Author Archives: Mandy M

Squamish 50km. A devil of a race! 20th August 2017

I’m number 666!!! I text to Peter.

Is that good????  He messages a few minutes later.

Hell yeah!!!! I text back.

A Saturday in August. I’m in downtown Squamish at the finish line of the super hard Squamish 50 mile ultra, waiting to see the winner. My race, the 50km, is the next day and I’ve just picked up my race package with my T-shirt and number.

I can’t remember the significance of 666, but I recall it’s association with a really scary movie from my childhood, The Omen. It’s something to do with the devil, I’m sure. But no way can I see it as bad luck, so I tell myself it’s an auspicious number – one that’s going to bring me not bad but GOOD luck! So, with my apocalyptic number, I watch, inspired, as the 50 mile front runners cross the finish line and get their hugs from always-happy Gary Robbins who’s one of the race directors.

And here’s a couple of photos of Mike Murphy crossing the 50 mile finish line in first place and getting his warm hugs from Gary. Congratulations Mike!




Squamish is a town sandwiched between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway. Its trails are fantastic. Running on them is so much fun. They wind their way through lush rainforest. Many are rocky and rooty and steep, and often they’re muddy, but this year they are dry and dusty. Hardly any rain has fallen this summer.

I’ve done the Squamish 50km twice before this year. It’s awesomely organised and has wonderful volunteers. The race is recognised for being tough with gnarly single track trails. It’s point-to-point and has a total of 2500m of elevation gain.

There are four events over the weekend: 50 miles, 50km, 23km, and if that’s not enough you can do the 50/50 where you get to run 50 miles on Saturday and, after a short rest, 50km on Sunday…Now that’s crazy.

And so to Sunday and my race!

I leave the hotel in the dark at 4.30am and drive to the race’s designated parking area and spot where you catch the bus to the start. The start is at Alice Lake Provincial Park. It’s about a 15 minute drive.

At Alice Lake, I peer into the dark. I see the vans where you put your drop bags. I’ve two drop bags – one with 3 Cliff Bars in it for the aid station at Quest, and one for the finish line. I get them to the correct place then scope out the rest of the starting area. After a couple of trips to the toilets, and a final mad dash to the bushes (whoever invents a way to get rid of long toilet queues at races will be a hero) it’s time for Gary’s pre-race briefing in the dawn-light.


I look around. Everyone seems relaxed. I soak it all up, relax and wander to the back of the pack. I look at the runners who are wearing  50/50 numbers, and I study them, trying to figure out what it takes to be one of them. None of them looks too crazy. None of them looks too beat up even after running 50 challenging miles a few hours previously. Superhuman is all I can think.

Then . . .  GO! We’re off!

For the first few minutes, I check in with myself. I feel OK. My hamstrings feel better than they have in a long, long time. I think to myself that, despite my lack of specific training, I can do this. There’s no rush. Chill. Relax, You’ll get to the finish line.

While I’m deep in my thoughts, two girls run past. I recognise them. They recognise me. Trail friends! They are the two girls I had met during the Be Fearless Trail Marathon on these same trails in June (my only long training run this summer). We chat and laugh. They too haven’t done much running since Be Fearless. We’re all pumped at our impromptu get-together. This is what it’s all about.



My trail friends


I hear other runners’ conversations. One guy is saying he just hiked the West Coast Trail. Well, Peter and I hiked the West Coast Trail a month before (that trail is awesome). And so I join in and chat about that fantastic backpacking trip. I hear another guy say he’s done no running for 6 weeks because he ripped some muscle or other. This makes me feel better. At least I’ve done SOME running. Another guy says he’s from Texas. “The hills are going to be tough,” he says. There are a lot of hills on this course!! And so with some smooth running and hiking and camaraderie the section to the first aid station passes.



The first aid station


I’m energised with some snacks. Good! Because the section between aid stations 1 and 2 is a biggie. It has a huge climb. After running a bit on forest service road, you duck left into the trees and onto a trail called Plastic Scheisse which leads to Galactic Scheisse. It’s a steady climb of 2500ft over 4km. I go slow here. There are lots of runners around me. It’s challenging, but at least it’s early in the day, and my legs and feet (and stomach!) aren’t too beat up. I chat with a 50/50 runner. He feels OK. I’m inspired by his achievement.



