Monday, September 3, 2018

OUTRace Fun Run and More!

I knew it was a while since I last posted, but was somewhat taken aback when I realized the last post is dated May 2.  Holy snapping left bananas captain, that is more than half the OUTRace season!  There is no single reason for my being this tardy.  Yes, I've been busy with a plethora of tasks, events and general living.  I am also racing less this season as last year's Norm Patenaude award attempt is something I hesitate to replicate.  However, I have not posted due to a lack of interest in maintaining the blog.  It has simply been a lack of due diligence.

Although 2018 is a low-key racing year, there have been some noteworthy events on which I should report.  Should I list them in chronological order?  Why not!

June 2:  Kingston 6 hour

The numbers at this race remain low.  I think this is due to a limited race venue - you can only enter the 6 hour event - and its relatively distant location - about a 6 hour round-trip drive from the GTA.  Lee Anne and I enjoy the race in part because it is not crowded.  The field is a core group of ultra runners and very personal.  Each 1.1K loop you are greeted by your timer, an actual human.  Since the course is primarily paved, it doesn't appeal to the hard-core trail runners.

I would love to state that I know the Ontario Ultra Series rules so well, that I was aware in turning 60, I could run a mere 32K and score points.  Jim Orr (OUTRace statistician) knows the rules very well (in fact Jim wrote most of them) but I was not aware that for fixed distance races such as the Kingston 6 hour race, entrants aged 60 - 69 can obtain points in the OUS for covering more than 20 miles.  This is very good to know if you are ancient and having a bad day on the course, but not the reason I stopped at 32K.  I had a 50K race in 2 weeks and did not want to trash my legs too badly.

June 16:  Niagara Ultra

Things start to get interesting for Lee Anne and I at this race.  I started slowly, with the hope of running the preponderance of the 50K before resorting to a walk.  This meant no heroics during the first 25K.  Simply run efficiently and make no mistakes to the turn around (which happens to be Niagara Falls), then repeat on the way back.

I hit the turn-around 25K point feeling tired.  My paltry 32K at Kingston was having an impact on the legs.  I was maintaining acceptable nutrition and hydration levels and although tired, was optimistic that I would make it to 35 - 40K before imploding.  We have all experienced factors in an ultra that poignantly show it ain't over until it's over.  At 27K, with Lee Anne running just ahead of me, I looked up to see her sitting on the curb.  Oh-oh.  A very brief search of my memory did not bring up one recollection of seeing Lee Anne sitting on a curb, a mere 27K into a race.  This can't be good...

Then I noticed the blood.  It was streaming from her head.  Cars were stopping.  A Niagara bus stopped.  I caught up to Lee Anne and assessed the damage.  One large gash above her left eye and another gash on her left cheek.  Blood flowing copiously.  In my rugby days, I had often noticed how much scalp wounds bleed.  Lee Anne was relatively responsive, but I soon noticed a few gaps in her memory.  She did not recall sitting down on the curb.  The bus driver was trained in first aid and was thoroughly proficient in wrapping her head in gauze and taping it, before the ambulance showed up.  The driver of the car had used her cell phone to call 911.  The ambulance arrived and the attendants took over.  I thanked the bus and car drivers for their help.

I am an overly pragmatic individual and sometimes that can get me into trouble.  My first thought,as Lee Anne was being helped into the ambulance, was that I should finish the race.  No, I had no overriding need to avoid a DNF, I simply knew that Lee Anne would be waiting in emerg for 2 - 3 hours (it was actually closer to 4) and I had no car, id, phone, money - you get the picture.  If I finished the race, I could then drive to the Niagara Falls hospital and would have money to purchase the chocolate bars and sports drink so necessary for post-race recovery in a hospital...

I made the wise choice of deferring to Lee Anne.  She was quite adamant that I join her in the ambulance on her way to the hospital.  After the obligatory waiting room wait, Lee Anne was stitched up by the doctor.  Those who know Lee Anne won't be surprised to learn that she asked the doctor, after receiving 8 stitches, if she could return to the race course and finish the race.  I pointed out that we would have trouble finding where we had left the course.  I had no sooner stated this concern when I realized it would be easy to find a large pool of dried blood...

August 25:  OUTRace 30th Anniversary Fun Run

How better to celebrate 30 years of ultra and trail running, than to run 30K!  Almost 60 brave people ventured to Creemore to share in the celebrations.  The weather was not ideal for running, although the rain helped to keep the temperature reasonable and with the 2 river crossing on the course, everyone would be getting wet regardless.

