raven Eye Photography | 43


The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket by Stacey Cleveland There are many reasons why I love my versatile Better Than Naked Jacket from The North Face. Here are just a few of them: FIT – The TNF website calls it an “athletic tailored fit”; I call it just right. I can easily layer a light to mid-weight technical tee underneath it without looking like a sausage in its casing. It’s fitted enough that I can wear it with my hydration pack without having extra material bunching up around the straps. Plus, the cuffs stretch enough to allow me to pull the jacket on or off without having to remove my jumbo, man-sized Garmin GPS. WEIGHT – Weighing in at less than 5 ounces, the jacket provides a surprising amount of warmth and wind protection. It’s an ideal layer for crisp fall morning

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runs or even to pack along for summer outings in the mountains when you might encounter a sudden rain or snow storm, gusting winds or even for sun protection. MATERIAL – Polyester has come along way from the disco leisure suits of the 70s. The polyester in this jacket is wind and water-resistant, reflective, breathable and, thanks to The North Face FlashDry technology, fast wicking. The colours it comes in are fabulous! I have the moody blue and coral orange one and get many compliments on it. My one concern is that the material seems quite delicate and I fear I’ll snag it on a branch. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m clumsy enough that it’s only a matter of time. POCKET – There is only one so if you like to carry a shopping

bag full of accessories with you on every run, you’re going to need to bring your own shopping bag. The small zippered chest pocket can hold a key, credit card, gel or MP3 player. If I’m doing a short run, then I like to travel light so one pocket is all I need. If it’s a long run day, then I’m carrying a hydration pack with extra storage anyway. NAME – Everything from The North Face Better Than Naked line makes me smile. It’s a great name and it’s true. I’ve never tried naked running, but I can only imagine that it leads to all kinds of unpleasant jiggling and chafing. No thanks. I’ll wear this jacket. /\/

The Better Than Naked Short-Sleeve and Singlet by Calum Neff Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Well, why not dress for the speed you want? These tops look fast with their mullet style: business in the front with smart solid colors, and party in the back with speed stripes intimidating anyone you fly by. These shirts have ultraendurance to match the wearer. I wore the short sleeve for the first 12 hours of the Death Race and switched into the fresh singlet, more as a mental boost, to finish off the final leg. Both shirts are designed to work with the jacket for complete moisture and temperature control. /\/

Book Review: Ultra by David Carroll by Isabelle East “Keep the legs moving, keep the legs moving.” This racing advice sounds simple, but will it be enough to get thirteenyear- old Quinn Schuermann through an overnight trail race in which he will run solo, for a full 100 miles - that’s “160 kilometres, half a million strides, 20 litres of sweat, and 1.2 million heart beats.” Ultra, the debut novel by ultra marathoner David Carrol, is based on an unedited interview with Sydney Watson Walters and young ultra marathoner, Quinn Schuermann soon after the Shin Kicker 100 mile race. So, who is Quinn Schuermann anyway? Quinn is an 8th grader who has superpowers! His heart is 20% bigger than normal and his body doesn’t make much lactic acid which means his legs don’t feel that burning sensation as quickly, so he can run longer. Quinn has basically no body fat and his sports doctor deems him the fittest kid he’s ever seen! Quinn does not feel that these super powers make him particularly popular at school, most kids think that his endurance running is just, weird. So, he may not be the coolest kid at school, but he has what it takes to attempt the gruelling 100 mile race in which more than half the starters end up DNF (did not finish).

The story follows Quinn over the trails for a full 24 hours where he meets a wide variety of runners like, Ted: “Dirt Eater’ and cheater, Kara: elite runner and motherly policewoman, Bruce: comical race director and favourite uncle-type, and Kern: the Bandit, who comes and goes like a guardian angel. A cell phone keeps Quinn n touch with his concerned but encouraging mother, his little brother, biggest fan and “pacer”, Ollie , and his best friend (Kneecap). He actually uses Kneecap’s fancy phone as his mom’s “weighed as much as his refrigerator, and was as big as a toaster oven.” The use of simile, metaphor, and hilarious hyperbole, along with the story about the UHL (Urinal Hockey League) and some comedy to a really dramatic story. Oh, and there is even the embarrassing school dance scene complete with name calling; i.e. Quinn being called a “fun vampire”. There are also scenes of fear, sadness, hopelessness, and even wild hallucinations, resulting from the physical and mental fatigue. Even the trail itself adds to the drama. For any runners who have climbed long hills, flew headlong downhill, scrambled over roots, splashed through streams, and gotten horribly lost, the trail itself can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. But one question looms

