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Osprey Pack – Duro15 Review

The Osprey Duro 15 is an ideal pack for extended trips into the backcountry on foot or for urban commuting where you’re hauling a substantial amount of gear. For this review I ran and hiked with this pack over 100 kilometres over varied urban and backcountry terrain. It responded quite well to everything I needed it to do. When properly secured and adjusted there is minimal bounce in the pack. There is an abundance of pockets if you’re a junky for having everything right where you want it while running. The two front pouches are handy for gels, snacks and other items you wish to access quickly while on the run – like bear spray. There’s also a front zipper pocket, discretely built into the design, that is ideal for a cell phone to catch those scenic shots on the trail (or call for help). The Duro15 comes in two sizes a small/medium and a medium/large. The small/medium option was reviewed and fit my 5 ft. 6 in slim frame quite well. My problem with most packs is too much room as I don’t tend to fill them out, resulting in too much bounce of the pack. This wasn’t the case with the Duro 15.

One of the features I really like about this pack is the waterproof main compartment. This is done in combination with a nicely designed mesh back that allows for sufficient ventilation and minimizes back sweating and heat build-up. A common issue (for me) is that back sweat tends to seep into packs and get the contents wet. The reverse can also be true, that contents in your pack, like messy food, water bottles, or other can leak and get you wet. Osprey designers addressed these two issues as mentioned above. While I didn’t test the waterproofing material for the main compartment in a downpour I have placed some very wet clothes in there and cannot feel them on the outside. On the reverse while commuting with dress clothes in the pack I never worry about getting them sweaty from the outside in.

The space within the main compartment is plenty large for your longest day trip. For an overnight trip it would be tough to pack sufficiently during anything but the summer season. Although I’m sure minimalist-type folks would enjoy the challenge. The one challenge for the pack is if you’re trying to bring along spare footwear. The pack just isn’t big enough for those types of extras on the inside; however there is an outer shell that can be snapped shut which provides additional storage capacity – like footwear, bike or climbing helmet or similar.

In terms of safety components, the pack also includes a small whistle. However, it doesn’t compare to a proper Fox40 safety whistle and can’t be heard from long distance, so I’d suggest you still pack a Fox40 whistle if you heading to the backcountry and consider that an essential safety item.

The Duro15 comes complete with a full hydration bladder that clasps nicely to the front of the vest-pack with a magnetic clip. As usual, getting the correct length for the hydration hose is always tricky, with not too much extra hanging out.

Overall this is the type of pack I would use for extended backcountry runs, long distance races (>50km) or shorter races with no/minimal aid stations, urban commuting and general hiking or biking. I may leave it at home during shorter trail runs or races with plenty of aid stations. If you’re adventuring into longer trail runs I’d highly recommend looking at the Osprey Duro15. It has everything you will want in long distance trail pack while staying slim and efficient in weight and design.

 

MSRP: $200
Weblink: https://www.osprey.com/za/en/product/duro-15-with-2-5l-reservoir-DURO15.html

VOLUME DIMENSIONS WEIGHT
S/M 793 IN3 / 13 L 16.93H X 8.66W X 8.27D IN. 1.543 LBS.
M/L 915 IN3 / 15 L 18.9H X 8.66W X 8.27D IN. 1.687 LBS.
Jake-2[1]

Rules for Racing your Best: Break the year into Quarters

Now that Spring is upon us, many are beginning to think about racing. In fact, some may have already run a few races. If you are looking to perform your best, there are a few things that I have learned over the years that have helped me and countless others peak when it matters most:

Break the year into quarters and focus on one race per quarter.

You might be asking why I am writing this now that we are a quarter of the way through the year. I am often contacted at this time of year from athletes wanting to train for and perform their best at races a few weeks from now.  These “goal” races are often accompanied by lists of races every weekend between now and race day.  Often, the athlete also wants to run personal bests at each race between now and then.  When I receive these inquiries my first question is, “When do you plan to train?” I follow up with, “Which of all of these races is most important to you?”  “Are you willing to not race as much so that you can better prepare for the goal race?”  If they say, “Yes,” I consider working with them.  If they say, “No,” I wish them well and know that they will likely get injured or disappointed that they aren’t ready when they want to reach their peak.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing inherently wrong with racing. I love racing. I love the community.  I love the challenge. I love the opportunity to explore new places and meet new people.  I understand why people sign up for races week-after-week-after-week.  And to be honest, there is nothing wrong with this approach if that is your goal.  If you care less about performance than you do about the experience or the connection with others or the challenge of racing back-to-back races then you are fine running as many races as your heart desires. However, if you are looking to maximize your potential in the short and long terms, there should be some deliberate planning and preparation around race selection, training, and race execution.

General Annual Training & Racing Plan Broken up by Quarters

Start with the end in mind.

What is your goal race? What is the distance? What time would you like to run at the event? How much time is there between now and then to prepare?  How have you prepared yourself for the challenge up to this point?

The longer the race the more you need to prioritize the long run.

If you are training for a half marathon, marathon, or ultra you should plan to regularly run long (between 1.5 to 3 consecutive hours) every week or two.  If the weekends are your only times to do your long runs, limit racing to once per month and strive to have those races build toward your goal race.

Use shorter races as dress rehearsals for longer races.

For example, if you have a goal marathon three months away consider doing a 10K at the end of the first month, a half marathon at the end of the second month, and the marathon at the end of the third month.  The bulk of your training should be specific to the goal race, but be sure that at least some of your training is priming you for the upcoming shorter, faster races.  Get some of the pre-race jitters out of the way so that when you get to race day of your goal race you don’t feel quite as nervous.

Accept that you may not run lifetime bests every time you toe the line.

If your confidence and motivation are delicate and may get rocked by not beating or matching your lifetime best when you were training specifically for a particular race or distance, don’t race.  You can get the same training stimulus and fitness check by doing a tempo run or other predictor workout on your own.  However, if you can check your ego and expectations at the door and enjoy the opportunity of racing you might surprise yourself and realize you are fitter than you thought.

If you crave the community of races but the races don’t fit with your goal race, offer to volunteer.

Races would not happen without the help of countless volunteers.  Volunteering often helps the racer see the other side of racing and helps us appreciate all that goes into making our race experience what it is.  If you have the time and the desire to connect with others – even if the race distance or surface doesn’t fit in with your training for the goal race – you can still be a part of the event as a volunteer.  At many races, volunteers get the same or better swag items and sometimes you can even trade volunteer time for a race entry to another event with the same race organization.  Either way, volunteering is a great way to connect with fellow runners and feel good about the time you spend making the lives of others brighter.

If you are serious about performance, break the year in half with only two goal races.

While this may seem overly focused for some, it is how many of the best runners in the world do it.  Even when I coached high school athletes, I learned that if we wanted to be ready to peak at the end of cross country season in November and the end of track season in May that we couldn’t be racing all Summer and Winter.  My athletes and teams ran their best when they spent the Winter and Summer months building their bases for the Spring and Fall seasons and then raced sparingly throughout the season.  If they raced or trained too intensely in the off-seasons they usually peaked too soon or were burnt out by the end of the season when they needed to be the sharpest.  I have found the same to be true for me – especially as I get older and run longer.

Jacob Puzey winning the 2016 Canadian 50K Road Championships in Course Record time.

Last year, I had a list of races I had hoped to do, but given my family and work commitments I knew that it would only be reasonable for me to focus on two goal races: the Canadian Road 50K Championships at the end of May and the 50 Mile Treadmill World Record in December.

