Monday, January 19, 2015

2014 Gore-Tex Transalpine Run: Stage Four

W32km / 2000m ascent (6,560 feet) & 2400m descent (7,872 feet)

Our personal chauffeur (Trent) loaded us up and we hit the road by 7:10am to make a 25min drive down the valley to Prettau, Italy.  Prettau is literally the “end of the line” in this valley because the road ends and then you are surrounded by nothing but high, beautiful mountain passes. 

Today’s route started with a steep climb within 200m from the start.  The climb basically continued for the next 11km before hitting an altitude of 2,513m (8,300 feet) as we crossed the “Bretterscharte” ridge in howling winds and super duper unpleasant temperatures.  It was cold and snowing.  The amazing views, however made up for the freezing body parts.

From here the trail descended for 6km into feed station #2, hitting the 17km mark of the stage.  The sun did come out around 11am and stayed out, on and off until the finish.  Runners had another steep 5km climb out of feed 2 before starting the largest descent of the race so far totaling 12km and over 5,000 feet, dropping into the town of Sand in Taufers.


- There were croissants served at breakfast.
- Grateful for our own form of transportation this morning.
- It was so nice to climb right off the start instead of being on pavement.
- The snowy mountain pass was an absolute highlight for both Carrie and me.  We bundled up, got our climb on and suddenly we were at the top of this incredible out-of-the world ridge.  Too bad our lips were purple and we couldn’t feel our hands.  Otherwise we might have stayed up top to enjoy it a bit longer.  (I wish I had a photo of Carries babushka).
- Stomach issues again today for me.  Found another good use for K-Tape.  Oh! And I used the washroom at a hut again.
- People in the middle of the mountains playing instruments.  Tuba, drum and horns.  It was RAD and so motivating and appreciated.
- 50% of the course today was downhill and I just have to say how proud I was of Carrie.  She was on my heels for both descents totaling 18km + almost 8,000 feet.  She just flew and made it look so easy :)  People coming off the first ridge were literally walking; sliding on their butts and some people looked terrified.  Equally so for the first part of the 2nd descent.  We just made it fun, focused on good form and let gravity carry us into the finish line. 
- Can’t say enough about my husband.  He is so helpful and supportive and again today he showed up in the middle of nowhere on his bike to greet us and lift our spirits.  Today he was out and about and up and down all sorts of roads and passes for over 4hrs.  I am glad the weather cooperated for him to get in a solid tour today.

2014 Gore-Tex Transalpine Run: Stage Three

Neukirchen Loop - the stats
28km / 1300m ascent (4,264feet)

Last night we took a gondola up to the top of a mountain in the rain. Best Spaghetti ever! The lodge had wood beams with little booths. There would have been views had of not been so socked in. Everyone sat together and we made friends with some folks from the Netherlands bonding over the news coming in about the potential changes for the next day. With heavy snow falling on the mountain passes it was uncertain if we would be able to run the planned route into Italy. By the time we woke up they had created a completely new course to ensure safety as the result of the heavy rains and snowfall at elevation and adjusted the start time to 10am. They even created options for drop bags and they chartered buses to drive 600 runners 3 hours from Austria to Italy.  


- We had a great sleep.
- Kinesio tape was our friend.
- We used a blow dryer to dry out our drenched gear.  Unfortunately it didn't eliminate the cow shit embedded in the fabric.  Let's just say my Salomon's won't be on the plane ride back to Canada.
- Kept our strategy the same. Basically Run our own race, minimize stress and stay in the game as more teams drop daily. 
- Saw two goats today. Made me think of my son Carter. I miss him so much.
- course was beautiful. No mountain peaks but quality single track, bright green mossy forests and I think just being on more single track made it more fun.
-  the drive today was a new adventure. We had our own private driver (a.k.a. same sexy guy we saw on the road bike yesterday) to escort us from Austria to Italy where we drove thru a beautiful valley and National Park.
- doing what you need to do sometimes. Like taking the toilet paper we shoved in our shoes to help dry them it out and use it for our road side "pit stop".
- we have made trail friends from all over the world people you end up leap frogging with and we really appreciate them. They are like a pep talks. Rays of sunshine. They make you forget how much your legs hurt even if just for 45sec.
- last but not least drinking wine and eating a whole pizza to celebate our first night in Italy. It is a vacation after all... 

