Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ramping Up in February

Lee Anne and I run year round, but that is about as far as any similarities go.  I ramp up in the winter, to get ready for a Spring ultra, although I have been known to delay the year's first ultra into June.  Lee Anne on the other hand, runs 50K on Friday and 40K on Saturday, practically without fail.  If you run 90K in 2 days every week, there is little point in ramping up.  So, she has an easy time running in the winter, while I have a truly momentous task.  I know, some of it is perspective, but what freak of nature would consider increasing his or her mileage on days when the temperature slowly warms up to -15C?

We are not hardcore runners, who must run outside.  We have been know to sneak over to the Base Borden indoor track (220 meters at the Buell gym) and we have a dreadmill in our house.  Trails are a different matter.  Lee Anne does not run trails.  I think her running style (eyes closed, running towards traffic) is not overly effective on the trails.  She tends to get injured.  Her last 50K trail race (and I do mean her LAST trail race) was at Pick Your Poison in 2016.  She smashed up her knee, face and arm.  It wasn't pretty.  However, as I willingly volunteer, she only trains on roads, so you have to realize something is going to give, during a trail race!  On the other hand, I strive to run trails throughout the year.  February has not been a good month for running trails in the Creemore area.  In January we had a warm period, which packed down the snow on the trails.  We have since received a few inches of snow, which is covering rock hard ice.  Each foot placement moves to the nearest and deepest depression, which is typically an imprint left over from postholing early in the year.

I wrenched my left arm and tore a muscle in my back from a couple of spectacular falls, and have a few black toenails from the pounding.  Some of the trail sections are drifted over, which becomes problematic because of the pain of breathing with a torn back muscle while postholing.  Due to several reasons (see above), my pace has slowed.  However, I'm stoked that all this time on the trails will pay dividends once the race season begins.  I might not move faster than a tortoise, but my lateral muscles are developing nicely!

Looking out my window just now, it is hard to believe that the Spring Warm-up is a mere 2 months away.  It will take place at Dunedin again this year, on Saturday April 8, 2017.  For $35, you can get in a nice run in the country, on dirt roads and the Bruce trail.  Lunch and an aid station are also provided.  There are spot prizes and of course, the grand prize, which is free entry for the winner, into most of the OUTRace events.  Check out the OUTRace website for further details.  I'm hoping to get in 3 loops (13K per loop), although I will likely have to pull the plug to get back in time to organize lunch and the prizes.  The 13K course is typically quite tricky, with snow patches and a few hills...

Lee Anne and I are off to Costa Rica for a week in about 10 days.  We are travelling with our 2 grand children Hannah and Griffin, Lee Anne's daughter Lily and Lily's husband Daryl.  We hope to get in some hiking and a few runs in the warm temperatures.  It is 36C and humid in Jaco, Costa Rica today, so perhaps the runs will be shorter than anticipated.  I'm sure Costa Rica is flat, so at least we won't have to contend with hills...


Cheers!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Creemore Snow Run

I'm still having trouble grasping the fact that I will attempt to garner the OUTRace Norm Patenaude award this year.  I must be out of my mind.  Yes, I am agreeing with you...  After making such a hubris declaration, I sat down with the OUTRace schedule and did some number crunching.  There are 11 ultra events on the schedule.  I need to complete 8 of them.  We are not able to make 2 of the events; Niagara and Haliburton.  My nephew had the temerity to plan his wedding on June 17, which is the Niagara Ultra and also my birthday.  We are most likely in Great Britain in September.  I know, I could sign up for Hali and see what happens, but I need to present a semblance of logic.  Speaking of realism, in case of a DNF, I need to sign up for the remaining 9 ultras, 3 of which occur on 3 consecutive weekend.  Want to guess how many times I have run back-to-back ultras?  Yes indeed, zero times!  Oh well, pragmatism is a lost art in the ultra community...

Creemore Snow Run

About 15 hardy souls braved the elements and drove up (okay Stephen, down) to Creemore.  The course was surprisingly easy to run.  I think the key factor was that Creemore received a light dusting of snow, instead of the projected freezing rain.  Temperatures were mild and the sun had some difficulty breaking through the cloud layer.  The result was mainly firm footing, with a few icy spots to keep you on your toes.

A few were satisfied with a single 7.5K loop although most stretched the run to 3 loops.  Stephen Bridson held on for 5 loops, considered a seriously tough 37.5K.  Everhard Olivieri-Munroe bagged 6 loops for an official ultra.  One runner (yes, I have forgotten her name) ran one loop.  What makes this of note is that this was her first outdoor run.  Talk about picking a tough first run!

