Thursday, December 25, 2014

Always Have a Plan

Okay, here was the plan:

Wednesday December 17 (incidentally, I was 56.5 on that date):

Move couch.

Thursday December 18, 2014 until April, 2015:

Increase my running speed, stamina and distance until I am a "running force".  A running force is one of those runners who seemingly effortlessly cruises through a 50K or 50M to an age category podium finish.  In my case, it would be in the geezer category, but that suits me perfectly!  A non - "running force" finishes an ultra with these words:  "Blospertoto werkolominy", which is what you say when you are desperately trying to avoid puking and falling down.  A running force says:  "Golly gee that was tough!", and it is apparent that they can easily knock off another 20K.

So, the plan was set, I had cleared my schedule, allowing me to focus on "the official ramp-up".  Pending future derailments (maple syrup season, Spring Warm-up (oops!  more on that in a later blog entry) and the Spanish Inquisition) would have to be dealt with in due time, but NOTHING could stop the ramp.

Or so I thought...

After a full year of demolishing a house, then building a new one, I had become stronger, faster, higher.  I lifted plywood, lumber, heavy objects with a smile.  Four of us lifted three 43 foot 2X8 LVL (laminate veneer lumber) beams to the roof peak.  That would be 16 feet above the second floor.

A week ago, I lifted a couch with my son-in-law Daryl.  Yes, it was a pull-out couch (has a bed in it), but I doubt it weighed more than 150 pounds.  While holding the couch, I shifted the weight to my left hand, in order to get a better grip with my right hand.  The twisting motion, while bending down, resulted in something popping in my back and shooting pains travelling down my left leg to my toes.

I have had major back problems for 30 years.  I have a bulging disk that puts pressure on my sciatic nerve.  Very painful!  The last major episode was 20 years ago, while skiing out west.  It took 6 months before it was better...  All year I have been extremely careful to avoid stressing my back.  Now, simply walking will start my left leg twitching for hours.

So much for the ramp-up!

Yesterday, in a "Damn The Torpedoes" mood, I went for a run.  The sensible components in my brain (they are highly atrophied) dictated a slow and short run.  The DTT components elected to run the Ganaraska trail, in 6 inches of snow.  I know, less intelligent than almost anything you can think of, but it is completely unfair to put a major trail at the end of my driveway.  The cost was considerable, but staying awake most of the night with intermittent pain was an acceptable trade-off.  Running 4K on a trail in late December near Creemore was fantastic!

2014 in Review

I have (as intimated above) big plans for 2015, that will have to wait for an early 2015 blog entry.  Reflecting on 2014 will help put my aspirations into perspective.  In 2014, newly retired and with a significant construction project on the go, I decided to channel much of my running energy into supporting my wife Lee Anne.  Lee Anne turned 60 in November 2013 and we decided to make an attempt on a Canadian age category record.  It did not turn out according to plan, but she has learned a lot, which will help in the future.


Pick Your Poison 25K,  3 Days at the Fair 12 hour, Niagara 50K, Limberlost 28K and Canlake 50K.  2014 was a lighter race schedule than in most years.

Crew:  3 Days at the Fair, Pinecreek Challenge, Icarus Florida Ultrafest (crewed Lee Anne)
Volunteer:  Dirty Girls, Run for the Toad
Organize:  Creemore Vertical Challenge, Creemore Copper Kettle Dash

My running did not meet expectations in 2014.  Perhaps I should rephrase this as training did not meet expectations.  It is difficult to put in adequate mileage when most days you are working construction and driving for 4 hours.  I was badly under-trained for the Canlake 50K, which is apparent in my PW time of 7:01:21.

However, runners are nothing if they are not optimists!  I have unrealistic expectations that the weight loss alone (I went from circa 200 pounds to 180) will shave an hour off my 50K time.  I just finished the book "What Makes Olga Run", which is inspirational for older athletes.  A recommended read for anyone north of 50.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Exercise Room: Complete! Short Update on Creemore Vertical Challenge

Anyone who has undertaken a construction project knows that "completion" is a relative term.  My definition is that a project is complete, once I am tired of saying that it is "almost complete"...

Running has taken a back seat to the project for much too long, so another reason to call it complete.  Sure, the trim needs a final coat of paint and the exercise room couch is still in Toronto, but the tools are put away (I take them out several times a day to "complete" something else) and I haven't been to Hamilton Brothers in 7 hours!  Hamilton Brothers is quite unique.  It is a company that has been in business since circa 1850 and (to put it mildly) is well represented in the town of Glen Huron.  Not having heard of Glen Huron does not automatically make you urban-centric (Toronto / other), but you need to immerse yourself in the GH culture at least once, to be considered well-rounded.  There is an apple store.  I could describe it until the cows come home, but it would be better for you to experience it first hand.  Butter tarts that should have WHMIS labels.  Many varieties of apples.  "Many" is the term I use when "several hundred" sounds like a patent exaggeration.  Buying apples in Giffens ( ) is a bit like buying coffee in an uber-exotic New York Coffee Emporium.  Be warned.  Back to Hamilton Brothers.

I estimate there are 7 town lots in Glen Huron that are covered in building materials.  HB has huge hangers for fiberglass insulation.  They own about half the town (this might be underestimated).  Of interest is that one of their churches (it might be a house) has green number 1.  Enough said!  They sell re-sawn 1 X 12 pine for about $0.92 per foot, but don't quote me on the price.  I think the reason some of their lumber is inexpensive is because they own a water powered feed mill and a water powered saw mill.  Yes, they own a lake, dam and water powered businesses.  Who doesn't?  You can buy maple syrup production equipment, seed potatoes and Christmas trees.  Their selection makes Walmart look meagre.

Creemore Vertical Challenge:  Update

CVC lost money in 2014.  Normally this would not be such a bad thing, but I retired in May, 2014 and guess what?  I can no longer afford to plough a few grand into the race.  Cancelling CVC was not my first option.  There must be some way of holding the race, yet not killing the bank account.  The CVC also takes an enormous amount of work and energy.  I need to find methods that reduce the workload, yet do not make a large impact on the quality of the race.  Many people run Creemore because it is unlike the big races, yet still offers value.  What to do?

As a sidebar, there has been a huge outpouring of support, suggestions and offers for help, to keep CVC going.  It was inspiring to realize how much the race means to others, not just me.  The support meant a lot when I crunched the numbers and made the decision to keep CVC going.  Many thanks!

There are many reasons behind the changes.  Not all reasons are apparent in the changes, but here are a few:

1.  Keep CVC as a challenging race with unique swag and prizes.  There will be 60 prizes for the 3 races (25K, 50K and 75K) to be spread amongst a capped field of 250.  Hint:  If you are over 50 and female, consider the 75K!

2.  Generate a profit, to benefit the Canadian Ultra teams.  It may seem strange or unfair to take a portion of the entry fees from 25K runners and hand it over to the ultra team, but the reality is that the Canadian Ultra teams have little support from any sources.  The federal government is about the only other source.  I hope that the 25K runners realize that should they have the temerity to enter an ultra race, Creemore is a logical option.  They know the course, they understand the risk and they get so much more for their money.  Yes, pain and suffering is bountiful at CVC!

3.  Provide the runners with a serious challenge, followed by a social event.  Many first-time runners, after cursing me for the course, have declared the post-race event as one of the best they have experienced.  Some mentioned that at other races, they normally leave shortly after their race is complete.  At Creemore, they stick around and socialize with the other runners.  I'm sure the river, pizza and Creemore Springs beer has nothing to do with this!

4.  Reduce the workload on the RD (me).  This is unfortunate and could be viewed as a down-side, but it is very difficult to ask friends, fellow runners and family to drop everything they are doing and help me for the week leading up to race day.  I have been very lucky to have some friends, such as Henri and Diane, Everhard and Ken help me for a good chunk of the preceding week, but the reality is that there are not a lot of people who can take a week off work to help with preparations.

CVC Changes:  Here we go!

Date:  Now in early August.  Saturday, August 8, 2015

I thank Diane Chesla (Laura Secord, Chocolate race, Dirty Girls) profusely for providing a date that does not conflict with the new North Face race in Blue Mountain, or the chronic near-conflict with Limberlost.  When it was apparent that early July held too many conflicts, I realized that holding CVC during the summer months was paramount.  CVC would lose a considerable amount of its appeal if it was held in the Spring or Fall, where sitting in the river would not be pleasant.  Early August is ideal.

Distances:  25K, 50K and (new!) 75K

The reasoning here is that I need to draw back some people who have "been there, done that" with regard to CVC.  With the new North Face race, the 50K numbers dropped from 105 (2013) to 66 (2014).  Ouch!  Although a big component was the saturated ultra market, I am hoping that part of the reason is that some of the seasoned ultra runners are looking for a bigger challenge.  Can you say 3 times up O2?  Very good!  Breath deep!

In a perverse logic, I am also hoping to entice some of the 25K runners to view the 50K as a "middle" distance.  I know, good luck with that!

The 75K (starts at 6:00 AM) will have the most difficult cut-off, at 12 hours.  The 50K cut-off (since the aid stations will be open longer) can be made more reasonable at 8.5 hours.  The logic here is to provide slower runners with an ultra (50K), yet avoid signing up for a race that would be difficult to complete before dark.  I would prefer not to have exhausted runners on country roads after 6:00 PM.

No Camping.  Alas, this is part of the give and take.  I need to shut everything down by 9:00 PM Friday evening in order to be ready for registration at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning.  I will contact the tent park in New Lowell (very close to Creemore) to see about setting up a special deal.  I have some trepidation that Saturday will be a LONG day.  If we have insufficient volunteers to run the aid stations, then post-race clean-up will suffer.

Price Increase.

In 2013, I vowed that I would do everything in my power to avoid a price increase.  So much for vows!  I am a little upset that marathons have crept over the $100 mark.  Why?  It is a relatively short racing event, typically over in about 6 hours.  50K's, although only 7.8K longer, usually last quite a few hours longer.  I had hoped to keep CVC under the $75 mark, for the 50K.

