Posted by: Karen | January 24, 2010

The Ridge and the Coulee

Yesterday, in 12 Mile Coulee park in Tuscany, Calgary, I ran my 49th consecutive CRR XC Grand Prix race. It was cold, snowy, icy, beautiful and quite a challenge.

What to Bring?

In preparation for post-race festivities, I had stirred up one of my favourite treats, peanut chocolate energy bars; a concoction of peanuts, peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, brown sugar, dried cranberries, raisins, cocoa and Rice Krispies. They’re like Eatmore bars, but better.

What to Wear?

I layered up at home with long johns under my warm winter leggings, two tech shirts under my windbreaker, two layers of mitts and my 2010 hat. I’d been missing a Yaktrax since December, but Dawn had an old pair she was willing to let me use. Somehow I’d misplaced both of my Moose Mountain buffs which are good for neck and face coverage. I couldn’t find my black un-lined wind pants, either, and one of my stripey mitts was missing. I put on a stretchy neon pink neck tube and checked the outdoor thermometer again – it was only -9*C. Nah, the tube would be too warm. It would also be too warm for my lined blue wind pants, so I left them at home, too.

When registering outside in the parking lot next to the race it felt much colder than my thermometer said, and I realized my wardrobe choices were woefully inadequate. There was a nasty wind that numbed my fingers instantly, and I was glad I’d printed and filled out my entry form at home. I piled into Dawn’s car with Dawn, Alan, Carrie and Nikayla, and donned the Yaktrax before mugging for her camera.

Roadrunner Car Cram

Pre-Race Warming Strategy. Photo cropped from the Pink Chick's collection.

Plan B in wardrobe alterations kicked in: I detached the fleece from the wind-proof shell of my warm new winter coat. I left the shell of my winter coat on as long as possible before the race and then ditched it under the clock table just before Hugh sent us off.

Dawn evicted us all from her car fifteen minutes before start time and we hopped around  with more friends, trying to stay warm in the wind. There Dave gave us all a good laugh – in honour of Robbie Burns day tomorrow, he’d worn his plaid scottish tam, complete with fake red hair and a wee musical button which played bagpipe music.

Davey races in his Robbie Burns Hat

Davey races in his Robbie Burns Hat

The Ridge

The first part of the course took us along a windswept ridge covered in hard, bumpy ice and crusty, glazed snow, which made an echoing croaky sound as my footwear bit into it. I bolted across the ridge at a fair clip, exhilarated by the excitement of the start and even further moved by a surge of survivalist strength.

It was good to be alive, and I had to keep moving or I’d freeze. My toes, fingers, and face stung with cold. I was glad I’d kept the extra fleece with me.

Course marshals warned us of treacherous terrain, and indeed some surprise soft spots or slick  turns caught some racers off guard. I did not pause to gander at the gorgeous view up there. I diligently focused my attention on my next few steps. I took the first couple of big downhills cautiously (for me) and by the time I landed in the coulee I was tired already.

12 Mile Coulee XC 8k 1st Lap 2010

The Coulee

It was beautiful down there. There was better traction on the hard-packed snow covering the paths, and the wind only gusted through intermittently. Halfway through the coulee my legs ached, but most of my fingers and toes warmed up. The fourth toe on my left foot was still cold, but it quit complaining eventually. I unzipped my fleece and pocketed one damp pair of mittens.

Liesbeth, Barb and I dipsy-doodled over knolls, small hills, and the winding creek. I contemplated whether I really wanted to run a second loop.  I could push myself really hard for another 10 minutes and then quit at 4k, but according to the Grand Prix rules I still needed one more 8k in the series to qualify for the final standings. Who knows what might happen between now and the end of the series? I had the chance to complete my qualification then and there, and that is what my racing is about; seizing the moment, doing what I can, sucking it up to go the distance.

I let Liesbeth go ahead and conserved some of my energy to carry me through the second loop. The first 8k racer approached the finish line as Barb and I turned our backs on it. Hurray, we hadn’t been lapped! This might have been the first time I’ve avoided being lapped on that course.

The Ridge Again

Back up on the ridge, I felt strong again. I liked how my feet dug into the ice and propelled my whole self forward. Life was good! Racing was a blast! I felt amazing. This time around I negotiated the tricky parts with more confidence and heartily hurtled myself down the hills. I spread my arms out airplane style as I banked through the final turn into the coulee.

The Coulee Again

Once again back in the coulee, my pace slowed. I enjoyed the trees and the shelter from the wind, but it seemed like the second loop of the race had stretched somewhat, with all of the racers having trampled it so. I wished I had eaten one of my energy bars before the race.

Eventually I hauled my tired body up out of the coulee to the clock. The snow was deep and very uneven in the final stretch, so there was no glorious finishing sprint, merely a sigh of relief in crossing the line. A few hardy volunteers and racers cheered me in, and then I headed to the hall for soup and sweets.

Results and photos are up on the Calgary Roadrunners webpage and Dawn has more pics on Flickr.

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