Earning Your Turns

At this time of the year the earn & turn ratio is a little heavier on the earn side.  Skiffs of snow mixed with November rain adds up to a lot of work for little skiing.  But when your heart is happy being outside, going for a walk and throwing skiing into the mix equals fun.  I’d rather breathe fresh outdoor air than spend endless hours in the gym.  I start to care less about the “work” or the lack of skiing and more about enjoying the scenery.

 

Skiffs of snow

Skiffs of snow

In the shoulder season it is all about perspective.  The days are short and the terrain is limited.  Scrambling and mnt biking are pretty much out of the question.  Doing 7 min laps at the nordic center is fun, but it’s not an all day adventure.  Thus, going for a walk with skis on the pack gives hints of good times.

 

Skinning up

Skinning up

A few friends and I tested out our gear, looking for kinks and reminding ourselves of our ski systems.  We explored new places, had some icy skiing, and had some “powdery-esk” turns in the mix.  We laughed at the rocks and the dirt and managed to still fist pump at the end of the day- despite the fact that our “skiing” was more accurately hiking.

Yay shoulder season :)

Couliour Boot Pack

Couliour Boot Pack

Heading on out

Heading on out

 

Upski Girls Training Camp

 

Up! Up! Up!

Halloween Hike Selfie

Halloween Hike Selfie

With snowflakes kissing the mountain tops- many of us are amping up for the ski season.  Dusting off our skis, putting new batteries in our beacons, and getting those quads into shape.

Kylee Ridge Running

Kylee Ridge Running

The later part- forging a good foundation of fitness- was one of the main objectives last weekend at the Ladies SMCC dryland training camp.  A group of girls including team members from SMCC got together for 3 intense days of training, discussing nutrition, forming training plans, and connecting with other women.  Complete with boot camp, 50km run, rain, sunshine, snow, and power hiking- we continued to enlarge those thunder thighs that will take us UP! UP! and UP! during the skiing season.

Kylee soaking up the sun

Kylee soaking up the sun

 

After lots of sweat, high fives, smiles, and newly formed friendships-> Here’s to looking forward to future years to come!

All fun in the land of snow!

All fun in the land of snow!

 

Keep It Simple

“The first day I have to eat one potato only.  And then today I am eating carrots and I need to take a green tea pill at 10, then 1, then 9pm.  Tomorrow I have to avoid pills and drink lemon juice, control my insulin, and finish my day with a load of fibre.  The next day I overload on calories so that I can be calorie deficient again on Monday.”

“Woah woah woah- Hold on a second!” my mind screamed as an acquaintance of mine explained her elaborate diet regime.

Human nature seems to be attracted to complicated regiments that are vastly different from their current lifestyle- believing the “elaborate” component must mean it will be a triumphant path to weight loss. These success diets tend to have lots of specific rules and requirements, which makes the regime convoluted and incredibly difficult to follow.  AKA- it will likely fail.

I’m writing this as a vegan athlete.  I don’t eat meat or any animal products. No beef, no cheese, no milk, no fish, etc.  From my lifestyle I look at these diets and I, the vegan athlete, state those diets are too complicated.  To find success you need to keep things simple; Keep it sustainable.

Find small little shifts in your lifestyle that you can implement for the long run.  Focus on whole foods.  Not sugar replacements.  Not diet foods.  Just pure whole food.

Make your shifts today! Now! Not in a month from now.  Start today.  And recognize it will be a journey with bumps and hiccups along the way.  For many, there will be hiccups, and that is what they are – hiccups.

A great poster I found on the net.

A great poster I found on the net.

 

I WON! I WON!

Well- in a sense you could say I lost.  An interesting experience happened on Sunday.

After a great breakfast, I drove to the start line, not arriving too early as it was cold outside.  When I arrived, no one was there.  I figured the organizers were running late. They ran late last year.  I waited and shivered in the cold for 30 min last year waiting for access to a bathroom.

“Well, might as well start warming up,” I thought to myself.  With shoelaces tied I went through my pre-race routine.  But something didn’t resonate well with me….. something didn’t seem quite right.  The lack of other athletes preparing certainly contributed to my 6th sense.  I asked Mitch to check the website again- yup- we were in the right place at the right time.

What was going on!!??!  9:40 rolled around and still it was myself and one other athlete prepping for the 10AM race start.  Then Mitch flung the door open, “You missed the race!”

What!!??!

