Posted by: Karen | February 12, 2016

Winter Bike To Work Day 2016

I received a nice foggy facial on my bike commute this morning. For the record, today is bike commute number 8 this year (click on the pic to see my Strava log).

Almost there

Almost there

Posted by: Karen | February 7, 2016

Weaselhead Wonderland

Our next Calgary Roadrunners XC Grand Prix series race is on the Jack Rabbit trail leading to the Weaselhead flats. It’s one of my favourite race courses, as I love lots of big trees.

Running the Jack Rabbit trail always makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland following a crazy rabbit underground.


Even on a sunny day it’s shady in the woods, and there are some delightfully dramatic descents on the rolling path heading west. When I enter the woods with a bunch of other runners in a race, there is a sense of urgency, like a white rabbit pressed for time. Sometimes at the far end of the 8k course I get turned around in a dreamland, and if it weren’t for signs and course marshals I’d surely wander off course.

The final couple of kilometers coming out of the trail always seem to take longer than I think they should. The roller coaster feel of the hills heading out hide the fact that the course has been descending. On the way back to the finish, like in Alice in Wonderland, I feel like I’ve eaten something that’s made me smaller and the hills seem bigger. Towards the very end of the course, we duck under low branches that make me feel I’ve grown too big for the trail.

I haven’t encountered any tea parties, mad hatters, murderous queens or flamingo/hedgehog croquet on that trail yet, but they would be very fitting! Maybe I should bring tea cookies to the post-race potluck dessert table.

Posted by: Karen | February 7, 2016

Lean Into It

At the Nose Hill CRR XC Race yesterday, the thermometer said “warm”, but the very strong wind at the start line insisted that I wear one more shirt than I’d brought. I borrowed one from my running buddy and was glad I did. This race is held on a big prairie plateau which soars high above Calgary. It’s scenic, but not sheltered from the weather.

We were warned the course was very icy, and it was. I was very glad for my Kahtoolas. The wind was bad enough; if I had fallen on the ice I might have been blown off the plateau! In the first loop I chatted and sometimes walked with some buddies running the 4k route. It was hard to catch our breath with the challenge of bumpy, hard terrain plus the wind.

I was mostly on my own for the second loop, and after the climb back up to the plateau, I gritted my teeth and ran the rest of it. By that time I had caught my “second wind” (pun intended), and was not interested in prolonging my time out in the gale. A fun part of the course wound down through a little copse of trees, and my spikes dug well into the hard packed path.

The best part was the very long descent to the finish, totally worth the two blustery loops up top.

KC Nose Hill CRR XC 2016 Finish

This photo is courtesy of the Calgary Roadrunners awesome phojographers. Check out more in their galleries on the club website.

Posted by: Karen | January 24, 2016

Scroll to the Bottom

One very nice thing about being a slow poke at our club races is that it’s easy to find my name in the results later. Racers are listed in order of placement with the fastest at the top. I just scroll to the bottom to find my official time and placement.

There are folks who get disappointed in themselves for coming in last in a race, but hey, yesterday I came in top 10 in my age group, and top 100 in the whole race (8/8 and 80/80). It’s all perspective, eh? Yesterday, at the 12 Mile Coulee ravine, I enjoyed the race course for the longest of everyone in the 8k.

The CRR XC trail race series has some very scenic courses, and yesterday’s was one of my favourites. Often this time of year, the coulee gives us crusty, uneven footing on the ridge, and nasty hard, ice-filled single track trails in the creek bottom. Yesterday we enjoyed much nicer hard-packed paths throughout the course with only one wide frozen creek crossing. The creek crossing was manned by our delightful David-the-wee-Scot, which had me looking forward to it on the second loop.

I dreaded the horribly steep climb at the end of both loops, but the second time I was cheered on by Justin B., who spurred me to pick up my pace to finish at 1:11.

It was nice to hug friends back at the hall and listen to the announcements while tucking into homemade soup and brownies.

