Skechers 2016 #getyourmilesin

Just as we began to ramp up our spring training miles for the 2016 Boston and London Marathons, the newest models in the Skechers Performance lineup arrived at our doorstep! Given the excellent performance of the 2015 models, we were excited to see what changes the team had incorporated into in the newest incarnations.

As soon as we opened the boxes, it was obvious that Skechers has been taking serious strides in product development – listening to us as runners and what we desire in a shoe. Throughout the line, they continue to impress us with extremely comfortable, lightweight shoes, geared towards a performance purpose.

Immediately apparent was the integration of breathable seamless uppers, and re-engineered features in the sole construction. We were excited to get laced up and head out the door, so here’s our take on how each shoe fits in with our run objectives this season.

GOrun4 – The original ‘Speed Demongets ever fasterslice_skechers_k&k4
When we first tested out the GOrun4 last year, it was clearly our ‘speed-demon’ of choice for the 2015 season. It surpassed all of our expectations and performed beautifully in a variety of conditions.  We raced in this model at several Half Ironman and Half Marathon events and did all of our speed work in these. It provided a great overall race/performance fit and feel, and was light as air. This was a model we thought couldn’t get any better, but when we tried out the latest version, we knew why it had become the 2016 Runner’s World Editor’s Choice.

The new GOknit mesh one-piece upper is soft and seamless, providing a smooth sock-like feel, and comfortable and supportive fit. The re-designed flexible ‘Resalyte’ midsole provides perfect amount of cushioning balanced with impact protection.  The modified outer edge ‘pods’ add durability and we found them to have a new super grippy type of traction that translated to straight-line speed!

This is an incredible shoe, and with a 4mm drop that promotes a mid-foot strike, ‘Quick-Fit’ portal and flexible heel-cup for quick transitions, this will remain our preferred mid-distance race shoe.

GOride 5 – Reinventedslice_skechers_k&krideThe GOride 3 was the first Skechers model we tested back in 2014, so it’s been remarkable to see how the team at Skechers have developed it over the past two years. This shoe has always been comfortable right out of the box, and the next generation of the GOride doesn’t disappoint.

In addition to a completely new seamless upper, with breathable side panels and more stability, we found the redesigned sole to have more cushioning and greater impact protection. The shoe also felt much more responsive, thanks to the new ‘Resalyte’ compound, and GOimpulse Sensors on the outsole, which offered flex and grip for a very smooth and responsive run experience. It also offers generous space in the fore-foot, so more room for your toes to spread out a bit. It also incorporates the 4mm heel drop design, and promotes a mid-foot strike for fluid transition and stride efficiency.

The GOride has always been an extremely comfortable shoe, almost disappearing on your foot, so the new GOride 5 will be our mid-distance ‘go-to’ training shoe when the runs are longer and we’re looking for maximum comfort.

Forza – Stability/Distance Kingslice_skechers_k&kforza
The same comfort found in the GOride and GOrun’s can be felt at the heart of the Forza, with this model offering superior stability and a well cushioned ride. The Forza also incorporates a breathable seamless mesh upper and two-part Resalyte midsole, for a very smooth heel to toe transition.

It features an 8mm drop, and we found this shoe to be super-lightweight with an excellent response right out of the box.  The heel cup on the Forza is moulded and well-padded for a more traditional style fit as well, so it really hugs your foot.

The Forza is a great choice for those looking to transition into the Skechers brand and like a traditional style of running shoe. Comfort and stability come together in this lightweight performance machine, making it our model of choice for long training runs.

In Summary
All of the Skechers shoes in the Performance line are extremely lightweight and super comfortable on the inside – with no stitching and great breathability. The upper is very flexible so the shoe feels unrestricted, with no hotspots or pressure. The re-engineered soles offer more cushion and traction with a nice mix of stability where needed. As a bonus, we absolutely LOVE the stock ‘flat-wound’ stretch laces!k&kduo.jpgOverall, these shoes offer exceptional performance in and impressive lineup of models, especially if you add the Ultra Road into the mix! Skechers have taken things to the next level, and tailored their Performance lineup to cater to all running styles and distances.

