Running down a mountain carrying a yoga mat is as awkward as it gets.
This past Sunday, I joined my pal Karen Jaques and Breeze Yoga Red Deer for a mountain top yoga session.
It was one of my “What the heck, let’s do it moments. The plan was to hike up Coliseum Mountain before an hour-long gentle flow yoga class on the peak.
My legs were stiff from Saturday’s training in Kananaskis Country but I did not want to pass up on a new adventure.
We met at the yoga studio in Gasoline Alley before our convoy hit the highway. Travelling west on Hwy 11, the drive takes about two hours.
I’m not too familiar with this area as I tend to take the beaten path in Kananaskis to train. My drive was uneventful but one driver hit a deer on the highway, which had to be put down by a wildlife officer. It wasn’t the best way to start our day.
After a quick stop in Nordegg, we made our way to the trailhead. (To reach the mountain, take the first right on Hwy 11 onto Shunda Creek Road after Nordegg.) Here’s some history for you – Coliseum Mountain was once home to the first fire lookout in Alberta. The name refers to the rocky amphitheatre on its southwest aspect, reminiscent of the coliseums of ancient Rome. It is also known as “mountain with a cap.”
Breanna Stutheit, Breeze Yoga owner and yoga instructor, gave a briefing and safety talk at the base. She also handed out dried fruit and small bottles of water. The hike is roughly 14k return with 680 metres (2,250 feet) in elevation gain.
There were about 20 people in our group. Yoga mats were fastened to their medium to large hiking bags. I wore my running hydration vest and carried my yoga mat.
Karen and I seeded ourselves near the front of the group. The hike leader said it should take us about two and a half hours to reach the summit.
The first 4K or so of the hike takes you through forested switchbacks. It can be challenging for the unfit or the untrained. But if you take it slow, it is doable at any fitness level. Remember it is only 4K of your life.
The switchbacks will lead you to a sweet ridge walk and a perfect spot to stop for photos (and catch your breath). I think the ridge walk is my favourite part because you can see the domed peak of Coliseum Mountain and there’s that element of danger – slipping on the scree and falling to your death.
Before we started the yoga we handed over our water bottles so our hike leader could brew hot tea.
It was the perfect day. Mother Nature kept the winds at bay so we didn’t have to worry about our mats blowing over the mountain. Karen, Suzanne Forbes and I set our mats down together. The three of us chatted about everything from kombucha-making to social media.
Breanna led us through a relaxed yoga class, opening up all those areas that tightened up on the 2.5 hour hike. Karen, who recently received her yoga teacher certification, stepped in to help with adjustments.
We laughed, drank tea and took in the beauty of it all. What a wonderful experience.
I left the group to run down the mountain. The whole way up I kept thinking, I can’t wait to fly. It took me less than an hour to reach the bottom. One hiker kept pace with me. I couldn’t understand how he was keeping up. Were we racing?
I figured it out when I heard some rustling in the trees. He was taking short cuts. I know this because I asked him in the parking lot.
He laughed, “Yes I had to win.”
Damn. We were racing.
WORLD RECORD ATTEMPT
Noel D’Arcy came up short in his attempt to set a world record for the fastest marathon while wearing a full firefighter’s uniform.
It was the boots that “kicked me in the ass,” laughed the Olds volunteer firefighter.
D’Arcy regulated his body temperature by pouring a pitcher of ice water down his jacket, which got up to about 50C, at every aid station.
But the 30-year-old could do nothing about the boots, which lacked the flexibility in the calf area that most running shoes boast.
“Literally they forced you stand straight up. I looked like C-3PO from Star Wars,” said D’Arcy.
“It was a lot harder than I expected. I think at 12K or 13K in my quads locked up. My calves locked up. My knees starting locking up. It went south from there. I turned to the guy pacing me, I said the record was out of question today but I wanted to finish it no matter what.”
D’Arcy finished in 5:25:03. The world record is 3:41:10, which was set by an Irish runner in June 2014.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “When I got to about 30K, it was like run, then stop. I had to massage my legs to get my legs going again. It was a constant to the finish. It was tough. It was very tough.”
Now it’s back to the drawing board for D’Arcy. The Olds runner will give the world record another attempt but he is not sure when and where yet. He wants to try within the next 18 months or two years.
Next up for D’Arcy is the Sinister 7 Ultra (161K) July 9 in Crowsnest Pass and next year he signed up for the Calgary Marathon’s 150K race.
FIRST ULTRA MARATHON
At the Blackfoot 45K mark, if you would have asked Perry Mill if he would sign up for another 50k, his answer would have been a resounding “No.”
But now days later the 55-year-old Red Deer runner has changed his tune.
“Honestly I was just happy to finish,” said Mill. “I didn’t even check my time. I didn’t even check my Garmin. It’s over and done. The whole experience was great. It was hard but it was good. I would do it again for sure.”
Mill conquered the mud and humidity to finish the Blackfoot 50K Ultra in 7:20, good enough for 106 place out of 151 finishers.
Next up for Mill is the Great White North half Ironman in Stony Plain next month. He’ll also be staying local and running the Troubled Monk’s 10K race on June 18 in Red Deer.
Lacombe’s Doug MacIsaac is crossing one more item off his bucket list. MacIsaac finished Comrades Marathon, the largest and oldest ultramarathon in the world in South Africa on May 29.
MacIsaac said it was an amazing experience.
“The spectators and fellow runners are extremely friendly and supportive the entire length of the race,” he said.
He finished in 10:17:07, well under his stretch goal of 10:30.
“I was ecstatic with my time and the last few kilometres were a bit emotional when I realized that yes I am going to finish,” he said.
MacIsaac plans to hike the West Coast Trail in August with wife Danielle and friends.
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