Friday, October 5, 2012

Running around the country

Earlier this year, Tanker and I took an awesome trip to Quebec on our motorcycles. We ate too much chocolate and cheese, took ridiculous numbers of photos, and enjoyed our vacation thoroughly while still remaining very active. I ran up Mont Royal, trotted around Parc les Saules, rode a Bixi around Montreal and walked about a hundred miles and a million stairs.

In the middle of September, the day after the Lakeside Olympic Tri, we hopped on a plane to go visit Tanker's family in Alberta for the first time in four years. We had his parents to visit in Calgary, their trailer in Radium Hot Springs, BC to see, and his sister, her husband, and our 3.5 year old niece and 9 month old nephew to visit with. I couldn't forget, though, that I still have the Vulture Bait 25k trail race coming up!

We'd be landing in Calgary late Monday night, so I got in a run before we left for the airport. My legs were pretty trashed from Lakeside the day before, but Tanker cycled along with me and I got it done. The next morning, we took off in the car for Radium Hot Springs, driving through the incredible beauty of the Rocky Mountains in Banff and Kootenay National Parks.

I know it looks fake, but I promise it's real.

Castle Mountain

Numa Falls

Verdant Creek by Kootenay Park Lodge

When we reached the trailer, I laced up and went for a run around the RV park.

About the only paved portion.

I had a hoot running over all of the little footbridges over Sinclair Creek, but the park is rather small so I ended up doing a couple of loops. On my second turn around, I found a trail that went...up.

Not pictured: bear droppings.

After running up to the top, past a house on stilts and meeting up with the road, I turned around and headed back down again. You can actually see the trail on Google maps here.

Trying to take a photo looking over my own shoulder.

After reaching the bottom and another half loop, I called it done at 35mins. I live at 1,079 feet above sea level - Radium Hot Springs is at 2,651ft, I was a little jetlagged, and I still had heavy legs from racing two days earlier. We did also hike up to Sinclair Falls with Tanker's Dad, his Sister and our wee nephew that afternoon:

Three generations out for a hike!

Marvin came along, too.

Then Tanker and I decided to hike from the trailer up high above Sinclair Falls to a shoulder of rock overlooking the Kootenay Highway that his Dad had pointed out on our way into town. We started out at creek level:

Taken from a footbridge that leads up the trail.

Then climbed up the side of a mountain littered with boulders and juniper bushes.

Not pictured: about a million switchbacks.

Until we emerged high above road level on top of the shoulder of rock. Total elevation change was over 425ft from our starting point.

And the view speaks for itself.
We hiked back down to creek level again, crossed back over the footbridge, then hiked up the other side to the road. We'd made arrangements to meet Tanker's Mom and Sister, plus the kiddos, at the pools for a post-hike dip - they were bringing our swim gear up in a vehicle and we'd be able to get a ride back with them.

Last photo was taken from the top on the left, looking toward where I'm standing.
From the road, we were able to peer over the edge and see the top of Sinclair Falls that had been hidden by rock face at the bottom.

Only the Rockies could make a highway look so insubstantial.

We eventually reached the pools - one hot, built directly over the natural hot springs and fed with pure, unfiltered water bubbling up out of the mountains; one cold, using filtered and chlorinated water to provide a perfect venue for swimmers.

And here I was happy being able to see clouds at Harry Class!

I banged out a few hundred metres in the cool pool, amazed by the view every time I took a breath, then wandered over to the hot pool to rest my broken wrist.

Just as stunning.

The 40c/102f water was lovely to sit and stretch in after a rather long day, and I hoped the minerals from the springs would act like an Epsom salt bath for my wounded wing. We ended the day with a wonderful steak dinner and a campfire, though I must admit I was too sore, tired and cold to be very much fun.

The next morning, we were up and at it with a round of golf at Spur Valley. At least the company (Tanker and his Dad) and incredible scenery made up for my really awful golf! I'm sure I probably could have done better if I wasn't broken and could actually use both hands to swing the club, though. Very glad we only played 9 holes, as I think 18 would have been too much for me. 

70 with one hand is like a 35 with both hands, right?

Then we were back on the road through the mountains to Cochrane to stay with Tanker's sister, her husband and the kiddos. We had a family photo session early that evening, then I managed to squeak in a 35min sunset run along the Cochrane River Trail which follows the Bow River right behind Krista & Mike's house.

Really nicely groomed crushed brick path.

Gorgeous streaks of cloud over the river behind me.

Thursday ended up being a day off - we were too busy ripping around Banff for the day and took everyone out for a fantastic big family Indian dinner afterward. We walked around Lake Minnewanka a bit.

Beautiful clear water.
Amazing view from a rock reached by stepping stones.
We toured Tunnel Mountain by car, stopping at a roadside turnout to marvel at the view over Banff Springs Golf Club, then ended up assisting a wonderful Scottish lady named Barbara who slipped on the spillway by the turnout and broke her ankle.

Looking down on the golf course.

Barbara being attended to by park staff and paramedics.
Then we wrapped up our day in Banff with a soak in the sulfurous hot springs. No cool pool here, so all I could do was paddle around a wee bit to get to the deeper end of the hot pool. At 40c with a huge crowd, there's no way I was getting in a workout! The only active things that really happened on Thursday were walking around Banff and a nice, relaxed stroll after dinner.

Another amazing view, though.

Friday was our last full day in Alberta, as we were flying out Saturday morning, so Krista and I finally got out for a run together on Friday morning while Tanker and his Dad squeaked in one more round of golf.

Scully the dog came for a run, too!

We hit the Cochrane River Trail again, pushing much further West than I'd made it two evenings before. Krista was racing a 10k up Tunnel Mountain on Saturday morning so didn't want to go for too long a run, but we ran together until she turned around with the doggie and I kept on going.

I had a tough time with this one - there's a BIG stinkin' hill around the 6km mark from the start of our route that was a bit of a trial heading West, but damn near killed me coming back East as it's much shorter and steeper on that side. I couldn't seem to stop death whistling after I crested it - oxygen felt like it was in short supply. I later discovered that I was running at approximately 3,891ft above sea level - about 2,800ft higher than I'm used to, and in that nasty "I've been here long enough to feel it but not long enough to adapt to it" phase familiar to people who travel to races at higher elevations than those at which they live. I could also have been suffering the effects of jetlag combined with sleep deprivation, as I didn't seem to be able to do any more than nap for a couple of hours at a time and snap awake. Or, I could have just been a giant weenie. In any case, I pulled the plug after 11km and headed back to the house.

By the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) overpass.

Knackered but knowing I'd put miles in the bank for Vulture Bait, I promptly took Saturday completely off as it was a travel day, then went right back to training on Sunday. When preparing for long endurance events, consistency trumps big, sporadic workouts, so why not try getting out for a swim, bike or run the next time you're on holiday? It's a wonderful way to explore new places, and I can now say that I've run in both of Canada's major mountain ranges in the last 2 months!

In other news, my broken wrist has healed enough that the cast has been removed - I'm not even wearing a brace for most things. Will update on that next week.

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