The reality is that everything is becoming more expensive.  New in 2014 was chip timing (which off-loaded a tremendous amount of work from me, figuring out the age category winners) but it comes at a price.  For 2015, I will need police for 8 hours (possibly 12) instead of 4.

Oh well, I didn't want to increase entry fees, but the $10 increase is hopefully not too painful:

25K:  $70,  50K:  $80 and 75K:  $90

There will still be a small jug of maple syrup for the first 100 who sign up for the race!

As in every year, there are more changes.  I will add "WRONG WAY" signs directly after turns on the roads.  I need to start thinking of what the 75K runners will need, as opposed to "only" running 50K.  I also have to plead with the land owners to allow crazy runners access to their trails from 6 AM until 6 PM.  I need to be nice to Lee Anne (wife, potter, boss) as the number of prizes has increased.  Also, you 325 taps:  Please  don't fail me in 2015!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Icarus Florida Ultrafest

Okay, I'm sick again.  Last time I crewed for Lee Anne it was the stomach flu.  This time, the regular flu.  I've been running a fever for 2 days.  I know that no one likes being sick, but I totally resent 2 days of down time.  Such a waste, and I have some important tasks that should be completed before long.  It is snowing heavily and I have yet to attach the snow blower to the tractor.  My car still has summer tires...  Not happy!

Speaking of not happy, Lee Anne's 100 mile attempt did not end well.  At 100+ km, she started having problems with nausea and felt tired.  Lee Anne tired?  At 9:00 PM?  Wow.  A 20 minute nap did not wake her up and by 110K, she had lost the ability and desire to keep running.  I believe the heat and humidity were a big factor.  Although 82F is "cool" by Florida standards, Lee Anne has been running in 5C temps up here in Canada.  I think she pushed too hard when she should have taken a few breaks.  Oh well, live and learn.

The Icarus Florida Ultrafest should do very well in future years.  The RD's are very accommodating, the course is ideal for PB's and the location is decent.  Yes, there are improvements that can be made, but for its inaugural year, the IFU was impressive.

I am waiting to get better, then back to building the sunroom.  I am painting the trim and preparing to lay the floor.  Hopefully completion will be next week.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lee Anne's Exercise Room

For those of you who have visited my house (if you ran Creemore Vertical Challenge, the answer is yes) you might recall an oddly shaped sunroom attached to the house.  It was originally intend to be used during the warmer seasons.  I know, in Creemore there is 2 weeks of hot weather during the summer (also known as the CVC) and snow.  By "warmer", I mean Spring, Summer and Fall.  Not winter.  The room's role evolved into a combination mudroom and exercise room, 4 seasons per year.  Unfortunately, it was not insulated to CWS (Creemore Winter Standards).  A draining battle ensued, pitting an overtaxed Napolean wood stove against the elements.  Strike II was made manifest due to a engineering oversight.  If the room was heated in the winter, snow on the roof would melt and since there was only 5 inches of room for flashing above the roof and below the bedroom windows, you got it!  Roof rot.  When the snow was more than 2 feet high on the roof, it would back-seep (new word, please move on) above the flashing and rot the plywood.  When I removed the metal roof 2 weeks ago, the plywood fell to the floor!

Which is a bit of a segue for the latest project, replacing the sunroom with an exercise room.  Let's face it, I live in a small house.  By Canadian standards, I have a big garage.  Since the house is an A-frame, an addition is problematic.  The house is big enough for the two of us, but Lee Anne suggested that we convert the sunroom into an exercise room.  I love building.  I'm lousy at it, but love it nonetheless.  Tomorrow I am helping master carpenter Csaba with a project in Mississauga.  He knows I am lousy at carpentry, but I think he enjoys my jokes.  He is actually willing to pay me, so I now consider myself to be a professional comedian.  Let's move on.

The conversion is simple.  Tear down the sunroom and build on almost the identical footprint.  One change point is that the new room's roof is built up to the roof of our bedroom on the second story.  The ceiling in the exercise room is 14 feet high!  This should eliminate the leaky roof.  I will have pictures soon.  The outside is painted (board and baton) and I have taped and applied the first coat of drywall mud on the inside.

I might have a better date for the CVC!  I can't divulged further details at this point, as the date change involves changes at other races that are not finalized.  I thought I should mention something as I have told many people that the decision on CVC would be made in early November.  Other changes are in the works, but they should wait until the big decision (to hold the race or nay) is made.

Icarus Ultrafest

Here we go again!  Lee Anne will run 100 miles once more.  The venue this time is in Florida; a new multi-day event that is drawing attention from the mega-ultra runners all over.  Definition:  A mega-ultra is someone that considers running for 6 days to be perfectly normal behaviour.  Yes, there is another description - please, let's move on.  Lee Anne will start running at 07:00 Thursday November 13 and hopefully finish Friday, circa 10:00.

My running has taken a back seat to the exercise room project.  I have only run once since the Canlake 50K.  I was holding a sheet of plywood above my head.  When I grabbed the nail gun, a gust of wind blew the plywood over my head and the edge caught my calves.  Big ouch.  My left calf turned yellow down to my ankle.  Perhaps giving it some time to heal was a good idea.

But let's talk about hypothermia.  I studied the weather charts carefully and today was the perfect day to drive the tractor up to the property.  We have 92 acres near Blue Mountain, where we make maple syrup.  I had bought 3 totes - large plastic containers, to hold sap.  Two of the totes hold 1200 litres each, so they don't fit in my Civic, hence the tractor trip.  It was supposed to be sunny with a high of 9.  Wrong!  It was cloudy - it actually rained at one point, and it reached 4 degrees at the property.  Let's make this interesting.  I replaced a 1,000 litre tote with one of the 1200 litre totes, which is taller.  Problem:  The 4 main lines terminating at the tote are at a specific height and I cannot re-string them without days of effort, so I dug down until the top of the new tote was at the same height as the old tote.  I was standing in water (it had rained since ^$#& April in this area).  The trip home, sitting on a tractor exposed to the elements was a study in hypothermia.  I get home and the fire is out and someone (hint:  not me) has left a window open.  A balmy 15 degree inside...

That's it for now.  I'll endeavor to take and post pictures of the exercise room and the Icarus Ultrafest.

Happy birthday Lee Anne (November 6)!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Canlake 50K Race Report

To start, there is a humorous side to statistics, especially when applied to a small audience blog such as mine.  Currently there are almost as many people that have viewed my blog from the Ukraine, as the USA.  And both countries are not far behind Canada!  I have seen China be the #1 country viewing my blog, although this doesn't surprise me.  Let's say that 0.01% of the Chinese search on a topical keyword that I wrote in my blog, and 10% drill down far enough to "view" my blog.  That would be 13,000 hits!

I always wondered what would happen if I deliberately added keywords such as "Rob Ford party pictures" or "George Clooney wedding pictures".  Hmm.  I guess I just did!  I'll let you know if there is some gargantuan hit. Probably Rob and George are going to phone and ask me to cease and desist, again.

One more item before the Canlake 50 RR, which is totally about running (yes, amen).  There are 30,000,000,000 lady bugs (okay, the Japanese beetle thingy - whatever) outside my house as I type.  It is 2:00 PM and I should be chopping wood, but I spent the morning cutting trees up at the property and I am dead tired.  My excuse for delaying is that I should not open a door.  Someone should write a horror novel about lady bugs.

Canandaigua Lake 50


The Canlake 50 is a 50K and 50M race.  The 50M route follows paved roads around the Canandaigua Lake.  I think I know where they obtained the race name.  The 50K starts at about the 30K point of the 50M race.  The race is very well organized and friendly to newbies, those who want pacers and/or crew.  There is a pre-race pasta meal as well as a post-race sandwich.

Be warned; there are hills.  Recall who is writing this!  On the 50M, there are 4 major climbs, with impressively steep descents.  Lee Anne's time was slower than her 50M at Sulphur Springs (a trail race), so Canlake 50 is not a good course to break your PB.  The hills on the 50K are less pronounced, but expect a couple of walking breaks...

The scenery is epic, with low mountains (big hills?) surrounding the course resplendent in fall colours.  The lake is charming and provides a wonderful backdrop to the mountains.  The aid stations have typical food for short ultras (no cooking facilities normally found at 24/48/72 hour races) and were well stocked.  I have to admit that I partook of their gels, as they were readily available at most stations and can be expensive!

Lee Anne's Race:

Not much to talk about.  Her plan was to use the 50M as a training run 4 weeks before her 100 mile race.  I had asked her to push medium-hard on the first 50K, then back it off for the last 30K.  The idea was to train her legs to run "sore" for 30K.  Her target finish time was 11 hours.  At no point was Lee Anne tired or in trouble.  She ran the 50M without incident in 10:44 and had "legs left" at the end.  Well done dear!

Oil Creek 100 was on the same weekend and although I don't have the full story yet, it was particularly hard on many of the Canadian women!  Elise MacGuire was 4th women overall and Dale Draaistra and Ken Niemimaa did very well.  Although Dawn Hamel finished, her knee looks very bad after falling down a cliff.  Maryka Hladki and Jodi Langely were involved in some freak accident involving a UFO.  I could be wrong about this, but both had to drop.  Here is hoping that everyone recovers well and the abductions stop!

Pierre's Race:

The Horror, the Horror

As might be apparent from above, I was very impressed with the race organization and execution.  We received periodic emails with any and all last minute changes and information that needed reiteration.  Having sad that, I don't like road races.  The pavement causes me considerable grief, especially to my knees and ultimately my back.

The plan was very simple.  Without adequate training, I would be running slowly and walking all hills.  Little did I know how slowly I would run and that I would be forced to walk the downhills!

The first 20K was enjoyable as I ran with a fellow from France who worked for Fairmont Hotels.  I just checked the results - we had talked after the race and I am sure he said he finished in 6:14, but cannot find a 50 year old male from BC on the results.  Thus his name escapes me!  Our pace was a bit faster than I would have liked, but slower than 6:00/K, so nothing debilitating.

