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Emily Setlack

Course Check - World Mountain Running Championships - Andorra 2018

Course Check - World Mountain Running Championships - Andorra 2018

By: Matt Setlack

On Wednesday 29 August 2018, my wife, Emily and I decided to run over the course in preparation for the upcoming World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC) in Canillo, Andorra on 16 September 2018. I have competed in WMRC Bulgaria 2016 and WMRC Italy 2017. This will be Emily's first time competing in WMRC.

We re-ran over various sections of the race course on 10, 11 and 12 September 2018. As of 12 September 2018, the race course has been officially marked with red triangular flags and red/white flagging tape.

References

  1. Race website at https://www.wmrch2018canillo.com/en/courses/

  2. Another course check that was done by Timo Zeiler at https://timozeiler.com/2018/06/16/andorra-world-mountainrunning-championships-course-check/

Course Description

From the race website, "The Senior route starts in front of the Canillo Parish Hall (Edifici del Comú de Canillo) and continues along a 1.3 km stretch of tarmac with an average gradient of 7%. It then switches to a mountain path combined with a forest trail. Runners then pass by a man-made lake and reach the mid-point (4,720 metres from the start) at an altitude of 2,050 metres (feed stop 1).

Here, the route dips down for a short while to the 5.8 km mark, following a trail into the woods with a number of small rises (but little elevation gain) until it reaches the Ribaescorxada refuge 9.2 km into the run (feed stop 2).

It is uphill on paths from here on until the 11-km mark, followed by a last flat section with a small rise to an altitude of 2,430 some 11.93 kilometres into the run (finish at Forn de Canillo chairlift)."

Course Map

Click on the map below to be directed to the https://www.openrunner.com/r/8038564 website.

Elevation Profile

Accessing the Race Course

By Gondola - There is a cable car/gondola that starts right near the start of the race and ends at the "mid-point". The mid-point is 4,720m from the start. I have not personally taken the gondola before but info on it can be found here: http://ww2.grandvalira.com/en/mont-magic-canillo.

By Car - Another option is to drive almost all the way up to the mid-point. There is a paved road called Ctra. de Prats/CS-250, which then turns into Ctra. del Forn. It is the one that we run on for the first 1.3k of the race that you can drive on. Instead of turning off this paved road around the 1k mark, keep driving on it all the way until the pavement ends. You can park your car and then walk up a gravel road for 700m or so to the mid-point. Once you pass under the chairlift, you should see some red flags going up the grass slope towards the blue arches/hoops.

Course Photos

The red line represents the approximate race course. I took this photo from Mirador Roc Del Quer looking SE. I drew the red line myself and it is not perfect but does represent the approximate route.

The red line represents the approximate race course. I took this photo from Mirador Roc Del Quer looking SE. I drew the red line myself and it is not perfect but does represent the approximate route.

The following photos were taken by Matt Setlack. The perspective of all photos is from the point of view of the runner running the race. I believe that the photos I took make the course look less technical and less steep than it actually is. It is steeper than it looks. I would not underestimate the course. I think there are some sections where walking may be necessary such as the area just before the "mid-section" and in the area about 500m past the refuge. 

Compared to WMRC Bulgaria 2016 (1,380m up over 12.7km), WMRC Andorra 2018 (1,028m up over 11.7km) does appear to be more runnable. I personally prefer the Andorra course over the Bulgaria course and I think the finish times will be fast.

Start area in front of the Comu de Canillo.

Start area in front of the Comu de Canillo.

This is the topographical map (scale 1:40,000, which was not ideal) I used. In the future, I plan to use a GPS track and/or mobile phone with data to determine exactly where the course went the first time. Before the race course was officially marked, there were various sections that were not straightforward and without a GPS, would be extremely difficult to determine correctly.

This is the topographical map (scale 1:40,000, which was not ideal) I used. In the future, I plan to use a GPS track and/or mobile phone with data to determine exactly where the course went the first time. Before the race course was officially marked, there were various sections that were not straightforward and without a GPS, would be extremely difficult to determine correctly.

The first 100m are on bricks before the route turns to asphalt.

The first 100m are on bricks before the route turns to asphalt.

After about 100m, you make a left turn (where you see the blue "P" (for parking) sign in this photo)

After about 100m, you make a left turn (where you see the blue "P" (for parking) sign in this photo)

This is right next to that blue "P" (for parking) sign. You head up this road for another 1.1 km. From the course start, the asphalt/tarmac section is 1.3 km.

This is right next to that blue "P" (for parking) sign. You head up this road for another 1.1 km. From the course start, the asphalt/tarmac section is 1.3 km.

Emily (in pink shorts) running on the asphalt section. The first 1.3 km are a steady uphill (average gradient of 7%).

Emily (in pink shorts) running on the asphalt section. The first 1.3 km are a steady uphill (average gradient of 7%).

More tarmac.

More tarmac.

More tarmac.

More tarmac.

The white RV is pointing in the direction that the course goes. You make a right turn off the main road. This is just before 1 km into the race. There is a gentle downhill here.

The white RV is pointing in the direction that the course goes. You make a right turn off the main road. This is just before 1 km into the race. There is a gentle downhill here.

Emily is about 1 km into the race here.

Emily is about 1 km into the race here.

The race goes through the village of Prats. I'm pretty sure there will not be cars parked on the side of the road on race day.

The race goes through the village of Prats. I'm pretty sure there will not be cars parked on the side of the road on race day.

The white truck is parked at a fork in the road. The race takes the left fork and from there you go another 100m or so to reach the start of the trail portion.

The white truck is parked at a fork in the road. The race takes the left fork and from there you go another 100m or so to reach the start of the trail portion.

