Keeping a Cold Running Temperature Log

A few years ago I was training for the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a race that has often been dubbed as the world’s coldest and toughest ultra marathon. I had grabbed coffee with a lady who previously completed this race and she mentioned that picking the right gear for race day was the hardest part, and knowing what will work in those temperatures is essential to be successful for that race. While an injury ended up preventing me from doing the race that year, something great came out of training for it – the birth of my cold weather running temperature log! For those that know me, you know that my biggest running pet peeve is when people or companies try to list what gear to wear at specific temperatures. As I wrote about in my last blog (Tips for Cold Weather Running), cold is different for everyone, and everyone feels ‘cold’ differently. A cold running temperature log allows you to dive right into how you individually respond to cold weather while running, helping make you more prepared and safe in the cold.

What is a cold running temperature log?

A cold running temperature log is a book, in addition to my normal running log, that I pull out in the winter to record what gear I wear at different temperatures and how I feel wearing it. It helps take the guesswork out of how to dress in cold weather. Whether you find yourself suddenly experiencing a cold snap where you live, or if you need help jogging your memory (see what I did there?) with so many varying temperatures, this log allows you to take a look at what temperature you are about to go out in, see what you wore at previous temperatures, and ultimately let you be more prepared and safe for your run.

What do I record?

  • Temperature: What temperature is it outside for your run? Use either a weather website or your thermometer, but keep where you take your reading from consistent.
  • Windchill: Is there a windchill? What is it? Windchill can have a huge influence on what you wear and what temperature it actually feels like.
  • What I wore: List in detail all of the gear you wore. Include the small (important) details too like whether your material was Gortex, merino wool, etc. Don’t forget about what you wore on your head, as shoes, and on your hands!).
  • How it felt: Based on what you wore for your run in that specific temperature, were you too hot? Too cold? Too sweaty? Were certain parts of your body more or less comfortable/hot/cold than others?
  • What I would do differently/other notes: Recording this will help you plan better for the next time to run at a similar temperature. Based on what you wore and how you felt with that gear, would you have done something differently if you could go back in time and pick out your gear? This is also a great time to record additional notes, like maybe you were running during your menstrual cycle and that influenced your fitness level at the time (impacting how your body responded to the cold), maybe it was a blizzard and what should have been an easy run just felt like a wet and cold slog.

Additional tips

  • Record in your log book as soon as you are done your run. You might think you’ll remember just fine in a few hours or the next morning, but it is impressive how quickly we forget.
  • A temperature log does not only have to be for cold weather running. You might find it just as useful for running in heat or even for recording any temperature throughout the year. A temperature log should be to serve just you, and you can decide what temperature range is most useful to keep track of.
  • The more information and detail you record, the more helpful it will be for your future running.
  • A temperature log is not 100% fool proof. There are many things that can vary from year to year (and even from early season to end of season) that influence how you feel cold. These include your fitness level, body fat, and wear on your gear. For example, I find that my body fat gets cold super fast and can be much more prone to frost bite. I might have recorded a run last year where I felt good in certain gear in a certain temperature, but if I have additional body fat now (like on my butt), I might need to increase my layering (or switch fabrics – like merino wool underwear), to accommodate for that change in my body.
  • A temperature log doesn’t have to be a physical book. If keeping an online log (or notes on your phone) work better for you, do that!
  • Have some sort of filing system for the different temperature ranges you are using. However you find it most useful for you. I use different stickers at the top of my page which correspond to temperatures ranges that I choose, as well as an additional sticker when windchill was a factor in that run (see photo at top for mine).

An example of one of my logs

With a very strong caveat that this is how my body handles that temperature, and this should only be used to see how I write my log, not what you should wear at that temperature. 🙂

Happy cold weather running!!

Tips for Cold Weather Running

Well it is here. The days are shorter, and temperatures are plummeting real fast. While this might seem like the natural time to cozy up inside with blankets and warm hot chocolate, I can promise that those things always feel even better after a cold-weather run. I’ve only been running in cold weather for the last six years, but the Yukon sure has its share of cold – with temperatures sometimes dipping down into the -40s C. And while running in the snow and cold might not be everyone’s cup of tea (and that’s totally fine!), I’m going to share some tips and tricks that I have learnt from my experiences running in this very cold place.

Cold is Different for Everyone: I think it is incredibly important to remember that everyone defines and feels “cold” differently. We know that every individual is built differently, which also means we feel cold differently. Some people excel in very cold temperatures, whereas others find it very difficult. Some people get frozen fingers and toes faster than legs, and others find it challenging to keep their core warm. Everyone is different! Some people (like me) prefer running when temps drop below -20, whereas others struggle to find the motivation as soon as the thermometer dips below zero. That’s why I’m keeping this article to talk about cold weather running, and hope you find these tips useful for running in however you define your cold.

Have Good Gear: I have seen many people try to promote that you don’t need the best gear to recreate in the outdoors, and while I feel this is true in some cases, I think that you should not compromise on quality when it comes to cold weather running gear. It’s awesome if you can save money (and help the planet) by finding the gear second hand or on sale, but don’t be cheap, especially if you aren’t an expert in gear and the outdoors, or don’t have much experience with knowing which gear works for you. The cold can be incredibly dangerous, and whereas cold weather essentials like Gortex, merino wool, and good synthetics are not cheap, they will help keep you dry, and therefore warmer and safer.

Planning what to Wear: Unsure how to dress for your cold weather run? This is very common and is truly something that gets easier with experience. While I was training for a very cold race a few years ago, I started to keep a cold-weather log. I keep a little notebook dedicated to cold running and record what temperature it was (including the windchill), what I wore, and then I make notes on how it felt. Was I too cold? Too warm? What would I have worn differently? This has become a very handy resource for me when I’m planning my cold weather runs as I can use it as a reference when getting ready for similar runs.

Get out that door!: Yes, I think you should run, but that’s not what I am referring to here. When getting dressed for your run, you are going to be layered up so well that you will likely find what you are wearing is far too warm for inside. So do not dilly daddle! If you spend too much time inside after getting dressed, you will start building up a sweat – setting your run up for trouble right from the start. As soon as you step out that door, the sweat will begin to freeze, which will be a very hard cold to shake off. Similarly, you also don’t want to be dressed up for your run (which is under dressed for what you would be wearing if you were going outside and not running), and just standing there waiting for your watch to find its satellite friends. Waiting too long outside before your run will bring the cold into your bones which will be hard to recover from. I therefore recommend putting your watch out on a windowsill or outside while you are getting ready inside, that way it is ready to go when you are.

Plan your Route: The last thing you want when running in the cold is bad surprises! Cold runs can go bad, very quickly, especially if you have to unexpectedly stop. The colder the run, the more important it is that you know the trail/route you are on. Do you know how long it will take you to get to safety? Is it quicker to go forward, or back the way you came? Knowing your route well will help you to communicate your location to someone if an emergency were to happen. Plan your route around safety and tell someone who is also familiar with the route, where you will be. Planning your route also helps you avoid surprises like tricky terrain (such as hills!). While you may enjoy challenging yourself with hills in normal temperatures, unexpected hills will likely make you sweat more and breath harder, which can be detrimental in the cold. By knowing your route and planning for the run you know you can anticipate, you’re more likely to be safer in the cold. Don’t worry, the hills aren’t going anywhere and can be run when temperatures warm up!

Slow and Steady: Just like hills, cold weather running should not be the time for you to do your interval workouts or try to beat a personal record (unless you are experienced and acclimatized and well trained in the cold). You really want to avoid anything that is strenuous enough to cause you to breath too heavily and sweat. As soon as you start sweating, you need to be incredibly careful that it doesn’t turn into hypothermia. Just keep your runs casual, and slow down when you can feel your breathing begin to speed up.

Watch for Wind!: Wind can be a sneaky beast, turning a fun run into a nightmare. I would say that out of all of my time running in cold weather, wind has continued to be the hardest learning curve. Before heading out the door, take a look at the current weather on a website. Is there a predicted windchill? What direction is the wind? Knowing this will allow you to plan your route better (if the windchill is really bad, plan to stay in more forested areas vs. exposed spots). Can you plan your run so you are going with the wind when you are most exposed? If the windchill is around five or more degrees colder than what the temperature outside is, I recommend wearing a windbreaker jacket and pant layer (especially Gortex) above what you were going to wear. It will be your face that feels the wind the most, so it might also be time to pull out that balaclava to protect yourself from that nippy breeze.

Now Warm Up: Your run is done! Now it is time to warm up and avoid the post run shivers! Change out of your running clothing as quickly as possible (even if you don’t think you were sweating, you were, and it will start to feel cold very quickly!). Do anything that will help you get warm. Put on that hot shower or bubble bath, brew up a warm coffee/tea/hot chocolate (my favourite after a cold run!). And get that cozy blanket or heating pad ready. I find that no matter whether I run in the summer or winter, about ten minutes after a run I get the post-run shivers. I have been successful at minimizing these shivers by doing quick sets of jumping jacks or sit ups every few minutes. This seems to help to slow down the decrease in my skin and body temperature.

Embrace the cold weather! Have fun and congrats for getting out there!

If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life, but still the same amount of snow” – Christopher Robbin.

A few more tips

  • Wear mittens, not gloves. Mittens will keep your hands warmer. Mittens will allow you to keep your fingers together and warmer. Gortex mittens for cold weather running are highly recommended.
  • Gortex running shoes are waterproof and designed to be less breathable. They will help in colder, slushier, and snowier conditions.
  • Adding some maple syrup into your water bottle will keep your water from freezing over. I put some endurance tap in mine for added natural fuel.
  • Base layers are so important for cold weather running. How you choose to layer on top is up to you and your needs, but I recommend always having merino wool socks, leggings, top, and buff. Merino wool retains a lot of its insulating qualities when wet, making it a top choice for cold weather.
  • Technology needs attention too! Depending on the temperature, your watch, cell phone, and safety equipment might not handle the cold too well. Take the time to make sure your watch isn’t exposed, and wrap up your phone/devices in a sock, buff, or other cloth. Putting these inside one of your warmer layers will help to make sure they still work for that perfect picture moment or safety phone call.
  • Consider setting up an extra safety plan for your longer or more remote runs. I recommend carrying a SPOT or inReach device, and/or using the watch-based tracking feature on your fitness app if you are in cell reception.
  • Remember that just because it’s cold out, doesn’t mean that all the wild animals are asleep. If you live in bear country, it is important to have bear spray with you year-round.

10 Favourite Trails in the Yukon

I shared an article a while ago by Adventure Sports Network that was a top ten list of scenic hikes in the Yukon. I really enjoyed reading it because I feel that a landscape, and your personal and shared experiences on a trail, can have profound ways of influencing our feelings towards a place. It was neat to have the opportunity to peak into someone else’s connection to the land and to see what they consider “jaw dropping”. With some encouragement from friends, I decided to write about my own favourite Yukon hikes. I found it quite challenging to narrow it down to just ten as I have enjoyed elements of every single hike that I have ever been on, but here are my top 10 favourites SO FAR.

Grizzly Lake Trail

Highlights: The company, autumn colours, toughness, Pikas, and feelings of accomplishment.


It feels suiting to start my list off with a hike that was on my bucket list since the day I first stepped foot in the Yukon in 2012. This is one of those trails where it is impossible to take a bad photo, and the trail has enough rocks, elevation gain, and remoteness to make you feel like superman by the time you are done hiking each day. I’ve had the chance to hike this beautiful 40 km trail twice, including during the peak of the beautiful autumn colours. It takes you deep into the beautiful remote mountains of Tombstone Territorial Park and truly is a backcountry hikers dream. With no campfires allowed (lack of trees and a very sensitive ecosystem), this trail will test your gear, your balance, and how well you like your hiking companions. This northern mountain range can bring a blast of winter weather at any moment (as we encountered in late August). Check out my adventure from my first time hiking this trail here. This trail can be done as a day hike with wonderful views into Grizzly Lake, but I highly recommend doing the full 40 km hike into Talus Lake as a 4-6 day journey. 

Tachal Dhal Ridge

Highlights: Glacier and lake views, wildlife

Tachal Dhal Ridge

Tachal Dhal Ridge (known also as Sheep Mountain Ridge), is a favourite of mine for a number of reasons. When I first came to the Yukon, I was based along the shores of Kluane Lake, staring at this beauty of a mountain. I later went on to work for Kluane National Park and Reserve, where I spent a lot of my summer working at the interpretive centre at the base of this mountain. So when I had the chance to do the full ridge route, I couldn’t pass it up. It is a commitment of a hike and requires a bit of logistics as the loop does not join back up with the start. This steep leg burner climb graces you with fantastic views of Kluane Lake and then veers you in the direction of the Slims River Valley where you can see the Kaskawulsh Glacier in the distance. This trail is a haven for wildlife, especially sheep, golden eagles, and grizzly bears. Best to bring along a bunch of friends and make a lot of noise to warn the bears that you’re just wandering through their home.