At 20K, the knee that I had surgery on in 2012 starting making some very strange squeaks.  For those knee surgery aficionados, it was not a "good" squeak, but a "bad" squeak.  Possibly a "very very bad" squeak.  One problematic outcome of knee surgery is that when the knee starts to complain, I really don't know if I should listen, or simply up the Ibuprofen.  I had thoughts that finishing the race might also finish my running career.  Quandary.

The running conditions were ideal.  For running.  I was comfortably cool in shorts and a fall running jacket.  Stopping would have put me into hypothermia.  Again.  I decided to continue to the 25K aid station and see what transpired.  I also did 2 Ibuprofen and started walking the downhills.  Sadly, nothing helped.  The knee continued to complain and I also noted some restriction when moving (bending or straightening) the knee.  Hmm.

At 25K I decided that stopping was the more intelligent choice, then continued running.  I can hear you yelling, but you are too late.  Yes, I ignored the correct decision and yes, I know that you know I didn't start running last week.  Here is my logic:

1.  I didn't want to freeze to death.  This is actually quite low on my wish list.  I equated a DNF with hypothermia.
2.  In the back of my mind, I was wondering if this was my last chance to run 50K.  If my knee is shot, I might as well continue.  Note:  I have not gone for a run since the race.  Although the knee is feeling better, this might still be the case.
3.  I'm an optimist.  If everything was fine, I would be seen as wimping out.  Again.

At about 32K, I was too tired to walk the downhills, so I started running them and walking the uphills.  Due to my breathtakingly slow speed, this did not adversely affect my knees.  However, running on pavement for the first time since Niagara 50K, my back and left ankle injuries kicked in full bore.  Yeehaa!  Let's ride that Ibuprofen!

With more walking breaks, my finishing time was 7:01, 32 minutes slower than my previous PW.

Reflection items:

Experience is not a substitute for training.

Avoid long races on pavement

Avoid races on pavement

Avoid long races (this is likely...)

I should go chop some wood

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I'm not Happy with Beavers...

Before I start my rant, I should mention a bit more about Lee Anne's 100K at the Pine Creek Challenge on September 6.  The scenery around Pennsylvania is spectacular!  One problem with using the GPS lady in my car is that she lulls you into a mid-grade stupor.  You stop paying attention to the road, because she is in fact driving the car for you.  This may not be entirely accurate, so don't set cruise and lower your seat back for a quick nap...

So, I'm admiring the scenery and half-listening to the driving directions when I notice a sign ahead indicating that I am 10 miles from the Grand Canyon.  Hmm.  I'm fairly certain the Grand Canyon is time zones away from Pennsylvania, so I thought perhaps I would pay closer attention to where I was for a few minutes, before lapsing back into my stupor.  Apparently, there is a different Grand Canyon in Pennsylvania!  This came somewhat as a relief!

Lee Anne's plan for the 100K challenge (it is actually not a race!) was to treat it as a training run for her upcoming 100 mile race.  She is hoping to return to Phoenix in December to address some unfinished business with an age category Canadian record.  So, Lee Anne ran the 100K at what will hopefully be her 100 mile pace.  Although slow, I was quite impressed by her constant pace.  Lee Anne finished the 100K in 14:09, which would be about perfect for the first 100K in a 100 mile record attempt.  More importantly, she still had some gas in the tank at the end.  The aid station volunteers and I got a bit of a chuckle from Lee Anne when she pass us at the 95K point and loudly declared that after the race, she would like to go to Subway and get a sub.  This is not the first thing I would have expected her to say!  It also indicated that she was not "hurting" as most humans should be, after having run 95K!

On to the rant...

When I was young, I was a farmer.  Okay, to be perfectly clear, I worked on a farm.  I tossed 30,000 square bales of hay into a few barns each summer.  I grew the crops and wrestled the bulls.  So, it has been a little vexing that I have had continuous issues with growing vegetables in my garden.  I wouldn't call the results pathetic, but definitely not bountiful.

I retired last May.  I vowed to correct the gardening issues come hell or high water!  (Note:  I live on the Mad river, so high water is a realistic issue.  The garden has been under water on several occasions)  Step 1:  Using the tractor, I put 3 tonnes of manure in the garden.  I expected more weeds, but was pleasantly surprised at how few extra weeds showed up. The manure made a significant difference to the garden!  We had tomatoes coming out the yingyang.  The potatoes actually grew!  Many cucumbers and peppers.  This was all very nice, but I don't eat many vegetables.  However, I do like carrots.  I plant a lot of carrots.  I spent hours (days?) weeding my 10 rows of carrots.  This year, they were fantastic.  Bumper crop!  4 rows were consumed over the summer and tasted sweet and wonderful.  6 rows I was holding back for the fall and over-winter storage.  I have not over-wintered carrots in 30 years.  I was pumped!  Until the #^%@% beavers intervened...

I don't like beavers.  These overweight rats are very industrious, but lack any sense of proportion.  I have a 100 foot poplar tree that is 4 feet in diameter at the base.  About 3 weeks ago, I noticed the beavers had been chewing it.  Seriously?  You are going to chew through 4 feet of tree?  Get a life, buddy!  Fortunately, they have abandoned their poplar quest (perhaps it was unpopular).  They found something much more annoying to do.  While Lee Anne and I where in Florida, the #^%^# beavers harvested all 6 rows of carrots.  Normally, the deer eat the carrot greens at this time of year, which is no big deal; I can dig up the carrots.  No.  The beavers (there is 2 foot wide muddy trail from the carrots to the Mad river) dug up all the carrots and hauled them away.  I didn't even know that beavers ate carrots!  I'm calmer now, but earlier I had visions of dynamite and beaver bits flying everywhere.

I'm still not happy.

And so we are now preparing for the Run For the Toad race.  Lee Anne is running the 25K, but since we have the Can Lake 50 the following week, I am relegated to being a volunteer.  Even running the short race (25K) would adversely impact my 50K at Canlake.  George and Peggy Sarson put so much effort into their race, it is important to be a part of their enterprise.  If you are attending Canada's largest trail race, please stop to say hello.  I will be handing out race kits on Friday, at registration early Saturday morning, then at the start/finish during the race.

I still remember handing Ellie Greenwood her Toad duffel bag.  I think I behaved myself...

Hope to see you at the Toad!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Outrunning a Beagle

Had a successful day.  It started with a slow leak in my front right tire.  That was not the successful part.  I plugged it (the hole is near the sidewall) but it continued to leak.  I had a great idea and put in a second plug.  Still leaking!  I noticed at this point that the sidewall was starting to bulge.  Those of you that know how I drive (it wasn't that bad Stephan - at least we where airborne over the herd of deer) will realize that a weak sidewall in one of my tires is not such a good idea.  Off to Cookstown wreckers, to buy a tire!

Yes, I drive what is arguably a sports car.  When I told Jack at Cookstown that I needed a 215/45 R17, he just smiled and said "good luck".  So I looked through their huge tire selection.  Some came close - 205/50 might do in a pinch.  So much for buying a pair!  Then I noticed a 215/45 R17.  Hmm.  A Michelin, same as on my car.  Model?  HX MXM4.  Really?  With quite good tread.  I brought it to the office, where the salesperson looked at the tire and commented that it was brand new.  That hurt.  Perhaps I wasn't going to get such a good deal.  Canadian tire sells them for $235 (tax in).  My price?  $90.  Okay, I'm happy.  Off I went to Honda's workshop, to flip the rubber and balance the wheel.  For free.  One perq of being a former employee!

The beagle?  I am training for the Can50 50K on October 11.  I have left it too late, but am hoping to cover enough ground in the next 4 weeks to appease the training gods.  Good luck with that!  My wife Lee Anne used to run a tricky 15K while I was working in Tokyo, which we subsequently named the Tokyo run.  By substituting some epic trails for a few road sections, the syncopated Tokyo run becomes a hilly 12K with almost no cliffs.  That last part is a hint to those who have run the Creemore Vertical Challenge...  After 1.5K of trail and about 1K of road, I stumbled upon a beagle, who I assume was protecting his territory.  There are 3 results from an encounter with a dog on a farm road.  1.  (The best):  It barks at you, then goes back home.  2.  It attacks you, then goes back home.  3.  (This is awful, so prepare yourself) It follows you.  For miles.  I learned several things from this encounter.  It is very difficult to outrun a beagle.  I suspect that the beagle in question is used for fox hunts.  As in, it lives at or near the Toronto hunting club, in an upscale section of Mulmur (where, incidentally, they have a 1.5 to 3 million dollar real estate range) and is used to running for - oh, 3-4 hours?  I tried the usual endeavours, such as stopping, pointing back along the road and yelling "GO HOME".  It would lie down (this is good), then when I was 35 meters away, jump up and continue to follow me (not good).  This went on for 8K.  I tried other venues, which in retrospect do not seem overly intelligent, such as racing up the escarpment (perhaps beagles have trouble running long uphills?  NO!).  Eventually I resigned myself to running home, then (hopefully) finding a phone number on the beagle's tags and calling the owner.

The last part of the Tokyo trail run follows the last 2K of the CVC.  There is a T intersection about 1.5K from the finish line where runners turn left and encounter 2 short cliffs.  Just before the turn, I realized the beagle was not in sight.  Would this be simple?  I veered around the corner and brought the pace up to top speed.  Into the bush I flew (okay, probably only a 5:00/K pace), up and down the cliffs and eventually home.  No sign of the beagle!

Hopefully the dog finds it way home.  I assume it will, as I last saw it about 1.5K from where I first encountered it.  Conversely, there are many coyotes in the area around the T intersection.  Ah!  Such us life!

Dig Deep!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Late Night Post

It is not overly late, but I was cutting firewood all day, so it FEELS late...

Running is tough when cutting firewood.  The back hurts, the legs are bleeding, My upper body is stiff.  Do they make an Ibuprofen inhaler?  I need more power Scotty!

Lee Anne is race director for the Creemore Copper Kettle Dash, held on Saturday, August 23 in conjunction with Creemore Springs Brewery's Copper Kettle Festival.  The Dash is a 5K and 10K race.  It went well, but again participation was down.  Although much less work than the Creemore Vertical Challenge, it is still significant effort, for only 63 runners.  Holding it a fourth year is questionable.