After the run, we retired to the house and chatted about recent runs and race plans for 2017.  This mild January weather is helping us to run outdoors instead of being chained to the treadmill.  I do hope that the weather turns cold as I need some snow before the maple syrup season.  I think people were delighted to receive a finishing medal, embossed with a runner and CSR.  Not quite a race, but the course was tough enough to acknowledge with a finishing medal!

And so, I am a bit in limbo lately.  We leave in about a month for Costa Rica, to spend a week on the beach with Lee Anne's daughter Lily, son-in-law Daryl and the grandchildren.  Not enough time to start a project...  We get back on March 1, just in time to crank up the maple syrup machine.  If anyone is interested in seeing the operation, please email me and we can make plans.  I have 340 taps, so the help is much appreciated!

Some of you should receive an email from OUTRace, as plans are to send out the 2017 start-up email this weekend.  It talks about the 2016 series winners, what's new in 2017 and a suggestion on how to attempt your first ultra, or (if you are already an ultra runner) trying a 6 hour race.  I'm looking forward to a challenging year.


Cheers!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year's Running Resolution - And St. Thomas

Once again it is time to set down plans and aspirations for the running year.  I have had some challenges recently, running with bronchitis and in the heat, in St. Thomas.  These will have an impact on my running, but I might as well plan optimistically and attempt to train up to the plan.

Lee Anne and I enjoyed 11 days in St. Thomas USVI, a small island in the Caribbean.  It was almost a last minute deal, when Lawrence and Lisa offered their house to our friends Manny and Barb.  For the price of flights and a bit of food, we had fun and warm weather over the holidays.  Running on St. Thomas is a challenge, due to the 30 degree weather and a lack of sidewalks or shoulders on the roads.  They drive on the wrong side of the road (hey!  You either drive on the right side or the wrong side) and due to the steep hills and narrow streets, running is very exciting.  I hope that one day St. T will upgrade their roads to at least third world standards...

St. T is also a popular cruise ship stop, having up to 6 of the big boats in port on a given day.  Lee Anne and I have never been on a cruise, so perhaps it is my ignorance talking, but it seems quite depressing to take a cruise.  I realize the boats are absolutely massive, but it appeared to us that the cruisers that did disembark, took a taxi downtown, bought a few trinkets and sat at a bar until it was time to board.  I'm sure some toured the island, but with a lack of trails and sidewalks, it would be a struggle.



The nearby island of St. John's is a different story, with a large national park.  Both islands are part of the USA, so the national park had some intriguing trails and lovely beaches.  We spent 3 days on St. John, mainly on the trails.

Just before flying to St. T, Lee Anne and I sampled the flu that was making its way around Creemore.  When sick, I attempt to avoid coughing.  Once I start coughing, I develop bronchitis, which means a trip to the doctor for antibiotics.  My attempt to run in Creemore shortly before going to St. T was laughable, coughing up lung bits every 30 seconds until I made the wise decision to end the run.  Running in St. T was not much better, coughing, battling the heat and fatigue.  My "long" runs were circa 10K and involved copious walking breaks.  Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable change to be running in shorts and a T.  I tried very hard to avoid complaining about the heat...

And so, we have made it to 2017!  The OUTRace schedule is missing a few of the old races, including the Creemore Vertical Challenge, but the addition of 3 new races will more than compensate.  June is looking a bit crowded, but since very few "humans" attempt to run all the races in the series, it should provide more selection for both road and trail people.  Also, the schedule has been extended, with a new race (Fat Ass Trail Run) in November.

In 2015 I started 7 ultra races and completed 6.  In 2016 I started 2 ultra races and only completed one.  My theory is that if your run enough ultras in a given year, there is less need to train properly.  Yes, there is little logic or rational in my theory, but I'm not listening to you, so back off.  For 2017, I hope to join the fanatical fringe and complete the Norm Patenaude award.  This award is given to runners who complete 8 or more OUTRace ultra events in one year.  This is not going to be easy.  In fact, I was hesitant to mention my "A" goal, as it will be difficult on so many fronts.  By my calculation, there are only 11 ultra races in the calendar and I am at a wedding for one of them...  It also means being healthy for 7 contiguous months, which conflicts vastly with my track record.  I usually track the number of minutes between injuries!  There is also talk of being out of the country for part of the summer.  Due to the CVC, I have not taken a trip in July or August since circa 2006.

