Scree Sessions: March 12-20

Turning up the volume and reducing the velocity: that’s been the theme of this week. My mindset has shifted to training more concertedly for the demands of the Mont Blanc 80K which is three months away. Lately I’d been stuck in a rut – of only running ~20km and climbing ~1000m during my “long runs” – which I’m glad I broke free from this week with a sufferfest up Rundle followed by Sulphur. Conditions remain unseasonably mild and relatively dry and springlike, save for a recent powder day which made my ascent of Rundle a little more tiring than usual. Weekly total: 83km/4889m vert

03/12/15 – Sulphur – 1h54m/18.4km/870m
Super fast splits; quickish to TH (24m); then, didn’t seem fast but must have been steady and consistent to summit (44m); then a fairly short break on top (4m); then a steady sprint down the trail and back to my apartment (42m). Felt great pre-run as I’d taken the previous couple days off to rest tight ITBs and felt elated afterwards.

03/13/15 – Grotto – 2h11m/6.6km/860m
Should have done nothing, or cross-trained, but took the opportunity to drive to Canmore and scope out the direct trail up Grotto Mountain, which I’ve never done before. It felt cold leaving the car in my short shorts but was soon slogging shirtless up the steep singletrack. The lower part of the trail was good, the upper part was very loose and braided and a combination of factors sent me the signal that today wasn’t the day to bag the summit. I cut my losses and headed down. Loose subalpine terrain like that is fun (or whatever) but not very conducive for race training purposes as I don’t expect to encounter trail (or lack thereof) like that in Chamonix this summer or anywhere else.

Screen shot 2015-03-21 at 10.12.58 AM03/18/15 – Rundle + Sulphur – 7h14m/39km/2400m
Ran up Rundle trail from home and postholed up the Dragon’s Back to the summit. Snapped a few pics, slammed my knee on a rock buried under deep snow, then stumbled back down the ridge and headed home. Switched into dry shoes and headed up Sulphur. Sulphur slog was labored to say the least. My longest run and most vertical yet this year. Peep the Movescount data for this trip here.

IMAG568103/20/15 – Tunnel/Hoodoos/Tunnel – 2h29m/19km/759m
Ran up Tunnel via main trail, descended and swung around back and ran rolling singletrack along the bench to Hoodoos viewpoint. Then ran back, dropped down toward the river and caught the start of the loose, steep goatpath that ascends Tunnel’s southwest shoulder. Pounded it hands-on-knees to the top, then descended via the main trail back to town and thence to my apartment.

Scree Sessions: March 12-20

1035 – 4810

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Basking in Mont Blanc-ness atop Brevent one week before CCC.

Ten thirty-five to forty-eight ten: the range of my emotions, in vertical metres that is. I’ve long postponed my CCC race report, admittedly overwhelmed with the idea of trying to cram everything I saw and did into one blog post. My week in Chamonix, then taking part in one of the races of the North Face Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc was a sensorial whirlwind, a rich, multifaceted experience which leaves me disoriented and not knowing where to begin… At the beginning, I suppose. In this post I’ll briefly detail my adventures leading up to CCC 2014 and leave the “race report” (and all the pics from the race) for the next post.

My preparations to run CCC — once the “little sister of the UTMB” and now one of the most prestigious 100km races in the world — began two years ago. I don’t know why I thought running this race would be a good idea, but expected it to be epic, scenic and cater to my particular strengths (i.e. slogging up mountains, then running down them). I raced around on fifty miles of ski runs and mountain bike trails at Meet Your Maker in Whistler, BC last summer to garner two qualifying points needed to register. Fast forward six months and by some grace of God I won the lottery and became one of a few Canadians among 1500 others toeing the line in Courmayeur on August 29th.

First day in Cham… the stokage runs high.

Fast forward another six months or so. My first day in Cham; the stokage runs high. I set my alarm for seven but didn’t get up till ten probably because I was so jetlagged. I scrambled out of bed and took the gondola up to Brévent (2525m) for an alpine trail-running traverse to L’Index/Flégère for a panoramic viewing of Mont Blanc’s many glaciers and pinnacles. Along the way I visited Lac Cornu and Lac Blanc, somehow missing Lacs Noirs. If the Aiguilles Rouges range somehow replaced Banff’s Sulphur Mountain overnight, I wouldn’t be a tad bit upset…

Aiguille Verte (4122m) and the Drus, seen from near L’Index on Brevent.


^The crowd goes wild: start of PTL 2014, downtown Chamonix. Before this trip I neither knew nor cared about PTL but now recognize it as the more-badass, more-underground version of UTMB and has risen to the top of my ultrarunning bucket list.

The Promised Land of Chamonix, seen from Signal Forbes on a rainy day.

