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.