Jacob Puzey running a world record for 50 miles on the treadmill (4:57:45) at the Running Event in 2016. Photo from Competitor Magazine.

While I ran a few other races in preparation for each of these goal races, I made sure that the tune-up races that I did were just that – tune-ups toward the overall goal of running my best when it mattered most.  Turns out, the plan worked. Though my training leading up to each goal race didn’t go exactly as planned (it never does), I was rested and healthy when it was time to perform so all I had to do was run.

I am keenly aware of the power of FOMO (fear of missing out).  I am also keenly aware of how much it sucks to sit on the sidelines of the race I had hoped to race, but was unable to do so because I got a bit too greedy at less important races leading up to it.  Adherence to the aforementioned rules has helped me and countless others race our best when it matters most.  If you are interested in maximizing your potential the next time you run a goal race, I invite you to follow these rules and see what you are truly capable of doing.

Jacob Puzey is a national champion and world record holder who coaches runners from all over the world – of all ages and abilities from newbies to national champions – to reach their running potential on all surfaces and distances through www.peakrunperformance.com.

 

MDR-6[1]

weULTRA – Building the Ontario Trail Community One Badass at a time!

Casey Thivierge is the founder of weULTRA based in Ontario.  His passion for trail and ultra running combined with this initiative and community engagement is growing the sport in a big way in their region.

Casey takes on the brutal 68 Mile course with 40, 000ft of elevation gain Georgia Death Race tomorrow. We chatted with WeUltra’s fearless in the days before this this event about the community he is forging, the Malden Death Run event he recently hosted and what makes him tick.

 

 Where are you based?

 

CT: I live in Belle River, ON but do most of my running and training in Windsor, just south of Detroit. The weULTRA group consists of runners from all around the Essex County area, the southernmost part of Canada.

 

 

 

 

 What is weULTRA and what is the vision for it?

CT: weULTRA is a group consisting of ultra, trail runners, their supportive family & friends as well as those aspiring to try ultra and trail running.

I started the group two years ago as a private group with a few local friends as the only members. It was created as a place to help share information between each other and to provide motivation, encouragement and support. While there were other running groups in the area, the “ultra-scene” was almost non-existent and ultra runners were few and far between. I felt that there was an opportunity to create something that could help grow the sport in our area. We then decided to make it a public group and slowly, one by one people started joining.

My vision for it is pretty simple. I want it to be a fun group that helps support and encourage others to get involved in the trail and ultra running community. My intent is to provide local runners with challenging hill workouts and quirky group runs. I want people to challenge themselves, have fun with running and define new personal limits on what they can achieve. It is very rewarding to see others improve, especially when they finish with a smile on their face.

Of course I have a vested interest in growing the sport of trail and ultra running specifically in my own community. However, I would like the page to be bigger and broader than that. I am willing to let it evolve as it may.

 Do you have members whether unofficial or official for weULTRA?

CT: Membership is free and open to all. The only requirement is a commitment to run, support, volunteer, crew or pace an ultra marathon or train with those who are doing so. We are a group who want to focus on running with our friends, striving for and achieving new goals, and most importantly, helping others.

We currently have 390 members in our Facebook group.

 What is Malden Death Run and how does the format work?

CT: The Malden Death Run (MDR) was an idea conceived this past December by my friend Derek Mulhall and myself. We have both signed up for the Georgia Death Race (GDR) and agreed we would have to step up our vertical game throughout training. In one of our early training workouts on our local hill nicknamed Big Bertha, we kicked around the idea of doing our 40-mile training run entirely on the 1 hill. Up and down, over and over again. We did the math and figured it would take 120 repeats to achieve the desired distance. The monotony of running up and down a hill that was 1/6th of a mile long would help sharpen our mental game and the physical test of running 40 miles with over 25,000’ of elevation change would help gauge our fitness towards the end of our training.

Having had success with hosting several “Fat-Ass” events in the past, we decided to reach out to our local running community again and see if people were interested in joining us for a few repeats on the hill.

I made a Face Book event for Saturday, Feb 25th and named it the Malden Death Run, paying homage to the Georgia Death Race but specifically designating it as a “run” and not a “race”. The event would take place in Malden Park on the Big Bertha hill. We announced our lofty intentions and invited people to come out and join us any time they could throughout the day between 8am and 5pm, our estimated finishing time.

The event was free of charge and unsupported. It evolved as time went on and the event date drew closer. I started to hype it more and it gained more interest. I then decided to make some “awards” for all participants as a token of our appreciation. Derek and I, along with some help from my Mom and Dad made 75 awards to hand out that day. We hoped it was enough and luckily it was. Everyone who showed up and did at least 1 hill repeat got an award.

30 repeats (about 10 miles worth) got you a different award, and the top 5 finishers in number of repeats completed (excluding Derek and myself) got a different award. All the awards were handmade and also paid homage to the GDR finisher awards. We ended up having 4 people complete the entire 120 repeats for 40 miles and 12,795’ of ascent: Derek Mulhall, Daryl Flacks, Randy Troyer and myself.

The highlight of the event to me was handing out the “MDR Runner of the Day” award. A week before the event I announced on the event page that there would be 1 special award handed out. I stated, they can be fast. They can be slow. They can do a lot of repeats, or maybe not so many. That’s not what matters most. It was a pleasure to hand the award to Karen Hutt. She went there with a previous best 15 repeats and ended up doing 45 on the day…and most importantly with a smile on her face the entire time. She was very deserving and a great example of what the day was about: Smiling, laughing, suffering and having a great time.

 How many runners did you get?

CT: Even with the less than ideal weather we had, we ended up getting 72 people to participate in the event throughout the day. It was amazing. Our community of friends and family are truly supportive and they often rally together and help support one another. If the weather would have been just a bit nicer that day, I really think we would have had over 100 people show up.

 When did it start and how many have you had?

CT: 2017 was our first MDR. There was never any intention to do another one or make this an annual event. However, the positive feedback I’ve received since the event has me at least thinking about future possibilities.

 

 Is it purely a prep event for Georgia Death Race or more than that?

It was intended to be but people really enjoyed it and used it to set their own goals and set their own new personal records. It was very inspiring to see how motivated people were and how they used the event to push beyond what they thought they were capable of.

I never wanted it to be only about our training for GDR. I wanted to create another reason for our local runners to get together and have a fun day. Their enthusiasm, smiles and support is a great source of inspiration but I have to admit, it became much bigger and better than I thought it would.

 

         Here’s a few stats about the event:

–          72 runners

–          8hrs and 45min from start to finish

–          4 people completed 120 repeats (40 miles and 12,795’ of ascent)

–          Group total of 1,693 hill repeats

–          Group total of 361,032’ of elevation change (Over 6 x up and down Mt Everest)

 What events have you got coming up in the community there?

CT: March 18th: We’ll participate in the “40 miles for 40 weeks” charity run to help support a friend and his worthy cause. He’s running across our county for the local charity “Eyes Wide Open”: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/40-miles-for-40-weeks/

There’s a few local races like the Blue Heron Blitz and The Beach Bash Dash along with several others around the county that the W.R.A.C.E organization puts on. Across the border into Michigan there are some great trail races put on by RunningFit such as TrailWeekend and RunWoodstock that take place in the Pinckney and Hell, Michigan areas.

