All posts for the month September, 2018

“I hate running”, its something I hear whenever running comes up in conversation.  I get it, there are no goals to score, its not team based, its repetitive, its something gym teachers make you do if you misbehave.  I love running, but I get that others don’t necessarily share that enjoyment.  So when a conversation with my buddy Erik (whom I’ve known for since grade 7) turns to trail running, he mentions he’d be in for going for a run.  Erik is a super fit guy, so no issue with ability, but I figure a shorter, quick morning trail run would be perfect to get him more interested in the sport.  Boy did I screw up.  

We (I take responsibility for choosing the route) decide on a relatively short 22km run on the Mount Allen loop just outside Canmore.  I looked on the map and looked like a great ‘welcome to trail running’ circuit up Mount Allen, over the ridge to Mount Colembola and back to the starting location.  What I didn’t properly asses was the 1800 meters in elevation that was required to climb.  What we (I) calculated as a 5 hour run, would end up taking much longer…

The day started in the Wind Valley parking lot just outside Dead Mans Flats.  When we arrived it was pouring rain and cold (8C).  It didn’t deter us, but did make me consider just how enjoyable this is going to be.  We agree to just go and see what happens.  Erik brought his dog Toothless who would turn out to be a perfect running companion.  

As we hit the trail the rain started to subside.  The first 8km are a steady climb up a side, yet rugged trail.  At about the 8km mark you clear the treeline you reach the base of Mount Allen and start to get a stunning view of the mountains and valley to the northwest.

The sun came out and it started to warm up, the climbing gets steeper and you can start to see the peak of Mount Allen.

Looking back you can see Canmore in the distance.


Toothless was doing awesome, just powering up the hill.

There were a few sections of scrambling here and we had to start getting creative about how we get Toothless up steeper climbs.  

We stopped for a break just before the summit climb to give Toothless some water and food.  As I was taking a photo I noticed my phone had full LTE coverage.  Remembering it was our buddy Matt’s birthday, we called him on Facetime for some birthday wishes.  Matt turned out to be in Amsterdam, and we chatted for a bit, gotta love technology.

As we pushed for the Mount Allan summit, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped and it started to lightly snow.  Like my underestimation of the time this run would take, I also underestimated just how unpredictable the weather can be on a ridge.

View of the ridge we will take between Mount Allan and Mount Colembola:


Looking back along the ridge line we came up on:

Looking back:

Mount Allen summit ahead:

On the summit of Mount Allen looking east into Kananaskis:

We wrapped around the right side of the summit and approached the ridge that connects Mount Allen and Colembola:

On the ridge looking into the alpine bowl we loop around:

The end of the ridge looking up to Mount Colembola:

Just before the summit of Mount Colembola there is a section that requires some scrambling around a rock tower.  We poked around for quite some time looking for an ideal place to drop in knowing that Toothless will have to climb the same decent:

Reaching the back side of the rock tower:

Looking east down at Nakiska ski hill:

Approaching the summit:

Looking back at Mount Allen, and the ridge we initially came up:

Summit looking back:

We took another break at the summit of Mount Colembola.  Looking down with Canmore in the distance.  I assumed it was all downhill from here and would be a cruise back, but I was very wrong.

We encountered some technical scrambling sections that were not too difficult, but required some though around how we get Toothless down.  Toothless did an amazing job, although pretty scared in some sections, he was willing to let us help him down. As we left the summit of Mount Colembola we ran into a sheer cliff.  With no clear route down we started to explore for a safe/easy route down.  I was glad I brought a GPS what gave us some indication we were on the right path, but there was nothing that looked obvious.  What I didnt want to do is climb half way down only to get stuck.  In hindsight the route was on the right (east) side of the the decent.  Although not trivial, we found a route and managed to scramble down with Toothless:

Pointing to a climb down we did with Toothless.  We were all happy to reach a flat spot.

Looking back at Mount Colembola and elated that we made it down and past the last sketchy sections. 