The Tors

Highlights: Rock formations

The Tors is just a magical place, and the trail to these Stonehenge-like natural rock wonders is a fun mix of boreal woods, hills, cliffs, and lovely sub-alpine floral landscapes. I have had the opportunity to hike this 13km trail twice (and I am glad I have, as I took the wrong ridge down the first time and ended up adding an extra six hours down a sketchy bear-poop bushwhacking non-trail). If you can only hike one trail in the Yukon, this place is too magical to pass up.

St. Elias Lake

Highlights: Reward for effort, mountain lake, and lush forests

St. Elias Lake

St. Elias Lake truly is a gem of a hike. Situated within Kluane National Park and Reserve, this often forgotten about little trail is one of the most rewarding hikes for your effort. The trailhead begins off the Haines Highway (about 60 km from the community of Haines Junction) and meanders through a lush boreal forest for the majority of the hike. Within not too long (about 4km, mountains begin to emerge all around you and after a final jaunt through some dense willows, you’re suddenly at the most beautiful green lake at the base of a stunning mountain. I always thought this would be a fun trail to run sometime, but bears can certainly be abundant. 

Charcoal Creek Ridge

Highlights: Scenery, wildlife viewing, the challenge

Charcoal Ridge

Another hike in Tombstone Territorial Park that made the list! I have a soft spot for the types of hikes that start off with a grunt of a hill and then becomes a beautiful stroll in the alpine. I guess you could argue that most of the hikes in the Yukon are like this, but there is something special about Charcoal Creek Ridge. Perhaps it’s the lack of trail that puts your route finding skills to the test, or being surrounded by the beautiful tombstone mountains, but this trail is a stunner and can be accessed right across from the Territorial Campground.

Chilkoot Trail

Highlights: The history and changing ecosystems

The Chilkoot Trail

An Elder in Tagish recently told me that you are not a true Yukoner until you’ve hiked the Chilkoot Trail. This international 53 km hike begins in Dyea Alaska, and follows a Tlingit path (and later the famous trek of the Gold Rush Stampeders) into Bennet, British Columbia. Besides the feelings of stepping back into this area’s rich history, I love this trail because of the diversity of ecosystems you pass through over the (usually) four day hike. From lush fern-covered coastal rainforest, to alpine barren mountainous landscapes, then into northern boreal forests and sand dune (desert like) endings, this trail has it all. And luckily you can hike (or run) it with a much lighter pack then the stampeders had to bring over the Chilkoot Pass.

Shorty Creek

Highlights: Untouched remote landscape and wildflowers

Shorty Creek

Another Kluane National Park and Reserve trail that makes my top ten cut. And for good reason. When I worked for the national park I had the opportunity to hike this stunning 13 km trail. Only a small handful of hikers check out this trail each year, mostly because it’s trail head is 5.5km down a very rough road called the Mush Lake Road. This trail is a remote and lush paradise, with lovely mountain views and incredible wildflowers. This is certainly a hike where you notify your safety contacts of your plans, as it would take you a very long time to hike out to the road (which I’ve almost had to do because of a flat tire!!).

Nares Mountain

Highlights: The challenge and lake views

Nares Mountain

Nares Mountain is another fantastic mountain grunt, with stellar views of the Carcross region (including the Carcross Desert, Bennett Lake, and Nares Lake). I try to hike this one every year because it towers over the community of Carcross and who doesn’t like being able to sit at the coffee shop after, starring at the hard core mountain route that you just conquered? This hike is a fun technical (and vertical) challenge. I highly recommend doing this hike as a loop, going up one ridge and down the other to maximize the views. 

Mount Lorne

Highlights: Mountain views, technical terrain, and being able to see this mountain every day

Mount Lorne

Mount Lorne is one of the bigger mountains that you can see every day from downtown Whitehorse, and it remains as the most challenging and wonderful hikes that I have ever done. To get the most out of this 19km hike, conquering this bad boy as a loop over the peaks is the way to go. It’s best to hike this in July when you have longer daylight hours and a snow-free route. This was certainly a ‘type 2 fun’ type of hike for me. It is not a trail for the faint of heart, with loose rocks, steep drop off, and multiple challenging peaks. Having sure footing and confidence with heights is must. This hike can also be notoriously famous for hard route finding as it is far too easy to miss the ATV trail that joins back to the trail head. Maybe it’s the bragging rights or technical challenge that has landed this one on the list, but this trail will reward you with some of the most stunning mountain views right close to the city.

Caribou Mountain

Highlights: The 360 never ending views and wildlife.

Caribou Mountain

Caribou mountain is a dream hike for those who love a good leg burner and stunning landscape views. Situated close to the community of Carcross, this trail doesn’t mess around – climbing 1000 meters in just 4km. This trail has made my top 10 list because the views are truly stunning for the whole hike, especially in the autumn season. This is certainly a hike to bring your binos, as sheep and caribou are often hanging out nearby. 

Happy hiking!

The Tombstones

Total Days Hiking: 5  / Total Distance: 56km / Total Elevation Gain: 2,892m

shailyn y4wc

#MostBeautifulPlaceInTheWorld

Ever since I came to the Yukon in 2012, I knew I wanted to go hiking in Tombstone Territorial Park when the park is painted with beautiful autumn colours. Tombstone Territorial Park is a 2,200 km2 protected area in central Yukon and is within the Traditional Territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. Situated above 64 degrees latitude, the park is well known for its rugged and remote mountain peaks and permafrost landscapes.

I left Whitehorse in late August with a friend and my lovely  ’94 Corolla (Ursa) to start the 7 hour drive to Tombstone. To the surprise of some (but certainly not me!), Ursa tackled the Dempster highway like a champ — no flat tires or new chips in the windshield! The park campground was quite full because of the long weekend, but we managed to grab one of the last walk in sites and enjoyed an evening of hike preparations and a stroll along the nearby campground trail. The autumn colours were already out of this world, which made me excited for the days of hiking that lay ahead.