The 7.1K course was on the challenging side, with a few steep hills, some long hills and for variety, some gradual hills.  Pat Campbell might of summed up the feelings of many when he finished his first loop and yelled at me "You're a dead man".  I can only assume he was intimating the course was tough as opposed to being too easy.  The rain made getting up the hills tricky.  The river crossings had the advantage of cleaning the mud off of shoes, but they would not stay clean for long.  Ron Gehl had followed my advice and donned old shoes with almost no tread.  He had a tough time scrambling up the rain soaked cliffs.  Serves him right for taking advice from me!

After the run, people were invited to select a prize of pottery, maple syrup or Creemore T-shirts.  All went away with an OUTRace toque, a prize and some memories.  Perfect Pizza from Creemore served lunch and Creemore Springs Brewery donated 10 cases of their famous fare, to help with the celebrations.

I have a few pictures of people at the second river crossing.  If you would like a copy, email me at  Tell me where you are in the group photo above and what you are wearing, so I can search the pictures for any of you!

Sunday September 16:  Terry Fox Run

I am helping to organize a Terry Fox run in Creemore, starting at 9:00 AM at the Station on the Green.  The course will be an out and back totaling 5K.  Those wishing to log 10K can run the course twice.  Everyone is welcome, so pop up to Creemore and help to support a worthy cause.

Well, that's it for now.  I hope your running is fast and effortless!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Pick Your Poison Race Report - 2018

I would like to break the PYP race report into 3 sections:

1.  Some history on the race.
2.  More detail than I normally provide on a shoe:  The new Arc'teryx Norvan LD trail shoes.
3.  Yup!  The report.

The 10th edition of the Pick Your Poison race is in the books.  This year, Adam and Heather Hill, and Dawn and Ron Hamel put together a great show during one of the coldest Springs on record.  Imagine trying to clear trail one week before race day, with a foot of snow on the course.  It is difficult to clear branches when you can't see them.  In some areas, Adam was having trouble finding the trail!  I was called in 2 days before race day to cut some trees that were blocking the trails.  Trees that had not been visible a week earlier.  Get the picture?  Probably not, unless you ran the race, then there is no need to explain further.  You might gain some insight into race day conditions if you compare the finishing times with other years.  In the woman's 50K, only winner Melanie Boultbee was under 6 hours.  Yes, it was a 50K, not a 50 miler...

Before Pick Your Poison, Daniel Boon staged the infamous Ganaraska Trail race, which was set in the same general area and shared part of the course as PYP.  Ganaraska was a 25K loop, so there was no 12.5K race, just the 25K and 50K.  In 2003 during the 25K race, I vividly recall being torn into tiny pieces by the course.  Near the finish line, I was running with another fellow and I commented on how glad I was that the race was over.  He smiled brightly and mentioned that he was in the 50K, congratulated me and stated "off for another loop - see you soon"!  It had not really occurred to me that there were people so twisted that they would attempt 50K on this brutal course.  I decided that I needed to research this in more detail, the following year.

PYP is set early in the year and is the first stop on the OUTRace series.  As such, it is a great eye opener and test of how things might transpire as the racing year unfolds.  In recent years, PYP has sold out.  This is a great benefit to the race director, as there are less financial surprises before race day.  Not so great for those of us who tend to sign up closer to the race, but in a way it helps assure continuation of the race.  Back in the old days, it was not always the case.  In the 2003 Ganaraska 50K, there were only 31 finishers.  It is difficult to stage a race for so few people.

Norvan LD Trail Shoe

I had the very good fortune of receiving a pair of Norvan shoes, made by the Arc'teryx sports apparel company.  Over the years I have used several brand name shoes and although I have some favourites, nothing on the market really jumps out at me.  This is likely due to my demographic and physical condition - perhaps some background is in order.  In an earlier blog, I wrote an article entitled Advice on Injuries.  It is intended as a bit of light humour for those struggling with an injury.  Unfortunately, most of the injuries stated, with the exception of the paragraph about running after death, have happened to me over the last 40+ years.

Having had surgery on both knees, weighing in at circa 180 pounds and reaching the alarmingly ancient age of 60 this year, I have difficulty finding a shoe that provides the correct combination of cushioning, support and traction.  For the youngsters under 50, 180 pounds is about 82 kilometers.  Trying a new shoe is typically no fun, as any drawback in the above 3 areas just reinforces the fact that for me, running is becoming problematic.

The Norvan's are a different story.  I was about 1 kilometer into my training run before I remembered that I had on a pair of shoes I had never worn before.  It was eerie that nothing was rubbing the wrong way, the shoe was neither too wide or too narrow and seemed to simply fit my foot perfectly.  The Norvans have a Vibram sole, which I have never tried in a shoe before.  At this point, I had not reviewed the product features, which incidentally, I don't fully understand.  However, I know how other shoes worked on my regular 7.5K training run and the Norvans took the mud, hills, ice, snow and cliffs in stride.  Sorry, I had to use that at least once!

