Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Making Maple Syrup

I'm only going to write briefly about running since I have had some form of the stomach flu for the last month and I'm not overly happy with my training.  Visions of posting a few 30+K training runs before the OUTRace season opens is falling by the wayside.  I'm not even sure where a wayside is, but you are likely to find my long training runs over there.

Making maple syrup is very simple.  Find a maple tree, take some of the sap during the Spring, boil it down and voila!  Maple syrup.  Now that you are an expert on maple syrup production, there are a few things you should know, in order to make the experience somewhat more pleasant.  In fact, why don't I touch on a few topics that will round out your expertise.  This will come in handy if you are obtuse enough to actually believe what I have written above...

Weather and mathematics both play a prominent role in maple syrup production.  As an example I recently struggled with, if you have a 1,000 litre plastic tote with 600 litres of sap and the temperature will drop from +7  at 16:00 to -15 at 06:00 the next morning, how thick will the ice be on top of the sap?  I'll give you a hint:  There was a strong wind all night...  The obvious answer is that you have to check it at 08:00.  Doing so would have shown the ice could be broken with a stick, but the pumping line was solidly frozen, so the status of the sap in the tote was irrelevant!

Sap Collection

Glossary:

Spile:  A spout that fits into a hole drilled into a (hopefully) maple tree
Tap:  The process of "tapping" a spile with a hammer, into a hole in the maple tree
%#*$@:  An expression used when hitting your thumb instead of the spile
Drop Line:  When using tubing (as opposed to pails), about 2 feet of tubing is formed into an arc that will fill with sap, preventing bacteria from travelling from the mainline to the hole in the tree.
Vacuum:  Using pumps to create negative pressure inside the lines and tubing.  This helps to draw sap over flat terrain and increases the sap flow rate.
Bleed line:  An open main line or tubing at the upper end of lines, to allow air to "bleed" into the line and avoid air locks.  Don't use bleed lines with a vacuum system (duh!).

If your Grand Design is to set up a few taps, then pails or tubing will suffice.  If you hope to tap 100 acres (about 10,000 taps), you're gonna need a bigger boat.  It takes about 2 hours to collect 100 pails, so the math indicates you will need 5 weeks to collect from 10,000 pails.  You will need to collect every day, during a good sap run!  So, tubing is best for more than 50-60 taps.

Collecting from pails is easy and frustrating.  Dump the sap from the pail into a gathering bucket (I used 20 litre pails) then from the bucket into a drum.  If you are in a maple bush, you will need a snowmobile, tractor or horses to haul the drum.  Sinking into 3 feet of snow and dumping 40 litres of sap on your crotch is both refreshing and frustrating at the same time.

Tubing is great in bushes that have a downward slope to the sugar shack.  Note to self:  Don't build the sugar shack at the top of a hill.  You can string about 20 taps on a single tubing line, but then the tubing line should be connected to a mainline.  A mainline is typically a larger diameter black plastic pipe.  You should support mainlines with high tension wire, to avoid undue sagging.  Sagging (aside from the drop lines) is not good for collecting sap, as it causes back pressure and reduces sap volume.  Try to avoid putting mainlines across roads and trails.  This can be done, typically with quick release couplers, but it is still a pain to disconnect a line, drive through and reconnect the line.

It is quite an art in establishing where to place mainlines and how to route tubing amongst the trees.  I obviously suck at it, since I tend to redirect lines almost every year.  I don't use vacuum as I don't have electricity in the bush, so I am forced to use slope for sap delivery.  Unfortunately, I don't have very much slope in some areas of the bush, so I tap "downhill" trees low to the ground and "uphill trees" sometimes as high as I can reach.  If I am standing on 4 feet of snow when tapping high, pulling the spiles at the end of the season can pose a problem!  The ideal mainline slope is 3% or more.  The tricky part of establishing lines is when a section has no slope for 100 feet.  The mainline has to start about 6 feet off the ground and "descend" to 3 feet above ground.

You will need to place a big container (I use 1,000 litre totes) at the business end of each mainline.  Try to have 2 or more mainlines end at the same point.  Hopefully these totes are somewhere near the sugar shack, as you will need to pump from the totes to the sugar shack reservoir.  Ideally, the pumping lines have no sags where sap can pool and freeze.  I have had pumping lines remain frozen, even when mainlines are merrily running.  I think the weather gods are involved in this somehow...

Sap Concentration

Glossary:

Reservoir:  A storage tank, typically raised above the evaporator, so that sap can be gravity fed into the sugar shack and then the evaporator.
RO:  Reverse Osmosis.  They used to use pig bladders for this!  Think of a closed box full of sap with a membrane that is pushed halfway across the box.  Only water makes it through the membrane.  The remaining water and the sugar remains in the unfiltered part of the box.  Bigger outfits can increase the sugar content in the sap from (about) 2% to 18% using RO.  This reduces the boiling time by over 80%.
Flowbox:  Similar to your toilet, a float in the flowbox controls the amount of sap coming from the reservoir.  Since the flowbox is coupled to the evaporator pans, the float drops down when the evaporator level drops and opens a valve that allows sap from the reservoir to flow into the evaporator.
Flues:  Trenches at the bottom of the sap pan.  The flames and hot gases from the firebox travelling between the flues to the chimney.  In essence, flues increase the surface area of the bottom of the sap pan, creating a much faster boil.  Some sap pans have a drop flue (the trenches are "below" the bottom of the pan) and some have a raised flue (the trenches are above the pan bottom).

If you plan to boil down the sap on your BBQ, most of this section is not overly relevant.  You will need about 5 tanks of propane for every litre of syrup that you produce.  I wish I was kidding!  Simply start boiling and add sap as the level in your pot gets low.  Try to boil down under a shelter, or you might be adding a lot of rain to your pot.  NEVER boil down sap inside your house!  Horror stories range from wallpaper falling off the walls to everything (floor, furniture, walls and ceilings) being coated in syrup.  However, you can finish boiling in your house.  This provides a bit more control over the flame and since you will need to boil for weeks at a time, a bit more comfort.

You have maple syrup when it reaches a temperature 4C above the current boiling point of water.  Water boils at 100C at sea level, during calm weather.  Altitude and air pressure greatly affect the boiling point of water, so when your sap is nearing syrup, boil some water and figure out the current boiling point of water, then add 4 degrees.

There are numerous methods of boiling down sap.  You can use a BBQ, soap kettle, cinderblock arch, or an evaporator.  Fuel can be oil, propane, natural gas, steam or wood.  Described below is the process I use, which happens to be a 2' X 6' wood fired drop flue evaporator.  The finishing pan is 2' X 2' and the sap pan is 2' X 4' with eight 5" drop flues.

So, if you have been paying attention, you now have sap in a reservoir situated near the sugar shack, above the level of the evaporator.  There is a 3/4" line with a shut-off, from the reservoir to the flowbox.  There are several different methods of boiling down sap until a batch of syrup is ready.  Some larger producers have automatic draw-off, in which the draw-off spout is automatically controlled to allow a flow of maple syrup.  Recall that I have no electricity, so some of the more esoteric gadgets never made it to my shack.  I rely heavily on a refractometer.

A refractometer is a device that measures the angle (refraction) of light bending through the sap or syrup.  As the sugar content of the concentrate (thicker than sap, not yet syrup) increases, the angle of refraction changes.  Once it reaches 66 Brix (66% sugar), I have maple syrup.  So, after years of experimentation, I have adopted the following process:

Boil down sap in the evaporator until the finishing pan is about 48 Brix.  Manually increase the sap inflow by pressing down on the float in the flowbox.  Once the level in the sap pan reaches the second weld point on the north wall, open the finishing pan valve and fill a 12L bucket with the 48 Brix concentrate.  Cease the manual flow of sap, then stopper the backwash coupler between the sap pan and the finishing pan.  The backwash coupler is a pipe that joins the sap pan to the finishing pan.  It travels outside both pans and reduces backwash (mixing of concentrate from the sap and finishing pans).  Pour the bucket of 48 Brix concentrate back into the finishing pan.  After about 1 hour, the finishing pan will have about 10 litres of syrup.  I pour off about 10L into a metal bucket at 65 Brix.  It is then poured into a maple syrup filter pail.  The filtering and loss of steam during bottling results in 66 Brix maple syrup.

