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.

Posted by: Karen | January 3, 2015

2015: My Return to the 10k

My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to “Race a 10k”, which means committing to training and registering for road races, setting a benchmark, and then pushing myself to improve on it. I haven’t done any of that for a while. A personal best finish time would be nice, but I’ll live with what I can accomplish in a healthy manner, whatever that is.

My commitment to Swim club takes me until the end of May, with four possible swim times per week (Mon/Weds/Fri/Sun), of which I’m mostly okay with missing one per week. With the commitment to swimming (I paid for the whole season), maybe I need to consider an olympic distance triathlon training plan? I realize this could sway me back into triathlon craziness, but I think I’ll have time this summer for one or two of those. Maybe the swim training can change my bad attitude towards multi-sport racing.

To do 10k race training justice, I’m assuming I’ll need at least three runs a week. I can fairly easily commit to Tuesday evening and Saturday morning runs, as that’s basically what I’ve been doing lately. I assume I would have to run Thursdays as well, but am reluctant to fill up all my week night evenings with workouts, so maybe that would be a light jog Thursday mornings or at lunch. Wednesday night swim workouts are 90 minutes long as opposed to Mondays and Fridays, which are only an hour, so I’m more likely to work in a Thursday run if I keep it light.

I will be re-acquainting myself with my Garmin, a log, and this blog. Feel free to chime in with training plan suggestions or questions.

The five remaining club XC races on my schedule will count as my Saturday runs those weekends, especially if I’m sticking to the 8k distances. I am not likely to work in bike/spin workouts on top of bike commuting until after swim club finishes in May. There will be a 3-week taper of all exercise during a Mexican vacation at Easter.

Calgary buddies, which local 10k races and triathlons are you aiming for this year? I will likely run The Original St. Patrick’s Day as a benchmark, but am open to suggestions.

Posted by: Karen | December 29, 2014

Penguin Pajamas and an Icy 8k Trail Run

On December 13th I ran a fairly steady 8k at the Silver Springs trail race over several hills on a lot of ice. I’m happiest about the “fairly steady” part, because I haven’t been running much this year. I know I’m not as fast as I can be, but “steady” and “not injured” totally rock my world. “Steady” means I can run along and thoroughly enjoy the course, the motion, the fresh air, the volunteers, my fellow racers, and the challenge of the distance.

If I hadn’t been wearing serious traction I would not have been steady, no matter what my fitness level. It was icy out there. My Kahtoola microspikes dug into the solid ice which filled most of the single track trails on the Bowmont Park course.

I’m pretty sure my spikes are what enabled me to a) finish top 5 in my age group and simultaneously b) finish last in the 8k distance. a) happened because no more than 4 of my age groupers wanted to take on the ice for 8k and b) the usual 8kers who finish behind me didn’t like the ice either. It’s great that I can finish top 5 AND last and still have so much fun in a scenic winter trail race.

I didn’t have much company on the course this year. Once I turned off on towards the 8k part of the race I was pretty much on my own. I caught glimpses of Karin and David ahead of me, but I never caught up. They must have seen or heard me coming – I could ever sneak up on anyone whilst wearing noisy ice cleats.

The Silver Springs race is also a fun time to dress up in Christmassy stuff. We wear Santa Hats as a memorial to one of our favourite fallen runners who always wore Santa gear to this race, and I figure if I’m going to wear a Santa Hat, my red fleecy penguin pajama pants should come along too.

Karen runs trails in penguin print pajamas

Festive XC run fun. Photo courtesy of the Calgary Roadrunners fabulous phojographers.

Posted by: Karen | December 1, 2014

In Other News

I should say “in other sports”, because I’ve been far more active in things other than running this fall. I’d like to say I’m keeping up the yoga, but I haven’t. Maybe I’ll get back to it in the summer.

Bike Commuting

The bike commutes were going really well (130 this year so far) until Wednesday last week, when it snowed and then got really cold (-25°C). This week it’s not so terribly cold, but there’s a lot of snow on the shoulder of my street where I ride. There’s soft snirt-y snow all over the bike lane further in, and a local educational institution I ride by has even cleared all the snow from their sidewalk into the bike lane instead of onto their lawn. (sigh)

I had my studded tires re-installed and new Bar Mitts put on prior to last week, and used them twice before the snow hit. When my bike route emerges again I hope to see how well the Bar Mitts keep my hands warm in negative double digits, starting at around -10 ish Celsius and gradually attempting colder rides.

We’ll see how it goes. I don’t have to bike to work – I’ll bike when I want, and take the bus or walk when I don’t. It’s nice to have choices.

Masters Swim Club

In the meantime, I signed up for a master’s swim club this September. I have never been part of a swim club before, so this is a whole new world. We swim all the strokes, even butterfly, and I’m learning drills, which keep things very interesting. There’s a coach. Sometimes we wear fins. Flip turns are normal (at the community pool flip turns were like showing off). I have been trying very hard to remember which part of the whiteboard workout comes next – sometimes I do. Tonight I didn’t.

After the first night we did butterfly and I realized I had no idea of what I should be doing, I came home and watched butterfly swimming internet videos until bedtime. I think it helped.

Swims are four times a week – I’m trying to make it to all four, but usually I end up with three or two. In October I suffered an ear infection followed by a head cold, but now I’m back to regular swims. Swimming this often is good – I think I’m improving my coordination. I didn’t realize how much mental concentration swimming demands. I don’t have much time for daydreaming when I’m working on a stroke or trying to remember what time on the clock my next interval begins.

Swimming doesn’t leave much time for running, but that’s good for now – I’m hoping it’s really hard to re-injure my foot on one or two gentle 5 – 8 km runs a week between swim days.

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.

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