Going up Galactic


Cresting the top of the climb, I get chatting to Lara, and we leapfrog each other and encourage each other for much of the rest of the day.

The section after the summit of Galactic is, for me, the best part of the race. It’s a long, steep single-track downhill. It’s rocky and rooty. I’ve loved running down hills ever since I was a kid, the steeper the better – and this gnarly downhill is a thrill. I let myself go, on this long dusty drop, passing quite a few runners on the way. I love it.

We shoot out at another aid station (number 2). I stock up on water then there’s a 5km section of really nice rolling trail before the busy aid station (number 3) at Quest University.



The aid station at Quest University


Leaving Quest, after a short section of forest service road, you nip into the trees and the single track again. This is the Climb Trail, and it does what it says: climb! Like previous years I walk most of this section, up the dusty switch backs, enjoying the views at one spot where you can see the Tantalus Mountain Range. I’m with quite a few runners here including another 50/50 female runner. These 50/50 runners are so tough. With 50 miles in her legs, she’s still crushing me going up these switch backs.



The Climb Trail


At the top of Climb Trail, taking numbers and shouting encouragement, is a lovely volunteer who I recognise from previous races. “Be careful going down the next section,” she says, referring to what we are about to drop into  – Angry Midget Trail. It’s another lovely downhill!

The two girls I’m with here had been together, ahead of me, all the way up Climb Trail. I had heard them chatting away (one of them was the 50/50 runner). Now I’m in their little group, and we chit-chat going down. One of them tells a heart-warming story; her boyfriend had just proposed to her on a mountain top at the end of a multi-pitch climb. She’s thrilled!

Whooshing down this steep trail through the trees, while chatting, I feel the first grumblings of stomach pain. Oh Oh, I think.

This downhill ejects us onto another forest service road. I’ve overtaken some more runners on the way down, but as I make my way along the road to aid station number 4, my stomach complains even more. A girl flies by me as I slow down.

I’m hurting. This could get worse. This WILL get worse: I know from past experience. I try to keep on top of calories during an ultra. This tactic is supposed to prevent the dreaded bonk. But…it’s a fine line between avoiding bonking and overeating. Right now I think I’ve overeaten: too many jelly sweeties grabbed at the aid station. I should have stuck to my Cliff Bars, I keep berating myself.

At the aid station, a kind volunteer fills my hydration pack. I stuff my pockets with salty snacks, leaving the sweet ones alone, and look around me. How’s everyone doing? Everyone looks great. Not me. My stomach! I stand around hoping the rest will help. I see a volunteer I know – David! David sees me taking photos and offers to take one of me. I forget my pain and smile.



David’s photo at the 4th aid station. Thinking of Betty.

David is a friend of a dear friend. That dear friend was Betty. Betty loved to hike and run and bike, but sadly she passed away last year with bowel cancer.

With emotions bubbling thinking of Betty, I leave the aid station and go down the hill into the woods again wondering how my stomach will do. I feel ok for the next 10 minutes, but then my GI distress explodes. There’s a ball of gas in my upper intestines. It hurts! A lot! OK, this run is about to get a whole lot more difficult. I burp away trying to get relief and apologise to all who pass me.

A girl who had been in her own distress just moments earlier passes me as I’m crawling along. Be patient I say to myself, you’ll recover in time like that runner. The next hour or two goes like this: walk, moan to myself, burp, chat to anyone I see to keep my spirits up, burp, try to jog, stop as the pain’s too bad, start walking again.

But, I’m still going forward. Still making progress.

I pass a girl going very slowly. I actually pass someone, and I think there must be something wrong with her too. “What’s up I say to her. Is it your stomach too?”

“No, it’s my knees,” she replies. She’s hobbling.

I’m glad it’s my stomach that’s hurting and not my knees; my stomach’s got a better chance of recovering in the next while than beat up knees.

There’s a part of this section, between aid stations 4 and 5, where you leave the forest, and you’re out in the open under the full glare of the midday sun. I’m scorched and sweating here, but glad I’d soaked my Buff in water. I mop my brow. Overheating with stomach pain – what fun!

