Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Roche Miette

Here's another summit I've been meaning to get to for some time. The perfect weather made for a great day. The photos are ordered from bottom to top, rather than in the order taken, as a visual description of the route.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cascade Mountain

Made it to the mountains with two friends a few weeks back. Scrambled up Cascade Mountain. I've stared at this summit from Banff Ave. for many years but this was my first trip to the top.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

wapta traverse 2014

I finally got to experience this world class tour with the ACC Edmonton section. We had a superb trip. Blue, calm skies for 3 of 4 days. (Also in the -30's C but that didn't slow us down; someone likely would have froze to death if it had.) The snow was also thin and hard but that's been the case across the Rockies this winter. Anyway, here's a recap...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is going long a bad idea in the long run?

It turns out that running, pretty much like everything else in life, may be best for you when taken in moderation.

A review article published by James H. O'Keefe and others in the June 2012 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that the type of chronic, high-intensity exercise that marathoners, ultramarathoners, triathletes, and long-distance cyclists participate in damages the heart (article here, review here). This damage, termed cardiac remodelling, is caused by repeatedly making the heart work really hard for really long periods of time. The result is myocardial fibrosis, arterial calcification, stiffening of the arterial walls, and a reduction in diastolic function. Yikes!

The authors don't suggest running is bad. In fact, the opening sentence of their article touts running as a cornerstone for cardiovascular and overall health. They also are quick to point out that these adverse effects from high intensity exercise are an untested hypothesis and that inconsistencies in the data do exist.

What does all this mean? Go for a run. There is a large and growing body of evidence that running not only improves the length of your life but the quality of your life. How long you run depends, in part, on why you run in the first place. If your main focus is increased longevity then, according to Dr. O'Keefe, you may be doing more harm than good if you run more than 3 to 4 miles more than a couple of times a week. But how many ultramarathon-type athletes are motivated by cardiovascular health alone?

Personally, cardiovascular health is definitely a perk of running but it hardly gets me out the door, or up that mountain pass, or through the final hours of the second long run of the weekend. There are so many other reasons that I run and that I like to run long in particular. Heck, it takes nearly 3 miles to shake the cobwebs out of my muscles and settle into a comfortable groove. If that's when I stopped I'd surely quit altogether, which would be even worse for my ticker.

I think the jury is still out on whether endurance running is bad for your heart. I don't know how motivated I would be if I knew my efforts were taking years off my life. Time and more data will determine whether that's true. In the mean time, I'll keep running.

UPDATE: A new editorial by the authors (O'Keefe and Lavie. 2012. Run for your life... at a comfortable speed and not too far. Heart doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2012-302886; reviewed by Outside magazine here) provides some guidelines for heart-healthy running. If longevity is your focus they suggest you can improve your cardiovascular health by limiting your running to < 1 - 2 hour per day, < 5 days per week, and at a pace slower than 8 min/mile (5 min/km). Better yet, they suggest you walk, don't run.

The data are still correlative and far from overwhelming. (Never trust a graph without blatant estimates of variance!) There also is no mention of potential differences in the quality of life between exercise regimes. The authors admit their exercise guidelines are aimed at maximizing heart health and not heart fitness and aerobic capacity, which may be important characteristics of a high quality of life for some people. They also make no mention of the many other physical and mental benefits associated with running and how they might vary with intensity.

Ultimately, how long you run will be determined by your reasons for running. If you run strictly for your health it's unlikely that your exercise habits would be classified as excessive anyway and you're probably happy to learn that you can gain the same benefits or better with less effort. If you run because you like to run and you enjoy a good, strenuous effort on a regular basis you may decide that's not worth giving up for some benefit that you may or may not realize in your twilight years. Even O'Keefe admits that "driving to [a] marathon is a hell of a lot more dangerous than running in it".

Now someone remind me, will this cup of coffee enhance my performance or hinder it?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

running unapologetically

Runs 20 hours a week and skis 120 days a year?! Definitely jealous and highly motivated to get out the door.

I especially like the 'unapologetic runner' segment. Never feel the need to apologize to anyone or, in my case, to myself, for going for a run. I know that running makes me a more tolerable and productive person so it's time well spent.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mountain Man cometh

Don't be alarmed if you notice a large military presence in Edmonton's river valley tomorrow (30 August 2012). It's time for the annual Mountain Man race. I'm not running and neither is the woman pictured above. This race is for military personnel only. These guys and gals may be hard core but this race is no walk in the park. If you find yourself in the river valley tomorrow, be sure to cheer them on. Every racer appreciates a little encouragement.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pinto Lake via Sunset Pass, Alberta

With work and running I get to spend a lot of time outdoors. I don't, however, spend nearly enough time in the mountains, especially outside of ski season - Edmonton is just a little too far away for a last minute trip to be convenient. Thankfully our good friend Cris is a planner and a motivator. Hence the second annual weekend-in-the-mountains-with-dogs backpacking trip.
The requirements for this trip are few: 1) mountains, 2) a nice campground, preferably on a lake, that can be reached in a single, moderately challenging day, and 3) dogs off leash. Our destination was Pinto Lake via Sunset Pass. The campground is just outside of the national park so dogs were no problem.
The trail to Pinto Lake via Sunset Pass starts in Banff National Park along the Icefields Parkway halfway between the towns of Banff and Jasper.
We/I assumed, incorrectly, that the place would be largely deserted, despite it being a long weekend, because the trail head is remote compared to others in the parks. Besides being a popular trail with backpackers, there also is a horse packing outfitter at the pass that was doing a brisk business. Thankfully the trail was in much better shape than many trails frequented by horses.
The trail quickly switchbacks up through the forest and enters the broad Sunset Pass at Norman Lake Campground. The views of Mt. Coleman (above) and Mt. Amery (below) were spectacular.
We found route finding on the pass to be less than straightforward. It might have been the branching trail, the unbridged water crossing, the thick willow, or the crappy map and route description we gleaned from the internets.
We intended to take the shorter of two routes to the lake. Turns out we zigged left when the lake came into view when we should have zagged right. In hindsight, 'zig' was probably the better choice.
We got to the lake later than expected but with enough time to enjoy the evening. Unfortunately the mosquitoes drove us into our tents before sunset. The bugs weren't bad on our second night and we stayed up around the campfire well past nightfall.
Given that it was a long weekend we didn't have to rush back to civilization the next day. We chose to hike the trail that loops the lake, including a side trip up to a large cave.
Perhaps not surprisingly to those that know me, I lost track of the trail and we ended up bushwhacking the majority of the way up. I should know better than to follow a dog that insists on leading but has no idea where it's going. Thankfully this ordeal was followed by a dip in the lake. The pool in the cave was aesthetically appealing but way too cold to contemplate swimming.
On the advice of several folks we chose to take the 'shorter' route back. Someone pointed it out to us from our campground on the northern shore of the lake. I had to ask twice, "You mean that scree slope?", I said pointing at a thin ribbon of talus bisecting an otherwise impenetrable headwall. In reality it's only shorter in distance, not time, unless you're comfortable climbing a long, loose, steep slope with a backpack.
In fact, this is only the second hiking trail I've been on where a rope was provided and the first trail where the rope was more than 15 feet long. Do not rely on the rope. In fact I would suggest avoiding use of that rat-chewed POS if at all possible. You'll see what I mean when you get to the top of it. I was going to yell the same to the Mrs. but she can kill a man with just a look. True story.
Had we zagged, this is what we would have seen if we looked over our shoulders before entering the scree slope. I think Mt. Amery is out of view behind Coleman's shoulder when taking the other route but don't hold me to that. The hike back to the trail head is all downhill from here.