Monday, September 19, 2016

Volunteering at Hali and Canal Pursuit

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

One aspect of ultra running that most runners ignore is the amount of time required for the hobby.  I call it a hobby because unlike most other sports, ultra running takes a considerable investment in time.  Technically, you can become an ultra runner with little capital outlay.  I say "technically", because it is also very possible to spend a fortune on ultra running.  Try running Badwater, especially if you foot the bill for your crew.  Or Comrades.  UTMB anyone?

So, the sport can be cheap, but there is little way of getting around the chronological cost.  Especially if you would like to keep the financial cost low.  Think in terms of getting up at 3:00 AM and driving to a race, in order to save the cost of a hotel the night before.

The same holds true for the volunteering component of ultra running.   I chuckle when a sleep-deprived runner asks me a question while I a volunteering at an aid station.  Buddy, I've had as little sleep as you, but here is my answer!

So, Lee Anne and I woke up at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning and drove to the Haliburton Forest Trail Run.  We would be volunteering at the 40K (25M) turn-around aid station (AS7).  Keep in mind that this is the first aid station to shut down.  AS7 closes shop at 4:00 AM Sunday morning.  So, Lee Anne and I would help runners from about 9:30 AM Saturday morning until 4:00 AM Sunday morning.  With a judicious rest break, we would be good to go, after our shift, right?  Here is where it gets complicated...

At 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, after a brief press conference, friend and fellow ultra runner Clay Williams would embark on a running odyssey from Port Severn and run the Canal Pursuit, to raise funds for mental illness.  Clay Plans to run (he is still running as I type) 750 kilometers, to Ottawa.  Please consider supporting Clay, either with a donation or by pacing him.  More information on the Canal Pursuit can be found here:

Canal Pursuit for Mental Health

Let's pretend that ultra runners have a total disregard for sleep.  With the exception of mountain climbing, sleep is something that people in other sports think about.  We don't need no stinking sleep!  Our reasoning was that since we were in the area, we might as well help to pace Clay.  Looking at a map (again, please disregard sleep considerations), it would be possible to start pacing Clay at about noon on Sunday, somewhere near Severn Bridge...

To sum up, our sleep was woefully inadequate for the weekend.  Here is roughly how my weekend went:

5:00 AM Saturday:  Wake up and drive to HFTR
10:00 PM Saturday:  Pretend to sleep (did not happen!)
4:00 AM Sunday:  Drive to a hotel in Bracebridge
6:00 AM Sunday:  Sleep
10:00 AM Sunday:  Drive to where I thought Clay would be running*
1:00 PM Sunday:  Pace Clay
10:00 PM Sunday:  Get to the B&B and go to sleep
5:30 AM Monday:  Get up and pace Clay (Lee Anne did the running while I crewed)
10:00 PM Monday:  Get to sleep at home

*  We had a humorous detour, as in my sleep deprived condition, I thought it was the second day for Clay (Sunday was actually his first day) and went to the wrong checkpoint...  It took us 3 hours to find Clay.

Haliburton Crew

Helen puts on a no frills, no nonsense trail run.  There is little pampering.  There are bears, to keep you awake.  We saw the 50 mile runners once and the 100 mile runners twice.  It poured rain.  I spent almost an hour trying to get the fire going.  AS 6 (about 10K from our AS7) were smart and started their fire early.  I waited until all the wood was wet.  Envision a pile of wood that is partially submerged.  Yup!

Helping the runners was no easy task.   Many were in need of dry socks, rain gear and some hot broth to get them going.  There were few runners suffering from heat related problems, which was a nice change, given how hot it has been this year.  The problem was their feet, with an impressive assortment of blisters and soggy skin.  Due to the poor trail conditions, most runners were not able to push hard enough to get into serious trouble.  We saw many tired runners, but few needed medical attention.  Small condolence for such trying conditions!

Although tired, it was great fun to meet up with and assist fellow runners as they appeared out of the black night.  All were quick to thank us for helping them achieve their goal.

Canal Pursuit

Clay is running along the canal to raise funds for mental illness.  His ambitious goal is to run about 60K per day.  As I was pacing him on Sunday (due to the delay in meeting up with him, I only paced for 23K) I thought about how very few runners will attempt to run 60K.  Think about doing so for 13 days straight.  Quite the daunting task!





Thursday, September 1, 2016

Quebec City Marathon Race Report

If I had to sum up the marathon in one word, it would be...  Ugly.

Training is not going well this year and perhaps I have forgotten how to taper.  Last year, my concern was with a crowded race schedule.  I ran 7 ultra races and by the last one (Run for the Toad 50K), the tank was empty.  I DNF'd Toad, so last year's medal collection included 6 ultra races.  Quite impressive, but I was wondering how much of an impact the race schedule had on my knees and back.  This year, I thought I would reduce the number of races and increase the training runs, by both distance and speed.  Neither happened.  Perhaps I need to enter many races in order to do well in those races - kind of a Catch-22 situation.  In other words, prior races become my training base.

Well, let's get the marathon out of the way first.  The Quebec marathon is well organized and scenic.  It starts in Levis, travels to the St. Laurence river, then west along the river on the south side to a big bridge.  Over the bridge then east along the river on the north side.  One interesting aspect of the Quebec marathon is that the kilometer markers start at 42K and diminish along the course.  This helps to indicate where the half and 10K races start and avoids having different markers for the different races.  Wow, it was wonderful to see the single digit markers!

I believe that driving for 10 hours the day before the race was not a good idea.  We left the house at 04:58 and where successful is missing traffic in Toronto and Montreal, but it was an early start.  On race day, we also had to catch a bus in Quebec City at 05:30, to take us to the start in Levis.  Since we had a 2K walk to the bus, it meant another early start!  I did not sleep well the night before driving and the night before the marathon.

I have not been successful in completing much speed training this year.  It is a bit frustrating, as I seem to have difficulty running at any pace either than turtle-slow at the start of every run.  With some alarm, at the start of the marathon, I watched the 4:30 pace bunny pull away from me.  I could not even maintain a 6 minute kilometer.  Eventually, I caught up to the 4:30 PB and passed him, keeping a comfortable pace.

At about 18K, (hmm, didn't this happen at the Niagara 50K this year?) I felt tired, not able to maintain even a slow pace.  I hit the halfway mark at 2:15, just before being passed by the 4:30 pace bunny.  This race was not going to be pleasant!  To add insult to injuries, at about 25K, I was passed by the 4:45 pace bunny.  Apparently my pace was not improving!  From 25K to 35K, I added walking breaks as the knees and back were hurting.  I increased my hydration, which helped to slow the slowing pace.  At 35K, although I was having difficulty running, I reduced the number of walking breaks and pushed for the finish line.  The final damage was 5:06, about 90 minutes slower than my previous slowest marathon.  It was quite embarrassing and I hope to never enter a race again with so little training.  I am entered into the Can Lake 50K, but will DNS, rather than experience so much pain and discomfort.

There is supposed to be good in every race and I think my take-away this time is that I can no longer "cheat" and run a race for which I am not prepared.  The miracle of finishing strong on under-trained 30 year old legs is gone.

Lee Anne did quite well, with a 4:25 time, good enough for second in her age category.  Also, my daughter Celeste had an impressive 10K race, finishing in 53:35, good enough for 12th out of 128 in her age category.

Although our stay in Quebec City was short, it was wonderful to walk in La Vieux Quebec.  We also visited the ancestral home, built by Pierre Marcoux in 1670.  I think it had an impact on Celeste, who is 14th generation Canadian.  Lee Anne and I plan to return soon to Quebec, as our french is in need of a tune-up.

Cheers!






Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quebec City Marathon? What Have I Done Wrong?

I live in Creemore.  There are more trails than you can shake a stick at.  There are no flat roads.  Anywhere.  Most towns have 4 directions; Creemore has only two.  Up or down.  People come to Creemore to train for mountain trail races.  Some also come to train for Badwater, Barkleys and the Antarctic marathon, but I really don't want to talk about those people, thank you.

Quebec City Marathon:  Sunday August 28, 2016

It has been 10 years since I ran a marathon.  I figure that with good behaviour, Lee Anne won't punish me by forcing me to run on a flat, straight paved road, for 42.195 kilometers.  I was wrong.  I don't recall doing anything that could be misconstrued as a punishable offence.  I think?  Now I'm questioning my angelic disposition...

And don't get me wrong, I do run roads.  I enjoy running with Lee Anne and if she is running, it is on a road.  I just prefer gravel roads or the shoulder, if the road is paved.  With lots of hills.  The Quebec marathon is supposed to be on "rolling hills", but you aren't fooling me.  It's like the Around the Bay race.  I was told there were rollers and a big hill at the end.  The course was virtually dead flat until the finish line.  Someone LIED to me!  Of course most people don't share my definition of a hill, but most people are wrong!  A hill has to have significant pitch and gain altitude.  I question anyone who considers something a hill if there are no airline jets flying below the summit.

Even running on pavement is not so bad.  My knees can take up to 154 meters of pavement before they start to complain.  But 42K?  Why do you think we invented trails?  I just hope they have gravel shoulders or grass along the route.

Another sticking point is that I did my last marathon before losing considerable speed.  Oh, and knee surgery.  I think the two are related.  The last marathon for which I could find results was the Massey marathon, in 2005.  I ran it in 3:31, which is close to the slowest marathon I have ever run.  I vaguely recall a 3:36 at some point.  Guess what will happen this weekend in the Quebec marathon?  I will be lucky to break 4:36.  Isn't it a crime to run more than an hour slower than your worst time?  Do I have to worry about the RD at the finish line, consulting sheets of statistics and tapping the arm of a Canadian Armed Forces sniper, pointing at me and ruthlessly shouting "Tirez ce Batard"?

However, I am looking forward to the trip to Quebec.  It has been years since I last visited the town of my ancestors.  I am 13th generation Canadian.  Pierre Marcoux (no, really!) built 2 houses in Beauport, which is now a suburb of Quebec City.  The first house was completed in 1681.  That is about 100 years before "Old Quebec" was built.  The funny thing was that a Marcoux lived in that first house from 1681 until about 1980, when it was sold to someone whose last name is not Marcoux.  I would buy it back, but the house is too damn old...  The second house is now a museum.  One weird fact was that I attended a family reunion at the property in about 2005, which was about 350 years since Pierre Marcoux first landed in Canada.  The reunion was on June 17, which happens to be my birthday.  People were a little taken aback when I mentioned my name was Pierre Marcoux and it was my birthday.  The more gracious people figured the misunderstanding was due to my lack of French...

Lee Anne is also running the marathon and graciously offered to run with me.  I declined.  No, that can't be the reason she is forcing me to run a marathon, because I declined to run with her after I agreed to run the marathon.  I think.  It's just that 42K of pavement will hurt me, while Lee Anne considers the first 40 or 50 kilometers of a run to be the warm-up.  She runs 45 - 50K every Friday and 35 - 40K every Saturday.  The rest of the week are "short" 15 - 20K runs.  I don't think I want to hear her chatting away while I am dying...  My daughter Celeste is also coming to Quebec and will run the 10K.

Well, expect the race report to be all about the great food and wonderful ambiance of La Vieux Quebec and little on the race itself, unless I finish...  After that, we are volunteering at Haliburton Forest Trail Run.  If you are in the 50 or 100 mile race, we will see you at the turn-around aid station, at 40K (25 miles).  This year, I'm not running 50 miles before attempting to vollie all night.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Creemore Vertical Photos... and more

The 2016 Creemore Vertical Challenge has all but wrapped up - just waiting for the last invoices to finalize the accounting.  The profit is directed to 3 groups.  1, it allows me to comp (complimentary entry) up to 5 people, for various reasons.  2.  About 10% is discretionary.  I used this year's allocation to help Noa Bridson's Fundraising.  As a note, Noa was one of the runners comp'd into the CVC 50K.  The third item, as it has been for quite a few years, is a donation to the Canadian ultra teams.  These athletes spend an incredible amount of their time training, in order to represent Canada on the World ultra stage.  They receive little support from the government.  The donation, paid for by runners in the Creemore Vertical Challenge, allows the team to hold a team dinner, or purchase much needed supplies or equipment.  This year, the total will be a bit over $1,000.  For this, I thank all those who signed up for the CVC!

Finally!  It took me 4 days to figure out how to download pictures to Flickr:

Creemore Vertical Challenge Pictures

Also, Jeff Rowthorn of Get Out There magazine, made this cool video of the race.  Yes, the drone had a freakin laser on its head!

CVC Race Video

And to round out the links, results on Enfield Timing:

CVC Results

Now, I get almost 2 months off (with good behavior)...


Cheers!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Creemore Vertical Challenge: Race Report

Well, the 10th Creemore Vertical Challenge is now in the books and based on dialogue with the runners I would guess that most enjoyed the race.  Is the course tougher?  Yes.  Regulars at the race described in detail how the new hill, the "Pitch" was a rude awakening, coming within the first 5K of the course.  Oh, by the way, it starts with a "P", not a "B"...

Even the weather cooperated, with cool temperatures in the morning.  I noted 16C on top of the escarpment at 6:30 AM, shortly after the 75K start.  The weather was not ideal, as the thermometer crept up to 28C by the middle of the afternoon, but far better than the 32C I experienced the day before, while slamming a tooling bar into the rock hard ground while attempting to install the signs!

There were a few glitches, but I expect that most of the runners did not notice them.  One that the 50K and 75K noticed was actually in their favour.  Perhaps the volunteer felt it was too much to ask the ultra runners to climb the Pitch 2 or 3 times, but the 50K and 75K runners missed the Pitch on their first loop.  No such luck on the subsequent loops and up the Pitch they went!

I hope that I echo the thoughts of the award and spot prize winners, but Lee Anne's pottery has improved dramatically this year.  New glazes and more time spent at the wheel has elevated her craft to the point where the mugs and bowls are almost works of art.  I mention this because the other prize component is maple syrup, which is appreciated by the winners, but I see the pottery as a tangible attraction for the podium runners.  Many thanks dear!

The Creemore Vertical Challenge has never been a 2 person show.  Yes, Lee Anne spends 200 - 300 hours as her contribution, which includes pottery, food purchases and taking care of the volunteers.  I spend an inordinate amount of time making the finishing medals, maple syrup and clearing trails.  Recently, I have questioned the sanity of a race director (in itself almost a full time job) who doesn't farm out the prizes, medals and the "hard" work.  I spent part of 2 months clearing trails after the ice storm.  I'm an idiot!

But it is the volunteers that allow the race to proceed.  The 34 people who sat for hours at marshal stations, fed, watered and gave encouragement to the runners and kept the race running (wow! what a great pun!) are the true heroes.  They receive many "thanks" from the runners, but they seldom are in the race spotlight, gaining well deserved praise.  Many thanks to all of you, for your efforts!

I would like to mention a few items that happened at the 2016 CVC, that many people probably are not aware.  If you read my 2016 Kingston RR, I mentioned that I helped to guide a good friend Elizabeth Hurdman.  Liz is 95% blind and I was very nervous about helping someone with so little sight,  navigate the Kingston course.  Although mostly paved, it had turns, bumps and gravel sections.  But Liz has a wonderfully optimistic outlook and loves to run.  The result?  We had a gas and running on a mostly paved surface was not a problem.  Liz signed up for the Creemore 25K.  Hello?  Another good friend Sharon Zelinski would be the guide.  Sharon has been experiencing foot problems, possibly Plantar Fasciitis for over a year.  She is having trouble running more than 12K.  I know, you're thinking "what could possibly go wrong"?  Nothing did go wrong and Liz completed the CVC 25K race in a respectable time of 4:18.  So, those of you who ran the course and considered it (as I do) a very tough challenge, imagine doing so with virtually no vision!

Another good friend and neighbor Peter Taylor is an experienced ultra runner.  This would be Peter's first attempt at the CVC, as Peter has almost always had a destination race when the Creemore race was on.  Sinister Seven, Fat Dog, Canadian Death Race...  This year, Peter was finally able to run Creemore.  Result?  DQ (disqualification).  I think the problem was that Peter 'knows' the area too well.  While in 4th place in the 50K, Peter took a wrong turn and ran for almost 5K before realizing he was not going in the proper direction.  He was on the course, but running it in the reverse direction.  I feel for Peter.  I know we have all gone off course, but it still sucks.  Mind you, I can't wait to chat with Peter and mention that yeah, he has done well at Sinister Seven and Fat dog, but how did he fare at a really tough race, such as Creemore?  Can't wait!

My boss Csaba Melnyak and my son-in-law Daryl Klein walked the 25K course.  In fact, they walked 29K, as they went off course for a few kilometers.  Csaba (pronounced Chuba) used to walk 100K in about 24 hour, back in Hungary and missed doing so.  I suggested he walk to Creemore course.  I believe they had fun and also found it a challenge.

Agnes and Saj Moktan are friends who share our passion for running.  During a training run of the CVC course a few weeks back, they casually mentioned that they would like to bring samosa to the race.  Then they mentioned they would bring 300 samosa!  Seriously?  I had a couple at the Seaton Soaker race and they were delectable.  I offered to pay (well, the race would pay) but they politely declined.  So, if you are one of the 200+ people that enjoyed a samosa, please thank the Moktans!  They also offered up the services of their family and friends, a total of 4 volunteers.  Many thanks to the entire Moktan clan!

Although busy from 5:00 AM until almost 7:00 PM, I enjoyed the rare moments when I could stop and chat with a friend or one of the runners new to the Creemore experience.  It is possibly the best part of holding a race, for me.  I only wish I had more than a few moments to chat with the 100 or so people during the day.

So, runners found the course tough, the pizza and samosa savoury, and the Creemore Springs beer a well-deserved reward after their epic battle with the Creemore hills!  Last year, the 3 kegs sufficed for the race.  This year, after the 3 kegs ran out, I had to quickly buy 2 more small kegs.  Trust me, you don't want to run out before the 75K runners finish.  These are tough people!

Today (Sunday), I was able to clean up almost everything.  This is mainly because we had the luxury of several volunteers on clean-up duty after the race.  Yes, they picked up dirty watermelon rinds the runners tossed to the side of the road, used gels, etc.  Lee Anne also helped pull flags from a few trails this morning, allowing me to start dismantling tents and tarps early.

Many thanks to all who participates in the event.  Runners from all over Ontario and beyond, friends, family and neighbours.  The event is grand, but the people are what make it worthwhile.

Oh!  I will have pictures on my Flickr page by the end of the week.  Go to outrace.ca or Enfield Timing for results.

Dig Deep!
















Friday, July 29, 2016

Creemore Vertical Challenge: One Week to Go!

Okay, technically the CVC is 8 days away.

With help from friend Everhard who is running the 25K, the trails are ready to be flagged.  Creemore Springs Brewery is back on board to stave off life-threatening thirst for runners after their race.  The race has reached cap (250).  The week leading up to the race is a hectic time for me, so I stop making changes to registration at 23:00 on Sunday (this year, July 31).  This gives me time to focus on race set-up without incurring 18 hour days.  As such, I decided that creating a waiting list would not be of much benefit or worth the time and effort.

Please note:  No changes will be made, such as dropping from 50K to 25K, after Sunday.

This also allows me to provide the information to Enfield Timing, race kit set-up, aid station supply estimates, etc. at a more leisurely pace.  In the past, I have found it is the "last minute" changes that create registration and timing havoc.

Race entries are 175 for the 25K, 51 for the 50K and 26 for the 75K.
Race bibs will be 1 - 175 for the 25K, 201 - 251 for the 50K and 301 - 326 for the 75K.

The above does not factor in complications that are almost certain to arise!

Again, I would like to emphasis that the course is more challenging this year.  Since the Creemore Vertical Challenge is now part of the Canadian Skyrunning Series, there is more vertical.  The old course was approximately 850 meters vertical gain per (25K) loop.  This year, the figure stands closer to 950 meters.  Hence, the 50K runners will enjoy about 1.9 kilometers of vertical gain...  And love every minute!

In the past 4 days, the forecast for Creemore has changed from a high of 24, to 25, to 26 and now it is 28 degrees.  This is the part where I tend to lie, so my prediction is that we will have a gentle rain and a high of 22.  Bring a light jacket!

Parking at the start/finish (my house) is always a bit dicey.  Please try to carpool with your running buddies.  Think of the drive up as a pre-race meeting where you discuss strategy and who will draw the first beer.  In that order.  Laneway parking (the driveway) usually fills up before 7:30 AM, so if you arrive later, expect to park on the shoulders of the road.  Please follow the directions of the parking marshal and note that the driveway will be closed at 6:00 (75K start), 8:00 (50K start) and 9:00 (25K start).

Most importantly, enjoy the day.  If it is a hot one, walk the hills.  You are not going to set a PB on this course!  Try to enjoy the views at the top of the hills.  I'm usually too busy trying to get oxygen into my lungs to look about, but I hear the views are splendid.  With the exception of deer flies, the bugs are not bad.  There will be sunscreen at the aid stations, but consider putting it on before you start.  The creeks and river are low this year, so little chance of getting your feet wet, unless you actively try to do so.

For those going long, Kinga Miklos will be sweeping the course, starting at about 2:00 PM.  For 75K runners, 2:00 PM is the 50K cut-off (must finish 50K within 8 hours), so hopefully no one spends the night in the wilds of Creemore.


Enjoy!


Monday, July 11, 2016

Creemore Vertical Challenge: Under 4 Weeks To Go!

How did that happen?  I start work on the CVC in November.  The pace is relaxed, just like a long training run.  In March, activity is stepped up.  Initial contact with various organizations, confirmation of key requirements (chip timing, toilets, police,...) and of course, making 60 litres of maple syrup.  Around June, I start spending serious time on trails and administrative duties; planning and doing.  Every year, I need to cut new sections of trails or remove vast quantities of downed branches and trees.  This year, thanks to requirements for the Canadian Skyrunning Series and an ice storm in April, I had plenty of both!

So, I plug away with my head down, trying to visualize what signs are needed and where they should be placed.  There are 2 new trails (the Cunningham and Harvey trails) and 2 trails that needed rerouting.  I made 250 finishing medals before I realized that sign-up consists of more 25K runners than anticipated.  I am now creating another 28 - 25K finishing medals.  This year, the shirt order was placed on the morning of July 2.  It is the only way I can guarantee that those who signed up by July 1 will get a correct sized T-shirt.

So, suddenly there is less than 4 weeks to go!  I am itching to get on the tractor to mow the tall grass and whipper snip the trails, but if I start too early, runners will be navigating foot high vegetation.  Not ideal for setting a CVCPB.  Yes, I speak of a CVCPB.  There is little point in runners attempting to better their 25K, 50K or 75K PB.  It ain't gonna happen!  Actually, there was a fellow who set his 50K PB at Creemore, but he had upped his training by a considerable margin.

I am thoroughly confused about the current status of Canada Post, but would highly recommend that people do not mail in any more registrations.  It would really suck to mail in your registration and show up on race day only to find you are not in the race!  Note:  All mail-ins are added to onlineregistrations.ca, which sends an automatic email to the runner.  Speaking of registration, there are less than 75 spots remaining.  If you want to run Creemore, now would be a good time to sign up!

We ran the CVC course last weekend with friends Agnes and Saj Moktan, Derrick and Everhard.  We took our time and a few pictures, but were surprised to find out we ran it in just over 4 hours!  I run the course about once per month (less when there is 3 feet of snow) and I am always surprised at how much effort is expended to cover "only" 25K.  The new pitch and inclines slowed us down and the new course is (sorry!) closer to 26K, but still - bushels of effort to complete the course.  I decided not to add any more hills; 4 is enough thank you, so the new elevation gain entities will be called The Pitch (about 100 meters vertical gain) and the Harvey Incline (a mere 40 meters VG).

Friend and neighbour Stephen Bridson's (wins the Ontario Ultra Series with annoying regularity) daughter Noa has volunteered at CVC in past years.  This year, she is following in her father's footsteps and running the 50K.  Noa is also raising money for Global Citizen Year, an organization that helps to round out life experience of recent high school graduates.  If you would like to help Noa, take a look at the website or donate by clicking on the second link:


www.donate.globalcitizenyear.org/fundraise?fcid=698634

Well, with under 4 weeks to go, I better get back at it.

Cheers!