Trying a new pair of shoes in a tough 25K race is usually not a wise choice, but after experiencing impressive traction, support and cushioning on two shorter training runs, I thought they could handle a 25K.  During the Pick Your Poison race, I tried a few things one should avoid.  Ahead on the single track was a slide pattern set down by an earlier runner who had obviously gone sideways due to the slick mud.  I deliberately placed my foot on the exact same spot, which usually results in the same slide, or a fall.  Perhaps it was the intelligent side of my brain screaming at me not to do these really stupid things, but I was able to keep my footing.

So, after the first week of running on the Arc'teryx Norvan LD's, the prognosis is very favourable.  I would recommend these shoes to any new or experienced trail runner.  I can see these shoes helping elite trail runners, although I can't help with such a review.  But if you are getting on in years, these shoes might be what it takes for your trail running to improve.

Pick Your Poison Race Report

If you have read the above, then you are aware the conditions at PYP were not favourable for setting a PB.  In my 2012 PYP RR, I mention that I set a PW for 25K at 3:02.  In 2018 at PYP, I again set a PW of 4:01.  I am slower than 6 years ago, but not by an hour!  Much of the extra time was due to the conditions.  I would guess that about 3K of the 12.5K course was under ice and snow.  Another 3K was under water (spongy grass that had been covered in snow a few days or hours before) or was slick mud.  It was fantastic!

After hiking for 3 weeks in Ecuador, that included very little running, we returned to Creemore where I contracted a cold that came and went for 6 weeks.  Did I mention it was maple syrup season?  The drawback of making maple syrup is that on some days, you had to get to the sugar shack and boil down, before it became too cold, too warm or before the sap spoiled.  None of this is conducive to proper training.  I went into PYP under trained for a 25K.  Add that to the conditions and there is little chance of staging a fast finish.  I knew that a 3 hour finish was not going to happen, but I was hoping for a finish of 3:30.  Talk to anyone who experienced PYP this year and they will tell you that there was little chance of maintaining race pace for long stretches.

Keeping an eye on the terrain was paramount for about 9K of the 12.5K course.  I took the first loop easy, as I fully expected to crash and burn closer to the end.  The first loop was uneventful, although painfully slow at 1:56.  I actually felt quite good during the first 3K of the second loop, which coincidentally, is the easiest part of the course.  A tree had fallen on my right ankle while cutting firewood for the evaporator.  I'm sure this happens to everyone.  It turned an ugly shade of purple and yellow, but did not hurt much, unless I brushed it with my left foot.  I also tore my right calf muscle on a training run two weeks back and it caused me significant discomfort for the first 5K.  I believe that favouring my right leg was a large reason why my left hip extensor starting cramping about 4K into the second loop.  Yet another reason for slowing down...

Although the energy reserves were hovering just slightly above zero, I managed to continue running slowly, walking all the uphills, until the finish.  My time of 4:01 is a new PW, but I'm happy with the results, given my lack of conditioning and the trail conditions.

Now would be a good time for me to start training in earnest, for the Niagara Ultra 50K on June 16.  We plan to run in the Kingston 6 hour race on June 2, as a tune-up run.  Hope to see you out there soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Warm-up - - - If Spring Ever Arrives!

Okay, it has been a while since my last entry.  No good reason, just life getting in the way of living.  We arrived back from Ecuador on Valentine's day.  My first task was to determine a realistic timeline for tapping.  The forecast (on February 14) called for cool-ish weather for the next 2 weeks.  Excellent!  I would be able to catch up with chores and take my time while preparing for the maple syrup season.

Wrong.  On February 15, the very next day, I again checked the forecast.  I have found the forecast can change precipitously during late winter.  In the summer (or winter), a change in forecast of 3 - 4 degrees means nothing.  No big deal if the high changes from 22 to 26...  However, a change from a high of +1 to +5 during sap season is a big change!  The forecast now called for syrup weather for the next 2 weeks.  Damn the torpedoes, we've got some drilling to do!

Tapping went well and in a total of about 8 hours over 2 days, all 325 taps were in place.  Well, actually, while removing a large branch from a mainline recently, I noticed that I had failed to tap 4 trees.  It is on the todo list.  For 2 weeks it ran well and I made 52 liters of maple syrup.  Then someone turned off the heat...  As most know, it has been too cold for much of anything lately.  It was -12C in Creemore this morning.  Some Spring!

But never fear, I found something both entertaining and enlightening to do during these last 4 weeks of cold weather.  Yes, I embraced a lovely case of the flu.  Running has been severely sidelined for more than 6 weeks, if hiking in Ecuador is included.  At one point, I was starting to doubt that I could run 1 loop (13K) of the Spring Warm-up course.  It was a nasty flu!

