Monday, December 14, 2015

Creemore: A Canadian Skyrunning Race???


That pretty well sums it up.  Of the more than 1,200 road, trail and ultra runners that have stood at the starting line in Creemore, Ontario, waiting for the gun to fire, very few were thinking "Gee, I wish this course had more hills".  And as per the literature, there are only 4 hills.  I see no reason to cloud descriptions of the Creemore course with words such as "incline", "grade", or "cliff".  Four hills and one valley should be sufficient to get across the message that Creemore is not overly flat.  Where is this diatribe heading?

About a month ago, I got an email from the Canadian Skyrunning Federation (CSF) asking if I would consider submitting the CVC as a Skymarathon.  My first thought was no, I would not consider it.  Mainly because it had never occurred to me that Creemore COULD be part of the Skyrunning Series!  As it stands (this will explain why you have a bad feeling about the above paragraph and why I started this Blog entry with one word) Creemore has almost enough vertical to meet the minimum requirements of a Skymarathon.  The CVC could be part of the Canadian Skyrunning Series, if I could add another hill.  Someone out there knows how to challenge me!

One problem with trying to find a hill in the Creemore area is that there are too many options.  I would like to keep most of the course intact.  It works well,with aid station placement, recovery (granted, lean in this area) and to minimize the number of marshals.  But there are several hills that I would dearly love to add, as some have incredible views, others offer raging technical trails and one has a pleasant flat part.  Guess which one I have already discarded!

So, there will most likely be changes to the CVC course for 2016.  This causes me a bit of angst, as the 50K men's record (Calum Neff) is a blistering 3:25:52.  This is 35 minutes faster than the next best time.  With a new course, the record books will have to be rewritten.  Also of concern are the hundreds of less-than-happy runners that will not like me, for adding another hill.  Come to think of it, they already don't like me, so no loss there!

So, please take a look at the Skyrunning Canada website.  As a note to the runners who enjoy hills, you can accrue points at Creemore for the Canadian Skyrunning series.

The Creemore Vertical Challenge is looking up!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bad Idea: Wearing Antlers While Running

Well, we made it to December and I think we should celebrate the decay of daylight and erosion of ambient temperatures!  I thought seriously about challenging others to run every day in December, but that's been done before.  Anyway, I have a better idea...

The Challenge:

This makes much more sense from my perspective and has the added bonus that you can change your mind in mid-December, if you are falling behind your goals!  Chose 3 of the 4 available challenge options and decide whether you will increase or decrease from your current rate!


1.  Run Faster
2.  Run Further
3.  Drink new beer or wine
4.  Potato Chips

This is too easy.  Pick 3 of the above and decide if you want to increase or decrease.  Example, here is my choice:

Running Further:  Increase
Drinking new wine:  Decrease
Potato Chips:  Increase

This should be easy for me, as I have drastically reduced my mileage since Haliburton.  I am comfortable with the wines I am currently drinking and you can never eat too many potato chips.  I will ignore running faster as I am having trouble with that aspect this decade.

I knew that hunting season started soon, so in a fit of proactivity, I checked the Ministry of Hunting for the season dates.  Have you ever been to the MOH site?  Holy crap!  There is no way anyone can figure out when hunting season starts or when it ends!  Being an incredibly intelligent ultra runner, I decided to ask a hunter when the season began and finished.  They lose their license if they don't know, so I'm sure all of them have waited patiently on the phone for hours, to talk to an actual MOH person, to find out.  I figured that if you want to find a hunter, simulate their prey.  So I donned an old set of antlers and ran in the Simcoe County reforestation areas...

I really hope that anyone reading this entry is not taking notes.


Since Haliburton, running has been tricky.  A DNF at Run for the Toad and a DNS at Horror Trail.  However, running is now starting to get easier.  I still have the odd run where my legs seem to be in a different time zone.  They are starting to listen to me now.  I am not running much over 20K, but shorter runs (12K) no longer feel like a visit to the Gobi desert.  New for this year is a running log.  I have always wondered what sort of mileage I did and the current total for this year is surprisingly high.  I've just surpassed 2200K, which includes quite the nosedive in the past 2 months.  Monthly totals show how much of an impact Hali had on me:  July (250.0K), August (200.5), September (208.5), October (67.5) and November (135.0).  August included hiking in Italy.  I find you don't run as much when climbing mountains for 10 hours a day!  At least I don't.  September, without 80K at Hali, and October were lean months, as I struggled to recover.

Creemore Vertical Challenge:

Some very surprising news!  I can't divulge much information until after December 14, but hope to have some great news then.  As a hint, check out one of the Canadian running organizations, that is holding a press conference on December 14.

I had hoped to deploy online registration and update in early December, but these activities will have to wait until mid-December.  Why?  I can't tell you yet.  Not that I'm sworn to secrecy, but I figure that waiting until after the press conference on December 14, 2015 is the correct thing to do.  In bathroom reno parlance, I'm pumped!

The CVC will take place on Saturday August 6, 2016 and include a 25K, 50K and 75K, same as last year.  I have fiddled once again with the prizes for 2016.  Unfortunately, the total number will trend downward to 42, coincidentally, the answer to life, the universe and everything.  This year, I had 7 prizes for the 75K women, but only 2 women running that race.  I also have trouble keeping track of different age groups for the 25K versus the 50K and 75K, so I have aligned these, to assist my remaining sanity.  I heard that!

Another change that might not be appreciated is I have reinstated the Earlybird discount.  If you sign up before July 1, it is $10 cheaper.  Why will this not be appreciated?  The Earlybird discount will replace the small jug of maple syrup, received by the first 100 people who signed up.  Now I will find out who the MMSC's are!  (Militant Maple Syrup Consumers).  In 2015, I had to guess at T-shirt sizes, as many people signed up after I had to place the order.  This did not work out nicely, as there were several women who signed up early, but did not receive the correct size T-shirt.  This year, I will only order for people who sign up before July 1.  I need to submit the T-shirt order on July 2,

So, signing up before July 1 will be cheaper and you get a T-shirt.  Win-win.

I will also bring back the spot prizes.  They were discontinued in 2015 because the race itinerary became quite crowded with the addition of the 75K.  I noticed that a few runners were disappointed.  I now have to convince my wife Lee Anne that making a few extra pieces of pottery is fun!

As it is never too early to troll for volunteers, keep in mind that you can get volunteer hours at the CVC, for that big race you hope to enter.  Some races (Western?) you have to volunteer on the trails or at aid stations for the hours to count.

Enjoy your running and note that the days get longer in 3 weeks.



Monday, November 9, 2015

Bathroom Break

I have been extremely busy replacing almost everything in the bathroom over the last 3 weeks, so I am taking a break...

If you ever need to remodel your bathroom and decide to do it yourself, here is some advice:


Bathrooms are not as straightforward as other simple tasks such as building a Formula 1 car, or climbing Mount Everest.  And I believe that remodelling the bathroom takes much longer than the other mentioned tasks.  The problem is that each task (example:  Install a toilet) should only take 2 - 3 hours, but ends up taking much longer, when you actually perform the task.  In order to replace my toilet, Csaba (pronounced Chuba) and I had to first reconfigure the floor joists.  Getting a new floor joist into my house means tearing up 10 feet of floor.  Once the joists were in place, we had to strap below the joist (yes, from above), put in new insulation, vapour barrier, plywood, concrete board and new tile.  Without Csaba, it would have taken me about 3 weeks.

Csaba is a master carpenter.  Perhaps you have never heard of a master carpenter?  Csaba apprenticed under an older master carpenter in Hungary for 6 years.  Six years!  From the age of 13 until 18, he learned the proper methods of carpentry.  In Canada, here is how you learn carpentry:  "Take this hammer".

Csaba is extremely quick at carpentry.  It has something to do with having learned the best practice for almost everything, then doing it until his technique was perfect.  I help Csaba with his projects from time to time and he makes a mistake about every other week.  When my son-in-law built a house last year (see picture), I was the manual labour for Csaba, who built one of the most complicated houses I have ever seen, let alone helped to build.  I think Csaba likes my sense of humour, because it was definitely not my skill set that prompted him to ask for my help on some of his other projects.  When Csaba found out I was remodelling my bathroom, he offered to help.  This is the type of offer you cannot refuse.

If you have a construction project in the GTA, you could do worse than hiring Csaba.  If you are interested, email me and I can provide contact information.  Well worth having the job done correctly, the first time.

So, aside from the floor joists (another was rotten), we tiled the floor and walls, put in a new bathtub, water heater, toilet, bathroom sink, washer, dryer, water pump and 3 new windows.  The main construction (wall tile, floor tile, joists, toilet, bathtub, plumbing, and windows) was done in 2.5 days with the help of Csaba.  I have been working alone on the new cabinets and trim for the last 2 weeks...

Horror Trail Race Report


Since running my first 50 mile race at Haliburton, running has taken great effort and I tire quickly.  After the DNF at Run for the Toad, I contracted a cold, or likely the flu, and was not able to run for about 3 weeks.  Then the bathroom project started and I felt that going to Waterloo to run for 6 hours while I didn't have running water (get it?) was not a great idea.

My running is starting to get better.  I went for a couple of 2 hour runs last week.  Too bad the season is over!

Film Festival

Lee Anne and I staged a film festival in Toronto on Saturday, November 7, 2015.  A selection of Trail in Motion films was shown to a sell-out crowd of about 100 people.  I believe the films were well received and we might continue with the festival next year.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Run For the Toad 50K: DNF

Well, the subject line pretty well sums it up.  Mind you, it wasn't much of a surprise.  50 miles at Haliburton left me quite battered.  In retrospect, I would guess that running for 12.5 hours will do that to you.  Two weeks after Hali, my legs were not recovered and it was all I could do to complete 24K.  I had hoped for a fast recovery during the final week before the Toad, which was 3 weeks after Hali. but at 15K into the race, I knew I was in for a long day.

