Running the Rockies: Iron Legs 60km Recap
By Coach Sam Burridge
Earlier this year when my wife and I booked our holiday over to the US and Canada I looked into what races were on while we were there. I stumbled across Iron Legs Ultra on the Canadian Skyrunning website. Iron Legs Ultra is a race held in Kananaskis Country near Calgary in Canada. The event holds two separate races, 60km and 50 miles. I entered the 60km race which for me is the longest distance I have run to date. The 60km was a fairly new event compared to the 50 miler with this year being the third year for the event.
The course profile showed that the course was extremely hilly which you would expect in the Canadian Rockies and had around 2900m elevation gain throughout. Never having visited this area of Canada before I didn’t know what to expect and had a goal for myself of finishing around the 7 hour mark by basing that on the previous years results.
Being in Canada this race was held right in the middle of bear country, and as my luck would have it there just happened to be an unusually abundant berry season this year which meant that there was a lot of bear activity in the area. Because of this the Race Director made the call for bear spray to be a mandatory item for all runners, and this of course filled me full of confidence for the race.
The race was held on the 13th August and kicked off at 6am from a little place called Station Flats. Once we were off I settled in with a group of four other runners at the front of the pack and we ran together for the first 20 kilometres or so. The pace to me originally seemed a little slow but the guys were all experienced runners from the area so I guessed they knew what the course had in store for us and I kept with them. The race itself was made up of lot of single track with steep, grinding climbs and technical quad smashing descents. I can’t actually recall any of the race being flat at any point.
At about the 20km mark we summited Powderface Ridge which was the highest point of the course, around the same elevation as Kosciusko, and the views of the Canadian Rockies were just stunning. The group that I was running with started to spread out at this point. From here there was a steep, rocky decent of about 4km down to the second checkpoint. The next 15km until the next checkpoint were probably the toughest of the race and contained some of the steepest climbs throughout the race and also the weather was starting to warm up at this point so the sun was starting to take its toll in the more exposed sections of the race – especially as I had just come from cold Canberra winter.
Despite all that I was still feeling great when I hit the 38km checkpoint. By this stage I had been running on my own for a while so it gave me a boost to hit the next checkpoint and see everyone. The next 10km were filled with more grinding climbs and steep rocky downhill sections and it all started to take its toll, my legs were getting tired and my nutrition wasn’t quite sitting right in my stomach. I think it was a combination of not being used to the heat and starting to hit the unknown kms for my legs.
The last 10kms were tough, again more steep climbs but the last 5kms or so were made of a gradual decent to the finish line which I was stoked about as I was fairly shot by that stage but made for a nice cruisy run through to the finish.
I crossed the line in 7 hours 12 minutes and was third overall in the 60km race, which I was super happy about. It was a really tough course but was an amazing experience. The race director Jamie and all the volunteers did an amazing job and a massive thank you goes out of all of them as the races couldn’t go ahead without them.
If you are interested you can find my strava activity below