TranSelkirks 5 Day Stage Race
The slogan for the race is 'Run Wild In Canada' and there is nothing misleading about that. The TranSelkirks 5 day stage race is in it's second year running and is a part of the international TransRockies Race series.
TranSelkirks features 5 days covering 100 miles of trail and over 10,000m of elevation gain (that's 2000 more meters than an ascent of Everest, incase you were curious). Each of the stages takes place on entirely different trails from the day before and this year the race was fortunate to feature 2 days within Revelstoke National Park, making it the first race to ever access this area.
Like any goal race there are months and months of preparation required and as usual both anticipated and unanticipated events occurred. The most influential and most unanticipated event was changing plans from entering as a Women's team with Katrina and I racing together, to accommodating for injury and a smart recovery plan. Early August Katrina experienced a fall that led to an injury and her long term recovery took top priority over challenging her recovery with this race. (Ps. She is fully recovered and back to running!! A+ Recovery!)
So, there you have it. Just before the race it was decided I would enter the Solo Women’s Category. Because it was 5 days and 100 miles, I could probably say a lot here, so instead I am going to break it up by day and outline my approach to race week.
This week was all about preparation. I like to be prepared. I packed 5 different bags, each one containing what I would need for that day of the race. This included all clothes for the day, fuel, and a fresh set of first aid supplies.
Throughout the week leading up to the race I focused on eating well, sleeping 8 hours per night, and hydrating. I started drinking more about 3 days prior, as I often likely am not as hydrated as I should be during a typical work week.
STAGE 1 - Mt Mackenzie, 33km, 2100m
The smoke cleared just in time for the start of the race and we were so fortunate to get amazing views as we climbed up to the top of the mountain, and the whole way back down! Being that it was day 1 I used this day to settle in and ran fairly safe. I took the climb at a moderate pace and was definitely keeping in mind that I had my highest volume and climbing week ever coming over the next 4 days. Looking back, I should have raced harder on this day and trusted the training to know I would survive and succeed over the next 4 days. This is often what I find myself learning when I take on new challenges, which I guess overall is a good lesson. But one day I hope to wish I had held back more. (Maybe this is foreshadowing for WAM 100km this week!).
The views were stunning, so beautiful in fact that at the end I remember thinking and probably saying, what if I am completely content now? Do I still have to do the next 4 days?
Out of day 1 my feet were in great shape, no chafing issues anywhere, and I felt great about the time I made up on the downhill.
I placed 3rd for females in the 5 day solo and stuck to my hydration and fuelling plans (outlined below).
STAGE 2 - Mt MacPherson, 31km, 1100m
This day I felt like I was running in Squamish, BC. I felt so at home on these flowy mountain bike trails. This route winded around a great park filled with dense forest and beautiful single track. I started off the 2nd day a little stronger, hitting a pretty quick pace before settling in. Honestly, this was a bit of a competitive strategy to see if I could push the woman in 2nd to run maybe faster than she wanted to in order to stay ahead. She was an incredibly friendly and lovely person to race with, but I knew she would be determined to stay in front of me, so I kept myself in her view for a few kilometers to put some pressure on. Then I caught my groove and held steady. On day 2 I mentally struggled a bit with holding 3rd, because I truly did want to take 2nd and push forward, but I still had a nervous approach to really racing so early on in the 5 days. I wanted to make sure I could be successful in completing the event and found myself thinking I would just go slow, take it safe, and deal with maybe not doing as well as I wanted to. These are the thoughts that can easily become too familiar in a race. I finished 2 minutes behind the 2nd place female, and instantly felt a complete mental shift towards my effort. I was running hard and I was doing good work. What I do is enough, and I would remember that for the next 3 days.
I finished 3rd overall for females in the 5 day solo division and because it was a shorter day I grabbed a Latte from Dose (YUM!) and went for an ice bath in the river.
STAGE 3: Mt. Cartier, 38km, 2350m (The big day!…but really its almost the same as day 1)
This day was my FAVOURITE! This day started off with a descent from the resort and a road run for a few kilometers to reach the trail head (this is not why it was my favourite). From the trail head we went up. Up. Up. Up. Seriously, we climbed up on mainly non-runnable terrain (in my opinion) for 15km or more. That is a long time to climb, and a lot of vert to cover! But the top appeared, well not really because it was completed fogged in and I actually had to call out to find the aid station. The climb was steep and went up through beautiful lush green forests with soft pine based single track, and had all the good roots and rocks to make for a technical but fun lunge-walk up. Once we were above the tree line the trail ran along ridges (ok hiked along) up through meadow side trails, and over some epic ridges. The rain came in and so of course we took in the views from a true PNW view point, grey closed and zero visibility. But again on day 3 I felt truly at home.
