Thursday, December 27, 2012

Forecast: 4cm of snow?

I know, I live in Creemore where the weather is either extremely awful or extreme...  By now, I should be used to the forecast being somewhat understated.  However, when they called for mucho snow in T.O. and only a sprinkling in Creemore, I look forward to sending that smug email to Torontonian runners:

How's the weather?  Having fun running through a foot of snow on traffic snarled roads?  We have 4cm on the ground and the TRAIL running is perfect.  See you soon!

Unfortunately, most weather forecasters live in Toronto and if they are predicting local accumulation, I don't think they truly care what might happen in hicksville Creetown.  We have 4cm of snow, no doubt.  In fact, I think we are getting about 4cm per hour at the current rate.  I found the tractor, so I shouldn't complain too much.  Better yet, it had fuel, so all I had to do was plug it in, wait for another 4cm of snow to fall, then start it.  Cleared the laneway, which is about a half kilometer long.  By the time I was done, it was only 4cm deep.  I can wait until tomorrow to blow it again.

Ran 13K with Lee Anne on Christmas day.  We were going to run road as the Run4RKids race is in 10 days and takes place on an indoor track.  I have considerable trouble running on roads (or the treadmill) when the trails are still hypothetically runnable.  Since the roads were a bit greasy, we decided to run Collingwood Street, which happens to have a 4K hill (Hill #1 on the CVC course is the top part of this hill).  At the top of the hill is the gully, which has a stream crossing, then another hill on the far side.  My theory (I know, red warning lights are flashing everywhere) is that the stream crossing would be easy, as it was -5C and the snow was not melting.  I suggested that we run the gully.  Apparently, I miscalculated by about 20 feet.  That's how wide the "stream" was at the trail.  Through some creative hopping and tree climbing, I stayed dry, but Lee Anne got one foot wet.  As we were out for a short run (Lee Anne only ran 30K), it was not overly significant.  Since the trails had about 4 inches of snow, it took us 90 minutes to cover the first 10K.  I'm okay with that, as I need some time on my feet.

With the Creemore snow run in a mere 17 days away, I am duty-bound to run the course today.  The trail portions have a foot of snow, but there are some drifts that might make this into a challenging run...  I'm also toying with running the course in reverse, so that I can hang the ropes.  Can't wait!

If you are lucky enough to have some time off this week, do get out for a run in the snow.  It is a lot of fun this time of year, as the novelty has not worn off.  Although the running is slow, the footing is surprisingly good, what with soft ground under the snow.  Carry water if you plan on running more than 10K, as it will take longer than in the summer.  Friends have told me over and over to include a warning when giving advice on running, but I can't remember why, so I'll make it up:  Use the ropes when running cliffs in less than 2 feet of snow.  There.  That should help.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Post Holing in December!

High winds last night, with a bit of snow.  It's funny how unprepared you are to comprehend there are drifts between the house and the driveway.  Not to sound overly pessimistic, but I place a snow shovel near the front door in late August.  It was needed this morning.  I even plugged in the tractor and blew snow from the laneway.  It didn't really need clearing, but it is good to confirm the snowblower is operational before a foot of snow drops.

Ran the ridge run today.  This run is 7.5K, comprised of trail and road and a scattering of cliffs.  Challenging, with the odd knee high drift.  I took the ropes down at the cliffs for use on the Creemore 100 mile course and have not yet put them up in their normal spots.  Nothing like a bit of scrambling on a short run!

The first field section had a good sized drift along the river.  It was something else, hyperventilating less than 1K from the start.  Ah!  The joy of trail running in the winter!

Gearing up for the Run4Rkids 6 hour event.  Haven't run on an indoor track in years.  I figure running snow laden trails is completely similar to the indoor track?

Anyway, off from work for 11 days and hoping to run more often.  Keep warm and enjoy the winter running!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Creemore 100 Mile Challenge: Soul Sucking Mud!

This time I would like to start by thanking all the people who put effort into this event!

