trail running

Getting to Golden

While Golden, in itself, has a lifetime worth of adventure and fun, there are also some great neighbouring towns that are worth a visit if you've got some extra time on your way to the Golden Ultra.

The closest airport is in Calgary, Alberta (YYC). The drive from Calgary to Golden takes just less than 3 hours, unless you take some extra time to enjoy the beautiful mountains along the way.

As you leave Calgary heading west on the TransCanada Highway watch for the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the distance.  This is a classic view and you can't help but get excited about your trip when you see them peaking above the hills and plains.

Views of the mountains from just west of Calgary.

Views of the mountains from just west of Calgary.

As you enter the mountains you'll appreciate why they're called the Rockies.  Sheer cliffs and rocky mountain tops are everywhere!  Canmore is the first major town you'll pass through, right on the border of Banff National Park.  

The Banff National Park gates can be confusing and, as such, a bit of a traffic jam.  If you don't want to stop in the park at all (drive right through to Golden) stay in the far right lane and you will bypass the gates.  If you want to check out Banff and Lake Louise on your way through, stay left and purchase a park pass at one of the kiosks.  They're good value and you only need to purchase the day pass.

Banff is the first town inside the Park Gates.  If you've never been, it's worth a stop.  Parking in the Town of Banff is nearly impossible to find so it's normally best to take the second exit (Mt. Norquay exit) and park in the parking lot on your left, just across the rail tracks.  From there you can walk into the town in less than 5 minutes.

Some notable things to do in Banff include:

  • Ride the gondola up Sulphur Mountain (or hike up!)
  • Visit the upper Hot Springs for a warm soak.
  • Walk around the Banff Springs Hotel and golf course.  There are some great, flatter trails in that area for an easy run.
  • Cruise the shops on Banff Avenue.

Banff National Park, in general, has lots of amazing sights and trails.  As you drive through you can extend your driving time a little bit with a few side trips:

  • Lake Minnewanka
  • Highway 1A (Bow Valley Parkway) which runs parallel to the TransCanada from Banff to Lake Louise.
  • Castle Mountain and Storm Mountain
Castle Mountain on a moody day. 

Castle Mountain on a moody day. 

The next town you arrive at is Lake Louise.  This is a must-stop town.  Drive up to Lake Louise (the actual lake, not the ski hill... they're on opposite sides of the valley) and snap some pictures.  It is worth it.  There are also some delicious places to eat in Lake Louise, Laggan's Bakery, Trailhead Cafe or any of the great restaurants including the Post Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. Runners have to keep fuelled right?!

The road from Lake Louise onward narrows and you soon arrive in Field.  Field is almost more exciting than Lake Louise - visit Takakaw Falls and Emerald Lake.  Both are about 20 minutes off the highway, but totally worth looking at.  There are also classic running and hiking trails at both areas.  Burgess Pass hike, right from the Town of Field, is beautiful with the most amazing views at the high point.

Views from the trails around Emerald Lake

Views from the trails around Emerald Lake

Once you leave Field you're only 60 km from Golden.  Enjoy this bit.  The speed limit is low so relax and enjoy the mountains.  The final 15 km into Golden are pretty spectacular with a giant bridge over the Kicking Horse River and a spectacular canyon leading right into the town. 

Check out Tourism Golden's website for a comprehensive list of the best things to do Golden. From a local coffee roaster, tasty restaurants and cafes, sports stores and clothing shops, to a new local brewery in the next 12 months, Golden has it all (without even touching on the sports and outdoor adventures)... !

Massage for Runners

Are you wondering what about the best way to recover between Golden Ultra stages?

While stretching, cold river baths and lots of sleep will be critical, so too will be a bit of massage and active therapy.  We are so excited to announce that Golden, BC's own Element Therapeutics and Claudia Richard from Active Vernon Massage will be available all three days to help your aching bodies!

You can sign up for your massage spot online (online registration now closed - Sept 17) if you're worried about getting the prime spots.  Otherwise we will have sign-up at registration and daily after each event.

Claudia Richard is an RMT from Vernon, BC.  Claudia has extensive event experience including work at SingleTrack 6 and BC Bike Race, not to mention she runs ultramarathons herself!  Claudia is also a certified Active Release Techniques (ART) therapist.

Golden's Kristi Easton is RMT with 6 years of experience working with Canada's Ski Cross teams, including a stint at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.  She's also a registered holistic nutritionist so quiz her about recovery food as you're getting your legs flushed.

Element Therapeutics owner, community supporter and physiotherapist Stan Metcalfe will be at the finish line assisting with First Aid when he's not helping runners recover.  