The climb resembled all the mountains I get to train on, so I knew I could push this day and that I would LOVE the descent. Which I did. I was so so so lucky to have a runner go ahead of me towards the bottom and locate the hornets nest, where I then fully covered myself with my jacket and booked it faster than I run a 1km repeat and avoided being stung. I cruised the descent with my mind on catching the 1 woman ahead of me at this point (Steph, a truly wonderful and strong competitor and someone I sure hope to run with again soon! but yes I still was racing to catch her). On this day, Steph (the first place woman) was not loving the down hill and I did manage to catch her and gain just a few minutes on her. During day 3 I let myself race. I let go of worrying about the other days, I let go of holding back or thinking about running smart or safe, I just focused on pushing the up hill and not face planting on the downhill (which I didn’t, wahoo!). It was such a beautiful and challenging course and anything that comes with 15km of downhill easily becomes my favourite day ever!
I finished stage 3 with a 1st place for females (Steph still in the lead for cumulative time), and a full and happy heart!
Stage 4: Mt. Revelstoke 25km, 1500m
Into the national park we go! During the briefing prior to this race we were informed of the current resident Grizzly bears, and reminded of how to use our bear spray. The park staff were on site throughout the day and were monitoring any activity of the tracked bear(s?) in the park. Remember the race slogan? Run wild in Canada, aka “there may be Grizzlies!”
Luckily there were no sightings, just piles of black bear scat in various spots along the trail. This route was incredibly beautiful. It started off with a nice flowing 5km warm up and then we cruised up to the top of the trail (but actually just below where we would go in stage 5). We ran alongside a lake and then headed straight down through a steep but more flowy descent than day 3. This day was unique in that I spent almost the entire day running (hiking) with another racer, (shout out to Tom from ON). This made for a huge sense of comfort in bear territory and also kept me honest with my pace up the hills. We chatted briefly on and off throughout the climb and as any good trail friend would he let me know when we were near the top of the climb - and when we were actually near, not fake near or on that ‘last climb’ people often tell us about.
This day was slightly chillier than the others, filled with fog, and kept me curious about what day 5 would look like since we would return to the same park but hopefully catch some views.
I finished 2nd for females and for the first time throughout the five days felt a slight relief that as long as I ran smart I would finish all five days.
Stage 5 - Jade Pass, 35km, 1400m
WOAH- Stage 5. The final day. The day I so distantly remembered planning for the week prior. It truly felt like a year ago. When I was reminded it was two laps I can honestly say I had completely forgotten.
Well, it was here. The 5th and final day. The day I was equally thrilled to reach and sad to have come to so quickly. I was getting in the groove of this daily racing thing and truly would have kept at it if I could have.
This course was perfect for day 5! It was built of a few different sections and we did the entire thing twice, except the 1km road run, up hill to the trail head. Thank you Jacob and Amy for cutting that out on lap 2!!! We ran through wide well groomed trails and hit one lake before heading up to Jade pass, where due to beautiful BC fog, we saw literally nothing. I could barely see the friendly faces of the volunteers, but it was day 5 and it was all about enjoying the time on the trails. I was lucky enough to run with Steph for a few kilometers and chat about all things good (trail running). This day was about celebrating, not racing. There was still an honest effort, but also a relaxed attitude, we knew where we had all finished and it was the greatest way to spend the last day. We ran, chatted, cheered loudly and I think I told every race I saw that the last lap was the party lap - so sorry / you’re welcome for my cheesy encouragement.
And just like that, with a waspe sting in the last 300m of the course to officially include me on the theme from day 3, it was done. 5 stages, 100miles, and 10,000m of vertical gain.
I finished 2nd for females and can say I learnt more than I could have imagined. I stuck to my plan and veered from it just the same, I utilized a consistent recovery approach, managed toe nails and blisters, and camped in a tent for the first 3 nights! This week was a dream and I can’t thank the entire team and RDs enough for creating a world so magical. Thank you to the parks for allowing us access and thank you to every other racer out there, I am so grateful for getting to know a bit about each of you over the course of the week!
For those who are curious I stuck to my typical routine:
Roughly 500ml per hour (this actually decreased slightly over the week and I drank more in the afternoon/evenings) + CR7 Drive, Herbalife
Liftoff midway on days 4 and 5, and a few gels each day depending on time and hunger (typically Gu gels or Honey Stingers)
And recovered with Rebuild every day.
Every day I completed 1 hour of stretching and foam rolling after the race
On day 2 I ice-bathed in the river (with a latte - critical component I am sure)
On day 3 I had a hot bath thanks to friends with fancy hotel rooms who lent me their key
Good socks and KT tape went a long ways (literally), and I utilized blister bandaids for when I so thoughtfully took my bandaid off and ripped my blister open on day 3.
My trusted Nike Terra Kigers took me through each day, but I swapped into a brand new pair on day 3 which gave a little extra cushion for the downhill. It really just felt nice to freshen up in the shoe department.