Jodi Langely, race director.  The Creemore 100M is a Fatass (free) event, so you know how much Jodi makes from the race.  She also committed her own funds to any items that are imperative to a successful race, but might not be supplied by the runners.  In a fatass, the runners supply all the materials for the event, but Jodi could not leave to chance that some runner would show up with a port-a-potty.  So she ordered one.  And belt buckles, propane tanks, tarps and 1,000,000 other items.  I am positive Jodi is out of pocket.  I just don't know by how much.

Stuart Lombard.  Stuart has a beautiful house in the hills surrounding Creemore.  He does not need the inconvenience of having 40+ runners (includes pacers) on his trails for 10 - 15 loops.  Fortunately, Stuart is not only a neighbor, but a runner and has a keen passion for the sport.  Securing a key component of the 100 mile course (Stuart's trail) was too easy, as Stuart was more than willing to share his trail.

Volunteers.  I would truly love to list all their names, but would miss some for sure, as I did not see or speak with them all.  Some showed up Friday evening and left Sunday afternoon.  All were pivotal in assisting the runners when bad weather turned to cataclysmic Armageddon late Saturday night.

Runners.  It might seem strange to thank the runners in an event that is free.  They just sign up, show up, hand over items they need to run the race, and run.  The runners make the biggest effort in any race.  I would propose that for the 2012 Creemore 100 Mile Challenge, they dug a little deeper.  Even those who did not grasp the belt buckle at the end of 100 miles, went well beyond what most runners are willing to endure in the name of testing oneself.

Runners 16, Weather 11

In case you have ever had a hypothetical debate about what is the toughest running conditions, the answer is mud.  The race started with -5C and snow.  Footing was good, required more energy than running on dry trail, but no wasted effort in forward motion.  About 6 hours into the race, -2 and ice became the dominant surface.  Ice requires careful foot placement, slowing down and always having an escape route.  Runners in the 2012 Creemore Vertical Challenge will appreciate the following...  18 hours after the race started, at 02:00 on Sunday morning, the course was deluged by pounding rain, +3 degrees and 50 KPH winds.  As reported by almost every runner, the course could not be navigated, let alone run.  A course that is normally run with some effort at 1:20, became a nightmare to complete in under 2 hours.  A good example is Steve Beach's time.  In 2010, Steve was second overall in a time of 21:58.  The course had about 3 inches of snow.  Today, Steve finished in 26:53.  In Steve's word, when his pacer, the accomplished Adi Schnall had to stop supporting him, "I fell apart".  A 5 hour difference!

Dale Draaistra is on the podium at ultras with annoying regularity.  Granted, the running earlier in the day was "easier", but completing a loop of the 10.6K Creemore loop in under 1:10 is very tough.  Dale ran 4 loops (an ultra in itself) in under 1:10 per loop!  Dale shaved almost 2 HOURS off the record.  And Steve Parker was not far behind, in a time of 19:22.  Kiriam, one of Ontario's finest ultra runners (she lives in Barrie, practically a neighbor!), clocked the 100 miles in 20:24.  Wow!

The other 13 finishers were Andrew (25:20), Bill (27:43), Catherine (28:46), Debbie (22:03), Eman (25:01), Keith (also from Barrie - 23:01), Lisa (21:11!), Phil (24:51), Sharon (25:21), Steve Beach (26:53), Stephen Bradshaw (25:32), Scott Garrett (23:29 - his 12th 100 Miler in 2012!) and Wayne (22:23).  A special note about Wayne Cho.  This was his first ultra race.  Yes, 100 miles.  Go big or go home!  Wayne is no stranger to running, having run across Canada...  I would classify that feat as an ultra!

The weather started moderate for Ontario in December, got a bit worse, then turn downright nasty.  At 04:30 Sunday morning, the 5K aid station called that they were not able to support runners as they were holding on to the 2 tents, or the tents would blow away.  I headed up to the AS pronto, leaving my coffee at the start/finish behind.  We did a complete makeover of the AS in about 15 minutes!