Yes, the infamous OUTRace (Ontario Ultra and Trail Race) Spring Warm-up is nearly upon us.  Sign-up for the April 7th event has been steady and we are expecting a good crowd.  Perhaps rumours of the treacherous weather and trail conditions in past years is helping to bolster registration.  Last year we enjoyed drifting snow and warm sunny weather...  No, I'm not making this up.  Come join us for some hills, trails and pizza.

As I alluded to earlier, running has not gone well.  The flu included a bonus feature, similar to a low grade vertigo.  This dizziness has lasted more than 4 weeks.  Running on a trail inches from a freezing white water river is normally a lot of fun, unless staggering into the river is a tangible possibility.  My race plans this year are not nearly as audacious as last year.  I hope to run 25K at Pick Your Poison and 50K at Niagara Ultra.  I am being forced (sigh!  bad behavior) into running a half marathon in Sudbury, although it should be a hoot as I am running with my daughters Celeste and Brittany, and Lee Anne (yes, she is running the marathon).  I hope to make an appearance at some of the OUTRace events that I have yet to attend, and I am likely to be at Fat Ass, so might ass well (sorry) run 25K there.  Not much of a schedule, compared to last year, but coming off the flu just now, it seems like a full slate.


Ecuador was fantastic.  It is such a relaxing place to spend time hiking and absorbing the 2 main cultures.  There is a vibrant and artistic native culture in Ecuador.  Their lifestyle appears to be much simpler than ours, yet they seem to enjoy life.  Perhaps all the trappings and gadgets of North American culture is not the answer?  There is also the culture that originated from Spain.  These people are perhaps similar to North Americans in that they are hard working and don't seem to have much time off.  They have one advantage, in that they live in a beautiful, diverse country with arguably close to perfect weather.  The high sierras boast a daytime high of between 20 and 28 year round!

The Quilotoa Loop was as impressive and challenging as it was 2 years ago.  It was fun to experience the hike with friends Dawn and Ron, and my daughter Celeste, pictured above.  No, we did not don our Quebec marathon shirts for the photo op - these embarrassing mistakes happen.

For those who can't be bothered to read the 2016 blog about the Quilotoa Loop, it is a 3 or 4 day hike through rural Ecuador, terminating at a massive volcanic Crater.  It is difficult to imagine the force needed to eject the volcano innards, when gazing down upon the lake.

When I say rural Ecuador, there are 2 important differences from rural Ontario.  1.  The terrain is steep.  The trails and roads along the course are not dangerously steep, but involve considerable effort hiking uphill and some caution hiking downhill.  2.  There is no oxygen.  I think the Spanish conquistadors stole this along with the gold and silver.  Going uphill is usually a tough slog followed by passing out.  We were thoroughly pissed when 2 girls from France passed us during the hike.  They would pass us, then stop for a Gitane... Yes, they kept ahead of us, even with their smoke breaks!

Well, that's about it for now.  I am fervently hoping that the maple syrup season extends a bit into April.  I am only at 25% of what would be a lean year.  I tapped over a month ago and the due date for tap holes is usually only 6 weeks, after which they heal.  I am hoping that there was little healing during the freezing cold temperatures.  In 2 weeks is the Spring Warm-up and the long range forecast is calling for a high of 3 degrees and partially sunny.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Buenas Dias De Cuenca, Ecuardor!

Hi all.

Well, Lee Anne and I have been in Cuenca, Ecuador for 8 days and have not missed the snow yet.  I am typing in an Internet cafe on a Spanish keyboard, so don´t expect grammatical perfection.  It took me 10 minutes to find the apostrophe, which I hope looks like ´...

Cuenca is a smallish city of circa 400,000 people and about 600,000 taxis, all vying to come within inches of anyone on the sidewalk while travelling at 120 KPH.  The buses feature a unique cloaking device; a shroud of jet black smoke that emanates from the back of the bus.  I think the objective is to mask their trajectory, so that the trailing taxis must hesitate before deciding on which sidewalk to pass the bus!

Let´s talk about running.  Cuenca has some beautiful parks with trails and paved tracks.  The problem, which you have probably already guessed, is getting to the parks alive.  Aside from the all too real risk of getting hit by a taxi or motorcycle while running on the sidewalk, breathing is problematic.  Cuenca is at 2,800 meters, so the bus fumes combined with a lack of oxygen results in running in an atmosphere not unlike a vacuum.  Picture blacking out while being run over by a taxi.  Trail running in Ontario has zero risk, compared to road running in Cuenca!

Cuenca is quite picturesque, with circa 1800´s building and about 300 churches.  Not kidding about the churches - there is literally a huge church on almost every corner!  One that we visited took 70 years to build.  In another church, everything in the chamber that housed the alter was covered in gold.  It appeared to have 10 - 20 kilograms of gold leaf.  I´ll add pictures when I get home.

