This week, shit got downright primal. Like one-with-the-elements, becoming-the-greenman sorta jive. Last week I achieved and integrated a new octave of mountain running endurance (for me, anyway), slogging away at the vicinity of a vertical kilometre or more every day for five days in a row*; starting to feeling weary, no longer wanting to climb, no longer knowing why I’m doing it and being at a loss for meaning in life in general, yet forcing myself to do it anyway… Perfect. Last week served the purpose of breaking down psychological resistance and putting a hella lot of vert into my bones, but to go back into that regimen would render little result besides probable injury. What I need now are dense, sustained, repeated climbs; blistering-fast speed ascents (and freefall descents) and the occasional long, hot, gnarly, bonky sufferfest peppered in there to maintain my base. Funny what I consider my “base”.
Weekly total: 10h01m/69km/3712m
*100km/5480m vertical between April 30-May 4.
05/03/15 – Sulphur – 2h30m/20km/1000m
Up the back, down the front. An awesome run that started out a little rough. Set out alongside the river and up the back of the mountain and wasn’t really feeling it: had a bit of headache, sluggish legs and feeling a little underfuelled. Within half an hour the little bit of food I’d consumed converted itself into energy and I kept a decent pace jogging up the long (at least a couple kilometres), sustained switchback which takes you almost to the summit ridge. Tagged Sanson’s, raced across the catwalk and began descending the front. Although the last two days had seen this trail turn to slush (microspikes not required), I suppose the crisp, clear night had allowed it all to refreeze into sheer ice. So I spent a few hundred metres alternately galloping down the trail or sliding on both feet before the it became mostly mud and slush. Descended behind the Rimrock and took powerline trail paralleling Mountain Ave. back to Middle Springs and through forest to my apartment.
05/04/15 – Sulphur – 1h52m/15km/744m
Up and over Sulphur from the Hot Springs after work at 4pm. Carried little and hoped the day’s strong sunshine had thawed the trail so it wasn’t like my experience the previous morning. It was pleasantly slushy. Tagged Sanson’s amid a stunning late-day sky then bombed down the backside to the Cave and Basin, then home.
05/08/15 – Tunnel – 50m44s/7km/320m
Up and down main trail from home. A short run, reasoning that it’s probably easier to overdo it today than the other way around. I ran at a restrained, casual pace and noticed, once I hit the climb, how last week’s effort had seemingly increased my body’s overall capacity for transporting and utilizing oxygen, i.e. jogging hills felt effortless. Contrast this with my (probably) increased resting heartrate and definitely improportionate fatigue whilst in the thick of last week. Here is evidence of the effect of training seeping deep into one’s body. Anyway, my knee felt weird on the summit, fine on the descent, and the rest of the run was pleasant and streamlined in cool spring weather.
05/09/15 – Cascade Subpeak – 27km/4h49m/1648m
A stellar day in the alpine scrambling talus shirtless in the searing sun, then bombing down snowfields in a fraction of the time. Pretty much my favourite things ever. Had various plans for this morning including a lap or two on Sulphur but it was obvious I needed to be scrambling in the alpine and not trying to squeeze past tourists towards a congested summit (it being Saturday and all). I ran across town and jogged most of the actual ascent to Cascade Amphitheatre. Despite this apparent effortless swiftness (which I attribute to last week boosting my vO2max, or something) my mood was tempered by uncertainty as to whether I was doing my knee any favors. Sometimes you just have to go climb a mountain and not give a shit about things like training, I said to myself. Made it to Cascade Amphitheatre in 1h40m, which was brilliantly coated in sunbaked snow, and opted to scramble up some subpeak looker’s left of the Amphitheatre which looked dry and fun, as opposed to the route to Cascade’s false summit (my original objective) and true summit which looked super snowy and postholey. No thanks.
I hopped across the boulderfield at the base of the Amphitheatre then hunted for a goatpath to take me up. Soon I was marching up toward a lounging sheep (who I addressed with a blahhhhht), then realized the probability of ticks hitching a ride, frantically searched my body, found one, tore him off me, tossed him into the wind and cursed his kind with every swearword in my vocabulary. The crux of the day being surmounted, I gained a ridgeline of loose talus which I scrambled to the top, grinning like a dopey border-collie all the while. There was absolutely no wind in the Amphitheatre; the sun was beating down on my exposed skin; I was scurrying up lichen-splattered rock with bare hands somewhere above 2500m; and it was early May. I couldn’t have been happier. I snapped pics on the top for ~20min then turned around to descend.
Paralleling the ridge I ascended was a long snowfield, which upon first glance I believe I said, “I’m gonna glissade the shit of that!” While I didn’t quite glissade it (perhaps unintentionally once or twice), I descended it with Microspikes in about three minutes, hooting and hollering and rudely scaring off Mr. Sheep. Fuck, the mountains can be so fun.
I spent awhile taking pics in the boulderfield at the base of the Amphitheatre but eventually forced myself to head home with a rapid and spot-on descent back to Norquay Ski Area. Here I thought I recognized a bobtailed lynx (which would be pretty amazing) but then thought I saw a bushy coyote tail… Hmmm. Last but not least, the fell-running-like descent down the old Norquay ski-out to the Juniper is always a blast, freefalling through tussocked grass, rutted mud and running water much of the time. Never mind “training”, today was a great fill-up on stoke.
Myself and Patrick Sperling (aka dumpster_diver) are stoked to introduce Mountain Stride Fitness trail running retreats, based in the epic grandeur of the Canadian Rockies. This weekend is intended to take you off the city trails and into an alpine landscape of peaks, ridges and valleys. The retreat will be based at Kananaskis HI hostel, 100km west of Calgary, tucked in the front ranges of the Rockies and close to many great opportunities to experience moving fast and light in the mountains. Also, not only will we show you some sweet trails, but Patrick and his girlfriend Nicole are going to feed you and show you how to whip up delicious snacks that are healthy and 100% made from plants. Crazy, right?
I’ll be releasing more details shortly but in the meantime you can learn more at mountainstridefitness.com/runcampkananaskis