Don't forget about the Creemore Snow Run starting at 9:00 AM on Sunday January 15, 2017.  I have formed the clay medals and will fire them once dry.  Not sure what conditions to expect, but it is usually massive effort or dangerous - a win/win situation...  reply to this post for directions (same start as the CVC).

That's it for now.  I will have to post which races I am eyeing in the near future.  With Lee Anne hesitant to sign up for the trail races, I could be on my own for a few events.

Cheers!












Friday, December 2, 2016

Creemore Snow Run

I apologies to those who have attended the CSR and saw the title of this post...  Sorry for the dark memories of slogging through knee deep snow, lungs hyperventilating, legs burning up (the Dilithium crystals canna stand much moore, Captain!) and this little voice in the back of your head asking you if you really think this is such a great idea...

And picking the date is always a study in trepidation.  Will there be an optimal foot of firm snow on which to lay a track, or will the weather gods make this venture manifestly unhealthy, with 3 feet of snow and no chance in hell of completing one loop?

Tactics are a big part of the equation.  Veteran CSR'rs study weather maps diligently, to determine when they should show up for the run.  Too early on a deep snow day and you are exhausted before seeing the second loop.  The optimal plan is to sleep in and arrive late... "I am so sorry I'm late!  Gee, did Pierre already complete 2 loops?  Well, the course must be packed down perfectly, so time for me to start!".  Arriving late when the weather is north of zero results in DNF - Diabolically Nasty Footing.  While the early birds are sipping their first wine or cider, you are out there slipping, falling, staggering for a 90 minute 7.5K loop, with little chance of getting in a second loop.

I think the above is sufficient to entice runners to venture up to Creemore.   If not, I plan to make finishing medals.  What runner can resist a hand crafted ceramic medal?

So, you are cordially invited to the 8th annual Creemore Snow Run!  Details:

Date:  Sunday, January 15, 2017
Time:  9:00 AM until 3:00 PM
Where:  Lee Anne and my house (same place as the Creemore Vertical Challenge)
Bring:  Change of clothes, stories
Map:  On request (email me at vertical.pierre@gmail.com)

Itinerary:

9:00  Arrive and prepare for the run
9:30  Official start (see tactics above)
1:00  Soup, cheese, crackers, wine, cider and beer
3:00  Official end of the run.  Medals awarded to anyone who finished at least 7.5K (1 loop)
5:ish  Wrap up

Notes:

- Bring your own aid station supplies.  We will have water and some candies
- There will be a warming hut (the garage) for storing drop bags/clothes, changing, etc.
- You and friends are welcome.  Usually only about 30 people show up.  After all, it is in Creemore in the middle of winter!
- Running in deep snow is called post-holing.  The first 30 seconds are incredible fun!
- Marika is not allowed to hit me, even if I declare that running up a hill on a gravel road is recovery.
- In some (most) conditions, you will need 2 pairs of running shoes.  Expect to get wet!
- There will be a bonfire if we can find the fire pit...

Cheers!









Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tunnel Hill and OUTRace

Lee Anne and I drove down to Illinois for the Tunnel Hill 50M/100M race.  Let's be perfectly clear that I was crew and Lee Anne would run.  Lee Anne was originally going to run the 100 miles, but decided on the 50M instead.  It was more her head space than training.  You have to really really want to run 100 miles in order to achieve success.  Even if you have an overwhelming desire to run 100 miles, sometime it is not enough.  Friends Dawn Hamel, Chris and Christa Baker, and Karen would all be attempting the longer race.

Dawn is freakishly fast for a 60 year old.  How fast?  She had a very good chance of breaking the 100 mile world record for her age category.  She was on pace at 50 miles, although a possible IT issue was causing her grief.  Even with the injury, she had a chance until the unusually cold weather (-4C in Illinois?  Come on!) forced her to slow down.  A combination of hypothermia and dizziness made running at speed difficult, if not dangerous.  Nevertheless, Dawn took 4 hours off the Canadian record.  Yes, she has run 100 miles at least 4 hours faster than any other Canadian women 60 and above.  Her time of 22:27:39 was good enough for 9th woman, in a fast field.  Well done Dawn!

Lee Anne had a successful 50 mile race and ran well for most of it.  With a time of 10:38:22, she was 38th out of 137 women finishers.  Her biggest concern was that she would miss her Sunday morning run, as we had to travel north.  That's the good news...

Speaking of travelling, who sets the estimates on Google map, to calculate travelling time?  The estimate from my house to Marion, Illinois is 12 hours and 39 minutes.  Those who have driven with me know that I don't exceed the speed limit by much, but I am hesitant to slow down.  If I'm on an 80 KPH road, then I usually travel at 95 KPH.  I don't slow down for corners, intersections, construction or slower drivers.  There are typically 2 lanes and 2 shoulders and I use all 4, sometimes during one passing attempt, if a transport truck and 2 tractors are involved...