large throughout: where is the man who trained Quinn, and signed him up for the race - where is Quinn’s dad? Reading this story is much like running a long distance race – you just have to keep going until you reach the finish line where all the questions are answered! My family read this book between completing a trail running series (5Peaks) and getting ready for our family endurance run (Running on Empty – MitoCanada) on the same trails in Canmore. Although our combined effort was almost 100 kilometres (not exactly comparable

to Quinn’s 100 MILE solo), we enjoyed great food, lots of water, singing, and storytelling, we did manage to “keep the legs moving”. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages, but especially to runners, parents of runners, coaches, and teachers – basically anyone with a dream in their “heart” even if that heart is not 20% larger than normal! /\/

Isabelle East is an 11 year old trail runner from Okotoks, Alberta. | 45

Torq Race Fuel by Jonathan Schmidt TORQ fitness company is a British-based company that specializes in fuels for runners and athletes. They recently began offering their products in Canada. They offer a wide selection of gels, bars, powders and supplements for trail and ultra runners. I tested their bars, gels and powders. Fuel is personal for each athlete, as our taste preferences, body types and stomachs are quite individual. Thus your preferences may not be my preferences. Personally I liked the TORQ bars and gels and found them superior to many other products on the market. The bars are much softer than other energy bars on the market, enabling a runner to eat them on the

continued from page 39

LEG THREE: BONNEVIER HEATHER- CAYUSE FLATS At the mandatory meeting in Keromeos on Thursday night we found out we could have a pacer 19km earlier than we originally thought. As this was news to me I had not planned on having one there but I sure was keen on the idea. For some reason hiking 3-4 hours in the dark was unsettling to me. Interestingly, I got a random text on Thursday night from my friend Raj that said, “Are you doing the Fat Dog 120?” “Yes,” I replied.

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go quite easily during a race. Many of us are familiar with taking half an hour to finish off a bar during a race or cold weather, as we gnaw off bit size pieces at a time. The TORQ gels are unique in their creative flavours and taste, which include strawberry yogurt and rhubarb and custard. These flavours do indeed resemble their namesakes and are quite tasty. The TORQ gels also avoid the typical thick gel consistency, preferring instead for a more liquid gel that is easier to consume and requires less ‘choking’ down the gel. Relating performance to a specific gel is a difficult science; however TORQ does claim that their gels and powders have an optimal

“We are camping in Manning for the weekend with friends,” says Raj. “Does Patty (his wife) want to pace me for 19km?” I say. “Let me ask her,” he says. I didn’t hear back until the next day. He told me she was stoked to pace me and I told them to meet me at Bonnevier somewhere between 6pm-8pm. I get to the aid station and immediately sit in a chair. Peter is there and I get him to work on my feet again. The heel tape is still good therefore I have him re-tape one toe and a nail that I grated

carbohydrate blend. The TORQ powder is the TORQ product most similar to other products on the market. The taste was quite similar to various other flavours on the market; however according to the science TORQ claims the 2:1 matodextrin:fructose ratio much more effective than

single source carb formations. If you’re looking for an easier to consume fuel, either in bar, gel or powder form you may want to give TORQ a try, but as with most fuels test it out before a big race. /\/

the other day that seems to be catching on my clothes. I change my socks and shoes and pack my bag to get ready for the night. Sadly, there is no sign of Patty. I then yell out “Who’s coming with me!!!?” but there was no reply. I say goodbye, put on my headlamp and mentally prepare for some long hours in the dark.

minutes before I had to turn on my headlamp. I spent the majority of the climb bear calling, “Eh ohhhhhh.” I can remember thinking to myself that I was moving really strong. The grade of the hill was not too steep thus you could climb at a good clip. The stars were magnificent and I was excited to finally be out of the trees and into the alpine. I kept bear calling “Eh ohhhhh,” but this time I got a reply, “Eh ohhhhh.” I got really excited because I knew that was Peter. He paced me in the last km to the aid station.