As we log longer mileage over the summer, we’ll be extensively testing the Ultra Trail model as we gear up for a double crossing of the Grand Canyon this fall – stay tuned!kat_skechers_16-4_web

We give a ship – Part II

Canada – The Winter Wonderland
Growing up in Eastern Canada means half the year is spent in cold and snowy conditions, making it challenging for those athletes who like to get outside. Luckily, Kat’s Scottish heritage has given her a genetic predisposition battling a damp climate, and Kev was raised by a father with a love of cross-country skiing – so being outdoors in winter has never been a deterrent for us.

kev_kat_winter_running2While running in Montreal in the winter does post some challenges, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you have vacationed at the seaside from time to time, then running along the beach in ankle deep sand will give you a good idea of what our winter training challenges are like.

Faced with moderate temperatures ranging from -10C to 15C, layering our favourite lululemon gear and optimizing our Skechers shoe choice becomes key. Once kitted out appropriately, it’s just a matter of adapting to the conditions with a focus on keeping stride-length short and leg-turnover high. Having a goal of running two World Major Marathons just 6 days apart – Boston and London – has given us plenty of motivation to get us out the door to train every day.

Since we had raced in the Ultraman World Championships this past November, we had a solid endurance base to build upon, so we were able to turn our focus on speed and intensity. We even entered a local 5K race in February, just to get out and have some fun in a race setting with like-minded friends and fellow athletes. It was a great way to gauge fitness and build confidence towards the longer races coming up.

We also lead a RunClub for the lululemon Fairview store here in Montreal, so that’s a great motivator to get out and help others work on technique and prepare for the race season ahead. We love interacting and engaging with others at all levels and are planning to do shake-out runs with the lululemon stores in Boston and London before both marathons!

kev_kat_winter_runningAs our training gains momentum, we are looking forward to warmer temperatures and longer training days as winter gives way to spring. Meanwhile, we’ll try to keep the turnover of our feet speedy on the city streets of Montreal in anticipation of our marathon adventures – being sure to have a laugh or two along the way!

We are thrilled to be running the London Marathon on behalf of the Royal Museums Greenwich to help raise funds towards the restoration of the Cutty Sark. If you would like to support our efforts, please visit our JustGiving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/Kev-Kat/ – Thank you!

We give a ship!

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Running the ‘double’ for Cutty Sark – Boston & London 2016

This April, we will be taking on the challenge of running the Boston and London Marathons back to back – just 6 days apart, so we wanted to do something special to mark this occasion.

Giving back to the community has always been important to us, and the Royal Museums of Greenwich in London is giving us an opportunity to put our energy towards something tangible that has stood the test of time. Enter Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark was built in Scotland in 1869 and is the world’s only surviving extreme clipper. In her time, she was an important lifeline for transporting goods between the major ports of call. Her travels have taken her from London to Shanghai, carrying large amounts of wine, spirits and beer, with the return voyages bringing back million pounds of tea. Over time, she also carried coal, jute and castor oil from Calcutta to Melbourne, and wool from Australia to England. She now resides in Greenwich London under the care of the Royal Museums Greenwich, as a memorial to the Merchant Navy and reminder of our past.

We ‘give a ship’!

We were intrigued by the rich history of this magnificent ship, and when we learned of the ongoing preservation effort, we wanted to jump-on-board and support this project. It’s a tangible artifact that we can see and touch, and the funds we help raise will be going towards restoring the ships lifeboats, navigation lamps, Captain’s gig, and chicken coops, as well as varnishing the ships original wooden structure.

Our Boston-London Marathon adventure will surely test our strength and resilience, but we’ll channel the immense energy of Cutty Sark to propel us on our journey and hope to give something back to her in exchange! We hope you will support our effort to help preserve this landmark for the future generations by donating to our Just Giving page at : https://www.justgiving.com/Kev-Kat

Skechers Performance = Speedy Feet!

Our 2015 race season was planned to accommodate a late season build – racing the New York City Marathon on Nov 1st, then taking on the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii from Nov 27-29th

We chose to do a progressive build towards the November targets by pacing some friends in a few half marathons, racing the 5150 in Tremblant, as well as doing two half Ironmans in September – all for fun and fitness. The ‘lead-up’ races brought in some focused speed-work, and were planned to land right in the midst of our final build phase.kat_skechersjoy_web
The great thing about the variety of races and mileage we laid out was that it gave us a perfect opportunity to thoroughly test various models of the Skechers Performance lineup – both in training and race settings. Shoe rotation is a great tactic for injury prevention, so being able to switch pairs often – especially for those ultra-long two-a-day run sessions, was a major bonus for us this year!