I’m delighted to leave the blazing sun when the trail goes into the shaded forest once more.  It’s undulating here: up, down, ouch, up, down, ouch. There’s a final down and then a final ouch, before some flat road and gentle uphill, which is easier on my stomach. But, the trail is in the full glare of the sun again.

Feeling very hot, I slowly make my way along. But at least my stomach feels better. I catch up with a guy who looks in worse shape than me. I say hello to my comrade. Then, finally, I know I’m at the aid station because I see a crowd of people: crew and volunteers. It’s the final aid station of the day, at the entrance to The Far Side – the trail we’ll leave this aid station on.

Forty kilometres have passed.



This photo was taken at the 5th aid station in 2013 when Peter was crewing. He couldn’t make it this year.


With gratitude, I stop. I need a rest. First, I fill up my hydration pack. A volunteer asks me if I want ice. ICE! ICE!!! Yeah, if you’ve got it I’ll have it. She pours it down my shirt. It’s bliss.

Now I need to sit.

Next to the table of snacks and under the trees in the shade, I see a small plastic box. I sit down on it…and rest. What joy! I breathe slowly and relax. Every part of my body gives in, and a feeling of peace comes over me. That elusive feeling. I sit with it…and remember it….and smile.

After a minute or two, I think I better get going. I don’t want to, but I get up. Then, I see another volunteer standing next to two buckets of icy water; he’s pouring some of this watery delight over a runner’s head. I go over to him, look at him and smile longingly. “Would you like some,” he says.

“Yes please,” I reply. The feeling of this coldness being poured onto my neck and my head is so good. So healing.

And with these loving encounters enveloping me, I head into the woods once more.

Ten kilometres to go.

A girl from Australia, who I’d seen during much of the previous section, leaves at the same time. We walk along together, and she says she’s happy to have company; she’s anxious about being on her own: there are bears in these woods, you see. I tell her I’ll be slow, but she says that’s OK. She has a pain in her leg – it’s her IT band – and tells me she’ll also be slow.

We walk and jog, and soon I realise my stomach doesn’t hurt anymore.  The pain is gone! Yippee! I reward myself with a nibble of a pretzel that’s been in my shorts pocket for hours.

We keep making progress. We pass over some bear poo, and my Australian trail friend asks me, “Was that bear poo?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Oh no, oh no, OH NO,” she replies, or at least something like that. She sounds anxious.

I feel bad to have caused her worry, so backtrack and say, “Well maybe it wasn’t. It was a small pile, perhaps too small for a bear. Let’s make lots of noise anyway.”

So we shout and sing and chase away any bears. And, for some reason, the songs that pop into my head are Christmas songs. I’m singing along with Wizard, “I wish it could be Christmas every day,” and hoping the bears are enjoying my festive cheer.

My trail friend is just behind me for the whole of this section. I hear her shouts behind me, and I keep shouting and singing too. There are a few other runners scattered about, so I’m sure the bears are staying away.

This section feels never ending. The names of the trails here are Endo, Seven Stitches and Pipe Trails. It’s all lush, beautiful single track. The foliage is thick. I focus on the beauty around me. I need to forget how tired I feel. I’ve lots to look at – stripy chipmunks and furry squirrels darting about and squeaking. They seem to be laughing at us. They’re so cute! As well, I admire the many blueberry bushes. They’re bursting with perfect looking dark purple berries. Yummy.

So with the help of nature’s beauty, I get through this section. After Pipe Trail,  I’m scrambling up the final climb of the day: Mountain of Phlegm. Volunteers in their red T-shirts are at the top cheering everyone on. From this high ledge, it’s almost all downhill until the end. Yippee. I can smell the finish line.

I start down and see a runner who I recognise at the side of the trail. “Hello!” I shout.

“ I’m out of energy,” he says.

“Keep going,” I reply.

Then I scramble down terrain I know well. Soon I see something uplifting. Somebody’s put up a sign. It says 4km to go!

Just after this sign, I hear a rustle in the bushes to my left. I look over, and there’s a bear. I shout loudly, so he knows I’m there. He ignores me. He couldn’t care less. The blueberry bushes are much more interesting. He keeps his snout in those berries and keeps munching away. “Goodbye Mr Bear,” I shout.