Taking the left fork.

Taking the left fork.

This is the very start of the forest trail portion. There is a red bunny rabbit marking the trail (seen on the sign on the right). The route goes up and to the left behind the building.

This is the very start of the forest trail portion. There is a red bunny rabbit marking the trail (seen on the sign on the right). The route goes up and to the left behind the building.

This photo was taken just past the red bunny rabbit sign (seen above). The route goes up and to the right. There are wooden steps that are staked into the earth with steel stakes (concrete rebar), which protrude from the stakes a bit in a few areas.

This photo was taken just past the red bunny rabbit sign (seen above). The route goes up and to the right. There are wooden steps that are staked into the earth with steel stakes (concrete rebar), which protrude from the stakes a bit in a few areas.

Taken at a T-intersection. You go straight through the intersection, following the red bunny rabbit sign.

Taken at a T-intersection. You go straight through the intersection, following the red bunny rabbit sign.

Following the red bunny rabbit.

Following the red bunny rabbit.

The course map shows the route going to the right here. This is about 2 km into the race.

The course map shows the route going to the right here. This is about 2 km into the race.

On one of three switchbacks before getting to the paved road.

On one of three switchbacks before getting to the paved road.

Come out (running towards the camera) on the gravel road on the right, turn right and go up the paved road for about 50m.

Come out (running towards the camera) on the gravel road on the right, turn right and go up the paved road for about 50m.

Run up the paved road for about 50m and turn right on the gravel road on the right.

Run up the paved road for about 50m and turn right on the gravel road on the right.

After the first creek/river crossing, run up a gravel road and turn left on the narrow single track path.

After the first creek/river crossing, run up a gravel road and turn left on the narrow single track path.

Take the left fork and go up a steep single track.

Take the left fork and go up a steep single track.

One of the steepest sections of the entire race course. Approximately 2.6 km into the race.

One of the steepest sections of the entire race course. Approximately 2.6 km into the race.

Crossing back over the stream/river for the second time.

Crossing back over the stream/river for the second time.

Gravel road (ski run in winter). This is about 3 km into the race.

Gravel road (ski run in winter). This is about 3 km into the race.

The gravel road is nice and smooth in this area but changes to rougher rock/gravel later on.

The gravel road is nice and smooth in this area but changes to rougher rock/gravel later on.

The rock is a little rougher here.

The rock is a little rougher here.

Just before getting to the man-made lake, where the blue flag is.

Just before getting to the man-made lake, where the blue flag is.

This is the man-made lake at 4 km into the race. The race map shows us going around the left hand side (over the wooden boards in this photo). HOWEVER, as of 15 September 2018, the actual race route has been marked with red/white flagging tape and the route goes around the RIGHT hand side of the lake (NOT the left hand side of the lake).

This is the man-made lake at 4 km into the race. The race map shows us going around the left hand side (over the wooden boards in this photo). HOWEVER, as of 15 September 2018, the actual race route has been marked with red/white flagging tape and the route goes around the RIGHT hand side of the lake (NOT the left hand side of the lake).

The path is to climber’s right of this gravel path.

The path is to climber’s right of this gravel path.

This is just past what the race website refers to as the "mid-point" of the race (4,720m from the start and 2,050m elevation (feed stop 1)). I believe we run through the blue arches. You are aiming for the bottom of the tube and running just beneath the gondola in this photo. The course is downhill from here to the 5.8 km point.

This is just past what the race website refers to as the "mid-point" of the race (4,720m from the start and 2,050m elevation (feed stop 1)). I believe we run through the blue arches. You are aiming for the bottom of the tube and running just beneath the gondola in this photo. The course is downhill from here to the 5.8 km point.

This is just beneath the gondola where you enter the forest. More downhill.

This is just beneath the gondola where you enter the forest. More downhill.

You pass by a horse display (where the three people are standing) and then run a few switch-backs downhill.

You pass by a horse display (where the three people are standing) and then run a few switch-backs downhill.

You get to an open meadow, which you run around the right side (along the stone fence). The small opening between the logs (next to the sheep display) has a black arrow on it. The meadow is just past 5 km into the race.

You get to an open meadow, which you run around the right side (along the stone fence). The small opening between the logs (next to the sheep display) has a black arrow on it. The meadow is just past 5 km into the race.

The opening between the logs. I believe the black x's mark the WMRC route. I also saw blue circles, red circles, yellow circles, orange circles and grey metal poles but I don't think those are for our race.

The opening between the logs. I believe the black x's mark the WMRC route. I also saw blue circles, red circles, yellow circles, orange circles and grey metal poles but I don't think those are for our race.

Following the stone fence around the meadow. This section is still downhill on grass and some rocks.

Following the stone fence around the meadow. This section is still downhill on grass and some rocks.

More meadow.

More meadow.

The start of the single track. Mostly dirt with some rock and some grass. From about km 5 to km 9, the single track trail traverses around the mountain to another ski resort. From km 5.8 to km 9, the course is relatively flat with some small up and downs.

The start of the single track. Mostly dirt with some rock and some grass. From about km 5 to km 9, the single track trail traverses around the mountain to another ski resort. From km 5.8 to km 9, the course is relatively flat with some small up and downs.

More single track, still going downhill.

More single track, still going downhill.

Passing beneath the gondola still going downhill. Where this photo was taken, there are wooden steps going up and to the right just beneath the gondola; do not take these steps. I'm quite sure that the course will be really well marked on race day though.

Passing beneath the gondola still going downhill. Where this photo was taken, there are wooden steps going up and to the right just beneath the gondola; do not take these steps. I'm quite sure that the course will be really well marked on race day though.