The Toad is such a well executed race, with attention to all those little details that make it special, such as flowers on the tables, a luncheon for Friday volunteers and a heated race venue (the biggest tent I've ever seen!).  This year's swag was a running pack, which garnered a lot of positive attention.  Although I give out T-shirts at my race, it is great to receive something other than another T-shirt.  George and Peggy Sarson and their army of volunteers deserve all the accolades for this race!

A 50K trail race deserves some respect.  It is not the same as a road 10K.  It is more effort than five 10K road races, so heading into the Toad with only 3 weeks recovery from a technical 50 mile race is not overly wise.  Well aware that I was pushing my limits, I started at a slow and comfortable pace.  My hope was to get in 3 loops (37.5K) before the bottom fell out.  Again,  my upper hamstrings were tight from the onset.  Not a good sign!  With the hope that the hamstrings would eventually start behaving, I maintained a steady pace and finished the first 12.5K loop in about 1:20.  Similar to the 24K training run a week before, by the start of the second loop, I was tired.  At 15K, I was already struggling to maintain a running pace.  From there, hopes for a successful 50K race dwindled until I was facing the realization that the last 25K would be a nasty exercise in pushing dead legs.  By 20K I was having trouble walking up the hills.  The hamstrings were now painful and so tight that they were not working properly, even at a walking pace.  30K of this?  Why?

When your legs inform you that they are not ready to push for 50K, you need to listen.  Although the Toad was my seventh ultra this year; perhaps because it was my seventh ultra, I decided that incurring an injury by continuing past 25K made no sense.  At 25K, I stopped.  My first DNF in a few years (I think since 2012).  I was disappointed, but also felt it was a wise decision.  The atmosphere at the Toad is wonderful, I chatted with many friends, both runners and volunteers, but I had no great desire to obtain a finishing medal at the cost of an injury.  My best time at the Toad is 4:48, so beating my PB was never a consideration.

Strangely, a few minutes later, Lee Anne walked up to me and declared that she had also DNF'd.  She had not recovered from her Canadian record (female 60 - 64) 100 mile performance from 4 weeks back.  Although it made sense, I was still surprised.  50K for Lee Anne is normally the warm-up; a distance she usually runs every Friday.  Of course Lee Anne does not run trails and had fallen twice in the first 15K.  Perhaps she had the same mental dialogue as I, that incurring an injury was not worth a finishing medal.

And so, hopefully my seventh and final ultra will be at Horror Trail (formally Horror Hill) on Saturday October 31.  I am running the 6 hour race, so I should squeeze out 42.3K...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Haliburton Forest 50 Mile Race Report

For those of you fortunate enough not to have run anything longer than 50K, let me tell you that 50 miles (80K) is a LONG race.  Imagine running and after 6 hours on the trails, thinking that a spot of lunch would be good just about now, then realizing that it would be more than another 6 hours before you can stop for a meal.  By then, it will be supper time.  At about this point, your stomach should be saying "Hey!  Wait a minute.  Don't I get a say in this decision?".  In reality, your stomach is not too happy and busy trying to process the cocktail of pills, goo and junk food you have been shovelling into your mouth...

With 5 races of 50K or a bit further over the summer, I felt I had a sufficient base to attempt the 50 mile distance for the first time.  At no point did I consider myself well trained for an 80K race.  Perhaps living with Lee Anne can be a detriment when determining what is construed as "sound" training for a long race.  Lee Anne runs 50K (+-) every Friday and 40K (+-) every Saturday.  Unless she is running 100 miles or something "long"...  So I perceived my five 50+K runs as a skeleton on which I needed to hang some meat and possibly an organ or two.  Since my weekly mileage was not spectacular, I figured the best thing I could do is run the 50 miler at a slow and steady pace.  Walk all the hills, slow down for technical bogs, etc. where a face plant could cost more than a few minutes.

Haliburton Forest Trail run takes place in (duh!) Haliburton Forest, a 65,000 acre tract of land owned by one person.  Not a corporation, not "Haliconglomorate", but a person just like you or me, but with enough maple trees to set up 3,000,000 taps.  The word jealous is such a limiting concept.  Helen Malmberg has been running ultras since the earth was cooling.  I can say this because the earth is still cooling, so Helen can't fault me with implying that she is old.  Helen will kill me anyway, but for the record, she has no right.  Needless to say, Helen puts on a rugged and beautiful race, far from the modern world.  I am happiest on trails and prefer technical to manicured, but I must confess that I looked forward to the Jeep road sections, as a break from the constant undulation of the technical trails.  Hali has its share of up and down.  This is apparent in the finishing times.  Only 2 people were under 9 hours in the 50 mile race this year.  I knew that Hali 50M would take considerable effort, but I wanted my first "grown-up" ultra to be on terrain I could enjoy.  Enjoy is another word with limits...

So, not much of a game plan, since I had no experience at the distance anyway!  Simply start slowly, avoid any effort above "easy" and hold on for a long ride.  After the 6:00 AM start, the first 6K is on undulating gravel road.  The hills were "silly easy" from 0 - 6K, but became monsters on the way back, near the finish.  Not much excitement during the first 25K, at which point I would be into uncharted (for me) territory.  My upper hamstrings seemed overly tight from the start of the race and they never did become quiet.  Strange!  Perhaps it was a psychosomatic reaction intended to force me to start slowly?  Not sure.  The first 2 trails (Normac and Ben) were quite technical and required a healthy output of energy.  Since I was taking it slow, there were no early-race mistakes.

Once past the 25K mark, there was a surprising amount of dirt and Jeep road.  Although some had considerable hills, both up and down, I was happy not to be spending energy jumping over rocks and roots.  My game plan was to run to the 40K turn-around, walking only the uphills.  With a few exceptions, I was able to stay with the plan.

One important aspect of an out-and-back race is that you get to see the front runners and friends along the way.  This can be a tangible positive, greeting friends and also realizing the halfway point is approaching.  I passed good friends Stephan and Kinga Miklos near the 40K point and although I wasn't sure, it seems that Stephan was a top five 100 miler.  Stephan went on the place third overall - well done!

After turning around at the 40K mark, where Lee Anne was volunteering and I had changed socks, I was looking at a long and tiring return to the finish.  A small lapse directly after the 50K aid station sent me about 300 meters in the wrong directions.  The course marking was very good, with a flag every 100 meters.  After walking for about that distance, I did not see a flag and retraced my steps to where about 20 flags directed runners onto a side trail.  They should have placed 21 flags at that turn!

Now the truth about roads.  Although they provided relief from the technical trails, my knees are not happy running on hard surfaces.  At about the 52K mark, my right knee sent me a very strange shooting pain every time I tried to run up a hill, or placed my foot on a rock/root that was more than 3 inches above level ground.  This continued until the end of the race.  I tried changing my stride, limping and even off-loading the strain onto my left leg, but nothing helped.  I was no longer able to run uphill.

Lee Anne, although she was supposed to be crewing the 40K aid station, took some time to help me at some of the other aid stations until the end of my race.  I have to admit, it was a highlight to see her, even though I was not spending much time at the stations.

At 57K, the longest distance I have ever run, I was very tired and having trouble running the flats and downhills.  With 8K of the Ben trail (perhaps the most technical) before the next AS, I drank some coke and took a caffeine gel.  The combination was too much for my stomach.  I was not sick, but could no longer ingest any food and could only take sips of water.  Since the next 8K was technical, I was thinking of taking a long walking break.  As luck would have it, I caught up to Rhonda, who had decided that running the Ben trail was too risky, and she would be walking it.  So, for about 4K, I joined Rhonda in a pleasant (okay, some knee pain) hike along the Ben trail.  Although my stomach never settled, the nausea reduced during the walk and my energy levels rebounded slightly.  After the 65K AS, It was time to start running.  This part of the trail (I think it was still the Ben trail) was less technical and the downhills were less steep.  Running was painful, but although my legs were tired, I could maintain a steady jog.

Finally Mark Ishikawa and I made it to AS 3, which is about 12K from the finish.  More importantly, there was only the Normac trail (about 3K) and gravel road to travel.  Mark was able to maintain a steady run and went ahead.  I had some difficulty on the trail, with both knees now emitting a sharp pain on every up or down step.  But I was getting close to the finish and still able to run the flats.  The Normac trail seemed to take forever as I was not moving much faster than 3-5 KPH.  Then onto the gravel roads, whose little undulations had become hills large enough that my knees would not allow much running.

With the sun setting, I crossed the finish line in 12:35:26.  As Kinga mentioned, it is my PB...  I was hungry, my knees were angry, but overall my legs were only stiff and sore, not damaged.  Walking was tricky for 2 days and I did not run until today (Wednesday), 4 days after the race.  I only ran 5K, to let the knee continue to heal.

The jury is still out on whether I "like" the 50 mile distance, or will avoid it in the future.  Part of me would like to try an easier trail 50M, such as Sulphur Springs, in order to see if the knee angst was a function of the roads and overly technical trails, and if I might enjoy something that requires less effort than Hali.  Still, I think trying a race longer than 50K has its appeal, even if the reason is simply a notch in your running barrel.  Perhaps you should not wait until 57 years of age to try it!

The next race and possibly the last for this year, will be the Run for the Toad 50K.  If you enjoy running 25K or 50K on a gentle trail, sign up for this one.  It is how a race should be run (get it?)!  You also get to rub shoulders with some of the better runners in Canada and the USA.  Well, perhaps you get to see the shoulders of these runners, as they disappear after the gun goes off!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Weenie Greenie Bags a Fast 100 Miler!

There were many reasons to sign up for the Race For the Ages, an intriguing race concept formulated by Gary Cantrell, of Barkley Marathons fame.  Gary, along with many ultra runners who are long in the tooth, thought that there should be a race that attempts to level the playing field for the older runners.  Instead of cut-off's that almost preclude older runners, stage a race that embraces age; that provides more time to run for those whose faster days are behind them.  Sometimes several decades behind them!

And so Gary put his diabolical and inimical mind to work on the problem and came up with a novel race format.  The race would end at 6:00 PM on Labour Day (sorry Gary - Labor Day) Monday.  Runners would have 1 hour for each year of their lives.  Runners younger than 24 would still get 24 hours.  So, hypothetically, would a 24 year old runner be able to run more in 24 hours than a 48 year old runner in 48 hours?  What about an 84 year old?  3.5 days to compete with the babies!

Gary obviously put a lot of thought into the race.  Although the course was only a 1 mile paved loop, he added enough turns to avoid having to change direction during the race.  Reversing direction in an 84 hour race (the oldest runner dictates the length of the race!) would have been chaos.  The clock ticked DOWN from 84 hours.  This made it difficult to figure out how long a runner had been on the course.  Example, a 73 year old at 54:45:00 would have been running for 18:15:00.  However, it was easy to tell how old the runners were, when they started.  If the clock said 63:00:00, they were 63 years old!  There were about 50 race starts over the weekend!  That was about how many age categories started, from 84 down to 24.  The youngest starter was a 2 year old named Burrito.  I believe the toddler was a new addition to the Cantrell clan.

For a new race to become known, you can either spend millions of dollars in advertising, or have Gary as a race director.  The buzz went out early and the race was discussed on podcasts, in magazines and social media.  The race concept caught the eye of many of the ultra legends.  Suddenly it was not just a race for a handful of Tennessee ultra veterans.  Anne Trason, Liz Bauer and David Horton showed up.  Some youngster called Joe Fejes (49) joined the party.  Running the race was not just a chance to perform well in a multi-day (if you were over 24) event, but a meet-and-greet of ultra legends.

Lee Anne had a different purpose for the race.  She would focus on the 100 mile distance and sacrifice her chances at doing well at the 61 hour "distance".  Lee Anne is 61 and started at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning, 61 hours before the 6:00 PM Monday finish.  Her "A" goal was to take another shot at the Canadian 100 mile record for her age category (F60-64).  Her "B" goal was to complete 100 miles.  I think there was some talk of Lee Anne doing well in ARFTA, but unfortunately, she had to choose between doing well at the 100 mile distance, or the 61 hour race, not both.

The game plan fell apart even before the race started.  I went out for a "short" 9 mile run on Friday, the day before Lee Anne would start.  In 35 degree heat and 70 - 80 percent humidity, it was all I could do to finish.  How the hell would Lee Anne try to push hard for more than 24 hours in such heat?  In the pre-race meeting, friend Sharon Zelinski, Lee Anne and I discussed options and decide the best (only?) course of action would be to start at a moderate pace and if Lee Anne ran into trouble, shut it down during the afternoon heat.

Sharon was injured (PF) and had no intention of running more than 10K.  She ended up with 15K, but that was to make sure she stayed ahead of the Burrito...  Sharon appeared to have a blast at the race despite her injury. Almost all of the runners signed her race form and I think she talked to every runner who was at the race.  Sharon was a big component in Lee Anne's success.  Sharon helped out when I went for food or a nap, but more important was her experience in long races.

So, an extremely nervous Lee Anne stood at the start line at 5:00 AM Saturday morning, along with Gary Cantrell, Joe Chriest, Jeff Collins, Brad Compton, Rosemary Evans and Joe Salwan; the 61 year olds.  The clock ticked down to 61:00:00 and they were off.

Lee Anne's race was divided into 4 segments of 25 miles.  The plan was to complete the first 25 miles in 5 hours (5:00 - 10:00) and although a bit aggressive, this would align with Lee Anne's current training.  By 10:00 it was over 30 degrees (86F), but Lee Anne had achieved the first goal and although hot, was running well.  We had tried several approaches to keeping her cool, but nothing was having a significant effect in the heat and sun.  On about lap 26 (mile 26), Lee Anne asked for a small bag of ice.  Easy enough to comply, I swiftly handed her the bag and she was off.  On the next lap, she declared that the bag of ice was working very well.  She would dip into the bag and place ice under her cap, in her bra...  Perhaps you don't need all the details!  Although hot and getting hotter, the ice lasted a lap and allowed Lee Anne to continue running.

The second 25 mile plan was to incorporate walking breaks.  We had discussed five and ones, but since Lee Anne was doing well, she decided to take 1 or 2 walking breaks at specific points of the 1 mile course.  The time allocated for the second 25 miles was 6 hours.  I had mentioned in the briefing that completing 50 miles in 11 hours was overly aggressive and if she was behind schedule, not to worry.  However at 4:00 PM, Lee Anne had completed 50 miles.  On to the third 25 miler!

Near the end of the second 25 mile segment, the sky had clouded over, the wind picked up and Tennessee decided to put on a thunder and lightening show.  While Lee Anne continued to run (most runners headed inside the air conditioned building to wait out the storm), Sharon and I held on to our tent.  We watched several other tents, including 2 at the official aid station, get blown away.  I would guess that about 2 inches of rain fell within an hour, then the sun came out and volunteers started to pick up the pieces.

The rain came at almost the perfect time.  Lee Anne had been getting red in the face.  During the heat, although running well, I had asked if she would like to head inside, to cool down and rest during the heat of the day.  She felt good enough to continue,  After the rain, the air had cooled to about 25 (77F) and stopping every mile for ice was no longer needed.

During miles 50 - 75, Lee Anne started walking more.  She never did incorporate a 5 and 1 split, but continued to use cues along the course to determine her walking breaks.  This seemed to work well.  Sharon had explained that the trick was to "get used" to starting to run at a certain point (along the course or by time).  This would condition the body to get used to changing from a walk to a run.   Lee Anne was still churning out some 13 minute miles, but more were in the 17 - 20 minute range.  The plan was to complete miles 50 - 75 in 7 hours, for a total of 18 hours.  Lee Anne was able to stay near the plan, sometimes logging a few long laps, but averaging near the plan.

The final 25 mile segment was not pretty.  Lee Anne was experiencing stomach issues, as she had been trying to ingest enough calories, salt, electrolytes and fluids to keep up a significant pace.  I was running out of ideas on how to entice her to continue eating.  At about 80 miles, we had to stop giving her electrolytes (Nuun), as she no longer had a stomach for it.  I figured that she had almost enough time to walk the remaining 20 miles and would no longer need a large caloric intake, so she started having breaks from food.  This did not settle her stomach, but allowed her to continue clocking 18 - 20 minute laps.

At lap 85, I was having trouble staying awake.  I had slept badly on Friday night (about 4 hours) and had only obtained about 1 hour on Saturday night.  Lee Anne did not get much more sleep, so with an upset stomach and being bone weary, continuing to run was not high on her list.  I mentioned that she would probably break the record, even if she walked the last 15 miles, but if she continued running, she would be done sooner.  I think at this point Lee Anne realized that there was no reason not to run!  She would not get any more tired and running would end her race that much quicker.  From lap 87, her pace increased until she was completing miles in 16 - 18 minutes, with the odd 20 minute lap.  Her 100th lap was completed in 15:06.

At 61 years of age, Lee Anne ran 100 miles in 26:34:44, about 100 minutes faster than the current Canadian record!  I am very proud of her and have now seen how much stamina and perseverance she can harness.  As one ages, the pace suffers.  A woman in her 60's no longer commands a 5 minute kilometre pace.  Although near their "maximum" effort, 100 miles will still take considerable time.  The world record for F60 is 20:47:35, almost 21 hours.  Very few other age groups need to sustain effort for such a long time period.  Well done dear!

Some notes on A Race For the Ages...

The picture will confuse almost everyone.  Yes, Lee Anne completed 100 miles in 26:34:44, but the clock registered 34:25:10, which was the time remaining before 18:00 on Monday.  Recall that the clock is counting down!  Lee Anne started at about 61:00:00, so the difference is 26:34:44.

While I was running on Friday, Lee Anne and Sharon went shopping with Liz Bauer.  Lee Anne said she was tongue-tied during their foray.  I missed possibly the only occasion when Lee Anne was at a loss for words.  We all have to live with our regrets...

Lee Anne was listening to a podcast about Anne Trason, when she was interrupted by Anne Trason, who wanted to chat.  Lee Anne mentioned this to Anne who thought it was a bit weird!  I made most of this up.

At one point, Lee Anne was running with David Horton, who was also wearing a green shirt.  When David would not divulge his name, Lee Anne nicknamed him the green hornet, which is quite apt as I believe that David has won more ultras than anyone in the world.  David then nicknamed Lee Anne the weenie greenie...

Liz dropped off a big container of Gu Roctane for Lee Anne to try.  Later, I was chatting with Joe Fejes's crew (wish I could remember his name), who mentioned that they were low on energy drink.  Since Lee Anne had about 40 Hammer gels, I offered him the Gu Roctane.  I cautioned about trying something new during a race (a big taboo!).  Joe's crew read the ingredient list and mentioned that although they were looking for Maltodextrin (main ingredient of Gu Roctane), he knew that Joe could handle the second ingredient, Fructose.  Apparently Joe has a concrete stomach, which is good because I wouldn't want to be remembered as that Canadian who sabotaged Joe's race...

Anne Trason ran 115 miles shortly after having knee surgery.  Let me repeat that.  Anne Trason ran 185K shortly after having knee surgery.  After my knee surgery, I wasn't allowed to drive that far!

On the way home, I used the GPS to chart the route home.  I then completely ignored where we were going.  At one point, Sharon noticed that one of the upcoming directions said "Ferry".  What???  Sure enough, instead of crossing from Detroit along the Ambassador bridge, we had found the smallest ferry in the world, somewhere near Sarnia.  2 minutes after we arrived, I drove the car onto the ferry.  We were first on the boat.  I asked how long it would take and was told it would be 5 minutes.  In 5 minutes, we were driving up to Canada Customs, first in line (no cars waiting) and cleared customs in 3 more minutes.  On Labour Day Monday!