Day 1: Trailhead to Grizzly Lake

Distance: 12.08km  / Elevation Gain: 881m

#SoManyRocks 41294295_1854224831298214_8428654129039015936_o

After a nice breakfast, we packed up and headed to the Interpretive Centre to register for our hike and go through our mandatory backcountry orientation. I was pleasantly surprised when the park ranger made me initial personal commitments beside the different Leave No Trace Principles, and I wish this was a requirement at all campgrounds. With another hiker in tow (a nice Kiwi guy who is now living in California), we set off on a drive to the Grizzly Lake trailhead to begin the journey.

The first couple of kilometers was fairly flat through the forest, but it quickly starts to climb up above the trees. I really enjoyed the beginning of this hike because I had the chance to do some trail building and maintenance on it three years ago when I worked as a Green Team Steward with the Y2C2 Program. We had been tasked with putting in water bars to help control the rain erosion on the trial. We also created a new section of the trail to re-route around an area that had already experienced too much erosion. This section of the trail is steep, so rain and hiker erosion is a common problem. It was neat to walk through these areas and see the water bars working, years later, and it was even more exciting to know that I was finally continuing on this trail further.

As we continued to climb, we passed some day hikers and a couple of pairs that were coming back from their multi-day hike. I enjoyed seeing these fellow hikers, though their wishes of ‘good luck’ made me wonder what we were about to get ourselves into!

drukis4011298296_2397990368613236736_oIt felt like we were climbing up and up. I felt quite fit, but hadn’t had to carry a big pack on any other trip this summer, so the additional weight made each step very noticeable. But my mind felt so content because the beautiful mountain views were emerging and I could see the lake that would be our home for the first night.

The trail was stunning, and the rocks and boulders were plenty. It took a little bit to get used to navigating over the boulders with a heavy pack, but I sure got plenty of practice developing a technique along this stretch. We started descending to the lake, passing marmot meadows and traversing the sides of mountains, and had to maneuver a creek crossing right before the campground. I thought the lake and mountains looked beautiful from high up, but now being at the base of them, they were truly larger than life!

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Once at the campground, we set up our tent and then joined the other hikers at the cook shack. It quickly became a tradition to make a cup of soup first, to warm us up and tide us over, and then start on our dinner.

I was really fascinated by Grizzly Lake campground and the way that Yukon Parks has gone about managing the visitor impact on this incredibly fragile ecosystem. They have worked really hard to condense the visitor impact into a small area, using ropes to create paths and tent pads, and a path to the outhouse and cooking shelter. They have also installed geoblocks on the campground path, which allows smaller sensitive vegetation to continue growing. It was a fairly early bedtime because of exhaustion, and in preparation for Glissade Pass the next morning.

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Day 2: Grizzly Lake to Talus Lake

Distance: 13.81km  / Elevation Gain: 686m

#FinallySawAPika tomb_o

I felt so content waking up in the fresh mountain air. We took our time in the morning and had a lovely breakfast of hot oatmeal and coffee, while soaking in the beautiful views. Packing up our gear, we knew what was ahead — Glissade pass. Just after leaving the campground (and crossing the creek again), you immediately begin to go up the steep pass. I could see the pass the whole time while at Grizzly Lake campground, so I felt I was mentally ready for this. I found the climb to be fairly good, with only a couple spots where I felt uneasy with my balance and the steep drop nearby.

As soon as I reached the top and saw the other side, I wondered how on earth we were suppose to go down that thing. My friend had hiked this trail before and confirmed that the impossibly steep glissadelooking scree ahead was truly the way. Working up the courage (and after a long photo/snack break), I took that first uneasy step onto the scree. As soon as my foot touched the scree, it immediately slid down about a foot. This was all new terrain for me, so it felt quite nerve wracking at first. But once I started to realize my foot was only ever sliding so far, I was able to get a comfortable movement going and actually started to enjoy glissading down the pass. Glissade pass was much easier than I had thought it would be, but about twenty minutes after finishing, it started to snow, and when I looked back, the entire pass was blanketed with a fresh layer of snow — talk about good timing!

pika17_2640630564566073344_oWe carried on the trail, which was quite straightforward. There were some large boulder sections to scramble over and a fairly tough spot where the trail was rerouted around a recent mudslide. At one point, I could hear a Collared Pika and my whole mood bounced into immediate joy. I have always wanted to see one! And sure enough, sitting right on a rock about 5 meters away was a pika!

The sky started to open up as we were approaching Divide Lake, and my gosh, the mountains and autumn colours were truly stunning. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I started to wonder if I had made a mistake not booking a night at this campground, but I was reassured that it would continue to get better and better. How is that even possible? It was a neat feeling standing there at the bottom of those ragged mountains because they are the same mountains you can see from the Dempter Highway at one of the park pull out spots. I had stood at that pull out many times dreaming about what it would be like to be closer to them, and now there I was, standing right below them in awe.

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After another climb out of Divide Lake, we got to some dense rock scrambling sections, and were joined by a August snowstorm. I certainly knew that we would likely encounter snow while on the trail, as seven years in the Yukon has taught me that it can snow any day of the year, especially up in thp1060229e mountains. I personally love snow, so I was quite excited to hike in the fresh snow.

While we were boulder scrambling in the mini blizzard, we ran into one of the park rangers that makes rounds in the backcountry between the campgrounds. He warned us that there was a ‘winter storm’ coming in the next couple of days.

The skies opened up again once we were approaching Talus Lake, and I immediately was overcome by tears. It was the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen and I felt overwhelmed by this and glad we were staying there for two days. I felt truly grateful that places like this still exist tombshai5045_6640496318424809472_oin the world, and that my body was strong enough to take me there.

We made our way into camp and saw a couple familar camper faces. We could see another cloud front moving in fast, so we quickly set up camp. It could not have been more than three minutes after our tent fly went up that it started pouring with rain. And the rain continued and continued. We were all huddled into the cook shack most of the evening, eating to stay warm. The kiwi had an inReach device with satellite weather and confirmed to us what the park ranger did, that a huge winter storm was making its way here in two days time. He was debating to leave the next day (a day early) in fear of being stuck out there, which made us a little nervous, but we decided to wait to see if the forecast would change. It continued to pour, but at one point the sun peaked out and lit up the tombstone mountains in the most spectacular way, and everyone slowly crept out of their tents to enjoy the incredible view.

