Lady MacDonald

Lady MacDonald

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Off to Europe!

Well, the snow sucks in Canada, so I'm bailing and heading to Europe instead...
After 3 weeks of back to back racing in Canada and the US, I'm heading to Verbier for the Ski Mountaineering World Championships! After that I'll be staying in Chamonix for a month, racing the Pierra Menta, then heading home at the end of March.
I'll hopefully be keeping this blog more up to date as the trip progresses with updates from Worlds and fun tours in the Alps.
Dogtooth Dash race start

The last few weeks were packed with last minute packing and racing. Here were a couple of my results, and photos from the last little while
Vert 180: 1st
Castle Mountain skimo race: 2nd
Whitefish Whiteout: 4th
Dogtooth Dash: 5th (2nd Canadian)
In the pain cave at Vert 180

The final bootpack at Canadian Championships

Triumph on Forever Young Couloir in the background

Monday, 14 July 2014

How a Slurpee saved my life: Sinister 7 race report

Well it's official, despite repeatedly cursing myself for signing up for Sinister 7 during the race and swearing I'd never do this again, I'm already looking forward to my next 100 miler! As tough as it is to condense 22.5 hours of running into something that is actually readable, here is my race report from Sinister 7

Standing on the start line of your first 100 miler is quite a feeling. A mixture of excitement and panic tumbled around in my head as I stood there like a deer in the headlights. My mind was full of doubts, how can you do this when your ankle is only 85 percent? Think about how much you hurt after Blackfoot, can you really run 60km farther than that? Can someone actually run for over 20 hours? I worked hard to push those thoughts away and focus on running one leg at a time. I knew going into the race that it would go out fast, and wanting to avoid a blowup like Blackfoot, I had decided to take a very conservative start. I also find that I don't do well in the heat, and with forecasts predicting temperatures between 25 and 30, I knew if I survived the heat and my ankle was feeling alright, I could pick up the pace and make up some ground after it got dark.

Organized chaos at the start line -Raven Eye Photography
Looking like I might throw up -Photo: Joan Brown
At the start line, I made a conscious effort to start a few rows back from the line so I wouldn't get caught up in the excitement and go out too fast. Shortly after the gun, everything bottlenecked and we ran in a long line for a few km. When it opened up again, I looked up and found myself running with Mike Kirby and Ben Rempel, both of whom I finished close to at Blackfoot, so I knew I was in a good spot. I made a point of chatting with people for the first big climb to make sure I wasn't pushing too hard. After blowing through TA1 with just a quick stop to fill a bottle, Mike and I headed out on the big climb to start leg 2. We matched each others pace quite well with a mixture of power hiking and running and topped out together. Mike sped ahead on the downhill quickly disappearing out of sight, and I realized that with my limited time in the mountains over the past 4 weeks while rehabbing my ankle that I wasn't as sharp as I had hoped to be.
Tiptoeing through the tulips on Leg 1 -Raven Eye Photography

Saturday, 21 June 2014

June Update

First off, some exciting news, based on my results from this winter, I will be competing for the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering team for the 2014-2015 season! With some good training for the rest of the summer, and fall I'm hoping to be able to compete at the world championships in Verbier Switzerland next February. With one season under my belt, I still have a ton to learn.

Some less exciting news: Last week I managed to screw up my ankle with some torn ligaments from repetitive downhill running. With 14 day's to go until Sinister 7 now, I'm hoping I'm still ok to race. It's been improving slowly, and I'm hoping it's good to go by race day. You never know, a forced 3 week taper might be exactly what the body needs.
The tape currently holding my Tib and Fib together

Monday, 2 June 2014

Blackfoot Ultra 100km

A lot can change in 5 weeks.
5 weeks ago I was hobbling back down the Moose Mountain fire road in the fading light, slowed to a walk by IT band pain, shirtless, freezing cold, and defeated. I had battled IT band problems back in the fall, and it had decided to rear it's ugly head again at the most inopportune of times, 22km into my 31km long run. In the 9km walk back to the car, I angrily went through my options and hastily made up my mind that I was going to give up on racing at both Blackfoot and Sinister 7. It was simply too much too soon, after not running much all winter.

After taking a day to settle down and think about it, I decided to give myself a week. I would do everything in my power to shake the knee pain, and then make the call about the rest of my season. I started stretching and rolling 2-3 times per day, working to loosen up my tight lower body. I spent at least 30 mins every night becoming best friends with my wobble board and therabands. I only ran once that week, but did a fair amount of biking, and spent 21 hours on skis over three days that weekend. When Monday rolled around, I was hadn't felt anything in my knee for a few days, and was ready to test it out. I ended up running a slow 30km up Prairie view, and along Barrier lake, and finished up with some tightness, but no pain! What a difference a week of dedicated injury prevention can make!