So, after logging several training and race miles in 2015 thus far, here’s our impression of the Skechers Performance lineup:

GOrun4 – The Speed Demon
If you are looking for a speed-demon, then the GOrun4 is for you. It’s lightweight, fits like a glove, and offers enough cushioning to easily take you into the Half Marathon distance.  We love the heel cup design – it’s flexible and thin so doesn’t even feel like it’s there – and the ‘Quick-Fit’ portal makes slipping these on quickly in triathlon transitions a breeze!  The GOrun4’s feature a flexible ‘Resalyte’ midsole and rubber ‘pods’ on out outer edges for durability.  We love their grippy traction on the road, as well as the 4 mm drop, offering superior fit and function.

In the races we’ve done this year, the breathability and drainage capabilities of the GOrun4’s have surpassed our expectations.  We’ve raced in a variety of conditions, from hot humid 41C weather at the Canadian Iron113, then pouring rain and 15C at the Demi-Esprit – every time the GOrun4’s performed beautifully.

Strada – The High Performance Trainer
If you prefer a little more cushion and stability, The Strada takes the support level up a notch, offering an excellent shoe for longer training runs and marathon distance racing. The Strada is built with more dense foam on the outsole as well as a combination of Resalyte and Resagip for a firmer ride. It features an 8mm drop, and feels excellent on flat roads where you can incorporate everything from quick sprints to longer tempo runs.

We love the stability of the Strada, which has become our ‘go-to’ shoe, covering all the bases from traditional trainer right into race-day performer.

Ultra Road – The Endurance Junkie 
After testing in the Ultra2 model for most of last season, and loving its cushioning comfort,  along came the Ultra Road this season, which took things to a whole new level for us.  This model instantly became our ultra-distance favourite. 

Right out of the box, the fit and feel was exceptional, offering great cushioning and a responsive ride. The Ultra Road features a Resalyte sole, with firmer outsole, making for a very responsive take-off for those times when you are looking to pick up the pace! With its  durable woven upper and no seams or liner, it performs great in the heat, providing exceptional breathability and water drainage.

Our first ‘test’ run was a 6 hour city jaunt, and the shoes offered great support and a very   comfortable fit. At the end of our long test run, we both looked at each other and said, ‘Yup, we can keep going in these!’ 

We LOVE the Ultra Road and they will definitely be our 2015 Ultraman World Championship shoe of choice!

In Summary
All of the Skechers shoes in the Performance lineup that we have run in were extremely comfortable on the inside – no stitching, excellent drainage and great breathability. The upper is very flexible so the shoe feels unrestricted, and paired with the stock ‘flat-wound’ stretch laces, the tongue always stays in place.

It’s a great feeling for an athlete when your gear becomes ‘one’ with you and it just seems to ‘disappear’ – it’s there, but it’s not. That’s exactly what we’ve found in the lineup, and with such a broad choice in the series, there’s a shoe option for everyone! Where ever it may be, from trails, to twisty roads to all out track sprints, we’re driven by excitement every time we lace up and head out the door!

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Vegan/Paleo Date Energy Bites

Kev loves making these as a quick and healthy treat – it totally satisfies both the ‘sweet’ and ‘salty’ cravings – great for ‘on the go’ snacking too!

Prep time: 15 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 24

Ingredients:
2 cups walnuts, or other nut/seed of choice
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups soft pitted Medjool dates
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Instructions:
In a large food processor fitted with an “S” blade, process the walnuts and coconut until crumbly. Add in the dates, coconut oil, vanilla and sea salt and process again until a sticky, uniform batter is formed.

Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons, then roll between your hands to form balls. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then place in the freezer to set for at least an hour before serving.

Store the energy bites in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for an even longer shelf life.

For a gourmet-looking truffle, you could also roll them in shredded coconut or cocoa powder before chilling!

Enjoy!

