a day late my ankles are killing me. Trails have a way of challenging parts of your body that you don’t normally challenge on asphalt.
There is a trail running series that runs one of it’s courses through a local natural area. We tend to take the 186 hectares (460 acres) or almost two square kilometers of mid-city wilderness for granted, but it’s the kind of location filled with single-track mud tracks the wend up and down and around and through challenging twists and turns that makes it ideal for an epic eight klick race that feels like a low-mountain track grind.
One of the guys I run with had done the race on Saturday. And then he wanted to re-run it on Sunday… so I a couple of us climbed aboard the crazy train.
Long story short after eight klicks of trails with a couple warm up and cool down klicks on each end, my ankles are not happy with me.
I finally took the time to explore the (still under construction) trail through the river valley near our house. For years there has been a single-track bush trail connecting the utility corridor trails with the nearby off-leash dog park. But as of a few weeks ago, the new development plan kicked into gear and the effort to (eventually) run an asphalt path along that 2-3 klick stretch of river valley wonder began in earnest. I’m excited at the prospect of new asphalt, of course, but as with any big change to a beloved natural area, it’s tough to witness the change without feeling a little sad at the loss. I do support it, though, so I thought I’d get out there and see where the paths run and where the new trails will eventually take us. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to be done.
October 18th. I even wrote about it. Tried to find some new trails in the river valley and an 8 klick run turned into 14 klicks worth of zigzagging through the bush with some unexpected hills thrown in just to make it interesting.
A reloaded post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. They would be more detailed but they tend to be events lacking in either (a) details or (b) depth; Or lacking in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
Summer arrived in a flash. Remember how I was complaining that winter was hanging on just a wee-tiny-little-bit too long? Yeah. Well, it disappeared overnight one day about a week and a half ago and summer arrived in a burst of oh-my-gosh I-need-to-change-my-snow-tires-before-they-melt-in-this-heat kind-of panic.
The New Purple Bike
Luckily Claire was prepared. A couple weeks ago we found our way over to United Cycle and she became the proud owner of a brand new bike.
We’ve never been particularly cheap about bikes, but the last bike we bought her was a Sears special and it was never really intended to last her more than a couple seasons. She learned to ride on that little princess-adorned hunk-o-junk though, and we put it through the ringer in terms of modifications, crashes, and generally poor maintenance. And it became very apparent that, well, the cool winter weather must have shrunk it or something because Claire just didn’t fit on it anymore.
The new bike is something more of an investment. She’s just-barely-big-enough to fit it with lots of room to grow. And it’s something of a punch-in-the-dad-face of growing-kid-ness to see such a big-kid bike sitting in our house and knowing that it belongs to my — *sniff* — little baby girl.
Fences, Gates, and Green Paint
The kids have been bugging me for over a year now. And when I write kids — plural — I mean my single child plus her co-conspirators next door. We lucked out on our street in the last couple years. The two families who moved in (a) right next door and (b) two doors down are all lovely people with kids just right around Claire’s own age. They play together, hang out together, and…
Well, the problem with how we built the fence a couple years ago was two-fold: (1) our gate was designed to keep everything out and has not aged well, becoming almost impossible for me to open unless the stars are aligned and the humidity is just right, and (2) the original neighbors did not build a gate, so to get to their backyard one needs to walk all the way around the front of the house.
None of them let me forget that I offered.
The kids hatched a plan: build a set of stairs and a slide over the fence so they could go visit. I hatched a slightly more modest and realistic plan: cut a hold in the fence so they could climb through… and of course, none of them let me forget that I offered.
So, one Saturday morning about a week ago I got out the tools, got out the paint, and (first) disassembled and then rebuilt the gate so that it works properly and (second) used the extra lumber from the gate to cut, trim, and build a kind of portal in the fence between the two yards. And since the two houses next door never actually built a fence between them, voila! Three yards — and three sets of kids — are suddenly interconnected for the summer.
Of course as soon as spring-slash-summer hit soccer started. So I’ve been playing the dutiful soccer dad, attending every practice and capturing priceless moments of my not-exactly-competitive daughter — um — participating in a team sport. I think she got her athletic ability and interest from her dad, if you know what I’m saying.
Double Running Man
Well, at least her dad-as-a-kid. My athletic interest has me running epic runs these days. I’ve run a couple of races, one for each of the last weekends:
First… a pretty little bedroom community just a gnat’s breath to the North of Edmonton, the City of St. Albert played host to the RunWild race series on May 5. I had found myself registered in the half-marathon, and had been actively maintaining my training for that race over the last few months.
Then summer happened. No, really. All in one day. It’s as if on Friday morning we were thinking about how great is was going to be when the snow finally disappeared and spring arrived. On Saturday we were in shorts, doing yard work. And on Sunday — race day — we were full-on in Summer, having skipped Spring altogether.
The consequence was multi-fold. The race course, which was meant to be a relatively flat run through the river-creek trail system that bisects the City, was flooded. Really flooded. So much flooded in fact that I was surprised to have seen a map of a creek on Google Maps when I loaded it up to find out the name of the lake we had run beside that morning. It was not a lake, obviously. And because of the flooding they had diverted the route up and into the neighbourhoods adding a multitude of more hills than I was expecting.
It was also hot… the hottest weather we’d run in for six months, in fact. It was even warmer than my December run through the streets of Las Vegas.
I ended up with a modest time of 2:08, a very nice finisher medal, and a goodly case of heat-stroke to boot.