On day three, I threw on my running pack and headed up to Balme for some Swiss pasture style trail-running. No, I didn’t need more cowbell; there was plenty to be had up there booting around on white ribbon singletrack to all the little knolls and viewpoints overlooking Chamonix on one side, Trient on the other. At last, I hit up the Albert 1er hut at the base of the Glacier du Tour as the clouds cleared to reveal the Aiguilles du Tour and Chardonnet. Tres awesome!

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You know you’re a versatile runner when you can gorge yourself with Indian food, miss the last bus, then run 6km home with a loaded pack (containing all your mandatory equipment), a bag of groceries in one hand and boxed dinner in the other, pausing occasionally to let my meal “express itself”. Casual running at its finest!
IMAG1095
Getting into rest and recovery mode: overlooking Chamonix from Mont Lachat.

One day before my race, I sought out a low-intensity activity to exploit the nice weather and went up the Aiguille du Midi cablecar for sweet views, zero exertion required. After snapping about a million pics of the Mont Blanc massive and surrounding eye-candy, I strolled into a tunnel with my shades on and saw two scrawny alpinists walking towards me. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust and as they passed we gave each other a quizzical stare: it was Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg! I walked past all giddy and awkward, saying nothing, but then thought to myself that I should at least go back and shake their hands, or something. I pulled a U-turn and raced back, searching all the logical places they might be. Nowhere to be found. Puzzled and a little disappointed, I gaze out across the ocean of mountains and what do I see? Kilian and Emilie charging down a steep snow ridge other parties are shuffling along roped together. I was in awe, and felt fortunate that I spotted these ultrarunning idols in action instead of just mulling around town, for example. An auspicious experience which got me super-stoked less than twenty-four hours before my race!

Coming next: my CCC 2014 race report 🙂

1035 – 4810

Assiniboine to Sunshine

BORING! A 57km backcountry trail run from Mt. Assiniboine to Sunshine Meadows through some of the finest subalpine scenery the Rockies has to offer. A cold, cloudless morning at Mt. Shark trailhead turned warm and sunny as we cruised along buttery singletrack, climbed a couple gnarly passes, ran out of water when we needed it most and narrowly dodged thunderstorms, experiencing the full spectacle of mountain weather without bearing the brunt of it. In the course of our trip, we crossed the BC-Alberta border six times, courted a few aches and pains, incessantly made fun of each other, and crushed nearly 60km of Continental Divide eye-candy in one sitting. Like I said, pretty boring…

Assiniboine to Sunshine

Mount Robson 60K

If anything could prepare my eyes for the scenery I’ll see running around Mont Blanc in The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc CCC next month, it might be this: A 60km out-and-back tour of Mount Robson to peep the Rockies’ tallest peak firsthand.

What was intended to be an “analogue run” two weeks prior to Trailstoke 60K Ultra in Revelstoke turned into a glorious day of warm sun and cool breeze; more roaring waterfalls than I can count on one hand; neon blue tarns with creaking glaciers flowing into them; buttery subalpine singletrack; chossy, exposed ledge running and sprinting up lateral moraines like some dude in a North Face ad; a little hands-on-knees grunting; about three litres of unfiltered mountain water and a near-miss with momma bear and cub. Just another day running around in the Rockies half-clothed 🙂

Splits:
0:31 Kinney Lake
2:45 Berg Lake
5:01 Snowbird Pass
7:57 Berg Lake
9:38 Kinney Lake
10:23 Berg Lake Trailhead

59.85km | 2400m vertical | 10.5 hrs

Peep the GPS data for this trip here.

Mount Robson 60K

Canmore Triple Crown 2014 + A Visit Home

On the summit ridge of Mt. Lady Macdonald, 9 hours after starting the three-peak, 38km, 3500m vertical Canmore Triple Crown.

My second go at this masochistic little scrambling endeavour first devised by two buddies of mine in 2012 and reconfigured by myself into a 100% bipedal effort around this time last year. The Triple Crown is a one-day ascent of Mount Lady Macdonald, the east end of Mount Rundle (EEOR) and Ha Ling Peak, a grand tour of the city of Canmore, Alberta totalling thirty-eight horizontal kilometres and over 3500 metres (puke!) of accumulated vertical gain. Assuming I was stronger this year than last, I had definite intentions to beat my old time (12 hours), but both trips certainly involved their fair share of lollygagging, selfie-taking, and sitting on my ass eating sandwiches whilst cursing the mountains.