I plugged my ear phones in for the first time all day but took them out a minute later as it was distracting me from listening to my body. I could no longer hear myself breathing which was a sound I came to enjoy. I also couldn’t hear the sounds of the night and I wanted to be able to hear those. It would be 45

I was elated to be at the Heather aid station because Peter’s oldest sister and her family were running the show

for the second year in a row. They are best known for their world famous quasadilla’s with avocado and salsa. They literally hike in enough supplies to make 70 of them and I sat down and patiently awaited my own. It was the best thing I had eaten all day and it truly hit the spot. Here I changed into tights in anticipation of a colder night. I was now ready to run the next 20 miles with my pacer Josh. I had run this trail to Cayuse flats a few weeks prior so I knew what I was in for, however it seemed to have more climbing than I remember. The temperature was a little bit colder and all I had to put on was a water proof jacket because I had forgotten my wind breaker. It wasn’t long before I was way to hot and felt like I was wearing a garbage bag. I took off the jacket and back into the bag it went. Then we would have a stretch of downhill and I’d put the jacket back on, only to feel too hot again once I climbed a small hill. I feel like my jacket came on and off a million times and I cursed myself for not having my windbreaker. I was happy when we finally reached the Nikomen aid station. I had been waiting all night for some warm broth and maybe some coke. My stomach had been a little off and I was looking for some easily digestible things to consume. The two boys were camped there with a small fire to stay warm. I sat down right in front of it and asked for some broth. They said they didn’t have any, nor did they have any coke. My heart sank a little in my chest. I settled for a pringle but could hardly stomach it. I filled my bladder and we were out of there pretty fast.

The next section is 16km pretty much all downhill. I was struggling as we started down. Descending is something that comes really easy to me so I knew something was wrong when I was laboring. I felt like there was something jammed in my throat. I pulled out the good old gag technique, which I administered for the first time at Western States in 2010. I told Josh to hold on a second and that he would probably want to plug his ears. The first gag made this horrible sound but nothing came out. The second caused a flood of liquid to dart out of my mouth. “That’s the one!” I said. I instantaneously felt better. In fact, I wasn`t just better, I was ALIVE again!”. I instantly became super chatty and was so happy to be able to eat properly again.

before and the advice Josh gave her was to make sure I was eating.The 8km trail over to Cascades aid station wasn’t easy. The hills were steep and although they were short they just seemed to keep coming. As we were going up a steep hill she suggested that I eat something. I think the crankiness was starting to creep out of me because I responded with “You Fu#$ing eat something!” Josh and I had been running relatively quietly all night, chatting now and again. Shauna on the other hand, seemed to be pretty damn excited to be running and was really chatty from the get go. For some reason it was really irritating

me. Here I was working through this nasty section of trail and being asked a million questions. At one point I just stopped answering them in hopes that the noise would stop only for there to be another question or story. I kept thinking to myself “she just won’t shut up!” “How is she still talking!” Eventually I think I just told her to stop asking me questions as I was struggling a little bit and could not respond. We’ve since joked about all of this and I know she won’t feel offended when she reads it. Love you! I was elated when we got to the Cascade aid station. It was no longer dark and I

Pacer Josh and Nicola on their way to Bonnevier.

We run down the hill, only stopping for pee breaks which seem almost too frequent. I figured peeing too much is better than not peeing at all though. The downhill section seemed to go on forever and eventually we get to the lower section where it widens out. I know from here it’s about 5km to Cayuse Flats aid station but it’s undulating and I was walking a large chunk of it. I want to run but its hard after gravity had been pulling us downhill for so long. Finally we reach the turn off to the aid station. I was stoked to cross the river on a giant log that was lit up with glowsticks.

