Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crucifixion? To the Left, One Cross Only

I almost died on Thursday...

Before the snow flies, I needed to weld a retaining bracket on the snowblower.  Those of you who have run the Creemore Vertical Challenge know that my laneway is 500 meters long (for those into imperial measurements, way too long to shovel).  I have a 6 foot wide snowblower that runs off the tractor, but the discharge shute was missing a small retainer and would fall off when the snow was heavy (or when I "blew" gravel).

So I needed to install a 240 volt single phase receptacle for my welder, something I have put off for an impressive 6 years!  On Thursday, I wired the receptacle to the outlet for the kiln.  My main panel notes indicated that the kiln was wired into the dryer line.  The kiln is 7,000 watts, so I pulled the dryer/kiln fuse box and got to work wiring from the kiln outlet in the garage to a welder outlet...

I had loosened the 2 live wires (I'm no electrician, but I'm pretty sure they are black and red), the neutral (white) and the ground (green).  While joining the 2 ground wires (one leading to the welder receptacle), the black live wire sprang loose and touched the screwdriver I was holding.  The resulting arc was impressive, melting the tip of the screwdriver.  The molten metal melted the tips of 3 of my fingers and left my temporarily blinded.

My first thought is that I could use a current meter...  My second thought was something along the lines of "Gee (I used more emphatic descriptors) I could have died".  The Kiln (mislabelled on the main panel - by me) is connected to the oven line.  I blew one of two 35 amp fuses.  Had I held a live wire and the ground, I'm not sure if the current passing through my body would be enough to blow the fuse.  Perhaps there are electricians out there who could argue the point, but I think I would have died before the fuse blew.

I shut the main breaker (I have 100 amp service for the house) and completed the wiring.  Today I welded the retainer brackets on the snowblower - the welder worked marvelously!

Moral:  If you are working a a 70 amp line, make sure it is truly disconnected.  I could have turned on one of the 5 elements on the kiln and watched to see if it turned red.

On the bright side, the snowblower is ready for the winter and although it has been 23 years since I operated a mig welder at Honda, my welding is not too shabby!  But perhaps from now on I will take a bit off extra time to ensure I am safe before undertaking any electrical work!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Doug Barber Bad Road 65K

Just a quick post while I have some time.  Doug Barber (250+ marathons or ultras) invited a few friends on Saturday, October 22, to run 65K and help celebrate his 65th birthday.  Henri Ragetlie and I manned the S/F aid station.  We had everything!  Tents (although we didn't put them up), music, his and hers washrooms, cold weather, wine and an innate ability to guess exactly what the runners wanted, then give it to them, even if they kept telling us they didn't want any damn dark chocolate!  The boiled potatoes, fresh out of my garden, went over well, especially with the runners that had never experienced a longish ultra (more than 50K) and were surprised to see cold, salted boiled potatoes at the AS.

It was cold!  The forecast promised (I know, but I grew up near Disney Land) sun and cloud, with a high of 10.  For almost the entire day, it was overcast, windy and the temperature struggled to reach 7 degrees.  I think my rib about Owen Sound being close to the north pole did not go unnoticed.  Anyway, Henri and I kept relatively warm, using Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, tools that should be handled with care and make sure to read the directions...

About 13 runners ran various distances.  I "paced" Lee Anne for a 12K out and back loop.  The quotes are because I had trouble keeping up with Lee Anne!  She ran 40K the day before and I could not keep up to her from (her) 36K to 48K.  Lee Anne went on to complete 60K before calling it a day.  Although not many of the 13 intended to complete the 65K, Doug Barber and Ron Gehl pulled through and crossed the finish line.  Some tactics were in evidence during the day, such as when Ron's support (his wife Barb) went for a hike just as Ron was finishing his fourth loop (48K).  Ron had intended to call it a day, but without Barb (she took the keys to the van), Ron had to keep going.  He grumbled something about Barb "doing this on purpose", which was unfair, although perfectly true!  Ron mentioned that he had run 5 long races (mainly ultras) in the last 15 days and was beat.

Doug ran an smart, steady race and looked fresh right until the end.  He had an amazing time, which I don't know as they wouldn't let me near the timing clipboard after the second bottle of wine.

We capped the day by having a fine meal and awards at Tomato Joe, in Owen Sound.

The race was held on the Tom Thompson Trail near Owen Sound and would make a lovely venue for a 24K, 50K and 100K race.  Doug, are you reading this hint?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Running and Chainsaws Don't Mix

Before I go any further, I should state that I don't mean running while operating a chainsaw don't mix.  Although it is quite apparent that they don't, I am referring to cutting firewood for 4 hours, then attempting a run.  The crux of the matter is my back.  Of course, a lack of conditioning has an impact (I was getting to that) but running when you cannot stand up straight is more than tricky, it is also painful.  In a somewhat doubtful epiphany, I decided to run the next morning...  You guessed it!  I could hardly get out of bed.  This all stems from taking a few days off to finish the pottery studio, set up more maple syrup taps and cut some firewood.  I also cut 8 large cedar posts (20 feet long - basically the whole tree) for a cabin I plan to build next year, up on the maple bush.  I much prefer going for a run after work.  Work involves quality time on a computer (uncannily similar to blogging!) and sitting in meetings.  A "day off" involves serious attempts at self-mutilation.  I dread weekends and mark the days until I can go back to work!