 Liz Bauer had asked if we could pick up a chicken sandwich from MacDonald's at about midnight.  So, while Sharon crewed for Lee Anne, I drove to Macs and picked up some supper for myself and a chicken sandwich for Liz.  I figured the chicken sandwich was instrumental in Liz winning the race.  She clocked 164 miles in 56 hours, for first female and 7th overall!

Many thanks to Gary Cantrell for thinking up such an implausible race structure and seeing it to fruition.  Also thanks to all the volunteers, who helped make the race a huge success.  Thanks to Mike from Florida who actually figured out how to time such an esoteric race.  Mostly, thanks to Sharon for "sharon" her wealth of knowledge on long races.  I am truly sorry for the pun.

Believe me!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Running in Italy: Hahahaha

We're back!

Italy is a wonderful country to visit.  Italians are both friendly and accommodating.  Even to Canadian tourists who have not really bothered to learn any but the most basic Italian expressions.  In my perverse travelling world (I'm a fireman in that world) I thought that knowing English, French and a smattering of Spanish would suffice to communicate in Italy.  Wrong!  Had I learned German, I would have had no trouble, especially in the the north (Dolomite mountains).  No matter.  After picking up a car at the Florence (Firenze) airport, which was a bad idea of epic proportions, we immediately got lost.  Something to do with not understanding what the signs mean, not being able to read Italian and adjusting to roads that in Canada we call "single track"...  A local in a gas station somewhere west of Florence (we were supposed to be heading south) spent 10 minutes in broken English, providing us with instructions (spoken and written) on how to get to San Gimignano.  No, don't even attempt to pronounce it, unless you are from Tuscany.  Even then, I think Tuscanians go to "Learn to say Gimignano" school for a year or two.

Creemore Vertical Challenge Update

Oh!  Before getting into Italy, I should mention that while we were in Italy, the Creemore Echo had a cute picture of a six foot black bear, which was in someones back yard on August 6, two days before the race.  Apparently, the wasp nests that were strewn across two of the trails was due to a bear.  Those who were stung might take some solace that they were not mauled.

Back to Italy

Scheduling a flight to Europe 4 days after staging a race is not the best idea.  Although I rushed to complete all the post-race tasks, I was not able to complete all of the finances and storing of race gear.  I am still working away at some race related tasks.  Today, I separated the trail flags into same-colour bundles of 100 and put them away.

The flight to Firenze (Florence) was uneventful, but LONG.  I do not sleep on an airplane.  As a firefighter (note:  My travelling world) I need to be ready at a moments notice in case the captain needs me to put out a fire in the cockpit.  So, we were up at about 8:00 AM, went for a run, packed and drove to the airport.  The flight left at 5:30 PM and landed in Amsterdam at 12:35 AM.  After a 3 hour layover, the flight to Firenze took off on time and landed at 6:00 AM.  After a 22 hour day, I found out it was noon in Firenze!  We checked into the hotel at about 3:00 PM (9:00 AM EST) and the rest of the day is a bit hazy.

Florence is an amazing city.  We stayed in the old part, just off the tourist area.  Our hotel was originally a convent built in the 1400's.  It is a strange feeling to walk up a set of stairs and realize that people who died 500 years ago used the very same steps.  Although most of the bridges that spanned the Arno river were blown up during the second world war. We ran across one were Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo had an arguement.  It is hard for Canadians to put Florence history into proper context!

After insufficient sightseeing in Florence (give yourself at least a week, unless you are a Renaissance buff, in which case 4 years should do the trick), we then travelled to the Dolomite mountains in the north.  Note to fellow travellers:  Be careful travelling on Italian holidays.  We tried, on Saturday August 15 (yes, a holiday Saturday...  No, I did not ask why) to get from Florence to La Valle, in the Badia valley.  Quick tip:  All towns in northern Italy have 2 names.  Something to do with the region once being Austrian.  One is German and the other Italian.  The town names (German and Italian) are not always similar in spelling.  This does not include oddities like Florence, which is Firenze in Italian.  It will confuse you, so let's move on.  We had train tickets from Florence to Bolzano (Bozen) but 2 things happened.  1.  Our train left from a different train station than the one we were near (!) so we took a train to the "other" train station.  2.  The buses from Bolzano to Badia (close to where we were going) were not running due to the holiday.  Even the train from Bolzano to Brunico (Bruneck) was not running.   We found all this out after arriving in Bolzano...

The ticket attendant in Bolzano was some sort of genius of the Italian transportation system.  No other way to describe it.  He had us take 2 trains to get to San Lorenzo, then told us which bus to take, to get to Pederoa, which was close enough to the hotel that the owners could pick us up.  So, even on a holiday Saturday, it is possible to get from Florence to La Valle, but you either need to take 4 trains and 2 buses, or hire a helicopter...

The Pider hotel (pronounced like Peter) was fantastic.  If you ever want to hike the Dolomites, book the Pider hotel.  There were 5 - 6 epic hikes starting from the front door, or you can take the bus (that stops at the front door - unless it is a holiday...) to many more.  We stayed at Pider for a week.  The bedroom was spacious and modern, with a beautiful balcony overlooking the Dolomites and the town of La Valle, Wengen.  With accommodations, breakfast, supper, wine, laundry and the odd packed lunch and drink in the bar, our bill for the week was $1400.  Not bad, considering the meals were upscale and the wine was incredible.

We did not run as much in the Dolomites, mainly because 8 - 10 hour hikes up mountains seemed to be a sufficient amount of exercise for each and every day.  The hikes were challenging and the views were breathtaking.  I took 500 pictures, which is extraordinary for me.  I like landscape shots, which typically don't change much during a hike.  Not so in the Dolomites.  Around every corner was something new, or very old.  We took pictures of a church that was built on the side of a mountain by miners in 1389.  The rock striations would change colours every so often.  Pictures don't really do it justice, but 500 photos starts to paint a picture, pardon the pun...

After the Dolomites, and 2 buses and 4 trains, we were back in Florence, where we rented a car at the airport, to travel to San Gimignano, a medieval town south of Florence.  San Gimi is famous as it has 14 of its 70+ towers still standing.  Most medieval towns knocked their towers down throughout the ensuing centuries.  In the 1300's it was de-vogue to erect a tower beside your house, in order to provide a presence, house your army and whatever other reasons medieval people needed to rationalize such a huge endeavour.  Of course the towers had to be higher than their neighbour's tower, so some reached upwards of 230 feet.  I was quietly hoping none of the towers' structural supports would fail while we were there...

Running in Tuscany keeps you on your toes.  The streets are narrow and heaven forbid they put in a curb, sidewalk, ditch, or any other such structure for those who are not hitting mach 3 in their Ferraris...  Although we had a few dicey moments while running beside a rock wall on a left-hand curve, 6 inches from the road surface that was suddenly occupied by a tour bus, the scenery was beautiful and (according to Lee Anne), the grapes, olives, peaches, nectarines, plums and figs were a fantastic natural aid station.  Okay, the olives were not ripe, but you get the picture!

After some wine tasting and touring the town, it was back to Florence for the flight home.  The only excitement on the trip home was when our flight to Amsterdam was slightly delayed, and we figured out we had 45 minutes to disembark, clear security and make it the full length of the airport to reach our connecting flight.  The flight was boarding when we got to our gate!

So, we will certainly be back to Italy at some point in the future.

Next is a trip to Tennessee where Lee Anne will run in the "Race for the Ages".  Our good friend Sharon Zelinksi is also going and we will be travelling together.  Strange concept for a race!  Check out the website:


Monday, August 10, 2015

Creemore Vertical Challenge: Race Director Report

Well, I have finished tearing down the trail, pulling the signs, dismantling the tents, tarps and washing out all the containers.  There is still some financial and statistical work to complete, but the race is finally over, for me.  I'm tired!  I ran 20K on Sunday, stooping every 10 meters to pull out a flag.  Most trails I have to run and pull, then I run back to the car, hence the 20K run to clear 12K of trail.

Synopsis:  The race was a success.

I had a few regulars who (I hope) joked about how the weather was perfect for running, so what was I going to throw at them instead?  There is some perverse rumour that I control the weather and that I don't like runners.  The CVC is typically uber-hot, unless there are severe thunder storms...  Just because the extreme weather always hits during the CVC, somehow I am to blame.

So this is an attempt to pre-empt anyone from coming to the conclusion that I had anything to do with tearing apart a wasp nest and spreading it on the trail.  Half the 75K runners were stung, as they passed the wasps at about the 10.5K point.  In reality, some animal dug into the ground nest and spread it around, so that everyone could enjoy the stings.  As a side note, there is only one animal that I know, that would rip apart a yellow jacket nest for the grubs.  A bear.  I'm not saying that a sting is better than 3 rounds against Yogi, but I prefer wasps, in moderation.

Let's talk about wasps in moderation, for a moment.  I got stung by one near the pottery studio on Friday.  Sure enough, there was a nest beside the door.  About an hour later, Lee Anne phones and warns me that a ground nest has been ripped apart and there are wasps all over at about the 6.5K mark.  Lee Anne was stung.  My neighbour Gavin and I head out at dusk to kill the wasps at 6.5K.  It appears that some animal has ripped apart the ground nest.  I then head back home and spray the nest near the pottery studio.  At 5:00 AM Saturday morning (race day!), I turn on the front door light and about 30 wasps start circling it.  I later find a nest near the front door to the house.  3 nests so far.  At 6:00, the 75K runners start.  They encounter a nest (second one ripped apart by an animal) at about the 10.5K point and inform the volunteers at aid station 3.  AS 3 calls home base and I rush up to the course with wasp spray.  I spray for about 5 minutes, but there are wasps everywhere and they seem to be very angry.  4 nests, in 2 days!  I rush back home to start the 50K (8:00 AM), then rush back to the 10.5K wasp nest and cut about 40 meters of new course through the bush, to circumvent the wasp nest,  Please tell me we are done with wasps for the day!  At about noon, a parent is holding her young daughter who is crying and repeating "I got bitten by a bee" (something to that effect).  I'm running out of wasp spray!  I use the remainder of my last can to spray 2 holes that have wasp traffic, near the finish line.

