Check out Charlotte's latest adventures in Edmonton's River Valley!
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A Fun Competition

Growing up in China, I was constantly exposed to academic competitions in all my school years. My parents, as well as other parents, wanted their children to be the best.  In the beginning, I was happy to win. As I grew older, winning became a painful experience because I had to win but at the same time I could not bear to see my friends lose.

As an adult, I have been blessed to get into a profession where I only deal with Mr. Market. Mr. Market has no face and no emotion, all I need to do is to try my best to beat him. This essentially is a competition against myself. I love my profession. I love the outdoors too, but I do it only for fun, to relax and recharge so that I can do better when I face Mr. Market.

So when I received an email from Sandy, a good friend from my outdoor community, telling me about the Alpina 4 Summits World Challenge, I ignored it at first. She discovered the challenge when she was looking for some trail information on line.  “You immediately came to my mind”, she wrote. “Maybe you will think its silly, but I’ll send the links along anyway”.

International Elevation Challenge

For more on the International Elevation Challenge, click here.

Prior to this suggestion, I booked a trip to trek Kilimanjaro in early 2015 (after having thought about it since 2008!) and have been seriously thinking about trekking to the Base Camp of Mt. Everest.  This Alpina 4 Summits World Challenge started to look very tempting, because I could win a trip to visit one of these summits.

What caught my curiosity however was the mobile App they suggested using which claimed to work even without phone or internet services because it uses the GPS inside a smart phone. I had tried another trail tracking App before and did not really like it. So I downloaded All Trails free mobile App, thinking I would try it the next day when I was leading a 30km discovery hike in the river valley. This was the first of three long distance discovery hikes I planned for my endurance training.

The City of Edmonton has very good maps for the Edmonton river valley trail system. Click on the pictures below for links. 
River Valley Trail Maps
Every Trail App
So on Saturday May 10, 2014, I turned on the All Trails App and we started from downtown and moved west and then south into the Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve. It was a day of variation. We had sunny blue skies to light snow, but we had tons of fun tackling ups and downs on the hills, some were still covered by snow. We even named one trail “Mini Kili” and made plans to go back to explore the ravine further down south.

Afterwards, looking at the stats from the All Trails App, the distance looked about right compared to the printed map, but I was surprised to see the accumulated vertical gain was 1,250 meters! Really, 1250 meters in the River Valley?! We did a lot of ups and downs, but it never entered into my mind that those ups and downs in the river valley would accumulate to so many vertical meters!

Still feeling surprised, I went out on the following Monday after work to test the All Trails App again by running some hills and stairs that I knew well.  I was then convinced that the All Trails App worked well without a reasonable doubt! The two tracks were automatically synchronised to the web, I was shocked to see my real time ranking at # 31. My interest was piqued.

Since my employer sent me to Calgary to take a course on “work-life balance” in the autumn of 2012, I have been trying to cut my office time. 2013 was the best year where I really saw the benefit of “work-life balance”. Still, I’ve kept missing my training schedule in my gym. So why not use this opportunity to push myself towards a better “work-life balance” ?! 

Voila, I have a plan. A plan to compete against myself! I’ll do cardio/strength training after work using the hills and stairs in the River Valley, followed by yoga stretch and steam bath in gym. If I can keep up this plan for 6 months, then I will have won the competition. If I also happen to win the Alpina 4 Summits Challenge, that will just be the icing on the cake.

Two weeks since starting, I have followed my plan and my ranking has moved quickly up to top 3. The real time ranking changes frequently. The competition is red hot! It’s amazing to see that all top 3 have acquired more than double the required vertical gain. The race is still a long way. In my heart, however, I feel that I’m on the winning track because of the positive impact it has on my daily life. I have become more disciplined, more energetic and more productive. Besides, I get to discover more of my magical backyard, the River Valley.

On May 24, a group of 7 hikers completed a 37 km journey of discovery in the River Valley, the second of the River Valley Triple Challenges.  The accumulated vertical gain was 1530 meters! This time, we followed some goat trails Northeast from down town to Rundle Park. It was the best discovery hike ever, thanks to my friend Lynda, who knows the area inside out.

Our feet hurt at the end of the hike, but we were all so proud of what we had accomplished.  We even named the route “Mini West Coast Trail” because we literally walked along the water. It was a gorgeous day with sunny blue sky decorated with floating white clouds. Gentle breezes prevented us from being over baked. It was hard to believe that we were right in our own back yard!
Below are some highlights from our two recent long distance discovery hikes in the River Valley.
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