Yoga therapist, yoga teacher, and physiotherapist, Kristie McGregor, will be offering massage service as well as intriguing conversation on total wellness including yoga therapy.  Kristie is particularly interested in movement system impairments and wholistic wellness.

Tessa Keefer is a massage therapist at Element Therapeutics who enjoys both backcountry skiing and surfing.  She has worked at numerous backcountry lodges in BC and in Tofino for 6 years providing apres-surf massage.  

Mountain lover Marie-Michelle Lafontaine finished her physiotherapy studies in 2010 and high-tailed it to the mountains of BC.  An adventure seeker, Marie-Michelle is excited to hear of your Golden Ultra challenges as she helps you prepare for your next run.

Kierra Hautala is one of those elusive Golden-born-and-raised species that is also an avid outdoor adventurer.  Kierra has travelled far and wide to gain experience and training as both an RMT and now Osteopath, and is returning to work full time at Element Therapeutics, starting with the Golden Ultra!

Six Tips for Climbing and Descending

Prepared by: Jen Segger

With just under two months to go until race weekend, there is STILL time to improve and develop your hill running game in time for September’s Golden Ultra. Whether you plan to partake in only one day of racing or take on the entire 3 day challenge, hill running, up and down, will likely be the key to your success!

I’ve been competing in trail running events and epics for nearly 12 years, choosing to mainly tackle races that have daunting elevation profiles. Through practice and focus I’ve learned how to become an efficient climber and to actually embrace hills when I come across them. By focusing on form and technique, I was able to remove fear and hesitation in descending and learned how to save my legs for the next climb. All my coached athletes, whether new to running, veterans or elite, work on hills throughout their training cycle.

Each of the three stages are unique and your legs need to be ready to take on the demands that the Golden Ultra trails have waiting for you. Day #1 is purely vertical, short and sweet covering 1,000m of vertical gain in just 5km. Day #2 begins with a mix of ascents and descents but ends with a long sustained downhill so you want to make sure that your legs are prepared to take on multiple kilometres of downhill running (almost 20km!!!!) and still have functioning limbs for the final day at the event. Day #3 being a mixed bag of everything including a number of downhills that are technical and steep. As you can see, it will be beneficial to have a diverse set of hill skills for this race!

The ABC’s of ASCENDING

Assume Position As you approach a hill, no matter how big or small, determine the game plan for how you are going to get to the top. This might sound simple but many people don’t think about the most efficient way to climb based on the grade of the hill, the terrain (technical or smooth) and the length of the ascent. Set your body position. Stand tall, drop your shoulders and avoid hinging at the waist. Look up to where you want to go and ensure your arms don’t swing across the body. Avoid toe running unless the terrain gets really step. This will help prevent fatiguing the smaller muscles in the legs such as the calves. Then from that position you can determine if it’s a power walk, a steady controlled ascent or a fast and powerful all out climb.

Breathing Longer hills require that you get control of your breath. I do this immediately when starting a hill that is anything longer than a quick up and over. You want to keep your breathing rate steady and avoid gasping for air. Control the rate of your inhale and exhale. Aim to avoid quick, shallow breathing. Dropping the shoulders and relaxing the upper body including the arms will help promote quality and controlled breaths. For short power climbs that are only a few steps or 10-20 seconds in length, a more aggressive pattern can be established that will almost match the rhythm of the arms as they pump forward to propel you up. As soon as you crest over the top though, resume controlled breathing.

Cadence Aim to keep your cadence (or stride frequency) the same regardless of if you are climbing, descending or running flats. Instead adjust your stride length. Focus on short steps for a steep grade. If you need to power walk the hill, do so with purpose. Keep the legs turning over and stacked under the hips. You want your feet moving and propelling you, rather than feeling like you are hauling 2 heavy weights up the hill.

The 123’s of DESCENDING

#1 Little Effort Running downhill should require very little exertion. The more you can relax and let your body move with gravity, the less energy you will expend and the more your quads will be saved. Think about it like this: How you run one downhill will ultimately affect how your legs feel for the next climb that you ask of them. The first part of your body down the hill should be your chest (sometimes called leading with the heart), especially in non-technical terrain. By maintaining an engaged core yet relaxed arms and legs, this is achievable.

#2 Lengthen Out As your speed increases, lengthen your stride but don’t let cadence drop. If the terrain is more technical you may need to sit back slightly and shorten the stride but remember that quick foot work, paired with high cadence will move you over rocks and roots with ease. Regardless of terrain, land on the balls of your feet and avoid heel striking. Aim to have the least amount of foot to ground contact time as possible. Strive for quick, fast, agile feet.

#3 Look Ahead Focus your eyes down the hill, looking to where you want to go and not at your feet. I suggest a 45-degree angle to the ground is a good starting point. The more you practice this, the more your confidence to trust your feet will grow.