Lady MacDonald

Lady MacDonald

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Canmore Quad

I had previously done the Canmore Quad in the summer of 2011 with Wes (A skier who I work with at Gord's) and Andrew (Our Mizuno rep from Gord's), but we rode bikes and took vehicles between points, took long breaks between each summit, and shotgunned a beer on each summit resulting in a total finishing time of 11:54. Since then I have wanted to get back and do it right, and as fast as possible. 
Reid, a speed skater from school had stopped in at Gord's to pick up some shoes, and mentioned he was thinking about giving it a shot as well this summer, so we decided very last minute to give it a go, and 4 days later, on Monday June 17th we made our attempt.
For those of you who haven't heard of the Canmore Quad, it involves running all 4 of the mountains in each corner of the town of Canmore powered only by your own two legs. It has been done very few times, and all in all involves just over 51km of running, with a quad burning 5000m of elevation gain and loss. 
The Canmore Quad. Starting and finishing on Main Street in Canmore
Reid was going to be driving between mountains, so he dumped me at the 4 way stop in front of Rebound Cycle at 6:15am, and I headed down main street towards the Alpine Club and the trailhead for Grotto mountain. After about 30 minutes of easy running on the flats I began the climb up Grotto. I didn't see Reid on the way, and due to a slight miscommunication, he was waiting to join up with me at the Cougar Creek parking lot, and was almost 2km away. We spoke briefly on the phone, and he told me to go ahead. 
The goal for the afternoon
Heading up grotto, I felt awesome, keeping a steady pace and settling into a rhythm. I power hiked most of the way up to the summit ridge, and then once on the ridge could run the rest of the way. There was a surprising amount of snow up high, and I did a bit of post-holing in a few spots where the snow had softened up in the early morning sun. I hit the summit in 2:10, and enjoyed a great view, and not a single cloud in the sky.
Enjoying myself on the summit of Grotto
From the summit, I charged down the ridge, and met Reid just before treeline. He decided to head down with me and sit out for Lady Mac, and wait until EEOR to jump back in. We made great time on the way back down, and turned off on the Horseshoe trail to head over the the base of Lady Mac. When we got there, I had about half my water left, and didn't want to bother running the 500m back to where Reid had his car parked to resupply. This ended up being a bad decision because it got super warm, and I ran out of water about halfway up Lady Mac. Luckily I found a snow patch on the summit ridge and ate a bit of that, and filled up my hydration pack hoping it would melt quickly.
Out of water and dying a little bit
In the midst of running out of water, I also forgot to eat anything on the technical climb up the summit and was running pretty low on energy when I got to the final ridge. On the best of days this isn't much fun, let alone when you are dehydrated and running on half a tank of fuel. After a slow slog along the sketchy terrein, I hit the summit in 5:15, and I took a short break on the summit, signed the register, and then headed down. In the distance clouds were starting to roll in, but I barely noticed.
I forgot how sketchy this summit ridge is
As I ran down, I finally started to see hikers, the first of the day. Halfway down, I heard the rumble of thunder, and finally noticed the clouds that were starting to dominate the horizon. Surprisingly, none of the hikers seemed thrown off, and groups kept flocking up the trail. When I got down to the parking lot, the clouds were looking more and more menacing. By this point, I had rehydrated, refuelled  and was feeling pretty good again.
Parking lot panorama 
We hung at the car for 15 or so minutes, while I enjoyed the best tasting gingerale and raspberries in the entire world (thanks Reid). At that point, Sukhman rolled into Canmore to see how we were doing, so we headed down to meet her at Communitea. On the way down, there was a significant amount of lightning over the West end of Rundle, and the 3 sisters area. Just as I walked in the door, the clouds opened up and it poured.
After hanging out at Comminutea trying to wait out the storm, I pulled out my phone to check the forecast, and was greeted by a weather radar map that didn't look too promising. We ended up sitting around for an hour or so, before I decided to call it off. Although the sun ended up breaking through for a bit, I didn't want to get stuck up high in bad weather, and would rather play it safe. At that point, a beer at the Paw seemed too good to pass up.
Sad face
Although I didn't finish this time, I learned a ton, and know exactly how to execute it properly the next time we give it a go, giving me a good chance of success (weather permitting). The first thing I would do is to cache some food and water at the base of Lady Mac, so I can resupply quickly there. The other is to set an alarm on my watch to remind me to eat and drink. I'm sure this will get easier the more experienced I get. In the past when training for track, I never drank or ate anything, even on my long runs that were up to 2 hours so this is new territory.
I will definitely make another attempt this summer, but have to give it some time for the infrastructure in Canmore to get some repairs. If anyone is interested in joining in, let me know, the more the merrier!

Overall, It was a great training day, and I got in 39km with 2710 vertical meters packed into a solid 7:31. The day after I felt a bit of stiffness in my quads, but by Wednesday, I was back running with almost no soreness. This bodes well for my fitness right now, and all the hill work has paid off! Now it's time to gear up for Fernie this Saturday. The legs have recovered nicely and are ready to go (I hope).

Fernie 50: 1 day
Iron Legs: 50 days

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