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Skechers GOrun Ultra…

Earlier in the season, we had the opportunity to connect with the team from Skechers.  They have developed a full line of Performance Shoes and they thought we’d make good product testers/brand ambassadors.  The Performance line was new to us, so we were excited to test them out and see what all the shoe-buzz was about!

We first tried out the GOrun models, and loved the light-weight and super-comfy fit. They were super flexible in the upper, and feature flat-lock stitching details for a seamless feel and fit. They also offered a great mid-foot strike. Next it was the GOrun ‘Ride’, which offers a 4mm heel drop and a unrestricted ‘stable’ feel, with a bit more lateral and medial support for longer runs.  We really got to test these out at the Chicago Marathon in October, where we both PB’d!

Then, as our training for the Ultraman World Championships was winding up, we slipped into the ‘GOrun Ultra’s‘, which provided the ultimate cushioning with the Resalyte shock absorption, and the option of a 4mm or 8mm heel drop. This shoe also offered us 65% more cushioning than the GOrun Rides, so the perfect balance of stability and support, promoting a mid-foot strike.  These is also a super light-weight shoe, which really help when those extra km’s kick in!

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If that wasn’t great enough…  we were presented with the GOrun Ultra ‘Extreme’ edition!  This was a new concept for us, as they are an ‘all weather’ version of the Ultra. We were already familiar with the great fit and grip of the Ultra’s, so decided to test out the ‘Extreme’ model on the first real ‘snowy/slushy’ night-run here in Montreal.

In the past, we’ve had to be super careful with foot-strike and stride-length out on the slippery streets, as well as dodging cars and the various obstacles that go with urban running.  What surprised us was that these shoes offered amazing TRACTION!  They were also extremely stable, and have a breathable water-resistant membrane, which allowed for great air circulation, while keeping the slush and snow out!  We really loved the fit and feel and are looking forward to the winter runs ahead in the new ‘Extreme’s’…

Meanwhile, we’ll be giving our GOrun Ultra’s the big test down in Hawaii at the Ultraman!

If you have the opportunity, we suggest you try out one of the models in the Skechers Performance lineup – there seems to be something for everyone!

Happy Trails!

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Grand Canyon R2R2R – April 2014

“Every trips holds the potential to be life-changing, the most valuable stuff you can bring back home doesn’t always take up space in your luggage.”

2014 Grand Canyon R2R2R – by Katherine Calder-Becker & Kevin Becker

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After two years of careful planning, research and preparation, we were ready to take on our biggest adventure to date – the ‘R2R2R– a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon (rim-to-rim-to-rim).

If you think about it in simple terms, the Canyon really only has ‘ two hills’ – so on paper it seems quite manageable.  Just run down the South Rim, across the Canyon, then up the North Rim – take a picture – then turn around, go back!  Easy, right?  Well… not so much.

The run consists of 47 miles (76km’s), depending on the route you take, and covers 22,000ft of elevation change – 11,000ft of vertical ascent. To break it down, the descent down the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail drops 2,997ft in the first 4.8 miles on twisty switchbacks, and then continues down another 1,179ft over 4.7 miles, until you reach the Colorado River.  The next 8.6 miles is on an undulating section of the North Kaibab trail, winding up 1,919ft through the canyon to the Pump-house Ranger Station.  Once there, you face the final 5.4 mile 3,680ft ascent up the North Rim, over steep and rocky terrain, which completes the first half of the journey!  Once you reach the North Rim, it’s time to turn around and run back down, across the valley, and up the South Rim to complete the double-crossing.  Of course we chose the longest combination of trails – Bright Angel to North Kaibab and back – since we figured if it was going to be epic, it may as well be – EIPC!

If the distance and elevation aren’t enough of a challenge, you have to factor in the ‘altitude’ on both rims, limited water resources, no cell service and zero support within in the Canyon.  Basically, if you go in, you have to get yourself out!

