Posted by: Karen | September 8, 2008

Moose Mountain 29k Race Report

I’ve been inspired by a couple of Rascal Flatts songs lately: “Feels Like Today” and “Stand“.  This weekend’s Moose Mountain 29k trail race gave me some new perspective into some of those lyrics (in italics).

I woke up this morning
with this feeling inside me that I can’t explain
Like a weight that I’ve carried
been carried away

Race mornings often feel like that for me. I’ve set my mind to something and done what I could to prepare. Now I just have to trust that what I’ve done is good enough and immerse myself in the experience. It’s not easy to trust the training. There’s always a little voice inside that says “Did you do enough?”

You treat life like a picture but its not a moment frozen in time
It’s not gonna wait til you make up your mind

I’d packed my gear the night before. I awoke with plenty of time to eat breakfast (a microwaved egg & half a piece of pb toast with coffee), fill up the car with gas and drive out to the race site about an hour away. It was cool out, but the forecast promised some sunshine, with perhaps thundershowers later in the afternoon. I tried to dress for all four seasons at once. As usual due to race day excitement, I hadn’t been able to finish my toast, so I munched on a peanut-chocolate granola bar as I drove.

I got there so early that I got to help Jim set up the finish line. I picked up my number, buff, and a copy of Trailrunner magazine from Arlene. It took three tries to get my bib pinned on right, but it kept me occupied.

15 minutes before the start I headed for the outhouse and found the guys all lined up but the women’s side unoccupied. Funny, that’s not how it usually is at events. I felt kind of hard-core for a minute. Looking at the results, 9 out of the 32 racers who completed the 29k were women.

Jim called us all to the start for a brief description of the conditions. He mentioned that there was snow up at the top, but that was good. “It will cushion your, uh, feet.” (spoken like he might have been going to say “fall”).

Then it was 3-2-1 GO and we started out on a gently rolling gravel road.

Feels like today!

I fell in with Cheryl and Lisa. Cheryl babbled excitedly and encouragingly like I usually do at 10ks, and Lisa took her time warming up behind us. One thing Cheryl said took hold in my mind: “I don’t think running builds character. I believe it reveals it.”

By the time we got to the heavily treed single-track switchbacks, Cheryl had pulled ahead of me and Lisa was catching up. I was not running much by this time (about an hour in). My heart was pounding hard enough just keeping up a brisk hike. I laughed at one point when Cheryl called out from above: “MARCO!” and we answered from below “POLO!”

Lisa left me behind as the switchbacks levelled out, just before we heard the cowbell ringing from Melody and Alan’s 9k water station. She gave me a few shouts of encouragement as she went ahead. I figured I was last now, but I didn’t much care. I was out to do my best, whatever that meant. As I went through the station I realized I didn’t really need anything yet. I’d hardly drunk any water.

Now the trail got wider and flatter. I took a gel and plopped a Nuun tab into my water bottle in between running. The front runner came whizzing back past me at 1:39 with a huge smile on his face. After a while the path gradually ascended and became rockier.

Eventually the ascent steepened and began switchbacking again. The path became more scree than dirt, and every step was a challenge to my balance. The trees thinned and I came out of them with a grand view of the snow-covered peak I had yet to climb.

Hoo boy.

I’d already been going for two hours, yet here I faced another steep ascent blanketed with loose rock and snow. I could see almost the whole thing, which made it seem more daunting than the other climbs. At least in the treed switchbacks I hadn’t seen the whole thing at once.

A guy at the water station there (13k) seemed to understand my awe as I looked waaaaayyy up at the little specs of racers zig-zagging to and from the peak. I drank water from a cup and tried not to wobble too much while they re-filled my bottle and disposed of my second gel wrapper. The volunteer said “It’s not as bad as it looks.” Um, yeah. Okay…

Up I went, one step at a time. It was good that I had to focus on the rock beneath my feet instead of the summit above. A heart-shaped rock caught my eye and I quickly pocketed it for Dawn. She loves hearts.

It was nice that the runners before me had already punched paths through the drifts. As I met others coming down, I looked forward to my turn to descend.

It took me 30 minutes to haul myself up the last 1.5k to the turnaround. I didn’t stop for a rest on the way; it was that steep. I’d estimated it might take me 2:45 to get up there, and it had only taken me 2:31. Cool.

The panoramic view was vast, amazing! It would have been nice to spend a little more time up there enjoying it. I high-fived Derek’s two boys, posed for a picture near the cairn of rocks and the tent (which background would you like?) and headed back down. Wheeeeee!

Moose Mountain Summit Smile

It's all downhill from here!