5 wasp nests in 2 days...  Seriously?

Enough about wasps, here is the skinny on the race.

Adding the 75K filled me with a modicum of trepidation, to say the least.  Sunrise was at 6:15 on race day, so there would be enough light at the 6:00 to avoid having to use head lamps for the start.  A bigger concern was how would runners fare in stupid-hot weather, running for 11+ hours on a very hilly course.  The 75K has north of 2.5K of vertical ascent.  The answer was, everything would be just fine, if the weather was ideal for running.  Race day started cool, became cloudy, then a light misting at about 9:30 AM.  I could not have asked for better weather.  A close call for Stephen Bridson, who was stung and has had an allergic reaction in the past.  Stephen was carrying an epi-pin, but decided not to use it unless he started having a reaction.  Other 75K runners were stung up to 4 times (Stephan Miklos) with a report that one runner incurred 6 stings.  Ouch!

Adam Takacs was on fire, posting the new 75K record in a time of 6:34:03.  Adam surprised many when he finished his first 25K loop in slightly over 2 hours, shortly after the 50K started!  My first thought was 'does he know this is a 75K race, not a 7.5K race?'.  Stephen Bridson was second, in 8:00:14.  I think Stephen wanted to finish under 8:00 hours, but seriously, have you seen those hills?  Sven Jurshevski rounded out the podium with a time of 8:09:55.  These are seriously fast times for such a hilly course!

Charlotte Vasarhelyi, who holds or has held a bunch of Canadian ultra records, can now add the Creemore 75K record to her list.  With a time of 8:51:53, Char mentioned that she was just out for a fun run, but still clocked a time that is difficult to match.  Larissa Chankseliani was the only other women to start the 75K distance and finished with an impressive time of 9:52:09.

18 runners started the 75K distance, which earns them my respect!  Incredibly, 17 made it to the finish line intact and upright.  Maybe the 75K is not as hard as I thought.  Perhaps I should run it tomorrow...  Right!

In the 50K race, Calem Neff from Texas put on a show for us mere mortals.  His 25K split was completed in 1:37, 4 minutes UNDER the 25K record!  I recall mentioning to Gerry Arbour (a volunteer) "that isn't possible".  Calem is an elite athlete and I can only assume that he really likes maple syrup and Lee Anne's pottery!  Calem had the old 50K record of 4:01.  I have wondered and worried for 8 years, if anyone would ever run the Creemore 50K in under 4 hours.  Perhaps Calem has some unfinished business in Creemore, because he came back and crushed the 50K record, with a time of 3:25:52, taking 36 minutes off his old record!  That's over 14 KPH on a course with 1.75K of vertical gain.  Wow!  Robert Hamilton posted a 4:15:55 and Alan Ross was right behind him with a time of 4:16:31, both impressive times and likely in the top 10 fastest for the 50K.

Pascale Berthioume came close to the woman's record, with a posting of 4:47:06.  Beth Stephens grabbed second place with a time of 5:09:53 and Carolyn Caskie stepped onto the podium with a time of 5:23:37.

As a note, Calem left me with a conundrum that I have never experienced before...  His 25K split is the fastest anyone has ever run 25K at Creemore.  Does he get the 25K record as well as the 50K record?  My reasoning is that the 25K record is intended as the fastest time in the 25K race.  Calem has the fastest lap time, but would have to run the 25K race in order to set a new 25K record.  Hopefully no one realises that my real intent is to get Calem back to Creemore to run the 25K sometime soon!

The 25K also held quite the surprise.  I can't quite believe that the CVC has an international reputation, although (surprise!) the UK edition of Runners World listed the CVC as a top 50 international race destination.  I have no idea where that came from!  Nevertheless, Kanchhi Maya Koju, an elite runner from Nepal, ran the Creemore 25K.  I believe that Kanchhi is visiting Canada as her home town of Kathmandu and the surrounding area has been severely affected by the recent earth quakes.  This was Kanchhi's second trail race and she cut 9 minutes off the record, with a finishing time of 2:00:52.  Kanchhi holds a few middle distance records for Nepal, so I can only imagine what the future holds for her trail running!

Meghan Duffy also broke the old record, recording an astounding time of 2:03:35.  I spoke with Meghan, who appeared to be surprised that such a great performance landed her in second place.  I explained that Kanchhi ran in the 2004 Olympics,  Yes, Meghan picked the wrong year to attack the Creemore course!  Kelly Repoli was third in 2:10:24, a few seconds off the old record.

For the 25K men, it was Neil McCallum in first with a time of 1:52:21 followed by Craig Plunkart in 1:57:29 and David Hutchinson in 2:00 :34.  Fast times at Creemore high!

Both Lee Anne and I were impressed by how many runners approached us and thanked us and the volunteers for such a great race.  I would like to stress that the runners mostly interact with the volunteers, who are the ones who deserve the accolades.  Yes, Lee Anne and I put in some crazy hours preparing for the race, but the volunteers are on the front line and directly help the runners.

Improvements for next year?  Many.  I received an email suggesting that I should include real-time updates during the race.  Good idea!  I will endeavour to provide something for those who would like to participate from afar.  Signage seemed to be better this year.  There were no reports of runners going off course.  Although some of the runners can probably run the course in their sleep by now...

Above, I mention how important volunteers are to the race.  As an example, Saj and Agnes Moktan and Adi Shnall volunteered their sons and friends to help with the aid stations.  I like to think that these teenagers benefit from the experience of assisting the runners, and obtain first hand information on trail and ultra races that might help them in the future, should they attempt such a difficult race.  The help of all volunteers is appreciated by Lee Anne and I, as well as the runners.

I would also like to thank the land owners.  A running joke at Creemore (get it?) is that if you don't like the terrain, wait 5 minutes.  The CVC is not just one trail or road.  It is a combination of different surfaces that range from smooth flat gravel roads to steep downhill scrabbles.  The varying trails are mostly on private property.  These land owners have no need for 250 runners on their property, but every year they generously give permission, so that the race can continue.  Many help with trail preparation, provide a hose, or even an ATV, should a runner encounter distress.  A big thanks to Paul Carruthers, Stewart Lombard, Jeanette Poste, Rene Petitjean, Ron Flack, Ken Day, Cliff Weston and Audrey Tidd, for the use of their trails.

Well, the ninth annual Creemore Vertical Challenge is in the books.  213 people signed up and 196 tested their training and skill against a tough, challenging course.  There were few DNF's, likely due to the ideal running weather.  Wasps aside, perhaps changing the date to early August will be deemed a strategic move.  I have noted that stupid hot weather in Creemore is more likely in July than August.  Perhaps there were so many wasp incidents because of the drought?  Many thanks to all who participated in the 2015 Creemore Vertical Challenge.

Dig Deep!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Update on Creemore Vertical Challenge and Dirty Girls Race Report

Creemore Vertical Challenge

Fortunately, there is little to report, mainly because progress continues apace with the plan.  And yes, there actually is a plan, or more exactly, a Specific Action Plan.  All the big projects at Honda (where I used to work before retirement) had to develop an SAP.  When I first started the CVC race, I developed an action plan as a means of keeping track of tasks and their progress.  My initial thought was that staging a race would be comparable to a minor project.  Wrong!  It is no where near as complicated as a large project, but more in line with a mid-sized project.  Staging a race takes about 10 months.  Yes, I will start working on the 2016 CVC race in October.  There is little to do until March, but just getting ready for launching the online registration (which I strive to do by January) requires completion of about a dozen tasks.  Those of you who are astute will have noticed that the Creemore race info page still shows the 2014 IAU Bronze Label certification.  Yes, I did obtain Bronze for 2015, but I did so after submitting the updated race page to the OUSER (now OUTRace) website.

I have started preparing the trails, signage is complete, hard stock has arrived (magazines, pins, bibs, cups, Gatorade, Hammer Gels, tables, tents... it's a long list) and there is only one surprise.  The surprise won't affect runners, but volunteers trying to get to aid station #2 are in for a detour!  The bridge over the Mad river on Collingwood Street is being replaced.  Collingwood Street includes the cute little Hill #1.  There is a detour to get from the town of Creemore to AS #2.

The long range weather forecast for race day looks good (I told you I might lie); partly cloudy and a high of 22.  Registration is down this year.  As I write this, there are still 89 spots left.  Hopefully there are a few procrastinators amongst the running crowd!  I like signing up late when dealing with an injury.  It allows for near-race day decisions.  From a race director's perspective, late sign-up causes potential issues.  I prefer to order T-shirts when I have a good indication of the numbers in terms of gender and size.  This year is a wild guess.  Those in the 25K might want to pick up your race gear early, or you might not get your shirt size.

Dirty Girls Race Report

I sort of envision 2015 as my comeback year.  I am running more (being retired, there is little excuse not to...), I am injury free and I have some long runs under my belt, having run 4 ultras before Dirty Girls (DG).  I am way more active now, then I was 2 years ago.  I have lost weight, so running should be effortless.  Yes, I am still an incurable optimist!

Heading into DG, I knew my A goal was unreachable.  I would have to bag 50K in 6 hours, to have a chance at reaching 80K (my A goal) in 12 hours.  My B goal; realistic, or so I thought, was to run 72K.  Since I had already run 52.8K in 6 hours at Kingston, I saw no reason why I would ever have to stop before 60K, in 12 hours.  Yes, it was a tough course, but please speak to the hand.

The first loop was slow, as traffic took a few kilometers to thin out.  This is fine in a 12 hour race, as I would be walking before the end.  The second loop is when I noticed how much I was sweating.  It was very humid, although I did not feel the heat.  I can normally run well in "mild heat", although there have been some spectacular exceptions.  Although I was careful not to over-amp, I was hoping to put in 4 - 5 loops before resorting to walking breaks.  Loop 3 was still fine, although my clothes changed from being drenched with sweat to... dry.  Not a good sign.

