Today marked my first ski ascent of Hollyburn. I’ve snowsh0ed to the end of the nordic ski area before, but I don’t think that I’ve ever climbed the last few pitches to the viewpoints (it was snowing that time, so no view anyways…)

end-of-the-nordic-areaIf it’s a clear day, the view is spectacular and well worth the effort to climb those last few steep sections. And if your snowshoeing, remember the garbage bag for sliding down! I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many adults giggling away like school kids ūüôā

view-from-hollyburn view-from-hollyburn-2

The final pitch to Hollyburn peak is¬†steep! My friends and I weren’t sure if our skins would make it up, and dodging snowshoers on our way down didn’t seem like our kind of fun, so we headed off into the “meadow” in search of a gentler route up.


We never did find a gentler route, but we did have a friendly little visitor when we stopped for food.


Despite our best efforts, we never did get to the peak. No matter which route we explored, it kept getting quite steep! It was interesting to look at the trees and see evidence of old avalanches. I know that most of Hollyburn is relatively low risk, but it definitely gets steep enough to slide is places. Busy doesn’t mean safe! I was super-glad that the avalanche forecast was “low” for the tree-line today, as that meant we were able to explore a bit more.¬†Of course, I didn’t want to explore too far and find myself down the wrong side of the mountain!

But going back to the question of safety for a moment, even though the risk of an avy was pretty low today, that doesn’t mean there weren’t other dangers. Tree wells are always lying in wait, ready to trap an unsuspecting skier (or snowshoer). I think though, that today’s biggest danger were the ice bombs the trees kept dropping! As the temps climbed above freezing, all the snow and ice climbing to the branches was sliding off. By noon, there were ice bombs every minute or so! All those chunks of ice didn’t make for fantastic skiing (nor did the heavy melt-freeze snow), so we decided to call it a day and head back.


Remember, if you’re¬†travelling in the back country in winter,¬†know the avalanche forecast, carry a beacon, probe and shovel (and know how to use them!), be prepared for an unexpected night outdoors, and always tell someone where you are going!


Dirty Duo 2015

Yesterday was my first trail race of the season (but not my first race – I ran the MEC 5km last weekend).

Dirty Duo StartAs you can see, the Duo in¬†Dirty Duo refers to mountain bikes and runners – on the course, together. A pretty cool concept, and very well executed. I never once felt in danger of being overrun by a mountain bike, even on Ned’s Atomic Dust Bin (apparently Ned’s is a fun ride, but negotiating all those technical features on foot was… interesting).

In terms of my performance, I was reasonably satisfied. I finished the 27 km course in just over 4 hours. Just a wee bit slower than the first place finisher, who finished in just over 2 hours (how?).

Let’s see…

For the first few kilometres, I felt pretty flat. Candy and electrolyte pills seemed to solve that. Lesson Learned: arrive at the start line with the fuel tanks topped off.

There is a monster hill in the middle of the course: probably about 2 kilometres of constant 10% grade. I wasn’t ready for it.¬†Lesson Learned:¬†Power hike more hills. Or even better, run them.

Ned’s was technical, but I¬†ran the descent two weeks ago in an orientation run. During the race, I picked my way down. Why? My core and legs were tired. My obliques are actually sore today (did you know trail running worked your abs that much? I didn’t).¬†Lesson Learned: I need more time in the gym focusing on core stability.

After Ned’s I had a fantastic section, “flying” through the forest on relatively easy single track. For most of this stretch, I didn’t see a soul.

Dirty Duo GreenlandThen came the (nasty) hike up the Baden Powell stairs/trail. Does everyone wonder why they¬†choose to race while ascending¬†that last hill? It must be the sense of accomplishment…

Finally, (finally!) I get to a trail marshal… 4 km (or less) to go… and it’s all downhill. I take off down the trail. Let’s go fast, let’s get this over with… My knee disagreed. As much as I wanted to fly, I ended up walking the last 2 km. I figured that there is no point in damaging my knee this early in the season. Lesson Learned: Do more strength training for my legs and hips.

A few more thoughts on hydration and nutrition

For the first part of the race, I felt like I was developing hyponatremia (too much water in the system). My only symptom was a tingly, swollen sensation in my hands. To avoid making things worse, I cut down on my water consumption and started popping electrolyte pills. That seemed to work. All in all, I drank just under a litre of water, four(?) dixie cups of electrolyte drink at the aid stations, and took 5 of the electrolyte pills I was carrying.

As for nutrition, I fueled this race entirely on sugar: candies, Clif Shot Blox, and a few orange wedges. The orange wedges were my absolute favourite. I can’t describe just how amazing they looked and tasted when I saw them at the aid stations.

As for the candy and Shot Blox, I wasn’t really a fan of having to chew them. Maybe I should experiment with Gu? I just can’t imagine swallowing a sweet syrupy texture… I think it would make me gag. Or maybe I should go back to mixing a sugar-based electrolyte drink to fill my platypus?¬†Only problem is that during training I discovered that I don’t¬†like drinking sweet water. What works for you?