Thankfully, Mitch stumbled across the facebook page.  The previous morning they changed the race start location AND time whilst removing the first 14km of the race.  Again- Whaaaaaaat!?!

Well poop!  I was all charged up and ready to go.  But I was 50 min late and 14 km away.

I did the only logical thing: I ran the race by myself.  I counted down and shot off the start line to achieve the “glory shot.” And then I ran my heart out.  I attempted to run “race pace” the entire 25km, but without my competitors, I lagged in a few spots.  I also stopped for a potty break part way though :)

In a sense- I think it was harder on my own than if I were in the race.  I didn’t have the visuals of other racers behind me to nudge my pace along.  I didn’t have crowds cheering me on the sidelines.  It was me and the pavement- nothing else.

I may not have won a trophy- but I came in first place!

 

Why Girls Should Train Together~ from Teton Gravity

A good read from Teton Gravity’s website.

It highlights how women push each other, celebrate the beauty of the mountains, give each other “girl beta,” and bring great food!

Read through teton’s article and then sign up for the female skimo training camp.

We explore and challenge ourselves in a unique we- Let’s explore and share that!

My mom and I

My mom and I

The Bugs Summit with my dear friend Schmaimee

The Bugs Summit with my dear friend Schmaimee

 

 

 

The Shoulder Can Change It All

Shoulder season can easily be loved or hated by all us outdoor adventure folk.  Some days its a sigh of relief, “Oh yes it’s raining!  That means I can relax on the couch and not feel guilty!”  Other days the rain and snow bring about another long heaving sigh of, “What on earth am I supposed to do in these conditions?!!?”

Well- Usually in shoulder season I head back to the fun and easy classic scrambles while I anxiously await the winter or summer.  However- the shoulder season can add and interesting spice to any “easy” route up a mountain.

Take Grassi Peak for example, a relatively easy summit with a few exposed moves on a regular sunny day.  But, if you add a skiff of snow and 10 scared tourists in front – wham-suddenly you have a slippery icy slope next to a precipitous “die to your death fall” cliff ………and then things aren’t exactly a fun walk in the park anymore.  During our descent there was indeed one particular spot that had too much foot traffic over the snow, compacting it to make a very sketchy section.  I ended up navigating that portion on my butt:)  Pride was set aside as I peered at my fall consequence of most certain death.  But, with hazard mitigation I made it to the top and back to the parking lot safe and sound :)

 

Strutting it Napoleon Style

Strutting it Napoleon Style

 

 

Pikes Peak Ascent History & Race Report

PRE-RACE:

The Pikes Peak ascent is a prestigious race covering 2,382 vertical meters over 22km.  Because it is regarded as a premiere event, it is flooded with applicants, but sadly limited to 1,800 competitors.  It started back in 1956, thus making it one of the oldest foot races in the U.S.A.

Due to the technical terrain, elevation gain, and high altitude, the race is much more strenuous and challenging than a typical half marathon.  The average grade is 11% moving through boulders, gravel, roots, and alpine terrain.

This year, Pikes Peak was the host of the World Mountain Running Association World Championships.  Naturally, this means that the best of the best mountain runners in the world competed in this event.  As the days grew closer to the big day, the reality of who I was running with became more and more apparent- I started getting more nervous as time went on.  Luckily I had a good crew of team mates to lean on and strategize with.

Team Canada Posing

Team Canada Posing

 

Fortunately I had the liberty of preparing with a recon hike on the Wed.  I had a quick, but leisurely hike in order to check out the race route as well as a chance to spend some time at altitude.  This equipped me mentally, seeing the course first hand.

RACE DAY:

The day of the race I woke up as late as I possibly could, made a cup of coffee, and ate my breakfast in Deb’s truck on the way to the start line.  As anticipated, the streets were flooded with people and traffic.  Wearing Canada’s colours brought us a lot of attention.  Many Canadians approached us asking questions and wanting to take photos.  This was a new challenge, adding to the complexity of warming up, etc.

The ladies pre-race

The ladies pre-race

Once the gun fired, the masses took off and my heart beat soared.  I focused deeply on breathing, keeping calm and moving forward at a decent pace.  Once off the road and onto the skinny trail, I struggled with finding rhythm and my pace.  People were speeding up and slowing down to walk.  There was no consistency, which I believe interfered with my running.  My heart rate sped up and slowed down as I tried to navigate though the crowds of people.  It wasn’t until about mile 4 (6 ish km) that I felt I could get into a groove.