The ridgeline down Mount Colembola.  Ready for the knee slamming decent:

The decent was a steep grind down Mount Colembola ridge and into a thick forest where we bushwacked down a few more kilometers before landing on the trail we originally came up.  We cruised down the last 6km before hitting the parking lot.  The day was hot and sunny by now and I had stashed a couple beers in a cooler with ice before we left.  

It ended up being an 8 hour day, covering 26km, but it was awesome.  I felt horrible for turning what I thought would be a 4-5 hour morning run into a full day excursion.  Toothless proved to be a perfect companion and Bakke knocked out his first trail run with ease.


After this escapade we’ll see if Erik agrees to come out trail running again.

The Iron Legs Trail Race in Bragg Creek has become one of my favorite events of the year.  The course is challenging, the weather is usually great and its very well organized.  Two months prior to the start of the race I hit a benign looking pothole on the cycle path and rolled my ankle.  I’ve never broken a bone before, but as soon as I rolled over on it this time I knew the *snap* and *pop* indicated something was more wrong than a simple sprain.  Within 5 minutes my ankle was the size of a grapefruit.

Of course I wasn’t running with my cell phone as it was a quick loop close to my house, which meant when my ankle rolled I was stuck laying on the path waiting for someone to walk by so I could make a phone call.  After a few hours of waiting, my wife picked me up and I took myself to the hospital for a xray.  People complain about the health services we have here in Canada, but my time in the hospital was less than an hour to check in, wait for triage, get an xray, talk to doctor about xray and get fitted for a cast.  Amazing!

Below you can see the tiny bone that broke on the inside of my ankle.  The bone break was minor, it was all the tendons that tore on the outside of my ankle.

Innocuous pothole that put my running on hold for 2.5 months. 

I got my gear together the night before, which meant I only got about 3 hours of sleep prior to the race.

At 7:00am the sun was just coming up at the start.

The air was thick and smoky which kept the temperature down, but destroyed all the views.


I felt great at the 55km turnoff.  But soon after hit a complete wall with a knot in my stomach.  Eating gels and sugar intensive foods during the day caught up to me.  I struggled up moose packers switchback, but was given a ginger candy at about km 65 which completely fixed my stomach and gave me a second wind.  The trek up moose mountain was smoky, yet enjoyable.  Its just the right grade that you can bomb down after the turn around point.


Top of Moose Mountain:     

At the turn around point.  I had to take it easy on way down as my ankle still didn’t feel 100% stable:



I didnt take many pictures during the day as the air was smoky from all the forest fires.  It also didn’t help that I finished just as the sun went down.  I felt great at the end, actually much better than I did after running the 60 last year with the intense heat.  My ankle was fine, no pain, yet I did take it easy on it, especially on the downhills.

From crutches a few months ago, to finishing the race, I’m happy with the results.

The great thing about the Grizzly ultra is that its a 5 loop circuit, each loop unique, yet finishing at the same central hub.  This makes it really easy to have a single drop bag and drop gear as the day warms up.  The course follows the Olympic cross country ski circuit at the Canmore Nordic Center. 

Its late in the year so the weather isn’t ideal, but it was quite pleasant once you get moving and the blood flowing.  


I had arrived early to the race so I waited around while the sun came up and people started to arrive:


Although leg 3 is the longest leg and rated as the most difficult, I found leg 4 the most challenging as it had quite a bit of elevation and I was already spent by that time.  I loved being able to dump gear and use a single drop bag during the race.  The course is primarily double track with a bunch of single track in leg 3.  I ran with some minimalist shoes which worked fine as there is minimal technical sections.

The best part was the finish where my wife brought out our kids to greet me at the finish line.  Hopefully one day they pickup the sport and we can all run together.  Until then they are the best support crew I could ask for.


My buddy Danny organized a cat skiing trip to K-Pow, the old Fortress ski resort that is now closed and use solely for cat skiing.  It was a perfect day with tons of fresh powder and a great crew.

It was my first time cat skiing and although you prepare for avalanches, the day was uneventful in a good way: everyone left uninjured and safe.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the skiing was epic.



Unloading the cat:

Fresh tracks:

Cutting across an avalanche chute:

Fat skis recommended:

The cozy ‘lodge’ to suit up before the day: