Posted by: Karen | November 23, 2014

My Favourite Trail Race Series – Quadruple Race Report

My all-time favourite trail race series is the Calgary Roadrunners XC Grand Prix. It’s unique because it involves 10 races between October and March, meaning we’re racing through the winter, not only on single-track trails and through (on) creeks, but with ice, snow, and the challenging weather that goes with them. The races consistently offer 4k and 8k  distances on Saturdays at noon, except for the 3 x 4k relay on a Sunday in October.

I am not a winter fiend, but a long time ago these races hooked me with their affordable fees, low-tech timing, low environmental impact (no water stations, bring your own dishes for lunch), pot-luck desserts and homemade soups, and especially the fun people. I love my XC race buddies!


 This season I started out slowly at the River Park Classic in early October with a gentle 4k trot. I wanted to make sure my foot didn’t mind running again, and I hadn’t actually done much running at all leading up to it. It was a gorgeous October day. I felt heavy and my orthotics gave me a couple of painful hot spots on my arches by the end, but I managed to jog through most of it and cheer on a newbie as we finished together.


At the Confederation Park 3 x 4k Relay in late October, our team name was very appropriately called “Undertrained”. The other two on my team weren’t running much more than I had been lately. Still, we signed up, showed up, and cheered each other through the two creek crossings and rolling hills around the park. There were lots of young teams there, and I really appreciated that some of them headed out on the course and cheered on everyone.

Those two 4k races gave me confidence because my foot didn’t hurt (other than the orthotics hot spots) anymore. Now, here’s another thing I like about this series: In order to qualify for the season’s Grand Prix awards racers need to complete at least six 8k distance races. This inspires me, because my age group typically doesn’t field a lot of qualifiers. Sure, I’m usually last in my age group standings, but hey, if there are only seven women who qualify, I come in “top ten”. Often I’m “top five”, and one year, because only one other woman my age qualified, I came in SECOND. I qualify every year I can, as early as I can in the season. You just never know who else might (not) show up, or how bad the weather or my health might be for the later races.


At Okotoks in mid-November we had another amazingly wonderful, sunny warm day (wow), and I decided that it was time to start qualifying for that Grand Prix. Besides, why stop at 4k when it was such a lovely day? One of my race buddies, Philippa, was under medical orders to take it easy, so she kept me company on the first of two loops. There was a very fun volunteer who shouted encouragement “Way to go, random strangers!” and made us chuckle as we tackled the hilly course. In the second loop I set my sights on catching Song-Ha, and we had a nice chat for a couple of kilometers. I didn’t care how far back in the standings I was that day; I was thrilled to be back running and able to start qualifying. The hot spots persisted and I vowed to add foot tape to my race prep. Ken reminded me that this was the 95th CRR Grand Prix in my streak (representing 9.5 seasons of perfect attendance), and that totally topped off my day.


Yesterday I ran the fourth race in the series, at Edworthy Park. I totally forgot to tape my feet, but I had changed the orthotics from the road shoes to proper trail shoes, and my feet didn’t hurt. Even though it was above freezing, since the course is on a north-facing, treed slope, the trails were filled with ice and hard-packed snow, with a few patches of mud. When I heard how bad the ice was, I zipped back to the car for my Kahtoolas. I had no trouble at all crunching along on the ice, and totally enjoyed the twisty switchbacks on the way down. Yeeha! This course is a brutally vertical double-loop, so I walked much of the steep ascents. I got to run with Ken in the first third, and Karin kept me company through the last two thirds of the 8k, even waiting for me sometimes and egging me on at the end.

Have I mentioned how much I love my XC series peeps? They’re the best!

Two qualifying races down; four to go (six 8k opportunities left in the series). Next up in the series: the Silver Springs 8k in mid-December.

Posted by: Karen | November 21, 2014

5k Walk, A Rest, and Perhaps a Comeback

Last winter I had high hopes of keeping my marathon-level fitness going well into the spring, and then I would totally rock the Calgary Marathon yet again. Somehow my training derailed when my foot injury got worse and worse. I backed off the training, then outright rested, and went to physio, and had orthotics made, and tried not to fuss, but it just didn’t recover as much as I needed it to. I didn’t want to time to take off work for multiple and expensive diagnostic tests and treatments, so after the winter trail running series ended, I scaled back the running to nothing.

One year after my fastest marathon, an injury had me reduced to walking the 5k.

One year after my fastest marathon, an injury had me reduced to walking the 5k.

