In 8 Pics: A blog-type series dedicated to narrating the odd collections of photos I gather as I roll through the adventures of my life. Click to enlarge. Or visit the full gallery and respective album for more.
Nearly every year around this time, juggling between celebrating Claire’s birthday and the ever-changing annual Melissa’s Road Race schedules, we’ve been driving out to visit our National Parks in the form of a long weekend in the mountains around Banff and Canmore. And while we missed last year because the race fell on the exact date that a certain little girl was turning five years old, this year the run and the celebration landed almost exactly one week apart.
The adventure was back on.
We don’t live particularly close to the mountains. I mean, sure, a four-hour-drive to some would be peanuts in travel-time when the final destination is a scenic resort-like condominium hotel nestled at the foot of a spectacular mountain range.
People travel vast distances from around the globe to try that view on for size; while we mildly gripe that we have a few hours of driving to get through in order to have it. We shouldn’t. The drive is worth it.
And in late-October, just as Autumn is rolling into full force, thanks to the slightly higher elevation the mountain parks are feeling the impending creep of winter.
Each year we visit when the leaves are starting to change or the chill frosty air is blowing over the ice-capped peaks. It’s the first weekend after an all-too-taken-for-granted summer that jackets are required and toques emerge from their storage bins for serious consideration.
My relationship with the Melissa’s Road Race is a storied one: a love-hate-bitter-sweet-never-give-up kind of relationship.
I’ve always had a kind of mixed experience: it’s tough. It’s at a higher altitude than I’m used to training at. It’s a kind of end-of-summer, seasonal-transition run with unexpected weather conditions, always a little chillier and windier than you’d plan for. It comes after a summer of training, when my expectations for success are way too high and my legs are way too tired. The route is either hilly, rough or both, which are parts of the challenge and fun of course, and it’s always a destination run that is anticipated all summer long and mixed in with a quasi-vacation kind of experience that (while I’m starting to get used to) still throws me off a little bit.
A couple years ago I borked my ankle on the 22k route and it took me nine months to really recover from that. And I hated Melissa’s that whole year following.
Running in thin air is deceptively hard.
If you’ve been performance training all summer long you start to expect your body to work a certain way: thin cold air mucks with that. You’re striding through the course, the mountain backdrop setting the scenery with this bit of epic feeling that inspires you.
It’s a race, so you’re running harder anyhow. And then: BAM. There it is; the dreaded wall appears in an unexpected place and your lungs (which have not been the problem even after a marathon) suddenly are gasping on a hill and burning in your chest. Your pace was good — really good for the first fifteen klicks — but then dwindles to this pathetic hobble up that last hill and you’re beating yourself up thinking that, DUDE you just ran a marathon five weeks ago and now this darned 22k is kicking your ass.
I finished with a mediocre time of 2:14 for 22k. It’s fine. A Melissa’s PR, without a doubt, but still about 10 minutes off what I would have hoped for.
Claire had her second birthday. We ate a great meal. We gorged on sweet treats and good drinks. And we relaxed for a couple more days in the mountain scenery, already planning next year’s race… same time, same place.