2014 Gore-Tex Transalpine Run: Stage Two

50km / 1850m (6,000ft) ascent and 1620m (5420ft) descent making today’s stage just slightly longer but with more climbing than yesterdays stage.  Oh.  And just as much mud.

Conditions were dry but overcast leaving St. Johann this morning with an early 7am start.  That meant we were up at 4:45am and eating breakfast at our guesthouse by 5:00am.  Conditions remained cool until around 11am when the rain started.  It came on fast and picked up to pretty much a torrential down pour within 10 minutes.  Carrie and I stopped, peeled off our wet shirts, put on our merino wool tops, gloves and jackets.  Almost instantly a river of rain was pouring down across our feet as we started the main ascent of the day.  Rain continued until we finished and into the evening

The stage started off with pretty much 30km of flat running with a mix of pavement and forestry road.  It weaved through a few towns or villages along the way.  The stage ended with a 10km ascent and 10km descent into Neukirchen, Austria.  

 “This is your 26th stage.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.  You always are.”  These were the words my husband whispered into my ear as Carrie and I got in line for our gear check this morning

I woke up feeling nauseous and could barely eat breakfast.  As we lined up in the B gate this morning I was burping, hoping nothing else would come up.  I was also feeling particularly tired.  Partially from stage one which beat me up more than I hoped and also due to the fact that I hardly slept the past few nights.  Last night found me standing in the hallway of our guesthouse knocking on the door of our neighbor who had his TV cranked to a Spanish channel until 10:30pm.

Today was one of those days that is hard to articulate without coming across as whiny or dramatic.  I will attempt a quick summary to keep this read light and more entertaining than I felt.

- 6km in I crossed to the dark side.
- I became quiet which I suppose if you ask Carrie she might say was silent.
- Then this sexy guy (Trent) in a pair of “tight shorts” came rolling up the hill on his bike.  For a glimpse of time I forgot about my pain.  This happened 2 more times only on his 2nd visit I almost crumbled on the side of road.  Sigh… not sure which is harder.  The way I felt or admitting the way I felt.
- Then the walking kicked off.
- And we walked some more until we hit a “crap festival”.  For real.  We used those exact words for over 25k of today’s stage.
- Also indicative of the crap I took inside a café at 22k, which was followed by a little cry and then the decision to carry on.  We referred to this event as the three C’s.
- Then we came up to a mountain and it was as if a switch went off because I think we passed at least 50 people who were dabbling around the mud and waterfalls that were on the trail and Carrie and I said “honey badger don’t give a shit about mud and waterfalls.”  So we hammered
up this do-dab-dib.
- The “crap festival” hit it’s peak at the top with kilometers of ridiculous mud and rock trail that was un-runable.
- Then it rained harder.
- Then our hands froze.
- We ate candy to dull the pain.
- On the last muddy, steep, knee and hip smashing descent we played the alphabet game to things that are warm as in “Arizona”, “Blanket”, “Coffee”.
- Carrie and I lost track of time and just pushed on to the finish.  I am fortunate for such a great husband and running partner.  Truly, there support made all the difference today.
- We celebrated by standing in the fountain with a beer and then proceeded to roll, stretch and rub Hagina all over our bodies with the high hopes that tomorrow might be a little brighter.


2014 Gore-Tex Transalpine Run: Stage One

The starting stage of the Gore-Tex® Transalpine-Run was a whopping 49.5 kilometers (let's just call it an ultra and move on), making it the second longest stretch of this years’ event.  The stage started off with rain in Ruhpolding, Germany, as runners made their way to St. Johann, Austria (near Kitzbuhel).  The course crossed over the Chiemgauer Alps & the famous Winkelmossalm, covering  1670 m ascent (5, 478 feet).  Wet and very muddy conditions made for a challenging and long day & many teams (unfortunately) didn't make cut offs.