She’ll be comin’ down the mountain when she comes…

It felt so good to give in to the gravity that it was hard to restrain myself to a safe pace. Boing, boing, I cheerfully bounded down, only held back by a thin thread of thought that warned of blood, stitches and probably worse if I fell.

Still, Wheeeeeeee!

Life’s like a novel with the end ripped out
The edge of a canyon with only one way down
Take what you’re given before it’s gone
And start holdin’ on, keep holdin’ on

I slammed down through the scree as fast as I could go. My left ankle had turned under me a couple of times during the race, but I’d managed to stay upright so far.

Once back on soft, damp dirt I was ever so thankful for it. I greeted hikers out for the day along the rolling wide path. A quick sip of water from Alan and Melody, and then I plunged down the single-track, only slowing for the hairpin turns and a fallen-tree-hurdle.

By the time I got to the endlessly rolling, flat, wide gravel road, I was tuckered. I’d made it up and down the mountain, but still had probably 4 more km to go to the finish. The photographer, Kathy, had let me know that there was still one guy behind me (I’d met him up near the summit), but even that thought couldn’t keep me running hard.

In trying to guess my finish time before the race I’d wondered if I could beat last year’s last racer’s time of 4:30. That thought did get me back running more than a few times. It was a tough slog now. The last time I felt like this was in the last 7k of a marathon. Everything below my belly button ached.

On one of the downslopes my ankle finally rolled too far and I went down. My palms, elbow and right lower leg took my weight as I rolled through it. I got back up, staggered over to a tree and dumped pebbles out of my shoe while doing a mental damage assessment.

When push comes to shove
You taste what you’re made of
You might bend ’til you break
‘Cause it’s all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you’ve had enough
You get mad, you get strong
Wipe your hands, shake it off
Then you stand

“You okay? Yeah. I think so. Well, let’s go”

Every time you get up and get back in the race
One more small piece of you starts to fall into place

Olakunle passed me with a couple of km to go. I heard him coming and cheered him on, but I wasn’t going to go any faster now. I found zen-like grooves now and then where the rhythm of my breaths and footfalls kept me going, but I was just barely hanging on. At 4:25 I told myself just to run for the next 5 minutes and then I could rest, or finish, whichever came first.

The rises in the gravel road all looked the same. There were too many. I couldn’t remember which one would be the last. I slowed to a walk on just one more incline and Alan yelled from far behind me “Keep going!”

While there’s light at the end of the tunnel
Keep running towards it
Releasing the pressure, that’s your heartache
Soon this dam will break

I heaved myself into one more jog, crested the knoll and saw the finish. I held back tears as I threw myself toward it.

Feels like
Feels like
Your life

The finishing crew and last few racers cheered me in. Barb made me finish twice because her camera hadn’t taken a good pic the first time. I snagged a bowl of soup, a cookie and an apple and wandered over to where the awards were being presented.

I was pretty happy with my official time of 4:29:42. I escaped chafing, blisters and road rash. I’m achy all over now, but none of my joints are swollen. It feels really good to check the Moose’s 29k off my bucket list.

Results and more Photos are up on the Calgary Roadrunners website.



  1. Karen, congratulations!!! I’m glad your fall wasn’t too serious and that you beat 4:30! Way to go on a fantastic and tough race.

  2. WOW! I am so impressed! I admire people like you! I hiked out in that neck of the woods last week, that was not easy. I cannot imagine running those trails! Very impressive indeed and congratulations!

  3. Wow! What an epic race, Karen. 🙂 Totally gave me goosebumps with the lyrics sprinkled in there.

    Favorite line: “A heart-shaped rock caught my eye and I quickly pocketed it for Dawn.” 😀

  4. Congratulations, Karen! That is a fantastic accomplishment and you deserve to be proud – and to recover speedily. Good job.

  5. I held my breath until I read to the end. I hope the ankle is OK. I love how you approached the race (I’m like that too) and find it quite creative to weave those song lyrics to fit your struggles that day. Nice job, girlfriend!

  6. Goood Jobbb! 😉 What an incredible race you had and way to persevere all the way to the finish! I wish I could have run it with you but my cat had to go to the vet.
    Way to go Karen!

  7. Excellent report and I also very much enjoyed your lyrical quotes and how you weaved them into your saga. MY favorite quote from your tale is “I don’t think running builds character. I believe it reveals it.”

    You certainly reveal yours and I like it.

  8. Hey Karen!

    Long time, no see!

    Great race and excellent report. I hope your ankle is okay.

    Let me know if you’re up for a run sometime soon.


  9. […] awesome deserts. Oh yeah, Karen presented me with the heart-shaped rock she had found for me at the Moose Mtn Race. It’s pictured in the lower right corner of the photo just […]


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