Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ice Storm!

I couldn't resist.  Yesterday saw the first ice storm of the year.  The trails were mid-shin deep in snow and the treadmill was occupied.  For those who don't live with someone who is training for a 100 mile race, here is what to expect:  Your morning's coffee is accompanied my the hum of the treadmill.  Morning chores, blowing the driveway, clearing snow from the deck, all with the hum.  Time to go for a run.  Hmmm, what's that hum?

No problem, the trails beckon.  Post holing is an art form.  A precarious balance between efficient high stepping leg turnover and a face plant.  But let's make it challenging!  Add 1 cm of ice on top of 30 cm of snow.  In this situation the proper technique is to lean far forward and bring the knees up to the stomach.  This allows you to withdraw your leg and foot in a near-vertical direction.  If you use a conventional post-holing stride, the bottom of your shin will be cut open at every step.  However, visualize what it must look like to ice-post-hole.  Yes, a recipe for disaster, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first part of the trail had footsteps to follow, so much of the effort was directed at spotting an efficient foot plant pattern that incorporated the existing footsteps, while careering wildly in all directions.  Think of ballet.  Almost exactly the opposite!  Did I mention the breathing?  Stentorious comes to mind.

But all good things come to an end.  The footprints diverged from the trail, so I was left to my own devices.  After a mere 200 meters, I noticed that the effort level was exceeding my fitness level.  Breathing became raspy, the pace slowed and I started thinking about the wonderful trail behind me.  Then I had a great idea!  Directly beside me (I was running the Ganaraska trail alongside the Mad river) was a field and if there was any justice in the world, there would be a snowmobile track.  Perfect!  I made my way through the trees and out onto the field.

Snowmobilers are the most crass, self-centered idiots in the world.  Thousands of them around Creemore and they all had the temerity to not lay a track along the field.  A perfectly inviting field along the Mad river and just because of some archaic trespassing laws, they had avoided the area.  Pardon the pun, but I was in deep trouble.  Because of a slight drifting effect and a lack of training, my run had degenerated into a staggering parody of running.  It was also starting to hurt.  The sideways sheering motion was eliciting signals from my shins.  Time to pack it in.

Of course I took a shortcut through the field back to the trail, causing further harm to my protesting shins.  In reality, there was little damage.  8 small cuts to my right shin and negligible harm to the left.  It did feel good to get back to running on the trail with footprints.  Nearing my driveway, I felt what can only be described as a "popping" in my right Achilles tendon.  Not good.  I stopped running immediately, but walking was now a bit painful.

I will have to run roads today...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Back to "Running"

Well, as with all injuries, there comes a day when you have to put your foot down (oh, that hurt even me) and run out the injury (enough - someone take away his laptop now!).  I have always been warned about Achilles injuries.  The typical conversation goes like this:  "Hey Joe, I'm thinking of getting injured again.  Any suggestions on what type?".  "Hmmm.  Have you tried a fractured tibia?  Very cool healing process".  "No, what about a torn Achilles tendon?".  "Um.  No, don't try that one".

As mentioned in the previous blog, I tried a few normal healing procedures.  I also tried a few unorthodox methods.  Some were better than others, but none provided me with a conclusive healing trend.  So I did what I do best and ignored the injury.  I should mention that technically, I did not ignore the injury, as it forced me to once again adjust my running schedule.  Let's just say I didn't put "healing" at the top of the list.  The new methodology was to run until it hurt too much to continue, then stop.  I added a nifty twist, in that every day I would increase the time and/or duration of the run!  I come up with these brainchildren at Honda, when I'm supposed to be working.

So I ran 1.5K on Monday, 2K on Tuesday, 2.2K on Wednesday, took Thursday off, 7.5K on Friday and 10K on Saturday.  No one would consider 23K to be a monumental weekly total, but the important aspect is that on Monday, running was very painful and on Saturday, I felt a tiny little pain reminder on each step, but nothing debilitating.  I'm cured!

So, with 3 weeks until my 24 hour race, all I can joyfully say is "Let the ramp-up begin!".  I think most people who read my blog do so, because it makes their running practices seem reasonable by comparison. 

Well, I have 8 more days to work this year.  Honda provides a significant plant shutdown at the end of December and I had some vacation days to kill, so I took every Friday in December off.  My last day this year is Thursday, December 19!  More time to experiment with healing and recovery.

I'm going to see if I can find a picture of Gino, who won the Trail Runner Trophy Series (ultra) this year.  The previous picture was Dale, who was 2nd place.  Ontario ultra runners are doing some amazing things.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Injury Advice Adendum

I received a notice from Sharon Z. that the advice on injuries was lacking an entry on the achilles tendon.  I should have noted in the article that I am currently suffering from damage to the right achilles tendon, and as it is my first such injury, I was not ready to include a remedy.

However, I am far enough along to state a few notes.  What is not working:

1.  Running up steep hills.  The achilles tends towards the painful side.
2.  Running in 1 foot of snow.  The achilles tends towards the painful side.
3.  Sprinting.  The achilles tends towards the painful side.
4.  Running backwards while carrying a black Russian (the drink, not the human).  The achilles tends towards the painful side.

What has promise:

1.  Running in 2 inches of slush and ice.  This seems to be the ideal running surface to avoid stress to the injured area.  The "toe push" directly before the foot leaves contact with the slush tends to slide the foot back, which avoids loading the achilles tendon.
2.  Easy downhill run.  Same as #1, no stress during foot lift, but it is difficult to find longish downhill sections without (duh!) longish uphill sections.
3.  Running forward with a black Russian.  The alcohol tends to relax the area and mask the pain.  Again, this is slightly problematic as I tend to spill the drink.  Before you ask, I'm one who frowns on filling a water bottle with black Russians.  It's a flavour thing.

That's it!  Short, sweet and of dubious help.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Advice on Injuries

Okay, after a careful review of the advice below, it might be prudent to get a second opinion.  Once that is done, by all means follow this advice:

Advice on Injuries

Just the other day I was thinking that there are not a lot of comprehensive resources for running injuries.  Then I thought “Hey! I’ve been injured for 30 years now – I must be an expert”!  Unfortunately, being chronically injured probably indicates that I am not an expert on injury prevention or optimal healing practices…

I once wrote an article entitled Advice on Running.  It included this quote, which sums up my attitude towards injuries:

Injuries can be divided into 2 categories.  Those you can “run through” and still heal, and those that take a hell of a long time to heal, when you continue running.

There are some aspects of injury management that I could impart to other runners, along with a long list of “Do the opposite of what I do”.  For example, Ibuprofen.   I actually got this tip from my doctor:  Take half dosage (one 200 mg tab) 3 times per day for 3 days.  This will help with inflammation, yet avoid developing a tolerance to the pain killer.  The concept is that it will help reduce swelling which speeds up the healing.  Take the low dosage for 3 days about 5 days before a race.  Take no Ibuprofen 2 days before the race, so that you lose the tolerance to the painkiller component.  Hence the Ibuprofen will be more affective during the race.

Plantar Fasciitis

Once you develop PF in one of your feet, try to develop PF in the other foot.  If you are successful, it will force you to change your running style so that both feet heal faster.  I’m full of these great healing tips that you will never find in medical journals!

Back to Ibuprofen

If your injury suddenly becomes more painful, stop taking Ibuprofen.  You will then limp more (if you have a leg injury) and heal faster.  If you take Ibuprofen while in significant pain, it will mask the pain and you will cause more damage to the injured area.  Pain is your friend!  It helps you to figure out what actions aggravate the injury.

Strains and sprains

Ignore mild sprains completely.  Your ankle / knee / hip did it on purpose and if you don’t punish the area by forcing it to run, it will do it again next week.  It’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing.  I have never been sure what that means, but I’ve heard it all my life, so it must be some altruism.  Severe sprains are a different story.  You probably did something stupid and should not blame it on the injured area.  Take 2 days off running and use ICE (Ice Compression Elevation) 2 – 3 times per day, but never for more than 10 minutes at a time.  Some football player put his foot in a bucket of ice for 4 hours and it was black when he removed it from the bucket…  If it is too painful to run, use a bike or one of those weird parabolic machines.  It might be apparent that I don’t take this advice to heart.  I find that hobble-runs on a trail where no one else can see your pathetic gait are much more enjoyable.  Don’t look up the definition of “enjoyable” in the dictionary.  Even severe sprains will eventually heal, blah blah blah blah.

Pulled / Torn Muscles

I like these!  A sharp no-nonsense pain.  Your body is telling you “Yup!  You are injured”!   The best part of a torn muscle is that you can completely ignore them.  You’ve scheduled a speed session for tonight?  Go for it!  It’s just a tear.  Even if it gets worse, it just means recovery will take longer.  Possibly years longer.  Torn muscles also give you an excellent excuse to run slowly or cut the run short altogether.  You have way more running options with a torn muscle.  I recommend not doing any recovery activity.  You want to savor this injury!

Knee Injuries

For the sake of brevity, I’ll lump these together.  Pulled IT band, torn ACL, patella, cartilage or broken knee cap:   Get surgery.  You can easily perform the surgery yourself.  A torn cartilage is simple with an old phone camera, scalpel and forceps, but trained surgeons will get you some time off work.  More time for running directly before and after surgery.  Think about it!  When running with a knee injury, do not compensate your running style to accommodate the injury.  See above for mild strain.  You are in control, not the knee.  If you don’t subscribe to the “firm machine gun hand” approach, consider this.  Changing your running style by limping will put undue stress on other parts of your body.  You are asking for another injury.  Don’t believe me?  Try deliberately limping for 3 hours during your next run.  You will develop a back injury.

Back Injuries

Tricky subject.  Back injuries fall into 2 categories.  Minor (torn muscles, strains) and major (bulging disc, fractures, major contusions and skeletal degeneration).  Treat minor back injuries as you would any other torn muscle or sprain.  The only downside is that even something as innocuous as a torn muscle in your back can make it painful to breath.  Breathing is high on the list of mandatory items for running.  It can be frustrating when trying to run through a torn back muscle and you keep passing out from the lack of breathing.  I have a strict rule about running along cliffs when suffering from a torn back muscle.

Major back injuries are the trickiest.  Don’t assume that you can run, when you can’t walk.  I think there is a progression issue here, but I’ve already lost interest, so let’s move on.  During one of the years when I ran one of the Toronto marathons, I fell down.  It was at about the 30K mark, so I got back up and continued to run.  Some chap caught up to me and asked why I had fallen.  I explained that I have a bulge in my disk that puts pressure on my sciatic nerve.  The injury had flared recently and due to shooting pains that travelled down my leg to my ankle, I had lost all feeling in my right leg and fell over (duh!).  We ran for a bit and then he asked me a question I could not readily answer.  “Why the hell are you still running”?  It took me only seconds to misinterpret his question as “running today, in this marathon, after falling due to a lack of all feeling and control in your right leg”.  I had to think about that for a while.  I had never DNF’d in a race as short as a marathon before, but I kind of saw his point.  Perhaps continuing for another 12K wasn’t such a grand idea.  At 32K I stopped.  I boarded a street car (although I had no desire to do so) and explained to the driver that I had no money.  I had just dropped from a race due to injury and could not run back to the finish line.  I got a free ride!  Note:  The free ride was not worth the DNF.

Broken Neck

I don’t like going to see doctors.  They are typically full of bad news and make irrational decisions that curtail my running.  And my attitude has nothing to do with it.  I will politely and patiently (get it?) tell the doctor my symptoms and even more patiently describe my lifestyle, which includes a modicum of running.  It is usually at this point (new doctors are the worst) when they are giving me that long stare – almost a glare, that it dawns on me they will soon proscribe a hiatus from my sporting lifestyle.  I’ll give you an example.

I played rugby back when the earth was cooling.  I developed severe pain in my upper spine.  Do recall I’ve had my share of injuries.  Severe pain is when your vision goes black.  Got the picture?  You are still standing, but you can’t see anything.  X-rays showed nothing at the time.  Years later, I decided to start playing rugby again.  I also contracted a cold that would simply not go away.  Thinking it might be the flu, I went to see my doctor.  I explained about the flu and also that I was experiencing tingling in my arms.  I mentioned that years ago, while playing rugby, I had severe neck pain and that I had recently starting playing rugby again.  My doctor scheduled x-rays.  She called me at work 3 days later and told me to get to her office as soon as I could.  I told her I could fit her in on Thursday of next week.  She wasn’t very polite, she simply said over the phone “Get down here directly after work.  You have a broken neck”.  To make a long story short, I had to stop playing rugby, again.  The good news is that I should continue to run.  Supposedly, “short” runs are good for the neck!  Short is relative, isn’t it?

If you break your neck, keep running.  If it causes pain during the run, wear a neck brace.  No one will bother you while running with a neck brace, trust me.

Flu and Colds

Although not technically an injury, running while sick is no fun at all.  I don’t know about you, but that sums up how it can feel to run while injured.  Rule of thumb:  If the cold is above your bronchial tubes, continue to run.  I once went for a run and still had a hacking cough.  Running with a cough can be very healthy, as the run helps to clear your lungs.  This was not one of those runs.  I realized it was apparent that I was still sick when the fellow behind me asked if he should go back and pick up my lung…


Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down a little.  This is one injury I have not yet experienced, so the advice is hypothetical.  Cut back on your tempo runs.  In fact, cut back on all of your runs.  Breathing will be a major issue, as I understand that breathing while dead is problematic.  This may sound very morose, but I see no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy running, just not at the same intensity as when you where alive.  Puts a different meaning on my sign-off:

Dig Deep!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bad Idea 50 Miler

I just realized why there is an edit option on blogs.  It is so that you can return to an entry at a later time and finish it!  I should not be in the house at 10:13 on a Sunday morning, but I am enjoying a bit of breakfast after my (too short) run and want to start on the Bad Idea #20131102 50 mile report.

No pictures as I forgot the camera.  I also got in 39K of epic hills and gnarly single track on Bruce's trail.  I sound like a teenage mountain biker.  A small group signed up for the run.  Attrition was a little higher than normal as the weather was (surprise!) ugly, even by Dunedin standards.  Sleet and high winds.  Mind you, the weather was welcome on the first (3K) uphill.  It was comfortable running the single track, although at times it was dicey, running on wet moss covered rocks inches from a 40 foot cliff.  Just to clarify, the cliff went down.  Way down.  I deliberately walked some sections on my 3rd (13K) loop, as I hate being in the statistic column of a run.  The weather had the biggest impact on the final 1.6K downhill section.  As in strong winds shoving sleet in your face.  Reminded me of Scotland, with the low clouds and misty moors.  Ah!  The home country.  I'm not really fooling anyone, with a last name of Marcoux...

There were many firsts for me.  First long run outside of a race in 3 years.  First time drinking coffee laced with scotch (thank you Ann!) before the last loop.  After 2 loops I was debating the merits of another loop.  After making my decision known, to run loop 3, Ann said "that's the scotch talking".  I believe she was correct!  I was tempted to sleep in Saturday morning, as I was not sure if anyone was going to show for the 06:00 start.  Being a fun run, the start time was when you started running!  Fortunately my "work" alarm (inside my head) went off like clockwork (get it?) at 05:00, so I arrived just before 06:00.  Good thing too, as Steve Bridson was already there and ready to go.  We started at 06:30 since no one else showed up (Steve was unsure of the course - in the dark) and I had to set up the 5K aid station.

Lunch.  It is raining, so I can't paint (same as every other day for the last 4 weeks, Pinky...).  Below are results for the Dunedin Bad Idea 50M.  See Ron Irwin's blog ( for his explorun of the Dunedin area.  Ron listed himself as DNF, which is tough to do on a fun run!  Lee Anne ran to Dunedin and home, and chose a 19K loop instead of the 2 options (yes, life is a never-ending surprise with Lee Anne!).  Below is tabulated in semi-alphabetical order.  Sharon Zelinski won the Bad Idea plaque, for most improved sleet runner (actually, because Doug Barber forgot to bring it home and I wasn't about to drive it up to Owen Sound).  Unless I made a mistake (do recall that scotch is involved) Adi, Steve Beach and I all ran 39K in 7:03, but I ran at a different time.  Weird!  As will become apparent, most did not "race" the event.  Only Steve Bridson completed 50 miles (we docked points from him for this) and Dave Robinson ran from 01:00 to 05:00 Saturday morning, slept 2 hours and arrived "late" to the run.  No comment.  To read:  Name, start time, clock time for each loop (13K is option 1, 14K is option 2), total distance and run duration.

Adi Shnall:  10:17, 12:25 (1), 14:46 (1), 17:20 (1), 39K, 7:03
Dave Robinson:  10:17, 11:52 (2), 13:45 (2), 15:39 (2), 17:34 (2), 56K, 7:17
Lee Anne Cohen:  60K, 8:00ish
Pierre Marcoux:  06:30, 08:30 (1), 10:40 (1), 13:33 (1), 39K, 7:03
Ron Irwin:  12:30, 25K, see his blog
Sharon Zelinski:  08:30, 10:30 (1), 12:15 (1), 14:20 (1), 16:18 (1), 52K, 7:48
Steve Bridson:  06:30, 08:30 (1), 10:15 (1), 11:55 (2), 13:45 (2), 15:30 (2), 17:34 (2), 80K, 10:57
Steve Beach:  10:17, 12:25 (1), 14:46 (1), 17:20 (1), 39K, 7:03
Stephan Miklos:  08:30, 10:30 (1), 12:15 (1), 14:20 (1), 16:18 (1), 52K, 7:48
Doug Barber:  08:30, 10:20, 13K, 2:10
Les Szilagyi, Cliff Renfrew and Ann Fleming:  08:30, 10:40, 13K, 2:20

Well, it is sunny, so painting is hypothetically possible...  More this evening!

I dipped the brush in the paint and the sunny ski turned to clouds and rain...  I'm cursed.  Damn you weather gods!  Of course with an attitude like that, it's no wonder it rains when I paint.

I ran loop 1 with Steve Bridson, which is a polite way of saying that Steve slowed down for the first loop.  If you note his times, he sped up considerably later on.  Steve Br. and Dave ran 4 loops together, so they must be close to the same pace.  I met up with Lee Anne at the start of loop 2 (what are the odds of that?) and ran about half the course with her.  She wanted to run road and pass "her" waterfall (on Townline, close to Lavender falls) so we parted ways at the Bruce Trail and CR 9.  At the end of loop 2, I caught up with the Owen Sound contingent.  This was a huge tactical error.  See "coffee and scotch" below.

26K of hills and technical single track is a satisfactory run for me.  I was already forming images of how great a cup of coffee would be and I had planned on supporting the aid station.  Mind you, it was only 10:30 and with the weather giving the appearance that it would improve (it didn't) and having some legs left, another loop seemed logical.  Doug, Deisel (Les), Cliff and Ann declared that they were stopping after one loop.  Since I had ample time, I thought I'd sit and chat for a while, have that cup of coffee and decide later if another loop was in the offing.

Then the scotch came out.  First, Ann presented me with a bottle of vodka, for organizing the run.  It was quite a gesture and much appreciated!  For future reference, I enjoy both Vodka and Kahlua...  At any rate, we sat and chatted for a while.  Always great to hear stories from Doug and his friends!  I had no sooner mentioned that I was starting to stiffen up and should get loop 3 going (Ann mentioned that was the scotch talking!) when Lee Anne shows up.  Another coincidence!  We replayed loop 2, with Lee Anne staying on CR 9 when I hit the Bruce trail.  Loop 3 was tough!  I walked many of the rocky sections, as the leg muscles were threatening to quit.  I met up with Ron Irwin, who was running the loop backwards (clockwise, not actually running backwards!) which helped to pick up my mood!  I think that Ron was having a great time, taking video and trying to get lost.

The remainder of the day was spent supporting runners when they finished a loop and chatting with friends when they pulled the plug.  Plans were for a few of us to head back to Creemore for some pottery glazing and stringent quality control of some fine wines...  I am 93% certain we had a good time!
What's next?  A bunch (Sharon Z., Charlotte V., Chris P., Lee Anne and I) are heading to Phoenix to run the Across the Years race in late December / early January (hence the name).  It should be a hoot!  Lee Anne is eyeing the Canadian 100 mile record...  It appears soft for F60 - 64 at 28:14, but that's easy for me to say; I have no intention of running 100 miles.  Lee Anne will take a stab by running the 48 hour.  Since pacers and crew are discouraged, I am running the 24 hour to support Lee Anne.  Correction:  I am entered in the 24 hour.  I plan to run 1 lap (about 1 mile), then wait 12 hours and run at night to support Lee Anne.

Well, that is long enough for now!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Week Off

Yeah right.  I'm not fooling anybody.

I did take a week off work, to work.  During my "Vacation", I did little running.  I had a few too many projects planned and running will suffer somewhat if the alternative is to miss completing a project.  Work and run?  No problem.  Half clad the garage with board and batten and run?  Afraid not.

Which is a shame because I love running, but don't get enough vacation days to complete 1,499,612 projects each year.  I know there is a solution here somewhere - give me time and I'll figure out what I'm doing wrong...  How can anyone get anything done with only 35 vacation days per year?  Yes, facetious is my middle name.

Projects for this week:  Clad the garage, pottery studio and shed with 1 X 12 pine board and 1 X 3 batten, paint the 3 buildings, Put up 100 new taps, extend 3 mainlines and install a new pumping line.  I also had a todo list, but let's not get distracted. 

The projects went surprisingly well.  All 3 buildings now sport board and batten.  I put up 85 new spiles.  You "tap" a spile into a hole in a tree during the Spring, to gather maple sap.  The spile is connected to blue sap tubing, which, after visiting a few more trees, is connected to a black mainline.  For the new taps I used 1500 feet of tubing, 200 feet of 3/4" mainline and 250 feet of 1/2" mainline.

With the new taps, I will now run out of wood.  This is very similar to cutting legs on a chair.  After you cut one leg, the other 3 need cutting.  You get the picture.  So part of project SAP350 (I had planned on putting up 100 new spiles, which would have brought me to about 350 taps) was to build another firewood storage area and fill it with wood.  I cut a few dead trees down and piled them on the new storage area.  I needed more and was tired of hauling wood 500 meters, so I cut trees to form a new road in which I can turn the tractor and wagon around, instead of having to back up the wagon. 

Out of control.

I have found a guaranteed method of controlling the weather.  Buy paint.  Unfortunately, the "control" is limited to making it rain.  I bought 3 gallons of paint.  The estimate for this part of project CLAD3 (buildings) was 2 full days of painting.  I painted 37.5% of the garage before it started raining.  It is still raining, as I type.  I could have painted this morning, but it was only 5 degrees, with rain imminent.  I've gambled before in this situation and lost, so I graded the laneway.  Also a bad idea as it is again raining and the beautiful smooth laneway is now the consistency of wet concrete.

My daughter Celeste arrives today from Whistler, where she is currently working.  I won't dwell on her lifestyle out west as it makes me very jealous.  Children can be so cruel, such as the time last winter when she emailed me to explain that along with other "mountain" employees, she got up early, had a fabulous breakfast at the treeline restaurant (near the top of BlackCombe) and then skied first tracks in a foot of powder...  Let's move on, please.

 It will be great to see her again.  We will view the David Bowie exhibit at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and have some fun in Toronto.

Tomorrow is a half marathon race at Base Borden.  Very tempted to pop over and run it.  See how badly I do, after not running for almost a week!

That's it.  Got to sign up for Across the Years race in Arizona.  A neat race in which you start in 2013 and finish in 2014.  I'm running 24 hours, but will actually crew / pace Lee Anne, who is running the 48 hour.  Her intention is to push both her 24 hour distance and her 100 mile time.

What could be more fun?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lucky Horses...

During the 4th loop at Run for the Toad I was reminiscing about the old westerns where the hero's horse had to be "put down" after breaking a leg.  It made me sad.  Horses are so lucky.  I was experiencing pain on a level where "broken leg" would take a back shelf.  Dusty back shelf...

And pain is the wrong word.  After recovering from knee surgery in July 2012, I have not truly had any painful episodes due to injuries.  While running 50K at the Toad yesterday, only my "bad" knee, the left one, the one I did not have surgery on last year, caused me any grief.  Don't worry, this good knee / bad knee stuff has even me confused.  My back never acted up.  Oh, it was sore, stiff, - painful could be used here, but it was a good muscle pain, not shooting-nerve-pain that left dark spots in my sight and a loss of feeling in my right leg.  Healthy "you have overdone it" pain.

You have overdone it.  Such an inadequate description of what I attempted at the Toad, after such inadequate training.  Think of training that would allow you to finish a 25K race.  Not do well, no podium finish, just "finish" the race without major discomfort.  I was trained for a 25K race.  I ran the 50K.

The Toad 50 is 4 loops of a glorious 12.5K course, with a sprinkling of roads and single track, but mostly broadpath.  It has to be, with 1250 runners completing either 2 or 4 loops.  The weather was perfect.  I ran in shorts and a T-shirt for the entire race.  It was almost as if Peggy or George had special connections.  Hello Weather Control?  Yes, I would like 18C all day, no variance in temperature and cloudy.  Yes I understand about signing the contract and its implications - where do I send the cheque?

The Race Plan

Quite simple.  When you attempt a race in which you are woefully under trained, there is only one option.  Plan a Utopian flight path and expect the worst.  I even spec'd out the points at which I could DNF without a long walk back to the start/finish.  That was a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist.

Run the first 30K (5K into loop 3), run/walk until the end of the 3th loop, then walk/run the 4th loop.  "A" goal was 6:30 and "B" goal was make the 8 hour cut-off.  I mentally had an A+ goal of beating my heat-influenced time of 6:29 at Niagara 50K (my first 50K in 3 years) earlier this year, but that was on a flat paved trail, whereas the Toad had a never-ending series of tiny rolling hills.

Let me explain what normally happens to someone used to the larger "Creemore" hills, when running the Toad.  We don't consider those baby rises as hills at all.  We surge forward at max VO2 in our arrogant display of superior hill running ability.  On the third loop, we whimper like puppies.  I have run the Toad enough times to be well versed in results of my vertical arrogance.  I now know what happens if I don't treat the rollers with respect.

I was also under trained.  Did I mention this already?

I was hunting for a first loop (12.5K) time of something slightly south of 1:30.  I came through the S/F at 1:21, a bit fast, but hopefully an indication I had not already blown my chances of completing 50K.  I was feeling good (you better damn well hope you are feeling good with 37.5K to go!) and decided I had every right in chasing the A goal.  Loop 2 had to be slower, but when B plan was to chase the cut-off, slowing too much is not an option.  Loop 2 went surprisingly well, and I hit the S/F for 25K at 2:48, for loops of 1:21 and 1:28.

During the first 2 loops, an interesting thing happened.  Lee Anne is a much better LD runner than I.  At this point in my 5 year recovery plan, she is much faster on roads.  I enjoy trails so much that I have trouble running them at a "reasonable" speed, the speed at which I should run them!  For much of the first 2 loops, Lee Anne was either just ahead of me, or I would chronically hear "slow down" from behind.  My expectation was that I would be 30 minutes behind Lee Anne at the half (25K).  As it turned out, we ran much of the first 2 loops at about the same speed.  This did wonders for my attitude.  You all know how important it is to maintain a positive attitude during a race.  When things go wrong (you go off course, they run out of coke at an aid station, etc.) you cannot dwell on the issue, but focus on the next section of the race.  Staying with Lee Anne made the first 2 loops enjoyable, but more importantly, gave me the optimism to think that I could actually finish the 50K!

Unfortunately, the 3rd loop brought me back to reality.  In the first full year after knee surgery, I have had an impressive comeback to ultra running.  Okay, impressive to me!  I ran 44K at the Kingston 6 hour race (you have to try this one, especially if you want to toy with running long - the venue lends itself to pushing your limit), the Barrie half marathon and the Niagara 50K in a 2 week period.  Definitely stupid, but it provided feedback that ultra running was still possible.  Since that stretch in June, I have not run very long.

The third loop was a study in shoring up the running defences.  Hydration, salts, gels, electrolytes, effort and emotional stability.  When asked how I was feeling, invariably the answer was "stable".  I was focused on staying on course, continuing to run and avoiding any mistakes that could cause my race to fall off a cliff.

I think I did a good job.

The fourth loop had other ideas.  No matter how "intelligent" you are in maintaining your body during a 50K, at some point a lack of training will shut down your best intentions.  My plan to walk/run the last loop (as opposed to run/walk) was realistic.  I was out of energy, motivation and the ability to react in a positive way mentally, to what the course was throwing at me.  This is the fundimental aspect of a 50K and why they are appealing to runners.  This is the point where smart planning and judicious allocation of resources falls to the wayside.  You are now into the pain slugfest and all you can do is to find a long list of reasons as to why you shouldn't roll over and die.

Splits:  1:21:50,  1:26:37,  1:38:30 and 1:48:28  Finish:  6:15:24

For the last 6K, I had to "hunt" sections where I could convince my legs to run.  There was no thought of increasing the pace, to have a strong finish.  Don't forget I was quite slow for a 50K, so there is no reason to sprint to the finish, to improve my place from 115 to (let's say) 113.

Recovery after the Toad was much better than at Niagara, in which I suffered from heat issues.  I also received an award from the ACU (Association of Canadian Ultrarunners) for supporting the national team.  I was likely the slowest runner to receive an award!  The ACU does an incredible amount of work fielding the national ultra team during several world events (the worlds) without much funding from the government or any other sources.  For this, I thank those who run the Creemore Vertical Challenge, as 90% of the profits go to the ACU.

Well, it is now Sunday afternoon and my legs are showing signs of recovery.  Lee Anne and I are hosting a 50 mile run in Dunedin (suburb of Creemore) on Saturday, November 2.  Email me if you are interested.

Otherwise, enjoy the running!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Kick at the 100M Creemore Can?


The concept of a Fatass race is very romantic and enticing.  No entry fee, no bib, typically manual timing, Runners fend for themselves and their fellow runners.  The antithesis of an organized, flawless, antiseptic road race.  Don't like something and want to blame someone?  Point at yourself, as you forgot the glide / gels / spare batteries.  Then ask your fellow runner for help.  She just happened to pack 200 Ibuprofen.  Who doesn't?

A Fatass is a distinct running experience, stripped of all the packaging and restrictions that surround a typical race.  They can be a wonderful experience.  In the summer.  Holding an event without volunteers (aid station, marshals, timing, sweepers, trail set-up), medical, police, port-a-potties, showers or a heated room in the winter is not such a romantic idea...

Borderline dangerous.

Some would even have the temerity to state that the border is well into the realm of chaos.  I'm not one to be overly cautious (those who claim that I have tried to kill them on a cliff run can stop laughing) but I still cringe when thinking of the 100 mile runners out in the wilds of Creemore in December.  No one ran into significant difficulty.  Except for Rob Gryfe, no one went off course.  We think.  In summer if you must sleep, you lie down near the trail and take a nap.  Not such a good idea in December.

Dave Robinson (ran the 2012 Creemore 100M) emailed me recently and asked if the event was on this year.  See above first paragraph for the answer.  However, running a 50M event is NOT such a dangerous idea.  This may come back to bite me, but there is a significant difference between running all day, and running all day and night.  As a reflection item after the 2012 Creemore 100M, I thought of what I would change, if (when) someone asked if the run was a go in 2013.  Here are a few of the items:

Make it a 50 mile race.  See above, again, for reasons why.

Hold the race earlier.  Say, November 2, 2013, 1 week after Horror Hill.  There is less chance of inclimate weather.  In Creemore, inclimate weather means you die within 90 minutes of losing electrical power.  The days are slightly longer, so less running in the dark.

Hold the run at a larger venue.  My house is not a mansion.  I think "shack" is the correct visual.  One bathroom?  You're killing me!

Make the run invite only.  This avoids an issue we encountered in 2010 (CH 100M) when a few people showed up who had never run 100 mile race before, or had not run in years!  I just know that I would be to blame if something went wrong and it was discovered I "let" them run...

The "invite" would be a general broadcast to Ontario ultra runners, then it would be up to you to invite yourself.  Anyone who has not run a 50 mile would need a sponsor/pacer.

Optional start times.  Let's say, any time between 06:00 AM and 09:00 AM.  Why kill yourself getting to Dunedin at 06:00 if you can run 50M in 6 hours?  You set your starting time and keep tracks of your loop times, if there is no timing volunteer.

Finally, chose a challenging course.  The Creemore 100 mile course had to be easy (sorry Stephan, I can think of no other way of describing a 10.5K loop course that is almost all downhill) as runners were attempting to complete 100M in Creemore in winter conditions.  I like the OUS Spring Warm-up course.  it is tough and scenic.  Lee Anne runs an option that avoids the technical section of the Bruce Trail and is about 3K longer.

Optional course.  6 loops of 13K (official Spring Warm-up course) or 5 loops of the 16K "road" SW course.  Those wanting desperately to make their run 50M can add a 2K spur.

The only remaining item is to determine if the run should be held.  If yes, I will rent the Dunedin hall (if it is available), supply water and mark the trails.  I anticipate there will be interest from enough runners to hold the event and I expect a few of the "currently injured" might round out the volunteers.  It is also near Lee Anne's 60th birthday...  Hmmm...

Let me know if you would like to participate in any capacity.  Open positions are:

Race Director
Trail marker
Aid station vollies
Fanatically loyal fans
Tailor (this slipped in here somehow)


Where:  Dunedin Community Centre
When:   Saturday, November 2, 2013
Start:     06:00 to 09:00
Cutoff:  18:00 (6:00 PM)
Showers:  No
Course:  13K or 16K
Aid:      1 supported (S/F) and 1 unsupported (6K point)
Bring:  Anything and everything that you intend to use/consume/apply during the run.

You will note I have avoided using the term "race".  This is because there will be no insurance and probably no medical, traffic control, marshals, etc. that are integral to a race.  You want insurance?

Bring it!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ramping up for a 50K at the Toad

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that some of my injuries just might be tied to overly optimistic training programs.  During a busy month of August, my training suffered.  I am entered in the Run for the Toad 50K on October 5.  Yes, in 3 weeks.  So I thought it would be a neat to see if I can ramp up to a 50K race in 4 weeks.  Today was my first "long" run.  I was supposed to go 25K, but I was better off running 20K.  This week saw 2 runs of 7.5K and a significant amount of chopping wood.  I was tired at 10K...

I am looking forward to the Toad.  It is sold out (really!) just as in most other years.  It is the national 50K trail race.  There is prize money this year, so it could very well draw some big names, other than Lee Anne Cohen (this gets me favours in bed - well worth it!).  My plan (oh father pathos) is to run 30K, run/walk to the end of the third loop (37.5K), then walk/run to the finish.  I have unrealistic dreams of a 6:30 finish.  I will likely be chasing the 8 hour cut-off.

Should I drop to the 25K?  Next question please.

Lee Anne and I have volunteered at the Toad in past years.  We helped out the Friday, then ran the race (I have been relegated to the 25K in recent years - Lee Anne runs the 50K) on Saturday.  An incredible opportunity to chat with many running friends.  My highlight was handing Ellie Greenwood her Toad bag the year she won the 50K.  We chatted for a few minutes.  Ellie is very friendly and a true ambassador to the sport of ultra running.  I was a model of decorum except when I asked if I could kiss her feet...  Hey!  It's Ellie Greenwood!

George and Peggy Sarson put their hearts into this race.  They don't even mind that I tag along behind them with a clipboard, making copious notes on how to organize an incredible race.  The Sarsons also help out at most other Ontario ultra races.  I recall a few runners at the Creemore race having puzzled expressions on their faces, after receiving their race kits from George and Peggy.  You could tell that they could not quite believe the RD's for the Toad were on registration at a hole-in-the-wall race such as Creemore!

So how exactly will I "run" a 50K race with 4 weeks training?  By wringing every inch out of my positive attitude!  I'm going to move forward with unrelenting progress towards the distant goal.  Or I might pack it in at 25K, depending on how I feel...

I have been called many things, some of which are directly linked to a breathtakingly perverse sense of humour.  The CVC race motto (provided by Sharon Zelinski - stolen from another race I believe) "We're Not Happy Until You're Not Happy" is a good indication of how I approach running in general.  I take pleasure in the race reports that describe the CVC in terms of doom and gloom.  Chris McPeak's RR's from 2010 is a gem.  He has yet to report on 2013 and perhaps will not do so, rather than talk disparagingly about the CVC.  I understand that Chris and JD Begin had another Screamore this year...

But I would be remiss in not mentioning what JD wrote in his blog about Creemore.  For the full entry:

The quote regarding Creemore:

A few weeks ago, I ran the Creemore Vertical Challenge, in oppressive heat. It was horrible. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s the second time in a row that I stagger through 30C+ weather while baking under the sun on those fucking rural roads. This is it. I’m never going back. Even the joy of sitting in the river after the race felt wrong. It reminded me too much of the joke: “Why do you keep hitting you head on the wall? Answer: Because it feels so good when I stop!” I love the people there, but enough is enough. One can only take so much character building.

This, from a seasoned ultra runner...  Fortunately there are many runners that seemingly forget about the race and only remember the pizza, beer and river afterwards.  A few use it as a tuner for Badwater (Madwater?  The Creemore race runs over the Mad river).

That's it for today.  Tomorrow I hunt for my last load of firewood before connecting the tractor to the snow blower.  It's early, but connecting a 6' snow blower to the tractor in a blizzard is less fun than running Creemore!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Creemore Copper Kettle Dash

Ah!  The joys of organizing a race!  Don't get me wrong.  There are a plethora of positives being involved in a race as a volunteer, spectator or race director.  The big difference is the potential downside to being an RD.  When people explain to me that they have this incredible idea for a race and ask me how they should proceed with setting it up,the first question I ask them is if they like their house.  It's not that I want to discourage people from organizing a race, but I do want to make certain the understand that they are taking a risk.

An RD's worst nightmare is being sued for demonstrated lack of due diligence.  That one eye-level branch that a trail prep volunteer didn't see? (get it?).  A missing sign to direct runners away from the highway?  You get the picture.  Organizing a race is in itself a great reward, but you had better have a thick skin and never expect everything to go smoothly.  Ever.

In order to obviate any apprehension that might be building due to the above, ominous paragraph, nothing terrible happened at the Copper Kettle Dash.  I missed placing a marshal at a critical intersection.  11 of the top 10K runners went off course.  Some were mildly disappointed, one woman was considerably agitated.  And righly so!  She had missed an age category win.  I don't know about you, but I can count my AC wins on one ham.  No, it's not a typo...  The 11 runners that completed 12+K will be receiving a special prize.  And I think it is important not to adjust their times, or some such measure in order to place them closer to where they would have been, had they run the 10K course.  Doing so would create a negative impact to all of the runners that ran the 10K course.  The lead runner ended up coming in second.  The first place runner was in second place at the marshal-less intersection, but had run the race last year and completed the 10K course.

Aside from the "10K fiasco", the day was perfect for running, money was raised for the YMCA Strong Kids campaign and no one was hurt because of the problem.  One puzzling aspect of the race is that attendance in the second year (2013) is down.  Not sure why, but our intent (Lee Anne is RD and I am her assistant) is that this race would pay for itself AND raise money for Strong Kids.  I thought that attendance would grow dramatically, as the race is affiliated with the Brewery's Copper Kettle Festival.  The race is turning into more of a family race (see results, as 14 year Miranda Thompson was first in the 5K race!), but based on my race (Creemore Vertical Challenge), a 5 or 10 K run followed by a beer garden?  Am I missing something here?


I know Chris McPeake.  You walked me through how to change a sentence into a link.  I thought it was black magic and am afraid to try it again, in case I accidentally create a logical discontinuity and we become doomed to repeat Groundhog Day over and over.

Well, avoiding the mistake in future years (if the race continues) is simply enough; have someone verify the Marshals are all in place before the race starts.  Even so, I will dwell on this tactical error for a few years.  I don't like making mistakes!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Beast of Burden: Crew, Pace, Expire

Lee Anne does not like trails.  Rocks, roots, stumps, cliffs, scrabbles, shale, boulders; normal running terrain makes Lee Anne sweat.  By sweat, I don't mean sweat, but become agitated.  I have to live with Lee Anne, so I no longer encourage her to enter the trail races.  Funny thing before we get into BoB, Lee Anne is volunteering at Haliburton this weekend (a trail runner's trail) while I work at Honda.  Yeah, life is not always fair!

For about the last year, Lee Anne was looking for a "road" 100 miler.  She has this concept that once she turns 60 (November 2013), she will no longer be able to run a 100 mile race.  Because she only runs 150K per week...  Such an inadequate base...  Lee Anne runs about 45K every Friday and 40K every Saturday.  Yeah, I have to live with her, please stop reminding me...

It is funny how BoB came together.  Directly before our trip to Mont Blanc, we discussed doing BoB.  My view was it would be too hot.  Long range forecast promised surprisingly cool temps.  A couple of 100 mile all stars committed to helping out.  I would NEVER undertake to support, crew and pace anyone in their first 100 miler.  Think about it.  Recipe for disaster!  Sharon Zelinski (sorry Sharon, I can never remember if the second vowel is an I or an E - please change the spelling of your last name if it is not Zelinski because that is what I'm going to type henceforth!) and Stephan Miklos were a bit surprised when, after not hearing from us for 2 weeks, Lee Anne declared the SHOW was on!

Beast of Burden is 40K from the NOTL wine tasting region.  Hmmm.  With a start time of 10:00 AM, it is logistically doable departing Toronto at 06:00 AM.  Since most of us would be alert (I'm killing myself here) all of Saturday night, no need for a hotel.  The race would be smooth, tranquil and easy.  Right!

Sharon entered the 50 mile race, but paced Lee Anne for 75 miles.  Stephan show me the ropes as we supported Lee Anne and Sharon for the first 50 miles.  What Stephan showed me was that crewing for a 100 mile race was proactive.  It was not adequate to ask them what they needed/wanted at the next stop, you have to have product ready for the immediate moment.  For 29 hours, the crew had all sorts of materials, goodies and necessities ready AT EVERY STOP.

The race director was a bit surprised when Sharon reached 75 miles, when she mentioned that she was in the 50 mile race.  He was very supportive!  Wanted to post her 75 mile time (that would be confusing!).  After crewing for 50 miles, Stephan paced Lee Anne (with Sharon) for 25 miles while I got some sleep.  The thought was that I should be well rested for the drive home.  At 75 miles, I started pacing Lee Anne while Stephan and Sharon assumed the crewing responsibilities.  Nether would get much sleep for the weekend.

One thing I now know, perspective goes out the window in a 100 mile race.  I "paced" (walked with) Lee Anne for the last 40K.  For some unfathomable reason, I thought that walking 40K would be effortless.  Mont Blanc should have better prepared me for what happens, even walking, for such a duration.  My thought was "last lap of 4", no need for a water belt or anything.  Wrong.  It took us almost 10 hours to walk the final 40K.  That is a long time in the sun!  I started at about 5:30 AM Sunday and was dead tired by 3:00, when we finally reached the finish line.  Lee Anne was a mess.

Her official time was just over 29 hours.  During the entire period, Lee Anne never spent more than 5 minutes off her feet.  The blisters were epic.  A large one popped while we were walking, at the 98 mile mark.  Lee Anne screamed (it is quite painful for a blister to pop when you plant your foot).  She wanted to take off her shoe and sock and assess the damage.  My retort was "no way in hell are you taking your shoe off".  My concern was that we would not be able to put it back on!  Lee Anne was adamant that her foot was bleeding (it wasn't).

29 hours!  29 hours!  Try standing for 29 hours.  Or watching TV.  Crazy.  An interesting aspect is that I truly believe that Lee Anne can easily run 100 miles in under 24 hours.  She has run 100K in heat in 12:29.  I believe the biggest issue is that we had just hiked the Tour de Mont Blanc, about 140K in the Alps, with significant vertical.  Although less than Lee Anne's typical 150K week, I would hesitate to call it a taper.  So in the back of our minds is that she can (and possibly will) run another 100 mile race and better her time.

So, Lee Anne has her belt buckle, I have found another aspect of running (crewing/pacing a 100 miler) I would like to avoid for all of eternity.  My prediction?  I will be crewing at Sulphur next year.

And I think this epitomises running in general.  We should all be willing to try aspects of running that take us out of our comfort zone.  We run for many reasons, not the least of which is to push ourselves.  Try crewing our pacing in a long race.  The rewards are there!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vollie at Dirty Girls

Okay, here is how my logic worked during the DG weekend...  I think a lack of sleep played a role.  After hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc, we spent a few days in Annecy, a tourist town on the east side of France.  To avoid confusion (this also played a part), I'll keep all times in EST.  We woke up in Annecy, France at 01:30 AM on Friday morning and drove to the airport in Geneva Switzerland.  So far, so good.  The flight was longish at 11 hours, with a stop in Montreal.  Just long enough to debark, get our luggage, clear customs and board the same plane we had been on 90 minutes before!

We left Pearson airport in Toronto circa 7:00 PM and drove home.  Just a quick note - I finished unpacking 4 days later, when I had a few moments.  After a few chores and some unpacking, it was 10:30 PM and time for bed.  For those trying to do the conversion, it was 4:30 AM Saturday in France.  I woke up at 04:00 AM Saturday, showered and drove to the DG race, which is 10 minutes from my house.  Not sure if you see where this is going, but I had only 5.5 hours of sleep in the last 28 and my day was just starting!

Volunteering at an aid station keeps you busy.  I had a wonderful time supporting and cheering on the 24 and 48 hour runners.  The day just flew!  Next thing I know, it is 5:00 PM and I am getting very tired.  I figure (this is completely wrong) that I would get to sleep early and show up at the race site at 02:00 AM Sunday, the point where most vollies and runners are starting to have a really tough time.  I went home, did some chores (we had been away for 2 weeks) and got to bed at 10:00 PM...  I woke up at 02:00 AM Sunday morning and was at the race site by 02:30 AM.  Anyone keeping track of how much sleep I was getting, because I didn't!  The race finished at 08:00 AM and I broke course.  Someone was nice enough to help, so I only had to pick up the flags, tape, signs and garbage for half the course, or 4K.

For no apparent reason, I was tired at work for the next 4 days!

I'll post again soon, but that's it for today.  On my run this evening, I was stung by a yellow jacket wasp.  Almost the exact same spot I was stung last year.  Seriously!  Within meters of the same spot on the same trail!  I hate wasps!  The insect.

35 weeks until retirement...

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Busy Month

Embarrassment:  Having to read the previous entry in order to determine how for behind I am in posting...

My last entry was July 18, about the UCC.  Since then, I have:

July 29 - August 9:  Hiked the Tour de Mont Blanc
August 10 - 11:  Volunteer at Dirty Girls 12/24/48 hour race
August 17 - 18:  Crew and paced for Lee Anne at the Beast of Burden 100 mile race
August 24:  Assistant race director for Creemore Copper Kettle Dash
August 25:  Start cutting firewood (a few months behind on this task)
August 26:  That would be today

Options are to write a brief summary of each event, or to present a rambling discourse on the events, as I see fit.  Guess what!