One of the uphill sections.

One of the uphill sections.

I am not sure what the yellow, red and blue paint is for.

I am not sure what the yellow, red and blue paint is for.

Typical terrain from km 5 to km 9.

Typical terrain from km 5 to km 9.

Some sections are grass.

Some sections are grass.

Another of the uphill sections.

Another of the uphill sections.

More single track.

More single track.

The single track trail widens up a little just before you enter a wide grassy trail.

The single track trail widens up a little just before you enter a wide grassy trail.

This is the wide grassy trail, which starts at about km 8. Mostly downhill until the Ribaescorxada refuge at 9.2 km into the race (feed stop 2).

This is the wide grassy trail, which starts at about km 8. Mostly downhill until the Ribaescorxada refuge at 9.2 km into the race (feed stop 2).

The wide grassy trail to the refuge.

The wide grassy trail to the refuge.

More of the wide grassy trail with some dirt/gravel.

More of the wide grassy trail with some dirt/gravel.

This is the Ribaescorxada refuge (9.2 km into the race). We run right past it.

This is the Ribaescorxada refuge (9.2 km into the race). We run right past it.

At the refuge, the trail goes downhill for a short distance until the gravel road, then turns right. The race finishes to the right of the dark hump/mountain/hill in the middle of this photo.

At the refuge, the trail goes downhill for a short distance until the gravel road, then turns right. The race finishes to the right of the dark hump/mountain/hill in the middle of this photo.

The gravel road. This is at a different ski resort to the ski resort we ran past at about halfway into the race.

The gravel road. This is at a different ski resort to the ski resort we ran past at about halfway into the race.

Just past the refuge, leave the gravel road and run on the grass up to the right. It is hard to tell, but we are aiming for the green path just to the left of the trees.

Just past the refuge, leave the gravel road and run on the grass up to the right. It is hard to tell, but we are aiming for the green path just to the left of the trees.

Follow the red triangular flags straight up and to the right.

Follow the red triangular flags straight up and to the right.

The author/photographer, Matt Setlack standing on one of the steepest sections of the entire race course.

The author/photographer, Matt Setlack standing on one of the steepest sections of the entire race course.

Continue up the grass ski slope. The grass is long and the trail is faint but I think it will be well marked on race day.

Continue up the grass ski slope. The grass is long and the trail is faint but I think it will be well marked on race day.

The course flattens out here.

The course flattens out here.

A steep section a few hundred meters before crossing the gravel road.

A steep section a few hundred meters before crossing the gravel road.

Cross over a small trench, then cross the gravel road. We are aiming for the grass on the inside of the turn. We go around the far side of the far fence.

Cross over a small trench, then cross the gravel road. We are aiming for the grass on the inside of the turn. We go around the far side of the far fence.

Around 10.8 km or so.

Around 10.8 km or so.

About 11 km into the race. Less than 1 km to the finish line. The course goes up and to the right and parallels the ski lift that we see in this photo. From here until the race at 11.93 km (2,430m ASL), it is relatively flat.

About 11 km into the race. Less than 1 km to the finish line. The course goes up and to the right and parallels the ski lift that we see in this photo. From here until the race at 11.93 km (2,430m ASL), it is relatively flat.

The red flags mark the way. Run straight ahead, cross over the road and then bend to the right (uphill) nearly underneath the chairlift.

The red flags mark the way. Run straight ahead, cross over the road and then bend to the right (uphill) nearly underneath the chairlift.

The red flags show us going uphill along the fence on the left (not on the gravel road). We run nearly underneath the chairlift. This is about 11 km into the race.

The red flags show us going uphill along the fence on the left (not on the gravel road). We run nearly underneath the chairlift. This is about 11 km into the race.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and short descriptions. If you have any questions, feel free to email me using the "contact" button above.

Good luck to all racers competing in the World Mountain Running Championships 2018!

 

 

 

Canadian Mountain Running Championships 2018

Canadian Mountain Running Championships 2018

By: Matt & Emily Setlack

This post will outline Matt and Emily's experience at the Canadian Mountain Running Championships at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden, BC on Saturday 09 June 2018. Matt's race experience is followed by Emily's race experience below. 

Most photos in this blog were captured by Sean Nielsen

Pre-Race

We started our epic 9 hour drive from the desolate, remote northern reaches of Alberta (i.e. Cold Lake) and drove to Calgary Thursday night. It was 867 km each way (1,734 km total - that's farther than driving from London, England to Warsaw, Poland!). We were lucky to be able to stay at Matt Travaglini's home. He was extremely generous to give up his home and allow us to stay there overnight. Thank you so much Matt! On Friday 08 June 2018, we continued the trip to Golden, BC. Thankfully, Golden was on the same time as Alberta even though it is in BC and most of BC is an hour behind AB time. To be honest, the 18 hours of driving to and from the race was more challenging than the race itself! Imagine sitting in a chair (even a LazyBoy recliner) for 9 hours straight. I think the word for this is "stress position". 

Race Day (Saturday 09 June 2018)

The race started at 10 am so we woke up around 7 am, had a bite to eat and went down to the start line to pick up our race numbers at 8:30 am. We thought it would only take 5-10 minutes but it ended up taking closer to 30 minutes. Matt then started his warm-up late and only got in 25 minutes versus the 35 minutes that he usually likes. He ran on the treadmill in the Glacier Lodge (at the bottom of the ski hill about 10m from the start line) and this worked perfectly.