I walked the 5k distance at the Calgary Marathon races on June 1st instead of running the marathon (42.2k). I wore last year’s marathon shirt, but I did not run a step of the 5k, and even for that I took Advil so the foot wouldn’t complain later. I was disappointed to be walking, but grateful to be that ambulatory at the same time.

Before the 5k start (at noon), I rode my bike beside some of the other race courses that day. I cheered on friends and random strangers in the 10k, 21.1k, 42.2k and 50k distances. I pitched in at a water table and chatted with other volunteers and cheerers. I took a couple photos of friends taking photos, and in general, enjoyed the spirit of the day.

It was the last road race I would participate in for a while. I hung up the running shoes, orthotics and all, for the summer. Yes, even the trail shoes. I volunteered at and cheered on our club teams at the Banff Jasper Relay and the K100. I still rode my bike to work. I started swimming more.

There is hope that I’m returning to running now. I think the rest over the summer did me good, and I have a new respect for cross training. I have been able to consistently run easy, gentle jogs once or twice a week, around 4-5 km. My favourite winter trail series has begun again, and at Okotoks two weeks ago I trotted through the 8k distance (my 95th CRR XC race in a row), with minimal walking and no follow-up pain later!

I don’t feel I’m all the way back to hardcore, crazy “runner” status, but I have sent my heart back out there, and I’m hoping my legs will follow.

Posted by: Karen | May 22, 2014

Not-Running, but still moving

Yes, the foot still hurts and I’m not running. It hurts less than it used to, but I’m really not-running at all lately, and trying to stay off it in between not-running as well.

After the doctor saw the x-rays (heel spur) she prescribed orthotics. I shelled out big bucks for a dress set at work and an athletic pair for my runners. I’ve been using the dress set at my office job for 2 weeks, and they are sort of ok. It’s a challenge to fit them into my work shoes well. I tried to run one week after receiving the athletic orthotics, but the heel bruise and achilles tendon area complained a LOT after that, so I’ve given it a 2-week break since then.

Last Friday I had a dental implant post (it sounds more badass if I call it a gum piercing, right?) inserted into my gum, which necessitated “no strenuous exercise for 7 days”, so that’s helped with the resting, I guess.

I decided that bike commuting does not qualify as “strenuous”, so after the long weekend I resumed biking and all is well. I’m up to 44 bike commutes for the year so far.

I haven’t swum lately. Last week I was lazy, and this week I used the dental implant as an excuse. Swimming will happen next week! Really. And maybe a run will, too. Walking was better on the athletic orthotic last week – I will try more walking, and perhaps some running will just spontaneously break out as well. I’m registered for the 5k now at the Calgary Marathon race day – quite a drop from my original goal of the marathon, but it is what it is. I’ll walk it all if running doesn’t work, and then cheer on others, I hope.

Oh yes, and weekly yoga is continuing! My original yoga teacher quit, but now I’m practicing with a beginner class at another community centre closer to home. I am considering actually going to a “real” yoga place after this 6-week session ends. Like running and swimming and biking, I think yoga belongs in my life, and I should be able to do it well into my later years. Every time I practice it, I’m glad I haven’t waited until I’m real old to start.

Posted by: Karen | March 16, 2014

Injury Update

This is kind of a limbo update, as I’ve been to the doctor, but am awaiting x-ray results. Thursday afternoon I visited my family doctor and told her my symptoms. As I anticipated, I’m to not do anything until we can see what an x-ray of my heel reveals. We might also try a bone scan, but first things first.

For the record, the downtown x-ray clinic is empty on a Friday morning at 9:00. I was in and out of there in 15 minutes.

Does not doing anything include yoga? because I went to yoga Thursday. The heel hurt during some of the standing poses as usual, but the rest of the class was worth it. I really like Kristie’s Yoga for the Non-Bendy, as I am no where near as bendy as I once was, and she’s great at gently describing how and why a body should stretch this way or that.

I’m also sticking to at least one lane swim a week, sometimes two. Flip turns are happening more often, and they keep me from resting at the end of the lane. I’m looking forward to eventually riding my bike to and from the pool (about 3k) in warmer weather and with longer days.

I’m REALLY looking forward to running again, but I understand this will require more patience. I hope there is something we can do about my recovery, as opposed to just plain old waiting.

Posted by: Karen | March 16, 2014

Slow Racing

Slow-Racing: It’s kind of like slow-cooking, wherein one gets to take longer to savour the event.

To keep my XC race streak going, I gently jogged 8 km in the February 22 Weaselhead race, and 4 km in the March 8 Fish Creek race. I took my camera along and participated tourist-style, to give me a creative way to gently participate. It made taking the races slowly a little more fun, even when I got lapped by the fast front-runners.