 - it only rained for 3hrs out of our 6:50hrs.
- we decided to break the run into five 10k races for "fun":
     1st 10k.   Sun Run - it was pouring out.  Vancouver inspired;
     2nd 10k.  Color Run - not sure really.  Probably because we would never actually run one;
     3rd 10k.  Oliver - thinking it's always hot in Oliver.  Surely, the sun would come out.  And it did;
     4th 10k.  Tough Mudder - we ran in more mud than I have ever ran my whole life;
     5th10k.   Terry Fox - he inspired us to bring it home.
- my husband.  He has the toughest job looking after us gals and seeing his smiling face at the aid stations on top of all the work he is doing for us was the #1 highlight of my day.
- singing "old time rock & roll" for Carrie's husband Nathan who was starting his 50k journey back in Canada this morning.
- for finishing.  Especially when 20k in my legs got sore.  That's what happens when you nurse a dancing injury 7 weeks before a race like this and hardly run.  It was a walk/run to the finish line but my partner and I finished smiling and proud.
- not one of us, but both of us squatting in stinging nettle when we went pee.  Good thing our legs and knees were so sore that we hardly noticed our stinging butts.
- post run cold water leg shower.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Excitement Builds for 2015

Thank you to all my friends, family, sponsors and PACE athletes/supporters for a truly remarkable 2014. Although it wasn't at all what I expected or planned, it was unique. It surprised me and tested me in a whole new way. And as difficult as some moments were, I wouldn't change a thing. I love my life and it motivates me to inspire, share and give back more each year.

Freedom and change are in the air and I expand my boundaries for the New Year. I am ready to discard old ideas. I am excited to help others. To meet new people. Embrace new experiences.

I chose this photo to start off 2015 because it shows how I can still move forward, towards my desired feelings and goals... even when things get tough.

"Underneath it all, we are wild and we know it." - Reggie Ray

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Alps are Calling! Listen Within...

Just a wee follow up to my last blog post about my big ol' dance move injury...

Long story short, I have decided to give TAR a go this year.  Again, I am not naïve to the fact that me finishing may take a bit of miracle... but I am not afraid of a DNF, nor will my life crumble into pieces if I have to pull out.  My approach is practical.  Grounded and open minded.  My love for this race and the Alps is so deep even 1 or 2 days in the Alps is better than zippolah.  

There were many factors that came into play in my decision making process.  Ultimately it came down to my rehab progressions and the incredible team of professionals I worked with who helped me. And I feel very fortunate to have such a supportive and understanding running partner and husband who are equally a big part of this journey too.

I want Carrie to have the opportunity to finish, even if I can't.  She has worked hard at her training and deserves the chance to give it her best shot.   

My hubby. He is excited to ride his face off in Germany, Austria and Italy while we run. He has been training all summer for this. It's not a race. Just a dude who loves to ride his bike, drink quality espresso and zippity do-Dah through the Alps in his own fashion. (Which for him means as much climbing as he can fit in a day.  Have seen some of the passes in these neck of the woods?)

I also have a job to do this year.  I am representing the race as the Canadian Media Liason and I will be reporting back to my fellow Canadians and media outlets on the day-to-day process of this stage race.  Not to mention I am excited to write an article for TrailRunning Canada upon my return.

You see... uncertainty is one of the best parts of racing.  Not knowing the outcome often contributes to the good ol' pit of anxiety going into a race but if we already knew, it wouldn't be as exciting or as rewarding.  

I am outside of my comfort zone with this injury but it's okay. It reminds me I am growing and learning and living.  Maybe this is part of something bigger for me.  Not necessarily from a success perspective but deeper than that.  More personal. 

Ah, heck!  Life is good!  I am off to Europe for my 4th year in a row and will be running with a very close friend, have my hubby along with me and we will be in an environment that is one of the most beautiful in the world. I let go of my fear of the unknown and just trust in the process of life. I have done my best to rehab and prepare my hip and well... Ya never know!  We will all have to wait and see how it unfolds.  At the very least... I can predict I will enjoy the cheese, gelato, beer, wine... the same no matter what happens on the run!