The Course

This year, the Canadian Mountain Running Championships were on an "up-only" course meaning that we started at the base of Kicking Horse ski hill and ran to the Eagle's Eye restaurant at the top of the hill. The restaurant is at an elevation of 2,350m (7,700 feet). The distance was 10 to 11 km with 1,205m of ascent and 135m of descent.

Approximately half of the course was on single track mountain bike trails that zig-zagged their way up the hill. The trail was mostly dirt and almost all the turns were steeply banked at what felt like 45 degrees. Magi Scallion and her team at Golden Ultra did a great job making this a true mountain race with a lot of challenging twists and turns.

Course Profile

Matt's Race

Standing at the start line, I was getting a little concerned as the competition looked extremely strong. There were many strong mountain runners that I knew personally there including Matt Travaglini, Allan Brett, Gareth Hadfield (these were the top 3 at Cdn Mtn Nats in 2017). 

Race Start - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

The pace went out a little slower than I was expecting. This was likely due to the number of experienced mountain runners on the start line. I thought it would go out extremely fast with the single track that was to be expected on the course. Initially, I was around 10th after the first 100-200m then slowly moved up to 6th. I was behind a couple guys and I could see Gareth and Matt T pulling away from the us (opening up a 20-30m gap) so I surged ahead of them as soon as I could and moved into 3rd. I heard a few runners behind me but after about 5-10 minutes, their breathing faded away (even though Kris will claim that he was in fact within striking distance of me the entire race).

I was then passed by Karl on the major downhill section about 3.5km into the race. I was being very conservative on the slippy/muddy/grassy downhill as I was wearing New Balance 1400V6 road racing flats. I thought, "the last thing I need is to fall and hurt myself this early in the race". As Karl passed me, I did not take him as seriously as I should have. I didn't know who he was and had never heard of him before. Because I did not know who he was, I thought that I would easily catch back up to him. I could not have been more wrong as Karl ended up winning the race and proved that he is a world class mountain runner.

All of a sudden, I felt like I was completely alone. I am extremely happy that the race volunteers marked the course very well as there were a number of times that I was not even sure I was on course but then I saw the orange arrows on the ground and knew I was on course. I ran by myself for the majority of the race.

About 2/3rd into the race, I heard someone come up behind me and run immediately behind me for what felt like 15 to 20 minutes. It was Kris Swanson. I wondered why he was running behind me for so long instead of just passing me. We slinkied a bit (I would pull away on the flat/downhill sections and he would catch up on the steeper uphills). Eventually, Kris passed me and slowly opened up a gap. It was the most bizarre thing to be passed in a mountain race going uphill because everything happens in slow motion. We were probably running 6:00/km to 7:00/km and the closure rate was super slow. I approached this mountain race more as half marathon rather than a 10km road race as the elapsed race time was very similar to my half marathon time. I ran up almost the entire course with the exception of some sections of the course that were very steep. On these sections, it was actually faster to walk/power hike than run. I made the mistake of simply walking up these short sections rather than power hiking up them with my hands on my knees. Kris did not make the same mistake. 

Matt Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

Matt Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

As I was running, I kept telling myself to keep running forward no matter how challenging it may be. My endurance and recovery time during this race felt very good, which is likely due to the distance I have been running over the past couple months.

Another thought that crossed my mind was, "maybe I should have done at least one mountain run (or even hill run) in the past 9 months". Unfortunately, Cold Lake is one of the flattest places on the North American continent so instead of running vertical, I ran A LOT of horizontal (867 km in the month of May 2018, to be exact). According to my Strava training log, while training in Cold Lake, it takes me about two weeks (and 400km of running) to run the same elevation gain that I covered in 1:11:58 at this race. You may notice that the majority of the top athletes in mountain races seem to come from places with easy access to the mountains. I don't think this is by accident. Maybe I should get into the sport of running across frozen lakes in the winter time?

Once we got onto the service road at the very top (2-3 km before the finish), I slowly closed the gap on Kris. However, on the switch-backing service road, you could easily see all of your competitors and all of your competitors could easily see you. This was completely opposite while running on the single track forest trails that were shrouded in cloud and I could not see any other runners. I crossed the finish line feeling pretty winded and ended up finishing 5th overall. I was happy with my performance but I could have been much happier with my placing. The Men's Overall Results are below. Note that Matt T finished 3rd overall at the Vancouver Sun Run 10km on 22 Apr 2018 in a time of 29:49 and Karl Augsten finished 18th in a time of 31:06 at the same race.

Open Men Mtn Run Nats 2018.png
Men Podium Nats 2018.JPG

Emily's Race

I am a "flatlander", I live on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border so I knew this race was going to be painful. Matt and I have spent a bit of time travelling in the mountains so I have a good idea how to move efficiently but it had been a while since we actually ran in the mountains.

One of things I love most about Mountain Racing is the community surrounding it. I love the people that I get to meet at races, and always love catching up with friends at races.  I am not sure how others felt, but I felt a sense of camaraderie as we all tackled something challenging. I just looked through some of Sean Neilsen's photos from the the race and it confirms my notion that we were all probably questioning WHY we paid to run UP a mountain. One can't help but notice the puzzled expressions as we anticipate what is about to be over an hour of pain. The photo below was taken by Sean Nelson (@seanielsen). 

I signed up for this race as I just wanted to get into a race that allowed me to focus on the process, not the outcome.  In

March, I represented Canada at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain. I felt a bit bummed and unmotivated training following this race and was in a bit of a "running slump" for a few weeks following the race. I worked so hard and performed below my expectations. The Canadian Mountain Running Championships  would provide a really great opportunity to focus on the basics-- "run hard, make it hurt, do the best you can". One of the things that separates Mountain Racing from Road Racing is that you don't have to push yourself to get to the "dark place", it's inevitable, it's a question of when.  As I climbed up a very steep section of the course. My breathing and heart rate felt like it was "through the roof", similar to how I might feel in the final 50m "sprint" (I can't sprint) of a race. Not sure how one paces themselves in a mountain race, it's going to hurt climbing up a mountain whether I run fast, steady or slow. I went with the rapid burn. 

