Thursday, August 3, 2017

Oh Canada!

Canadian Provinces
Earlier this year Eric Morse and I reached the summit of Mt Hood in Oregon.  This was my 45th state high point (and Eric’s 44th); now the “difficult” ones remain.  We weren’t ready to do another state HP this year so Eric suggested a road trip to the middle of Canada where we could reach two Province high points.  I liked the sound of this adventure and was on board immediately.
I headed up to Eric’s on Wednesday and got a few hours’ sleep before we were up at 3am for a very early morning run.  We flew from Burlington VT to Chicago to Winnipeg.  We had a little trouble with Canadian customs as they did not like my “story” about driving around visiting high points (they thought we might be drug runners!).  Then the real travel started.  We would be driving over 1,500 miles from Thursday morning through Saturday afternoon.  After a quick stop at the Liquor Mart we were on our way.

There weren’t many good options along the way for runs.  There just weren’t any big towns along the way, actually there wasn’t much of anything just farm after farm.  After a couple of hours of driving we rolled into a small town that had some side road so we stopped.  It was nice to get out of the car and stretch the legs a bit.  We ran an easy 4 miles and were back on the road.  A few hours later we reached the Duck Mountain national park and Baldy Mountain.  At 2,726’ this was the highest point in Manitoba.  We drove to very nearly the top and parked.  After a few pictures from the top of the viewing platform we headed out for a 4 mile run.  The first 2 miles dropped and climbed a couple of hundred feet on a nice grass trail.  After that we got in 2 more miles running out/back on the access road.  It was buggy but again nice to be out of the car for a run.  We checked out the benchmark near the highest point then jumped in the car for the remaining few hours of driving for the day.

We had another pretty short night getting up before sunrise and getting in a short run “in town” before hitting the road.  The directions to the Saskatchewan high point (via google maps) were not the best.  Luckily we also had a book describing access to the HP and I had printed up some Peakbagger trip reports.  It was slow going the last 50km or so on dirt road and being unsure of exactly where we were headed.  We didn’t have any problems and got to the top at 4,567’.  This was a very wide plain with nothing resembling a highest point on it.  We stealthily ducked under the barbed wire fence and trotted a ½ mile to get to what we felt was the highest ground (no markers).  This was not a place to do a run as there were cows all around, so we dropped back down to the main dirt road.  This turned out to be one of the nicer runs on the trip as we ran on a very quiet dirt road for 4 miles.  It was hot but the north wind and low humidity helped.  A few more hours of driving got us to Swift Current.  We went out for another 3 mile run, this time to scout out the local track that was close by.  The track was fantastic!  They have a first class facility and a sign on the gate noting that all were welcome.  I had asked Eric to bring flats as I was hoping to do a workout during the trip (I hadn’t raced since the 2nd of July and really needed some turnover).

After a good night sleep we were up at 5am and out doing our warm-up to the track at 5:30am.  I wasn’t sure what to expect since I haven’t done a track workout this year and rarely attempt a fast run that early in the day.  We decided to do 2 times a mile at whatever we could do them at.  Eric recently ran under 11:00 for 2 miles during a lunchtime workout so he wouldn’t have any problem with this.  We did a mile with some strides and I guessed that sub-6 would be do-able and maybe close to 5:45.  We alternated the lead each ½ mile.   Eric took the lead for the first ½ mile and we were moving well.  I kept it going and we finished the first mile in 5:45.  We ran an easy half mile and then it was my turn to lead.  I took it out a bit too fast for the first ¼ mile then eased it back a bit.  Eric took over and it looked like we had a shot at breaking 5:30.  I lost a little ground in the last 200 meters as Eric ran 5:26 and I was ecstatic running a 5:28 (my fastest mile this year!).  Not bad for an early morning workout.  We did our warm-down run back to the hotel and soon after hit the road.
The next leg of driving was a straight shot of nearly 8 hours from Swift Current to Winnipeg.  Basically it was 500 miles straight on the Trans-Canadian highway.  We didn’t stop along the way, and there really wasn’t anywhere to run anyway.  Once we got to Winnipeg we did an easy 3 miles on a bike path in the Assiniboine Park.  Another 3:30 am wake up and the same 3 miles before heading for the airport and finishing the trip.
These are considered to be the two easiest Province HP’s so anything else will be a bit more challenging.  It sort of reminded me of our trip to Kansas and Nebraska.  Next year we’ll have to do a few closer to home and maybe even mix in some “County/Census Division High Points”.

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