Next Saturday (Sept. 6) I will be crewing for Lee Anne in the Pine Creek Challenge.  She was originally going to run the 100 mile race, but the course is not certified, so she will run the 100K as a long training run.  I hope to get a few miles in by pacing her.

On October 11 we are running the Canlake 50.  Again, Lee Anne will show me up by running the 50 mile, while I attempt the baby ultra (50K).  I should probably start training soon...

The Toad is a bit of a quandary, as I don't do well racing 25K the week before a 50K...  This will take some thought.

Oh well, that's it for now.  Bedtime!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dirty Girls: Volunteer

I almost feel guilty about volunteering at the Dirty Girls race.  The Mansfield Outdoor Centre is an 8 minute drive from my house.  When other volunteers are finished their shift, they have a 2 hour drive home.  This is significant because DG is a 12, 24 and 48 hour race.  Vollies are typically at the race site all day or all night.  A 2 hour drive after helping runners for 12 hours is tricky!

Being retired, I was able to give Diane (RD) and Henri (her beautiful assistant) more of my time.  I helped with course and race set-up on Thursday, had Friday off, then worked at the start/finish aid station on Friday and Saturday nights.  Probably of more importance from Diane and Henri's perspective, Lee Anne and I offer them a room to store race materials and a bed to sleep, up in Creemore.  I think a good night's sleep on Wednesday night, 8 minutes from the race is very key.  Diane and Henri don't get much sleep from Thursday evening to Sunday evening!

As mentioned above, DG has 3 races.  I like to think of them along the following lines:

12 hour:  Seriously disturbed humans
24 hour:  Do you really consider yourself to be human?  Why?
48 hour:  Avoid these people.  No, really - avert your eyes!

There comes a point in the 12 hour race where each and every one of the runners questions their sanity.  I hope.  Almost immediately following this "anti" epiphany is the realization that there are other people out there who look at the first 12 hours of running as the warm-up.  Working at the aid station, I could almost predict the point at which the 12 hour runners would look at me, stare for a few seconds, then exclaim "those 24 and 48 runners are totally whacked"!  Aside from being married to one of them, I couldn't agree more...

If we suspend sanity for an instant, purely in the cause of pursuing a logical conclusion, it could be argued that running 24 hours is simply a very great challenge.  People have done extraordinary things for a very long time, for various good reasons.  I once participated in a 12 hour dance-a-thon.  People drink alcohol for more than 24 hours.  Some of them live!  Running, although much harder than dancing or drinking, can be maintained for a very long time.  The 24 hour runners followed a fairly typical decay.  Most ran between 6 and 12 hours, then ran/walked for another 4 - 6 hours, then walked with a few running "breaks" until the 24 hours was complete.  None of this is overly strange, from an academic perspective.  But you might want to volunteer at a 24 hour race before you decide to run one yourself.  You will soon realize that the most bizarre things will happen to you!  You learn the best way to duct tape a broken orthotic.  You hear cute little comments like "I just threw up 3 times.  I'm feeling much better now, but will pass on the cold french fries".  Joe Cleary (okay, he was in the 48 hour race) was stung by a wasp.  His hand swelled impressively.  It looked like medical attention was a valid option.  Joe is 73, but decided that continuing with his run was "reasonable"...  Really?

Running 48 hours is considered lunacy, even in ultra circles.  I consider myself to be an ultra runner, although I have not yet been able to train for "true" ultra distances (50 miles or more), but even if I was completely healthy, in top shape and had no injuries, going for a run that started at sun-up, progressed until sundown, then continued through another sun-up, then another sundown, and finally another sun-up?  Nope.  Not going to happen!  The neat thing about a 48 hour race is perspective.  It makes a 24 hour race seem normal.  I mean, you only see the sun go down once.  How hard can it be?  I know, leaning towards certifiable.

Working at an aid station is a lot of fun.  You are the only person not experiencing extreme pain.  You are coherent (assuming the wine is moderated) and all you need to do is provide the runners with SOMETHING that appeals to them.  This can be tricky, but after working at an aid station for a few races, it becomes easier.  Is the runner sweating?  No?  Push the cold fries dipped in salt.  The runner looks good, but wants a change of menu?  Suggest some soup or a grilled cheese.  Runners tend to rely on gels, or a special mixture in their handheld bottle.  This is important as they need to find what works for them hour after hour.  But all runners eventually tire of the same old thing.  That's when a volunteer can make a big difference.  DG is a LONG race on an 8K loop.  You see the same runners about every 90 minutes.  Yes, it is a fairly tough course!  You start to anticipate what they would want.  I try to instill humour into the equation.  Come on Kim!  Only 45 hours to go - time to pick up the pace!  Just a note:  Runners either laugh at your joke, or they kill you...

Well, Lee Anne and I just found out that we are in the Can Lake 50.  We were quite far down the waiting list, but are now in the race!  Lee Anne is running the 50M and I will tackle the 50K.  I don't know much about the race, aside from it takes place mostly on pavement, and the RD Egils Robs is very competent and accommodating.  So we are off to Rochester NY on October 11.  Looks like I am only running 25K at Run for the Toad!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Limberlost and Lumberlabour

Okay, this RR is late.  I know, I'm retired, so what the hell could be my excuse?  You're not going to like hearing this again, but I've been busy!  Read after the RR if you care to find out why.

The Limberlost Challenge

The Limberlost Challenge ranks as one of Ontario's finest trail races, a big part of which is the most excellent course.  Even in a wet and muddy year such as 2014, it ranks as a favourite among many of Ontario's trail aficionados.  TLC and Creemore have a special connection, that grew out of a need to address the perceived problem of holding 2 Ontario ultra (OUS) races on consecutive weekends.  Due to logistics, it would have been problematic to change the date of either race.  Instead, Neil (RD for TLC) and I decided to make a challenge for those who ran both the Creemore Vertical Challenge and The Limberlost Challenge.  Hence the birth of the (what else!) Ultra Challenge Challenge.  Those completing both races would be presented with a coveted UCC finishers medal.  The top 3 M/F would also get prizes (pottery) and a plaque.

The above is a fairly lengthy explanation that I needed to help Neil with the UCC; calculating and tracking the times, and presenting finishers with the UCC medal.  There's no way I'm going to be at TLC without running the course!  Running the 28K would give me time to help with the UCC after my race was complete.

Since I'm about 2.5 hours from Huntsville, I drove up the morning of the race.  TLC boasts one of the greatest venues for staging a race, with plenty of parking, space for a big tent and a lake to cool down in after my 28K shift was done.  Races start every 20 minutes, so that all 4 races begin between 8:00 and 9:00.

My running is starting to progress in 2014.  I think this has to do with more physical exercise (retirement does not translate to leisure, in my case), losing some weight and no injuries.  At TLC, I decided to push the pace a little, for the first time in 3 years.  I stayed slow during the first 5K, to make sure there were no hidden issues, then gradually upped the pace until it became "challenging".  I was not rocketing the course by any means, but finished the first 14K in  1:44, which is very respectable for me.  Fatigue and being unused to pushing during a run meant that my second loop was slower.  I was happy with a sub-2 hour second 14K and a finishing time of 3:43!  It has been a while since I was in the top half of the finishers, so I was surprised to see that I placed 5th of 13 in my AC.  This helps tremendously as some days, I wonder if I will ever be able to run fast again.

After the race, I enjoyed the lake (okay, in case someone reads this who saw me in the lake, I went up to my shins), had a shishkabob, then hung around chatting and handing out UCC medals.

Great race!


I am helping my son-in-law Daryl to build a house in Toronto.  Daryl and Lily (my step-daughter) bought a bungalow near Park Lawn and during the winter, Daryl and I demolished everything but the exterior walls and part of the floor.  After a few delays (this becomes significant later on), Csaba (pronounced Chubba), a master carpenter, started framing the new house.  It would be a 2 story modern style house, loosely based on Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  Daryl and I are the common labourers, while Ritchie, an experienced carpenter, is helping Csaba with the construction.  

Csaba, who is lightening quick at his normal speed, has been going gangbusters to complete the framing before he heads to Hungary for a vacation to visit with family and friends.  Trying to keep up with his requests for lumber and plywood is killing me!  Is the house over-engineered?  For the roof, we are talking 2x8 20 foot lumber for the rafters, strapped with 2X4 on edge, then 3/4 inch plywood for the decking.  A typical comment from Csaba:  "Hey Pierre!  Please hand me 4 sheets of 3/4 plywood".  Csaba means for me to haul the 4 sheets up through a window to the roof peak.  I might be exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture...

The house will be impressive once complete.  From just inside the front door, it will be 26 feet up to the peak.  The house will be clad entirely in metal.  More pictures to come!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Creemore Vertical Challenge: Race Director Report

Reader's Digest version:  I've never seen so many happy runners!

Not to say that everyone was happy.  We had 8 people go off course, most due to a sign malfunction.  Thanks to Jack Kilislian, for righting the sign after running 50K!  I cringe at the thought of asking even more people to volunteer, but that is what it would take to place marshals at every potential misdirection site.  Thankfully, it is no longer the trails that are generating lost runners, but the roads.  Trails are easier.  Rule of thumb:  When you run by a flag, you should be able to see the next flag, or there should be no doubt as to where the trail goes.  Example:  6 foot tall grass on either side of a mowed trail.  Easy!  Roads are not so easy.  No matter how much signage, exhausted runners have the propensity to continue running in the direction they are going.  And it takes some effort to scan for signage, especially on a new course.  I put 4 red flags around the corner of each turn along with a lime green sign with blue arrows.  After every corner, if you are on the correct road, you will see 2 red flags 100 meters from the turn and 2 red flags every 400 meters thereon.  Nevertheless, every year runners go off course.  I don't want to get cynical and declare that no matter what I do, there will always be lost souls, but sometimes I wonder!