Tour de Mont Blanc

If I were to assume the stance of a pampered, stereotypical North American, I would mention that I complained to the tourist information kiosks in France, Italy and Switzerland that they should pave some of the steeper sections.  Lee Anne and I (subsequently known as "we") climbed upwards of 4 hours at a time!  The Mont Blanc massive (a grouping of mountains) is very hilly.  Makes the CVC look flat.  On day 3 during the first 4 hours of a 9 hour day, we climbed 1600 meters.  Think of Blackcomb out west and you have a reasonable grasp of the task.  I should mention that we did not take any lifts to get to the top of the col...

The views?  Outstanding!  The food and wine?  Please - a moment's silence.  Describing food in Italy is like trying to explain how beautiful Lake Louise is to someone who has never seen the mountains.  And the coffee, the coffee.  A work of art!  One sip and the hassle of getting to Europe evaporates.  Forget that it is mindlessly expensive.  We had 2 thimbles of coffee in the Geneva airport (I think "thimble" is the correct descriptor in this case) for $13 CAD.  I was a bit shocked after doing the math (after paying), but one sip later, felt it was a bargain.

We did what Macs Adventure calls the "Tour de Mont Blanc in Comfort".  Before you start snickering, I don't like camping.  Technically, I do like camping, but my back and neck do not.  I cannot sleep in a tent.  I have not camped for 12 years because of this.  One key component of the Tour de Mont Blanc is that most people use the Refuges (really really lousy hotels) or camp during the trek.  Macs Adventure put together a package where we hiked most of the TMB, but stayed in hotels.  One night, we stayed in a Refuge, but otherwise, it was a fantastic meal followed by sleep in a real bed.  Perfect!

We got lost on our first day.  Technically, I got us lost, but no one told me there would be more than one col on any given climb.  We got to the top of the col, figured out we were lost, asked some locals for guidance and the one older gentleman said it would be impossible to get where we needed to go today.  I was tempted to tell him we had night gear and could hike the entire night, but figured it would break something in his psyche, to figure out that we could go further than him, if needed.  By climbing over a mountain (not really what I would describe as a shortcut), we managed to get to our destination in 9 hours.  Tough first day!

Hiking "most: of the TMB" in 6 days is a workout.  The problem with staying in hotels is that they are "way down there" and the trail is up around 8000 feet.  A typical day was:  Hike up to the tree line, hike along the tree line, hike down to the next town.  Repeat for 6 days.  But if conditioning is not a big factor, try this one!  The scenery, views, food, wine, experience is incredible.

We have a sobering idea of how hard the Ultra (UTMB) would be.  Considered the toughest ultra in Europe, it would be no walk in the park.  Although the TMB trail does not summit Mont Blanc, 100 people die climbing Mont Blanc every year.  4 people died the week we were hiking the TMB.  I would love to do the UTMB!  I doubt I ever will, as the 166K race has a 45 hour cut-off.

I'm going to break here, but will be back to update from DG to CKD very soon.

Run many, fall down few!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ultra Challenge Challenge

Well, it is too hot to run and I blew up my river shoes yesterday...  and tore my calf.  Not badly - it feels better already today, but why run on a 24 hour old injury?  They should age for at least 32 hours.

Here is what I do when the temperature climbs above 30:  Pick the oldest running shoes I own, run down the Ganaraska trail for 2.5K, then run into the Mad River and run upstream.  This sounds very very easy, but I assure you, it is a workout.  There is a lot of sideways travel, staggering, stumbling on rocks and the occasional face plant.  Marvelous!  Unfortunately, I only made it 1K up the river before my shoes (this is why they should be your old pair) blew up.  The bottom of the left shoe detached except for part of the heel.  I was able to run if I combined the Monty Python silly walk with a Terry Fox hop.  If you miscalculate, your nearly bare foot lands on sharp rocks.  I think most people would realize it was not working, but I was game for about 200 meters before succumbing to the inevitable.

This is where I made a mistake.  I know, perhaps this was not my first mistake of the day.  I have never tried barefoot running.  Current literature indicates it is best to try barefoot running in a controlled environment.  Definitely not on jagged rocks in a river, but also not on rough trail with cliffs along a river.  So I decided that running with a sock on my left foot and a running shoe on my right foot would be an excellent compromise.  I traded a John Cleese/Terry Fox gait for a hop-along jog.  Fortunately, I didn't meet anyone.

Problem:  The ungainly gate coupled with the odd stumble to avoid impaling my sock foot on a corn husk resulted in undue stress to my right calf.  Prognosis:  Lower calf tear, minor, significant concern that further abuse might trend the injury downward into the Achilles tendon district.  I am extremely cautious of damage to the Achilles tendon.  People my age and older try to avoid AT injuries like the plague.  Doug Barber can attest to the complications associated with injuries to the Achilles.

Ultra Challenge Challenge - Recap

Neil Jefferson organizes The Limberlost Challenge (TLC).  He obtains a large contingent of volunteers when a youth organization is onsite at Limberlost.  I organize the Creemore Vertical Challenge (CVC), which falls on the second Saturday of the Honda summer shutdown.  Problem:  The timing dictates that the races fall 1 week apart.  To address this issue for the ultra distance, we offer a "challenge" to the hardy souls that complete both the CVC and TLC.

2013 Results:

Note!  These are unofficial!  It is normal with manually derived results to make mistakes.  Expect some corrections!

GinoDicarloM04:58:386:38:4211:37:201Grand Champion!
StephenBridsonM05:21:396:36:5011:58:2922nd Place
StevenParkeM05:19:516:54:3612:14:2733rd Place
KiriamThompsonF05:43:407:08:0312:51:431Grand Champion!
EliseMaguireF06:16:437:19:1513:35:5822nd Place
KimberleyVan DelstF05:53:317:48:5213:42:2333rd Place

Congratulations to all who strived for the UCC medal and to those who persevered and completed the challenge.  It is not easy, which is indicated by the combined time for the 2 races (Total).  The top 3 men and women also show some interesting anomalies.  Aside from Kiriam, the podium finishers were not set after the Creemore race!

Issue:  The UCC is not the focus for either Neil or myself.  Perhaps we don't give it the attention it deserves.  It has also been argued that perhaps it is not a great idea, promoting 2 ultra races in 8 days.  I also retire next year.  I am considering moving the Creemore race to a different time slot, instead of being sandwiched in between the Niagara and Limberlost races.  3 races in 4 weeks is a bit tricky for those who race many on the Ontario series.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Continue the UCC, even if the CVC and TLC don't fall on consecutive weekends, get rid of it, or continue in the same format?

Tip of the day:  Carry duct tape on your river runs.