Posted by: Karen | January 22, 2016

Once a Week Winter Bike Commute

It’s really easy to drive my car to work now. With free parking and a no-hassle, 15 minute car commute against the busy traffic flow, I don’t feel as compelled to bike commute, especially on cold winter days and snowy streets. Sometimes it’s an stretch to remember that I want to ride my bike.

This January I set a goal, however, to bike commute a minimum of once per week, at least for the winter months. I hope this goal doesn’t mean I’ll have to ride in really really cold weather, but I’ll give it a shot if that’s all some of the weeks offer. There’s only 10 weeks left until April anyway – how many of them could have really cold weather all week, in Calgary, with our warming Chinook winds?

This goal has me checking the weekly forecast to pick the warmest, least-likely-to-have-accumulated-snow days to bike to work. I like it.

Pick the day each week.

Ride it.

Today marked three weeks of work and my third bike commute this year :-)

AND I signed up for Winter Bike to Work Day (#WBTWD) on February 12. Since I’m not working downtown this winter, I might have to figure out some way to celebrate it at my own workplace. Maybe bring in treats?

Another goal this year is to track all of my bike commutes and some of my runs on Strava (see my side bar). I understand the City of Calgary transportation uses Strava data in planning bicycle-friendly infrastructure, so I’d really like them to see where I ride when they look at tweaking traffic patterns.

Posted by: Karen | October 21, 2015

New Job, New Bike Commute

Here’s a first: This year I took the summer off from bike commuting. I was given half the summer off work due to downsizing, and at my new job I’ve been working at a location out of bike range due to office renovations.

This week I’m working back within bike range. The weather today was  incredibly gorgeous for late October. I rode my bike 8 kilometers to the new workplace for the first time, and I really enjoyed it.

The new route to the close-enough office involved some route finding and a trial run to make sure I’m okay with the traffic volume. I used an old stand-by site, gmap-pedometer to plan my way. On Thanksgiving Monday I rode one of the options to the office and back to try it out – it was very hilly. I went back to the online map and plotted a route with different hills. I drove parts of it, to understand how busy the traffic was and how many parked cars might make me slow down buses and car commuters.

Today’s route involved a climb at the start, but then it was mostly gentle descents on quiet side streets, and I didn’t get lost in the dark. It’s very dark at 7:30 am this time of year in Calgary. The commute home obviously involved climbing, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I did some exploring when I inadvertently turned off the planned route, but it didn’t add much elevation or distance. I’ll keep that way in mind as an alternate route.

For 2015, I believe this is bike commute #63. I won’t be doing this every workday to start (I’m a little out of shape), but I’m looking forward to seeing how many more I can accomplish by the end of the year. I don’t know how snow and ice will affect the route, but I’ll find out soon enough.


Posted by: Karen | July 15, 2015

CRR XC Race 100 in a Row

On the morning of February 7 2015, I prepared to run my 100th consecutive Calgary Roadrunners XC race in Nose Hill Park. It was a lovely day for the time of year in Calgary. I chose some of my favourite running clothes: my Penguin jersey, the toque I knitted to celebrate a decade of running, and the first pair of mitts I knitted. I taped the arches of my feet so they wouldn’t blister from my orthotics. I baked brownies from scratch, and the smell of chocolate filled the house while I got ready.

At the race start I tried to stay modest as friends congratulated me on showing up for my 100th race in a row. Sarah and Dawn, the registration volunteers that day, teased me by saying I wasn’t allowed to register. Race director Trev gathered us up for instructions (no earbuds or headphones, follow the flags, etc.) and upon his “GO” we trotted up the hill east of the Brisebois Drive parking lot.

Friends Ken and Karin G. climbed the stages of the massive hill with me, and we groaned, as the ascent seemed endless. In between gasps for air, I cheered us up with a parody of a children’s song:

This is the hill that never ends, yes it goes on and on, my friend!
Some people started running it, not knowing what it was,
and they’re together running it forever just because…. (repeat)
(with apologies to Sharon, Lois and Bram)

I was honoured to run some of the first lap with Dave I-H, who founded the Nose Hill race 30 years ago. He’s always a pleasure to chat with. Kevin kept us company while waiting for his youngest daughter and her friend in the first loop. Derek ran with us and snapped pictures with his big camera.