Bottling

Once syrup is drawn off the evaporator, pour it into a filter pail.  Inside the filter pail is a heavy cloth filter and a paper filter.  The pail also has a draw-off valve used to fill maple syrup containers.  This year I am using 500ml and 1 litre glass mason jars and 1 and 2 litre plastic maple syrup jugs.  I then add the batch number and date.  Once at home, I add our label and the grade.  Our label is "Mad About Maple" as the sugar shack is near a tributary of the Mad river.  We live about 25K from the maple bush and our house is also on the Mad river.

Needless to say, all the equipment must be washed thoroughly.  Sweeping the floor is tricky as air-borne dust heads straight for the evaporator.  I bring the filters home to be hand washed before washing them in the washing machine without detergent.

Making maple syrup is tricky when the weather is factored in.  An ideal sugaring day is when the daytime temperature is about 5C and about -5C at night.  Why?  Sap stays in the roots when it is below freezing.  It takes a sharp frost for the sap to descend from the branches back into the roots, or about -5 degrees.  When the temperature rises from below freezing to about 5 degrees, the sap moves up through the trunk (some leaks out of the tap hole) and into the branches.  If it stays below freezing for 2 - 3 days, there is no sap run.  Also, all the sap in the totes, reservoir and evaporator will freeze.  A frozen reservoir can take a long time to thaw (with no electric heating cables) and a hard frost can break the evaporator, so you need to empty it before a long freeze.  Might as well clean it at the same time.  Cleaning an evaporator in -10 degree weather (as I did this morning) is tricky, as everything (include fingers here) is frozen.  You can heat the evaporator to clean it, but you need to completely extinguish the fire before emptying the pans, or the pans will burn.  I find removing the embers with freezing hands is a win-win situation.  If the temperature stays above freezing for 2 - 3 days, there will be no sap run (aside from the first day).  The sap will stay in the branches, so there is no way for the tree to transfer more sap from the roots.  If the weather stays warm enough for long enough, the trees will start to bud.  The chemical composition of the sap changes during budding, the sap turns sour and it is no longer possible to make syrup from the sap.  As a note, if your sap starts foaming uncontrollably late in the year, the trees are probably budding.

I've mentioned before that I am tired after working the evaporator.  Here is a very rough schedule of what happens during a sugaring day:

Pump sap from a tote to another tote or the reservoir:  About 5 times per day
Adjust sap level in evaporator:  2-3 times per day
Add vegetable oil to the evap:  Once per hour (to control foaming)
Add wood to the firebox:  4 times per hour (an arm load)
Refractometer reading:  2 - 3 times per hour
Carry 40L of water:  Once per day (for cleaning) about 150 meters from the Mad river
Check lines:  About an hour total per day
Skim:  About 5 times per hour (remove foam and floating sediment)
Bottle:  1 - 2 times per day.  This takes an hour per bottling
Wash Evaporator:  About 10 times per day I wash the outside of the pans.
Fix lines:  About 30 minutes per day.  There is always something to fix!

I have 340 taps, which should translate into about 300 - 350 litres of syrup per year.  I tend to produce less, usually about 200 - 230 litres.  I think the land is too rocky.  I have more top kill (the tops of some trees die off) than many other bushes.  It is also possible that I have not had many "good" years so far.  The weather has been strange for the last decade.  Probably global warming, but January and February are milder and March and April are now cooler than in previous decades.  My hope/concern is that one year, I'll gather a huge amount of sap.  I don't have enough wood to make 300 liters of syrup!  I gather about 1200 liters of sap on a good "sap run" day.

Hope this helps anyone toying with making their own syrup.  A friend once asked what was the cheapest method of making maple syrup.  I think he was hoping that I would tell him to put up a dozen pails.  My reply was either install 100,000 taps or buy the syrup...


Cheers!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Costa Rica and Maple Syrup

Can you believe there is only 1 month until the Spring Warm-up?  This fills me with immense foreboding as the racing season starts only two weeks after the Spring Warm-up.  I have signed up for Pick Your Poison 50K, Seaton Soaker 50K and Sulphur Springs 50K...  Then my season gets ugly.  Lee Anne and I are busy on June 17, which happens to be the Niagara Ultra.  Since I am attempting the Norm Patenaude award, that means I have little choice amongst the remaining races.  So, I am planning to run Sulphur 50K (May 27), Kingston 6 hour (June 3) and Conquer the Canuck 50K (June 10).  Notice the generous and ample time to recover between races?  6 days???  I need 6 years to recover from a 50K...

Lee Anne and I spent 8 days in Costa Rica with Lily (Lee Anne's daughter), Daryl and the grandchildren; Hannah and Griffin.  My incredibly naive plan was to run long many times, while in Costa Rica.  We woke up early the first morning and were running comfortably at 05:45, just before the sun came up.  Then something inexplicably horrible happened.  The sun came up.  The temperature went from comfortable to oven baking hot in about 15 minutes.  Did I mention the hotel was nestled on top of a small mountain?  I don't recommend running up a steep hill on a dirt road that could easily double as a frying pan.  Let's not forget the humidity!  Every morning I tried to run long and basically made it to 1 hour before pulling the plug.  Lee Anne ran for 3 hours each day, which is usually her warm-up, so she was also feeling the heat.  This lasted until mercifully, I contracted the stomach flu and could take a day off.  Our grandson Griffin was also sick, which sucks on a vacation.  The flu affected my ability to run for about 2 weeks.  I hope to run long tomorrow for the first time in a while.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with some amazing national parks.  We rented a car for a few days, which although more expensive than taxis, was quite convenient.  While driving in CR, I figured out that licenses are either optional, or there is no such thing as a driving test.  Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians and police made no effort to obey any of the signs or rules of the road.  When turning left onto an unlit major highway at night, make sure there is no motorcycle holding 3 people and no lights, on the wrong side of the road!

Although not our favourite style of vacation, we stayed at a hotel near Jaco beach.  We did get out to a couple of national parks.  The Carara national park was exceptional, with low-technical trails that meandered through a forest jungle.  Not sure of the correct name for the terrain.  We saw monkeys, parrots and a cute little boar.  We were able to hike for about 3 hours and saw some huge trees.  If you ever get to Jaco, take in Carara.



The other park was called Manuel Antonio.  Unfortunately, it included a wonderful beach, which attracted almost one billion bathers.  The trails were more akin to a country road and packed with people.  The beach was nice and we enjoyed swimming with the grandchildren.

The food was quite good in the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, although since Jaco is a tourist destination, the bigger restaurants had typical international cuisine and cost about the same as restaurants in Canada.

The timing of our trip to Costa Rica was ill-advised, as we only returned to Canada on February 28.  This cuts into my maple syrup prep time.  This was not overly critical as aside from March 1, it remained cold until March 6.  We will once again experience a cold snap, well into next week, so I have plenty of time for the finishing touches.  I set about 200 taps on March 1 and the remaining 140 on March 6.  The sap ran on Monday (March 6) until Wednesday, so I boiled down a small batch yesterday (March 8).

Making maple syrup is rather strange.  I would be hard pressed to isolate which chores are physically demanding, yet a day in the bush leaves me sore and exhausted.  On Tuesday I ran a 10K hill run, which is taxing, yet not overly so.  Then I boiled down for a few hours.  My back, shoulders and arms ached that night.  Strange.  Yes, I haul supplies 1K into the woods, stoke the evaporator, walk in a foot of snow, but nothing I would describe as hard physical effort...  Perhaps simply being active for 12 hours can do that to you.



I am now able to make a prediction as to my next project.  Today, Lily (Lee Anne's daughter) and Daryl sold their house in Toronto that I helped to build.  Daryl has promised that the next house will not be a ground-up project (virtually a new house), simply a major renovation.  Perhaps I will have recovered from making maple syrup by then.


Cheers!

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!