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?

Results:  http://copperkettledash.blogspot.ca

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!