I’d like to be a better blogger. I really would. It’s been almost a year since my last update where I threw tons of stuff together into a blog post and promised to do better and then I left it til now to update again. The more I put it off, the more there is to blog about, the harder it is to write that post! Ugh!
Anyways, I’m on a plane now [or I was when this blog post started being written – it’s now a month later as I’m continuing (finishing?) it] so the plan is to run through the last 11 months as Dani and I remember them, get caught up, and then from now on she’ll help me run this blog, now renamed to runningstix.com! Team Stix is here! 😀 We like the idea of a blog for a number of reasons.. Keeping track of events, best-of pictures, and information on previous events, but also there’s been some information we’ve come across that was hard/impossible to find online with Google and hopefully us posting about it will help others find better info if they’re looking for the same things later. Like a 30 km run in Kananaskis, something we’ve done a few times now, and every time it’s not what we expected.
I’m rambling. On with the history!
Last October after the last post, we ran the Grizzly 50K out in Canmore. I like this race! It was my first 50K in 2013 just before I met Danielle and it’s what got us talking in the first place, actually! She ran it for the first time in 2014 and had a stellar performance for her first foray into Ultras! I think my time was roughly 5:50, 30 minutes slower than in 2013 but in 2013 it was my A-race that I prepared for all year (albeit not optimally, but whatever), and this year it was an after thought after our iron distance triathlon at Challenge Penticton. Dani finished in 5:59 and some seconds, amazing! I think our longest trail training run was 18km before this and most were closer to 13km. This year we’re thinking of doing it again if we’re around, possibly bringing Dani’s family out for Thanksgiving and getting them to put a team in? We’ll see! If you guys are reading this, get training! hah. Oh, and super coincidentally, this girl that Dani ran with at Sinister 7 a few months before Grizzly ended up running near me for a while at Grizzly and we got talking, later added each other on Facebook and have since become great friends. Dennene is an inspiration to us for sure, full of Ultra accomplishments, including qualifying for the World 24-hour championships by running 189km in 24h around a track in Arizona and then managing 193km at Worlds in Italy! She also ran in the World Championships for the 100km road race (omg, road) in Dubai! Great person to know, always full of inspirational things on Facebook, and we’d later see each other again at the 2015 Calgary Marathon and run together for a while at Sinister 7 2015 too. More on that later!
Early December was registration for the aforementioned Sinister 7, a 100-mile race in Crowsnest pass that some people do solo (like Dennene), but you can do in a team up to 7 people. This wouldn’t come around for another 7 months, but suddenly we were 2 hours before registration and we hadn’t really talked about what we were going to do for it. In 2014 we both ran a leg (Dani ran leg 3, me 6) on separate teams and had a blast, but we kind of wanted to step it up this year. Last second we decided to split it 50-50ish and Dani would do legs 1-4 and I’d do 5-7. About 85km and 76km respectively, with me getting the night legs and Dani the daytime ones. Dani’s sister Carmen signed up with another team and volunteered for leg 6, the hardest leg and another night time one.
Christmas saw Dani and I going to Maui with my family where we did a bit of running, a bit of snorkeling, saw some turtles, and the best/ worst part, cycling up Haleakala, on rented bikes from Paia. It was an amazing accomplishment, cycling from sea level to 10000 feet but we were really really underprepared for how cold it would be up there and how long it would take us. Mostly there was a massive delay renting the bikes for some reason I can’t recall anymore, but we started much too late, got to the top and as soon as we stopped pedaling, it was freezing cold and ridiculously windy… I had been excited about the downhill all day, but as I turned around and started the descent I just started shivering and couldn’t stop. Dani made me get off the bike at the information station at 7000 feet elevation, which was sadly closed, and do pushups and jumping jacks trying to warm up. Maybe it helped a bit but a bit is not very much! Luckily at some point my parents decided to try and find us (maybe we’d texted them?) and we found them at about 4000 feet above sea level, a sight for sore eyes, as there was probably 30-45 minutes of descent left and it was nearly dark and I was still freezing! Dani was cold too, but I think I won the race to near hypothermia.. Oh, and the best part is our plane home was canceled and it was Christmas time so there were no hotels and we slept on a picnic table outside of the airport… “slept”.. lol
Sometime in around the new year we signed up for the lottery for Escape From Alcatraz triathlon down in San Francisco.. tons of people try to get in every year and tons get turned away, but it was only $25 to try, so we did, and shockingly we both got in! This kind of threw a kink in the whole run run run year I semi planned for 2015, but it was too good an opportunity to turn down, both having gotten in! Coming up in June details below!