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Day 3: Day Hike around Talus Lake

Distance: 5.01km  / Elevation Gain: 272m

#NeverEndingRaindrukis eecom

It was a cold and soggy night, and my sleeping bag was not adequate for the temperature that it had dipped down to, so I wrapped my legs in my down coat. We heard that it dipped to about -10C. But it was a new day (and still raining), the coffee and hot cereal were brewing, and we were determined to make the most of it.

We decided that we were going to explore around the left edge of the lake and just have a fun and relaxing time doing so. We hiked up, in the pouring rain, navigating around the rocks. Getting a good footing proved to be quite a challenge as the rocks were covered in lichen, and the rain made them very slippery. There were often large gaps between rocks (with about five foot drops), but many of them had lichen covering them, so it felt like we were navigating through a slope of lichen crevasses. tombwet817439_7166205155883352064_o

Our hike was quite a lot of work and I don’t think I have ever been that wet before, but we were rewarded with beautiful wild berries (blueberries, cranberries and mossberries) and the steep mountain peaks kept slightly emerging from the clouds. Once at the top, we knew we were standing at the base of the mountain, but it had started snowing, so it was hard to see. Coming back down to camp was much trickier to navigate, and the rock scrambling seemed even worse. But we made it back to camp, had a lovely dinner, and fell asleep for the night around 5pm!

 

Day 4: Talus Lake to Grizzly Lake

Distance: 13.86km  / Elevation Gain: 616m

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#AugustBlizzard

I woke up cold. Unzipping the tent just a little, it was clear that the rain overnight had turned to freezing rain and snow. Stepping out of the ice covered tent was magical though, because all of the tombsnow 05367686827_668758731911069696_o(1)mountains were blanketed in snow and it looked even more beautiful than before. I was sad that we would have to leave, especially as the rain had stopped, but I could see a huge front slowly moving in and figured that might be the start of the highly anticipated winter storm.

Walking out the same trail we came in, the views were much different, and the snow really contrasted beautifully with the autumn colours. It was fairly easy walking and as we were approaching Divide Lake again, it seemed like the snow had not made it to that point yet as the ground was free of snow. We headed down to the cook shack to prepare a snack (my snacks always consisted of smoked salami, goldfish crackers, a couple baby bells, and an Endurance Tap gel), buttombstunning04353510_6281637700466376704_o no sooner had we taken off our packs, than it started snowing heavily. We only spent about half an hour at Divide Lake trying to stay dry in the cook shack, but the amount of snow that came down with that passing cloud was quite impressive. Suddenly everything was coated in snow and it was truly beautiful.

Making our way out of Divide Lake, we both were a little nervous and curious to see what the state of Glissade Pass would be. It is famously very hard to climb, and we were hoping the snow hadn’t made it to that area yet. But it had.. The pass was completely covered in snow. I stocked up on beautiful fresh creek water, and then we headed to the bottom of the pass, mentally preparing for the trip.

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There was nothing easy about this climb. Every step I took in the snow made me slide down and not being able to see the rocks underneath made for an additional challenge as it was clear days earlier that there were large boulders that could come crashing down. So I kept my distance and together we slowly made our way up the pass. At certain points (especially at the top) there was easily around two feet of snow, so the trek was long and exhausting. But we made it, and feeling exhausted we made our way down the other side and into Grizzly Lake campground for the night.

Day 5: Grizzly Lake to Trailhead

Distance: 11.89km  / Elevation Gain: 437m

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The final day of the hike was bittersweet for me. I had accepted a job in the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife) and knew that this would be my last day hiking in the Yukon for quite some time. We were in no rush to leave the backcountry, and the cold weather certainly didn’t motivate us to leave our sleeping bags. We just had the coldest night of the trip (apparently it had dropped to -12 degrees C) and everything was frozen — even our boots that we had in our tent overnight. I was glad to see that we still had numerous packs of instant coffee remaining, so we enjoyed multiple cups and then packed up to head back to the trailhead.

tombautumn00552437_1863032465111646208_oOnce we started on the trail I warmed up quite fast, which was a welcome reprieve from the night before. I really enjoyed this hike out as the cold weather had pushed the autumn leaves into full colour and it was a much different view than the one we had hiking in. At a certain point we could see the forest below us, which made me realize we were on our final stretch. It started to rain again on our decent back into the forest and that heavy rain would continue for the rest of the hike and throughout the night back at the territorial campground.

Leaving the trail and seeing the Grizzly Lake trailhead sign was a strange but great feeling. It felt so wonderful to finally be able to do the hike I had been dreaming of tombfamous467219117_5272378067317161984_ofor so long, and it truly was an incredible physical and mental journey. Even if it was colder than I thought it would be, not too many people get to see that area in the snow, so the ever changing landscape always brightened my heart. We later found out while we were back at the territorial campground cook shack that Yukon Parks were no longer issuing permits this season for Divide Lake and Talus Lake campground because of the snow. Our timing truly could not have been better!

This trip truly was an incredible journey for me and sparked an even deeper love of the Yukon and desire to protect our beautiful and wild landscape. I feel so alive and motivated when I am in the mountains. This feeling is so strong within me that I knew as soon as I landed in Yellowknife a couple days later, I needed to come back home to the Yukon where my heart belongs.

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Gear:

  • Endurance Tap (15% discount code: fuelthenorth)
  • Garmin Forerunner 25 watch
  • Patagonia hiking boots, pants (happy hike studio pants), down jacket, and tops
  • Socks (Icebreaker, Smartwool)
  • Arc’teryx raincoat, windbreaker, and tops.
  • Osprey backpack
  • Icebreaker base layers (tops and tights)
  • Lululemon tights and sports bra
  • Marmot Sleeping bag (Angel Fire)
  • Black Diamond hiking poles
  • MSR Tent (Hubba NX)

Instagram @Shailyn_d

 

The Long Road into Dawson

On one of the longest days of the year, I headed up to Dawson City to attempt my second ever marathon — the Dempster to Dawson City Marathon. This quirky race drops you off two kilometers past the Dempster Highway turnoff and follows the North Klondike Highway all the way into the heart of Dawson City. I was over the moon when I completed this race last year because it was my first ever marathon and I had placed first for females (though there might have been only two of us.. shh!). I had pulled off a time of 4:49:08, which is not speedy, but decent for a first try.