This reversal of typical North American values has a corollary in races.  Running a race can be euphoric and cause for celebration.  Then there are those days where toeing the line results in a plethora of unpleasantries.  Volunteering, on the other hand, can be tough work.  Ask the people at Seaton this year.  Or those who helped at last year's Creemore Horizontal 100 miler.  A bunch of wacked out crazies decided it would be quite funny to hold a 100 mile race in Creemore, in late November...  Actually, it still sounds funny!  But volunteering at a race can be very rewarding, especially when you realize that by not running the race, you don't look or feel like the wasted zombies to which you are doling out water and peanut butter sandwiches.

So, when Doug Barber decided to celebrate his 65th birthday by holding a 65K fun run on October 22 in Owen Sound (go to the north pole and turn left), I jumped at the chance to run an aid station!  Even better, I will share the duties with my friend Henri.  What could be better than spending time with a friend, handing out water to zombies?  What will keep us warm?  Do we both have DD's?

Henri is coming off an injury, but there is a chance we can get in a loop.  The course is actually an out-and-back along 6.5K of trail.  Each loop is 13K and the runners will clock 5 laps.  For those of you who have always wanted to run 65K in late October somewhere near the north pole, here are some details.  Perhaps we will meet up!

Kiwanis Soccer Complex, 3005 9th Ave. East, Owen Sound
October 22, 2011 @ 08:00 (ish)
Registration at 07:00
Cost:  Free (now I have your attention!)
A donation to the Tom Thomson Trail would be appreciated
Showers after the run
Doug has booked a nice restaurant for afters

I'm looking forward to volunteering and holding those quality 30 seconds chats with runners.  Then I get to yell "Get out of my aid station!" as I was trained by John Rennison, also known as the aid station captain.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Run For The Toad

I don't know how many runners entertain thoughts of organizing their own race.  It can be a wonderful idea, if (in my case) you have a thoroughly challenging course that demands to be shared with other, preferably unsuspecting, souls.  Execution of your plan can be something entirely different than what you envisioned.  It is tough to hold an event these days.  Gone are the times when you could hold a race on a whim, with little planning and less thought to details such as medical, police, port-a-potties, insurance, websites, registration and personal liability...

Now imagine a race that has it all.  Makes international marathons look limited in scope, has high-end catered lunch, great prizes, an amazing trail, a civilized 9:30 start and the most ultra runners of any race in Canada.  Yes, Run for the Toad.  The Toad is organized down to the finest details by Peggy and George Sarson.  George and Peggy put their hearts into the Toad each year.  As a race director, all I can do is look around their race pavilion and take notes.  No race approaches the experience or the chance to see some of Canada's best runners up close.  Last year, I chatted with Ellie Greenwood.

The course is a 12.5K loop of mainly trail, with some small paved sections.  There are no monster hills, but before you ignore the rollers and attempt to scream it at max VO2, prepare your will.  There is one short but indecently steep kicker just past the 11K mark.  If you overdo it, there is a bench at the top of the hill that you can share with a skeleton.  Look closely at the volunteers.  Some of Ontario's top ultra talent are handing you a cup of water, or enticing you to try a pretzel.  The Ontario ultra community is a small family and they are all at the Toad, racing or volunteering.

Oh yeah, my race report...

I did not train nearly enough for the 50K distance and as we well know, 50K is not a distance in which you can cheat on your training without suffering dire consequences.  I started off slowly, hoping to prolong the time before my lack of training would take more than an intrinsic toll.  I had some difficulty in the first loop, the same troubles with stiff joints I refuse to call arthritis.  At times, it takes considerable effort to extend my leg forward.  The start of the second loop filled me with hope as the effort of running eased somewhat.  I was tiring at 14K and took a gel, which seemed to help me to maintain a decent gait.  Things went from good to better as I was able to drink a large amount of water (I have GERDS - Gastro esophagus reflux disease - which means I cannot swallow and tend to throw up during races) and was feeling very positive as the race progressed.

Who was it that said that all good things must come to an end?  I hit 20K and was actually passing a few runners!  I was becoming tired due to a lack of training, but running was pain-free.  Until 20K...

I felt a twinge in my left knee.  This is my bad knee.  No cartilage, problems with the ACL, patella tendon, IT band and lower quads, to name a few of the injuries.  This happens on every long run and it usually recedes after 1 - 2K.  So I continued to run, favouring the left knee ever so slightly, waiting for the pain to subside.  No such luck.  For 4K, the pain became progressively worse, until I was performing a running lurch that must be hilarious to watch.  At 24K, I had to make a decision.  In previous races, when my left knee forced me into a hobbling run, I have about 30 minutes before my back goes out.  Once the back goes out, the writing is on the wall.  I have no more than an hour of sheer agony before I lose feeling in my right leg and fall down.  Getting back up ranges from crawling up a tree, to quality 911 time...

I knew there wasn't another 26K left in my legs, so I would be walking at about the 30K mark, if back pain did not sideline me first.  Did I mention how great the lunch was?  Did I mention that there might not be any left if I completed after 5:00 PM?  I had many ready-made excuses and knew them to be such, but I was also not willing to spend the next 5 hours in pain, simply to finish my first ultra of 2011.  I decided to call it a day at 25K.

This causes a problem.  This will be the first year since 2004 in which I have not run an ultra.  Something has to be done.  Suggestions are most welcome.

On the bright side, I ran 7K this evening without any pain and very little effort.  This is the beauty of running.  Your deepest self-imposed low (not running an ultra in 2011) is quickly replaced by something positive.  Maybe I can train effectively now.  By April of next year, I'll be running 50K's with the front runners (please attempt to forget that I am 53 years old), moving up to an age category podium finish, run all the OUS ultras and cure cancer...

Well, gotta go get a medical degree this weekend!