Let´s revisit spelling and grammar...  Almost every word I type is underlined in red - apparently a typo in Spanish.  Strangely, spellcheck works fine, so hopefully I can weed out the typos before posting.  The keyboard is not only in Spanish, but some of the keys are worn blank - some guesswork to find the hidden English letters!

As I type this in a tiny Internet cubicle, buses and motorcycles fly past, inches from the door.  Yes, I am including the sidewalk in the distance calculation.  So what have we been doing in Cuenca?  The historic buildings, churches and restaurants would suffice to make Cuenca a destination, but there are also some interesting small towns surrounding Cuenca, with artisans and knitting cooperatives.  A 40 minute bus ride costs $2, so getting around is quite reasonable.

There is also this cute little national park called Cajas nearby.  I don´t know how big it is, but some hikes take 4 days and people tend to get lost and die on occasion.  We stayed on one trail that took 3 - 5 hours to hike (depending on how much of the trail you hiked) as it did not require a guide.  We did the pink trail 3 times, although what with getting lost on every occasion, our route was slightly different each day.  When I describe the trail as being pink, it does not indicate it was easy.  Pink was the colour assigned to the infrequent markers that indicated which of several trails you wanted to take.  The pink trail crested at 4,000 meters, so again, breathing was not always an option.  The trail was not overly technical, unless you consider getting lost and dying of hypothermia "technical"...

The scenery is astounding.  Hopefully a few pictures will provide an inkling of its beauty.  Cobalt blue lakes, brown-green valleys, strange stunted pine tree formations and chalk white cliffs.  The weather was cold although it warmed up on occasions while walking in the valleys when the sun came out.  Rain had that "recently snow" feel about it, although it only fell lightly and just long enough to don a rain jacket, before it stopped.

Getting back to Cuenca could not be easier.  All hikes end at the highway.  We would simply find a straight stretch and wait for a bus.  Typically the bus would spot us and sound its horn.  If you waved, it meant you wanted a ride back to Cuenca.  All buses went to Cuenca.

We leave Cuenca on Saturday and join friends Dawn and Ron, and my daughter Celeste in Latacunga, the staging point for the Quilatoa Loop.  Lee Anne and I did the Loop 2 years ago and it is still fresh in our minds.  Breathtaking scenery, fascinating indigenous villages and an epic adventure.  From Quilotoa, we travel to Otavalo for the market, then possibly on to Ibarra, to climb the Imbabura volcano.

Once back in Canada, I´ll post again, with pictures, hopefully before cranking up the maple syrup season.  That´s all for now from Cuenca.  Run safe!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Year in Review and Plans for 2018

Let me see if I can remember how to blog...  It's been a while.

The near-two month hiatus from posting is due primarily to an inexplicably busy schedule coupled with a lack of races on which to report.  The lack of races is understandable, at this time of year in Ontario.  But please sit back down and calm yourself.  I can hear you jumping up and down and yelling that I am retired and there is no such thing as a schedule, let alone a busy one.  I feel sorry for when you retire - it can be a cruel task master...

I've been busy with a myriad of unrelated tasks and projects that crested quite spectacularly in the last 2 weeks.  The OUTRace (Ontario Ultra and Trail Race) series took some time.  I'm on the executive and we cobble together the next year's schedule and events at this time of year.  It is also the voting season, where the race directors vote on adding any new races and other topics that are vote worthy.

My daughter bought a house in Wasaga Beach, which is much too close to where I live, in Creemore.  It was in need of renovations before it could be used as a 4 season house.  Guess who was the designated contractor?  I figured a closing date of December 21 would provide me with a few warm days in which I could insulate the crawlspace in comfort.  Stop your shouting.  You can't blame me for the severe cold spell, just because I planned outside work in December!  Totally unfair.  The exterior walls had no insulation, house wrap or vapour barrier.  My plan was to frame 2X4 walls inside and insulate them.  The rooms would become 4 inches smaller, but my daughter is living there, not me, so no big deal.  My niece's husband suggested that I glue SM insulation board to the existing drywall, then glue drywall to the SM board.  This worked quite well, but I don't like protruding screw heads, which is what happened to the screws I used to keep the drywall in place while the glue dried.  I prefer screwing into studs.  Somehow that came out wrong...

Finally, Lee Anne's pottery business has become much more successful, which to me, means more glazing, firing the kiln and transporting pottery to various stores in the area.  It doesn't sound like much, but suddenly I was struggling to find time to run.  Then I caught a cold...  Let's leave this topic before it turns ugly.

2017 was both a successful and disappointing year for me.  I participated in 9 long races and completed 6 ultras (a personal high).  I developed an accurate understanding of how to recover when running an ultra on consecutive weekends.  You don't.  Effective training techniques give way to triage.  Envision Hawkeye Pierce tersely stating "lose the fingers - he doesn't need them to run".