Down and down I go. At the bottom of some steps, there’s another sign – 3km to go – and another volunteer with high fives and encouragement galore. I run through the rock climbing area (hello climbers!) and through the parking lot. A left turn, and it’s all flat road to the finish.

My earlier crawl results, now, in a stock of energy I didn’t know I had. Who would have thought? It’s 9 hours into my 50km, and I can run! Not just shuffle, actually run! And so, I “charge” along the flat final kilometre or two heading for the finish line, feeling alive. I pass people, not just one but a few. I always feel emotional coming to the end of any hard event, and I’m fighting back the tears. I turn the final corner into the little park where the finish line is. I sprint along the well-trodden grassy stretch and jump across the oh so sweet finish line.

A finish line is never guaranteed, but this time I had made it. I get my medal and my hug from Gary. He hugs every single dusty, sweaty finisher in all the events of the weekend. What a job Gary!

While standing at the food table waiting for my post race veggie burger, I get chatting. I show my number to the guy waiting beside me. He tells me what 666 is all about – satan…the devil….the bible…Jings!


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Volunteering at parkrun. “What’s parkrun?”

Hello! Happy Canada Day!

OK . . . if you ask a friend to come to parkrun and they say back to you, “What’s parkrun?”,  you’re probably not in one of the many countries where parkrun is hugely popular. That’s to say countries like the UK where if you haven’t heard of parkrun then you’re probably a hermit living in a cave; or South Africa, where their North Beach parkrun has an attendance record of over 2000 people; or Australia, which I know is popular because I’ve been told that by the many Australian parkrun tourists I’ve met at Richmond Olympic parkrun.

Briefly, parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5km running event, aimed at making the world a healthier and happier place – and it’s an addiction!

I’ve run ten parkruns. My first ones were in Inverness, Scotland in 2015. That time, two years ago, I was back home packing up and selling my wee Inverness flat. Every Saturday morning I joined my running pals up there in the North of Scotland to do parkrun. I have very happy memories of these three muddy loops of the playing fields near the sports centre in Inverness. It was there that I became a parkrunner. I missed it when I returned to my now-home-country Canada.

But, to my joy, parkrun came to Canada in August 2016.  It’s still very new here. Canada is a country where people, even runners,  will most definitely ask you, “What’s parkrun?”!

My home parkrun is Richmond Olympic. It’s run on a footpath that follows the majestic Fraser River. It’s a beautiful setting with the river beside you and snow-capped, pointy peaks in the distance beyond Vancouver. As well as getting to stare in awe at these views, you get to watch jet planes close-up as they come into land at Vancouver International Airport. The flight path is directly over the start line, and the planes are close enough that you can read the writing on the underside of the wings.




The Fraser River at Richmond. Photo thanks to Lisa Mah, Richmond Olympic parkrun’s volunteer photographer. Her photos are amazing. Check them out on FB.


Parkrun is run by volunteers and volunteering was high on my to-do list. And so, last Saturday I went to parkrun as a volunteer for the first time.

On that first volunteer day, I was a marshal at the turnaround point on the out and back course.


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My marshal station


There, I had so much fun cheering the runners on and getting thanked by the runners. You’ve got to go and be a volunteer at parkrun. You get thanked all the time—thanked for having fun!

I also got to see some of the Canadian racewalking team who just happened to be out for a training “stroll”.



Olympian Evan Dunfee, seen during parkrun last week. Thanks to Lisa Mah for this photo.


Lots of people out for their morning walk or run asked me what the event was. When I said, “parkrun” many stared at me blankly. Some asked me, “What’s parkrun?”

“It’s a free, weekly, timed 5 km event. Come along next week,” I said to them all. “You’ll love it.”


Here are some links with more answers to that question.

Global Parkrun

Parkrun Canada

Parkrun UK – where it all began (at Bushy Park) in 2004!

So . . . go to a website and get your barcode and stop missing out on one of the best running events ever devised! Hopefully, there’s an event near you. If not, next time you’re travelling see if there’s a parkrun close by and go along with your barcode. You’ll be welcomed as a parkrun tourist with smiley faces and open arms.



A study that shows running may be good for your knees!


Science geek alert! Here’s some information about knees and running for you to muse over.

The other week I came across a really interesting article published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology that showed running appears to reduce inflammation in knee joints and may be beneficial for long-term joint health.

That’s right, running might actually keep your knees healthy.

Researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah measured inflammatory markers in synovial fluid taken from the knee joints of six healthy people before and after running for 30 minutes.

Specifically, they measured the concentration of two proteins (GM-CSF and IL-15) that indicate the presence of inflammation and have been associated with the development of joint disease.

They found that levels of both proteins went down after 30 minutes of running, suggesting a decrease in inflammation in the joint. The researchers also performed a control test, taking fluid samples before and after a 30 minute seated rest. During that test, protein levels did not change.

The study was very small: samples were taken from only six participants. But the researchers felt the study was valuable because it’s the first to measure these inflammatory markers in the knees of healthy people before and after exercise. In that sense it’s groundbreaking.

So the concern that running is bad for our knees is getting more and more to be an old wives tale.

Here’s the link to the article on Pubmed.

Eur J Appl Physiol (2016) 116:2305-2314

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Happy, healthy running 🙂



Club Fat Ass North Shore Enduro Trail Run


My running mojo’s been gone for months now. But I’m hoping with the nearly-here summer I’ll get that mojo back. The summer … and joining in with some running groups.

And so, with a can-do attitude, I went along to the Club Fat Ass North Shore Enduro event this morning in North Vancouver, BC. The Club Fat Ass people are a fun, relaxed group to run with and they put on a lot of cool events.

And look, here they are this morning at the gazebo at the Lower Seymour Conservation Area in North Vancouver. I’m the little head right at the back. We’re about to start.


Their North Shore Enduro is a six hour event with numerous course options. And there’s absolutely no need to run for the whole six hours!! I did one of the ‘Lynn Peak Loop’ loops. This gave me 13.7km and 897m of elevation gain. Yeah! A good solid workout.

But more than the workout  I loved being back running the Lynn Valley trails – my favourite trails in North Vancouver. I’d been away too long. The majestic trees in Lynn Valley always give out some kind of spiritual energy. And I soaked all up. All that lovely woodland chi.


Here’s me at the top of Lynn Peak.


And there was still snow up there.


For a new season’s running, I got some new shoes: Brooks Cascadia. I last ran in Cascadias two or three years ago and today reminded me of how much I used to love them. They went on my feet fresh out the box this morning. And they were great! They were comfy and grippy and responsive. They did the job just nicely on the rooty, rocky, wet, snowy, steep North Shore trails.

So, after finding contentment in the woods today I can’t wait for my next trail run 🙂

Here’s a link to my strava if you’re interested in the route.

Have a great Sunday you guys! Enjoy every moment.

A Royal Run at the London Marathon

You never know who you might see at a big city marathon!

Just less than a week ago I ran the London Marathon and had an amazing day soaking up the brilliant carnival atmosphere. I hadn’t done any proper marathon training for it (ie no long runs!), but there was enough endurance in my old legs to see me around the 26 and a bit miles without suffering too, too much  – the last hour, though, as always, was hard! But I loved every minute of it and was awe-struck by the mind-boggling number of runners taking part. I was even more awe-struck by the mind-boggling number of spectators; crowds and crowds of cheering people lined every inch of those London streets. And the roar of support was never ending. It pushed you on and on.

Yes, the atmosphere was incredible, and my plan was to run/walk, soak it all up and take some photos along the way.

And talking of photos … well, I got one with The Royals! At around the 10 km mark, just before the Cutty Sark, I saw in front of me a crew of people from the Heads Together charity, recognisable by the blue colour of their banners and the blue headbands some were wearing – the same headbands that were given out to all us runners this year in our Expo goody bags.

Heads Together is a mental health charity and was the London marathon’s Charity of the Year for this year. Representing the charity were no other than The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. And guess what! There they were, up ahead of me, William, Kate and Harry, in the middle of the Heads Together crew, cheering and supporting their runners. I just had to go up to them and take a selfie…


… and this shot too …


I fumbled with my iPhone camera buttons for many minutes while taking the shots and one of the bodyguards said to me, “well there goes your three hour marathon”. Ha, ha, funny guy!!

It’s awesome that a mental health charity got centre stage at the London marathon. Not only that but support from Royalty!

About the charity – this is taken from the Heads Together website:

Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives. Heads Together wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.

Being the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year was the perfect springboard for the Heads Together campaign. Seeing hundreds of runners hitting the streets of London during the marathon to end the stigma and change the conversation on mental health once and for all was incredible!

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are spearheading the Heads Together campaign to end stigma around mental health. Heads Together aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing, and is a partnership with inspiring charities with decades of experience in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health challenges.

Also, I caught the three Royals for a second time! That’s to say, at the world famous finish line on the Mall where they were giving out medals. Here are William and Harry again …

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I was in line to receive my medal from Kate, but she saw me hobbling towards her and did a runner before I got to the front of the queue and my medal. Never mind!

Another great day of running and of memories. Yeah!

Have a great day!

Running route in Edinburgh; a lovely early morning run

Last Saturday morning (which was April Fool’s Day!) I found myself beside the ticket machine at Glasgow Queen Street Station collecting my Glasgow to Edinburgh train ticket. As I pulled the ticket out from behind the plastic flap, I thought to myself, ‘well getting to Edinburgh is going to be a helluva lot easier than originally planned!’

You see, at the last minute I bailed from the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra (55 miles). I’d been looking forward to it–another ultra in my homeland–but my training leading up to the race was a fraction of what it should have been to get me from start to finish (even considering the course had been cut short by a mile!) Trying out my running legs in the days before, I realised it was silly to think I could run 54 miles.

But I’d booked a hotel in Edinburgh and had also made plans to visit a friend not too far from that beautiful city, a city I love to visit. So I went! Not by foot, but by train! Needless to say, the journey was a breeze!

And good things happened that weekend. I got to have a run in Edinburgh, on a sunny spring morning, very early and long before the crowds were up. It was a great wee run, taking in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile and Holyrood Park.

Here are some pics and the route.

First, my squiggly strava image of the route.Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.43.06 PM


The hotel where I stayed was close to Haymarket (I’d chosen a hotel that was only a short hobble from the finish line of my race-that-didn’t-happen) and from the hotel I ran to Princes Street gardens and past The Ross Fountain. The plaque next to the fountain tells its history and tells that, for now, the fountain is switched off, apparently because water was leaking into the monument’s structure; so experts are having to figure out what repairs are needed to prevent damage to this magnificent piece of history.


Not far from the fountain is the Norwegian Brigade War Memorial, which is a great big boulder made of gneiss. You can read the inscription and ponder the words, as I did. Jeez, thinking about that era always makes me feel so humble.

It reads: During the war years 1940-45 the Norwegian brigade and other army units were raised and trained in Scotland where we found hospitality, friendship and hope during dark years of exile. In grateful memory of our friends and allies on these isles. This stone was erected in the year 1978


I left Princes Street Gardens and found a nice stair workout up towards the castle esplanade.



Up there on the castle esplanade, I saw council workmen emptying bins, a couple of walkers, and one other runner. Other than that, the palce was empty! The castle looked so lovely in the quiet morning sunshine.


Heading down the Royal Mile I came across, down a narrow alley, a sign for The Writer’s Museum. Now, I’ve got to return to have a look in there.



Here’s a couple more pics from the Royal Mile. There were a lot of white vans and cables around and I’m guessing from the looks of it that there’s currently a film or TV show being filmed on these mean, ancient streets.


I headed downhill and passed by The Scottish Parliament and “Our Dynamic Earth”, before heading back uphill. Yeah, I was in Holyrood Park. I took the trail that wound below Salisbury crags heading uphill towards Arthur’s seat with amazing views of Edinburgh and beyond. I was blessed with a clear day so got these nice shots.



OK, here’s a funny sign seen on the trail up to Arthur’s seat.



I more or less retraced my route back to the hotel stopping to take a picture of the Scott Monument. It was built after Scottish author Sir Walter Scott’s death in 1832 and is the largest monument to a writer in the world! Get that!


I jogged the final stretch of Princes Street gardens. More people were up and about but it was still pretty quiet.



I headed back to the hotel to get my stuff,  before walking the mile or so back to Waverly Station to get a train to see my friend. So out of a failed ultra, I had a great couple of days in Edinburgh.

Last Chance marathon, Bellingham, 31st Dec 2016: Race review

Hello and happy new year.  I hope your 2017 is off to a good start 🙂

So, I managed to find a race to run on the very last day of 2016. I can’t think of a better way of finishing off a year than with a race – a lovely trail marathon at that. The race was The Last Chance Marathon in Bellingham, Washinton. That’s just a hop, skip and a jump over the border to the USA from home-sweet-home in BC, Canada.

There were two events, a marathon and half-marathon. For the marathon, we ran two out-and-back sections on the interurban trail, starting at Fairhaven Park Pavilion with the turn around at Clayton Beach. You can probably guess that the half-marathon was one out-and-back section. There was an early start if you wanted it, an hour before the main start at 9 am.

It was a lovely route on undulating soft trails, under a canopy of trees and peering through the trees in some places you could see the ocean. The day was damp and chilly, and towards the end, we got to run under falling snow which didn’t come to much but, hey, it was lovely to run with the snowflakes floating down in front of you.


Happy Runner at the Last Chance Marathon. Thanks to Takao Suzuki for photo

I really enjoyed this marathon. The last one I’d done, I started too fast and finished with a painful hobble for the never-ending second-half. This one, I paced sensibly and finished strong. Always a good feeling 🙂 I finished mid-pack which I’m always overjoyed with when doing any marathon or ultra.

This was a great event: a lovely course; great aid stations; great organisation; great post-race food (vegan option of yummy spicy soup)

I used this race as my final long training run for my next ultra. Hmm….that’s going to be the Coldwater 100 miler on 21st January. I can’t believe that I’m trying another 100, that I’m heading into that great unknown again…yikes!! As well, it’s in the desert. Hope it’s not too hot as it’s freezing here. I’m thinking about going to the sauna for heat training 🙂


Hoping to finish strong! Takao Suzuki photo


Everybody got a nice ‘buff’ and finisher’s medal. Billy’s showing mine off.

Backcountry skiing: Al’s Habrich Ridge trail from Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish


It’s mid-winter, and yesterday morning bright and early my buddy Mig and I met in the carpark at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. It was sunny and cold and snowy! Yeah! Here in Southern BC, we’re having our snowiest winter for a few years. Mig and I planned to skin up then ski down one of the trails at the top of the gondola for our first trip together of this snowy, lovely winter.

We jumped in the gondola eager as beavers and rode up. Jings the carriage swayed and swung on its way to the top. The morning breeze was pretty fearsome!

Over coffee in the excellent lodge at the top of the gondola, I suggested we do Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail. It has jaw-dropping views down to the Squamish valley and across to the Tantalus Range, and also across to the majestic Mount Garibaldi.



The top of the gondola


And so, we skinned up the first section of groomed trail, which led us nicely to powder. Deep powder! There were a couple of skiers ahead of us and we followed their tracks up the undulating ridge, winding between the snow-laden trees. The trail was steep with tight turns and just lovely. Lovely for now!



Mig on the trail


We soon got our views.



Looking down to the Squamish valley, the Tantalus Range is peeking in




Mig on the plateau




A snowy lollipop


At the plateau, which was our turning point, we peeled off our skins and prepared for the descent. I was a little anxious. It was going to be a tad difficult skiing down through the powder and trees: double black diamond in my book! Lots of early-season hazards like tree wells too! “You go first, Mig,” I said. Mig’s a better skier than me.

“No, you go first,” said Mig.

“No, you go.”

“No, you go.”

“Oh, ok,” I said and set off. It was soon obvious that skiing down our up-trail was way too hard for us. It was narrow, it was tight, it was steep in places, and it wound in and out of the trees with their scary, scary tree wells. We were surrounded by deep powder, drop-offs and undulating terrain.

Picking our way down, we both cursed and swore a lot. I chose to try to ski the ready-made track in some places and untracked powder in others. At one place, going too close to a tree, I suddenly disappeared up to my armpits in snow. I was in a tree well. At least I had gone in skis first and not head first! I was well and truly stuck but after a lot of wriggling about and a few expletives, I managed to unclip my boots from my skis and unstick myself from my predicament. Then after a lot pulling and digging, I got my skis out from the deep depths of the snowy hole – a good workout!

Ha, ha, we were off again and finally we popped out onto the groomed trail.

“I love corduroy, ” said Mig, and she was off.

What a great day!



A short story

Jings, it seems like ages since I’ve written something on my blog. I’ve been busy. Sorry blog! But….I have been writing, in fact, I’ve been scratching my head, getting the old creaky brain cells oiled and doing an online writing course with Gotham Writers. The class I did was ‘Creative Writing 101‘ described as …a great entry point for all prose writing – fiction or non-fiction. It was very good and very worthwhile….I’d definitely consider doing another of their classes.

One of the little pieces I wrote was a short story and seeing it ended up being about running I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by making it material for my blog. How’s that for being efficient! Ha ha!

But before that, something far more interesting, a cool video! I wrote about my adventures at the Glen Coe Skyline. This wonderful event was filmed by the BBC no less! It’s about to be aired on The Adventure Show, (on the 15th December) and I came across this preview video which I wanted to share.


Last time I checked, the BBC iplayer had got the better of VPNs. Sadly that means I won’t get to see the programme.

Finally, here’s the short story. The gig was to write a 500 word piece of fiction beginning…  Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip …. The last time I wrote any fiction was in an English class at high school thirty-five years ago!



A Short Story

Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip. Hadn’t he already questioned it? His body’s sense of time, usually spot-on, must have stopped working because the light was dim, it seemed like evening. Wasn’t it supposed to be morning? Pushing with his hands on the rock that was his seat, he stood up. The tips of his fingers found their way to his forehead, and to a swelling.  He flinched. He gagged as he tasted blood. An unbearable cold was eating away at him, his body shuddered and at the same time the trees and the rocks that were all around him pulsed and swayed. Shaking his head, he hoped his thoughts would clear, he couldn’t work out what was happening and he felt his heart beat violently and his breath come out in frantic gasps of fear.

He sat back down, finding a flat spot in the rubble. He folded himself, knees to chin, shrouding his escaping body heat. He put all his focus into his breath, like he’d learned. His breath and heart-beat slowed.

Looking upward with half-shut eyes, his neck stiff and painful, he saw rocks and rubble, then a steep slope in shadow. A chill shadow. Black rocky ridges were high above him.

His head hurt. He gathered together the jumbled thoughts that were whirling around inside his head. This felt like hell.

Gradually, he remembered. Images came back to him from the morning. A barely-there stony trail, an animal track maybe, cutting into a steep slope of scree, the slope falling far into the valley below. His easy stride, belying his anxiety, moving his runner’s body along, confident on the trail. Lost in his thoughts, mindlessly running far away into the mountains to ease his angst. Then blackness.

His heart-beat picked up again, he was in a scary situation. He was cold and he was in the middle of nowhere, injured. His back-pack. Moving his arm behind his back, he felt it and was relieved. Of course he would have emergency supplies, at the very least a jacket. He moved his stiff joints and struggled with the pack until it was off. Unzipping it, he pulled out his orange jacket, some water and a good-sized bag of trail-mix. There was a small head-torch too. Good. He relaxed just a little.

He’d eaten something and that had cleared his head just a little. Enough to make him feel it was worth trying to get out of his predicament, even though it was now dark. The beam of his torch led the way. The slope was steep and hellish; he was clawing at it with his hands. The broken rocks under his feet moved backwards, trying to pull him back down. Tiny balls of stone spilled inside his shoes, pushing forward under his feet. More discomfort. He would stop and empty his shoes when he reached the trail high above.

He fought with the moving slope, exhausted, his head still pounding. He found strength from somewhere to push on. He knew how to push on. The freezing cold he felt, barely kept out by his flimsy jacket, was the drive to keep going up this never-ending, energy-sapping slope. His thoughts were ricocheting about inside his head. What was he doing on this mountain-side in the blackness? If he’d stayed at the bottom of the rubbly chute, waiting for morning, he could have died with the cold and a head injury. That terrifying thought was with him as he battled up the ugly slope. He wondered who would miss him if he didn’t get home. Not Julie, she was gone, but his mum and Joe would soon start to worry. He’d made the mistake of not telling anyone where he was going that morning. After seeing Julie’s text, he’d fled to the sanctuary of the mountains, to his running.