canada general trail running

The Grizzly50 Ultra

A year ago, the Grizzly 50 was my first ultramarathon, the first time I’d run further than 35km, the first time I’d raced further than 21km. In the intervening year I’d run the Frozen Ass 50 (on sealed trails in Calgary in the middle of winter, a terrible idea), and the Powderface42 (held at the Canmore Nordic Centre due to flood damage around the actual route). I’d been signed up for a couple more 40-50km trail running events, both cancelled due to the floods. But by now the idea of running a long way on trails was no longer slightly terrifying and incomprehensible. It was something I knew I could do. I had lost the fear. I had, perhaps, become a little too relaxed about the whole idea.

So when I spent three weeks in Australia (running a few times, but spending most of my time sitting in a car, on an aeroplane, or just sitting around coughing a lot and feeling dreadful), and then a few more weeks back in Canada (also sitting around a lot, feeling tired, jetlagged, sick again, and unmotivated) not exactly getting the best possible lead up to a 50km trail run, I figured it would still probably be ok.

Surprisingly enough, it kind of was. For the first 25km, I was even on track for a sub 5-hour finish. But then my calves started cramping. I would catch a toe on a root, and a spasm would grip my entire calf, holding my toes en pointe as my calf muscle bulged angrily. I worked hard to keep my toes up, as spasms flickered around my calves and up and down the side of my legs. My right IT band muttered angrily at me, and my knees glared a little. I slowed down, gritted my teeth, and tried to keep my legs under control. I sadly shuffled down fun single track descents that should have had me leaping joyously from root to rock, and cursed myself for my lousy preparation. And I shivered and ran harder as the grey skies darkened, and it snowed a little.

The best part of this race (apart from the fun course), is the fact that it consists of five different loops, of different lengths, covering different terrain, but all looping back to the Nordic Centre daylodge. It makes for wonderful motivation when you have a rotating cheering squad greeting you at the end of each lap (and momentary confusion, as you try and follow the correct course markings for the lap you’re on next – you only need to be able to count from one to five, but that gets quite tricky around lap three or four).

Anyway, the end result was that I finished. Annoyingly in a slightly slower time than last year, but 5.5 hours on the course wasn’t too bad given the lousy lead-up to the day. Will I do it again next year? Undecided for now, but I feel the need to do it properly – so perhaps!

Distance: Rather rudely, the course is 51.2km instead of 50km. Percentage-wise it’s not a huge error, but the final 1.2km passed in a haze of bitter resentment and glaring at my watch.
Elevation gain: 1202m
Time: 5hours 32min

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