2018 D2DC Map

A number of things were different leading up to the race this year — both exciting and enough to make me nervous. The biggest excitement was that I would not be alone during the race. My mum was visiting from Ontario and would be there to support me the whole way. She has been with me for many of my races before, but never a marathon, so I was pretty excited about that. I was also pleased because I felt I had a good handle on my race nutrition. I had found a combination of gels and snacks that worked beautifully for me during practice runs so I was feeling emotionally confident about this race. But there were a couple things on my mind that were making me nervous too.

The big thing plaguing me was my recent ankle injury. Back in February I had a running-related ankle injury that put me out of commission for the Arctic Ultra (marathon portion), and from running in general for nearly a month. It took a couple months of physiotherapy and strength exercises to be able to run without pain again, and get back into some longer distance runs. Road races can be notoriously hard on ankles, so I was nervous about pushing myself to a distance I had only run once before (42km). I was worried this additional stress I would be putting on my ankle might lead to another injury. Another thing bothering me was that leading up to the race (a week before) I had a very bad distance training run. I had wanted to run 32km, both as a test to see if I was ready for a marathon, and because I heard somewhere that in a race, yo

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u can usually push yourself 10km further than you think you can run because of the excitement and drive that races seem to evoke in people (who knows if this is actually true..). Around the 30km mark, I had an intense pain shoot up my right leg. So intense that I immediately had to stop, and could only run about 20 metres at a time before having to stop again. The last two km were the worse I have ever felt, but I had to finish them as I was still 2km from home. This was devastating for me and nearly crushed my hopes for the upcoming marathon. But I still knew I wanted to do the race, feeling like I would likely be able to push on for the final few km if that happened again.

My mum and I drove up to Dawson City on the Friday, arriving about half an hour before the 10pm cut off to pick up the race package. Settling into our airbnb, I knew it would be an early start the next day (shuttle picks runners up at 6am), but I just could not sleep. Maybe it was the excitement, the midnight sun, or being in a new place, the zzz’s were just not happening.

6am race day and the shuttle took us 7 marathoners to the start line (two individuals had already started running as they were going to take longer, making it 9 marathon racers in total). That drive always seems to take forever. There is nothing quite like sitting on a bus for half an hour driving down the long road you know you about to run down. Shortly after we arrived at the start line it started pouring with rain. Rain that would not ease up until I was about 10km from the finish. The Canadian Rangers showed up and at 6am they shot off a rifle, signaling the start of the race.

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But things went downhill, and fast. For the first few km I was leading the pack of women and having a wonderful time and enjoying the fresh morning northern scenery, but by the 7km mark, that same pain in my right leg (seems to be the knee), shot back even worse than before. I anticipated that pain might make a presence again, but didn’t think it would happen this soon in the race. It lead me to question whether I should stop and prevent possible injury. At the next check stops my mum gave me a cream to rub on my legs, and magically it felt wonderful. It allowed me to push on to the next aid station, though I was worried it was only masking the pain, and still furthering an injury. But that became the routine for the majority of the race. Push through slowly and apply cream, keep running. I felt I was handling my nutrition fairly well, and stopped at every aid/water station for additional Gatorade.

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Around the half way point, I was getting slower and slower and really struggling to maintain any form of positive thought. I was angry with my body and angry at how hard of a time I was having. I had spent months trying to change the way I was training, gradually increasing my weekly km in a way that would likely prevent an injury, I didn’t consume alcohol for ten days leading up to my race so that I would have more energy, but still I was struggling. The entire second half of the marathon was a continual battle where I was ready to quit. I was in so much pain, my socks, shoes, and everything were soaked, and mentally I was done. It was around this point where my mum’s visits became more frequent. She could obviously tell how emotionally low I was, and was there to cheer me on and give me encouragement. At one point she showed up with a map of the course and showed me how far I had already come and how little there was left to complete. This really helped. I was able to push on, VERY slowly, until I reached the finish line with a time of 5:13:26 (3rd place for women!).

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I wish I could say how wonderful of race I had, but it was a pure frustrating struggle for me, and that was only the beginning. After the race finished, everything in my body went wrong. I had a terrible headache, had incredibly bad aches in all my joints, and I could not eat. Then the barfing and really bad diarrhea began. Seeing or thinking about any of the nutrition that I had used during the race pushed me into instant barf mode, which reminded me of having a bad hangover. I was scared and wondered what was going on. About 8 hours later, I was finally able to eat a salad, but that was all my body would tolerate. Slowly things improved over the next few days, but now I am left wondering how this happened and never want to experience that after a race again. I don’t think it was dehydration — I consumed a lot of water and Gatorade during the race. Was it sleep deprivation? The wrong nutrition during the race? Stress? Whatever it is is not comforting and I want to avoid this in the future. I am sure the long drive the night before did not help either for the aches in my legs.

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Even though it was a truly miserable experience for me, I know there are things I can celebrate. I did it. I ran a marathon (and ran the whole way too without walking, despite the pain I was in)! Some people dream of being able to accomplish this, and I am proud of myself that I can do it. I also need to celebrate my ankle. Despite the injury in February, and everything in my body yelling at me during and after the race, my ankle stayed strong and never bothered me once. I also want to celebrate my body. It obviously knows what it wants and tells me when I am not doing things right. I need to listen to it more and treat it with the respect it deserves. Running means so much to my emotional health that I want to be able to run for years to come.

This marathon, more than ever, I am also very appreciative of all of the race organizers, volunteers and support. All of the volunteers at the water/aid stations put their heart into cheering me on (I think maybe mum had told them I was coming soon and was seriously struggling), but regardless, I am really appreciative of everything they did. I am also incredibly grateful to my mum (who is really not a morning person) for being there the whole time, and encouraging me to not give up. I also want to congratulate all of the other races in each of the distance categories. I heard so many stories from them about it being some of their first km distance — some doing a 10km for the first time, others, like at least two others in my category, doing their first ever marathon. You are all superstars and should be proud! Even though it was a miserable experience, I feel like I needed that. It has put my brain on serious planning mode, and it a good wake up call. But don’t worry, next year Dawson to Dawson City Marathon, I will be back.

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The best support ever — mum!