Runners who routinely complete long ultras were dropping like flies.  Those who persevered versus those who dropped made no sense.  Lee Anne (my wife) dropped at 94K, a long distance for her, but well within her means.  One of this year's ultra phenoms, Jeff Ishazawa?  Not today.  Kinga and Stephan Miklos?  Although both claimed to be under-trained, dropped.  Chris Battaglia (sorry about the spelling)?  Mr. automatic, who although not the fastest, hit the finish line about 35 times in 2012?  Forced down to a walk, with time running out.

All runners deserve to be proud of their accomplishments this weekend, in weather that was not conducive to finishing a 20K, let alone 160.9946K.  Well done.

After the race, a host helped clean up.  Jodi, who had not slept since early Saturday morning, reminded me of the eveready bunny.  I think she was afraid to shut her eyes, as it could very well mean waking up Monday morning!  We had some interesting items left at the race site.  Normally, Lee Anne and I are grateful for the odd gel or bottle of Gatorade left behind by someone too tired to care about finding such an item, when heading home.  This race, we had leftover gels, head lights and a car.  Unfortunately, Kiriam came by Sunday afternoon to pick up the car...

Quote of the race stems from a Michigan runner.  I think his name is Phil and I paraphrase, as I was too tired to remember it accurately:  "I have never seen a trail in such bad condition, that I could not walk it.  I had to walk among the trees in order to find some footing".  This from an experienced trail runner!

A last note on garbage.  After breaking trail at Dirty Girls last year, I made the mistake of mentioning to Kinga Miklos that when people drop garbage on the trail, they should do so near a flag, so the volunteer does not have to bend down an extra time to pick up the garbage.  I almost avoided the explosion.  Kinga was adamant that YOU DO NOT LEAVE ANY GARBAGE ON THE TRAIL.  She is, of course, 100% correct.  If you eat a gel, put the garbage back in your pouch.  Yes, it is sticky, that is too bad.  At Dirty Girls, I collected 2 garbage bags of trash from the trails.  Granted, a lot was trail tape.  At the Creemore 100 Mile race?  I found 1 gel container, 1 bottle from a hydration belt and a baggy with 3-4 salt caps.  I honestly believe that none of these were deliberately thrown onto the trail.  If someone who has run for 25 hours can carry out their trash, so can someone running a 10K.

Will there be another Creemore 100 Miler?  To be honest, although the weather has been nasty, we have not seen extremes that can occur in early December.  It is also an expensive proposition to undertake.  The cost, coupled with the potential for more serious issues (no marshals, no ambulance, inadequate quarters at the 5K aid station and a plethora of other potential risks), dictates that the event should not be repeated.  There is talk of a point-to-point 100 miler in the area around the same timing.  There is definitely demand for such an event, but the demand should be met with adequate precautions. 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pre-Race Report: Creemore 100 Mile Challenge

Is there such a thing as good weather in Creemore?  We all know there is exciting weather in Creemore.  The Creemore Vertical Challenge in July experienced 3 inches of rain in the first hour of the 50K race.  The runners probably did not notice since they were busy trying to avoid being struck by lightning and to climb hills that were conveniently converted into mudslides.  What fun!

And in previous years, brutal baking hot temperatures made sure the runners heart rates were tapped out on the flats (or is it the flat?), let alone while striving to run up a 600 foot vertical hill in the heat...  More fun!

In 2009, the OUS Spring Warm-up was held in Avening, a hamlet quite near Creemore.  The race started in gale force winds and sleet, then the weather turned bad...  I was asked by 2 runners if they could run the course backwards (counterclockwise instead of clockwise).  Why?  When running clockwise, the section of the course that went north was on top of the Niagara Escarpment and they were not able to make headway into the wind...  The fun never stops, enjoy the buffet!

So when the long range forecast for December 1 & 2 called for sunny skies and a high of +3, I waited...  And waited.  I even had the temerity to joke that if the weather was good (okay, I'll say it - IDEAL) I would catch flak from those who had braved the Spring and July races.  Now that the forecast has turned south, what the hell was I thinking, taunting the weather gods? Will I ever learn?  No, don't answer that.  I'm 54 and don't need the constant reminders.