Weaselhead 8k

I completed both loops of the Weaselhead race for the 8k distance, as I needed one more 8k distance in the series to qualify for the Grand Prix standings. It doesn’t matter if I’m 10th out of 10 or 40th out of 40 in my age group – qualifying means I can rate as “Top 10” or “Top 40” in a city of a million people. Little things like that tuck into my ego-belt quite nicely.

The foot didn’t hurt very much at all during that race, and I snapped some lovely shots of the two girls who led me through the first lap. The Jack Rabbit trail on which the course was set is beautifully treed, and it’s one of my favourite places to run. It was a cold day, but we bundled up and kept moving.

Fish Creek 4k

We enjoyed comparatively warm weather for the Fish Creek race. I chose the 4k route and was glad I had, as the foot started whining half way through. It had been recently cold enough that the creek was still frozen, and we ran on it past a lovely frozen waterfall. I snapped some pics of the course, a few course marshals, and a snowman at the finish.

Check out some of the shots I took on my Flickr Page.

These were the last two races in the season, two weeks apart, and now I will rest the foot with no-more-runs until the doc and I can figure out next steps (or un/non/anti-steps).

Posted by: Karen | March 16, 2014


Frozen Ass 50k

Monday, February 17 was the Family Day holiday here in Alberta. I and my running buddy had registered for Gord’s Frozen Ass 50k race that day, but I did not race in hopes of resting the sore foot. The running buddy was struggling with a minor injury as well, so he opted for the 25k distance (the 50k is a double out-and-back course).



I’m not one to sit at home and sulk while friends race. My daughter and I heartily cheered on several runners on at a couple of places along the route. We chalked encouraging messages on the path, and offered the running buddy a beer as he ran by (he declined).

Before and during the race we also got to meet and cheer fellow #CMSForeRunner Michelle, who finished her first 50k race. Way to go Michelle – what a wonderful accomplishment!

Original St. Patrick’s Day 5k & 10k 

Since the foot is so consistently cranky, I resolved not to enter any more races until it’s better. Still, I’m more than healthy enough to volunteer, so my daughter and I signed up to be course marshals. We were assigned a fabulous spot, at the north end of a pedestrian bridge, where racers of both distances ran past us first one way, and then back another, with the longer route converging with the shorter one right where we stood on their way back.

We had a blast. We had dressed up in bright green silly stuff, to make the racers smile. We shook noise makers and hollered encouragement. We shouted RACERS THIS WAY when one of our bibbed racers tried to follow a regular training runner the wrong way. We slapped high fives and smiled back at “thank yous”. We especially cheered on Leana, #CMSForerunner Tina, and Dawn.

My favourite post-race food was a mint chocolate chip scone. Check out all the fun we had in the photobooth at the after party!

Posted by: Karen | March 16, 2014

February Tough Month for Bike Commuting

View of the Bow River from the 10A St pedestrian bridge, about 5:30 pm

View of the Bow River from the 10A St pedestrian bridge, about 5:30 pm

Our frigidly cold weather warmed up just enough for me to comfortably participate in Winter Bike to Work Day. It also coincided nicely with Valentine’s Day, so I dressed up my pannier with a string of red, glittery hearts and rode in a little early to celebrate with other #WBTWD supporters before heading off to work.

Bike Calgary volunteers and some cool sponsors and organizations got together at Eau Claire mall, where cyclists could enjoy a free breakfast, complete with a delightful chocolate to top it off. I tried on some battery operated thermal gloves. They were fascinating, but more expensive than I could justify for myself. A local photographer had set up a fun photo booth and I snagged a fun free bike bell.

Incidentally, the third annual Calgary Bike Swap is coming up on May 3rd this year. I hear that volunteers get first pick? Who wants to volunteer?

I managed one other bike commute in February before temperatures dropped below and beyond my comfort zone for the rest of the month. I’d rather not have to wear a parka on my bike, and even so, I’m still challenged keeping my hands warm. February 2013 I think I bike commuted 2-3 times per week. This February it was twice total.

This past week (March 10-14) I gleefully bike commuted every single day, with the morning temperatures near zero Celsius. By Friday morning my legs ached, “What, AGAIN!”, but the rest of me dragged them along over the frozen puddles and it was glorious. I’m looking forward to another lovely set of bike commutes next week.

Posted by: Karen | February 13, 2014

More Not-Running and Winter Biking

Other than two recent cross country races two weeks apart, I haven’t run for over three weeks. My foot still hurts, although the pain seems to have moved from bottom of the arch to the tendons above and behind the ankle. I figure the pain will poke around until it finds it way out. In the meantime, I am continuing with strengthening exercises, swimming and yoga.

