Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mayan Calendar and Running

You know what?  Let's skip the obvious analogies between my struggles with running and the impending ending to the Mayan calendar...

I have been detailing a new strategy for running with a gammy knee.  Running every third day seems to work best.  I still dream of back-to-back runs, but upon waking the next morning, walking is difficult, so running would be unwise.  The next day, I could run, but based on the knee pain, not a great idea.  I have run the second day and it doesn't seem to make things worse, but it does prolong the pain.

Running in Creemore just now is quite enjoyable.  There is 4 - 6 inches of snow and no drifts, so the trails are considerably tougher than in the summer, but very manageable.  The pace is slow (slower?) which translates into a requirement for less concentration on the trails.  One can look about, enjoy the river and wildlife, enjoy the views.

Lee Anne has tossed her hat into the RD ring.  She will organize the Copper Kettle Dash, a 5K run and walk, and a 10K run, during Creemore's Copper Kettle festival.  The festival is organized by Creemore Springs Brewery during August.  Should be a fun event!  Details on the festival:

So, we are now involved in several races and fun runs!  Aside from the CKD and the Creemore Vertical Challenge, we also help to organize the Creemore Snow Run (Feb. 4) and the OUS Spring Warm-up (April 14).  2012 should be a fun year.

One maxim in advertising is to turn a drawback into a positive.  Neil Jefferson (RD for The Limberlost Challenge) and I did just that when we realised our races (Creemore and Limberlost) would be scheduled only 1 week apart.  This is tough for those running the 25/28K distances, but quite a "challenge" for those running 50K at Creemore, followed one week later by 56K at Limberlost.

The Ultra Challenge Challenge!

Yep!  2 challenging ultra races, 1 week apart.  Simply complete both races and you will be awarded the much coveted and incredibly beautiful (can you tell that I made them?) UCC medal.  Furthermore, there will be 6 prizes (top 3, M & F) for the best combined times.  Details to follow (once we figure out the logistics), but I can only envision the envy and admiration when a fellow runner sees the UCC award on your medal wall...

Well, the year draws to a close and I would like to wish everyone success in 2012.  Success in your running pursuits of course.  Everything else (career, family, health, prosperity) is merely living, and thus secondary...  Okay, perhaps there are aspects of living more important than running, but running certainly helps with life's issues.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Year in Rearview

Before starting on today's topic, a brief update...

Took xray's of my good knee.  On January 23, I see a sports doctor in Collingwood (actually Cranberry Village, for those who DH ski) who will look at xrays, then give me the good news.  I'm pumped!

This is not a review of the year, which I hope to complete early in the new year.  This is more about the social side of running and the amazing people in our sport.  If you are reading this, most likely you are on the list.  Unless you are my mother.  Of course, she's dead, so it is unlikely she is reading this.  Yes, I dabble in the macabre, if you have not noticed so far.

Every aspect of running (I don't want to limit this to trail and ultra running) is positive.  I think if everyone knew how many positives there are in running, our sport would be saturated.  It is trending that way for good reason!  How many of you have run a race (I know, easier to ask how many have not run a race, but humour me)?  We pay good money to throw our bodies against impossible terrain, heart-churning distances and, as 2011 pointed out, some seriously nasty weather.  What is our reward?  Even those chronically astride the podium suffer in this sport.  In fact, those on the podium are the few that suffer the most.  What we take back from a race cannot be bought in a store.  Being familiar with the challenges of the Creemore Vertical Challenge, I most noted 2 runners (Chris and JD) who passed each other at the 35/40K point of the race and both wrote in their blogs about the anguish on the other runner's face.  Both were having an epic struggle and both KNEW the other running was in the same mindset.

We learn at races.  We learn how to overcome obstacles, why nutrition is important in a race, the cute effects of starting too fast and the euphoria of touching the perfect race.  I call it "touching" because there is no apt description of what happens when your training, nutrition, pace and mental state are all in balance and the only disappointment is when the race is over.

The appeal of volunteering at a race is another aspect of running that is hard to explain.  Handing out water in beating down heat or freezing rain, to people too far gone to enunciate a simple statement is fun?  How much am I getting paid for all this?  Yet the expressions on people's faces when you hand them a coke with ice on a hot day is indescribable.  They are too overwrought to figure out what would stave off death to the next aid station and you have delivered them manna from heaven.

I would dearly love to espouse on the camaraderie amongst the aid station volunteers, but unfortunately, what happens in the aid station, stays in the aid station...

Pacing is an entirely different arena.  Many blogs have dealt with how the pacer does everything the runner does, but does not get a finishing medal and deals with a cranky three year old for hours on end.  Sign me up!

I have limited experience pacing people.   One of my first such attempts was to pace Charlotte on her record breaking run of the Bruce trail.  It was an incredible learning experience.  Picture the rabbit on the rail, trying to keep exactly 5 meters ahead of the runner, on a trail that is technical enough to make turning around too often a big mistake.  Then horror struck!  Although still on what looked like the trail, I had not seen a blaze for 200 meters.  Asking Char to stay put while her legs where killing her (she had been running for 15 hours at this point.  Oh! on her 9th day of running 50 - 80K...) then racing around trying to find a blaze...  Not pretty.  I finally found a blaze more than 130 meters from the last blaze.  I think one of the blaze posts must have fallen over.