At the start of the race we had a lot of regulars walking around muttering "What the hell is this!".  The temperature was 18 degrees with little humidity.  You could tell that they were getting nervous, thinking 'what diabolical natural disaster is he going to hit us with?'.  Some of the regulars believe that I control the weather and take perverse pleasure in throwing a mixture of high heat and hills at the unsuspecting CVC virgins and veterans.  Nothing could be further from the truth - I don't control the weather.  But every year, runners don't so much race "Screamore" as survive it...

For whatever reason, the weather gods showed a tangible lapse in creating horrific conditions.  Running was actually enjoyable!  Especially the 25K, as the temperature stayed below 25C until most runners had finished.  Even the 50K runners enjoyed a nominally warm finish, hovering around the 27 degree mark.  So, the hills provided most of the "Challenge" during the race, allowing runners to focus on the terrain instead of their core temperature.

Enfield Chip Timing was a huge help.  Rather than struggling with my homegrown timing system, I could simply walk up to Jeff or his wife (yes, my memory has not improved) and ask for the 25K awards printout.  No complicated processing of data, worrying about a runner's time not being registered because I was printing...  Their "Finish" line was awe inspiring.  So was the Results tent, where runners could look up their stats or view printouts of how they fared against the field.  I believe there was also a Twitter going on.

By the way, it is raining cats and dogs as I type (13:56 on Tuesday).

Many runners made an effort to tell me how much they had enjoyed the race and how much they were enjoying the pizza and beer, while sitting in the Mad river!  After hundreds of hours of work, to get the race ready, it was wonderful to see people having a good time.  Worth the effort!  I expect that Creemore Springs Brewery, the main sponsor, was a pivotal reason in the post-race success.  Nothing like 190 thirsty runners enjoying themselves after a hard race.

Mike Tickner is dabbling with the longer distances this year.  Mike has the CVC 25K record (1:42:46) and is no stranger to the course.  I expect he was eyeing the 50K record and came oh so close to bagging it!  Less than 2 minutes off the record, Mike rocketed the course in 4:03:41.  Christian Otto (4:46:07) and Ben Compton (4:50:18) rounded out the podium.

Amongst the 50K women, a real battle raged almost to the bitter end.  Melanie Boultbee was able to hang onto her pace a bit longer, posting the victory in a time of 5:01:18.  Shortly behind her were Lisa Van Wolde (5:05:08) and Inge Boerma in a time of 5:08:18.

In the 25K, Kevin Beatty clocked an amazing 1:45:31 for the victory.  Right behind him was Robert Bruillette in 1:47:03 and Brendan Neely in 1:55:56.  Posting a sub-2 hour time takes some serious effort, so I would also like to mention Dave Rutherford, who at 49 years of age (just a youngster!) posted an astonishing 1:58:44!

It appears that the 25K women also had a battle going.  Jessica Kuepfer won in a time of 2:20:20, with Vicki Zandbergen only 40 seconds behind, in 2:21:00.  Third place was taken by Deanne McDoom in 2:28:48.

Well done to all that toed the line in what is regarded as one of Ontario's toughest races.  For those doing the math, the 50K has 1.75 kilometres of vertical gain!  About 8 trips up the Niagara Escarpment, anyone?  Preliminary results can be found at Enfield chip timing:

A huge thanks to all the volunteers, without whom the race could not take place.  Since there is no running club in Creemore, volunteers are sourced from friends, neighbours and family.  Many have vollied for several years, which helps as they get to know the course, runners and how to support those in distress.  Running an aid station is quite exciting and rewarding.  If you cannot make it to the starting line one year, consider helping out.

As mentioned, Creemore Springs Brewery provides post-race refreshments free of charge.  The race is challenging and the reward for finishing is to sit in the Mad river with a slice of pizza from Perfect Pizza and a beer.  Runners tend to stick around for a while at Creemore, discussing their plans with other runners.  Thanks to Hammer Nutrition for providing HEED (High Energy Electrolyte Drink), a key component when running long.  Road ID provides bibs, pins and spot prizes.

Putting on the Creemore Vertical Challenge is in itself a challenge.  If I was intelligent (stop laughing) I would outsource the prizes, finishing medals, early-bird prize, race set-up and trail prep.  I said stop laughing...  But then it would not be the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  I spend 100 hours making maple syrup for the race.  My wife Lee Anne spends about the same amount of time making the age category award pottery.  I spend about 60 hours making 250 medals.  Notice I have not yet mentioned the 100+ tasks associated with being a race director?  Lee Anne takes care of food purchases and acquiring and juggling the volunteers.  She also puts up with me during those rare stressful moments (picture the last month before the race).  A big thanks to Lee Anne!

Going Forward

In about a month I will have a reflection meeting with Lee Anne.  This is when we discuss how to fix what went wrong and any other improvements we can make.  One big change is that I am no longer working.  While working, if the race lost money, no big deal.  I could afford to pitch in $1000.  Not so any more.  Due to various reasons, including the new North Face race at Blue Mountain next weekend, attendance at CVC was down.  Last year I reached the cap of 250 runners.  This year, only 193 people signed up.  The race posted a loss of $314.94.  This aligns with the current break-even point of about 200 runners.  Problem:  I can no longer afford to lose money on the race.

There are several alternatives to cancelling the race, such as moving it to a different date, or advertising more.  There are also several other reasons for NOT holding the CVC.  I stage the CVC in part so that I can donate the profit to the Canadian Ultra teams.  If the race is not making a profit, there goes a key reason for holding the race!  Also, the effort to stage the race is considerable and must be factored in.  I have spent 400+ hours in each of the last 8 years.  The risk and potential liability is another.  Something must (and will) change in 2015.

So, overall the race was a success, although there are items that will need to be addressed.  I retired on May 1, 2014, but view the CVC as a project, so in essence, I am only now a man of leisure.  I wonder how it will feel to have no agenda?  Wait a minute!  I owe Lee Anne about 312 favours...  Disregard the "no agenda" above!

Dig Deep!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

One Week to Go!

Preparations for the Creemore Vertical Challenge are progressing smoothly.  It helps to have more than 1 week to cram in all the chores, tasks, communications and shopping before the race.  Let's start with the fun stuff - the weather!

I take a somewhat perverse delight in watching the long range forecast before the race.  It is always something pleasant, or at least provides some room for optimism.  Hey!  Only 30C and a light breeze.  Luxury!  Then on the day before the race, they change the forecast to horrific heat, humidity, tornadoes, thunder and lightning.  One year we had all of the above!  And I don't mind the crazy weather.  Why?  Because I stand around at the start/finish and cheer people on.  Okay, that was low, even for me.  I ran most of the course yesterday.  It was only 27, but high humidity.  I brought one water bottle.  I sipped sparingly and it lasted until 19K.  I do this on purpose, so that I am aware that running out of water at the aid stations is a really bad idea...  For those who want a good chuckle on race day, the current forecast is calling for partially cloudy with a low of 14 and a high of 23.  We can sit around the medical tent and joke about it after the race!

As mentioned before, there will be chip timing this year.  I know that chip timing is not flawless (there will be manual backup, in case) but I struggled with the homegrown finish time entry system almost every year.  The trickiest part was trying to print results.  A finisher could not be recorded during the print set-up!

I have just installed a new bridge in the swamp.  I'm not 100% happy with it.  The leading edge is a bit dicey.  However, it is a lot better than the gnome bridge (what did you call it Chris Mc?) and hopefully no one will drown.

The signs have been painted in the CVC colours.  For those who missed last year, the new tech T-shirt colours are navy blue art on a lime green background.  "Garish" comes to mind, but the shirts are highly visible, even at dusk.  There are more signs, although chances are good that someone will get lost again this year.  It is difficult to direct runners on country roads.  I could use about 15 marshals for the more critical intersections, but I don't have 15 friends...  Well, at least those willing to stand out in the hot sun for 6 hours directing traffic!  I have also created a sign that reads "Creemore Vertical Challenge" for posting at the race site, to help those new to the race.

The aid stations will have about the same fare as in previous years.  This year, there will be no gels.  There will be more ice, especially during the afternoon.  Aid stations 2 and 3 (which are both visited twice per loop) will have a 220L dunk barrel, as the sponge stations tend to run out of water in the afternoon.

Home base will offer aid station fare.  Perfect Pizza and Creemore Springs Brewery are back on board.  The water is now being sourced from Dennis Campbell, who has volunteered in past years as the photographer.  His work is excellent - check it out:

Well, back at it!  I still have to final-prep the trails, then I can start flagging (in more ways than one!).

Go Sharon Z!  (she currently running Western States).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Niagara 50K Race Report

Reader's Digest version:  Good race, insufficient training...

Before I get to the skinny on the Niagara Ultra, Lee Anne and I feel honoured that Charlotte Vasarhelyi has asked us to crew and pace for her on the Rideau Trail (RTA).  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that we are retired and are free on any given day!

The RTA is about 330K and Char plans to run it in 3 - 4 days.  After a brief scan of the trail descriptions, I was under the misconception that it was mainly road, with a few trail sections.  Until Char clarified that the description provided the name of the road at the trail head.  The RTA is influenced by the Canadian shield (granite outcroppings, elevation changes) and has a high incursion of beaver related terrain... Swamp.  Can't wait!  This all gets going on Saturday (June 21) for Char - we will join her on Sunday.

Niagara 50K:  Get Out of Jail Free

Training is a huge component of ultra running.  Without training, it is called ultra ruining.  When you are young, it is fine to skip a few recovery runs.  Skipping the longer "time on your feet" runs is not so good.  Doubly so when you head north of 50 years of age.  I can't entirely explain it, but my running was simply not very enjoyable during May and the early part of June.  I think that retiring was a significant factor.  Before May 1, my MO was to crowd the weekend with running, biking, cutting firewood, landscaping, etc. - basically a 2 day attempt to drive myself into exhaustion.  But this was fine!  I could look forward to 5 days, sitting at a desk, to recover.  As Peter Sellers would say "Not any more!".  After a mere 3 weeks of retirement, I was bruised, bleeding, sore, tired and dragging in a way that is hard to fathom, if you have been sitting at a desk for the last 30 years!