Our journey began when we arrived at the South Rim of the Canyon late in the evening of Wednesday April 16, 2014 – staying in a cabin at the Bright Angel Lodge. We figured if we were right at the trail-head, we could run out the door and over the edge.  We had given ourselves a ‘buffer’ day, in case of inclement weather, but with the prime weather day looking like Thurs April 17th, we decided to take the plunge and run it the following morning. We had ‘pre-packed’ our favorite lululemon gear, as well as our tried and tested fuel source of Infinit nutrition. We had prepared everything at home in advance, so it was easy to quickly unpack and lay everything out in a matter of minutes. Since it was late, and the restaurants were closed we settled for snacking on nachos, humus and guacamole that night – not exactly an ideal supper, but at least it was salty carbs.

Before turning in, we figured we’d strap on our headlamps, find the trailhead, and peer over the edge. We quickly found the signage and headed down the first 100ft of the Bright Angel Trail. We stopped, turned off our headlamps and looked out into the darkness. We both experienced a very unfamiliar sensation – you could actually ‘feel’ the vastness.  There before us was a black hole – an abyss – with no sound, just a massive deep, dark, vacuous space that ‘felt’ like emptiness. Emotionally, it was very powerful, and we realized the enormity of what lay ahead. Luckily, our headlamps clearly lit the trail, which stood out in contrast to the darkness – we felt confident we could run it – all systems were GO!

We headed back to the cabin, set the alarm for 3am, and went to sleep. We were up before the alarm could even go off, ate breakfast, got dressed, loaded our hydration packs, and headed out the door.  It was 4am – here we go!

It was a dark night, with the tail-end of a full moon on the edge of the sky – we were surrounded by a myriad of stars. Temps were cool, but not cold. We set off down the Bright Angel trail and enjoyed the still quiet air – it was a motionless night and we descended into the darkness leaving the South Rim quickly behind – our primary thought – SAFETY FIRST!

As we snaked down the narrow, twisty switchbacks, we could ‘feel’ the wall of rock build up behind us. As we peered into the vast open darkness that lay ahead, we also looked up and back at the lights on the rim.

We continued down for the first 3 miles in darkness, and then as dawn was breaking, we could see Indian Gardens in the distance. By the time we reached the Tonto Plateau, our headlamps were off and we could easily see the trail.

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It was striking to look back and up at the South Rim towering over our heads – seeing the terrain rise up behind us as we made our way further down. The color of the changing layers of rock was an indicator of the elevation, and reminded us how far down the millions of years of history in the Canyon we had travelled. We descended Devils Corkscrew, and knew the cheery feeling of light-hearted optimism we were experiencing, would be a distant memory on the return trip through this section.

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After running down 5,000ft in 9.5 miles, we reached the Silver Bridge at the Colorado River. The sun was beginning to rise, along with the temperature – so jackets and arm-warmers got packed away. We reached Bright Angel Campground, and Phantom Ranch as the hikers were rising for breakfast.  At this point, we re-loaded our hydration packs with water and Infinit, on the first of four planned refill-stops, and began the 14 mile, 6,000ft run up to the North Rim.

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From Phantom Ranch, the trail took on a somewhat flatter profile for the next 8.6 miles making it easy to get a solid pace going on this section. There is a constant undulation of ups and downs, always gaining in elevation with each mile that passed. We headed into Box Canyon along the North Kaibab trail, and crisscrossed our way up Bright Angel Creek on a series of short foot-bridges. The walls through box Canyon rose up over-head giving us a sense of warmth and protection – like a security blanket, shaded from the sun. The trail then opened up and the air became more desert like heading up towards Cottonwood Camp. This is the hottest section of the trail as the Canyon walls are further back and there is no shelter from the sun. Once this far in, you finally catch a glimpse of the North Rim up and around to your left into Bright Angel Canyon, as you make your way to the Pump House Ranger Station. This was the location of our 2nd scheduled re-fill stop, at 18 miles into the journey. A quick stop and we were set to take on the final 5.4 mile climb up the North Rim.

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The terrain heading up to the North Rim is very steep and traverses a series of tight switchbacks. It’s impossible to see the trail up ahead, so looking back down after each mile goes by is the only way to gauge where you’ve been. Again, the multiple rock layers that make up the Canyon  reveal clues about distance and altitude.  There are also strategically placed geological trail placards along the way, noting the current rock formation you happened to be at. While informative and interesting, these reminders of how little distance you’ve actually gone, become unnerving – especially on the last 3 miles of the climb!

