Submitted by: Mackenzie
As my uneventful reading week hit the halfway mark, I couldn’t wait to get outdoors, far away from the sedentary school library. My coach had registered myself and two teammates in the Kananaskis Cookie Race, how we got there was up to us. So, Nils, Joedy and I packed all of our gear into Nils’ truck (which he also lives in) and headed for the mountains two days before the gun was set to go off. We pulled up to the Canmore Nordic Centre after dark later that day. My stiff legs groaned as I walked around to the back of the tent trailer we were pulling to get out some frigid ski gear. Once we were warmed up, skiing down the trails, I was one happy camper. The trails were fast, and the clean mountain air was exponentially better than a cab full of farts. We came to the end of the lit loop, and kept right on skiing into the dark trails. Away from the lights, the beautiful stars were visible above the treetops, and the moon shone bright enough to navigate the shadows.
That night, we slept in the parking lot of the Mount Baldy trail in Kananaskis. Joedy unfolded his tent trailer to find that a mouse had been sandwiched between the two foam pads (R.I.P). After flipping the mattresses and removing the mouse, I still couldn’t get over the smell. Joedy, too stubborn to give up on his tent trailer, slept in it alone while Nils and I slept in the back of the truck. The next morning, Joedy awoke with a very sore throat and a wheezy cough. We joked that he had contracted the hantavirus, and retired the tent trailer for the rest of the trip. Once Joedy finally coaxed us out of our warm sleeping bags, we ate breakfast and hit the trail. About an hour later, we had ridden the heel toe express all the way to the fake summit (which we celebrated with chocolate, of course). Not wanting to kill our legs before the race, we headed back down, enjoying the views along the way.
That evening, after a hot tub and a much needed shower in Canmore, we slept in the parking lot of the Pocaterra hut, right beside the trail head. The alarm went off three hours before race time, forcing us to step out into the cold, -20 morning. My fingers went numb as I took my mitts off to change into my race suit, and then quickly pile back on more layers than Randy from A Christmas Story. We huddled around the propane stove in the back of the truck as Nils made oatmeal. The warm truck was harder to leave than a Mom who cooks with cheese, but there were bibs to collect and skis to wax, so we got moving.
Before I knew it, I was standing at the start line putting neck warmers around my ankles because the warm sun was shining bright and there was no time to change. The gun went off and I was one of 600 people gliding along the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park trail system. Every break in the trees brought a beautiful view of snow covered mountains that spanned the entire horizon. As the pack thinned out, I caught a guy in his early forties. Although I was faster on the uphills and the flats, he shot down the downhills, leaving me pushing to catch up. We pulled each other along for most of the 24 km race, and had a good chat at the finish. Aptly named The Cookie Race, the food tent was jam packed with trays of cookies… Nils, Joedy and I took full advantage. We pulled away before the diabetes set in and headed straight for Ha Ling Peak.
Already exhausted, we started up the mountain, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. My legs burned right from the start, and the trail only seemed to get steeper and steeper. By the time we reached the treeline, I was half expecting a waft of steam when I unzipped my jacket I was so hot. That quickly changed, above the treeline the winds were viscous and the slopes were slick. My sweaty headband became a ring of ice and my cheeks burned, but there was no turning around with the summit in sight. I willed my noodle legs up the last stretch of rocks. No longer having to navigate the slippery terrain , I looked up to take in the amazing views. Being an avid trail runner, Joedy took off running down the mountain, seeking the warmth of tree coverage. Nils and I slowly found our footing, regretting out poor choice of footwear. Our runners weren’t exactly designed for icy conditions, and we slipped and stumbled our way down, laughing at each other as we went. Two thirds of the way down, we met up with Joedy again who had run to the bottom and back up to meet us. Together we walked the rest of the way down the beautiful trail, breathing in the fresh air. After two mountains and a loppet, we decided our tired bodies had had enough, and headed for home.