After 6 weeks, I have lost about 10 pounds and starting to recover faster.  I think the saving grace leading up to the 50K was a 25K run on the Bruce Trail that took 4.5 hours.  There is no substitute for time on your feet!  I also ran a half-decent trail half marathon the week before Niagara.  Nothing epic, but 2:09 for 21.1K with a few hills and a sprinkling of technical bits.

So, 2 half-decent training runs and I'm about to tackle a 50K?  Yes, I was concerned and worried about the blow-up.  I had 3 goals.  C:  Run to 15K, turn around and run back, for a 30K DNF.  B:  Beat last year's time of 6:29.  A:  Run 50K in under 6 hours.  The A goal meant that I would not be able to take any walking breaks, as my current long distance speed is damn slow.  This was fine with me as I dread walking breaks.  The first few are good recovery, but after a bunch, they don't really provide much recovery and it is a herculean effort to resume running.  I often joke that I am too tired to walk.  It is somewhere near the truth!

So the card you are dealt in running a 50K without much training can range from "Congratulations on a new injury", reactivating an old injury, massive recovery time (6 months anyone?) to, when older, the extremely remote chance that nothing bad happens...  Guess where my race fits in?

I started slowly.  How slow?  At about 2K, I look back to see if there was anyone behind me.  There was!  I ran for a while with a woman from Great Britain (I think England) but let her go when the pace slowly crept up to "uncomfortable".  My plan was to gel every 10K and take salt at the aid stations between the gels.  I had a truly ugly race in 2013, although I just found out it was 33C last year, so perhaps there was a reason why I overheated so badly.  This year, I even walked the hill at Queenston!  I was surprised at how easy the hill really is.  I always envision it as being steeper (as steep as Hill #1 on the Creemore course) and longer, but in reality, it is a very easy-to-run hill.  I walked it regardless.

Predictably, I started to get tired at 15K, but with no major issues, decided to abandon goal C and try for A or B.  It would be really easy to say I nailed the hydration, electrolyte and nutrition, but at the speed I was running, it is not very difficult to do things right.  Conversely, it is really easy to do things wrong at any speed!  I can only imagine how hard it must be for someone running 50K in under 4 hours, to dial in nutrition correctly.

No issues at 20K.  I spent about 2 minutes at the turn-around (25K) and refuelled, hydrated, took Ibuprofen and made sure I was good to go, for another 25K.  Of course I forgot something!  Fortunately it was simply a timing issue.  At 27K, I remembered that I had not taken salt.  The dialogue in my mind was brief:  "I need to take salt.  Should I wait until the 30K aid station? NO!  TAKE IT NOW!"  The words in caps stemmed from my legs.

Just before the 30K AS, I took another gel.  I could no longer make it 10K between gels.  I continued to get tired, but was surprised that I could maintain my slow pace without much duress.  At 35K, the "Circus of Injuries" started.  There is a point in every race where the mind and body join to try and derail your race plans.  I think this because pushing past a certain point is tough, both mentally and physically, and the body rebels.  The mind is bored, so it joins in the fun.  For me, that point came at 35K.  The knees threatened to give out, my back was hurting and my right ankle started throbbing.  I laughed heartily at my body's feeble attempt to make me stop and continued running.  About 38K, I realized I don't have an ankle injury.  Hmm.  The ankle continued to get more and more painful.  I have had ankle pain before at races, almost exclusively at Niagara, about the only race where I run for 50K on pavement.  Since I was getting seriously tired and hurting in many places, the ankle pain was nice to have, since it focused my attention away from the real injuries.

At 40K, I was tired, in pain, but doing well.  At 43K, I broke my rule and took a 30 second walking break.  I needed to take salt, but my fingers were too swollen to unzip my belt and prise open a Ziploc bag while running.  At 45K, I filled my bottle and started for the finish.  It was great to see the single digit kilometre markers go by!  4K, 3K, etc.  With about a mile to go, someone mentioned that if we picked up the pace, we could break 6 hours.  Although struggling, I pushed for the first time during the race and was rewarded with a pace that was (probably) slightly faster than a 6 minute kilometre.  In hindsight, had I know how much time was remaining, there was no need to increase the pace.  I reached the finish line in 5:55:xx.  It felt great to post a sub-six hour 50K!

During the last year, I have run three 50K races.  Niagara (2013) in 6:29, Toad in 6:14 and Niagara (2014) in 5:55.  If I extrapolate into the future, I should break the 50K world record in about 8 more attempts!  I know, don't hold your breath...

A huge thanks to the volunteers and race director Henri for putting on a fine show!  Dawn Hamel (who dragged me out for the 4.5 hour run on the Bruce Trail) ran the 100K in 9:33, which shaves about 22 minutes off the Canadian record for her age category.  Way to go, superstar Dawn!

And now I continue to prepare for the Creemore Vertical Challenge on Saturday, July 5.  There will be some changes again this year:  Chip timing, a new clay body for the awards and finishing medals, better brighter signs and cooling stations (okay, sponges and head dunk tanks) and a new bridge through the swamp!

Dig Deep!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Status Report: First month of Retirement

Rather than crowd my first year of retirement with too many objectives, I thought I would keep it simple and assume a limited number of projects.  My "normal" tasks, including the races; Creemore Vertical Challenge and Copper kettle Dash, prep for the maple syrup season, cut firewood for a few customers and myself, and a few other projects for this year, including helping to build a house (Lee Anne's daughter Lily and son-in-law Daryl's house), upgrade the bathroom and sunroom and build a cabin on the Singhampton property...

Thrown into the mix is a strong desire to make the races better (new signs, better bridges in the swamp, etc.), spend more time in the gardens, landscape and increase my training (running and biking).  I think you see where this is going...

A week has 168 hours.  I know this because of my "old" job, which included fiddling with several part ordering systems (parts needed to make Hondas).  Some of the more esoteric systems needed to perform calculations based on roughly a half hour breakdown of transit times, staging times ("production" hours) where parts could be unloaded and readied for the assembly lines.  On a personal level, I never really analysed the impact of "not" working on my available time.  If you exclude sleep (let's factor in showers, breakfast, etc. and call "sleep" 8 hours per day), there are about 16 hours per day that are available for "projects".  Let's keep things simple and declare that work represent only 40 of the remaining 112 hours.  I know, travel time to work alone used to burn 6 hours per week.  Disregard, damn it!  So, when I worked, I had 72 "project" hours per week and I now have 112.  Not an order of magnitude, which is what I THOUGHT I would have...

A tangible problem with retirement that I never considered, is that I can CHOOSE what to do on almost any given day.  This sounds wonderful (and it is!) but it also means that bizarre tasks that no one should consider doing are gladly slotted into my daytime schedule.  Let's bike to Owen Sound, or Angus, or Phelpston (all of these were done in the last 2 weeks).  I hopped on the tractor and started to dig out the pond.  This actually requires some foresight as you need to block the inlet 3-4 days ahead, so that the pond bed has a chance to dry out a little.  The muck in the pond is an alarming 3 feet thick.  Think of the volume!  My smallish pond (about 20' X 80') has about 180 YARDS of muck.  That would be about 18 large dump truck loads.  I realized I had nowhere to put the mud, so I abandoned the task, until the fall.

So, the Creemore Vertical Challenge SAP (Specific Action Plan) is mostly on schedule, but I'm surprised that I am not way ahead of the plan.  What have I been doing, lallygagging?


I am not happy with my running as yet.  It is starting to improve, but the curve is very slow.  Ran a half marathon trail run on the weekend (12 Mile Creek) in 2:09, which is acceptable, but bodes badly for next week's race, the Niagara 50K.  I will run as far as this body will allow, then DNF if I must.  No, I don't want to drop to the half, it's not something that would inspire me.

Well, that is about it for now.  I will be glad when the CVC is over.  Not because I dread it, but because I still have a "job" to do, until it is complete.  I think retirement will truly start once I can stop adhering to a schedule.

Hey!  Hope to see you are the CVC!

Monday, May 26, 2014

3 Days at the Fair

Perhaps I should call it the weekend from hell.  The only great aspect of the weekend (May 16 - 19) was the race itself.  The RD's and volunteers fully understand that there are people seeking PB's, national and world records.  Their support of the race is truly epic.  They understand how to support multi-day races.

3 Days at the Fair offers 12, 24, 48 and 72 hour races.  Most runners consider 24 hour races "the fringe".  And it is!  Anyone that considers 6 hours of running as the warm-up is not a mainstream, pass-the-salt athlete.  They are wackos.  And someone running 3 days?  Scheduling 2 - 40 minute sleep periods per day?  Certifiable.  I'm usually the last person to judge anyone, but I've been to 2 of these multi-days and whoa!  Certifiable!  Of course Marylou, Maryka, Charlotte et al will now try to lynch me (they have all the tools necessary) but the running community needs to know about this.  How many people do you know who plot a running schedule over 72 hours that results in upwards of 400 kilometres?  I worked at Honda and we made these devices that avoided running such anomalous distances...

The drive to New Jersey was uneventful.  We left Creemore at 05:30 on Thursday (I like to get well into a trip before I actually wake up) and arrived at the race site circa 2:00 PM.  We said hello to a bunch of Canadians, then sought out the hotel.  Friday morning, we picked up our race kits and Lee Anne got ready to run.  Her A goal was to break her age category Canadian record (28:14) for 100 miles.  She was registered in the 48 hour race for the attempt.  I was registered in the 12 hour, with a special starting time of midnight, Friday.  Not my idea.  Lee Anne thought it would be nice for us to run a few laps together every once in a while.  The course was exactly 1 mile, so when you reach 100 loops, you've got 100 miles in.  Lee Anne's race started at 09:00 Friday morning.  So did the rain.  Did it pour?  The area received 2 INCHES of rain in the next 14 hours.  I crewed from 09:00 until midnight.  Everything was wet.  I'm talking 3 inches of water in the tent.  Shelters being blown over, tent pegs flying.  It would have been crazy-fun if it was a short 50K race, or something.  The first 14 hours of a 48 hour race?  Not so much fun...