I also don't like to stop unless absolutely necessary.  It is possible to get to Illinois with only 2 stops for fuel.  Think of stopping at an aid station.  The timer starts when I pull off the highway and I like to be back on the highway before 3 minutes are up.  I would prefer Formula 1 pit stop timing (a new record was set this year at 1.96 seconds) but I realize the fueling stations are antiquated and this would cause Lee Anne some anxiety.

So, I travel about 10-20 percent faster than the speed limit for about 99.67% of the time and I make no unnecessary stops.  It took me almost 14 hours to get to Marion, Illinois.  I was not very happy.

I think that next time we have a destination race, we will include some sightseeing.  We drove far too much in such a short time.  On the road at 6:00 Friday morning, arrive in Illinois at about 8:00 PM.  Up early Saturday morning for the race and got to bed around 9:00 PM.  Back on the road at 5:00 Sunday morning and arrived at Niagara-on-the-lake at 6:30 PM.

My new rule of thumb is that I won't travel more than 8 hours for a 1 day visit...

OUTRace Coordinator

Because I help with the OUTRace email campaigns and Lee Anne helps with Facebook, I was aware that Kim Van Delst was planning to step down as OUTRace coordinator at the end of this year's racing season.  I also announced that I would not continue with the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  Bad timing!  I joke about how I was given the job of OUTRace coordinator as punishment for cancelling Creemore, but the truth is that I hope to be able to make the series stronger.  Kim set a very high standard, as she was adept at communicating and engaging the OUTRace exec and the race directors.  I plan to follow her in this regard.

As OUTRace coordinator, I don't see any big changes over the next few years.  Yes, I would love to attract more big sponsors and add another race or two, but I believe the primary focus should be to make more of Ontario's trail and ultra runners aware of the series.  It is a fun, diverse series and I have enjoyed running in most of the series races.  The small races are personable and the larger races provide some incredible challenges.  They also have the advantage of being close to home.  None of this driving for 14 hours...


Cheers!

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Race Season is Over!

Obviously, by "race season", I am referring to the Ontario Ultra and Trail race series.  There are still many fine races to come in 2016, but a big part for many ultra and trail runners in Ontario is the OUTRace series.  And I don't think a lot of the participants care about their standings in the series.  It is mainly the luxury of having such a choice and mix of races.  Not all are trail races.  Some are run almost exclusively on pavement.  Niagara Ultra is almost an oxymoron, as it is run primarily on a paved trail.  Those two words are not usually paired!

Still, aside from one destination race for Lee Anne, we are not planning on running any more races this year.  I could summarize the 2016 racing year, although to conform with the unwritten year-in-review rule, I will wait until closer to the new year.  Also, there is one more item on the OUTRace schedule, the Film Festival.  I feel that I have flogged this one to death, but in case there is someone out there who has not been apprised of the event, on Saturday November 5, 2016 in Toronto, OUTRace will be presenting the Trails In Motion 4 films.  Last year was a fun time.  Many arrived early (there will be free coffee and cookies) to chat with fellow runners before the show.  There will also be some spot prizes again this year.  No, maple syrup will not make it to the prize table, I am completely out.  There will be some of Lee Anne's pottery and a few running related products.  There are only 34 spots left, but sign up here if you want to join the fun.

So, the race schedule will look a little different in 2017.  Hopefully, Run Off the Grid near Ottawa will return to the series.  Dirty Girls and Creemore will be missed, but there is a chance that other races will help flesh out the schedule.  Even without DG and Creemore, there are still 12 running events from which to choose, if you include the Spring Warm-up.  I have met a few runners from other provinces and nearby states, who are quite envious of Ontario's trail and ultra race schedule.

I did not attend nearly as many races in 2016 as I did in 2015, so that is something I hope to rectify in 2017.  Yes, it is tough to run more than one or two, but the races are such fun.  Think of it this way, if you run more races, you don't need as many long training runs!  It sounds strange, but not having to organize a race will leave me with more time to train and attend other races.