Racing Ahead

About a month ago I made the really hard decision to withdraw from the Yukon Arctic Ultra. I was signed up for the marathon portion of the race (42 km) and was excited about competing because I knew it would challenge me as a runner (both physically and mentally), and because if anyone knows me, I absolutely adore running in the winter. Unfortunately I came down with an awful flu right before Christmas — the same flu that seems to be cruising across Canada right now. It is only now, over six weeks later (and with the use of antibiotics) that I feel I am finally almost recovered. I have been able to go out running more and more, and am glad to be training again. Being out of commission for over a month meant that I was not marathon ready, and especially not for the Arctic Ultra, where even the fittest and most ready are pushing their bodies to the extreme. I know that I made the best decision to pull out of that race. As much as I wanted to prove to myself that I am a winter running warrior, I am glad that I gave myself the time that I needed to recover. I have never pulled out of a race before, so it was not easy to do. I went back and forth a couple times about whether I wanted to watch the start of the race (would I be able to emotionally handle it?), but on the -37 degree C morning of February 2nd, I went a little bit down the river to cheer on the runners and those competing in the longer expedition. It has been quite a cold year for the race, with some fantastic updates here. I certainly have my mind zoned into this race for next year, but truthfully hope it will be just a wee bit warmer.

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Trying to stay optimistic after this blow, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the various races that I am planning to do this year. Perhaps I am a keener, but I am currently planning to do five different races that are 42km or longer, and will likely compete in a few shorter ones too. So here it goes. This is what I hope to have on tap.

  1. Waterloo Marathon (42km) April 29, 2018 – Waterloo, Ontario

My first race of the year will be the Waterloo Marathon. Having been born and raised in Waterloo, this one holds a special place in my heart. I was visiting my parents last April when I saw this one pop up on my Facebook feed a few days before the race. I made a quick decision to enter the Ed Whitlock ½ marathon (the 21km option of this race). Everything just seemed to tickle my heart about this race. The start and finish line was in the park I have spent many fun adventures in with my family, friends and pets, and the route took me through the rolling country roads that I have traveled many times. It was also so lovely knowing that my parents could be there at the start and finish line to cheer me on. After completing the race; I already knew I wanted to do it again. When registration opened for this year’s race, I made a slightly bold decision to sign up for the full marathon. I am really looking forward to running even more of the rolling country roads near my childhood home, and can’t wait to run through the famous Kissing Bridge.

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Feeling good and beating the boys, final stretch to the finish line of the 2017 Ed Whitlock ½ marathon, Waterloo.

  1. Dempster to Dawson Marathon (42km) June 16 , 2018 – Dawson City, Yukon

The Dempster to Dawson Marathon will forever be a special race for me. This race was the first marathon (and still the only) marathon that I have done. When I first realized that I might actually be able to complete a marathon, I had my eyes set on this one. I knew I wanted my first one to be in the Yukon, and the idea of embarking on a conquest like the miners did, heading into Dawson City in 1889, would be fun. The race was quite a quirky and fun one, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering doing it this year. Seven of us got picked up downtown at 6am and driven out to the start line, 42km away in the middle of nowhere. Once the first speedy runners took off, the only humans I saw (besides the volunteers at the water stations), were the slower 5km runners that I caught up to a couple kilometers before the finish line. The race organizers and volunteers sure know how to put on a fun race – and I must admit that I really appreciated the cheeky signs along the route, and the Dawson City Firefighters who hosed us down about five km from the finish line. With this being my first marathon, it seems incredible to say that I placed first for females! But I must admit that there were only two women racing – haha. This marathon quickly made its way to a top spot of my list of races to do again this year, and I was delighted to register again for it the other day.

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Seconds away from completing my first marathon! 2017 Dempster to Dawson Marathon.

  1. Reckless Raven (50Miles/ 80.4km) July 1, 2018 – Whitehorse, Yukon

Oh boy. Where do I begin with the Reckless Raven? This race is by far the scariest and most exciting challenge for me to date. I have a friend who runs ultra marathons and have always found the challenge of them inspiring. I also never thought I could do one, until I ran the Dempster to Dawson marathon last year, and realized that distance running seems to be my strength. I cannot run fast, but I sure can run far. Some wonderful mountain runners here organize this race in Whitehorse, and last year was the first year it occurred. I volunteered at the start line and one of the check points, and knew right then that I would sign up for the next one. In truth, I do not have too much to say about why I signed up for this race yet, but I know that I need to start training for hills (or mountains) as this one has A LOT of elevation gain, and hills have NEVER been my strength. I look forward to running this race, but still am terrified about the idea of it.

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Some hills to look forward to during the 2018 Reckless Raven Ultra Marathon.

  1. Yukon River Trail Marathon (42km) August 5, 2018 – Whitehorse, Yukon

I am still on the fence about whether to do the half marathon or full marathon portion of this race. I have done the half marathon the last two years, and struggled with it last year more than ever. It is known to be a hilly route, but an absolutely stunning one. While I want to try to improve my time of the half marathon, I realize that if I if I running an even more hilly and longer race a month earlier, I should be in good enough shape to attempt the full. I still have a couple months until registration opens up, so I still have time to decide.

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Slower than the year before, but another Yukon Trail 1/2 Marathon under my belt!

  1. Victoria Marathon (42km) October 7, 2018 – Victoria, British Columbia

This one is a bit of a wild card for me. I have never been to Victoria before, but have heard wonderful things about the city, and the race route. I know that many Yukoners travel to this marathon, so I thought I would look into it some more. I really like the idea of keeping my fitness up after the summer, to a point where I can run marathons regularly, so I figured I would register. Even though this marathon is 9 months away, I had to provide my estimated time of completion, which was really challenging for me! I could only really go off of the time of my first marathon, but by this time I will have four others under my belt. I am also a little nervous about how many people will be racing. I saw on the website that they put a cap at 1500 for the marathon. Compare that to the seven of us that competed in the Dempster to Dawson Marathon, and it seems pretty overwhelming to me! I have never raced with a pacer before though, so I am interested to see if that will help my pace.

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Had a blast running leg 6 of the Klondike Road Relay in 2017. Hoping to do it again in 2018.

There are a few other races that I am sure will pop up throughout the year, including some local snowshoe races, the Klondike Road Relay, and the Horror Hill Race in Waterloo (race report from last year). And of course, racing ahead into next year, the Yukon Arctic Ultra in early 2019.

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Here I come 2019 Yukon Arctic Ultra!