For those of you reading this blog with trepidation (that would be the 29 rationally challenged individuals who signed up for the Creemore 100 Mile Challenge), rest assured that the weather is not horrific.  There, now I've eased your minds!

I ran the course this morning and it is in surprisingly good shape.  To preface the course update, it has been snowing "a bit" in Creemore for the last 3 days.  The backroads have about 2 inches of snow (most have not seen a plow) and the trails have about 3 inches of snow.  The footing is mostly good, with a few slippery parts.  I have added a rope with knots at the steep downhill leading to the ridge run (the trail with 20 foot cliffs on each side) and cut stairs directly before the beaver dam.

The course requires effort to run, but has several long, gradual downhill sections where recovery is facilitated.  You still need to burn calories to complete the 10.6K loop, but it is not a constant grind.  I ran the 3 uphills (since I was only running one loop) and although tough, the course is not much more effort than running it when dry.

A huge thanks to Elise Maguire, who will be marking the course on Friday.  I have run out of spare vacation days (I only get 34 per year) so it will be nice to ensure the course is well prepped the day before the race.  Elise needs volunteer hours on the trail (as opposed to at an aid station) for entry into a race (I have forgotten which).  Not a bad idea!  Although fun, setting a course requires considerable time and effort.  Much appreciated, Elise!

Well, let's get it over with...  The Forecast:


Good!  Cloudy with a low of -4 and warming to +2.  This should keep the course from getting too muddy.  Not too cold, so changing clothes every loop is not needed.  The footing should be good (frozen) until later in the day.


Could be worse...  A low of +2 and a high of +7.  Light rain.  The course will degenerate overnight.  Hopefully, the runners will be far enough into their race that 2 - 3 final loops in the rain will not be significant.  Change into dry clothes every loop or simply push through.  I talked to Jeff Ashizawa after his 48 hours at Dirty Girls and he claims the runners would have done much better had it rained Saturday instead of Friday.  Perhaps Jeff is the reason for the forecast?  Jeff:  Did you want rain on Sunday?  Probably an academic question as Jeff is likely to finish before the rains makes an appearance.


The Creemore 100 Mile Challenge is a Fatass.  What this means is that it is not a sanctioned race.  No person or body assumes responsibility for race details, such as aid station stock, volunteers, insurance, etc.  This is all the responsibility of the runners.  Hence the race is "Free" (try telling that to yours legs at the finish) as no one is ensuring the well-being of the runners.  A good example is there are currently positions available for volunteers at the 5K aid station on Saturday night.  If these positions are not filled, there will be less support for the runners.  This is fine, as the runners simply need to take care of their hydration / nutrition requirements themselves.  However...

Come on down to Creemore for an action packed night of cheering, yelling and yes, even whooping!  We have 29 runners who would truly love to see you Saturday night / early Sunday morning.  See the greats, such as Stephan and Kinga Miklos, the incredible Jeff Ishazawa and returning from an amazing showing at the 24 hour worlds, Sharon Zelinski!  Get autograph worth hundreds of pennies!  Rub shoulders with the who's who in Ontario Ultra running!  Have the time of your life and most importantly, see people that look and feel much much worse than you!

A bit of a plug for vollies; please contact Jodi Langley if you can help out:

Hope to see you next Saturday!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Creemore 100 Mile Training Run

Practice makes perfect, so in order to prepare for a 100 mile race, it is important to preview as many facets of the race as possible.  This applies mainly to the runners, but is also important for pacers, volunteers and the race directors.

A training run also helps with the last minute details.  Do we need a port-a-potty for 30 runners?  Not necessarily, but what about the 20+ pacers and 25+ volunteers?  Suddenly my cute little bathroom looks ill equipped to handle 75+ people over the weekend!  There was also some secret details to discuss and what better place than the anonymity of the trail?