At the end of loop 3 (24K) I was tired.  This was very frustrating, as I had tapered well, with the exception of running 7.5K on Thursday.  Here is my logic.  Many runners run a slow, short run 2 days before a race, to stretch out the legs.  Since my training was going well, I figured a 7.5K run would not affect my race.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I should not have been tired after only 24K.  On loop 4 I definitely felt the heat.  My stomach was giving me a lot of grief, I was having trouble drinking enough, and dry clothes indicated that my hydration was off.  I diligently stuck to my salt intake plan, although perhaps I should have reduced earlier, as I was not able to take in a corresponding amount of water.

Loops 5 was when I knew this was not going to be my breakout race...  Okay, there is a modicum of sarcasm there, but I had prepared hard to run well beyond 50K.  On loop 7, although the math indicated I could still reach 64K (8 loops), I had to pull the plug.  I was nauseous and unsteady on my feet, even while walking.  After only 56K, I packed it in.

After my race was over, Kinga and Stephan Miklos helped me to recover.  I was very dizzy and close to passing out.  They helped me to take in fluids (ginger ale) and eat some food.  After a 5 minute struggle, I took off my shoes, hydration belt and socks.  I went over to the hose and poured water on my head.  Within 60 seconds, I felt much better!  Although I was in no condition to start another loop (I think Kinga would have hog-tied me if I had suggested as much) it meant that I was experiencing heat issues.  Had I used the hose sooner (after loops 4, 5 and 6), I might have made it to 64K.

Oh well, pigs cannot fly as yet...  Come on CRISPR's...

So, once again I am disappointed with my race.  Yes, it can be argued that factoring in the heat and humidity, 56K is not too bad.  Others at DG had problems.  I passed one fellow in the 24 hour race who was walking until it cooled down, a smart strategy for such a long race.  The silver lining in all this is that although my distance was deplorable, it took me 9.5 hours to get to 56K.  Much of ultra literature stresses that it is time on your feet that will eventually produce results.

I am hoping and waiting patiently...  for results.

My next race will likely be Haliburton, hopefully the 50 mile distance.  Before then, I have to prepare for the Creemore Vertical Challenge, then we are in Italy for 2 weeks, then I crew Lee Anne at the Race For The Ages, in Tennessee.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Limberlost Challenge Race Report

Okay, these RR's are coming fast and furious.  I will attempt to make this one brief, although it was supposed to be a simple race strategy and turned dark and ugly on the second loop...

Rare for me is foresight to plan a break in what is turning out to be a hectic race year.  I had hoped to run 50K at Laura Secord, but after 3 - 50+K races every other weekend, I needed a break, so I ran 28K at TLC (Limberlost).  Neil Jefferson is turning out to be one of the more competent race directors and his race is a pleasure to attend.  It helps to have a course that is incredible to run.  Beautiful scenery, challenging terrain and one of the warmest race venues in Canada.

The plan was simple.  Start fast and run tired on the second loop.  This was in preparation for my destination race, 12 hours at Dirty Girls.  The "destination" part is a bit of humour, as the DG race site is a 10 minute drive from home.  Ah humour!  They say I've lost it, but I still got it!

I fully embraced the first part of my race strategy, running at such a frenetic pace that even though I slowed considerably for the second half of the first loop, I still clocked a 1:41, for 14K.  Aside from the Duntroon Stayner 8K race (which turned south during the stagger back to Duntroon) I have not run far after speed work in a decade or two.  6K into my second loop (20K at TLC) I was having doubts that I could continue running.  My legs were trashed, my mind was whitewash and the gas tank had been on empty for about an hour...

I grasped the opportunity to focus on repair (to my legs) and try to salvage my race.  Now running at a pace that was marginally superior to a crawl, I strove to recover.  And I think recovery was happening!  I was not markedly faster, but I was no longer craving the desire to DNF.  Then I slipped on one of the numerous muddy sections and went down.  Hamstrings on both legs started cramping and I tore a quad.  Standing up took 40 seconds.  I could no longer run uphill or downhill.  I was facing a 7K lurch to the finish.

In the back of my mind was this totally unreasonable voice that was (smirking) calmly suggesting that I had very successfully accomplished my goal of running on tired legs.  I was not running on tired legs; I was running on trashed unstable legs.  Triage continued.

For 4K, I applied everything I knew about recovering.  I am not sure if the application was successful, or that I simpler grew tired of walking, but at 25K, I set out on what would have to be considered an actual run, and continued to the finish line.  First loop was 1:41 and the second loop took 2:11, for a time of 3:52:29.  Ouch!

Strangely, I was both disappointed with my time and pleased with upholding my goal.  I am hoping that it is 6-7 hours into DG before I feel as bad as I did at the 20K mark in TLC.  Perhaps I am being optimistic, and I have never run a 12 hour race before, so this feeling of hope might be supreme naivety, but one can only hope.

Hope to see you at DG!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Canada Day Duntroon to Stayner 8K Race Report

I have not been happy with my leg speed recently.  Training is going well, I am hitting 65K - 80K except on recovery weeks, so I should be able to maintain a higher speed during the races...  But not yet.  The solution is all too obvious - I need to incorporate some speed work into my training regime.  Wednesday seems to be a logical choice as I run with Lee Anne and we normally take Thursday off.  Friday is a long run.  So, the Duntroon to Stayner 8K Canada Day race happened to fall on a Wednesday this year.  The race is free and close to Creemore.  Perfect!

Lee Anne is training for the Massey Marathon and wants to run it fast.  A marathon is basically a warm-up for Lee Anne.  She normally runs more than a marathon on Friday and a marathon on Saturday.  Yes, every week of the year, unless she has a big race on the Saturday.  I live with a person who thinks 25K is a short run.  People say I deserve her.  People who are not very nice.

On the way to Duntroon, we discussed race strategy.  I like to keep things simple (please exclude living with someone who runs 7,500K per year) so I suggest that we run our normal (painfully) slow pace until 4K, then gradually increase speed until we are bleeding out the ears.  What could go wrong?  I forgot to factor in Lee Anne's approach to "extremely short" races.  8K will fail miserably to make her legs tired.  Never mind that Lee Anne will be running back to Creemore after running to Stayner.  My normal starting pace is slower than 6 minute kilometers.  Let's say 6:30 for arguments sake.  So why is Lee Anne's form dwindling into the horizon at one kilometre?  I up the tempo, in a futile attempt to stay with her.  Please understand that neither of us are moving very quickly, but I like to warm up slowly for the first 15K, before ramping up.  2K into the race and I am breathing hard; Lee Anne is no longer pulling away from me, but I am certainly not reeling her in.  At 4K there is no point in speeding up because I am already approaching a 5 minute K.  I had hoped to be at a 6 minute K at this point, in which case I could "speed up" to a 5:30 pace!

Something strange is happening.  I used to run fast.  In fact, when I played rugby, I was somewhere near a 4.6 second 40 yards.  At 6K, my cardiovascular had finally caught up to the pace.  I am still behind Lee Anne, but either she is slowing, or I am gaining.  I don't think she is slowing much.  With 100 meters to the finish line, I draw even with Lee Anne.  There is no need to surge past her, but I am very happy that I could sustain a good pace over the last 2K.  Our finishing time was 41:xx for 8K.  I no longer wear a Garmin, but in order to compensate for the 6:xx kilometers at the start, we must have run at a 4:xx pace for the last 2K!  We were both quite happy.

Then reality set in.  Lee Anne would run back to Creemore for a total of about 23K (adequate mileage considering the speed work, according to Lee Anne) while I ran back to Duntroon to pick up the car.  Just a note to those of you in your late 50's / early 60's who are attempting speed work for the first time since the 1970's...  Running 8K on trashed legs is uncomfortable.  Seriously?

Another "first in a long while" was my back-to-back run last weekend.  In order to train properly for the Haliburton 50 miler, I need to run some B2B's.  Two days after the Canada Day race, I ran 31K with Lee Anne on the Friday (she continued after I stopped) then 25K on the Bruce Trail with friends Nancy Chong and Dawn Hamel on the Saturday.  Nancy and Dawn are about halfway along running the entire Bruce Trail.  The 25K took us 5 hours.

The Limberlost Challenge

TLC is in 2 days.  I am running the 28K as I have a date with the Dirty Girls 12 hour race the following week.  I am looking forward to the shortest race so far this year.  I am hoping to open it up a little and see what the legs will do.  Yes, I only have 2 speed work sessions this year (this decade...) but I am hoping to push hard for the entire race.  Although realistically, at Limberlost, maintaining a leisurely pace requires quite the push!

I have no recent pictures, but the totem pole is almost complete and has been moved to the laneway, where it will be erected.  It is difficult for those of us who have put so much effort into making the pole, to realize just how incredible the totem appears.  It is nowhere near as majestic as the western poles, some of which are 5 feet in diameter.  Our pole averages merely 1 foot in diameter, but at 35+ feet tall, it has a presence.

Down to the short strokes leading up to the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  The prizes look amazing (Lee Anne is becoming quite the potter again) and even the finishing medals have appeal.  60 prizes for a race capped at 250 is probably ludicrous, but we have had fun making the pottery and maple syrup this year.  Perhaps in future years, some form of pragmatism will evolve, as we are spending about 6 weeks each making the prizes...

There seems to be some interest in the CVC from afar.  There are people signed up from Scotland, England, Dubai and even Nepal.  The 50K men's record holder Calem Neff has signed up, which is fantastic.  Last year, Mike Tickner came within a minute of breaking Calem's record.  Mike was 42 minutes ahead of second place.  If Mike had someone to run with, I feel he could have fared better.  The young women from Nepal was in the 2004 Olympics, so this year could be interesting!

