RVR Ultra: Trails Don’t Have Bad Days

Sheryl Savard is a race director for Canadian River Valley Revenge. Sheryl is also the founder of Edmonton Trail Runners. She’s an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys Edmonton’s river valley trails in every season. This blog originally appeared on Sheryl’s blog, The Fit Life.

Edmonton’s award-winning river valley is designed for every season, and especially for Canadian winters. Ribbons of groomed trails wrap around snowglobe views for a hundred miles. Adventurous single-track show off a winter wonderland of glittering snow.

More than the views, Edmonton’s trails bring people together, outside, attracting adventurers of every pace, like ghost stories around a mesmerizing campfire.  The effect is much the same:  exhilarating, terrifying, some wishing they could leave, others leaning in for more.

Photo: Jarrid Holscher

Canadian River Valley Revenge, a bi-annual trail race in the heart of Edmonton’s river valley, embraces winter outdoors at the January race series. Our race is adventurous, bouncing hoots and hollers off cliffs as we canter and gallop and sometimes slide over toothpaste trails. Last year at this time was one of our training clinics… during a polar vortex.  Fifty people showed up. Introductions included a brief inspection of each participant’s attire and helpful instructions: If you slide off the trail, tuck and roll. Oh, and Have Fun!  

Runners and hikers of every shape, size and pace head into the urban woods of Whitemud Creek Nature Reserve. Meanwhile, trail friends set up a pop-up aid station, hand and toe warmers strategically placed underneath layers.  One case of canned beverages makes a break for it, sending 32 rolling cans down a long path.  Add butter tarts and tunes, it’s a party on the trail.

Photo: Jarrid Holscher

The eager hydration crew wait at a point on the course where they know that Suffering will have stealthily joined the run, sucking the last vestiges of energy from most.  They anticipate a  steady stream of weary explorers staggering out of the single track onto wide views: Soldiers in battle, taking a swig from the canteen, wiping their faces with blood-smeared sleeves… onward! Victory is nigh!

Photo: Steven Csorba

Here’s where a long run in river valley trails during frigid temperatures becomes something altogether different and so much more.   As the runners and hikers merge, the ones and twos and “I know you’s” blend into a motley mix of new and familiar faces,  showing up with scrapes and stories and laughs and high fives, hanging out for ten minutes or more to pause and breathe and celebrate.  Eventually, they are on their way again, chatter lively skipping, smiles keeping pace with each other.

It’s a timely reminder that trails have no bad days.  The trail experience is not so much about conditions as it is about adventures:  a culmination of many moments, each one adding a log to make a blaze or stoking the fire to keep the flames glowing and warm, creating one story from many, crackling with excitement, throwing the occasional spark.  Tales from the trail always burn more brightly together.

-Sheryl Savard