What will I do with all my spare time?  I will continue to be involved with OUTRace, by staging the Spring Warm-up, helping with the Film Festival and the OUTRace email campaigns.  Yes, I'm partially responsible for those email blasts you receive from OUTRace, about 4 times per year!  That reminds me, with the race season over, it is time for the final e-blast.  I might also join the OUTRace exec, if the opportunity presents itself.  The OUTRace exec are the people in the background, that spend a lot of their free time making the Ontario Ultra and Trail race series a reality.  These people deserve all of our thanks for all of their efforts.  I am astounded at how much time Stephan Miklos spends creating and updating the outrace.ca website.  Jim Orr somehow figures out the statistics for almost 3,000 runners, to determine the series standings.  Sharon Zelinski takes care of the financials.  Lee Anne Cohen and Melanie Boultbee post series related information to Facebook and Twitter.  And who is holding everything together?  The OUTRace coordinator, Kim Van Delst.  I'm not sure how Kim finds time to coordinate the series, given her family life and extensive racing schedule!  Many thanks to everyone on the OUTRace exec.

Congratulations to all the runners who toed the line at any of the OUTRace events.  Running any of these races takes training and courage.  To see how you fared against the field, the final standings (pending review) are up on the OUTRace website.  Take a look at the runners who received the Norm Patenaude award.  These are a rare breed of runner, having completed 8 or more ultras in 2016, just within the Ontario series!  The award is on my bucket list, if only training and injuries cooperate.

So, it is now time to start dreaming about what races to run in 2017.  Should I make a stab at the Norm Patenaude Award?  Or should I be realistic?  Ah!  I love humour!

Happy Halloween to all and I hope to see you on the trails!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Winter Prep

I know, the eleventh commandment states though shalt not speaketh of winter, moron...

But winter in Creemore is not exactly on parallel with winter in the GTA (Toronto).  And perhaps I should point out, that a lot of the disparity is self-imposed.  Lee Anne uses the term "Pierre-imposed", but I see that wholly as semantics.  We heat with wood.  Yes, we have electric baseboard heaters, but they are reserved for when we are traveling.  The household first commandment is "Though shalt not adjustous the thermostat"...

Even "heating with wood" is a bit misleading.  Many people do so.  They make a phone call to Acme Firewood Company and ask them to deliver 4 bush cord of wood.  They then spend an incredible amount of time and effort moving the pile of firewood from the driveway to the wood pile and stacking it.  Phew!

In order to save the cost of buying 4 bush cord of wood, which can run as high as $1200, I bought a 92 acre property, which includes about 60 acres of hardwood forest.  Yes, I make maple syrup on the same property, but that is simply a massive time consuming perquisite.  The property is primarily to supply firewood.   However, as I factor in the cost of chainsaws, tractors, wagons, fuel and the property, I'm beginning to realize that the savings are not massive.  Even spreading out the cost over the next 412 years, I'm not that far ahead...

If you decide not to phone Acme Firewood Company, you are going to need equipment and  some unique skills.   A tractor with a front end loader is very handy for gathering logs in the bush, as there is less walking with your arms full of wood.  I advise against learning how to drop mature hardwood trees by viewing a few You Tubes...  It is similar to learning how to play the violin by watching an orchestra on You Tube.  You are going to miss out on some salient bits.  Unlike learning to play the violin, cutting down an 80 foot maple tree can be (and usually is) a near-death experience.  I worked as a cutter (lumberjack) for a sawmill back in the 1980's.  The job was thoroughly enjoyable, but had one minor drawback.  I could see that at some point in the near future, I was going to get seriously injured.

So, let's review the steps that are normally replaced by the phone call to Acme:

1.  Cut tractor paths to the wood.
2.  Drop some trees.  The number depends on how much wood you need.  I supply my sister and neighbour with wood, my house and pottery studio, and the evaporator.  A total of about 15 bush cords.
3.  Buck the trees (cut to 16" length for wood stoves, 20" for the evaporator)
4.  Wait 8 months
5.  Gather the wood with the tractor, load it unto the wagon.
6.  Drive the wagon to the wood staging area and unload.  You need to build up a big pile since the wagon cannot be fully loaded in the bush.  The pile is used to fill out the wagon loads when delivering the wood.
7.  Load the wagon in the bush, then load from the pile until the wagon is fully loaded, then drive it somewhere.
8.  Unload the wood
9.  Chop and pile the wood

There!  In less than 10 steps, you too can save $1200, as long as the wood is free and you don't pay for equipment, fuel, maintenance and repairs.  I'll leave the steps needed to actually heat the house for a future blog entry.  The expression "Wood heats you twice" is totally misleading.  I calculate it heats you 12 times...

Creemore Vertical Challenge

I was quite surprised at how many people viewed my blog entry on the demise of the CVC.  I had 1400 views in the first 2 days.  Most understood the reasons for its discontinuation, but the race will still be missed.

Cheers!