Also, I have a friend that is running a 100-miler in the Fal. So I’m currently kicking around some ideas for a Fall FatAss Forty that will be similar to the race he is going to run, yet still be unique and feasible for runners of all levels to participate in. Like all of our events, it’ll definitely have a twist to it.

 Have you done Georgia Death Race before?

No. This will be the first time for both Derek and I and I don’t personally know anybody that has run it before.

 How long have you yourself been running for. Whats Your background and how did you get into ultra running?

CT: I’ve been running for about 10 years now.

I’m currently 42 years old. I was never a runner as a kid. I never ran track, cross-country or anything like that. I started running in the fall of 2006 on a bet from my sister in-law Janine. She had just returned from watching her friend run the Detroit Marathon and was very impressed with what she witnessed throughout the day. I jokingly teased that it was no big deal. She bet me that I couldn’t run a marathon. I placed a friendly wager with her that I would run the 2007 Detroit Marathon.

Then I went home and typed into my web browser, “What is a marathon?” The next day I went for a long run. When I returned home I got in my car and measured the distance, 2.4 miles. Oh god.

It was a long year with a lot of training, but I couldn’t lose this bet. Well, at least it seemed like a lot of training. I ran and finished the 2007 Detroit Marathon, the first race I had ever entered. It was a miserable experience and I swore off marathons forever.

Three years and after a couple half-marathons later I ran my 2nd full marathon. With smarter training and more mileage it was a much more enjoyable experience and my results improved dramatically. Then I started having thoughts of Boston.

In 2012 I qualified for the Boston Marathon but something else happened that year. I heard about a race in California called the Western States Endurance Run. A local runner by the name of Denis Chenard was doing these crazy 100-mile races. To say I was interested would be an understatement. I went and ran the last few miles with him at RunWoodstock 100 in Michigan that year. I was instantly hooked.

2013 saw me run my first 50k, followed by two more 50k’s and then my first 50-miler at the JFK 50 in Maryland.

In 2014, along with my friend Derek Mulhall, we ran our first 100-miler at Burning River in Ohio and earned our first qualifying tickets to enter the Western States lottery. My friends Francois and Gord, along with my wife Jenn helped crew and pace us that day. We had a great time and loved everything about it. We met great people along the course and throughout the weekend and really fell in love with the culture of the sport. I didn’t know it at the time, but weULTRA was born that weekend and I’ve been enjoying the journey ever since

 Are you married and have kids?

Yes. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart Jenn and looking forward to celebrating our 19th year of marriage in May. We have two teenage daughters that are the world to us. Lexi is turning 16 in May and Chloe just turned 14 in December.

Outside of running & family my interests include camping, travel, amateur astronomy and of course…craft beer.

 What races are you personally taking on this year?

Georgia Death Race on April 1st and The Barkley Fall Classic (BFC) in Wartburg, Tennessee on September 16th are my primary races this year. I left my soul on Rat Jaw in last year’s BFC, so I’m going back to get it.

 

Check out the weULTRA Face Book Group and Casey’s blog below to see how things progress off the back of his great initiatives that are doing wonders for our sport.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1563476237221847/

 http://acaseforultra.blogspot.ca/

 

 

 

 

IMG_2940-1[1]

Adam Campbell – True Grit, Pure Passion – Massive Comeback

World Class Canadian Mountain and Ultra Runner, Adam Campbell suffered life-threatening injuries last October when he experienced a massive fall during an FKT attempt in Roger’s Pass, British Columbia. His brush with death and aftermath was so stark that those close to him can’t really understand how he is still alive, let alone not paralyzed. Go one step further, he is going to again take on the brutal Hardrock 100 Mile race with over 33, 000 ft of elevation gain in July. After featuring heavily a few times in this iconic mountain running event in the past and even coming close to winning it in a field that had Kilian Jornet his approach will be somewhat different and we are still blown away that this is on the cards and Adam is making massive gains towards this objective already.

We asked Adam some questions about what happened in that accident and what he is doing to get fit, health and ready again to take on some ambitious, super exciting and inspirational project.

Warning: Your Inspiration-ometer will blow a gasket… 

 How long has it been since your accident?

AC: It’s been a bit over 5 months. My accident happened on August 31st 2016, so relatively recent and my body is still healing. I have another surgery late this summer to remove the metal rods from my back. In theory this will give me more mobility, but I am not particularly looking forward to having my back cut open again.

Adam fell from near the top when some rock gave way and landed near the bottom on the gravel and rock.

Nick Elson caring for Adam while Dakota Jones headed to cell coverage to summon mountain rescue.

Mountain rescue moving Adam to safety.

 What were the injuries you suffered during the accident as well as the complications post-surgery?

AC: I continue to suffer complications, with tight muscles, imbalances, deep scar tissue etc. I broke my pelvis (iliac crest) and have a metal pin in there. I broke my T8-T11 vertebrae and have metal rods in my back. I had extensive lacerations across my pelvis area, including wounds down to the bone and the rest of my body. I had stitches between every single knuckle, as well as down my arms, face and neck. I also suffered several small fractures in my ankle because the ligaments and tendons tore bits of bone away from it. In hospital I suffered serious digestive issues due to a post-operative paralytic ileus, which basically means my stomach stopped working. I suffered serious bloating and incredible pain. It was the worst part of my recovery. I couldn’t eat for 10 days and the pain kept me from sleeping, it was a horrible feeling.

 

 Where are you at now in your recovery if you could give a scale of where you’re at now and how far from 100%? Is 100% likely in terms of racing at that Elite level again?

AC: I have no idea what my ultimate recovery and capacity will be. I would hate to limit what I am ultimately capable of but I do know that I improve weekly. It will be a long-term, multi-year process for me. I’ll continue to work hard and push myself, because ultimately I enjoy doing that. I get to rediscover my body and learn how to use it in a completely new way, that provides a great deal of possibilities.

 

 What sort of training or exercise are you busy with now?

AC: This time of year I ski tour quite a bit, especially on weekends, which is convenient because it’s relatively low impact, so long as I don’t fall, it provides a lot of strength and it is more or less sport specific and, most importantly it allows me to get back into the alpine with my friends. Plus, if it’s good enough for the likes of Kilian in the winter there must be something to it. On top of that, I have been getting back to running with a focus on frequency rather than long runs to get my body used to the impact of running again. I’m also in the climbing gym 2 to 3 times a week and am doing strength and mobility work almost daily. Add in a nearly weekly physio session and it makes for a rather full schedule.

 

 

 Is the training you’re doing low impact to reduce stress on the body or are you clear to run freely yet?

AC: I am free to run, but I have to monitor my body quite carefully with it. Running flats seems to be the hardest on me. I was using the Alter-G (anti-gravity) treadmill quite a bit, but am starting to taper that off. I try to do one or two harder runs a week but they can beat me down quite a bit so I give them a lot of respect and mostly do them uphill to ease the pounding on my joints. I find running hard on the flats quite jarring to my hip and spine still and I am very conscious about avoiding any compensation style injury. I am also very careful not to run based on pace, since I have no idea what my body is able to do and I don’t want to put any undue pressure on myself. I have done a few harder runs but I try to do them entirely on feel while maintaining good form. My left ankle has very limited range of motion since it is still swollen so I can’t apply proper force to the ground which seriously limits my running speeds. I may be the only runner in Calgary celebrating the continued snow because it makes the roads quite a bit softer for me.

 

 How does the volume compare to this time last year?