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

The course was far more challenging than I had aniticipated. In the past, it was along the service road leading up Kicking Horse ski hill. Sure footing, smooth steep inclines--perfect for a road runner that doesn't have much expericene on technical terrain. This year's course was the flip side of that. At one point I was using my hands to pull myself up a very steep section of the course. I really enjoyed the simple process of movement with one goal in mind: push yourself. No time to chase, no place to go after--just move as fast as you can to get up to the top of the mountain. As the relentless climbing continued, I could feel the air getting cooler and thinner at 9km into the race it was approximately 6,500 feet. Matt and I have spent a bit of time climbing and running in the mountains (however, not recently) so I knew that the best way to get up the mountain quicker was to KEEP MOVING, use any small declines to accelerate and pick up the pace on the smaller uphill sections. Towards the end, we passed over some snow covered sections of the trail, I felt  like a panda on skates frantically trying to move fast while sinking into the snow--it was ugly but so much fun.

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

As I reached the 9km mark I was happy to get off of the single track routes that involved roots, mud, snow and rocks. The gravel road gave me mental relief, I felt better as I could get into a bit of rhythm and was more familiar with the predictable feeling of putting one foot in front of the other without having to dodge roots and large rocks. At this point, the guy (Geoff Michalak) I spent most of the race running with put a few meters on me. I tried to distract him (and myself) from the pain and told him to "look right, look right, check out that beatuful view" he laughed as I think he thought I was trying to distract him and deek past. No hope, he finished strong and put 8 seconds on me in the final 400m, haha. The views at this point of the race were spectacular and seeing the finsih line was nice but it seemed to take a really long time and considerable amount of pain to get there. Having Matt cheer for me was so nice, it made my heart warm to look over and see him running beside me cheering for me to push up the final stretch of the Kicking Horse ski hill.

I ended up wining in a very strong field of talented women. The Women's Overall Results are below.

Open Women Mtn Run Nats 2018.png
Women Podium Nats 2018.JPG

Post-Race

We hung around at the top of the hill for a while before heading back down to the bottom for the awards at 1 pm. That afternoon/evening, we all went out for drinks and pizza at the Whitetooth Brewery in downtown Golden. It was a hoot and we had a really good time.

Thank You

Race Organizers - Big thanks to the team at Golden Ultra including Magi Scallion who put so much work into making this race possible for all of us. From registration to course marking and awards--you guys crushed it, thank-you

PC:Sean Nielsen 

PC:Sean Nielsen 

The Lamberts - The Lamberts have been a fixture in the Canadian Mountain Running Community since it started. If it were not for them, perhaps these events would not even happen. They generously donated prize money for the top three men and women and are there most years to cheer everyone on. Thank-you.

Matt Travaglini - Thank you for allowing us to stay in your home. We greatly appreciate this kind gesture.

Andrew Craig - Thank you for allowing us to stay at your place at Kicking Horse. It was the perfect place to stay as it was about 10m from the start line.

BMO Vancouver Half - One of the Greatest Race Weekends of my Life

BMO Vancouver Half - One of the Greatest Race Weekends of my Life

By: Matt Setlack (start line photo by Christopher Morris)

The 2017 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon experience from 05 to 08 May 2017 was like no other experience I have ever had before. I have had the incredible opportunity to compete in races across North America and around the world but none of them have come close to the elite hospitality experience I had at BMO Half.

Do you ever have those days when everything clicks and slides effortlessly into place? The experience I had at BMO Half was just like that from the time I left to the time I returned. There were no hang ups and rarely any waits; I parked at the airport, walked towards the shuttle bus stop and just as I turned the corner, the bus pulled up. I could not have planned that if I tried.

Friday 07 May 2017

I left Edmonton in the early morning and flew non-stop to Vancouver. Emily and I met in the race hotel (Coast Coal Harbour Hotel; probably the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in) and walked to the Race Expo at the convention center (only a couple blocks away) to pick up our race numbers. We met a lot of great people from Saucony there and I also had the chance to connect with John Stanton, the founder of Running Room. He invited us to the Free Running Room 3k Friendship Run that was scheduled for the next morning.

Matt Setlack and John Stanton at BMO Vancouver Marathon Expo

Matt Setlack and John Stanton at BMO Vancouver Marathon Expo

In the afternoon, Matt and Sarah Clout picked us up and I had the opportunity to see a horse dressage competition. Sarah was competing in it that weekend and she ended up taking home the First Level Amateur Division Championship. I had no idea that there was so much to dressage as there is. It was really interesting to watch and have Matt and Sarah there to explain the rules to me.

Matt Clout, George and Sarah Clout at Southlands Riding Club

Matt Clout, George and Sarah Clout at Southlands Riding Club

Around dinner time, food was prepared for the elite athletes in the hospitality suite (chicken, rice, vegetables, fruit, fruit to go bars, water, carbonated and flavoured water, etc). Lynn Kunuka was the Elite Coordinator and she did a phenomenal job. Just outstanding! Arlene and Cheryl were in the hospitality suite kitchen getting all the food ready for the athletes. I was extremely impressed with the food that they provided for us; it was exactly the type of food that we eat at home.That night, I watched Nike's Breaking2 commercial, which was very impressive. Eliud Kipchoge ran a 2:00:25 marathon time trial on a formula 1 race track near Milan, Italy.