The nicest aspect of a training run is that it is a chance for runners, pacers, volunteers etc. to get out for a run, but also spend some time socializing after a "short" (only 6 hours!) run.  This typically does not happen after a 100 miler, as everyone is cold and tired.  A bed has more appeal than sharing a glass of wine with a friend!  So we sat after the training run for a surprisingly long time, discussing the beautiful weather (it was sunny and 8C) and the upcoming race.

I am recovering from a cold that has an annoying aspect; I cough incessantly throughout the night.  I had doubts that I could run today, but gave it a try anyway.  Got in 10.6K on a beautiful day, with about 20 friends.  Could not have asked for more!  Might even go out for a repeat tomorrow.

Got some pictures, including a great shot of Jeff, Marylou, Maryka and Jodi high-fiving (yes, it's a real word, don't bother looking it up) after completing 4 or 5 loops of the course.  Also of Ron and his pacer (yes, I'm terrible with names, how did you know?):

2 weeks until race day!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Phlegm Phor All!

Sorry about the title...  Lee Anne and I are both sick and I have come to the conclusion that the reason I get so tired when sick is because it takes a tremendous amount of energy to convert half my body weight into phlegm...

I had visions of writing this entry about how fabulous it felt to run 25K this weekend, even though I'm ill.  Guess what?  I did not go for a run.  I cut the grass on about 600 meters of the Creemore 100 Mile course, which left me panting, sweating and in dire need of a nap.  Lee Anne ran 51K on Friday, took Saturday off, then 50K on Sunday.  She is as sick as I am, so apparently we know who is the macho member of our family.

So, that's it!  No run this weekend (probably for the best), but I hope to be back on the trails tomorrow.

I keep dreaming that the weather for the 100 mile race on December 1&2 will be close to what we had today:  Blue skies, warm (for December) and DRY trails.  I know I'm dreaming and if it did transpire, several of the Creemore Vertical Challenge 50K alumni would be out to lynch me.  Nevertheless, the local trails are in fine shape and one can only hope that they remain decent, until the race.

A huge thanks to Stuart Lombard, who is allowing us to run his trail (the ridge run) for the training run on Saturday, November 17 and for the race on December 1,2.  Stuart is also a runner and I hope he runs a loop or two with us next weekend.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Snow Run!

Well, it had to happen eventually.  Lee Anne and I ran with Cathy, a longtime friend that hangs out with the Borden Striders.  I hear through the grapevine that the Striders will be hosting trail races at Base Borden again next year.  Not sure if it will be the same format (5K, 8K, 10K, 10K, 5/21.1K) but should be interesting!  It can be quite challenging running on the base, with snipers trying to drop you, explosions all around and the constant shouting.  I may be exaggerating...

What happened?  Snow.  Just a few flakes on the ground in Creemore, but once we climbed the escarpment, it is a whole different world up there!  4 inches of snow on some of the trails, unplowed roads with 3 inches of slush, snow and sleet stinging the face...  Wonderful!

Although slow, I managed a respectable 18K that included some significant hills (is there any other type of run in the Creemore area?) and enough snow to up the exertion.  Lee Anne remarked that if these are the conditions during the Creemore 100M on December 1/2, it could get ugly!

The scenery was certainly worth the discomfort.  snow-clad branches overhanging the trails, beautiful sun drenched vistas to the west and what could only be described as weather that depicted toxic Armageddon to the east.  A snow-laden streamer coming off Georgian Bay had just the right colouring of the apocalypse.  We saw white-tail deer twice and red deer, which was easy to arrange as we ran past a farm that raises red deer!

So now we will prepare for 30 adventurous runners (there are other descriptions for people that attempt 100 miles in Creemore in December, but let's be polite) who will test their abilities in what could be a harsh environment.  I had planned to mow the grass on one of the trails this weekend, but it would have been tricky as it was covered in snow.  I still hope for reasonable running weather in early December.  Stranger things have happened!  But if there is a sprinkling of snow, the runners had best bring their A game...  Completing the race could take total commitment and effort.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm not dead yet!