AC: I am probably running about a quarter of what I was doing this time last year. It’s definitely the least running I have done in the last 18 years but I am grateful for every stride I can take. My overall exercise and training hours, if you count my mobility work is more or less on par with what I have done in the past.

 

 What events have you done since the accident if any?

AC: I have only done one race, a ski mountaineering race at Panorama Mountain Resort called Steep Dreams. I struggled a bit on the long course race since it had some technical downhills that were hard on my ankle and hip and I was scared of falling. I surprised myself on the uphill only race finishing 4th, which was great. It snowed a lot after the race so we had a great time skiing powder afterward, even though I was definitely tired.

 

 

 

 What events and races will you be doing next?

AC: The only race I have for sure on my schedule at the moment is the Canadian Ski Mountaineering championships at Lake Louise, the Ken Jones Classic on March 25-26th. I will likely do a 50km trail race prior to Hardrock and I will definitely do some local 5 Peaks events but I have not decided which ones to do yet. I have to play that by ear depending on how my body is holding up and how my training is going. My main goal is to arrive at the start line in July uninjured – relatively speaking and strong enough to be able to keep moving for up to 48 hours.

 

 What is your plan for Hardrock 100 come race weekend. What do you expect out of it, not only physically but spiritually and psychologically?

AC: Oh wow, that is a very heavy and complex question. I plan on making the race a real celebration of my friendships and my love of moving through the mountains. I have invited a lot of my closest friends to come down and join me for the week going in to the race and I have asked my good friends, Aaron Heidt, Nick Elson , Dakota Jones and my fiancee, Laura Kosakoski to help pace me through the latter half of the race. I warned them that there will likely be a lot of walking involved but it will be truly special to share that time with them.

I imagine that it will be incredibly emotional for me and it will also be very hard on me physically. I have no idea how my body will hold up to that level of exertion and fatigue. The race has broken me physically when I was in peak shape and has humbled many of the greatest mountain runners in the world so I am mentally preparing for some hard miles out there. I also imagine that I will be on the go for far longer than I have been out before so that will add a new level of challenge to the event.

Regardless, I’ll do what I always do; I’ll take the race one step and one mile at a time. I’ll celebrate small victories and will be incredibly thankful that I am still in a place to experience these special places in the world with awesome people. It really is a beautiful part of the world and we do do these events for pleasure so that’s what I’ll focus on.

 

 What is your training regimen going to be like compared to last time you did Hardrock?

 

AC: I will likely include a lot more biking and mountaineering rather than straight running. Basically doing what I can to get in big days in the mountains. I also have to continue to focus on increasing my strength and range of motion, so I’ll be running less miles than I have in the past.

 

 

 

 

 How has your mental approach to training and being outside changed since the accident?

AC: I’m not sure it has changed a great deal. I have always had a huge love of being outside in high and wild spaces and pushing myself physically. I am still doing that although, before I believed  that if I could get fit enough and push myself hard that I could be competitive against the field in most races that I competed in.  My current reality is that I cannot afford to compare myself to others but rather it is entirely me challenging myself and what I can do.

I am also placing a much higher emphasis on safety and learning the more technical side of mountain sports. There is so much to learn about the mountains and moving through them. I think I rushed a lot of my learning, whereas now I have the opportunity to slow down a bit and really think about what I can do to minimize and limit my risk and exposure so that I can have a long and happy life in the mountains.

 

 How do you stay positive and focused on getting physically healthy and fit again. Any tricks, mantras or rituals?

AC: As I’ve said, there aren’t specific tricks, just an overall positive attitude. I realize that I am incredibly lucky to be alive and that I am not paralyzed. If I had fallen even a centimeter differently in either direction my outcome could have been very different so I am just grateful for everything that I am able to do on any given day.

 

 How has the community around you and across the world factored into your recovery and support?

AC: The support has been amazing and overwhelming. Aside from my close friends, family and fiancée, who have been amazing, the global running community has been so supportive. I continue to get daily messages from people wishing me luck, or sharing their stories of overcoming adversity. There are some truly inspiring and incredibly caring  people in our community.

 

 

 What are the goals and plans in terms of racing and projects beyond Hardrock 2017?

AC: I don’t have any specific goals yet. I have spent the entirety of adult life racing and competing. However, over the past few years I have found myself increasingly drawn towards using my speed and fitness in personal challenges in the mountains. While trail and mountain running will always be my main and true love, this shift in focus has lead me to taking up a wider range of activities, including climbing, alpinism and skiing. Basically using the tools and skills that make the most sense for the environment and time of year that I am engaged in. I will continue to compete, because I enjoy the camaraderie and accountability to train that racing brings. However, it will no longer be my sole focus.
With my recent accident, I am also taking more time for mountain education, with specific attention on safety in the mountains and taking the time to develop my technical skills, so that I can have a healthy and long life of enjoying them with my friends and family.

I have also been offered an incredible opportunity to work with Arc’teryx to help them develop their Alpine Running line with a focus on fast and light efforts in the mountains. Arc’teryx has supported me since 2007 when I ran my first mountain running races and I have always greatly admired their dedication towards making the most innovative and beautifully crafted apparel. I am beyond excited to be helping them with their footwear now as well.  I’m really looking forward to working with Arc’teryx to further develop the Alpine Running category.

I would also love to get involved in organizing more camps to help introduce people to the mountains, as well as travel the world a bit more. I have done a fair bit but it would be great to keep feeding that bug and meet new people.

 

 Have you had time to reflect with Nick and Dakota since that day?

AC: I had the great pleasure of skiing with Nick back in December which was amazing for me and I think he found it somewhat cathartic as well. Dakota and I have talked via text and on the phone a few times. They are both incredible people that I respect immensely. They literally saved my life and I could not have asked for two better companions for a mountain outing. I cannot imagine what they went through watching me fall, it would have been a nauseating feeling and they both told me that they were expecting to come across me dead when they made their way down to me. I am very much looking forward to a reunion with both of them this summer.

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Edmonton – A Serious Trail Running Culture

The trails, club and race you wish your city had

By Kurt Beaudoin

When Canadians think of Edmonton, cold winters, Wayne Gretzky, oil and a big mall usually spring to mind. But for the trail running crowd, thoughts of Edmonton should conjure something different: a twinge of jealousy. That’s because Edmonton is home to the longest network of urban singletrack anywhere in North America (and some say, the world). As an example, this summer, the Edmonton Trail Runners will host The River Valley Revenge—a trail Ultra that will feature a 100K option that will never double back on itself and a 150K version that will be run on a 75K loop of singletrack trails—all within city limits. This begs two questions: How has Edmonton achieved this? And when you should book your trip?

Photo credit: Lay Vorasane

The trails

Canada is full of jaw-dropping, world-class trail and mountain running destinations. What makes Edmonton so unique is you can enjoy true, epic singeltrack trails while being surrounded by all the comforts and entertainment options of a modern, bustling metropolitan city. To put it in perspective, the parkland that runs through the middle of Edmonton is 22 times larger than Central Park.

 

 

Photo credit: Lay Vorasane

 

 

We’re not talking about smooth, flat dog-walking paths here either. These trails are the real deal. This is all because the North Saskatchewan River runs right through the middle of Edmonton with steep banks carved by glaciers melting away over 12,000 years ago. Impressively steep banks. Along both sides. Perfect for the local trail fairies (of which there are many) to carve out endless intertwined spaghetti strings of sweet singletrack. The trails are never flat and always twisty, with loads of roots, ridges, side-hills and steep scrambly bits. Not to mention the stunning vistas and a feeling that you’re in the middle of nowhere—even though you’re smack dab in the center of a city with 1 million+ population.

