I first heard about ‘The Quad’ during my first month in Canada and decided that it would be cool to try to do it. However, back then, the four mountains making up the Quad were covered in deep snow making any attempts to summit them impossible – so I was blissfully unaware of the challenge ahead… at that time I even thought that I could maybe go for the FKT. My first climb up Grotto Mountain with my friend Rob was kind of an eye opener; these mountains are brutal!!
The Canmore Quad is a personal challenge which involves climbing up the four main mountains around the town of Canmore (Grotto, Lady MacDonald, EEOR and Ha Ling), all on foot and finishing where you started. It is a 51k loop with 4800m of elevation! What was I getting myself into???
When I started telling people around me I was planning on attempting The Quad, I was taken aback by the enthusiasm and support I was getting. Mountain people are simply the best!! So many people were willing to take some time off to help me! I therefore quickly managed to put a team together to support me during this little adventure. My training buddy Svenja (link to IG) would crew me (the plan was to meet me after each peak), my friend Joël would pace me during the first half and Ian decided he would run the entire loop with me. Rob and Arnaud (IG) would try and meet me after work to share few miles. RunUphill (link to IG) accepted to let me start and finish at their store which was great! If you are in the Bow valley go and say hi, these guys know all the trails around here!
The weekend prior the Quad I had managed to upset my calf L So on the morning of this big challenge I was quite unsure if I’d be able to complete it as my right calf was still very tight. I decided to give it a go anyway and see how it goes. I met up with the “Quad Squad“ just before 8am at the RunUphill store. After few pics and jokes, we were off. Joel, Ian and I set off in a comfortable pace and after a few flat miles we started the first climb up Grotto. I was so glad Joel accepted to run with me in the first half as he knows the trails around here so well and it is really easy to get lost on the way up Grotto. The wind started picking up as we were reaching the top and there was still a bit of snow t making it a rather cold and brief experience on top. Without hanging around, We made our way back down. The way down was fun and we were at the bottom of Lady Mac after 2:35. Svenja was waiting for us there, the plan was for her to go up to the platform with us but we all loaded her with the gear we didn’t want any more so her backpack ended up weighing a ton J we all dropped her on the way up… Very “gentleman like” guys. Sorry!!
Reaching the top of Lady Mac meant half the climbing was done!! The ridge was a bit sketchy because of the wind but we were careful and moved safely to the summit. The descent was enjoyable and we met Svenja again for another refill before heading to the most horrendous part of the course…the gravel road across Canmore and up to the EEOR trail head. This part is such a drag!! It was also time for Joël to leave us. Ian and I toughened up and made it up to the start of the trail where we had some well-deserved water to wash down all the dust that had accumulated in our throats after spending an hour on this dusty road. This is when my asthma decided to kick,which was going to be very interesting as I had forgotten my inhaler at home. Ian was starting to get cramps in his quads so we both really struggled to get to the top. Ian was really suffering so we decided to split up as the cramps were getting really bad.
My friend Arnaud and Svenja were waiting for me at the bottom and after I refiled, Arnaud and I started to tackle the last climb. Svenja stayed behind to wait for Ian who wasn’t far back, she then made her way up and caught us up pretty quickly. Some sharp pain in my Achilles and the Asthma made the ascent really difficult but having both of them with me really helped, even if Svenja spent the entire time taking the piss out of me because I couldn’t keep up with her. I really wanted to kick her ass so bad but I was too stiff for that and she is pretty tall 😉 It kinda made the ascent very entertaining though, especially for Arnaud!
When we finally reached the top, I was in pain but relieved that all the climbing was done and all that was left was running back down to Canmore. It really lifted my spirit and I decided to go back down as fast as I could. We had so so much fun going down with Arnaud, racing each other and dodging the hikers. I don’t know what happened to Svenja though, she just disappeared… 😉
Once at the bottom of Ha Ling, I just had to go down this horrible road again and that would be the end of the adventure! I left all my gear with Arnaud and kept just a flask with me. I was going to meet him again later to run the last few miles with him. As I settled in a fairly decent pace (I really had enough and I wanted to finish this as quickly as possible), Svenja caught me in the car and drove beside me for a bit which was really nice, we then decided she’d go and meet Arnaud and we all would run the last stretch together. When I arrived at the Nordic Centre, they were waiting for me and to my great surprise Robin was also there. Seeing all of them there really gave me a lot of strength and we forged on.
I don’t know where I found the strength but I managed to drop the pace down for the last 2-3k. It is weird how the body can perk up when it knows it is almost the end. The run across Canmore was fun with Arnaud shouting at everybody to get out of my way 😉
After 9hrs 26mins, I finally made it back to the store! I was really stocked with my time and even happier when Joël told me it was the 4th fastest time on this route. My body was crashing though; I couldn’t move without triggering cramps…but I was over the moon! It was such a special moment for me to have finished this incredible challenge and to see few of my friends gathered around me to congratulate me. None of these would have been possible without their help. I am so grateful to have them all in my life!
Ian arrived around an hour after me. Huge respect to him for finishing this despite having some horrible cramps!!
A huge thank you to RunUphill for the support and, as usual, a big big thank you to Svenja for crewing me!!