Less than a week later I found myself at the start line of yet another race. After running a half marathon the weekend before, it might seem like a step down to have been prepping to run an 8 km run. But if you are thinking that then it may be because you’ve never tried trail running.
I’ve tried to explain this to many runners at some point, the differences between running mostly on level asphalt versus bushwacking through a trail run. So, this time I took a video, strapping a sports cam to my head and filming my race. It follows:
You may notice that while some of the race is in the open and clear, much of it is through winding, hilly scambles, along dirt paths that occasionally leave you shakey and uncertain, wondering if you are more than a few seconds away from a tumble over a cliff into the river or a mis-step away from some kind of doom.
Which apparently I was… at about 3 and a half kilometers in — you can hear me wince in the video — I caught my foot on some uneven ground, or a root, or something, and rolled my ankle. Adrenaline and lack of proximity to a course marshall meant by the time I hobbled myself to a point where I could throw in the towel, I was feeling well enough to finish. So I ran the last four and a half clicks on a sprained ankle… and of course, regretted it the next day.
Fifty-two minutes was my final time, but I might be out of training for a week or two. *sigh*
An extra challenge this year.
Let the Yard Work Begin
Of course, with a hobbled ankle, yard work and getting the garden planted is going to be an extra challenge this year. It will get done. It’s already started, but turning all that soil is looking a little (ok… a LOT) more daunting than normal.
And the Winner is…
And on one final note… drum roll! Karin won an award at work: a Presidents League prize for general dedication and hard work. A gift basket, some general honours and a bit of a bonus. Pretty cool. She works hard and deserves it… but then I’m probably biased.
I know I just did an update a meager few days ago, but since then not only have I run the equivalent of a half-marathon distance (across three days) and brought my actual total to 282 KM and my virtual distance mapped right into the city of Calgary (all the way from Edmonton) but I’ve also had an interesting adventure sort-of run that I wanted to get into writing: the roller coasters.
Or, at least that’s how the clinic instructor explained the route to us as we were standing in front of the store priming our GPS watches for the impending run.
I’ve been listening to this running podcast called “The Extra Mile” where the host compiles audio submissions from various listeners into a kind of ‘dispatches from the world of running training’ show. Runners spanning the gamut of ability and location call-in or email an audio file wherein they narrate their personal and recent training updates or race experiences, reminding me a lot of some of the conversations I have while out on the trails with some of my fellow clinic folks. I enjoy it and have been wondering if my expereinces would ever be interesting enough to make the cut.
Last night? Perhaps a contender for such a thing.
Now, I don’t know if simply recalling the roller coaster run would qualify as interesting enough to make it into the podcast, but had I recorded this particular run, commentating on my own status as I was dashing through the trails yesterday evening before supper, it just might have… might have… made for some particularly interesting listening.
See, part of the larger, broader, philosophy of the training program that we invariably follow each time I run with a clinic is that — about half way through — we do hill training. For us this means this: nearby to the store is a little pedestrian overpass that has an elevation gain of about sixty meters (at best) and normally we trot over to that hill, run up and down a few times in the name of strength and endurance training, and then trot back to the store, our legs mildly sore the next day from the increased exertion. It’s not an easy run and most people dread it and complain about it, and then hold it up as the gold standard of a hard run. But that hill was pretty much nothing compared to our run last night.
It goes something like this: the current clinic instructor apparently does not abide by hill training — at least not the wimpy stuff we’ve been doing. She believes in doing hilly runs, and thus we were introduced to a somewhat less-than-familiar concept and what she casually referred to as the roller coaster trail. We started our run at a cool pace, jogging past the new South West Farmers Market operating in the adjacent parking lot and drawing the odd glances of dozens of kids in the brightly-coloured bouncy castle. We ran up and over that aforementioned pedestrian overpass hill… and then kept going, down and down, a casual trot deeper into the gradually sloping valley and past the fringes of the already sparse suburbs, and stopped, about two kilometers from where we’d started at the store at the top of a dirt trail decending at what seemed to be a forty-five degree angle into the dense trees.
“No breaks,” she told us. “Just run two kilometers in until your come to a bit of a clearing, then turn around and run back here. Ready?”
And then we ran, dropping into the shade of the dense poplar and pine forest of Edmonton’s river valley, a narrow dirt trail studded with frequent protruding tree roots, rocks, and ruts. We ran single file, even this not really preventing the bush-whacking, face-slapping of tree branches in our way. And the hills? The rough trails were little more than a bear path, equating to roughly two-kilometer (each way) of uneven terrain, a trail run that would have made even the most ardent roller coaster enthusiast dizzy with the non-stop changes in elevation, a quick up then down then up then down, followed by a steep climb and a sharp corner, and a near vertical drop followed by a similar slope in the opposite direction.
And we ran fast. We got into it and just went. We exaulted in the exhilaration of the natural setting with the fresh spring foliage and an early evening sun glinting through the canopy and the pounding of feet on dirt and the swirl of insects and dust and hush of the nearby river. Four and a half kilometers of this, in and out, and there I stood having barely the strength to climb back up out of the valley, back on an asphalt path overlooking the scenic trail systems snaking through the trees below, the group panting and high-fiving while we waited for the small handful of stragglers to amble back to the mid-start point.
The two kilometers back to our ‘shed’ were less interesting, a slow climb out of the valley trails, up and over our now-mediocre-seeming hill-training-hill and back past the fragrant aromas of hot dogs and popcorn cooking at the Farmers Market. And then home.
My legs hurt today. They ache, moreso than any real or actual pain. And tonight I rest.