 

Hikers and mountain bikers have been building this network of trails for decades. Recently, trail work has exploded with the help of local trail running and mountain bike clubs. Now there are an abundance of trails for every runner, from near-vertical climbs and descents to, yes, some leisurely creek-side doubletrack perfect for walking your dog.

 

The club

Photo credit: Lay Vorasane

The unofficial hosts of trail running in Edmonton, are the Edmonton Trail Runners—a passionate, thriving, community-oriented, no membership-fee required group of runners, volunteers, trail builders and event organizers. This is one of the most welcoming, inclusive clubs you will ever come across. Led by husband/wife duo, Sheryl and Todd Savard, the ETR is founded on the grassiest of grass roots philosophies. As Sheryl puts it, “We always say it’s not (just) about the run. We are about building community and connection together. The run is simply the forum for that.”

 

If and when you do visit Edmonton, the club and their activities can easily be found on their very active Facebook page (www.facebook.com/groups/edmontontrailrunners/). Newbies and visitors are more than welcome and there’s typically a run almost every day or night of the week. Runs range from trail technique sessions to nighttime hill repeats to epic long runs on the weekends to casual, impromptu coffee runs.

 

Photo credit: Lay Vorasane

The race

The crown jewel of Edmonton trail events is the River Valley Revenge, a popular and growing bi-annual event with a summer and a winter edition and that is entirely volunteer run. The River Valley Revenge (RVR) was the brainchild of Fast Trax Run and Ski Shop, created as a way to take in the best and most difficult of these trails all in one day, with a little support and a healthy dose of competition. It was rescued from the brink a few years ago by the ETR and is now more popular than ever. It hasn’t lost its grass roots vibe, though. Finisher medals are hand-carved, and the after-party is fueled by volunteer-made chili, baked goods and custom-labeled craft beer courtesy of Red Deer, Alberta’s Troubled Monk Brewery. Todd Savard hand-crafts the trophies out of vintage car parts found on the Two Truck Trail (Savard also built the Two Truck Trail, along an impossibly steep escarpment formerly used as a dumping area in the 1940s). “We ensure every racer has the same quality of experience, with full aid stations and cheering, regardless of their pace,” adds Savard. “That is also why the prize for first [finisher] is equivalent value to the prize for last [finisher]. Pride in finishing counts for all.”

Photo credit: Lay Vorasane

 

If you’re considering tackling the RVR (www.rivervalleyrevenge.com) as a destination race (or if you’re just considering a trip to run some awesome trails) you won’t be disappointed. Visit exploreedmonton.com to find out everything you need to know about Edmonton’s other hidden gems including cultural surprises, culinary delights and a legendary festival season. The summer running of the River Valley Revenge is June 9-10 and includes a 150k distance to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary. If you want to take on the winter version it will be running again next January and would coincide nicely with some beautiful winter river valley scenery, a chance to go watch Connor McDavid (the new Wayne Gretzky) or a visit to the big mall.

 

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Majo Srnik – Barefoot or Bust – To the Copper Canyons

The craze of barefoot running has seemingly died down since the release of the insanely famous book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, featuring the tribe of super athletes who run in sandals across rugged terrain in the Copper Canyons of Mexico for days on end, called the Tarahumara. However, there are still some legitimate converts and fanatics for who this is way of life. Once again,  if you’ve been in that bunker avoiding the Apocalypse, find out more about the book Born to Run here.

We chatted to Elite ultra runner, Majo Srnik who has left the Canadian winter behind him and is about to tackle the hot, dry conditions in the Caballo Blanco Copper Canyons 50 Mile Ultra in Mexico this Sunday March 5th. Majo has made his way with a bunch of other runners, including Barefoot Ted McDonald, who featured significantly in the book to take on this race which promises to be a once in a lifetime experience. Majo will be doing the race in his Luna Sandals because that’s how Majo rolls.

In 2016 Majo, completed the Tahoe 200 Miler, coming 8th and Sinister 7 100 Miler, placing 4th.

Find out below what his motivation is, how he approaches bare foot running and what going down to Mexico for this proverbial bucket list item means to him.

 How long have you been running in sandals or barefoot?

MS: Well, I actually haven’t been running long distances for a long time. This is only my 6th year running now and competing in ultras. However since I started running I was always super motivated to go long and always looking forward to running a little further on my next run instead of focusing on speed. I never cared about speed actually, not even nowadays. I guess I just love running long and enjoying the nature around me. Once my running started to reach about the 30K distance, I noticed it was becoming a very painful experience. I just couldn’t imagine how people sustain so much pain when running. I knew something wasn’t right and I started digging into the cause. Friends recommended the book Born to Run. This was the game changer for me. Soon after I discovered the concept of barefoot running, which is not actually about literally running barefoot all the time, but about changing the way we run, learning proper ways to move, body posture, relaxation etc. Once you’re trying to move naturally you need to change your footwear and that’s where Luna Sandals or Vivobarefoot shoes came into the picture. It’s been 5 years since I haven’t had any other type of shoe on my feet, besides skiing boots.

 What are your goals for the event Copper Canyons Ultra?

MS: Honestly, I am super excited about being part of the Luna team and perhaps personally becoming a part of the story I read about. I am super excited to just enjoy every minute being in the Copper Canyons and being able to run with Rarámuris (Tarahumara) and watching their feet, learning more about the running culture and the ways they live. So, I’m definitely not going there with big racing plans. It’s all about being in the moment and enjoying everything.

 Will you do the whole race in sandals?

MS: Yeah absolutely looking forward to leaving shoes here in the frozen land (Canada)!

  Did you do the whole of Tahoe 200 in sandals or also in Vivo?

MS: I ran about 230km in Sandals, made out of recycled Michelin Tires yes! Then my feet became super sensitive from all the dry sand and dusty trails as they started to kind of crack on the bottom, so I switched into my Vivobarefoot and finished in those.

Majo at the Tahoe 200 Last year

  What are your race plans for the year?

MS: I want to use the trip to Mexico as kind of a season starter and in the lead up to the Caballo Blanco race running as much as I can, exploring the canyons, then running the actual race and come home with good mileage. After that maybe Calgary Marathon 50K, just because it’s there. Sinister 7 looks likely as I love that race and I will use it again to increase mileage. Iron legs 50 Miler is also likely since it’s four weeks before UTMB, which is definitely my focus race this year! After UTMB maybe I will do Beyond The Ultimate Desert Ultra in Africa if everything goes right. So, it should be a great year I guess.

 How do you condition your body and feet to run so far in sandals and also over technical trail?

MS: Not sure how to answer this… you need to find the flow I guess, it feels very natural to me and super, super enjoyable! Also, you have to be open minded and stop thinking you’re going to trip everywhere and just listen to your body. It feels very right to me.

 Ever hit your toe on a rock that hurt and you had to sit down?

MS: Yes! Once last year I was running down from Moose Mountain and I was looking up to the sky at a beautiful eagle flying by and kicked a rock. That was just stupid of me and no matter If I was in sandals or shoes the outcome would be exactly the same.

 What is your advice for anybody wanting to transition to barefoot?

MS: Definitely try find a great coach, someone who runs “barefoot ” and knows how to teach other people to run the same way. I actually kind of figured it out myself and I wasn’t exactly able to explain to others, so I went to Prague last year and started my barefoot coaching experience with Lee Saxby. The guy is amazing and definitely knows his stuff!  Also, you have to think about the fact you’re going to learn how to run once again and need to change the old habits. Time and distance goals will have to wait for a period.