The whole BMO Half experience felt like a family reunion. Many of the elite athletes and volunteers hung out in the hospitality suite and we got to know each other.

Saturday 08 May 2017

Emily and I decided to go to the Free 3k Running Room Friendship Run at the Vancouver Denman Running Room. This was the first time I had been to a Friendship Run and was expecting just an easy 15 minute jog and done but when I got there, there were tents set up, there was a start/finish line arch, free refreshments available and photographers/videographers walking around. I felt a little like I was on the set of a movie that was being filmed. 

Running Room Athletes Daniel Kipkoech, Matt Setback and Jane Murage

Running Room Athletes Daniel Kipkoech, Matt Setback and Jane Murage

John Stanton gave a speech, the Running Room pace bunnies were introduced and many of the elite athletes were introduced. A cheque was presented to the Thunderbirds Track Club by John Stanton. The 3k run went off without a hitch and then it was time for the BMO 2.5k Kids Run.

The BMO 2.5k Kids Run was definitely one of the highlights of the entire BMO Half Marathon Experience. Jim, Mary, Daniel, Jane, Emily and I drove over to the run. Lynn, Kip, Mike were already there. As soon as we arrived, they called us up on stage and introduced us. I was thinking, "I think the race organizers have maybe mistaken me for an elite runner/Olympian or something". haha The national anthem was sung before the race (I really like it when race organizers do this) and then we got to cheer the kids on. Lynn gave everyone blue BMO Saucony t-shirts that read "ELITE" on the front and back and then we were then given BMO Kids Run medals to present to the kids as they crossed the finish line. It was so awesome! I felt like a million bucks!

Kip, Daniel and Matt (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Kip, Daniel and Matt (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Daniel, Emily, Mike and Kip

Daniel, Emily, Mike and Kip

After that was done, we went over to the podium and got photos taken with any kids who wanted their photo taken. There was a huge lineup of kids. Then the kids started asking for our autographs! haha I was thinking, "I think you have the wrong guy (reference myself)". This event was so much fun and I had such a great time that my face actually started getting sore from smiling so much. I didn't know that was even possible. After the entire event was over on Sunday, we took the elevator with a family comprised of a father, two young girls with BMO 2.5k Kids Run medals around their necks and a mother with a BMO Full Marathon medal around her neck. We were wearing street clothes (unusual, since we usually wear running clothes) and the dad recognized us and said to us, "You guys are the elite athletes who went up on stage yesterday". It made me very happy to see an entire family partaking in the event. They looked very proud of themselves for finishing their races.

BMO 2.5k Kids Run (Photo by Mary Hinze)

BMO 2.5k Kids Run (Photo by Mary Hinze)

A course tour of the BMO Half was scheduled for 12:30 pm on Saturday. I thought there would be a bus or a 15 passenger van. Because of Vancouver traffic, we ended up getting back to the hotel a little later than expected. When we got to the elite suite, we realized that the tour wasn't an entire bus/van, but was instead just a group of elite athletes that would be driven over the course by one of the volunteers. Ferg Hawke volunteered to take anyone for a course tour. Emily and I asked to go but nobody else showed up. Jonathan also volunteered to navigate the course tour. We left the hotel, walked to the vehicle, got inside and realized it had a leather interior and was freshly cleaned (and I mean immaculate). We asked the other volunteers at the finish line arch if we could drive through since the other end of the street was blocked off and they said, "sure". So here we are driving/slaloming around these blue baricades trying to look like we belong there. It was pretty funny. Ferg drove over the entire 21.1k course for us in his own vehicle during Vancouver rush hour traffic while Jonathon navigated and called out the km splits as we passed them. Emily and I were thinking, we are so lucky; I can't believe we're actually getting a personal course tour. This is incredible! This tour ended up helping A LOT during the race since we knew exactly when and where the next turns were coming up. This was my first time doing this race. Thank you so much, Ferg and Jonathon for the amazing course tour! We really appreciate you guys going out of your way to do that for us!

We returned to the hotel and it was time for the technical meeting at 4:30 pm. Lynn gave us a complete run-down of the course and what the sequence of events would be and then the course director, Eric Chene actually came in and went through the half marathon and full marathon courses with us on the course map. After that, we had a pasta dinner together. There was more than enough food to go around. During dinner, I met an interesting gentleman and as he was talking, I was thinking, "this guy has the perfect voice to be a narrator for a film or an announcer or something". Turns out the gentleman I met was, Steve King and he was the announcer for the BMO Half and Full. He is the elite of race announcers!

Sunday 07 May 2017 (RACE DAY)

We woke up at 4:30 am (who schedules a race start for 7 am? haha) and went to the elite suite where Arlene and Cheryl had food all set out ready to go. The bus left at 5:30 am to take us to the start line. They had a gym open for us to warm up in with bathrooms to use. This was absolutely perfect. There was even a special passageway blocked off for the elites to get to the front of the race start line. How cool is that! I saw John Stanton up on the stage; he gave me a thumbs up and I waved. While we were warming up inside, the national anthem was played (love it when they do this). The weather was perfect with the temperature around 6-8C and the wind 11kph from the ENE. There was a Tesla electric car at the start line and I believe it was used as the lead car.

