First things first. This is a great song to have stuck in your head for a big weekend of running.
And what a big weekend it was! I was warned this might be the biggest training weekend of my life. I may have given myself whiplash from rolling my eyes so far back. But I was game
Friday evening I made it out to Sulpher Mountain. This was a bit of a full-circle moment for me, as I hiked up and down this snow-covered mountain in January when I was first starting my training. The snow is still there in spots, some mud near the top, but the incline….well, I’m no mountain expert but I’m fairly certain it got steeper in the past 3 months. Mountains are known for moving quickly, right? My running partner was a little (a lot) stronger than me on hills and I definitely threw the death glare a few times when it came to pace. I made it up to the top 40 minutes faster than last time I did the same track, so I couldn’t be too angry. Plus, what came next – the feeling of running down a mountain, earned elevation that you gained with your own two feet. There is nothing like it.
Saturday was a pretty simple run. Starting from Banff near The Fairmont (quite possibly my favourite place on earth), we headed to Canmore and back along Spray Lakes and Goat Creek Trail. Again, a full-circle moment as I ran a similar route a couple of times with traction aids and a toque this past winter. What a difference a few months makes. No snow, lots of greenery, and knocked an hour and a half off my last time. I don’t know for sure but I think I may have PB’d my last 10km. Why, you ask? I had my first encounter with a black bear. I won’t recount the story as I’ve been told I embellish. It was somewhere in between ‘no big deal’ and ‘I fought a black bear with my bare hands.’ Truthfully the bear was pretty chill and we respected it’s space, walked backwards away from it (bear spray in hand). After a glance back at us, he was off to the forest to find berries and do bear things…and (coincidentally!) my PB final 10km began. That was a 45km day and I was dead tired by the end of it. Our waitress at dinner asked what my plans were for the night and all I said was “I dunno…shower” before my friend kindly piped in saying I was a bit tired from a run and no, a shower is not my usual idea of a dope Saturday night.
After 2 challenging and fast days of running, what’s a girl to do on day 3? Well, I was up early, coffee and muesli, and out the door for another epic day of running. I hate the over-use of the word ‘epic’ in society but trust me, it applies. Out and back at Lake Minnewanka, 50km-ish. I kid you not, every single kilometer was painful. About 2 hours in, stopped at a tree for a snack, I glanced at said tree and meant it when I said “I could sit against that tree and fall asleep in ten seconds right now.” I was tired. Sore. Our turnaround happened after some bushwacking (and perhaps…colourful words from yours truly). The final 3 hours back felt…guess what?! Awful! However. There are lessons to be learned. I went into that run not believing I could do it. I was convinced I’d pack it in early, call it a day, and turn around. And I didn’t. I ran the whole way (minus power hiking up hills and jumping over fallen trees), with a pit stop at a beautfully clear creek to re-fill our handheld water bottles. At one point about an hour from the end, I had a long slow climb to get up. I power walked it as best I could. But in my deliriously tired, sore, and freakishly giddy state, all I could think of was this:
Arms hanging, dust behind me, I’m pretty sure that’s what I looked like.
I followed my running partner for the last hour or so. Thankfully, he didn’t try to pep-talk me or I may have pushed him off a cliff. He knew I was hurting, so he stayed ahead of me at a distance. I pushed it as hard as I could, telling myself just to keep him in my sight. Which actually made me feel better – I figured I couldn’t be going that slow if I could still see him. Turns out he was purposely going slow enough for me to keep him in sight, but hey – at the time it worked.
110km over 3 days later – a nice, natural ice bath was in order.
What I learned in those 3 days: I’m stronger than I think I am. My leg/IT band is a b*tch. Honey Stinger Chews should only be eaten in moderation. Black bears are bigger in person. Thinking about Peanuts cartoons while running is surprisingly entertaining. Tourists will stop on the side of the road to take pictures of ants crossing the street (NATURE!). Trail running hurts a lot. Queen Latifah can help get you through. But on the flip side. And most importantly. Trail running is really, really fun. Even when it’s the biggest training weekend of your life…..so far.