Saturday, August 10, 2013

Race Report: 5 Peaks Fish Creek (Sport)

(AKA - my very first intentional trail race)

I registered for this a few months ago and have been getting more and more excited as the day drew near.  First - the chance to actually run a trail race instead of showing up to a road race and having it be 80% trail and me unprepared (a la Lacombe Half Marathon 10k) and second - to run the trails in and around one of my most favourite places on this earth...Fish Creek Park.

I suppose I should give a bit of background there...years ago, I worked for one of the local funeral homes and one of my first jobs there was to take care of their memorial forest.  I spent an entire summer in Fish Creek Park with my little water truck and took care of 2500 baby trees to give them their best start.  I learned how to operate a fire hydrant to fill my truck. I became a friend of the deer in the park as they would met my truck and run along side it.  Perhaps more importantly (and sadly) I also had some of the dearest friends I have know be memoralized there as each passed on.  

From the memorial plaques at Glennfield - each very important to me and each dying tragically and too young:

The forest is an incredibly special place for me for so many reasons and it is always emotional for me to be back amongst my trees...though they are no longer babies and most tower above my head now...though I own no part of it - I consider it to be my own little forest.

And as luck would have it - this trail race was to start right in the heart of my forest.

Ok - back to the race.

When I first registered, I signed up for the sport distance and soon after, the little voice in my head started to bitch slap me about taking the shorter distance.  I even wrote to them to see about switching to the Enduro but held off actually processing the change.

And it's a good thing I did - a couple of days before the race, the distances for both changed and instead of 6.5 k - the Sport course was now going to be approx 9k.   Sometimes things just work out like that.

I got up bright and early, ate and got my race clothes on.  For luck, I added my Trail Runner Race Kred to my trail shoes

and soon I was on my way into the city.  I got to Glennfield Day Use Area just after 8.

5 Peaks does package pickup on race day so I showed up bright and early to claim my race goodies and get a sense of it all.

Staging area

Package pickup and, yep - that's Tina.  She was one of the volunteers working the package pickup.

Start line

I got there around 8:15 and in no time at all I had my package and was ready to go.  I was incredibly happy to see that the swag included a sport towel instead of a shirt.  So much more practical for me.  I never wear the shirts...

I walked back to the car and finished getting ready - putting on my hydration pack and pinning my number on.  Soon me and my race day dimples were ready to run

but I still had an hour to kill before the race started so I headed back to the staging area to snoop around.

I passed several of the course flags on the way back

At the staging area, there was plenty to see.  5 Peaks had a merch tent and I came so close to buying this awesome jacket they had there.   Maybe at my next race because I am really coveting one now that I've had a few hours to rue my decision to not.

Salomon had a tent there filled with sample shoes you could borrow for the race if you didn't have trail runners or wanted to try out the Salomons.  I was really tempted, but in the end I stuck with my trusty New Balances...they did have my good luck charm on them, after all.

Soon the staging area was full of people and the kids races were about to start.  They had a free 1k run and a paid 3k run for the kiddos.  Oh my goodness - cutest thing much as I wished they would have had the kids races after the main races just to let us run earlier - it was so cute to watch all of the midges getting their run on and seeing how proud they were of their finisher ribbons.

They did a bit of debriefing before the race and told us that the course was probably 5 out of 5 for technical in places, but that we'd be running on a wide variety of surfaces and pathways - pavement, gravel, shale, dirt, technical trail, single track and double track.

At 9:30 - the Enduro group was off and running.  Shortly after, Tina was able to break away from her duties to get ready for the race and we got a quick pic of us with the start line in the background before the sport group lined up.

At 10 it was finally time for us to go - and MAAAAN is 10 ever a late start for an August race.  The sun was already quite warm and it was gearing up to be a hot one.

The race started on the paved pathway and headed to the west.  This first part of the course felt just like any other road race and I was keeping a decent little pace on the path...

By this point I had pulled ahead of Tina but she wasn't far behind me.  I was antsy to get my feet onto some actual trail and was very excited when we finally turned off after 2k.  Soon, we were on a path winding through the trees.

The course marshall at the turnoff warned us not to fall into the river and most of us laughed it off.  But then the path came out and ran right along the ridge above the river...and when I say right along, I mean THE DROPOFF WAS RIGHT THERE (thank you flood 2013).  I wasn't quick enough to get a picture or coordinated enough to ensure I wouldn't fall off while snapping it so you'll have to be happy with the thumbs up for my safe navigation.

The path alternated between serpentining single track and running along the drop off.

At one point, we ducked down to cross over a little creek.  This looks flat but it was actual steep down and steep up over those rocks.

It was shortly after that that I started to keep a look out for my buddy (and our official race photog), Neil Zeller.