Fast forward 4 weeks, 3 long runs, and 2 massive ski days, and I was standing on the start line of my first ever 100k - Canadian Championships at the Blackfoot Ultra. Heading into the race, I had thought a lot about my race plan, and how best to break up the four 25km loops. I wasn't too concerned about placing or time, as I was using this more as a "training race" and chance for me to test out my gear for the upcoming Sinister 7, my big goal for the year. A couple days before, race day I was doing my last speed workout on the track, and in a moment of brilliance realized "Blackfoot is just like racing a mile on a slightly longer, hilly track!" With that, my race plan fell into place, and I decided to race each lap like I would if I was on the track. Lap 1: run strong and somewhat near the leaders, establish a comfortable pace Lap 2: Hold the pace as much as possible, settle into a rhythm, Lap 3: the hardest lap, try and stay focused, Lap 4: Race!

Run pretty slow and don't just turn left - It's basically the same as a track!
Lap 1
Right from the gun, Dave and Andy took off like they were possessed. I ran on their heels for the first 500m, but after realizing that they intended to hold onto the 3:30-4:00/km pace, I let them go and settled into a slightly more comfortable 4:30/km pace (still way faster than the 5:30 pace I had intended to run). I finished off the first loop feeling great still carried along by the adrenalin of racing and feeling fresh after my taper.
Lap 2
About 2 km into lap 2 I started to notice some inflammation in the dorsiflexor tendons on the top of my foot. I ran with it for a couple of minutes trying to figure out what was causing it, then stopped to loosen my shoe, which took some of the pressure off. The rest of this lap is somewhat a blur, and all I focused on was changing shoes when I hit the 50k mark. Despite the sore foot, I was feeling optimistic and quite good coming in to the start finish after lap 2. I was halfway!
Lap 3
Coming through 50km, my high turned for the worse, when I realized that I was only halfway through, and the suffering had already begun. Funny how your emotions can change in such a short period of time while thinking about the exact same thing. Just like running a mile on the track, the 3rd lap was the toughest. My foot was really acting up at this point, and I was forced to walk up hills for most of the rest of the race. It was mentally draining constantly having to change paces while switching from walking to running. I ran a large chunk of lap 3 with Eric who was running the 50 mile. It was great to have someone to chat with at this point, and really helped to take my mind off how awful I felt.
Lap 4
I started lap 4 with some spring in my step, and focused on passing runners who were racing the shorter distances. At this point in the day it was really hot, so before every aid station, I would dump the rest of my water on myself before refilling my bottles and continuing on. After the unmanned water station with 15km to go I was fading and starting to slow down, I was passed by Mike and I realized that I needed to go with him or fade into oblivion. After that kick in the butt, I felt much better, and was able to maintain a better pace, and even run a few hills. The closer I got to the line, the better I felt and I was able to pull away from him and finish strong running a 4:30 last km to hold off a couple of other runners close behind me.

My Pain Cave for the day - Photo from
Overall a pretty good race, and as always, I learned a ton. Official results from the race haven't been posted yet, but I'm fairly sure I ended up in 5th place with a time of 10:24. Not bad for my first 100k. I've been experimenting with eating real food instead of gels during training the last 6 months or so now, and this was my first time trying it in a race. No stomach problems this time around, which is a nice turn of events, so I'm going to stick with real food for all my races this summer. I've mostly been using the Feed Zone Portables book, but have made some of my own stuff up as well.
I still need to work on my pacing, because I always start way too fast. Those faster 4:00-5:00 paces feel so comfortable because they were where I ran a lot when I was racing on the track. I just need to get used to watching my suunto watch more closely and feeling like I'm plodding right from the getgo, and I think that will pay off in the latter stages of my racing.

Ultimate Direction AK Race pack
Saucony Peregrine (first 50k)
Hoka Rapa Nui Trail (last 50k)
Salomon shorts, shirt and hat
Injinji trail socks

Hammer Endurolytes
Banana Walnut Sticky Bites (Feed Zone Portables)
Oatmeal Saskatoon Pancakes
Honey Cinnamon Waffles
Baked Pasta (Feed Zone Portables)

Thanks to everyone who helped me out this weekend, I couldn't have done it without you!
Steve and Kelsey for the accommodation before and after the race, Dave's wife Sharon for filling my bottles at the start/finish line, whoever brought the Gummy Spiders to aid station 1, and most of all the volunteers out on course! The positive energy out on there was infectious and made the race much easier!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Wapta Speed Traverse

