After the night in Great Falls, I woke up early and ran a slow 3 miles then got cleaned up. The hotel actually provided a small free breakfast, which included an egg with toast. That was a nice touch. I was on the road just before 9 AM. It was just under 2 hours to the Canadian border then another 3 into Calgary. Most of this drive was a flat plateau and prairies with the mountains barely visible in the distance. By mid-afternoon, I was in Calgary and I found it to be quite a nice city. Despite its large population, the downtown area is very compact and it is possible to walk from one side to the other in just over an hour. I checked out Stephen Avenue, home to numerous restaurants and bars plus a 4 story shopping mall then Prince’s Island Park, which provided nice riverside and city skyline views. Dinner was a tasty rack of dry rub ribs in the 17th Avenue District.
Again, I woke up early the next morning for a faster run through the aforementioned park. By the time I showered up, I was ready to tour the Calgary Tower, which offered panoramic views of the city with a glass floor. Since it was a clear day, I was able to see the mountains in the distance. I met a nice girl named Hazel who featured me in her video. My southern accent created a minor buzz on occasion and everybody thought I was from Texas. LOL.
From Calgary, it was only 1 hour into Banff National Park. The town featured a lot of nice restaurants and hotels along with the usual tourist shops. After lunch, I embarked on a challenging hike up Tunnel Mountain then took the cable up to Sulphur Mountain, where I got perhaps my best shots of the trip. After a long day, it was back a few miles east to Canmore to save money on lodging.
The next day was perhaps the most scenic of the trip. It began with a moderate hike up Johnston Canyon just west of Banff where I saw 2 more waterfalls and an emerald colored riverside. Next stop was Lake Louise. Pictures just don’t do it justice but the clear turquoise water with the snow-capped mountains was breathtakingly beautiful. Next, I crossed from Alberta to British Columbia and Yoho National Park, which featured another beautiful mountain lake with a more emerald tint. I did go into Glacier Canada Park and found that most of the trails were either closed or too long but I did get a nice shot from the road. My hotel was in Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia. I’ve now visited 7 of 10 provinces. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland to go.
I got a small sample of Koontenay National Park then turned south back to the USA. Glacier National Park was the next stop. Unfortunately, Going to the Sun Road was closed at peak elevation due to a recent snowfall. I still got several beautiful shots of lake shores and snow-capped peaks.
From Glacier, it was 3 hours into Helena, the site of my 2nd half marathon in 7 days. With the whirlwind travel and bad diet over the week, my expectations were somewhat low balled but I still felt reasonably well early. This race was at 4000 feet elevation, which was only slightly noticeable but probably cost me about 10-12 ticks per mile. Though it was net downhill by about 150 feet, the last 4 miles of the route gave back more than half of the lost elevation of the previous 9 miles. Mile 13 into town was the steepest of all. Figure it was on par with a tough rolling course at sea level. Mile 1, 2 and Mile 8 were the only ones with any significant downhill. The others were dead flat if not a few feet uphill through rural cow pastures with scenic mountain views in the distance.
The “A” goal was a sub-1:43 which would be my fastest time since 2014 before the symptoms became unmanageable without methylation support. “B” goal was a sub-1:45 (overall sub-8 pace) with the “C” was to beat last week’s time, which was 2000 feet higher and net uphill. I maintained a steady pace just south of 8:00 on the flats and picked up some decent time on the downs. In the early miles, it looked like I was well on my way to the “A” goal but when the course flattened in Mile 3, the pace slowed. I passed halfway in 50:40 still on pace for the “A” but the back half at sub-8:00 pace with the climbs was a tough ask.
7:28 (15:04) downhill
7:28 (61:50) downhill
I passed 8.1 in roughly 62:40 so I needed a 40:20 (8:04 pace) the rest of the way for the “A” goal. Though not unrealistic, I knew it would be tough with the climbs ahead. I hoped that it would be a gradual incline and that did indeed appear to be the case early and though the pace was slowing a bit, I was still in control and capable of unleashing a kick if I went a few seconds in the red.
After Mile 10, we made another small climb up to Centennial Park just outside of town. Again there was no corresponding downhill and it became clear that I was losing it. The incline was barely perceptible through the park and though my pace was slowing, I was keeping with my pack so everyone else was hurting as well. It was not until Mile 12 that it became ugly. To make matters worse, the mile markers were consistently short by up to a tenth of a mile. Was my GPS short due to the mountains or were the markers off? I passed the 11 Mile mark at 10.91 but 12 came through at 12.01. All splits are GPS splits but any hope of an “A” was all gone with a Mile to go. The last mile was the toughest of all and fortunately, I had a nice cushion on the “B” goal. With not much left to give, I cruised it home with a safe 1:44:38 finish.
8:58 (1:43:48) uphill
:50- 1:44:38- New post-35 PR
It was a lazy afternoon back in the hotel. I did take a walk downtown to see the State Capitol then went out for a drink a half mile away from the room just down the road. There, I met a real nice older couple who took a strong interest in my travel exploits and got multiple hugs on my way out. The trip back home went without a hitch. Though my time was faster in the 2nd race, I would rate this performance as a notch or 2 lower than at Teton. I suppose that’s understandable given that I was less than fresh and worn out from the travel. With my current state of health, it will be difficult to get much below 1:40. Blood donation to regulate my Iron levels is my best chance at improvement.