January we left Canada yet again for warmer pastures in Bali, Indonesia.. We’d gotten some amazing deal to Singapore off the YYC deals blog ($800 return w/ Delta?) and so instead of spending 12 days there we thought we’d spend 2 days there and find somewhere else to spend 10 and that was Bali! Before we left I got Dani Scuba diving lessons for Christmas and she did her certification dives in Bali (on a sweet sub-island called Nusa Lembongan, what a place! So peaceful and beautiful!) along with a few more dives off the main island! We got to do some cool dives there for sure, including the USS Liberty wreck in Tulamben, up on the north part of the island. Amazingly we called the dive shop the day before while staying in Ubud and they arranged pickup the next morning and drove us two hours there and back as part of some flat rate 3-dive package that was still cheaper than most of the diving I’ve done in the world. Other big highlights were:
– The monkey forest in Ubud, a super must see! The temples around the forest are amazing themselves, but there’s a few hundred curious (and sometimes violent if you tease them with food) monkeys.
– Following Google Maps to Bali’s most important temple (Gunung Kawi) and finding ourselves in a complete deadend in a small town with definitely no sign of temple to be seen. A group of people asked us where we were headed and we made it apparent we were looking for this temple. An awesome young local guy said to follow him, he’d take us to the temple no problem. Someone in his family caught up to us a few hundred meters down this path with sarongs for the temple so we didn’t have to rent them there. Had to cover the knees, you see! Anyways, he takes us on this amazing, beautiful walk through rice paddies, local rice farmers, creeks, hills, and eventually down into the valley where the temple actually was. We climbed in some back stairs, definitely not where your average tourist enters and commenced walking around the temple area with this guy after he’d ran off briefly to buy us tickets at the real gate (we paid him). He showed us every inch of the temple, but his English was pretty lacking, so it was mostly just pointing and a word or two here and there, but such a cool way to find this place! On the way back to our scooter transportation he took a different route and stopped by this super private waterfall which seemed like a great place for a proposal! .. not mine, but someone’s, I’m sure! 😉 We got back to our scooter (oh yeah, we’d rented a scooter in Ubud for 5 days at a rate of something like $5/day? Ridiculously cheap, anyways.
– When we left Ubud we took a 38km taxi ride that took 2 hours to Kuta. TWO. HOURS. Ugh! Anyways, we finally depart the taxi, annoyed and frustrated and get a call from the hotel in Ubud.. We’d left our passports and my GoPro in a safe in the room. Nooooo! So, what could you do but go back? And I was pretty much forced to rent a real motorcycle and drive Grand-Theft-Auto-style back to Ubud in what seemed like blazing and dangerous speeds but still took 1.5 hours to go that 38k. Fun, anyways. Dani relaxed on the beach, but that motorcycle ride was really really fun for me. Much better than taxiing back and forth once more!
– On a hunch I made over Christmas I started pre-medicating with Zantac (heart burn medicine) for the pain that I’d been getting for the last 8-9 years whenever I ate chicken. It worked!! I could eat chicken pain free finally for the first time in forever, and it was amazing. I was a bit worried it was Bali chicken alone, but it’s worked since returning too… Chicken’s back in the foray! I also tried all kinds of new Bali and Indonesian dishes while there, those who know me or read this blog while I was in Africa will recognize this as an amazing feat for me, Mr Picky Eater extraordinaire usually!
– One of Dani’s favourite parts was in Ubud as well, this yoga studio she found there called Yoga Barn. She went almost every day and was challenged and inspired by the practice there. I never made it myself but I saw some photos of the complex and it was definitely way high on the amazing scale! I probably should’ve gone, but I was really into the relax!