I arrived into the first major aid station about a mile behind my projected split time, which I told myself wasn’t far off in the grand scheme of things.  There was still plenty of time to still meet my goals.  I pulled into the 2nd major station at mile 7.5 (12.2 km).  I knew I had 500+ vertical meters before my final aid station, so I slowed down and fuelled up.  I stuffed my shorts with grapes and pretzels.  My nutrition plan was to take 2 gels, one at each hour, and then stick to the food I was accustomed to- fruit!  The pretzels were to aid in salt loss from sweat.

Basically- I paced myself well and tried to run as much as possible.  At times I got stuck behind other racers hiking and took things slower than I wished to.  I only felt a little queasy once- about 1.6 miles from the summit.  I attribute this to all the food I was eating, but recognize it also might have been the elevation.  I slowed into the last aid station, grabbed a cup of gatorade and stood still while drinking it.  After taking this small break I felt like a million dollars and headed steady towards the top.

Approaching the summit

Approaching the summit

There was a LOT of positive energy throughout the entire course.  With spectators and volunteers scattered throughout, I had a constant cheering squad.  “Go Canada!” was shouted out frequently.  With my name on my bib, complete strangers were able to address me with a, “Good job Michelle!  Way to go Michelle!” etc.  How could I not keep my head high and push forward?!!

With summit fever I kept increasing my pace and made a sprint across the finish line.  I was euphoric! Here I was, standing atop a super high peak at the finish line of a prestigious race.  I had just run with the best of the best, and I considered myself a very lucky girl!

I met my time goal with 6 minutes to spare.  I didn’t place quite as well as I had hoped for, but I was still in the top 6th percentile.  What an amazing day!

 

Strutting our Finisher Medals

Strutting our Finisher Medals

Team Canada at the finish

Team Canada at the finish

Thanks to everyone who supported me in this journey!!!  All the financial contributions, words of encouragement, and cheering truly helped me to be my best at this event.

Receiving an award

Receiving an age category award

Pre Race Jitters

The day before the race was very busy with press conferences, luncheons, bib pick ups etc.  Needless to say, I still took some time to do some last minute planning and preparation.

 

Julie representing Canada at press conference

Julie representing Canada at press conference

I studied the course map again and tried to secure in my goal for time.  And then I worked backwards and estimated my splits to the major aid stations to obtain said goal.  I was quite anxious about the starting line-the mass start with approx 1000 people in my wave.  This frightened me.  Very quickly the course narrowed into a single track, thus I was apprehensive about getting stuck behind too many people.  On the contrary, the race already starts at a high elevation, therein the opposite problem of going out too quickly at the start to get ahead and blowing my race.  I concluded on a medium pace and to monitor my heart rate and adjust accordingly.

over 2000 m of climbing!

over 2000 m of climbing!

I pre-planned on where and when I would fuel up.  I took 2 gels with me and planned on taking one each hour.  I also knew that after Barr Camp (just over halfway into the race) there would be 534 meters of climbing to my next station.  With this in  mind, my strategy was to eats lots and shove lots of food into my pockets.  I accounted more for the meters than the km in my timing through this section.

My fuel and accessories:)

My fuel and accessories:)

Finally- I laid out all my clothing and gear in one neat pile and did some reading before bedtime.

IMG_5507

The Incline

Located in Manitou Springs, there’s a popular local fitness challenge.  Originally constructed as a funicular (aka a cliff railway), now lies a rise of steps that go straight up the mountain.   With over 68% grade in some places, the 610 meter gain is covered in less 1.2km!

This seemed like the perfect combination of fitness, high intensity,  altitude exposure, and a shorter day. My approach was to run for 30-60 seconds/walk slowly for 30 seconds, then repeat all the way to the top.

The incline

The incline

The base of the incline sits at 2,000m (6,600 feet)- thus altitude also adds a little to the challenge.  And just for funzies, I didn’t start until 9am- and it was HOT!  The sun beat directly onto the dirt and there was little opportunity to find reprieve in shade.  Parts of the trail are quite broken and sections have exposed pipe from the old hydroelectric utility system.  In some of the steeper seconds I could only manage to run for 20 seconds before I needed my break.  It was most certainly hard work.

Pipes on the trail

Pipes on the trail

Still huffing and puffing

Still huffing and puffing

The incline joins up with the Pikes Peak race trail, so I explored around the trail and descended it back to the base of the trail only run back up again.

The Bar Trail

The Bar Trail

 

What a great intro to the area!  Less than a week to the Pikes Peak Marathon.

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