LEG FOUR: SILVER SKAGIT CASCADES - SUMALLO SHAWATUM - SKYLINE I said goodbye to Josh and picked up Shauna, one of my best friends and running partner from back home. She had never paced anyone | 47

I was ecstatic to reach the Shawatum aid station. To my surprise, my good friend and co-worker Allison was there waiting for me. Allison is a nurse and she took great care of me. Apparently, I had turned into a zombie that just spoke two words: Coke and Broth.

felt invigorated from the light of day. The very first thing I did was brush my teeth! The bottom of my left foot was feeling pretty sore/tired and I thought about changing into brand new (never worn) shoes but I feared the stiffness would prove to rigid for my heal blister and it was. I grabbed some potatoes and drank a bunch of broth and coke. Shauna and I had 3 km’s to run to the next aid station where I planned on taking a longer stop. Summalo was an aid station I knew well because I had volunteered at it the first year. From what I remember the next 30km or so were pretty flat. I changed out of my tights and back into my shorts, put on a new sports bra, changed my t-shirt, and put on a new old pair of shoes. Changing shoes (and socks) felt really good and the soreness in my foot was nonexistent afterwards. We had 15km to go to get to the next aid, which we

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found out later was just to a water drop not a major aid station. The major aid station, Shawatum, was a few more km’s along the trail. I foolishly had stopped eating prematurely in anticipation of real food (coke and broth) at the station and started to get really deflated when the aid station just never came. I kept wondering if we had missed it because you have to detour off the trail out to the road. Had we missed the turn-off? We were on this flat section and you could see for a ways ahead and the aid station was no where in sight. I was getting pretty deflated to the point that I tilted my hat downwards to hide the flow of tears that were streaming down my face. Once I realized I was being an idiot by not eating I shoved some honey stingers down my throat and that perked me up and carried me along, tearless, to the aid station. The bugs were terrible and although they didn’t bother me, poor Shauna was being eaten alive.

We had to run back out to the trail and it was another 15km to the Skyline aid station. I knew if I could just get there and make it out that I would get to the finish line. Once you leave that aid station there is nowhere to drop out except at the finish! The 15km was hard and it seemed to just go on forever. The trail had way more short inclines that I remember and the Centennial trail is really uneven and it took a lot of energy out of me when I attempted to run. I was definitely experiencing a low point and I walked a lot more than I should have. Every once and a while I would take a deep breathe and find the energy or mental fortitude to run but it wasn’t coming easy. My good friend Tom Skinner was working at the Skyline aid station and I was stoked to finally get there and see him. Tom is a big red bull drinker and I was really hoping he would have a stash in his truck. My eyes were feeling really tired and I needed something to pick me up and give me wings! I parked myself on a cot in their mosquito tent and asked Tom if he had a Red Bull, which of course he did. I drank the half a can he gave me and asked for another. I saw an orange on the food table and for the first time all day that seemed really appealing. I downed the next Red Bull while Tom filled up our bladders and I packed my

bag with fuel for the next 20 miles. I anticipated the next leg to take about 8 hours considering we had 2000m to climb over that distance. I packed poles for this section but as we climbed up it was hard to tell whether they were helping or hindering. The bushes are narrow on the trail and I found the poles getting caught often by brush. I eventually put them away. The climbing felt slow going. I tried to stay as positive as possible and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I did a lot of deep breathing on the way up. I have done this climb many times and I knew exactly what was before me. I was doing this. I was going to cross that finish line. I was going to be a FAT DOG. I was even second place overall! It wasn’t long before we were at Camp Mowich, the 2nd to last aid station. Peter’s good friend Grant was hosting the aid station once again and he greeted us with cow bells and cheers. It was the perfect spot and they had the perfect fire to warm us up. “Grant, do you have any Broth?” I asked eagerly. “Yes, it’s warm, let me get you some.” To my surprise, Jeff Humble came in and was out of there before us. I had not seen another 120 mile runner since Bonnevier, which was like 110 km’s earlier. Grant and his friend Darren hooted and hollered as we walked away from the aid station, leaving me all smiles. Without saying a word to Shauna, I was now was on a mission to catch Jeff. We caught up to Jeff pretty fast as we seemed to be running the downhills a little bit faster than him. I squatted