As for our two days in Singapore, it was pretty cool as far as cities go, but really expensive for anything outside of food. The highlight there was Marina Bay Sands, a $8 Billion casino/ hotel/ mall complex they built on reclaimed land in the harbour area. I found a roulette-like asian game in the Casino there and promptly lost a bunch of money. I probably should’ve watched a bit more before diving in, alas! We also went to the Night Safari here, definitely the coolest thing we did in Singapore! Go do that!
This whole 12 day vacation was complete time off training, I don’t think we did a single run and definitely didn’t do any cycling or swimming for sport!
We also wanted another attempt at qualifying for Boston w/ a spring Marathon. We looked around and decided on Toronto but my good friend Jenna was running Mississauga the same weekend (why two cities 25 minutes apart have marathons on the same day, I do not know), so she convinced us to change our minds.
I had a pretty shitty time training last winter… It was great weather to keep running all year round, but my legs just weren’t in it a lot of the time. I’d go from having an amazing 21k run in 1:42 to running 3k in 20 minutes and quitting and walking/ limping home because my calves were hurting so badly. Between a bit of physio therapy, massage, rolling at home, and perhaps a bit of a gait change, I eventually emerged from this unscatched but with only about a month left until the marathon.
I felt I did pretty good considering… I decided to go out at a Boston Qualifying pace (3:05 overall time – maybe 4:21/km, something like that..) and see how long I could hold it. I got to 25km w/ 4:16/4:17 pace before getting some cramping going on and slowing way off. I basically did my 2nd fastest half marathon followed by my 2nd slowest half marathon and finished in 3:19! Dani did another BQ run, getting just under 3:35 but because of the competitiveness to get into Boston these days, she didn’t have much hope of getting in and isn’t signing up this year. We made a good list of marathon/race lessons from that one that luckily we wrote down because I’d never remember them otherwise. A huge thing for both of us was to race more. It’d been a long time since I’d ran a pure run race (or any at all) and I remember my heart rate was up around 150bpm before the gun even went off!
From there we had a month to prepare for Escape from Alcatraz, an iconic and epic triathlon in San Francisco that starts by 2000 people jumping off a barge which is anchored just off the shore of Alcatraz island! Originally I’d said I was going to bike and swim a bunch in that month, but I only biked once and I’m not even sure if I swam.. I don’t think I did! It went ok, considering, but was far from my best performance. My bike actually felt pretty great, but I was dead for the run and my legs weren’t used to brick at all. Dani had prepared better and was definitely doing better that day than I was! The run had an out and back at 8km (of 12km total running) and she was only about 500m behind me… Oh shit! lol. I did my best to pick up the pace but it wasn’t until the top of the sand ladder (a sand staircase of a couple hundred meters of elevation that is a big landmark of the course) that I finally got my running legs back and laid down some mid 4-minute kms to finish just a minute ahead of Danielle! Nice work, babe! In any event, that race was super cool, and the course was amazing. Brought me to a side of San Francisco I’d never seen before (the oceanside of the peninsula and also Golden Gate Park (which is not super close to the bridge, actually)) and Dani’d never been to the city either, so she enjoyed exploring everything!
We took a couple days after to explore and drive up to Sonoma for some wine tasting and lunch in the town.. It was such a great trip, and we decided then to really try and push to find some jobs in California and make a new adventure in our lives. It all started with the Alcatraz Tri lottery! WOO.
The rest of the summer saw us doing a lot of trail running / power hiking in Kananaskis and running a few amazing trail races / ultras. I’ll try and summarize the experiences in point form!
First up was Cactus Coulee Crawl in Lethbridge, approximately 35km of runnable(ish) hills in the coulees of Lethbridge..
– This was a pretty great small race (50ish people)
– I came in 3rd soloist (3rd male), about 18 seconds after 2nd place, who I hadn’t realized was so close (curvy tree covered path finish), but we were almost an hour behind the overall winner, Ian MacNairn, a local pro.
– Dani came in 3rd female as well! Super exciting! And she even spent 10 minutes or so helping a girl who fell and broke her wrist right behind her! Yikes.