I also have a new appreciation of how much logistics plays a role in successful racing.  Yes, it is cheaper to get up at 3:00 AM and drive to the race site on race day, but how much of a toll does the lack of sleep and stress of driving take on your finishing time?  I won't mention the fun and joy of driving a long distance home on trashed legs.

But overall, 2017 was an incredible year for me.  I saw (and greatly admire) those few individuals that make it to almost every race.  I was able to chat with many runners, volunteers, race directors and other members of the OUTRace executive.  I completed 3 ultras in 15 days.  Mostly, I simply enjoyed being at the races.  They are fun, exciting and challenging.  I'll never do it again...

Seriously, I don't plan on taking on so many races in 2018.  My stab at the Norm Patenaude award might not be the final attempt, but I would prefer to regroup in 2018 and run more races in a recovered state, instead of the sickly death-like trance I assumed while "racing".

So, 2018 will be more of a sampling of new and old races, ultra and shorter distances.  I will ease into the race schedule, possibly with a 25K at Pick Your Poison, instead of hammering out 3 ultras in the first 29 days.  Speaking of PYP, it is the 10th anniversary this year and they already have 200 people signed up!

The OUTRace email blast goes out tomorrow.  It holds some exciting changes for 2018 as it is the 30th anniversary for OUTRace (formerly OUS).  I will be involved in hosting a 30th anniversary 30K fun run, to be held in early August.  There will also be spot prizes and a draw for "OUTRace Regulars" - people who sign up for 3 or more OUTRace events.

Well, gotta run - hope to see you on the trails in 2018!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fat Ass Trail Run Race Report

The Fat Ass Trail Run (FATR) is new to the OUTRace series, but is certainly not a new race.  In fact, it has sold out for the last few years, so not a good race to show up on race day and ask to register.  FATR joined the other races that comprise OUTRace this year and race director Sandy Musson has gone out of her way to accommodate us in her very busy race schedule.  FATR offers more race distances than any other race I know of; a race for children (cheekily called the Big Bum), 4K, 7.5K, 10K, 17.5K, 25K, 50K and the Bad Ass 6 hour race.

I had not run FATR before, but friends had only great things to say about the race, courses and organization.  Since FATR is the last race in the OUTRace schedule, Sandy graciously allowed us to hold the awards.  My good friend Sharon is the OUTRace treasurer and as past series coordinator, helped me to set up for the awards.  But first, we would be running the 25K event!

Before getting into the race report, I should mention that Sharon was able to source a cottage from her friend Jen, near the Bata ski hills, where FATR transpires.  Yes, we would be running on ski hills!  To call Jen's cottage a cottage is about as misleading as calling my house a house.  My house is a cottage and Jen's cottage is a house.  Six of us stayed Saturday night in the cottage and we only needed 4 of the 6 bedrooms.  The living room had a 25 foot high cathedral ceiling.

I picked up race kits on Saturday (FATR is on Sunday) and met Sandy for the first time.  Although busy, she had enough time to tell me that they were making snow on the ski hills.  Pardon?  I had visions of running up a ski hill, directly into a snow gun.  Fortunately, the snow machines were silent on race day.

The 50K and 6 hour races started at 7:30, but the 17.5K and 25K had a more civilized start time of 9:00.  The 25K runners would join the 17.5K runners for a loop of the 7.5K course, then a loop of the 10K course.  We (25K) would continue back to the 7.5K course for a second loop.

With over 600 participants for all the race distances, there was a good crowd starting the 17.5K and 25K.  We congo-lined up the ski hill, slipping a bit in the new snow.  The hill is not overly high, although on the second loop it felt like a monster.  Then it was downhill and on to some single track replete with boggy sections, then rail trail and more single track.  Then up a gentle slope on single track to the top of the ski hill, which reminded me of Pick Your Poison.  By this time, the crowds had thinned and most were running at their race pace.

I had no concrete plan for the 25K.  About 5K in I decided I might as well run it with some effort, as there was no need to keep anything back.  Please note that I said "some effort", not "fast".  Most of the runners were ahead of me and would remain so!  But since this was my shortest race (in fact, my first race less than 50K or 6 hours) I would try to maintain a harder pace.  This would come back to haunt me in the final 6K, but might as well push in a shortish race.

After the first 7.5K loop it was on to the 10K loop, which was surprisingly flat.  I kept looking ahead for big hills, but the first 5K was fairly flat on some nice dual and single track.  The second half of the 10K loop reminded me of part of Dirty Girls; roller coaster single track through deciduous forest, but gentle enough to allow for faster speeds.

