Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sulphur on a Fine Day

Lee Anne and I visited the grandchildren (oh! and their parents - hmmm - Lily and Daryl) Friday evening and slept over in Toronto in order to get to the race site without leaving at some ungodly hour in the morning.  Some might take offense to calling 04:30 a late start, but compared to 03:30, worlds apart man!

Sulphur hosted arguably the largest ultra race in Canada yesterday (Saturday May 26), with 250 people running 50K, 50M and 100M.  The 50M and 100M runners started at 06:00 (Lee Anne was running the 50 mile race) and it was a bit eerie to see so many people starting such a long race.  Lee Anne ran a smart race, paying attention to her salt, food and liquid intake.  She shaved 15 minutes off her 50M best, with at time of 10:10.  Good enough for second in her age category.

I ran the 25K as I'm not trained for anything longer.  Although the 50K looked tempting, with knee surgery scheduled for July 17, perhaps some semblance of moderation would look good to my surgeon.  It is quite interesting to run Sulphur, with the staggered starts and sections with 2-way traffic.  You tend to see friends and fellow racers for much of the race, which gives the race a wonderful social aspect.  I said hello to many people, although dredging up a name quickly is not my strong suit.  I said hello to Jeff Cooper twice, calling him Jeff the first time and Jim the second.  Perhaps he should change his name.  He kinda looks like a Jim!

The 5K spur went smoothly, as I kept the pace down in an attempt to favour the knees and legs.  The 20K loop was in fine shape, although I had a few moments where I fondly recalled all the water and mud on the course last year.  Although dry and fast, last year's conditions where much more exciting!

I ran the first 15K without issues.  I am just getting over a significant bout of the flu.  I had not run much of the last 2 weeks, being "mostly dead".  With the lack of training, torn cartilage and a cough that could stop traffic (hey you!  Can you hand me that lung?) I was concerned that finishing could be problematic.  In short runs last week, I was having trouble getting oxygen.  Sure enough, I started to struggle at about 20K, at the top of the 3 hills on the lollipop loop (I've heard them called the 3 sisters).  My bad knee flared (strike 2) forcing me into a lurching run.  I almost had to walk the downhill section on the backside of the lollipop, as my knee was misbehaving badly.

Just like in longer runs, he who tries to outlast a bad spot either does better or ends up in the hospital.  In this case, with the finish so near, my body gave up on complaining and I was able to finish at a run, instead of a painful shuffle!  Walked the final hill, but could not resist breaking into a run for the top part, finishing in a respectable 2:45.

A humorous note on finishing:  One of the runners who finished near me claimed I must have won the "most greeted person" award.  I explained it was mainly due to being a race director, although you see a lot of the same people when you attend ultras for 10 years!  I only wish I could greet everyone by name, but that would require a memory and I lost mine (can't remember where...)

After completing the 25K and while waiting for Lee Anne to complete the 50M, I helped John Turner hand out medals to the finishers.  It's great fun to see all the smiling faces as people complete their races, happy to be done.  I mentioned to several racers that they are encouraged to run an extra loop, at no charge.  All declined!

When Adam Hill came in, 6 hours and 49 minutes into the 50 mile race, I was thinking it was a bit slow for Adam, at the 60K point, then it dawned on me, he was finished!  Adam shaved 58 minutes off the previous record, making us all look bad...  Congrats Adam!

Well, with a date for the knee surgery (July 17), it means that Niagara will likely be my last race until October.  Now what's a good 25K trail run in early October?  Hmmmm.  Talked to George and Peggy Sarson for a brief time, while blocking the road near the finish line.  It was great to see everyone again, hope to see you soon.  Outside chance of doing Kingston, although we are supporting Charlotte V's Bruce Trail speed attempt and Creemore falls on June 7 and possibly the 8th.  Definitely Niagara!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

For the Creemore Vertical Challenge, I invite runners to participate in a training run.  Not many partake, as the trip to Creemore to experience the "Scream More" course (people can be so insensitive when describing a race while the race director is standing nearby...) can be a bit of an ordeal.  The training runs also should fit in between other races, but close enough to the race date to make it effective.  Can you say long weekend?

This year's practice session #1 (there is another on June 2) was attended by Doug Barber, who recently smoked the Mississauga marathon in 3:55.  At 65 years of age, that is some cool running!  Doug dragged another famous runner from Owen Sound, Joan Matthews, who happened to run the CVC in 2009 in 2:15, for second women overall.  Elise Maguire showed up early (can you say more punishment, please) and added a bit to the course, for a total of 34K during the training session.  Elise was going to run the course twice, but was a bit tired, after her 84K Seaton trail second place finish last weekend.

Round out the group with eveready bunny Lee Anne Cohen (50K?  why don't we run long instead?) and I'm looking at a recipe for disaster.  I am battling a significantly vicious bout of the flu (plague?) and have not run all week.  I have a torn cartilage.  (Violins please).  I'm supposed to LEAD this group?

Fortunately, Doug has a knack for remembering race courses, so I was able to "waive" a few of the sections and pare down my run to about 20K.  The group was most sympathetic, especially when Joan handed me one of my lungs, after a nasty coughing fit.  Fortunately, the temperature soared near the end of the run, so it could be considered true training for CVC.  Doug asked if he could drop to the 25K...

Overall, the day was fun and a great chance to catch up with my buddy Doug.  Elise, Joan, Doug and I sat in the Mad river and enjoyed some running talk and about the coldest water I could endure.  Think torture, with your legs going numb in about 3 minutes.  Perfect recovery!  Lee Anne (of course) decided to tack on another 25K to round out the run to 50K.

So, today (Sunday, May 20) I could enjoy a day off, right?  I earned it, didn't I?  Have you met Lee Anne?  "Let's go for a little bike ride".  I'm a man, not a quivering pool of jelly.  Okay.  (Note to all men married to an Amazon, never EVER say the O word).  From Creemore, we biked to Collingwood, then up Osler Bluff road (a nice hill, about 5K long, very doable, on FRESH legs), then on the Ravenna for a coffee and a date square.  Then retrace our route.  I kinda forgot to mention that we also took the rail trail from Collingwood, about halfway to Thornberry, before going back to Osler Bluff road, Ravenna, blah blah blah.

Did I mention I have the flu?  It was 31 degrees out.  At 85K, near the Collingwood airport, I bonked.  The sun was beating down, my calves and hamstrings were cramping and I also didn't feel very good.  Fortunately, Nathan (Lee Anne's son) was in Creemore and drove out to pick me up.  Lee Anne continued home on her bike.  Let's add it up!  50K run yesterday and 105K bike ride today.  Yes, Lee Anne is tapering for the 50M Sulphur Springs race in 6 days, why would you ask?

Take care, but make sure you also do something really stupid!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kiln Woes

Okay, sometimes things don't go according to plan.  Like life, training and sex...

Today, I'm going to talk about life.  I organize a race called the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  It is very rewarding, but includes an element of tension.  Every year I ask myself if I can I afford the cost to put it on.  Like everyone else, I struggle a bit to meet expenses.  This time of year, I suddenly have to "find" about $8000 to pay for up-front costs.  If you are not rigidly financially structured, being race director might be a bad idea.  Most races are fronted by a racing organization, for good reason.

By the way, I included "sex" for humour.  I am not complaining and I fervently hope neither is Lee Anne.  Okay, let's glaze over that component.  Much too difficult to tackle in a running blog!

The CVC evolves around some simple precepts.  Maple syrup:  We have 60 acres of hardwood bush and I am a bear for punishment.  Make an extra 40 litres for prizes and land owners.  Simple!  Lee Anne was a potter before becoming and retiring from the profession of teaching.  Cool!  For prizes and bribes to the land owners, we produce maple syrup and pottery.  I buy coffee to round out the 40 prizes.

This is going to hurt:  On Sunday, I started the kiln with a significant load of coffee mugs (second and third place prizes) and some bowls (first place).  The kiln sitter (controls when the electrical elements are turned off at the end of firing) malfunctioned, resulting in too high a temperature for the pottery.  The pottery over fired (read melted) and so did the kiln.  We need a new kiln!

Maple syrup season was abysmal.  There is scarcely enough syrup to make up the prizes.  I was counting on supplementing the syrup with extra pottery to fill the prizes.  I now need to spend $2500 to buy a new kiln.  Not sure what I can give as "thank you" gifts (bribes) to the land owners.

Oh, and the Honda lawn mower broke (wheel fell off, including part of the steel deck) after cutting 1.2 acres of grass every week for 15 years.  I'm hesitant to replace it with anything other than a Honda.  Since I work at Honda, it does make sense...  I priced the steel deck:  $298.  A brand new machine?  (I get a discount) $309.  Although saving $11 has merit, I think getting a new lawn mower is the correct move.

So, with a lack of maple syrup and finished pottery in question, It might make for a lean race.  I just hope AC winners are empathetic and understanding, and don't carry firearms...

Lee Anne started a running clinic for her Creemore Copper Kettle Dash, a race that will take place the same day as Creemore Springs Brewery's Copper Kettle Festival, on August 25.  Should be a fun time!  Last night we ran with 2 people that hope to take up the incredible sport of running.  I don't drink beer (I do drink wine and when experiencing kiln trauma (a medical condition) black russians...) but I can't think of anything more appealing to a runner than to race 5 or 10K, then relax with a Creemore Springs beer and listen to music.  If you have never experienced the Copper Kettle Festival, you should soon!

So, this week's balance is more trials and tribulations, than smooth sailing.  But we are runners and what runner looks forward to smooth, safe and boring?  We prefer action!  Even if it involves knee-deep pain and suffering!

Time to train up to Sulphur 25K for me and the 50M for Lee Anne.