– We won mugs for our podium finishes!
– Dennene was there, the aforementioned friend I met last year at Grizzly and Dani had met last year running Sinister 7!
– Dani’s friend from Physio school owns the running store in Lethbridge, Runner’s Soul, and even better they had the new shoes Dani had been looking for (and ended up racing in all summer)!
Next big race was a 50K at the Canmore Nordic Centre – Transrockies! I wasn’t super feeling well all weekend and that day was projected to be 36C, which resulted in me DNFing at 32km. Sad at the time for sure, but ultimately the best decision for me!
– Dani came in 2nd place female and basically tied her 50K record from Grizzly last year on what I’d consider a harder course w/ more elevation gain!
– An online running friend Adam Kahtava destroyed it and won in something like 4h, amazeballs, Adam! Constantly inspired by his runs on Strava.
– Dani loves the Nordic Centre! I like it, but.. she really loves racing and running there! Woo!
Next up was the race we’d been looking forward to all year! Sinister 7! Dani and I were “duoing” it, with her taking the first 4 legs in the daytime (85km) and me taking the last 3 legs at night (76km)… It went so so so well! We both had a blast supporting each other and running it as well, of course. Carmen, Danielle’s sister, came out as well and ran a night time leg (leg 6), which I got to see her during! Was so great, from every perspective. Dani did her half in just under 13h on what was probably the hottest Sin7 day in years (and through 20km of downpour rain) and I did mine just under 10h on wet ground but didn’t get rained on myself! Was so super exciting to finish the last 50m with Danielle at 6am or so with a couple friends and family members watching! Woo!
– We ran 100 miles between the two of us under 23 hours!!
– Hanging out with Carmen all day while we supported Danielle, getting to know Aaron, her boyfriend, a bit better that day, and having him see the running side of our lives.
– Learning how important nutrition is, especially in the ultra endgame… It doesn’t matter if what you have left to run looks easy and you’re feeling good – eat something!!
– Lots of friends out in Crowsnest pass!
– Seeing Dennene on Leg 6 who was not feeling well but went on to finish strong
– Meeting Joanna Ford on Leg 6 as well, who was also not feeling well and also had a great finish!
Now I needed a new goal, and we may have bitten off more than we can chew in finding that… Especially given what’s happened since (more on that later!).. But we signed up for the Javelina Jundred 100 mile race in Phoenix on Halloween and got back running again… Then August hit.
The first week of August we went out to Dani’s parents’ farm for her dad’s 60th Birthday and had a pretty amazing time, so so much fun! All the siblings (3 girls, 2 boys) game and their significant others (I was the only significant other when we were out there last – lots has changed!) so that was pretty awesome. We ran a couple times but perhaps not as much as we wanted.
The next week we went back to San Francisco because I had interviews with Strava on August 10! Strava!! I’d applied shortly after the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon after an argument with my boss here in Calgary and started the whole process. Two phone interviews later a flight and day of interviewing was scheduled and I had 6 interviews that day! Six! Then met with the CTO and flew home feeling pretty stoked! The next day: an offer was coming! Wooo! Everything since then has been getting ready to move, and training has kind of suffered as a result.
While in SF, we also wanted to do a long trail run, so we found a 50K to do the day before my interview in the Sierra Morenas south of the city. It was a pretty amazing experience! Another small race, but it was under canopy pretty much, only a few exposed fields… I had no idea SF offered anything like this. We were immediately excited for more! Dani came in 3rd female again I think and 1st in her age group? What a year for 50Ks for her! Then later that week sadly injured her ankle and she’s been unable to run since.. now 5 weeks later. Sooooo, who knows about that 100 miles! I’d still like to try for the 100K option, but time will tell. I don’t have to decide quite yet, I guess.
Anyways, more on the move and the last month of our lives in the next post. Lots of information for those wanting to work in the USA, sell everything they own here, etc! This post is already almost 4200 words, so if you’re reading this still, you’re my hero. Thanks for the interest! See you sooner next time with both Dani and I blogging and much excitement happening in our lives! 😀