It's hard to think that up until last winter, my idea of a great day ski touring was lugging a set of Marker Dukes up for a lap or two at Black Prince or Tryst Lake (not that that isn't fun too). I've come to realize this winter that with light gear, legs of steel, and strong lungs, you can accomplish a lot in a day. After reading Mel and Ian's trip report of their Wapta speed traverse in 7:35 from 2012, it looked like the perfect blend between ultra running and skimo. I was stoked to give it a go!
I have spent the last couple of months religiously watching the weather forecasts for the Waputik Range, (so much so, that the only thing above when I open my internet search bar is Facebook) there were a few promising days here and there, but every weekend, the clouds would roll in and dump a blanket of snow on the glaciers (Fresh snow is the worst right?). There was finally a promising weather window on Sunday, with minimal new snow, low winds and no clouds. This was going to be my last ski weekend for the next 3 weeks (and possibly the season), so I knew I had to give it a go. Texts were sent, Peter was in, and a couple days later I was packed and ready to go
Once the obligatory gear packing photo was uploaded to Instagram we couldn't back out

When I rolled into Canmore on Saturday night, Peter had just got back from skiing moist fresh snow up high on Mt. Bell and isothermal garbage lower down. He was skeptical that Wapta would be as fast as I thought it would be. We spent an hour or two going over route descriptions and weather forecasts and finally decided to give it a go, and ski as fast as we could to Peyto hut. If conditions were too slow, we would bag Mt. Baker, Mt. Habel and Mt. Rhondda, then ski back to the car at Bow Summit. It travel was alright, we would give the full traverse a shot. We left Canmore at 4:00am, dropped a car off at the Great Divide Lodge, and were on the trail at Bow Summit by 6:00.
Peter starting the climb up the Peyto moraines as the sun 
A solid freeze the night before left us with an awesome crust on the descent down to Peyto Lake. We hit the lake shore in just over 15 mins, and skated to the base of the moraines in 30. Peter led the way up to the toe of Peyto Glacier, cruising up the icy skintrack. When we got onto the glacier, there was 1-2cms of new snow on top of a very supportive crust and it was actually faster to ditch the old drifted in skintrack and make our own. We could see the peak of Mt. St. Nicholas on the horizon, and made a B line for it without even considering the Peyto Peaks plan.
Starting to get excited about the good conditions on Peyto glacier

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Making it count - Joffre in a day and fun on Mt. Hector

What does a true weekend warrior do when faced with an elusive long weekend? Maximize the time spent getting rad in the mountains.

We started the weekend off at Heroes Knob to check out the snow and planned to ski a few different aspects. We headed up the south side of the valley and topped out at a col with a great view. After descending, we decided to head a little farther west up the valley and check out the snow. On a North Facing slope at around 2100m we remote triggered a size 1 wet slab which moved slow enough for us to back up, pull out the cameras and film it going by. The snow softened up way more quickly than I was expecting despite the lack of direct sun so we called it a day. After that, we knew extra early starts were going to be needed for the rest of the weekend
Peter and Bill putting in the track
To top off the day, on the drive back to Canmore, I managed to get stuck in a rut in the slush, spin out and end up in the ditch. After 1:30 of digging and pushing, we got back on the road to realize that a bush I had creamed left us a present in the tire. We threw on the spare tire and limped back into town. An avalanche, a car accident and a flat tire all in a day must mean I had used up all my bad luck for the weekend, so it was time to get after it for the next two days.

The bush that fought back

Peter and I had spent the last two weeks checking the weather forecast in the hopes that it would cooperate for an attempt for a fast time on the Wapta in a day. We watched as it slowly deteriorated forcing us to change our plans.

Mentally prepared for a long day, we decided to give Joffre a go. Peter had tried skiing it before, and I have been up there in the summer to run Northover, but neither of us had made it to the summit before. Based on the conditions the previous day, we left the parking lot at 6:00 to make sure we got across the lake when it was still frozen. A good freeze and no wind the night before meant we could skate across the lake and make great time to the creek by Hidden Lake. From there we began the climb up the North side of the valley through the trees towards Fossil Falls. At this point I realized that I had left my camera in the car. So all the photos from the day are from Peter. Check out his blog here
Skating across Upper Kananaskis Lake on the crust

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Rockies Project

By the end of last summer, I was stuck in a rut, and running the same trails over and over, while slowly losing motivation to make the trip out to the mountains. In an effort to explore the infinite playground in my backyard, I am going to try and complete every trail listed in Mountain Running in the Canadian Rockies by Bob Walker, all in one season.
This works out to: 
77 runs
63,993m of elevation gain