Monday, April 18, 2016

Ontario Spring Warm-up

For those who follow my blog or have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Creemore, you might be under the impression that the weather around here is less than calm.  Extreme is what I would grudgingly call an apt moniker.  Fellow runners who live in exotic locals such as Brampton or Hamilton love to regal me with horror stories about how the Creemore weather affected their race or training run.  And I have to grit my teeth and bear it, because it is true.  You know the red bar on the weather network that indicates a Sunday hike might be out of the question?  In a 3 week period this Spring, the Creemore forecast had a severe weather watch or warning on all but one day.

During the 2009 OUSER Spring Warm-up (which is now the OUTRace Spring Warm-up), 2 young ladies asked if they could run the route in the opposite direction.  "Sure" I said, then asked them why.  Apparently the gale force winds, sleet, snow and rain was making it difficult for them to run against the wind on top of the Niagara Escarpment.  In other years, we have experienced bad weather...

The Sunday before this year's Spring Warm-up, Stephen Bridson, Stephan Miklos and I ran the course.  I was going to run it with my chainsaw, but I had forgotten my chainsaw camel pack at the sugar shack.  Why would I run with a chainsaw?  Aside from the advantage of being left alone (people will actually move off the trail, if they see you coming), a chainsaw can be handy shortly after a weather forecast red bar indicating an ice storm.  Just a note, don't run with a chainsaw on your back in the Dundas / Yonge street area of Toronto.  There are some crazy people down there!

I forgot to bring my camera, so the picture (Stephan Miklos climbing a tree in Dunedin) is from a few year's back.  The Bruce trail portion of the SW course had about 4 inches of firm snow (this is on Sunday, 6 days before the SW), which was quite a good running surface.  However, with the warm weather predicted for the coming week, I could easily see the trail becoming an almost impassable surface of mud and ice, along the cliffs.  Here we go again!

To our surprise, the trail was mostly dry!  Stephen Bridson ran a loop of the course early in the morning, on the day of the Spring Warm-up and reported the incredible findings.  Coupled with a bright blue sky and ideal running temperatures, most people wanted their money back...

With exemplary weather and an appealing course, most people had a great day out on the trails.  About 50 of us enjoyed talking about our race plans and how mutual friends were doing.  A few people mentioned that the SW was their first chance this year to get out on some technical trails and "get ready" for the race season.  As I am nowhere near ready to run an ultra, 2 loops of the 13K course were enough for me, clocking just under 4 hours.  Quite slow to run 26K, but you should experience the course before judging me too harshly.  I would guess the better runners were pegging about 90 minutes for the 13K course.

Speaking of better runners, Hans Maier won the Grand Prize!  Hans has been a mainstay and supporter of Ontario trail and ultra circuit since before pavement was invented.  It could not have been granted to a more deserving individual.  Way to go Hans!

My goal of running 50K at Pick Your Poison hit a bit of a snag.  Due to lethargic training this Spring (or second winter, depending on your viewpoint), I waited a bit too long before signing up.  I could not decide if I should run the 25K or 50K.  PYP sold out!  So I will be a vollie (volunteer) at PYP.  I might head down to Seaton, a race I have never run before.  Otherwise it will be a very late start to the season, if I wait for Kingston.  Lee Anne and I will miss Sulphur Springs for the first time in about 6 years.  No big reason.  Lee Anne is not happy with trail races, after falling at both of them last year (PYP and Sulphur).

Note to self:  You need to sign up for a race if you want to run it...

I boiled down today for the last time this year.  I made 200 litres of maple syrup, so those of you whose race strategy includes an age category podium finish at Creemore, there will be syrup!  The last batch is always tough.  Not because of any sentimental tripe about it being all over for another year, but because I'm not mentally equipped to waste sap.  It takes so much effort to get sap into the evaporator, that I don't want to waste any.  So the last batch becomes tricky...  The evaporator is comprised of a finishing pan (2' X 2' flat bottom, on the left) and a sap pan (2' X 4' drop flues (trenches), on the right).  This morning, the 2 pans were filled with cold concentrated sap.  There is no more sap in the storage tanks, so to make the last batch, I plug the finishing pan (small pan) and drain the sap pan.  I cannot start a fire without liquid in the sap pan, so I fill it with water.  This is the tough part.  I have drained 80 litres out of the sap pan.  Yes, 80 litres!  I then add 120 litres of water to the sap pan.  I can now start the evaporator.  Over the next 4 hours, I add the 80 litres of concentrated sap to the finishing pan.  During the same time period, I add a total of 320 litres of water to the sap pan.  I carry 40 litres of water from the Mad river, which is about 100 meters from the sugar shack.  By the time I reach the sugar shack, my arms are 3 inches longer.

Now, I need to clean a few kilometers of sap line and mainline, dismantle the evaporator and clean it, and haul everything home.  The sugar shack is about 25K from where we live in Creemore.  I also have a few branches to pick up at home... from the ice storm.

The problem with being retired is that there is no time off...