We booked 10 days’ holiday to visit the Rockies, having wanted to visit another cold mountainous region of the world!
Just before booking flights, the internet has a lot to answer for as we find not one but two race weekends within a short trip of Calgary airport, whilst we were going to be in Canada.
The first race…Woody’s RV World Trail Marathon
So we land at Calgary airport and dash 150km north to the city of Red Deer, Alberta to make sure we pick up the race packs for Woody’s RV World Trail Marathon before they close. Packs collected from a bemused set of Canadians wondering what these Brits were doing at a local race; there was 127 entries for the marathon and we were the sum total of the international entry.
The following day, suffering from the 7 hour time difference, the effects of 2 flights and stop over via Toronto, and the usual pre-holilday chaos at respective works, we turned up for the 8am start. The temperature started at around 7 degrees, but as forecast rapidly increased to an unseasonal 23 degrees, Michelle shed the sacrificial fleece and we headed out on to the trails. As someone who shuns roads and loves a good rocky trail, this was promising until I realised that the extensive network trail (save for a trail around a golf course) were tarmac-topped making it principally a road race, save for a minor point that we were in wildlife country with warnings about bears and aggressive beavers! (We have since learnt that the local authorities have established all these networks of trails and invested in their upkeep in and around many towns in Alberta, using taxation from the oil industry to preserve facilities for all members of the population; if only we could get the same arranged in the UK...).
Starting in a residential area, we quickly dropped to the riverside trails and though the numerous parks, with entertainment of bands and music at water stations (never stoped for a drink and down the Macarena before - you can tell that I was not at the racing end of the field). Volunteers were abundant, cheerful and were out to make sure everyone had a good time. As previously mentioned, I jokingly asked for a cold beer and was handed a chilled Mimosa 2 seconds later. Back to the race, well Michelle shot off ahead and left me for dust at the half marathon mark, as I faltered due to lack of training and the heat. When I finally arrived at the finish, I was met by Michelle and her new Canadian running buddies (Michelle - the girls were thrilled with their fame for finishing hand in hand with the British runner!!!) who had waited for me to turn up as my personal cheer squad. Medal collected and me watered, we were then introduced to the local Rotary Club tent - full of the biggest pastries, donuts, and other calorific treats….with the sale patter that it is a take a minimum of 2 deal, in fact help yourself to anything and everything… I was quite restrained.
A great small race in amongst great scenery. I would have preferred trail to be actual trails, but a good event with great friendly people.
So after that first race, we were meant to have a relaxing week of doing very little and generally recuperating, which of course we didn’t really do. By way of example, Michelle decided the best way to recuperate on race day was to hire a pedalo in one of the parks we had visited during the race: Great to keep the legs moving apparently; I preferred the massive ice cream.
The next 6 days were spent visiting Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff; we walked up and down mountains and around various lakes, kayaked across lakes, canoed down rivers and walked into dinosaur bone beds within the Badlands of Canada (who knew Alberta had the greatest range of dinosaur finds in the world?) (Michelle - we did relax - I made Andy go on a helicopter trip before I had a 1 hour massage and spent some time in the roof top jacuzzi )
The second race...2018 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon
So we were physically rested as we collected our race packs for the 2018 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon…NOT! I was signed up for the Marathon, Michelle the 50km Ultra. As Michelle collected her race pack, she was asked if she had been training for the event; in response, she mentioned the previous weekend and got strange looks back as if back-to-back races were unusual in these parts (Michelle - they have obviously not met Jo!).
This was a definite road race through downtown Calgary and the suburbs rather than any parks. The Ultra distance was arranged by the Ultra runners re-running an 8km loop of the course. The start time of 7am seemed unnecessarily early, however as the temperature later rose to 26 degrees, it was welcome. We crawled out of bed and walked the mile to the start line and headed off...
Michelle headed off with a pacer, who turned out to be her personal pacer for the whole of her race as no one stayed with them for the whole event.
My race was better than the previous week, having started a little slower, but the physical week and the temperature took their toll: it required 15 drink stops, 7 cold sponges, 2 popsicles, 2 cold showers....it was crazy hot. I like cold temperatures - think my previous races in Svalbard, Gothenburg,… Great volunteers and support at the water stations (albeit no Mimosas) and the city Police controlled the traffic to make sure everyone had a great day - both runners and drivers (BTW it’s hard to high five a 6 foot 6 inch Police Officer after 35km). Each neighbourhood through which the race runs was invited to get involved with the group receiving the most votes from runners receiving $3,000 for a local project: Some put on live music, the winners in my eyes were those handed out ice lollies to all runners (and thankfully I had to pass them twice due to a loop; Michelle benefited from 4 ice lollies - just saying).
I crawled over the finish line in 5 hours 19 minutes, found a cold shower, and then cold beer whilst I waited for Michelle to finish the Ultra. I don’t wait long as she came over the line in 5 hours 49 minutes and 44 seconds for the 50km (Michelle - which is technically a pb - but only because I have not run a 50km before). I’m still jealous that Michelle was offered and took an ice drenched towel to cool down after the finish.
I summary, a nice road race around a city - not the prettiest of locations, well I am comparing it against Red Deer which was a smaller ‘city’ where we were running along the riverbanks and parks. but great people.
Before we left to come over here, colleagues asked why we had signed up to these races: The answer has to be it is a great way of seeing very different places and meeting the local people away from the tourist scene, and a good way to justify the ice creams, beer, cake (Michele we have not found any cake yet?! One day to go….). highly recommend it if you can fit one (or two) in.
So it’s now two week’s before Michelle’s next race (a half marathon in Greece) and then the Trail Marathon Wales event at Coed-y-Brenin; I can’t deny I’m not looking forward to a cooler race on the hilly trails (though we had 20-odd degrees last year I seem to remember).
Michelle - my glutes now hate me and I still have not found cake - but we did a post race walk/ shuffle and found some more delicious ice cream. Cake hunting commences tomorrow - our last day. Along with a bit of sunbathing as I am not stripier than a zebra
Really good race report Andy and Michelle. Sounds like you had a fantastic running holiday. Congratualtions on your marathon and 50K Michelle and Andy on your two marathons! :grinning: