We flew into Calgary on Thursday, and headed over to Golden (I think it was about 2.5 hours drive total). We stopped at an awesome brewery in Canmore, and then made the obligatory stops at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. I am planning on full posts about each of these, so stay tuned for those!
Day 1 of the Golden Ultra — which is appropriately called Blood — kicks off at 4 p.m., and it’s a Vertical K, where you run 5k up the mountain and gain 1,000m in that short distance. Crazy, right? I am starting to think the way I spent my day defines crazy a little bit more.
I heard that Emerald Lake was a must-see hike, mostly because it was just as beautiful as Moraine Lake, but not as busy. We woke up bright and early on Friday, stopped for a donut (great race fuel, right?) and then headed over to Emerald Lake, which is in Yoho National Park and about 50 minutes from Golden.
After walking around Emerald Lake for a bit, we came across a trail to Emerald Lake Basin, which sounded like it was worth the trek. There was a little bit of a climb, but nothing major, and suddenly we were in the middle of a big rock pile with beautiful views all around.
In the distance, we could see some waterfalls, and it didn’t look like that far of a hike, so we continued on so we could get up close and personal — so worth it!
After hanging out at the falls for a bit, we trekked back — in total, we hiked about 8 miles in just under three hours. Perfect timing to grab some bear spray + lunch (there had been multiple bear sightings on the mountain, so I wanted to be on the safe side). Not really knowing how to prepare for this type of run, I opted for some poutine and buffalo chicken BLT with fries.
From there, we went back to Kicking Horse Mountain for packet pick-up and I started to get REALLY nervous.
This is when I realized that I was SO out of my element… I didn’t have a clue what was going on, like that if you wanted to have bags at the aid station the next day, you had to bring your own and label them yourself. I think I looked like a deer in headlights throughout this entire experience, and mostly felt like I was going to throw up.
We stayed at this amazing little condo about .4 miles away from the race start for day 1, so I was able to go back and get my gear prepped for the race. I packed my Orange Mud Endurance Vest full of goodies, including some gels, the bear spray, water and some spare clothes (I knew it was going to be cold up at the top). Oh and of course, I can’t forget my trekking poles — I seriously feel like these were cheaters the entire weekend, so necessary!
Feeling like I was going to throw up or cry, or maybe both, we headed to the start about 15 minutes before the race and I stood around and contemplated my life decisions for doing this race while watching all the other runners buzz around excitedly.
I started to feel like this was an impossible task, mostly because I was so out of my element. Suddenly, there was four minutes to go, I said goodbye to Brandon, and headed to the start with the other runners.
When the horn went off, I heard a guy behind me tell his running friend, “let’s not get too crazy here,” and decided he had some good advice, so I settled in to a slower pace. Before I knew it, we were all walking… starting our trek up the mountain. About a mile in, we left the service road, and hit the grass. I paused for a moment to enjoy the views:
And then the fun started… it was about a mile straight up in what seemed like a field of tough grass that was about 3-4″ long. It was TOUGH… my lungs hurt, my quads were burning and my footing started to feel a little off as my body was overwhelmed with everything that was happening. I just kept telling myself to focus on one step in front of the other. There was a point where my Garmin stopped tracking my pace altogether, because I think I was moving so slow it seemed like I was at a standstill.
From the grassy field, we headed over to the rocks, and there we hiked up a stone staircase that seemed to stretch on forever. At the top of the summit, there were a few people cheering us on, letting us know there was just a bit to go… down a little slope, up a little bigger slope and there was the finish line — where we’d be visiting Aid Station 3 the next day.
We were adorned with our medal for the day — some bath salts from a local business — and quickly grabbed some pictures at the top, feeling like I had conquered the entire weekend even though it was the shortest race.
My official finishing time was 1:29.53… a blazing pace for a 5k! 🙂
The good news: my fueling strategy worked great for this race, I think the sugary donut and salty fries were great decisions to give my body the energy and salt it needed. 😉 I also took a Honey Stinger gel midway up, and that was a great decision.
One last thing —> it’s also weird to me how nervous I was for this race, it was the part that I was most nervous about and a huge confidence booster when I hit that finish line. I think knowing that I could do this — a race that was so far out in left field for me, climbing a mountain when I live in the Midwest — helped me realize that I could definitely conquer days 2 and 3.
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