 How are you feeling about joining the Tarahumara and all those who have gone before you in the Copper Canyons and where it all started?

MS: Yeah absolutely stoked about this! Like I said it’s dream come true for me! It means a lot to me being able to go there with Barefoot Ted and all those fantastic people so I’m super excited!

Majo and the famous Barefoot Ted McDonald

Good luck Majo!

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Annie Jean Places 2nd at Snow Shoe World Champs

Last weekend on February 25th Annie Jean of Chelsea, Quebec took part in the World Snow Shoeing Federation World Championships in Saranac Lake, NY where she placed 2nd.

 

This was Annie’s first Snow Shoeing World Champs and on an 8KM course made up of 2 laps, she took the second step of the podium in a time of 36:48 in a highly competitive field. Due to unseasonably warm weather which was melting the snow, the course had to moved and modified to a nearby area with more snow. Volunteers were reportedly shoveling snow onto the course in order to make it suitable for the event.

What made Annie’s result even more impressive is she came off a heavy weekend of racing the week before and big training efforts in the days leading up to the event.

“I felt tired going into the race. The weekend before, I ran the 10KM snowshoe race at the Gatineau Loppet, where I placed first woman and 3rd overall.  This was the day after racing the 50KM classic ski race at the Loppet,” she said.

 

 

 

Annie mentioned that she is training hard with long distances at the moment as she gets ready for Behind the Rock 50 miler race in Moab, Utah with the Salomon Academy on March 25th.

“This means lots of distance running, and skiing. The Friday before the race was a long training day. My legs were not as fresh as they could have been, but they were not that bad either,” said Annie.

Placing 2nd on the world stage of snowshoeing off huge weeks of training is confirmation that you’re in great shape and the legs are responding well.

 

Annie has some epic stuff coming up this year and in her plans is the 80Km Mont Blanc Marathon in Chamonix, Trans Alps in Germany and World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs in Italy in July. Annie just got the news that she might also be selected for the World  50KM Trail Running Champs also in Italy on June 10th.  Later in the year in December she is also planning to run the North Face Endurance Challenge again in San Francisco.

Read Up More and follow on Annie’s Blog Right Here:

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Michael Wardian – Consistency is Key

We had an exclusive chat to the ever-active yet ever-fast Michael Wardian about what he’s up to this year, and by the sounds of it, he has a stacked schedule as usual with a full year of racing ahead…. including Barkley Marathons!

With our very own Gary Robbins heading back to Frozen Head National Park in Tennessee to attempt the wildly intriguing event put on by the just as wildly eccentric Gary Cantrell aka “Lazarus Lake,” the Barkley Marathons will be very interesting to watch as these two and many other interesting characters take on this epic feat.

If for some reason you’ve been living in a bunker avoiding the Apocalypse for the past 5 years, you can find out more about Barkley Marathons in the Netflix documentary that catapulted this event and legend to fame among the mainstream population.

Michael is the guy who ran 7 marathons, in 7 days on 7 different continents in an average time of 2:45 including the brutal Arctic Marathon on a snow-covered trail-like course. He also owns the world record for the fastest marathon dressed as Elvis in a time of 2:38. Mike is one of the most active racers out there among elites and last year raced close on 50 times, racking up some seriously impressive results on all surfaces in all corners of the globe.

From racing road events to long trail ultras Mike continues to blow minds racing so often and remaining fast. He has featured in races such as Marathon des Sables, UTMB, The Diagonale des Fous (Crossing of the Fools), 100 mile trail race with over 32,000 Feet of Ascent, on Reunion Island and many more.

Coming off a very successful Tarawera 100KM Ultra Trail in New Zealand just a couple weeks ago, this year looks to be no different. He chatted with us about his secret to racing so often and so successfully.

 

 How was Tarawera as a race and overall experience?

MW: Tarawera 102K was incredible, I love that race and I definitely felt the 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents but I battled the whole day and was really happy to run 8th overall and my 4th top top 10 finish there.  The trip to New Zealand with Jennifer my wife and my sons Pierce (10 years) and Grant (8 years) was truly magical.  We saw a lot and got a chance to really be a part of the New Zealand culture and experienced a lot of different things from mountain biking, to downhill luge, to bungee jumping ,to jet boat riding and a cruise on the Milford Sound to Zorbing.  We did as much as we could and it was a trip of a lifetime.

Tarawera finish line. Photo: irunfar

 

 What is your next race?

MW: My next currently scheduled race is the “The Barkley Marathons” on March 31, 2017.  I am probably going to jump into some marathons before it but Barkley is my next big Ultra at this point.  I might do the USATF 50K National Championships the first weekend of March but still deciding.

 What are your plans for the year ahead regarding racing that you know of right now?

MW: My race schedule is pretty awesome so far, I haven’t set anything firm after Hardrock 100 in July but currently working on my schedule post Hardrock.

 How many times did you race last year?

MW: I raced 47 times in 2016 and that was pretty common for me.  I like to compete and race.

 What do you do to recover between races and what is the key to racing so often and still performing?

MW: Between events, I like to keep moving and training.  I think the key to racing so often is to be excited about the opportunities and don’t let what you just did impact you mind for what you are about to do. I think to preform at the highest levels you need to believe it is possible and have confidence in yourself that you can do it.  Great things happen when you believe.

 How much longer are you planning on still racing competitively for?

MW: I would like to be racing competitively for the next 30 years.  I might not be winning races but I will still be pushing what I can do and what is possible and that to me gets me fired up to do the work and training to get the results I am after.

 How does family view the travelling and racing often. Are they along for the ride and enjoying all the scenery?

MW: Jennifer my wife and our boys Pierce and Grant, love the racing and travel.  We are at a crazy amazing place where we can visit beautiful and dynamic parts of the world and see what they are all about.  I feel so thankful that we are getting to travel the world and learn about different countries, cultures and mindsets.  We all are citizens of the world and getting to visit different places I think is one of the best teachers and I can’t wait to see what our boys do with all those experiences when they get older.

Mike finishing Tarawera 100 with his boy’s helping him home.

 What is the best advice you have ever received which you still use to this day?

MW: I think the best advice I ever received, I believe in and that I prescribe to is “be consistent”.  It was not from a running coach but from the head coach of the Maryland Lacrosse program in the 1980’s. He said if you do the work everyday by the time I see you in 5 years, I will give you a scholarship.  I took what he said to heart and everyday I practiced throwing the ball, 50 times with each hand and by the time I was a senior in high school I was really good. I just applied that to my running.  It doesn’t matter if you do one great workout but it is years of consistent focused running that allows you to have results you want.

 What motivates you to race so often?

MW: I love competition and I think races bring out the best in me and other people.  There is nothing better than stepping up to a start line and knowing that you have to preform.

7 finish lines in 7 days on 7 on continents

 How do you schedule in all the racing and balance life things?

MW: It takes a lot of balancing to honor all my obligations but I love the challenge and normally check with Jennifer to see if we have anything and then go from there.

 Are you a full time runners or do you have a job?

MW: I am not a full time runner. I work as an International Ship Broker finding primarily food aid cargoes for USA and Foreign flag ocean going vessels.