 I was taking a picture as I hiked this treacherous climb when suddenly I heard a voice call out:

"Are you taking a picture of me?"

Truthfully, I had moved on to taking a self portrait

and thought it was another runner talking to me, but as I looked around, I saw Neil hiding in the trees.  I told him he couldn't leave me with a photo of me walking with my phone in my hand so I pretended to run up the climb and he took some extra pics of me as I passed.  As soon as I was away from the lens, I went back to huffing and puffing up the hill.

A couple more turns and we were climbing up to a ridge.   From the top, you almost wouldn't know we were in the middle of one of Canada's largest cities...

The ridge was all single track and we were meeting the Enduro racers coming back so had to keep moving to the side to let them pass.

It was on this ridge - around 4k -  that I finally found my groove.  It was all peaceful and beautiful.  I was truly loving it.  I never even knew there were trails like this in Fish Creek - despite having spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours there since moving here 18 years ago.

There was an aid station at around the 4.5k point , but I was set with my pack so I kept going and was down the hill before we knew it.  At this point it was back onto gravel for a little while and then back onto trail again.

I hit 5k in around 38:30.  A progress time I felt very proud of - especially since I went into this with no time goals.

The heat started to get to me after this.  I had decided to do pigtails to see if my hair would drive me less crazy but, instead, it covered more of my neck and I was overheating like crazy.  I probably should have paused a moment to tie it up  better, but I was too focussed on finishing.

We ran a few more gravel/paved sections

Crossed a bridge

and then another

and then it was back into the trail again

The race announcer had told us that when we reached the stairs on the Sport course it meant we were officially on our way back.

I huffed and puffed up those stairs - I was getting really exhausted...but I was so happy.  I love me some trails!

We ended up running back along the ridge above the river again and I heard Neil call out from the other side - he had moved to catch some more shots from a different location.  I am so looking forward to seeing what he got of me :)

With about 2k to go we were back on pavement and I was ready to just be done.  I think alot of other people were feeling the same way as I picked off a fair few people in those last 2k.

I crossed the finish line in 1:14 and change.  The course ended up being much closer to 10k than to 9.

I knew Tina couldn't be too far behind me so I immediately ran back to the path to catch her coming in.

Hooray!  We had both finished races we could be very proud of.  ESPECIALLY in the heat.  You can't tell in this picture, but I was covered head to fingertips in a sheen of sweat. 

We both were.

They had the results posted at the finish.  I ended up coming in 4/6 in the Athena division. Part of me is really curious to see how I would have fared in the age divisions.  Hopefully they will have the results posted soon.

I heard the announcer say that Neil had made it back to the staging area so ended up chatting with him for a bit.  He is truly my second favourite Calgary photog (hubby automatically has to take top honours there for me, but Neil is a close second)

Since I hadn't made the top 3, I had no reason to hang around for the awards at noon, but as I was leaving, they were having a plank contest to win a Suunto watch.   Looked like fun, though it'll be a while before I can even think of competing...but maybe in a couple of years.

and an update on the bruise...I took the Trigger Point Roller to it last night and it is looking much less brutal now...even better, it isn't charlie horsing anymore and my left leg isn't needing to compensate.  YIPEEE!!!!

Now for a little Garmin Geekery:

You can definitely tell where the up hills were and where the pavement was...

I really loved this race and am so proud of how well I did.  My pace was faster than in my previous trail runs and, while I felt tired later in the race, I think that was more of a start time issue.  10am is really late to start a race - particularly when package pickup starts at 7:30.  I wouldn't have wanted to arrive much later though, because the lineups got really long the closer to race time it got.  I suppose for next time, I will pack my breakfast to eat in the car after I have picked up my stuff - that way I can have a shorter time between eating and running.  I thought the half of a Larabar I snarfed 20 mins before start time would be enough, but it wasn't.

I am so happy Fish Creek could be my first trail race and I am looking forward to many more adventures off-roading in the park...and everywhere else.   Now I just need another trail race to sign up for ;)


  1. hot as hell...but you were on FIRE!!! we need to do that trail AGAIN!!!! Km 5 and 7 were my only 2 km around that 9 min overall a damn fine run. I would do it again tomorrow!! lol

  2. Love the trails down there. I think I recognize where all the pics were taken. Mind you, I got lost that one time...

    Sounds like a super day for you!

  3. Wooo! I hope to get out to Alberta and run some of the 5Peaks courses out there! Looks like a blast!! So glad you enjoyed your first trail race. And isn't the towel awesome?? LOVE.

    PS - I know the girls are a little young, but check this out, and maybe you have some friends interested -

    1. I saw that the other day...yeah, my girls are too young and the start time is exactly when I get off work (and I work way far away from the meeting place) so I doubt I'd ever be able to go. If I hear of anyone, though, I'll pass it along.


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