The summit of the North Rim in constantly coming in and out of view as you twist up and around the buttes and switchbacks so it’s impossible to put a visual ‘lock’ on your target. Your only marker of progress is a change in soil and rock colour, and the detailed placards that seem to scream at you as you ascend to yet another level!  Finally, you reach the white limestone that indicates the final ascent, but there’s still a mile to go to reach the top, and it’s pretty much straight up once you pass the Coconino outlook. Out of nowhere, the North Rim trailhead sign comes into view quickly, and before you know it, a rush of elation floods in as you realize you’ve made it!

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There’s not much waiting there though with the North Rim still closed to visitors until Mid-May, snow still on the ground, and no water resources at the trailhead. The only thing to do is take a picture, check the time, then turn around and head back down the face of the Canyon to the South Rim. From here, you can’t see it, or the valley floor for that matter, but you know exactly where they are – a long way down.  At this point, your body is tired and your mind has lost its edge, so the adventure takes on a more serious tone – SURVIVALISM!

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We headed back down the steep switchbacks, being extra careful not to roll an ankle, or slip on loose rocks, and after a few hours of descending, we were back at the Pump House – refilling for the 3rd time. Our strategy was to keep moving with minimal breaks in order to keep the blood from pooling in our legs – so off we went as quickly as we could. As we headed back through Cottonwood, the temps were still up in the 90’s so the heat of the sun was still a factor. Kev happened to be leading on this section of the trail, and we suddenly came upon an adult male rattle snake in the middle of the trail – in full strike position! Luckily, Kev’s reaction time is faster than mine and he came to a skidding halt, yelled ‘snake’ and leap backwards! I ran to a halt, right into him! We waited as the snake slowly cleared the path and were back on our way, running at a quick pace down through Box Canyon.  At this point, we ran straight into snake encounter number 2 – there he was, right in the middle of the trail – WOAH! Onwards we go.

We reached Phantom Ranch and refuelled for the 4th and final time. At this point, the heat of the day, and the 12 hours of non-stop running was catching up with us. We knew we had to keep moving, so reloaded our packs and got going quickly.  The sun was still in the sky as we reached the Silver Bridge, but we knew the climb ahead would be a long one. The first section was runnable undulating terrain, then we started the steep ascent up through Devil’s Corkscrew and into Indian Gardens. We saw several baby scorpions along this section of the trail, and plenty of deer feeding on the trail-side vegetation. We pushed onwards and upwards to the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest houses on the Bright Angel Trail – encountering a few bats along the way. At this point, my vision was beginning to do some odd things – at one point, I thought the dust from the trail was affecting my sight, but there was no dust. I also thought my sunglasses were still on, but they weren’t. At least we could see the South Rim towering up overhead – like a beacon, calling us home – that, and the cold beer that was waiting at the cabin!

We ascended to the top, utterly in awe of our accomplishment – 47 miles (76km’s) of non-stop running – in just under 15 hours.  Looking back down across the Canyon, we could now easily see where we had been and were thrilled that we had actually propelled ourselves down into this massive landscape, across and up the other side, then back!

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Looking back on the adventure was a reminder that the Canyon is a very hostile, unforgiving environment, with no room for errors. The sheer magnitude of this undertaking required careful preparation and training on our part. In training, we did several two-run per-day workouts, stair climbs on our beloved Mont Royal, and hours of hill repeats on Camillien-Houde.  We ran with our hydration packs and tested our Infinit nutrition, sweat-rates and hydration requirements.  We extensively tested our lululemon run gear and experimented with different fabrics and outfit combinations to get the comfort level just right.  We also spent a lot of time researching this run prior to going in and had meticulously mapped out our strategy and the trails in order not to fail.

Long before our journey began, we were well aware that this was a self-supported adventure that would require a great depth of mental toughness, as well as physical strength and experience.  Even then, we only realized the enormity of it when we stood on the edge, looked out and had no choice but to push all fear aside. From the moment we peered off into the darkness, right up until we had safely made our way up and out of the abyss, we knew that Mother Nature was in charge.

This was a journey that pushed us to the edge of our limits and scraped the bottoms of our souls.

You can view the photo gallery by visiting our website at : http://endurancetriathletes.com/photos.html