ultra race recap & running adventures
to say my excitement and inspiration in the trail and ultra running space has grown these past few months feels like a complete understatement. through the ups and downs (quite literally), endless hours of training and past races, these experiences have continued to fuel a fire and create an even greater passion for the sport.
in the beginning of june I completed my first ‘official’ trail race, enjoying a cruising 23km in canmore. two weeks later I ran my first 50km ultramarathon on similar trails in canmore and most recently raced a 52km ultra in fernie, bc. all of these races have been incredible experiences that have allowed me to witness beautiful landscapes, learn new lessons, be in awe of what my body and mind are capable of and also be totally humbled and inspired. I thought it would be fun to recap my races from the season up until now as each race has offered new insights and experiences and have also just brought me so much joy.
FIVE PEAKS 23km TRAIL RACE- Canmore
this race was a bit of a last minute, ‘sign up on a whim’ type of event. preparing for my first ultra, I evidently had some nerves leading up to the big run. training in the flat prairies and with little time to make it out to the mountains, I figured going for a 23km run at the canmore nordic centre two weeks prior to my 50km would help alleviate some of the pre-race nerves while also giving me a chance to get out on some of the same trails that I would be racing on for my ultramarathon.
the day started out grey and overcast with threats of rain, but ended up being a perfectly cool morning, with tacky trails and fantastic racing conditions. I didn’t go out with any other intentions than to run by feel, get motivated for my ultra and have fun. the atmosphere and community were incredibly inviting and it made me so ridiculously happy to be back racing after taking some time off from previous races/half marathons due to health, travel and other priorities.
from the time we set off and then running in from the first loop I continued to feel strong and kept pushing. the course was incredibly runnable and I really went out there enjoying every moment. I ended up placing first female overall, but actually had no idea until the race director called it as I crossed the finish line. ultimately the day was just such an incredibly fun experience and really built on my excitement for my 50km in two weeks time.
RUNDLE’S REVENGE ULTRAMARATHON- Canmore
returning back to canmore for the rundle’s revenge 50km all of the excitement and nerves were coming in fast. I definitely felt less pre-race jitters from racing two weeks ago, but I also knew I was entering into an entirely different experience. I had been training and preparing for months leading up to the event and was stoked to race, but like any runner would tell you, sometimes the anxiety of wondering if you ‘did enough’ in terms of training can creep in. either way I wanted to focus on my goal of running strong, pushing myself, but also listening to my body and honouring the experience - all while being stoked to simply be running along such beautiful trails in the mountains.
honestly, racing along the trails I felt like a little kid stupidly grinning ear to ear for the simple fact of getting to be out there. this was probably mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t made it out to the mountains much in training and could finally play around on such fun trails in the rockies. like any ultra there are the inevitable highs and lows, but for this race I felt particularly strong for a majority of the race and just kept running with it - literally. one thing I struggled with in training was dialling in my nutrition intake and that was certainly prevalent in this race, but even with some stomach issues I kept thinking to myself - ‘I may feel slightly nauseous but my legs feel strong and I’m running with my legs’. continuing to hone in on that simple reminder and focus on the strength in my legs certainly help propel me forward in a more positive mindset.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were a few times cruising on the downhills, feeling so lost in the joy of it all that I let out a few ‘hoots’ just for having the opportunity to be out there. but let’s also be real, a few short moments later I also had a random nose bleed, running with kleenex stuffed up my nose and tripped on a root, falling right on my face, banging up my knee, and scrapping my arm up. the highs and lows, right?
with around 7 kilometres left I continued pushing forward and told myself to really focus on my stride, thinking the exhaustion that was starting to kick in left me a little out of sorts. running across the finishing line I felt exhausted, strong, and so incredibly happy to finally have completed my long awaited goal of finishing my first ultramarathon. coming in as the 1st female and 6th overall was definitely exciting, but nothing in comparison to the feeling of joy that came from working consistently towards a goal for so long, getting out of my comfort zone and pushing limits - all while being out in the beautiful rocky mountains.