 

Check out Mike’s ever busy schedule at: www.mikewardian.com/schedule

 

 

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David Jeker – Transgrancanaria 125K 2017

Today, Friday February 24th at 11PM local time, the massively prestigious and sought-after ultra race Transgrancanaria starts. The race crosses the spectacular Spanish island Gran Canaria from North to South, coast-to-coast and forms part of the Ultra Trail World Tour Series and the Spain Ultra Cup, offers a challenging course rising from sea-level with a total vertical gain of around 8,000m over the 125KM race distance.

Canadian, David Jeker from Saint-Barthélemy, Québec is taking on this epic event and will feature at the sharp-end of the group lining up at the start and will race what is always a stacked field filled with plenty of the world’s ultra running stars.

David is currently living in Switzerland to complete a Masters in sport science.

We had a quick chat with him about the upcoming race and how this figures into his plans for a big year ahead.

 Is this your first race of the year?
DJ: Transgrancanaria is my first trail race of the season but I’ve raced three vertical ski mountaineering races in 2017 already.
 How are you feeling about this weekend’s Transgrancanaria?
DJ: I’m excited to get another shot at this race. I DNF’d the last two years so I’m aware of how tough things can get. This time I’m not injured and I’m mentally prepared to slowly walk to the end if needed. As always, I’ll try to get to the finish as fast as I can.
 How has your build up been with training and any racing?
DJ: I was able to get good trail running conditions until mid-January and managed to run a lot before the snow. After that most of my training was on skis. It’s my first season of ski mountaineering and I’m not sure how my fitness will translate to the trails. I came to the island early and was able to get some good running here in the last few days. Not sure my legs are ready for all the downhills but I’m curious to find out.
 How does coming out of winter conditions in training and then going into a tropical warm-climate-race affect your preparation and strategy on race day?
DJ: I’ve been staying in the south of the island since the February 12th (the race starts on the 24th) so I’m supposed to be fully acclimatized to the heat. The timing of coming down from altitude, as I live at 2000 meters above sea level is also good, so I have no excuses.

David taking in the views on the island during taper week.

 The field is always stacked at this event with it being a challenging yet pretty fast race that is always quite close at the end. How do you feel lining up against the other big names this weekend?
DJ: In this field a top ten would be awesome for me. My 2016 season was a total disaster so a good finish with great feelings is all I wish for.
 Just a pattern I have noticed in the past, everybody who has done well at this race or won in previous years goes on to have a great year. Is that in the back of your mind and why do you think it always gives those runners the boost for the year ahead?
DJ: It’s one of the most competitive ultras of the season so doing well here probably gives you a great boost of confidence. It may also be because the race is early in the year so there’s plenty of time to recover before any summer ultras.
 What are your plans for other races this year?
DJ: My 2017 schedule is loaded with big races. I’ll run many other races of the Ultra Trail World Tour with Madeira, Lavaredo, Eiger and TDS (UTMB). I hope to finish my first 100 miler at the Montreux Trail Festival in July. If I’m selected on the Canadian team, the World Championships will be the main goal of my season. Everything else is more about getting some ultra experiences before the big adventure of the year being the Tor des Geants. My Master Thesis is about racing and running so it will be a great way to end my studies.

David has taken in the scenery this week during shake-out runs as he will be head-down racing hard on race day.

 We wish David all the best and we’ll follow your progress online.
David is also a coach and you can check out more about what he offers and all info below:

www.mouvementperpetuel.info

Getting to Know Speedster Mel Bos

Mel Bos is one of Canada’s top ultra runners. Her long list of athletic accomplishments includes numerous podium finishes (White River 50mi, Frosty Mountain 50km, Whistler 50mi, HURT 100mi), outright wins (Scorched Sole 50mi) and course records (Lord Hill 50km and Walk in the Park 54km) – and that was just in the past year.

In January, she competed in the Hawaiian HURT 100mi and finished second woman and tenth overall, with the fifth fastest women’s time ever. Making it all the more impressive is the fact that it was her first attempt at the 100 mile distance.

Since Mel and I have partnered up for the TransRockies six-day stage race this August in Colorado, I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions to get to know her better.

SC: As a wife, mother to three busy kids and occupational therapist, how do you manage your time to fit in the training demands of ultra running?

MB: This is a hard one, I’ve been doing it so long that it’s my regular routine. When I sit back and think about it, I fit my workouts in around everything else. For example, I’ll take my daughter and her bike along to my son’s soccer practice and take her along for an hour-long run while he plays. I work out on my own quite often because my schedule changes every season around the kids’ activities. I’m really fortunate to have a husband who supports what I do and is an active cyclist himself.

SC: Have you had any running related injuries? Do you take any precautionary measures to avoid injury?

MB: After my race in Ireland in July 2011, I was off until November with a bone spur in my heel and didn’t compete until February 2012. I’ve learned that sometimes you need to take time off and let your body recover. I try to have semi regular massages and do yoga once a week to stay flexible.

SC: What are your favourite foods to eat before, during and after a race?

MB: I’m so boring. I eat the same breakfast everyday: peanut butter and toast. Coffee is a must; I need a certain amount of caffeine in my system. During a race, I go for the regular gels or bars. After, I always think I’ll be starving, but I have a hard time eating too much, so I’m really into protein shakes. Later, I’ll go for pizza and beer.

SC: You represent The North Face. How long have you been a TNF athlete and do you have any others sponsorships?

MB: This is my third year with TNF. They are a great company to be with. I’m currently working out a sponsorship deal with Wild Mountain, the local Kelowna Store who is the main TNF dealer. I really try not to get overly caught up in the sponsorship world; it has to be a really good fit with my lifestyle to take anything extra on.

SC: Have you always been a runner? Were you on your high school track team? Have you competed in other sports?

MB: Yes, I have always been a runner. I started in elementary school as a sprinter and competed on the senior high school team. This was such an intimidating experience for me when I was young, but I believe it’s helped me develop confidence and the ability to handle competition and training as an adult. I played most sports in school and later experimented with triathlon and then adventure racing. I didn’t start long distance running until after my first child. I joined a Running Room marathon clinic to meet people and get back in shape.

SC: What was the hardest part of preparing for your first 100 mile race?

MB: The hardest part was putting in the long miles in the winter. I got into HURT late and ended up using my “off season” to crank out more miles than I’ve ever done. I had some amazing runs with friends, but also went through my lowest point. On my biggest mileage week, I had three back to back long runs. I was tired, trying to keep up social and family plans and fit in training.

On race day, I didn’t have any big expectations for times, etc. I was definitely surprised at how challenging the trails and terrain were. I surprised myself by moving into first during the first lap, I was feeling great; then I went off course. That was a bit of a blow, but I knew from my experiences adventure racing that worse things can happen and the race was way too long to run pissed off or angry.

SC: What has been the highlight of your running career so far?

MB: My best racing experience was the 2011 World Championship 50mi trail race in Ireland. I had a great race that day; finished first Canadian woman and eighth woman overall. It was an amazing experience running in with the Canadian flag, knowing I had absolutely nothing left.

SC: And your worst race experience?

MB: Easily that was the 2012 World Championship 100km [road race] in Italy, I felt off from the beginning of the race; my heart rate was really high and I felt nauseous. I threw up several times during the race and had to re-adjust all expectations just to finish. I have never run with so much discomfort. After the race, things just got worse and I ended up in the hospital for four days with acute renal failure.

SC: What are your 2013 race plans and goals?