The second and final 7.5K loop was not as flat as the first loop.  Not sure how they quickly added small rollers, but they did.  I'm sure the fact that my legs were feeling trashed had nothing to do with it...  Going even marginally faster at the 25K, compared to my tragic pace in longer races this year, made the last 6K a bit unpleasant.  Yes, my knees complained bitterly, especially with the downhill sections, my phantom ankle problem reared its ugly head  - I might have to take 3 or 4 days off running.  But the big surprise is how much my back hurt during the final push to the finish line.  It hurt a lot!  It also felt rickety and was snapping a lot more than normal.  I'm going to guess that dehydration resulting from running a race and a few glasses of wine the previous night had something to do with it.  I also abstained from vitamin I (Ibuprofen) as I felt it was not needed for a short race.

The trail marking was quite good, although I felt that something was off, about 5K into the last 7.5K loop.  Not sure if you have had that feeling, but I was on a dual path in a forest that seemed to go on much longer than the first loop.  Had I missed a turn?  There was still orange tape, but it was in trees off the course.  I did not see any of the red arrows on black signs for a while.  I decided to turn back and look for a turn, rather than continuing in what was likely the wrong direction.  About 500 meters back, I came upon another runner.  I figured that I was wrong about being off course and turn around again.  Sure enough, about 200 meters past where I had turned back, we came upon a red arrow.  All was well.  I even had a great reason why my time was so slow - that extra kilometer must have taken me at least 40 minutes - right?

My finishing time was 3:28, which is slow for the course, but also indicates how bad my back was acting up.  I had dropped from the 50K to the 25K, and was very happy to have done so.  I doubt there was 50K in the tank, a short 2 weeks after Horror Trail!

After changing and a bite to eat, I went over to help Jim Orr (OUTRace statistician) tabulate the series winners.  Here is how I helped:  I watched Jim as he performed his magic with the incoming FATR results, about 20 spreadsheets and a calculator.  When I say magic, I am not waxing eloquently.  I have no idea how he does it!  The sad truth is that no one knows how he does it, so this needs to be rectified in the near future.  We need an alternate statistician.

Jim also helped me with presenting the awards.  I would be lying if I said I remember who won what.  Rather than making a mistake, I'll refer you to the website.  Series winners will be posted soon.  However, here is the breakdown in the awards:

Trail Series:

Series champions (M & F)
Under 40:  First, second and third (M & F)
40 - 49:      First, second and third (M & F)
Over 50:    First, second and third (M & F)

50K Series:

First, second and third (M & F)

Ultra series

Series champions (M & F)
Under 40:  First, second and third (M & F)
40 - 49:      First, second and third (M & F)
Over 50:    First, second and third (M & F)

Norm Patenaude award:

About 8 recipients (Strangely, no woman?)

Slam awards:  (At least 100K in Sulphur Springs and Ottawa, and 100 miles at Haliburton)

Stephen Bridson
David Varty

For fun, here is what Jim does, for each and every race:

Obtain results for the Trail races (typically about 25K distance), 50K and all the ultra distances.
Determine if there are any name variations (did David Smith sign up as Dave Smith, etc.)
See the outrace website for exact point calculations, but in essence, runners get 1 point per kilometer (50 points for a 50K, 161 for a 100 miles, 45 if you run 45K in a 6 hour race) plus position points.  First place gets 100 points, second place gets a percentage of 100 points based on how many are in the race.  Example:  Second in a race with 10 people gets 90 position points, but in a race with 100 people, second gets 99 position points.

Try completing the results 30 minutes after the race ends...

Congratulations to all who attained an OUTRace award.  Obviously the more races you complete, the better you do in the series, but none of the awards are a walk in the park.  I know.  I tried for the Norm Patenaude award and came up short.  The overall Ultra Series male champion came down to the last race.

Many thanks to our sponsors Trail Runner and Arc'teryx, for supporting OUTRace.  every little bit helps us to put on a quality series.  Arc'teryx donated running shoes to the Ultra champions.  I have chatted with people from New York during a race and have been told that they drive up to Ontario because of the quality and quantity of races in our series.

Finally, I would like to thank the OUTRace executive.  I highlighted Jim's contribution above, but that was only one day in his schedule, that includes tabulating results from 13 races.  Sharon Zelinski keeps track of the books and offers sage advice in a plethora of situations.  Stephan Miklos, as webmaster, updates results (sent by Jim) and information on the website, such as "next race" and the race results.  April and Melanie Boultbee bring expertise in the social media arena, including advertising and posting of events, results and news.  My partner Lee Anne Cohen helps in several capacities, not least of which is donating her pottery to the Spring Warm-up and Film Festival draws.  She also organises the OUTRace film festival.  Many thanks to the execs!