I crushed my old time, sweltering in inferno-esque temperatures (to me, anyway), chugging back melted snow with my running pack fully prepared for winter-mode if necessary. It definitely wasn’t necessary. I hope to return to this project some day with a lighter pack and a little less time devoted to taking pictures of myself to put up a truly speedy FKT. Until then, I’ma hit up this foam roller and drink some water 🙂

Splits:
(7:45am start from Rocky Mountain Bagel Co., downtown Canmore)
1h03m – EEOR trailhead (TH) | 6.4km | 372m ↑ | 6.4km total
1h12m – EEOR summit | 2.3km | 884m ↑ | 8.8km
0h51m – EEOR TH | 2.4km | 872m ↓ | 11.2km
1h03m – Ha Ling summit | 2.9km | 801m ↑ | 14.2km
0h43m – Ha Ling TH | 2.9km | 808m ↓ | 17.2km
1h54m – Lady Mac TH | 11.1km | 469m ↓ | 28.3km
2h13m – Lady Mac summit ridge | 3.9km ↑ | 1182m | 32.7km
1h02m – Lady Mac TH | 3.3km | 1151m ↓ | 35.5km
0h17m – Bus stop | 2.5km | 118m ↓ | 38.0 km

Total time: 10h20m40s
Travel time: 09h03m54s

Peep the Movescount data for this trip here.

I often do epic things in the mountains right before going home to Ontario to visit so I am somehow imbued with epicness and the spirit of adventure in a place I associate with an almost suffocating sense of banality. I don’t think this practice really counts for much, except perhaps to stroke my ego, but it’s not like I boast about my adventures and once home my focus became firmly centred on visiting friends, spending time with my family and revisiting old hiking haunts in my newfound trail-running style. I also ran a rather flat 10km trail race at Terra Cotta conservation area which, by some stretch of the imagination, serves as a qualifier for a spot in the elite division at the Canadian Mountain Running Championships, a 12km/1200m vertical sprint at Kicking Horse Ski Resort, Golden, British Columbia three weeks from now which I’ll also be attending.

The place that helped me “train” for hiking in the Yukon and the Rockies (not really), Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, Caledon, ON.

Though the Terra Cotta course was a modest one, it was a good, early test of a new dimension of running I want to explore: speed. In the past I’ve always focused on distance, building the overall length of my long runs week after week, trotting along through the backcountry for thirty, forty, fifty kilometres at a pace intended to keep me from sweating too much and prematurely burning too many calories. Now I wanna do the same thing, faster. Misunderstanding how the race’s timing worked, I snuck into the back of the first wave seconds before the starting buzzer and shot off in a high-velocity tiptoe through the winding roots which covered the trails of this course. I finished in a respectable (for me, anyway) 19th place out of 260 runners. Not fast enough to qualify for the mountain running team, but I have different racing plans on my agenda this summer, anyway. Peep the Movescount data for this race here.

Canmore Triple Crown 2014 + A Visit Home

Slush and Sunshine – Spring Scrambling in the Rockies

Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 9.54.32 AM
One hell of an approach: 30km from Banff to Canmore to climb Ha Ling in its worst snow conditions all year. 45km total, 1300m vert.

My calves feel like they’ve been used for boxing practice. Getting out for long runs rather inconsistently, yesterday’s thirty kilometre run to Canmore and ascent of Ha Ling Peak in the deepest and slushiest snow conditions I’ve ever encountered it in means I’m a little sorer than usual today. To reach Canmore I jogged along the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail, which is much flatter, paved and runnable than what I’m used to running on, so I wasn’t really sure if the benign-ness of my chosen route would destroy me over twenty-five kilometres.

After a big dump — which we just received a weekend of — I’m used to powder piling up on Ha Ling at treeline, resulting in, say, a one-hundred metre stretch of waist deep sugary snow to plow through, with the rest of the peak wind-scoured and barren. Yesterday, however, I found the whole alpine zone of the peak caked with knee-deep isothermal snow from treeline to summit, with a crust that would barely hold your weight with one step and would break through on the next. Of course, what did I really expect at 4pm in the afternoon on a sunny day after, oh, our biggest single snowfall of 2013-14? I rank that as my most arduous ascent of Ha Ling, ever.

Descending Ha Ling wasn’t too difficult; I gained so much momentum on the slushy, muddy lower part of the mountain that I almost ran over Adam Campbell, 5Peaks Race Series organizer, Arc’teryx-sponsored athlete and one of Canada’s strongest male ultramarathoners. We shared gripes about the post-holing nightmare that was the top of Ha Ling and chatted about trail-running, races and the revered New Balance MT110 over a few kilometres through the boulders of Grassi Lakes before my descent into town. A highlight of my day. Peep the Movescount Move for this trip.

In other news, I'm looking foward to giving these guys a spin... La Sportiva Anakonda mountain-running flats.
In other news, looking forward to giving these guys a spin… La Sportiva Anakonda mountain running flats.
Slush and Sunshine – Spring Scrambling in the Rockies

Just a Regular Day Out…

Frank discussion about backing out of a small peak – Beautiful weather – A short glissade – Downhill snow running – Observing longline rescue practice

The usual fare of spring scrambling in the Rockies.

Peep the Movescount Move for this trip.

Just a Regular Day Out…