Off to make memories...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The "C's" of Injury

Just over 4 weeks ago I was on vacation in Canmore with my family.  We went to our buddy's place for a party.  He hired a live Irish band to play on his front lawn.  With corona in hand... 2 hrs of grass kicking fun felt like 10min... we were having so much fun!  Last call for last song, we did what everyone at a grass Irish dance party does.  We made a circle and one by one we would go into the middle and pull off our 'move' and then exit back into the outer ring.  Well, I only have one "move."  I have been doing this move for years and it has never let me down... until now.  You know the one...

Well, upon going down or maybe it was coming up, I felt a pop in my hip.  I gracefully exited the spot light and rejoined the outer circle only to leave the party right after.  Long story short I had to make the difficult decision cancel my Lake Louise MTN Running Camp +  withdraw from the TransRockies Run.   I hate to let people down and that was the hardest part of this decision as people were stoked for the camp + I had a running partner for the race and 9 athletes who were travelling down to Colorado to participate.  Ugh.

I will say that I have been fortunate in that I haven't had an injury take me 'out' of activity in over 9 years and the past 4 years in a row I have been racing in ultras and stage racing from BC Bike Race to the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run.  Plus my trail running business has grown into adding a trail race series and mountain camp series.  So life has been good.  I truly haven't missed out on much.

Unfortunately, I am in a position this week where I need to make a decision on if I will be able to toe up in Germany in just over 3 weeks and make the demanding and challenging trek across the Alps or if I have to let this race go too.  TAR involves 8 days, 3 countries, 300k + 50,000 feet ascent/descent.  It's no small potato and I am not naïve to think that showing up less than 100% for an event like this is risky in terms of re-injury or simply not being able to finish.  This is all part of the process in deciding what is best.  I also appreciate that races come and go and this is part of being an athlete.  I value my life outside of running and know that whether I go or not, I will have future opportunities to return and no doubt I am already determined to come back to race stronger than ever next year!

I am working with some incredible practitioners in town.  I have a team of massage therapists, chiropractor, doctors and physio who have been instrumental in my recovery to this point.  I am so thankful for their hard work and dedication to helping people in our community, like me, get diagnosed, receive the best treatment plan and rehab.  It helps that I had an MRI arthrogram.  Knowing what you're dealing with is always easier when you know what it is.  My MRI showed a tiny tear in my anterior labrum, tendonopothy in my glute medius at the greater trochanter insertion and a strained glute medius.... in summary.

I am currently in week 4 of my rehab and I have been slowly working back into the running scene.  I decided to try some longer back to back runs this week to see how my hip will respond and ultimately this will help me determine whether or not I can build the appropriate miles required to pull off TAR.  I did a 5hr hike in Revelstoke National Park on Sunday, 2hr trail run on Tuesday and 3hr trail run yesterday and it all went pretty okay.  So I will see how it goes this weekend and make a call by Sunday.

I feel grateful for my community , husband & TAR partner who has been super supportive and patient as I work through the 'Cs' of injury:

Cursing - I might have let the odd 'bomb' go here and there over the past 4 weeks.  Luckily, it was into a pillow and not out loud while sitting at the dinner table with my family;

Calm - I tried not to panic. Injuries can feel overwhelming at first and like everything is doomed and you'll be off for ever.  I tried to focus on small improvements.  Recognize what I could do vrs. what I couldn't and then started with baby steps.  I made my activities and rehab measurable so I could gauge my progress, however slow it may go.

Creativity - 3 days post injury I started to strength train, ROM exercises, hip recovery exercises, band and core work.  9 days post injury I was on my bike and light walking/hiking.  14 days post injury I was hiking for 2hrs, started light running for 45min and by 21days into things I was MTB 3hrs, hiking 5hrs and just shy of a 2hr light run.  Keeping your body fit with alternate options takes creativity and patience.
Conservative - my mind thinks I can just go run 25km.  Instead I started with 5km.  Let's face it, athlete's have strong willed-minds.  Naturally we think we can do more because we are driven and want to.  I had to dial it back to ensure I didn't risk re-injury and disappointment.

Consistency - you can't build back with sporadic rehab sessions.  You have to be consistent.

Commitment - commit to what needs to be done.  I decided to treat it like my *NEW* training plan & like a doctors appointment.  I followed through and was committed no matter how little I was able to do.

I am looking forward to the weekend to see how my hip holds up.  Mostly just because I love being outside and miss running with my community + friends :)