down to pee at some point before the last aid station and felt this horrible tightness just below my knees. As I got up I noticed that area was swelling a little bit. I was a little freaked out and just hoped it would not cause the last 10 miles to be painful. The trail here is quite narrow and one slip meant you could tumble far down the slope. I didn’t see it as an issue as I feel very comfortable on this type of terrain. I wonder what runners thought about that section in the dark where you could not see the consequences of a fall...hmmm We finally reached the Sky aid station where Randy and Lori were volunteering. Dave Melanson, one of the filmers, ran out and greeted Shauna and I and informed me that they had Red Bull (something I was longing for) and all sorts of other goodies. Jeff came into the aid station right after us and I split the Red Bull with him. Lori offered me a banana, something I had not had the entire time but all of a sudden sounded like heaven on earth! I responded with an enthusiastic and drawn out “Yeeesssssssssssssss”. There was 8 miles to go and I loved knowing we were so close to the end. The next 4 miles were hard as we had to climb and descend 5 mini mountains. Since I had done it before I knew exactly how hard it was going to be and was ready for it. Jeff was hot on our heels but once we started down the final descent into lightening lake he was not in sight. I was confident we were going to finish in 2nd, which was something I was becoming more and more proud of as we ran. The 2 mile descent was

punishing and although we were moving at a descent clip, I was wanting it to be over. I knew there were only 3 or so km’s to go but I was letting negative thoughts creep into my head. My mind was telling my body “You are tired”, “Your knees hurt”, “How are you going to run 1.5km flat to the finish?” I decided to try and shut it out with some music but when it didn’t work I put the iPod away. We ran our way around the lake and only stopped to walk when there was an incline. I had stopped eating miles before and I think I was mentally suffering because of it. The greatest moment was when I could see the Mountain Madness arch on the other side of the lake. I was so close now! I could hear my name being cheered from across the lake. The first thing I heard was a cheer from Peter’s nephew Tyler, “Go Nika”(Nika is a name Lucus, Peter’s youngest nephew gave me because he could not say my proper name when he was young). What proceeded was one of the greatest greetings I have ever had coming into a finish line...E.V.E.R!!!!! Peter had ridden out to meet me and gave me a kiss before I finished on the last 100 meters. People had chalk written ‘Go Nicola Go’ on the ground in multiple locations. Friends and family were standing before the arch to give me high fives. The volume of the cheering was just bananas! The sun was setting and the sky was a bursting with color. I have never felt so much love and I won’t lie, after being out there for 33 hours and 47 minutes, it felt really nice.

A mile or so before we finished Shauna was telling me how anticlimactic she thought this finish would be compared to when I finished Western States. I had to disagree with her because although there are more people at the finish line of Western States, I hardly knew any of them. At Fat Dog, I knew MOST of them and that made the finish all the more special. These folks were friends, co-workers, family, and wonderful people I have met over the years that belong to our running community. Thank you to everyone for making that moment for me. Fat Dog is an AMAZING race. The people who volunteer for this event are amazing. There are too many volunteers to thank so I’ll just thank Mountain Madness! The course is challenging. This race will make you dig deep and go to places mentally you don’t normally go. The course is absolutely stunning. DO THIS RACE!!!!!! The accomplishment is worth it!

I was so lucky to have 2 of the best pacers in the world. At one point I told Shauna I wanted to go home and she said “Nicola, you have run 100 miles, you can’t quit now”. She was so right. I never thought about dropping out again. This race really was a team effort for me and I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thank you! Thanks to my sponsor La Sportiva for all your support and for giving me amazing shoes to run in! I finished with only one minor blister. I still have all my toenails and none are black! The Crosslites really are the best shoe for my feet! Also, thanks to Petzl for making wonderful headlamps. The MYO XP is a great headlamp for night running. After the race I said I would never do it again. A couple days later I am already rethinking that! Next up, HURT 100!!!! /\/

Nicola Gildersleeve is a competitive athlete for La Sportiva with plenty of first place finishes to her name. She trains and lives in North Vancouver, BC. | 49

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