Or pacing Lee Anne in her first attempt at 100K.  We had almost crested a small hill (sorry Stephan, a MOUNTAIN) when this orange rat attacked us.  I wish I was making this up, but other runners saw the orange rat!  The runner can stop worrying about a plethora of racing details and logistics; leave them to the pacer, and just run.

Organizing a race is also rewarding, perhaps the most so, but requires an order of magnitude more time and committment.  This is not intended to discourage people from organizing a race, but be prepared to invest heavily of your time and capital.  The result of poor planning in a race is different than forgetting to bring your shoes to a race!  Again, there are aspects of being an RD that don't add up.  In a quaint little race like Creemore, prepare to spend 5 - 8 grand before any money trickles in.  If it trickles in!  And regardless of how much insurance and medical staff you have on site, why don't you gamble on losing your house and assets in a lawsuit?  Yeehaa!

But being an RD has incredible rewards.  Like the runner in 2009 who approached me after finishing the 25K, shook my hand and stated "I don't like you".  Then he walked away and poured himself a Creemore Springs beer!  I appreciate that for close to 20K of the race, he had this image of the ##$&^ who designed the course that had punished his body.  He was back in 2010...

So by all means, continue to push yourself in the races.  Here in Ontario, we are the envy of much of North America, with our "normal" 5K, 10K, half and marathon races, but also depth in our trail and ultra races.  Try a few you have not done before.  Not experienced on trails?  Try racing Pick Your Poison.  I guarantee it will open your eyes!  Or jump to a 50K or 50 mile race.  It only costs cents per minute (you will want to hurt me for this once you figure it out...)

But also try pacing, volunteering or crewing next year.  You will learn so much, that can be used in your own races!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Changing Seasons - And Obvious Analogies

Okay, the title was just to draw you in, pique your interest and make you question if I would propound on analogies involving life lessons and secret BBQ tips.  Keep reading, but prepare for disappointment...

I enjoy the potentially short season I affectionately call "between DST and THE SNOW".  For those in exotic southern locales, such as St. Catherines, you might not realize that Creemore can have very nasty snow-filled time periods normally referred to as weeks, with serious accumulations of snow.  These periods (let's call them "weeks") can dump 1 - 2 feet of snow and are a gentle reminder that winter is on the way, and in a few short days, running trails becomes a distant memory.

Running trails, with impending or snow present, in the dark, can be quite invigorating!  There is something other-worldly about running a familiar trail in the dark.  I like the thrill of the heightened tracking requirements, or becoming lost on a trail I can normally run with my eyes closed.  This is a bit hypothetical; running the trails and cliffs near the Mad river with your eyes closed is not generally encouraged.  Unless you enjoy really cold and wet swan dive-style face plants.

This year and last year are wonderful examples of a DST-to-snow season wherein I could steal precious time on the trails due to warmer than normal weather.  Last year, we even organized a 100 miler at the end on November, and definitely had luck on our side.  I think we caught the elements off guard, as they did not expect anyone to be rash enough to run for 15 hours in darkness!  A 100 miler in Creemore at the end of November would normally be considered a bid to increase the cemetery population...

So I am enjoying these weeks, careening along darkened trails (note:  "Careening" this year is a euphemism for my pathetic limping gait, but in the dark it feels like you are flying!) gauging how close the coyote packs are to my position and struggling to remain upright.  Too soon THE SNOW will make running trails nearly impossible.  Then what?

On Saturday, February 4, 2012 you are invited to join (let's be nice, here) some adventurous souls in the Creemore Snow Run.  This is not a race, but a fun run in which we see how long and how far we can run in the depth of winter.  Most consider it good training for the plethora of hyperventilation events (nope, I can't think of any), or a wonderful way to chase away the winter blues.  As in, your face turns blue from lack of oxygen...  The run starts at 09:00, which brings up the tactical aspects of this event.  Some will be starting early, to truly appreciate the challenge of being first (possibly only) to pack deep snow, at a run.  Others will be "unavoidably" late, and wait for the not-so-bright to pack the trails for them.  At the end of the day, those who arrived late are chagrined as they missed the challenge of packing the snow (I didn't say this is an honest blog) and those who started early question their sanity...

Although I have yet to think of an analogy for running and the changing seasons, winter running provides different challenges and logistics.  How to keep water from freezing, which roads are plowed, but not icy and whether a rum toddy or a black russian will thaw your frozen face faster.  Say that 3 times after a 3 hour winter run!

So stay on the trails until the last possible moment, then join us in Creemore for some seriously stupid and dangerous winter running.  Oh!  And the bragging rights and a finisher medal that proves you conquered the Creemore Snow Run!

PS  I'm off to see the doctor tomorrow for a look at my knee.  I am running very short (5 - 7K) every other day.  Any more and I can't walk the next day.