Hope to see you at  Limberlost!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Niagara Ulta Race Report

A few people have mentioned they heard that we are carving a totem pole.  Lee Anne, Kinga, Stephan, Nathan, Jim, Gavin and I have been carving for most of the month of June.  Totem poles take years to carve.  Still under the influence of Honda, I set the completion date in late June.  How hard can this be?  Kinga and Stephan Miklos (if the name seems familiar, they won the mogul miles Trophy Series awarded by Trail Runner magazine) have been up almost every weekend.  Stephan will head north alone this weekend, as Kinga has travelled to Vampireland.

What do we know about carving a totem pole?  Plenty!  Stephan has actually seen one before and I have read a book on carving totem poles.  An incredible pedigree!  I know, reading a book on how to play the violin, then trying Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is not a recipe for success, but a theme throughout pole carving literature is that there is no set approach.  Sure, you can use standard animals, stories and colours, but the rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb...

As the pole approaches completion, I will admit that knowing how to carve might have been a distinct advantage, but all of us learned quite quickly and our mistakes have been incorporated into the pole as "features"...


The pole will be 5 feet below grade, possibly 4 feet below ground with ballast "rock seats" adding support.  The problem is that I might hit water below 4 feet, as the current plan is to locate the pole about 50 meters from the Mad river.  Above ground, the pole will reach about 35 feet.  Fairly impressive, although it is only 20" diameter at the base.  The carvings will be, from the ground up:  Runner (Stephan, AKA Picasso), Turtle (Lee Anne and I), fox (Kinga), owl (Pierre), Badger (Nathan and I), 4 runners on switchback (Pierre), fish (Gavin), Celtic ducks (Jim) and Blue Heron (Pierre).  The wingspan of the heron is 8 feet.

The pole weighs about 1,000 pounds, so Sharon will be the resident engineer during the erection phase.  Hmm.  Perhaps I should ask Sharon if she can help...

Niagara 50K Ultra

Okay, running 3 ultras in 4 weeks is exhausting.  Think of all the race reports!  I have many impressions from the race.  I was disappointed in my time (5:34) as I really wanted to be closer to 5 hours.  Again, one hour into the race, I was bone-weary.  Yes, I should have realised there is a price to pay for running three 50K races in 4 weeks, but I was hoping I had turned the corner and would start getting faster.  Apparently not!  The bright spot in all this is that I reached 50K without ever reaching the point where I could not run.  I took 3 - 4 walking breaks, in order to gel or hydrate properly, but I never needed to walk and these breaks lasted no more than 30 seconds.

Aside from being tired and slow, I had a great race!  I like the format of Niagara, where you see all those faster than yourself nearing the turn-around, reaching the falls with its cool spray, then greeting those few runners who are still on their way to the 25K turn-around.  Henri puts on a fine race and although not my favourite surface (pavement with a bit of camber) I love the scenery and "relaxed" atmosphere of the tourists.  One drawback of Niagara is that there are all those wine tasting stations along the way, which a serious runner must ignore.  Perhaps I should suggest a strategic option to Henri, for future years!

Lee Anne had another amazing race, clocking a 5:14 50K and is now third on the Ontario Ultra series leader board.  I am doing well in my age category, which at 120 people, is the largest category.

Creemore Vertical Challenge Update

Plans are progressing well at this point.  With 77 people signed up, the "small jug of maple syrup" perk is quickly coming to an end.  I met with most of the land owners, who gave consent again this year, although they think that anyone trying to run 75K in the Creemore hills should be seeking medical aid...

Hammer Nutrition

Not sure how many of you purchase gels, electrolyte, etc. online, but Ryan at Hammer Nutrition says it is okay for me to divulge a small secret.  You can get a 15% discount at the online Hammer store by using the following promo code:

Promo code:  hammerCAN15

Most people reading this know about Hammer gels and HEED, but Lee Anne and I are now using Fizz, an aptly named electrolyte tab that dissolves in your water bottle.  Hope this helps!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kingston 6 Hour Race report

Okay, here we go.  Uncharted territory.  If I'm being honest with myself (and this does happen on occasion.  Think of Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup) there has been a twinge of envy when talking to one of those runners who can crank out an ultra every 3 days, with ease.  I talked to Kim Van Delst during the Kingston 6 hour race.  She had her usual smile, but perhaps her pace was not the effortless stride for which she is known.  Then I remembered that she ran 100 miles at Sulphur.  Here I was, struggling after only 1 hour, because my legs had not recovered from 50K at Sulphur...  Kim covered 161K and although not striding at speed, still lapping me!

Nevertheless, 2 ultras separated by 2 weeks is not my norm.  Here's where it gets interesting.  I have Niagara 50K, 2 weeks after Kingston!  3 ultras in 4 weeks is new territory for me.  Something my back and knees have vetoed in the past.  I have been running since 1973, but I have no idea what to plan or expect at Niagara!  The evil little gremlin in the back of my mind is urging my to run it at my 10K pace...

A timed race is also difficult to peg.  The concept is pure simplicity.  Run for 6 hours.  Start at a comfortable pace, pick up speed gradually, then stave off the decay.  However, 6 hours is a long enough run that nutrition maintenance plays a big role.  Kingston (this year, due to construction) is a 1.1K loop.  You are never more than 7 minutes from an aid station or your drop bag.  It sounds so simple!  Hydrate when you want, eat when you want and pop a salt tab on occasion.  The tricky part is that even though you are looping past the treats every 7 minutes, you have to constantly monitor the last time you had sports drink, food, salt, Advil, gel, electrolyte, calcium and something else...  Hmm.  Oh yes, water!  For fun, here is what I derived as a "nutrition plan" for the race:

Water/electrolyte:  Drink when thirsty (I had a water belt to avoid numerous drinking stops).
Advil:  200 mg at 1 hour and 200 mg at 3 hours
Gel:  Every 45 minutes
Salt tab:  One at 45 minutes, then 1:30, 2:30, 3:20, 4:15 and 5:00
Calcium:  At 3 hours
Food:  When I could stomach something...

If you attempt to figure out my stops, given the above schedule, you are in for a logistic nightmare.  Factor in the effect of running for 3, 4 and 5 hours, on the brain, and it spells trouble.  Notice I did not mention bathroom breaks, GI issues and "running" problems (sore feet, tired legs, cramping,...).  There is a tremendous amount of cerebral processing needed simply to keep the running machine on track.

The Kingston 6 hour race is an incredible event.  I watched Hans Maier break the Canadian 6 hour record, for male 75-79.  It was incredible to see someone who is 76 push hard for 6 hours!  This race is also quirky because my bib number was "Pierre".  My laps were recorded by a gentlemen (of course, I have forgotten his name...  Damn you synapses!) with whom I made eye contact and greeted every 7 minutes.  This race is so far beyond the Toronto marathons, you have to run it to understand.  I keep thinking that this is how races must have been organised 100 years ago.

The Race

I was quite concerned about the impact of going out too fast, 2 weeks after running 50K in 5:42.  I needn't have worried.  My pace started slow and after only 1 hour, I was tired.  This was to be expected, but frustrating nonetheless as I was in a RACE!  I had fervently hoped that my legs had magically healed during the 2 days I had not run.  In retrospect, I should have anticipated that I would experience fatigue 2 weeks after racing, but as with all ultra runners, optimism usually clouds realism...

So, 1 hour into the race I am tired and slowing down from a not-fast pace.  As there was nothing I could do (except DNF), I simply attempted to avoid any mistakes that would reduce my pace further.  I experienced a fairly significant low spot from 1 to 3 hours, after which, I hit an equilibrium, allowing me to steadily cover the miles.  I consciously tried to avoid any unnecessary walking breaks and make the most of the few short breaks I had to take.  My A goal was to push hard for 3 hours, then try and hold on until the end.  What with slowing after only 1 hour, I realized early on that passing 55K was out of the question.  My "other" A goal was to run 50K in less time than at Sulphur.  Although Sulphur is a trail run (Kingston is flat and on paved and dirt roads), it would be tough to beat 5:42 on tired legs.  At 44K, I started walking 40 meters every 2 laps, but skipped the break at 49K, which allowed me to hit 50K in 5:40.

The end of Kingston is an exciting time.  Everyone gets a small bag of sand with their name and continues to run.  When the 4 cars on the course sound their horns, you drop the bag.  Someone with a wheel then figures out how far you ran, down to the meter!  I was 14 meters from the start/finish line on my 47th lap, so I covered 52.786K.  This happens to be the furthest I have ever run, beating the 51K I ran during the Haliburton 50K, after getting lost for about 1K!

Lee Anne had an excellent race and was on the leader board for the second half!  She lapped me a few times and made it past 56K for first in her age category.  The Kingston race keeps going!  After packing up the timing area, the amazing volunteers pull a wonderful meal out of nowhere.  Most runners stayed for the meal and awards, enjoying a pleasant day in the sun.

Niagara 50K is next.  I posted my PB at this race, back when the Earth was cooling.  Although my days of running a 4:23 are long gone, my secret A goal is to finish somewhere near 5 hours.  To break 5 hours would be fantastic, but realistically, not in the cards yet.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sulphur Springs 50K Race Report

Summary:  I had a good race.  There.  Those in a hurry can skip to the bottom and read about the totem pole (Ridiculous Project #201505-32A).

About 12 years ago (age 45'ish) I would consider a 6 hour 50K to be on the margin of disaster.  For years I tried to run the Ganaraska 50K in under 5 hours.  Although long gone, Ganaraska shared some of the trails with Pick Your Poison.  Hills, then more hills, then for the sake of variety, some big hills.  I never did crack 5 hours.  5:15, 5:10, 5:09 and 5:06, if memory serves me correctly.  Today's reality on the modern version (PYP) is shooting for 6 hours.  I always add 15 minutes for the first long race of the year, so my "A" goal at PYP was 6:15.  I ran it in 6:24, which is close enough to be considered a healthy attainment of B goal.  But setting goals at Sulphur gives me heartburn.  Yes, it is a trail race and yes, there is some vertical, but if the trail is dry, it is a very fast trail race, borderline road racing.  And this is good for people who are trying their first trail race, as many do at Sulphur.  I chatted with a young woman who had never run a trail race,  In fact, the weekend before was her first run on a trail.  I mentioned that trail races are tricky, because you don't run based on your "race pace", but on your "race intensity".  This is something that a lot of road runners don't typically monitor.