Did I mention it was a lovely day? The sky was bright blue, and the sun shone between artistically arranged clouds, and there was a little breeze. From the high plateau of Nose Hill Park we had great views of the Calgary downtown skyline and the blue Rocky Mountains.

We were lapped by a couple of front runners before we got to the copse of trees. The elites were fast this year! More passed us in the trees, but it wasn’t hard to pull off the path to let them through. This part of the course is a steep, snowy descent, and it was fun to bounce down. Kathy caught us on her big camera as we dodged trees.

Once out of the woods, we turned back up the big hill for the second loop. I felt okay on the climb, and thought I might be pacing myself well enough to run the whole course, so I set that as a goal. I would take no walk breaks during today’s 8k race.

Karen Ch. finally passed me on the top in the second loop. She often starts our races late. Wow, she must have started really late this time. I ran on my own for a while and enjoyed the views again. When I looked back for Ken, I saw a kid running with an adult nearby. Hmm, Kevin and Kaiza? No time to think about that, it was time to bounce down through the trees again – wheeeeee!

KC Nose Hill 2015 Ken_Kevin_and_Karen

Photo courtesy of the Calgary Roadrunners awesome and generous photographers.

Then there was more delightful downhill – 400 metres of speed-inducing, stride-enhancing, heart-pounding drop to the finish. I had great energy left and didn’t waste the gravity. Yeeeehaaaa! Somewhere in my whooping enjoyment of that last descent, a small blur whizzed past me on my left, and I recognized Kaiza scooping me at the finish. Ha! Good on her, I was proud of her competitive spirit.

Sarah gave me my placement stick (82) along with a monogrammed 100 races in a row stick, and a hug. I hugged and high-fived a few more people too. Another young friend, Nikky, had come in first in the 4k distance for the very first time. She had been trying to place first all season, and we congratulated each other. Her grandma captured our proud moment.

KC NH Nose Hill XC 2015 100 and 1st

At the hall afterwards we celebrated the race’s 30th anniversary, everyone’s impressive race standings, and my persistence in race participation. There were homemade soups, potluck dessert, and a special cake. Derek and Dianne, who encouraged me to start running these races 14 years ago, gave a nice speech, and I took a bow. At the annual series wrap up banquet the following month, I received a huge hand painted mug with 100 little stick racers painted around it. I love it.

Posted by: Karen | January 27, 2015


I might have mentioned that I have a streak of trail races going. Last Saturday I raced my 99th CRR XC in a row, and it was a lovely day for it.

The Friday evening prior I skipped swim club so I’d have enough time to cook up a pumpkin soup for the lunch afterwards. Last Halloween I cooked down a huge Jack o’ Lantern into 16 cups of pureed pumpkin, and stashed it in the freezer. Friday used it all to make a savoury soup. I added some red lentils, a yam, some vegetable broth and cumin for extra nutrients and flavour.

Saturday morning I finally remembered to hunt down the tape and taped my feet where they’ve been getting sore spots from the orthotics during races. At Nose Creek race two weeks ago I had blistered the left arch, and I didn’t want a repeat of that. I wasn’t sure exactly how to tape my feet, but I covered the parts that had hurt, and it worked.

Once I’d dropped off the soup at the hall, registered, and trotted over to the race start, I had enough time to put on my Kahtoolas over my shoes and socialize a bit. It was a good thing I had the spikes – there was a lot of ice. I started way at the back of the pack, but early in the race the pack of runners ahead of me parted and started picking their ways through the grass on either side of the ice-filled single track. I trotted up between them on the ice, no problem. The first big descent was icy too, but again no problem with the spikes. I yodeled a big WOOHOOO and bounded merrily down. That’s me, annoyingly perky.

