Inspired by Ms. Canmore Runner’s dedicated preparation for some quality, sub-zero suffering/heroism on the misery sticks at this year’s Trans Jura and Birkebeiner Nordic ski races, I decided to get my own 2018 race face on. First up, the much less daunting 21km Trail Blanc Diablerets at the beginning of March.
In an effort to make it feel like the physical equivalent of a 56km ski race, I began preparing just three weeks before the event and spent some of that precious time running in snowshoes that aren’t actually allowed in the race (but are a lot of fun, especially when you get to run in the shadow of the Dents du Midi – see above). I also threw in a trans-Atlantic work trip and some serious jet lag for good measure.
And the results were predictably spectacular. While I spent less than half as much time on my fat feet racing around Diablerets as Ms Canmore Runner admirably spent on her skinny skis racing around the Jura and Lillehammer, it was a tough afternoon in the mountains. And a snowy one too. That wasn’t a huge surprise, what with it being winter, the race being in the Alpine ski town of Diablerets and called “Trail Blanc”. On Strava, it looked like this:
It began innocuously enough – a gentle climb and descent for a couple of kilometres on cross-country ski trails along the valley bottom. My tactic of allowing everyone to go ahead of me and pack the snow down was less successful in practice than in theory as I plodded and stumbled through churned up, ankle deep snow. Eventually, the hard pack snow made a welcome appearance in the form of 4km of fun, undulating singletrack through the trees:
This gave way to a 4km-long meandering climb to the high point of around 1,600m that alternated between short sections of runnable hard packed snow and some energy-sapping post-holing for which I was grateful to have my running poles to hand.
From the summit, my hopes for a nice, swift 10km-long descent to the finish were tempered by the potential for a spectacular wipe out on the slick, steep, twisty and tree-bound trail. They were later dashed completely when the course unexpectedly headed upwards on three occasions which wasn’t at all obvious from the profile i’d studied the night before. I eventually crossed the finish line in 3 hours 29 minutes. It was hardly an inspired performance. If nothing else, it served as an important reminder that there really is no substitute for proper preparation.
With that fresh in my mind, I am building the rest of this year around the 50 mile North Face Ultra Trail Harricana in September – a good, safe, five months away. Lots of time to
And I will need to be prepared. This will be the furthest i’ve run and my decision to enter was partly motivated by my new year’s resolution (as declared to Ms Canmore Runner and the kids, so no turning back) to er, run further than i’ve ever run…
It was also motivated by the race’s inclusion in Canadian Running magazine’s 15 must-run trail races in 2017 which describes it (hopefully in 2018 too) as “one of Quebec’s premiere trail running events both because of its range of distances and because of its back-country terrain”.
Well, I like the sound of back-country terrain a lot. And I like the sound of Quebec because…
Now for the hot news…
…come September we will be living in neighbouring Ontario. What the what? Mr. and Ms. Canmore Runner and kids are busting out of Europe and returning to Canada?!
Yes we are and it’s going to be awesome. Destination Ottawa. True, it’s not Canmore but i’ve visited a couple of times and the place has a great vibe, a great running community (though I haven’t quite figured out the trail scene yet), and people do seem to like it there. And it’s only a 6 hour-ish drive from Ottawa to the Ultra-Trail Harricana (a breeze by Canadian standards). So, sign me up!
Of course, now the hard work really begins – trying to figure out a training plan…