This is as good a time for a Film Festival plug as any!  Arc'teryx will be donating a pair of running shoes as a draw prize at the film festival.  The shoes, pottery and some good old Creemore Vertical Challenge T-shirts will be part of the prizes.  If you can make it on Saturday December 2 in Toronto, we would love to chat with you at the OUTRace Film Festival.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Horror Trail Race Report: The End of Norm

It's too bad we don't get to choose what happens, when things go wrong in a race.  I would choose a condition that compromises my running style, requires that I dig deep, and if I remain strong and honest, ends up with an epic result.  Like dislocating your shoulder and winning Hard Rock.  I would briefly consider getting hit by lightening and coming in third at Hard Rock, but would probably discard that option as it would most likely use up all of my lucky charms...

I'm not bragging, but I have a long list of injuries and running conditions that could be reasonable choices.  I know what to do, to mitigate their impact to my race.  Cramping is common amongst runners in general, and specifically ultra runners.  Recovery is formulaic and I can address that problem in my sleep.  Ironically, I have woken up to a calf cramping, so at times the cure was literally while I was asleep!  I also have methods to address problematic knee and back issues.

Horror Trail is a 2.5K loop through a small forest, replete with a sugar shack and blue tubing connecting the large maple trees.  I have run HT in cool, but dry weather and the course is a true gem.  Short enough to avoid nutritional errors, but long enough that it does not seem overly repetitive.  My goal for the 6 hour race was what I thought would be easy and simple.  Run 12 loops (30K) at a slow but steady run, then introduce walking breaks.  For the Norm Patenaude award purposes, I had to make it to 17 loops, or 42.5K - basically an ultra.  Even if one of my plethora of problems surfaced, I was confident I could stick it out to 42.5K.  I planned to walk an extra loop, to make the distance a respectable 45K.  But no longer.  I have a 50K hill race (Fat Ass Trail Race) in 2 weeks.

During the race, it rained for the entire time I was on the course.  This created some very interesting and challenging conditions.  Every loop, the greasy mud sections were larger and the sections with sure footing grew smaller.  This might have affected my ankle, but I'm not convinced.  I ran 50K at Sulphur earlier this year in the mud and without ankle issues.  Yes, the effort of running in slippery conditions was greater and took a toll on my legs, but I did not roll or twist my ankle at any time.  Starting at 15K, I felt a minor pain in my right ankle, similar to what is experienced long after you sprain an ankle, but before it is totally mended.  Just a minor annoyance.  As the mileage increased, so did the pain.  by 25K, it was a noticeable presence.  Since I had done nothing to hurt the ankle, I was a bit miffed that it was starting to cause me some serious pain.  I figured that the ankle was deliberately trying to sabotage my race, so I took some Advil and ignored the pain.

One problem with trying to ignore an injury, even one where you did nothing wrong and the injured appendage is doing it on purpose, is that over a few hours, it starts to yell.  At lap 13 (32.5K) I could no longer ignore the pain.  I sat down and tried slowly rolling the ankle in circles.  During my rugby years, I sprained both ankles on several occasions and found that this helped.  Mind you, I never tried running for more than 4 hours on a sprained ankle...  I introduced long walking breaks, in the hopes that the pain would miraculously disappear.   It was quite frustrating lurching around the course like a drunken Frankenstein, in considerable pain.  Running was becoming a problem.

At the start of lap 14, I was still convinced that since I had done nothing to injure the ankle, it should be able to support me for 4 more loops.  I had enough time to walk in an ultra, as long as I could continue at a fast walking pace.  My ankle would have none of it.  Halfway through loop 14, it was too painful to put any weight on my right foot, even while walking.  My race had come to an end.

Unfortunately, due to poorly timed travel plans and a formerly favourite nephew's marriage, I had to run an ultra at the Horror Trail 6 hour race, or I would not be able to complete the 8 ultras needed to obtain the Norm Patenaude award.  It's funny, but I thought that running an ultra at Horror Trail would be the easiest ultra.  Thanks ankle.

Earlier this year, I realized that I am not Norm Patenaude material.  I am more impressed now, with the few people who attain the award, than before I made my attempt.  Yes, I could have done a few things differently.  Run a more intelligent set of ultras.  Example:  Not 3 on consecutive weekends.  Determine the ultras to run before the year begins and make no changes to the list, for any reason.  I also realized that I would not be attempting the NP award again, even if I don't make it this year.  It is simply too much on this old, injured body.  The award is something to seek and a worthy endeavor, but better suited for those who are healthy or under 50 years of age.

So, I now look forward to the Fat Ass Trail Race (FATR) On Sunday November 12.  Hopefully I can drop from the 50K to the 25K.  It will feel great to finish a race tired, but not trashed.

Also, sale of the OUTRace film festival tickets is starting to gather momentum.  If you plan to attend this great event, consider signing up soon.  The films, Trails in Motion 5, are quite epic this year, but there will also be free coffee and cookies and a draw prize.  OUTRace new sponsor Arc'teryx will have a pair of shoes as part of the draw prizes, along with my wife Lee Anne's pottery.  Hope to see you there!