The gun went off and the pace was really slow. I was thinking, "this is like ultra-marathon pace" and we were running a half-marathon. No offence to ultra-runners out there :) I was waiting for the Kenyans to blow past me but they stayed behind me for like 500m. On the way down Cambie Street, the first 3 km or so are straight downhill (with a small uphill bump to cross over Cambie Bridge). I wanted to take advantage of gravity on the downhill so I tried to maintain the proper effort and not worry about pace. Knowing the course enabled me to take the tangents (run the shortest distance on the inside of the turns). As I was crossing over Cambie Bridge, I saw the lead pack ahead of me way over on the left hand side of the road while I was on the right hand side of the road because I knew that a right hand turn was coming up. I have studied the USATF Course Measurement and Certification Procedures Manual and have a pretty good understanding of exactly how race courses are measured.

Benard, Andrew and Matt running as a team (Photo by Alvin Lee)

Benard, Andrew and Matt running as a team (Photo by Alvin Lee)

From Cambie Bridge at about 3k to about 6k, I ran by myself and then caught up to Kenyan runner, Benard. As I was passing him, he picked up his pace and we ran side by side. Then Ireland's Andrew joined in on the fun and the three of us ran together for pretty much the rest of the race. We didn't say a word to each other (besides me saying, "tangents! take the tangents!") the entire race. In retrospect, I'm not sure if Benard knew what that meant...because we rubbed elbows several times. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement that we were going to push each other to the finish line, two guys would run in front, one behind and then we would switch. I felt like Benard and Andrew surged on the uphills and then slowed down on the downhills and flats because I would fall off the back by 10-20m and then make the ground back up on the downhills/flats. Thank you to everyone who cheered for me during the race. It really did make a big difference. 

With about 1.5k to go, Benard and Andrew really picked up the pace and I fell back at least 20-30m but I kept running pretty hard slowly closing the gap until we were on the final 500m stretch up Pender Street (very slight uphill). I was thinking, "there is no way that I'm going to run with these guys for 15k and then getting dropped in the end so I ran as fast as I could (grunting and spitting all the while...there may have even been froth coming from my mouth like a rabid dog). In the final 50 to 100m, I could see that Andrew (from Ireland) was in the middle of the street, Benard was just to the left of him and I was to the left of Benard. I think I had a bit of an advantage coming from behind because they could not see me. With 10m to go, I got a little jolt of energy (from where, I'm not sure) and Benard and I were literally neck and neck (photo finish style). It was very tight at the finish line and we rubbed elbows a bit as we raced to the finish line. In the end, Andrew came through in 5th in a time of 1:09:23 and I came in 6th in a time of 1:09:24. I was happy to have set a new personal best in the half marathon by 2 minutes 4 seconds. I believe I was the 2nd or 3rd Canadian overall. Emily also set a new 2 minute PB running 1:13:28 (2nd woman overall, 2nd Canadian). It was fantastic to see Emily finish the race a few short minutes after I finished my race. We also saw each other at the two 180 degree turnaround points on the race course. As we passed each other, we bellowed out words of encouragement to one another. Emily said that this really lifted her spirits.

Emily at the finish (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Emily at the finish (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Jane Murage (3rd), Natasha Kodak (1st) and Emily Setlack (2nd)

Jane Murage (3rd), Natasha Kodak (1st) and Emily Setlack (2nd)

After Emily crossed the finish line, I asked her how she did, she said, "I ran a 2 minute PB". She then asked me the same and I said, "I ran a 2 minute PB as well". This is the second race in two weeks that we have both set new PBs in races together.

After we finished, our bags with warm-up gear were waiting for us at the finish line. Thank you, Ferg for bringing all of our bags to the finish line. It was just perfect how they were right there waiting for us. This was a point to point course. Medals were given out and post-race interviews were done. The entrance to the race hotel was literally 10m from the finish line (Pender Street entrance) so we could be in our hotel room within 5 minutes.

Emily and I did our warm-down going backwards over the marathon course so we could watch Mike Trites and Marty Robertson finish their races. Mike ended up placing 1st Canadian.  

Announcer Steve King (L) and Mike Trites (R) - 1st Canadian in the BMO Vancouver Full Marathon

Announcer Steve King (L) and Mike Trites (R) - 1st Canadian in the BMO Vancouver Full Marathon

Emily and Mike

Emily and Mike

Mary gave us hospitality lanyards/passes and we could go into the hospitality/VIP section right at the finish line. There were food tables set up, cappuccino machines, sandwiches, washrooms, unlimited beer and wine available. You could eat and drink as much as you wanted while cheering for fellow runners as they crossed the finish line and talking with friends. Everything was complimentary! The sun was shining. It was absolutely incredible!

That night, Emily and I decided to splurge and go out for dinner (when we are on our own we usually end up eating peanut butter sandwiches on a park bench somewhere or having a picnic down by the water). We went to Cardero's, which Matt and Sarah Clout introduced us to. We love this place!

Emily and I having dinner at Cardero's

Emily and I having dinner at Cardero's

Monday 08 May 2017

We received an email and a note from Lynn asking if we would like to go for a post-race shuffle at 9 am the next morning. We went out for a 30 minute easy shuffle with Lynn, Allison, Mo and Andrew.

The rest of the day was spent taking it really easy and then walking along the water. We are always extremely cognizant of how lucky we are to come to beautiful places like Vancouver where the grass is green, there are flowers everywhere, birds are chirping and the sun is shining. We ran into Mike Trites and talked with him for a while. Our return to northern Alberta was uneventful.

Thank You

I owe the following people a debt of gratitude for all the volunteer work they did in organizing the event and spending their time to ensure the athletes were taken care of extremely well.

Lynn Kanuka - She was the Elite Coordinator the BMO Vancouver Half and Full Marathon. She is full of life and an Olympic athlete herself who still holds the Canadian 1,500m record (click here). She does an incredible job of treating the athletes remarkably well. Lynn always has a smile on her face.