So, there I was, lined up at the start, when I normally determine my realistic goals.  I can factor in current information on injuries, training, sleep and overall health.  I had no clue what would be considered an A goal!  I was not injured, PYP was 4 weeks in the past, I had slept marginally well and training was on the lighter side, what with 2 weeks of recovery runs.  No idea!  So I did what I normally do when faced with too many unknowns and set an arbitrary goal of 6 hours.

I also decided that I should push for 30K, much more than the 12.5K at PYP.  Sulphur 50K is a 10K "spur", followed by 2 loops of the 20K course.  For me, pushing on a relatively easy trail course such as Sulphur means hovering near  6 minute/K.  The first 10K was completed in 57 minutes, a bit too fast, but not a blow-out.  At 30K, the clock registered 3:13, which indicated an acceptable decay in pace.  Of course as soon as I noticed my 30K split, I started doing the math.  One tangible result of proper training is that you can continue to "dream" about your race result, even after running 30K.  In other words, I was no longer thinking 'the next 20K is going to be carnage'.  I had enough confidence that although I knew I would be slower, I could hope that my pace would not degrade exponentially.

One advantage in having run these silly ultras for so long is that when I encounter a rough patch, I know that there is a good chance things will improve.  This assumes I have trained sufficiently...  At 35K, I was getting tired, but still able to maintain an acceptable pace.  Quickly thereafter, things went south!  When we arrived at the race site, the temperature was 2 degrees.  By the race start, the sun was up, but it was still cold, trending to cool.  I started the race with fingers that I could barely feel!  Nearing 40K, it was starting to get warm, borderline hot.  I was still running, but not moving very fast.  I took another salt tab, increased my fluid intake and took a calcium tab.  The trick is to hold on to your pace and understand that eventually, you will get over the rough patch.

I don't know if it was because the finish line was getting nearer, or a modicum of recovery, but at 45K, I felt a bit better.  I had been having mild stomach issues earlier, which cleared up.  I was able to increase the pace and walk the uphills more aggressively.  About this time, I took a tumble on a steep root strewn downhill section.  I rolled, but hit hard nonetheless.  The runner in front of me stopped and asked if I was all right!  This is significant as he could not of seen me fall, but must of heard the impact.  Maybe it was because I cried out for my mommy.  Nothing more serious than a bruised shoulder, but it is incredible how long it takes to get back your rhythm.  It was at least 500 meters before I was running smoothly again.

Sulphur Springs has an elevation gain of 580 meters over the 20K course.  I would estimate that the 50K has about 1.2K of elevation gain.  This is considerable, even compared to my race (Creemore Vertical Challenge), which has 1.75K elevation gain over the 50K.  A sizeable chunk is at the very end, where you climb a big hill just before the finish line.  The hill is climbed 3 times during the 50K.  Each time, the hill gets bigger.  During the first 2 loops (the 10K and the first 20K) I ran the bottom and very top of the hill.  Walking hills is a good idea, giving the legs a much needed break and avoiding an undue increase in lactic acid.  You might be able to run the hill, but someone walking it beside you will take off at the top, while you struggle to eliminate the lactic acid in your legs and lungs.  On the third time up the hill, I had to walk most of it, which was frustrating.  At the end of a 50K, the ability to rationalize something as simple as walking up a big hill (hey, it won't affect your overall time by more than a minute) goes out the window.  I was worried that the 6 hour mark was fast approaching.  It wasn't!  I crossed the finish line in 5:42, my best 50K time in 5 years!

Well, I found a tree in the river.  It is a 52' Eastern white cedar tree, 20" in diameter at the base.  Cedars in Ontario don't typically get that big.  I have always wanted to make a totem pole, so how could I possibly let this opportunity slide?  Step 1:  Convince friends with drawing talents to help out.  Stephan and Kinga Miklos readily accepted - the challenge is on!  More on the pole later, as it takes shape.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Sulphur Springs Trail Race is in 3 days.  It is a favourite on the Ontario Ultra and Trail series for several reasons.  The trail is not overly technical, which can be a blessing when you are approaching the end of your rope.  Technical trails are my favourite, when running 15K.  You run at a heightened processing speed.  Not sure how else to describe it.  At speed on a technical trail, your brain is processing information (terrain, camber, obstacles, wind speed, exertion rate, altitude) at a phenomenal rate.  After 30-40K, technical becomes "tricky".  That's a great word to describe why you are suddenly bleeding in 4 different areas.  Sulphur is technical enough that you won't fall asleep (100 milers excepted) but won't have to write up those annoying accident reports!

For me, the greatest aspect of running Sulphur is the varied starts and areas of 2-way traffic.  Although the course can be a bit confusing (am I the only one running in this direction?), it is a great chance to greet people as you meet them, overtake them, or they overtake you.  Being able to cheer on friends and fellow runners every few minutes can detract from dwelling on the rough patches that surface on occasion, during a race!

Before I move on to the topic of nutrition, an update on the pond.

I might be prejudiced, but Lee Anne had the easy part.  She watched me struggle to clean out the pond (I was responsible for the 3 months of rain we had last Autumn), then instructed me to fill it in.  Simple!  After 2 weeks, she asked me how long it would take.  I believe she thought it would take me 2-3 afternoons.  I flippantly replied "3 months".  Be careful what you say...

There is an amazing amount of work in filling in a pond.  Now try it without any land fill readily available.  No, I'm not going to order 30 truckloads of fill - that's cheating.  One job, after terraforming for 3 weeks, picking rocks, rototilling, picking rocks, raking, seeding grass and picking rocks, is to water 3,000 square feet of new grass.  I ran my well dry.  This was not as easy as it seems.  I bought a lawn sprinkler with a timer.  I set the timer for 30 minutes.  I then forgot to wait 2 hours before moving the sprinkler and setting the timer for another 30 minutes.  3 times!

Overall, the pond project is going well.  I removed and burnt the 2 wooden bridges in an impressive bonfire.  The upper 70 feet of pond is done, including a rock path designed to allow pedestrian traffic should water flood the pond area.  This is a very real possibility, as the pond was made on the old Mad river bed.  During floods, the water will naturally follow the pond's "valley".  The lower 80 feet I will leave semi-landscaped (yes, another new word...) and allow nature to determine what vegetation grows.  If it is all weeds, more grass seeding will occur next year.


Of all the components of running, there are few to match the difficulty of dialling in proper nutrition, when attempting a longer distance race.  To run a 5K race, there is no need for nutrition.  The body can manage adequately with the stored reserves.  Even running 10K does not always benefit from nutrition.  I would argue the time spent downing a gel is not worth the benefit.  I have skipped drinking while running 10K, in cooler weather.

At the half and full marathon distance, nutrition, fluids, electrolyte and salt can help delay bonking, hopefully until after the race is over.  At these distances, gels are optimal, as they don't require stopping to grab some food, can be ingested in seconds and provide the nutrients needed to continue running at speed.  My preference is Hammer gels.  As most gels are similar in nutrient value, I go for ease of operation and taste.  My favourite is Apple Cinnamon.  I like Hammer gels because I can get them open and eat them in the winter, before my hands freeze.  The Espresso contains caffeine, which is of benefit in the latter part of a long run or race.

At the ultra distance, nutrition takes on a whole new meaning.  Yes, you can complete a 50 miler without eating, but I don't think your body is going to thank you.  When running 50K and longer, eating real food is important.  It can provide your body with long lasting energy.  The problem that many people have with real food, is the impact on their stomach.  Running for 5+ hours while attempting to digest is not in the Homo Sapien owners manual.  Gels are a great option for avoiding GI issues, or to obtain much needed nutrition when experiencing GI issues.  Eating real food also takes more time than quaffing a gel.  Elite runners have posted impressive times (world records) while eating nothing but gels.

Whether you plan on using gels or other nutrition sources, it is important to manage your nutrition during ultras.  This does not simply mean taking a gel at every other aid station (although this is a reasonable plan), but to assess your body and translate the symptoms into a nutrition reaction.  I.e. perhaps you need to eat before reaching the aid station.  Perhaps you forgot to eat at the last aid station!

The same goes for hydration, salt, electrolyte, calcium, magnesium, etc., a future topic.  The important aspect is to understand that you need to manage your body's requirements.  One of the better Ontario runners, new to ultras, was not aware that taking salt during a hot 50K race was critical for a best performance, until Lee Anne mentioned it to him.  I'm not sure if he would like me to use his name, so I won't, but make a note to ask Mike.

Another benefit of having a nutrition management plan before going into a race is because at some point during the race, you might not be completely rational.  For 100 mile runners, pacers are a distinct advantage.  They are typically not allowed to carry anything for the runner (muling) or physically assist the runner in any way.  So, why is the pacer of any use?  After running for 18 hours, early in the morning, sleep deprived, exhausted and delirious, the runner has the mental acuity of a 3 year old.  The pacer plays Mommy to the runner, explaining that it is time to take a salt tab (I don't want one - they're yucky!) or refill a water bottle.  Although less severe, the same issue tends to crop up in shorter ultras.  Without a pacer, your nutrition plan becomes your mommy.

So, decide what you want to eat, drink and pop during your next race ahead of time, what works for you (note this implies you have tried product X during training) and what would be a reasonable schedule.  But also keep in mind that during the race, you need to determine if the plan is indeed working for you.  It is 30C and your finger are swelling.  You have taken a salt tab spot-on every hour.  Perhaps you need to take more salt than you did during your training run in 16C weather?