I have been tempted to research my foot pain on the internet, but web based self diagnosis seems kind of like reading horoscopes – they all seem to apply and I just end up choosing the parts I like best anyway.

Photo courtesy of Bike Calgary

Photo courtesy of Bike Calgary

Last weekend I finally set up my road bike on the indoor trainer, so last night I cranked out a 20 minute spin before settling in to the strengthening exercises. I hadn’t been on the road bike for so long I had to Google how to shift gears!

Sundays and Tuesdays I’ve been pretty consistent with 35-40 minutes of lane swimming. I haven’t re-learned flip turns yet, but I’m resting less at the ends now.

Tonight I’m going back to Yoga for the as yet Unbendy – soon I think I will carve out some time to practice these poses at home too.

Tomorrow – oh hey! TOMORROW is Winter Ride Your Bike to Work Day! I’m looking forward to checking out on Twitter (#WBTWD) and Facebook about how bike commuters in winter cities enjoyed their commute.

I plan to bike in a little early, to see if I can snag breakfast and celebrate with other local winter bike commuters. It seems that it will even be warm enough that I won’t have to bundle up much. I have not biked to work since our last chinook sometime in January, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Maybe I will also get to ride next week, if the “warm” (above -7*C) morning temperatures continue.

Posted by: Karen | February 11, 2014

Series Streakiversary Nose Hill XC

Yesterday I ran my 90th consecutive Calgary Roadrunners XC series race (10 races per year), at Nose Hill Park. Due to the tender condition of my foot and the cold weather (-16C?), I prudently signed up for the short option (4km), and dressed in multiple layers. My running buddies and I showed up at the start early enough for a good parking spot, and hunkered down in the warm vehicle until just before the start.

With about 10 minutes to go, runners and volunteers gathered at the start line for last-minute greetings and instruction. I learned that one of our youngsters was taking on the 8km loop without her usual parent tagging along. She wanted to qualify for the series Grand Prix, which means she would finish her 6th 8k distance of the season that day. This is an admirable goal, especially if one is 10 years old. I wished I wasn’t injured, so I could try to stay and celebrate her race with her for the whole way, but no, I was to baby the foot. I should likely not be running at all, but my nine year streak is very compelling.

Race director Trev gave us some brief instructions about the double loop course, and off we went up a hill, and then up another one up to the prairie plateau.  I hung out with the qualifying youngster, as she was trotting along at a lovely, steady pace, and if she didn’t mind, I could at least enjoy her company for the first loop. As we reached the top, Penny the noisy, cheerleading course marshal gave us whistles and encouragement. Thanks Penny!

KC Nose Hill 2014 Penny_cheers_on_Kaisa_and_Karen800x600

There was a breeze up top, but it wasn’t so bad as we were dressed for it. My toes and fingers were cold for the first couple of kilometers, but they warmed up after that. At one turn sending us back towards a mountain view, Barry, another course marshal, pointed out a huge porcupine on a shrub just off the course. When we went past it looked like it was moving to the far side of bush, but without all its summer foliage the bush wasn’t a very good hiding place. The sun shone and it felt like the air warmed up a smidge.

The course led us down through a wooded area, where we followed a winding path and tried to avoid hugging trees. The kiddo was great at this, and we passed a couple of adults.

Thanks to the Calgary Roadrunners fabulous phojographers for pics!

Thanks to the Calgary Roadrunners fabulous phojographers for pics!

Upon emerging from the wood, we were pleasantly warmed up and so was my foot. A course marshal pointed out the 4k turnoff to the finish and I just didn’t want to go yet. I carried on for the second loop with the girl leading the way. We chatted about what she was learning in math and science. We wondered what it would be like to go to Mars. I told her stories about my great grandparents who immigrated from Norway to homestead in the 19th century. Before we knew it, we were back running past Penny on the prairie and the porcupine in the prickles and pell-mell through the poplars again.

The course had a two stage, delightfully long, downhill finish. I encouraged the girl to let loose now – the finish was close – go crazy and give what’s left. She did, and I bounded down, whooping after her. Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy finish lines? and downhills? and downhill finish lines?

Oh happy day! High fives and hugs all round. Off to the hall for chili (OMG fantastic chili) and brownies and connecting with friends.

The foot survived. It’s sorer than I’d like, but that’s the price I paid. Totally worth it. And now I only need one more series 8k to qualify myself for the Grand Prix (out of 2 races left in this season).

If this is something you’re thinking of trying, check out our club photo gallery. You’ll see all kinds of runners out having a blast.

Posted by: Karen | February 11, 2014

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