I trotted on past a few more other ice-challenged participants, all of whom must have chosen the 4k distance, because they don’t show up behind me in the results. I almost caught up to young Kaiza several times, but she was determined to stay ahead, and her determination kept me running harder, too.

As I headed back down into the coulee on the second loop, a volunteer let me know I was only a short ways behind my favourite running buddy, Ken. We often train together, and he kindly loops back for me because he’s faster, and I’ve never caught him in a race… until this one! When I caught him he’d been walking. We have not been running much lately. I razzed him and gently kicked his butt. He gave me a high five and sent me on my way. Maybe my swimming and bike commuting is helping out my fitness after all.

The 8k run wasn’t easy, especially in the last few kilometers, but I had strength and energy and perseverance. I ran on a beautiful sunny day,  in a snowy coulee, with friends and trees and trails. We shared mutual support, whoops of victory, soup and brownies and camaraderie. Happiness.

Posted by: Karen | January 11, 2015

Nose Creek Park 8k on the Prairie

I wasn’t expecting much from myself at the Nose Creek XC race this weekend. I didn’t exercise much over the holidays, other than a couple of runs over a couple of weeks. No bike commuting, as the office was closed between Christmas and New Year’s, and since starting back to work in January it has snowed a fair bit. I don’t bicycle in snow. Not that much snow, anyway. I don’t like training in that much snow either, but I’ll run a my-favourite-series race in it!

It was a chilly, breezy morning, but a bunch of us deliriously crazy nuts showed up at the start. We clowned around, photo-bombed each others’ pictures, and eventually kind of quieted down enough to hear the race director’s instructions. It was a double loop course and the snow which shifted underfoot kept us watching the terrain more than the scenery.

The first couple of kilometers were really cold. My toes were numb and I sucked my mittened fists up into my jacket sleeves. I ran the first big ascent, because I was still cold when I got there. Running it helped warm me up. I chatted with another runner for a while, and greeted the course marshals as we went by. My running buddy headed for the finish line after the first loop and I carried on to do the second one alone. I walked a few hills (or 5 or 6). Yes, prairies have hills, at least this one does. My left foot developed a nasty hot spot under the arch from the orthotic, and afterwards I discovered a tiny blister. I really need to find and use my foot tape for these events, eh?

I’m pretty sure I was last again, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I showed up and ran, and chose the 8k (long option) because I could. It does help that even though I was last in two races in a row now, I moved up in the standings anyway. At Silver Springs I came in last of 85 racers – at this race I came in 82nd. Ha! I’ll take it.

Posted by: Karen | January 4, 2015

Double Swim Day

On alternate Sunday mornings when my daughter is with me, I often just skip the swim club workout and just take her to the family swim at a city recreational pool later in the morning. I have felt kind of selfish asking her sit through my master’s club swim workout. She is a swimmer herself though, and actually likes watching me swim, so this morning she brought a book to my workout, and after my swim we headed straight to another pool so she could swim too.

We can do both in the same morning – our swims don’t have cancel each other out. I’m hoping embracing this concept will help me get my swim workouts in and have fun pool time with her, without feeling guilty about skipping either activity.

Sunday morning club swims are 90 minutes long. Today we worked on all strokes, using kick/drill/swim sequences of 25m/50m/75m, with and without fins. I got some pointers on better sculling drill technique. I tried to remember to push out the end of my freestyle stroke. The breaststroke laps felt awesome. I love breaststroke. We worked hard and it felt good to be back in the water after the Christmas break.

After I showered and dressed, I scarfed down an apple while we drove to a city pool in time for the Sunday morning family swim. I donned a second, dry swim suit (putting on a cold, wet swimsuit feels icky), and hopped back in the water with my kiddo for a much more relaxed round of underwater mermaid poses, handstands, and otter-like water play, with her trying out my fins for a while. We capped it off with a soak in the hot tub and a stop by the A&W drive-through on the way home.

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