Lynn Kanuka and Mary Hinze (Photo by Debra Kato)

Lynn Kanuka and Mary Hinze (Photo by Debra Kato)

Jim and Mary Hinze - I had the priviledge to meet Jim and Mary for the first time at the Vancouver Sun Run this year. Jim and Mary are two of the kindest people I have ever met. There is a positive energy surrounding them. I had just met them but by the way they talk to you, it's almost as if you have known them for years. They are very respectful people. They are both extremely considerate and I feel like they would give you the shirt off their back to keep you warm.

Jim and Mary Hinze - Two of the kindest people I have ever met.

Jim and Mary Hinze - Two of the kindest people I have ever met.

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society. Thank you for putting on a phenomenal race.

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society

Arlene and Cheryl - These wonderful ladies volunteered their time to prepare the food in the elite hospitality suite and ensure everyone had anything they needed. They were so kind and caring and really made Emily and I feel at home with their pleasant and caring way. They got up before 4:30 am on race morning to open up the elite suite so athletes could have breakfast before their race.

Ferg Hawke - Ferg is a machine. He has competed in the Badwater Ultra-marathon and competed with Tony O'Keeffe at Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. His son, Carter finished the marathon in 3:04:58. Thank you, Ferg for taking us on a course tour.

Jonathan - Thank you, Jonathan for navigating the course tour for us. We would have been lost without your help. It was a pleasure to hang out with you after the race.

Running Room and Ronhill - Thank you very much for your amazing support. I am able to do what I love because of you. 

All Organizers and Volunteers - Thank you for helping to put on an amazing event. Races like this could not happen without the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Thank you! 

My next race is the Canadian Road 10km National Championships in Ottawa on 27 May 2017.

BMO Half - Beautiful Fast Course, Outstanding Elite Hospitality, Friendly Volunteers!

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

By: Emily Setlack

Before arriving in Flagstaff, I received some exciting news from Athletics Canada.  After finishing off a row of Peak Frean cookies, I checked my email and was beyond thrilled to discover that I was selected to represent Canada at the NACAC 10km Championships in Guadeloupe, France.  Athletics Canada used the national rankings over 10km road times to go and at the time I was ranked second in Canada over 10km.  Time to put the cookies down and start training.  

I have been very fortunate to spend time training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA with Team West Coast Endurance for 3.5 weeks in September.  It was great having elite marathoner and team mate Erin Burrett there in addition to my coach, Matt Clout.

To get to Flagstaff I took a flight from Edmonton to Phoenix, Arizona and then drove two hours to Flagstaff. I stayed in an excellent location just off of Lake Mary Road with close access to trails.  I naively arrived with fresh legs and my handy little book on hiking trails in Sedona and Flagstaff with the intention of bagging a few peaks. Needless to say, running over 90 miles per week and putting in challenging workouts is pretty exhausting and the book got a little dusty (mostly used as a coffee coaster).  

So, why train at altitude? Training at high altitude triggers a production of red blood cells which help deliver more oxygen to your muscles and this makes you run quicker.  At the end of the day, hard work is hard work and pavement is pavement.  I truly believe that regardless of where you live there will always be obstacles.  However, Flagstaff's Urban Trail System (FUTS) city-wide network of trails made my training a little more enjoyable than HWY 897 in Cold Lake and running at 7000FT makes sea level feel like a piece of cake.  The trails in Flagstaff were beyond epic, 56 miles of clay and dirt trails that weave through the town connecting parks, national forests and canyons.  It was beautiful.   Without trails I'm not sure if I would even run, connecting with nature is a big part of why I get out and run everyday.  This winter and "fall", I'll be connecting daily with the PRECOR, so I better find another reason to run. Music will get me through it. 

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Thankfully, Flagstaff is a pretty hip little town and it seems there is always something going on, I was lucky enough to it be there during SciFest so I made my way to as many events possible. I need balance, the biggest challenge of spending time in Flagstaff was living like an elite and running, napping, running again, going to bed early and doing the same thing again the next day.  I'll be honest, the naps didn't happen--at all.  Regardless of how tired I am, I can't let the best part of the day get away on me.

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

The last three weeks could not have gone any better and I have logged more mileage than ever.  Workouts have been going well too.  Having Coach Matt Clout there was awesome, it was nice to have his help in workouts and it was a good reminder that I need to push a little harder in workouts when I'm in Cold Lake. I was a little hesitant about coming to Flagstaff and almost cancelled the trip as three weeks before arriving in Flagstaff I found out my ferritin levels were 10!  Ever since then, I have been extremely diligent with my diet, at times consuming more iron than I probably need.  After one week of taking iron supplements I felt like a different runner and I'm feeling like my old iron enriched self again.  

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

The plan was to train at altitude and go after a fast time at the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront 1/2 Marathon.  Before leaving for Flagstaff I received an email from Athletics Canada with an invitation to compete at the NACAC 10km Championships in Guetaloupa, France. I'm really thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to lace up my flats and put on a Team Canada singlet again (even though my uniform is stuck in the post office, Cold Lake snail mail - things take unusually long to get here).  I'm looking forward to making it hurt, running hard and going for the course record that Laura Battering set last year.

When I think of racing, I'm terrified.  I've been reading a lot on mental preparation for races and how to prepare your body to "Flow" and be in that state where everything aligns and you can transcend beyond what you're capable of and shut your mind off.  And so, I made a little poster to remind myself and others about achieving a "Flow State".  There is a really great article from the Hufftington Post about reaching your "Flow State"-- worth a read! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/builtlean/flow-state-how-to-achieve_b_9480926.html> 

Finding Your Flow

Finding Your Flow