Lee Anne ran on a "reasonable" schedule, but in retrospect, perhaps a bit slow for attaining 100 miles in 26 hours (the A goal).  But it was hard to put in serious laps with everything so wet.  Dan (Marylou Corino and Maryka Hladka's crew) and I had quite a challenge simply providing dry fare, sage advice and that special humour reserved for floods...

Want to know a funny thing about 100 mile runs?  They take a freakin long time to complete.  During these protracted endeavors, things can go wrong.  They are also long enough that you can address certain issues and revert back to plan.  Think of building a pyramid.  If you exhaust your quarry, it's no big deal to source a new one 2 - 3 years later...

Lee Anne ran into very few issues, even during the monsoon.  Yes, she was not faster than schedule, but not too far behind.  Clockwork comes to mind.  And so it went until midnight, when I started running.  We ran a few laps together, some apart, but after a short time (3 hours) I wasn't able to run with Lee Anne and went back to crewing.  Crewing did not last long!  I felt tired.  Very tired.  I had little sleep the night before (don't forget, up at 05:00 Thursday, little sleep Friday night, a misguided attempt to sleep Friday evening during the monsoon. start running at midnight) but even still, I was overly tired.  Since the aid station was all wet and the tent was under 3 inches of water, I put the seat back in the car and tried to sleep.  From 03:00 Saturday morning, I would get up every 30 minutes to replenish the aid station, then back to the car, the only dry and warm spot around.

At 05:30 Saturday morning, after running without a major stop for 20.5 hours, Lee Anne woke me up in the car.  This was a big surprise to me as I normally don't actually fall asleep when supporting Lee Anne.  Something was wrong - with me!  Something was also wrong with Lee Anne.  She was at 126K and not looking all that good.  Near tears, she blurted out "I don't think I can do this".  With 22 miles to go, the wheels had fallen off.  I tried to provide the encouragement that would entice her to continue, but I also noted that Lee Anne was far from "okay".  She had reached a point where a 2-3 hour rest was mandatory.  Unfortunately, she did not have that luxury if she wanted to break the record.  Dilemma!

We spoke at length about her goals, options and desires.  This was no easy decision, but I did not like how Lee Anne looked and would prefer to see her miss all her goals, rather than incur serious injury / medical issues.  We decided to pull the plug.  In retrospect, I wonder if this had anything to do about how I was feeling.  Something was wrong with me!

I packed up the aid station, tent and supplies while Lee Anne showered.  Almost.  After packing the car, I informed the RD that we would both be stopping, then went to see what was keeping Lee Anne.  She was not at the shower.  I found her back at the car.  She had taken off her running clothes. then passed out naked on the floor of the shower room.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures.  She could not shower, but put on her street clothed and returned to the car.

We then travelled from New Jersey to Niagara-on-the-lake, where we had booked a B&B for 2 nights.  I felt unusually tired during the trip to NOTL.  We arrived, checked into the B&B and I promptly started throwing up.  Did I mention the diarrhea?  Let's make it interesting!  I spent the next 2 days in bed (yes, at the B&B) before I had the strength to get up and drive back home.  Incredible fun eh?

In comparison, this weekend was great.  We biked to Owen Sound to visit with Doug and Joanne Barber (had a great time), then biked back to Creemore.  It almost killed me!

Dig Deep!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Training for a 12 Hour Race

3 Days at the Fair in New Jersey:  May 15.  Lee Anne signed me up for the 12 hour race, while she is doing the 48 hour race and possibly stopping at 100 miles if she attains her A goal.  We will run a few laps together, but for the most part, she just wants someone out there on the course during the night, lurking.  Someone to goad her should she fall off her A goal.  What is her A goal?  Under 28 hours for 100 miles.  Why does 28:14 pop into my mind?  Hmm.  I am about to run 12 hours, starting at midnight.  Fun fun fun!

So here I am putting in massive training, for my 12 hour race.  I ran 7.5K today.  It was 12 degrees so I ran in shorts, but found it a bit cold.  However, it wasn't that long ago (refer to picture) that running was REALLY cold.  Funny how quickly we adapt.  I am still quite happy to be running trails.  Roads are great for speedwork, but after being forced to run road or spend time on the dreadmill for the last 4 months, trail is still a treat.

Oh!  I retired May 1.  I'm still in "gotta get ready for work tomorrow" mode.  It takes a while to get used to such a major life change.  I will write more on this once I wrap my head around it.  For now, I am trying to juggle a few things...  Cleaning maple syrup equipment and lines, finish destroying Lily and Daryl's house and getting ready to start building, ramp up my running, gardening and getting ready for the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  I made about 80 medals today.  The tractor was starting to overhear, so I changed the thermostat.  No better, so I pulled the radiator core and sent it away for cleaning.  Hopefully that does the trick.  Of course I need the tractor for almost everything but the running.  I need to clean the lies before we head to New Jersey and before the house framing starts...  My hopes of reducing my work week to 60 hours is currently a bit of a joke.

However, I do get time in the middle of the day to blog!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pick Your Poison

Full reverse captain!

Even though I live in the area I was a bit surprised to see the quantity of snow on the ski hills at PYP.  As in "Hey!  There's a bare spot".  For me, PYP has been the season opener for a few years.  First time I'm allowed out of the sugar shack...

Reports of the trail conditions leading up to the race and on race day were ominous.  Snow, ice and mud.  Very slow conditions.  Perfect!  Due to the never-ending syrup season (I boiled down 3 days before the race) my conditioning was laughable.  I should NOT be running a 25K race with so little training.  A trail race with ski hills.  Fortunately, the trails were slow, slippery, treacherous and nearly unrunable in spots.  Everyone would have to run at my speed!

I had the usual apprehensions of someone who had only run 28K in the last 2 weeks, during 4 runs.  Would I uber-bonk at 20K?  Would I make it to 20K?  Does snowshoeing out from the sugar shack with a case of syrup on my back count as training?  After 40 years of running, I figured something out.  If I start slowly and don't do anything really stupid, I can generally make it to the finish line without having to use the Quasimodo lurch.  As the race unfolded, all the snow, ice and mud really cheered me up.  To indicate how slow it was, first place in the 25K was 2:05!  Not the typical 1:45 range.  It was tough!

The first 12.5K loop was run at an easy pace, in 1:35.  I was tired starting the second loop, but thought I would simply run until forced to walk.  I don't know if this occurs because I have leg memory, or some such thing, that tricks my legs into thinking they can actually run for 3+ hours without any training, but I was able to run until the finish.  Sure, I took walking breaks up the hills, and my definition of a hill changed dramatically as I slogged along, but I was not forced to slow down due to a conga-line, as I had at spots in the first loop.  I don't like slowing down, just to cross a little bridge, or to step over a bunch of logs.  Just close your eyes and maintain a steady rhythm, and your feet will figure out what to do.  Trust me!  So the second loop was completed in 1:39, for a fairly even split and a total of 3:14.  Because of the conditions, 3:14 is actually a respectable time.  I'm very happy with it and hope that with a modicum of training, I can do better!

So, I went home happy and tired.  I was invited to my brothers for supper, which would (so I thought) allow me to hit the pillow circa 10:00 PM.  Nope, not even close!  Supper turned out to be more of a retirement party (I retire May 1) with 80 - 90 of my closest friends.  Quite the surprise!  Lee Anne had spent 3 months planning the event and it included family and friends from work, running and old acquaintances.  Quite the spectacle!  The only problem with such an enterprise is that there were 20 - 30 people with whom I would have loved to spend an hour or two talking.  However it was great to see everyone and it helped impress on me that retirement will actually happen!  I got home with a bunch of retirement gifts and made it to bed at 02:00 AM.

Well, see you soon at the next race!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Computer... New Operating System... Old Operator

The title is a bit of a joke.  I started at Honda back when the earth was cooling, as a mainframe computer operator.  Before then, OS360 was introduced circa 1965 and it was still good enough for the 1980's.  In 1985 ish, they introduced OS370, a minor upgrade.  Think on that.  20 years before a minor upgrade.  Nowadays, the operating system changes faster than I change my underwear.  Strike that last bit, it sounds ominous.

Here is how my week has progressed:  Friday:  Upgrade my work laptop from Window XP (no, not joking) to Windows 7.  Monday:  Install specialized software until just after the cows came home.  Tuesday (today), buy a new laptop with Windows 8.1.  Now I'm not Amish, although they think so at work, but this week has been a precipitously steep learning curve.  First point, for the designers of Win8.1:  Are you out of your cotton-picking minds?  Who would consider such an obscure, counter-intuitive system as a good idea?  I actually want to FIND C drive.  I like to dictate the file path so that way out in the future, such as tomorrow, I can FIND the @%#@$ file.  I understand hierarchical databases; I don't understand mansy pansy fog-overlaid file storage, where you find what you stored by wishing on a star.

But let's move on to a topic that has caused me some angst in the last month or so.  Maple syrup production.  I have 73 liters so far.  For those who will be demanding their age category prize of syrup at this year's Creemore Vertical Challenge, this translates into "I have enough for the race".  I don't have enough for personal and (this is funny) I don't have the 100 liters that people have already ordered, including the dreaded MMSC (militant maple syrup consumers), who believe that pain is a conscionable method of making me understand what and who are important in the grand scheme of things.  The good new is that it will be -10 tonight.  I have a very shaky and short reprieve from the budding season, when I will lose all hope (yee who enter here) of filling the outstanding orders...

Running?  It is not going very well, but I did get a run in with Everhard, a neighbour who normally runs at twice my speed.  Everhard brought a couple of friends who were in need of some hill training.  Soon the vertical trash talk started and Lance displayed some fine sarcasm while talking of the 4K hill on Collingwood Street (part of which is hill #1 on the CVC course) by thanking us for choosing such an easy hill...

So, I am resigned to a slow and painful "long training run" at the Pick Your Poison race in 2 weeks.  I  hoped to ramp up the training to make it more of a race.  However, the first (for me) race of the season is meant for meeting up with running friends and talking about the long winter!

Dig Deep.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Waiting for Godot

Okay, this will be a bit of a rant.