ELK VALLEY ULTRA - FERnie, British Columbia
finishing off from rundle’s revenge, I knew the elk valley ultra was going to be a whole other beast in itself. a 52km race with over 2800 metres of elevation gain, this high vertical course was definitely going to be my biggest, most challenging run to date. racing rundle’s revenge a month prior, I only ran a handful of shorter days in between as I was nursing an oncoming injury of plantar fasciitis. switching over to more low impact movements such as cycling and also foam rolling the hell out of my foot arch, I felt anxious with my lack of running prior to my biggest event and if it was even smart to go out there to begin with. taking it easier in july, my foot pain began to subside and I felt good about my decision to race. even with a fear from my lack of running and minimal vertical training I knew it was go time!
toeing the start line for our 6am start, I was happy to get up early to avoid the oncoming heat of the day high in the mountains. similar to my last two races, it seemed all the pre-race jitters vanished the second I actually began running. now it was simply time to run, enjoy a beautiful day out in the mountains, have fun, push limits and celebrate the months of hard work, consistency and effort that brought me to this day.
right from the beginning we were graced with a steep climb up mount fernie, boasting over 1400m of elevation gain. a quick and easy way to get the heart and legs pumping, it was also a breathtaking way to start the day as the rising sun shone over the valley. continuing into the first aid station I felt strong and excited, having completed the longest climb. refilling water and grabbing a few slices of watermelon I continued moving forward knowing that the longest climb was finished but the steepest was still to come.
with pre-race nerves of having not trained enough for the steep climbs I was happy to feel as strong as I did on the ascents. while the vertical was horrendously challenging, I was able to make good time and gain momentum moving forward. there was something so amazing about just putting my head down, struggling through the pain and continuing to move forward. I wish I could say the same on the downhills, however I found my pace slowing waaaay down and struggling to adapt to the harsh pounding on my quads during the steep descents. this is something that I definitely look forward to practicing and getting into a better groove of as I continue ultra running.
as the race carried on, I was awe of the course with its high mountain running, dreamy single track, old growth forest and beautiful surrounding landscapes. coming into the third aid station I felt relatively good, trying to stay hydrated, taking electrolytes and eating watermelon and a handful of salty chips before moving on. I felt excited with 13 kilometres left and having finished the majority of climbing, however, around kilometre 40 that all changed. the last 10 kilometres may not have had the steepest climbs, but it was enough of a gradual climb to completely exhaust me. at that point I had giving it my all and needed to continue doing so. I had to keep reminding myself what a rad experience this all was and that everything was coming together because I chose to go out, push myself and see what was possible.
as I continued moving forward, running down from the trails and into town along the river it was all coming together. my body was totally exhausted, but I was doing it. looking down at my watch as I was coming in along the river I was surprised to see I would finish in under 7 hours. I had no clue what to expect with taking so much time off prior to the race and being my first big vertical mountain run, but I was really happy to come in giving it everything I had and finishing in a time below what I previously thought was possible. crossing the finish line 6 hours and 55 minutes later, I completed my biggest race to date coming in 12th overall, 3rd in open women’s and the 4th overall women. honestly, I was really stoked and surprised by the outcome. but similar to my last races, this was so much more than any time, pace or placement. the real reason I continue to feel so much excitement for these races are for the experience of getting to run in such beautiful landscapes, push my limits, and simply be outside - because at the end of the day I truly believe that is what trail running is all about. and while still relatively new to the sport, I am still in complete awe of the lessons, humbling experiences and joy it continues to bring me. I feel like this is only just the beginning of more adventures, mountain trails, new connections and more trail friends to come!
MORE RUNNING GOODNESS
speaking of move adventures.. after the elk valley ultra it was time for a vacation and time off work to keep playing! stoked on the sunshine, mountains and getting outside as much as possible, majell and I hit the road to essentially be running bums for the coming week ahead. having just finished the toughest run I’d ever done, I wasn’t sure what my body was capable of, but we kept referring back to having an ‘active recovery’. at that point, I never anticipated our active recovery to include a full week of over 160 kilometres with just about 10,000m of elevation fuelled by a constant thirst to keep exploring and running new trails. from fernie to rossland, up through the valley into nelson, back down towards creston, up through radium and coming back in through the rocky mountains in banff, we ventured throughout bc and alberta. sleeping in the back of the van, jumping in all the fresh river water as possible, indulged in bulk bags of rice, oats, canned beans, 3 jars of peanut butter, and a ridiculous amount of bananas, and all the while keeping the stoke of getting outside alive. to say we became total dirtbags, living incredibly simply, tiring out our bodies, but living so presently and full of positive and stoked energy would be a total understatement. we finished an epic week of trail running, road tripping, and exploring with sore legs, smelly feet but incredibly happy souls and grateful hearts.
these past months of training, racing, and exploring new territories has been full on in the best of ways. the consistency and dedication to training, discovering and opening up to new sides and lessons within the sport, moving through periods of trial and error, connecting with wonderful people from all over, and ultimately getting to spend time doing what I love most - being out in nature, moving my body, pushing limits and uncovering a gracious amount of joy and gratitude for this incredible life we get to experience.
I feel so inspired and on fire to continue fuelling these passions and I can’t wait to see where my two feet will take me next…