MB: My plans are not definite. I am running Chuckanut 50km and then Leona Divide 50mi. LD is a Montrail Cup race and I’m hoping to get a spot in Western States 100mi for this year. Fingers crossed. I’m so excited for TransRockies this summer, my first stage race and I have a super strong partner to run with. [Note from SC: If Mel agrees to carry all our gear, then I just might be able to keep up with her!] After that, I’m looking at the World 100km again [in South Africa]; that would be an exciting trip for sure.

Read more about Mel on her blog: http://dirtbunny1.blogspot.ca/.

~ Stacey Cleveland is The North Face Trail Ambassador for BC

Editors note: Mel Bos just finished 6th at the super competitive Chuckanut 50k in  Fairhaven, Washington.

 

Yukon Arctic Ultra

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is called “the world’s coldest and toughest ultra”. It happens in early February on the trail for the Yukon Quest, a sled dog race. As an eastern Canadian the Yukon has captured my interest, with its pristine beauty and mountain ranges. Shortly after discovering my love for running mixed with my love for winter, I heard about this race and have secretly been keeping it on my bucket list.

yukon-ultra-3There are several distances to race: the marathon, 100 mile, 300 mile and every other year 430 miles. Temperatures and trail conditions can vary greatly to create challenging situations. Robert Pollhammer is the Race Director and an adventure racer.

Kelly:  What inspired you to create a race in the Yukon?

Robert: I was inspired by my participation in a similar race in Alaska. At the time this race was in decline and I decided to start something myself. Having gone to High School in Canada, I did not need to look too long before I found out about the Yukon Quest and the trail the dog teams use.

 Kelly: Can you tell us about some of the extreme conditions athletes can expect to face out there?

Robert: Loneliness, long nights in the middle of nowhere, and of course the extreme cold are big challenges. Add lack of sleep and changing trail conditions and you have one of the toughest races on earth.

Kelly:  How do you check that the athletes have the basic survival skills needed for this environment?

Robert: Those who do not have prior cold weather experience have to do our training course.

Kelly: There are several distances to race, the Marathon, 100mile, 300mile and 430mile. Which one is most popular?

Robert: Surprisingly, it is the 430 miles that now gets the most participants.

Kelly: You have a team of people that help make this race happen, can you tell us a bit about them?

Robert: Yes indeed. Without these people the race would be impossible to put on. There are local volunteers who help me at yukon-ultra-1checkpoints. We have a crew on ski-doos travelling the trails and a medical team. It is hard work for everyone involved but they all enjoy it and come back year after year.

Kelly: What kind of feedback from the finishers have you gotten?

Robert: They all loved it. Well, of course there were times when they were down or would have killed me if they met me on the trail. But they finished and of course are proud, happy and thankful. It is very inspiring to see these amazing athletes – also those who may not have finished but gone a long way – and very rewarding to get the positive feedback afterwards.

Kelly: What are some of the things that can take athletes out of the race that they normally wouldn’t expect?

Robert: I think they know most of the threats. There are the “usual” problems like old injuries coming back, blisters, knee or foot problems. Then there is frostbite and simply exhaustion. A surprise for me this year was that we had some people with a cold virus. That was really a shame. The one thing that is hard to train for though is the overall mental challenge. Often it’s not a physical problem but the respective athlete just can’t get his or her head around it.

Kelly: What experience would you recommend having before attempting this?yukon-ultra-2

Robert: It depends on what distance you want to go for. If you do the 100 miles you “only” need to be a strong hiker to make it within the 3 day time limit. And it helps if you like the cold. For the 300 miles you should have already some experience in this type of environment and for the 430 mile race you definitely need to have done some challenging adventures in the extreme cold.

Kelly: Is there anything else you would like to share about the YAU?

Robert: The one big thing to me is the family-like atmosphere that we always have. At the YAU the number of participants is limited. We get to know the athletes pretty well and they get to know us. That is also why we have so many people coming back. It’s just something that is hard to find in other races and places. This and the fact that the crew is the best crew ever!

 

Derrick Spafford a member of the La Sportiva Running Team and owner of Spafford Health and Adventure shared his experience at the YAU.

Kelly: Why the Yukon Ultra?

Derrick: I’ve always been intrigued by the north. I first ran the Rock and Ice Ultra (3 day stage race) in 2008 in Yellowknife and while it was the toughest race I’d done up to that point, it changed me as a runner, and not to sound dramatic, but as a person too. I started searching out other northern races to consider and the YAU really spoke to me. The landscape, the people, the distance and the logistics. Having done some dogsled racing in the past, I liked that this would also allow me to think like a musher…but without the dogs.

Kelly: How did you prepare for racing in Yukon winter conditions?derrick1

Derrick: We didn’t have a ton of snow in Yarker, Ontario, where I live, before the race, but did get periods of adequate snow to help prepare for dragging the pulk (sled). I was also testing gear by running on lakes and ponds when frozen if we didn’t have enough snow. I was also dragging a tire in training to help prepare before we got snow, however I had to limit this as I injured my achilles tendon, which bothered me for the final few months of training. Overall, my training was decent going into the race and I felt fairly well prepared.  We did have some cold winter days too which helped to acclimate and give me confidence.

Kelly: Is there one section of the course that’s your favourite?

Derrick: I really like the middle 50 km of the race. You turn onto the Dawson Overland Trail off of the river, you then begin climbing, get closer to the mountains and really feel like you are experiencing something very special being out in the middle of nowhere. Just very raw, powerful and beautiful.

Kelly: How does it feel being out there completely surrounded by pristine nature?

Derrick: It is an incredible feeling. There are only two checkpoints…one at 26 and one at 59 miles, so you are really out there. If you run into trouble you have to be able to take care of yourself, because it could be a long time until help arrives and you’re very exposed and vulnerable. Again, a very raw and primitive feeling and brings things back down to it’s most simple and pure form. The beauty of the trails, mountains, and landscape is just spectacular.

Kelly: Did you have any really difficult moments?

derrick2Derrick: Oh yes! I had some major stomach and GI issues. Reflecting on it now, I’m pretty sure it was due to the heat and footing over the first 5 hours. The temperature was very warm around 0 degrees at the start. The trail was soft and chewed up by the Yukon Quest Dog Teams. This made us all work very hard and overheat…even while hydrating and taking in electrolytes. I tried to moderate my effort early on, while stripping off as much clothing as possible, but I was still overheating and sweating excessively…far too much. This caused me to eventually not be able to keep food in me and I got very weak. I decided to bivy on the trail and sleep for a while and settle my stomach. This changed it from a race experience to more of an expedition type of event.

Kelly: Reading your blog post before you left for the Yukon, you had a different feeling going into the race this year than last year. Was it a different experience this time around?

Derrick: Yes, very much from a practical sense. The trail was very hard packed and fast running last year. This year with the soft snow and higher temperatures the running and pulling was much more difficult. I kept having people tell me before the race that they were happy for me that the weather was going to be mild on race day, but in reality I wouldn’t have had the problems I had if it had been ?25 or colder. Just going into a race again after doing it once things are bound to be different. The good thing is that the stomach issues changed it from a ‘race mentality’ to a long slog…which opened my eyes to what it might be like to do a longer race at some point.

Kelly: If you could describe this race in a couple words what would they be?

Derrick:  Wild, remote, unpredictable, beauty. While the challenges of this race are intense, the rewarding feeling shared by those who have experienced it and the pure essence of nature at it’s best make this race uniquely special to those who have the desire to explore Canada’s great north.

~Kelly Wald is The North Face Trail Ambassador for Ontario