I checked my records and since 2000, the latest I have started the evaporator is March 15.  Yesterday (March 28) the forecast was calling for +8.  I was pumped.  This would be the first truly warm day this year.  My only concern was one or two barrels might overflow.  During the past 2 weeks, the sap has run marginally, interspersed with cold snaps.  I would get 2-3 inches of sap (not enough to pump into the reservoir) which would then freeze.  Repeat.  I now have barrels half full of frozen sap.  So, a good run would result in sap overflowing the barrels.

Fortunately, Lee Anne had run 50K yesterday and warned me that it never got very warm.  Seriously?  The first day since November that it would be above 3 degrees and they were wrong?  This morning I checked the temperature for the previous 24 hours.  It went up to a scorching 1 degree.  Not happy.  I also noticed it was -5 this morning and that the record low for March 29 is (was) -2.  Very not happy.  Today's high is zero, but don't worry, tomorrow's high is going to be 4!  Yeah, right.

The real problem is that the clock is ticking.  All maple syrup producers know that circa April 15, it gets warm.  The frogs croak, the snow melts and the trees bud.  Note that last point.  Trees bud because the sap changes chemical composition.  It is time to make leaves, using energy stored in the roots, transported to the buds via the sap.  That chemical change in the sap spells the end of making maple syrup.  The sap "sours", foams like crazy and can even turn to gel.  Pull the spiles.  So, I am now anticipating a short season, even if the sap continues to run past April 15, it will not run well.

Running:  It has taken a back seat to prepping the sugar shack, digging out mainlines (over and over) and helping with house demolition.  The house is close to being a shell now, down to exterior walls, load bearing walls and the roof.  Soon, the roof will come off.  If the sap doesn't run soon, I could stand under the ceiling and blow the roof off...

I did get out for a run yesterday with a few fellows at work.  We ran on the treadmills at the Honda gym, as running on Industrial Road in rain is not much fun; there are no sidewalks.

Good luck to all those running the new Laura Secord Memorial run on April 5.  I think the Bruce Trail down south should be fine by race day.  I am looking at Pick Your Poison, as my 2014 inaugural race.  Just 25K, to ease into the season!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tap Dancing

Not sure why this year is so much different than other years, but I don't recall ever reaching mid-March without 2 - 3 contiguous days above freezing.  The average daily high at the sugar shack this time of year is +1.  They are now calling for above freezing on Friday; a measly +1.  From then until March 19, it is not expected to go above freezing.

I need to tap when it is -5 or warmer.  Tomorrow's high is -5, which (technically) means I can tap for about 2 hours, during the warmest part of the day.  But let's factor in how tired I am of waiting for Godot.  I will start tapping tomorrow, damn the torpedoes.  That way I can take full advantage of the huge sap rush on Friday, when it climbs to +1.  Do you know what roots think about +1 when there is 4 feet of snow covering them?  Absolutely nothing.  Roots can't think.  However I would estimate that the ambient temperature just above ground level (near the bottom of 4 feet of snow) will be -10.  And dark.

Worked at house destruction today and took the ceiling in the basement down.  It went quickly, considering the ceiling was comprised of half inch drywall nailed to the joists, with a half inch of plaster attached to the drywall.  I can't figure out why.  Perhaps the house was not heavy enough, with only a layer of "light" drywall?  The MO was simple.  Reach up and grab the plaster/drywall and wrench with slightly more than body weight.  Repeat 3,000 times.  My arms are sore and my fingers are not working well (plenty of typos in this entry, before correcting).  Did I mention that I dug out sap mainlines for 4 hours yesterday?  I can clearly see now that retirement is going to kill me.  What does not kill us makes our arms sore.

Anyway, it is a beautiful day and I should be out snowshoeing, but since I will be tapping tomorrow, let's give it a rest.  I'm too sore to run, but might go for a short one tomorrow before the killer snowshoe.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Memo to Spring: Ontario is Waiting

88F in Florida.  -8F in Creemore.  I tried to convince the fellow I was talking to today who works in Florida that we should spread the temperature evenly.  He did the math and figured out the the AVERAGE of our temperatures (40F) is about as cold as it gets in his neck of the woods.  His reply was succinct:  "We ain't got no deal".

I went out for a run yesterday (Sunday March 1).  Into a strong freezing humid wind with the chill factor north of -25.  No thanks.  Turned around and embraced the treadmill once again this winter.  Not happy.

Tapping is not fairing much better.  Tapping a tree below -5C is not recommended, as it can split the wood, resulting in damage to the tree.  So I wait.  The long range forecast for the property (near Singhampton) is nothing above freezing until after March 17.  And in case you want to mention Friday March 7, the high is -2 there.  Then it gets colder.

My biggest fear is that the temperature will go from -10 one day to +20 the next.  Everyone will be ecstatic, except for those who were rash enough to declare that they could fill all maple syrup orders this year.  Again.

Well, tomorrow I will dig out the mainlines in a feeble effort to get ready.  There is so much snow in the bush that many mainlines that are normally well above the snow are buried.

At least I'll get in my workout!

Oh!  Today's picture is the current snowbank along Airport Road, just south of Avening / Creemore.  It should melt by July...

Saturday, February 15, 2014


My stepdaughter and son-in-law are destroying their house.  I think they plan to build another one on the foundation, but that is not relevant, when I get to wreak havoc with a sledge hammer, crowbar and chainsaw!  Destruction is so much more fun than construction.  I enjoy building, but it pales in comparison to taking apart Ikea storage modules in 93 seconds.

This blog is actually about PF (plantar fasciitis). For some strange reason, I thought that the first few days of destruction would involve removing trim, carpets, fixtures and storage cabinets.  I did not bring my steel toe, steel shank, acid proof running shoes.  Okay, they aren't exactly running shoes.  With 4 of us swinging and smashing, the basement was soon down to the stud walls, plumbing and electrical.  Plumbing was simple, cap all but the upstairs sink and toilet, which was the simplest configuration to maintain some plumbing during the initial destruction.  Stud walls were also easy, but unfortunately, while walking backwards to get a better look at some plumbing in the ceiling, I stepped on a nail.  Fortunately, I had received a tetanus shot the previous week.  My body seems to have an affinity for collecting metal; the shot was preemptive.

The nail didn't even come out the top of my foot, so I could safely ignore it and get back to destroying things.  A few hours later, I washed the wound and it is now almost completely healed.

2 days later, I went for a run along the Niagara path (the same one as the Niagara Ultra course) which had about 4 inches of crusty snow.  Running was tough, but it was nice to be on a trail (albeit paved) for the first time in about 4 weeks.  The nail hole, almost directly in the center of my foot, caused the identical pain as running with PF!  I thought briefly of putting a nail into my other foot to even out my gait, but that was just a crazy thought.  The Niagara trail was tough going and after only 6K I decided to turn back to Niagara-on-the-lake, where Lee Anne and I were staying for 2 nights.

While I was braving the cold and snow, Lee Anne went to the NOTL community centre, which includes a sports complex.  Guess what?  They have an indoor track!.  Not the biggest, but it is comprised of 2 lanes that follow the outside perimeter on the second floor.  The next day I tried the indoor track and it is MUCH easier than running outside, in 4 inches of snow.  I got to thinking of the various surfaces I have run on and this is how I would grade them, from easiest to hardest:

Treadmill, indoor track, road, crushed stone track, road with slush, trail, wet trail, muddy trail with hills, trail with 4 inches of snow, trail with 1 - 2 feet of snow, trail with hills and 1 - 2 feet of snow, Tour de Mont Blanc.  For those of you fortunate enough to have never experienced the TDMB, it is not a walk in the parc.  Try climbing at roughly a 10 degree slope for 4 hours, to start your day.  The scenery is wondrous and travelling through 3 European countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) on the same hike is quite the spectacle, but this is the same trail used by the UTMB race and it will kick your ass!  I could easily run the UTMB, if I had a month.

That's it.  A strange entry, but all the elements of slapstick comedy...

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Should be Running, Not Blogging!

Just got back from Bayview Wildwood Resort near Orillia.  I'm amazed that this resort has slipped under my radar for so long.  I have even looked for resorts in the general vicinity without stumbling upon BWR.  Consensus?  Nice resort.  Room prices are comparable to Deerhurst, but include breakfast (a la carte for small crowds, buffet if there are 12+ people) and a surprisingly upscale dinner.  Not in the league of Canoe, but good solid apps and mains with linen.  The chef is competent and has a variety of product at his/her disposal.

During the summer, it must be borderline chaos.  Being family oriented, Lee Anne and I are eyeing letting the grandchildren loose on the establishment.  Not that the GC's are holy terrors, but they would have tremendous fun at the resort.  Don't worry, I'll get to the running soon.  The resort is a mere 1.5 hours from Creemore.

Our stay was during the quiet season.  I liked it!  We had the pool and hot tub to ourselves.  I ate breakfast one morning (Lee Anne was running) and there were 4 other people in the restaurant.  We met an average of 2 people per hike.  One snowshoe hike was 3 hours long.  How many people did we meet?  2.  We both asked each other for directions.  It was tons of fun!  Although I brought our skates, we never did make it to the 5 rinks.  BWR had a shinny hockey tournament the previous weekend.  I saw 3 people skating, all on the same rink.  They should have spread themselves out over 2 - 3 rinks, but as they were playing hockey, I appreciate they wanted to be on the same rink.  We brought our skates and snow shoes, although the resort provides skates, XC skis and snow shoes for free!  We mainly ran, snowshoed and XC skied, aside from swimming and hot tubbing (it's a verb, buddy).

Running was either on a treadmill (one, but decent) or on the sparsely traveled roads.  I had my running snowshoes, but sadly, did not fit in a trail run.  Mainly because I was tired by 2:00 PM each day, from Lee Anne's exercise itinerary.  The only drawback to a vacation at Bayview Wildwood Resort is that you need a day or 2 to recover afterwards.

So, it is approaching 2:00 PM, we are back in Creemore and I should be should be out for a run just now, but am enjoying a brief sit-down.

Soon.  Very soon!