The not so Horror Hill Race

Horror Hill Trail Race Report

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 Location: Woolwich, Ontario

Distance: 25km

Date: October 28, 2017

The Horror Hill race is a fun community race, known for it’s friendly volunteers and organizers, and the scary zombies and werewolves that “attempt” to help the runners pick up their pace by chasing them through the mixed wood forest trail.

I fell in love with this race last year while I was visiting family in Waterloo for Halloween. I was keen to run while there and it turned out that there was a race not far from where I grew up that seemed like the perfect combination of trail running, autumn colours and celebrating one of my favourite days of the year – Halloween! What I did not anticipate was how challenging I would find those hilly ten kilometers. Maybe I should have known that when a race is called ‘Horror Hill’, it might not just be referring to the theme, but rather the elevation gain involved. The course is a 2.5km loop (brutal!) – with each circuit of hills getting increasingly harder and steeper — at least that is how it felt to me!

I was feeling quite embarrassed about how challenging I found that race. I had been getting more into running, and I thought that having more experience running in the Yukon would make a southern Ontario trail race easy! But I was wrong and I had obviously not incorporated enough hill runs into my training. After struggling immensely with those hills, I was determined that I wanted to try the race again and that I would be ready this time! When registration opened for the race, I had just completed my first marathon (the Dempster to Dawson Marathon), so I decided to take the leap and register for the 25km distance, and started hitting up the black steps and Two Mile Hill on a regular basis.23380201_1515183008535733_813570279894995899_n

Leading up to race day, the forecast seemed to be getting gloomier and gloomier, and I quickly had to accept that it would be one of my wettest runs of the year. I was excited though, because the weather forecast was calling for a colder start of 5 degrees. I am a cold weather runner and would much rather run at -20 than +20, so while this was one of the coldest days this season for the Waterloo region, I was delighted. Just as we were driving up, my friend Martha was getting out of her car. Martha is from Yellowknife and ventured over to Whitehorse for Ecology North’s Young Leaders for Northern Climate Change Summit this past summer. It was nice to see a familiar face, and while I was happy about the colder weather, she was in a T-shirt! A true northerner.

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When I got to the start line, I was feeling good. Probably the best I have actually ever felt before a race. I had been off alcohol for over a week, and I felt like I had the right mental attitude for the ten laps and hills that lay ahead. I kept thinking in my mind that it would be just like running up my favourite mountain trail in Kluane National Park and Reserve – Sheep Creek Trail – but without the views of the Kaskawulsh Glacier, and instead, seeing the start line over and over again (okay, maybe it was a bit of effort to feel okay about that). But even with the pouring rain, I was, surrounded by excited people, and I felt ready to go. IMG_0061

For the start line, I had put myself around the middle of the pack — mostly because I had started off too many races in the first quarter of the pack, only to get deterred and further upset with all of the runners passing me from behind. So I started further back, but found myself quickly trying to pass the slower runners once the race got going. I was worried about starting off too fast, but my pace was feeling good.

The first part of the loop starts off by going around a little pond – which has always been one of my facourite parts, and then it veers left into the woods for the proper technical trail running portion of the race. Entering the woods, I started getting nervous. I knew that the big hill was ahead. The trail quickly turned into the first hill, which I ran up with relative ease. Okay Shailyn, you’ve got this, I kept thinking. Now bring on the big hill! I kept running, mentally preparing for that ‘big hill’, but that hill never came. Hmm. Where did that big hill go? The one I struggled with so much last year? No, it couldn’t be! Apparently I ran it, without a problem at all! And so the training paid off! I was over the moon. And then before I knew it, I was back at the start line, my mum and dad cheering me on, asking me if I needed any of the snacks or hydration that I had brought for them to hold on to.

On my second lap I stated feeling a pain in my right lower leg, which made me quite concerned. I had felt that particular pain during previous races, but not usually until around the 20km mark, so I started to worry. If this is how it felt on lap two (only about 3km in), I did not want to make it worse, and knew that if it came down to it, it would be better to stop than cause a serious injury. But for some reason the pain just remained stable and bearable for the entire race, so I kept pushing on in the rain. Lap two, lap IMG_0060three, lap four, each lap brought additional rain and additional mud – good thing I had recently bought and broken in a good pair of gortex trail runners! And every time I passed the start line again, my parents quickly ran down from the building to cheer me on and see if I needed any snacks. I had packed some hot rods and Girl Guide cookies to keep me going, which seemed to work out pretty well, and quickly landed me the nickname ‘Girl Guide’ by the race director.

The transition from lap four (10km) to lap five (12.5km) was the fun push that I needed. Most of the runners on the trail were finishing their race, and it was only those who were doing the 25km, 50km, and 6-hour race that were left. Having struggled with the 10k race last year, I remember being in awe of the runners that were continuing on, so it felt truly wonderful to have trained to this new level.

Lap six, lap seven, lap eight — each lap got muddier and muddier – especially on the hill. But the hill did not seem to grow. I kept thinking that at any moment I was going to hit my wall, but for some reason the wall never came. I remember the short repetitive laps being really hard to handle last year, but for some reason, I actually liked them this time. Doing the same route over and over again allowed me to get into the zone and allowed me to understand where to conserve my energy and when to really push it. I enjoyed developing this deep understanding of the trail and found that setting small goals of completing another lap kept me motivated and pushed me to keep going.

Before I knew it, I was beginning lap ten, the final lap, and I knew I would be able to pull off a strong finish. At this point, I just let the whole trail soak in – the beautiful autumn colours, the smell of rain, and I enjoyed splashing through the mud. It was during this final lap that I also accomplished a goal that I had set out for myself for 2017 – to run 1,000 km this year. So I was over the moon with excitement about that. IMG_0059

Coming around the final bend I could see my parents standing at the finish line, cheering me on, and man did it ever feel good! I think this is one of the first times I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face. I actually had no idea how I had done compared to other runners, but I knew that is was the best I have ever felt during a race, and that was all that mattered to me. As it turned out, I placed around the middle of the pack, completing the race in 2:42:59 and placing 11/17 overall, and 4/9 for females.

This truly was a wonderful race to be part of, and it’s thanks to the volunteers, race organizers and fellow runners who braved the rain, that is was such an enjoyable experience. I am very thankful to the kind support of Athletics Yukon and Lotteries Yukon whose financial support (travel grant) helped make this goal of mine possible. And thanks to my parents for being there for me the whole way through, and to mum who insisted I have a free massage right after. Thank you! IMG_0045