Okay, I've been lazy and took some time away from blogging, for several reasons.  The season for me is winding down, I've applied copious quantities of "free time" to various projects, and I actually paid some money to obtain what is called VIP status in a car racing game I enjoy.  The latter is a bit disappointing, as there are less VIP'ers to race against, hence less excitement.

Before I get to the projects, at the bottom of this post is the Run for the Toad race report I posted on Running Mania, with some reflection items kicked in pour gratis.  So, what has kept me occupied since September 8?  Let me explain the darker side of how I normally spend my "down time".  For those who share the running passion, I need not explain the time needed to ramp up from surgery (or some fairly major injury) once we get the go-ahead to start training seriously.

I am a lumberjack.  Technically, I was a lumberjack.  In my 20's, I spent a couple of years as a skidder operator, then a cutter.  A cutter is what is romantically referred to as a lumberjack, replete with suspenders, panties and a bra.  For those not familiar with Monty Python, please do your research (the lumberjack song).  One component of my down-time is to supply firewood to friends and family.  They pay for this service and expect quality product delivered in a timely manner.  This year, I helped Lee Anne with her inaugural Creemore Copper Kettle Dash, a 5K and 10K race held in late August, aligned with Creemore Spring's Copper Kettle Festival.  Then we went on vacation.  When we got back, I realized I normally spend a week in early September hauling and delivering wood (it is cut in the Spring to dry).  I was late, but had to delivery about 10 bushcord of wood, driving a tractor with no cab, in 5 degree weather, in the rain.  What fun!

Then I clad the house in pine (board and batten style) and painted it (the house.  Yes, the whole house!).  Here is a picture before the painting.  I don't have painted pictures yet as it will not stop raining long enough for me to finish!  And they think I control the weather?  I wish!

The remaining trim will be painted tomorrow.

Here's a file picture of the wood before delivery:

Running?  Oh yeah!  Central to the blog...  I remember!  Surgery was July 17, running started in September, first race was (below) the Toad, which went better than expected.  At 54, running 25K trail in 2:41 is not too shabby.  I'm a long way behind an AC podium finish, but not the last in my AC to cross the finish line. I am not getting out for a run as often as I would like, but enough to consider what I am doing part of a painfully slow ramp-up.  Today, I got in 18K, with a hill.  Some of you might know the hill.  I call it O2 and it is part of the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  For those who have blocked it from their memory, let me remind you that it is 800 meters long and starts after an uphill section.  I have heard it described as nasty.  I have heard other descriptors, but will not repeat them here, as they were uttered by runners who were not having a good day.  This includes almost everyone who has run the CVC 50K.  Having only run 7K before O2, I was relatively fresh and tried to run the entire hill.  I made it to within 50 meters of the top of the steep section (the scrabble) but could not find enough oxygen to keep running.  I walked the 50 meters, but ran the remaining "grassy" hill.  I'm quite proud of that!

Sidebar:  I believe it was Dave Champion who claimed to have been worried about dying on his second ascent of O2, during the 2008 50K CVC.  He was walking up the hill, but was quite dizzy from the heat and was worried that he would fall backwards, hit his head on a rock and expire.  After today's ascent, I now understand how he felt!

Creemore 100 Miler is back!

To provide Scott Garrett, who is running a 100 miler every month this year, with a local venue for his last race of the year, the Creemore 100 Mile Challenge is back on, for 2012!  Jodi Langely has taken on the role of race director and Lee Anne and I are again hosting the race.  There will be a 2.6K spur, then 15 loops of a 10.6K course comprised of 60% road (paved and gravel) and trail.  The course is mainly downhill, with 3 smallish hills (yes Kinga, small for north of Hwy 89) and one optical illusionary uphill.  Sign-up already includes some big names from Ontario, although defending champions Ken Moon is injured and I don't believe Monica Scholtz will be making an appearance.

I would really like to start a rumour that Yiannis Kouros is competing, but it would be an outright fabrication.  he has already run a race in Canada this year...  The race is capped at 30 and there are already 25 signed up at Ultrasignup:

Run for the Toad

What an incredible race.  Some consider the course easy, but try following the young man who won the 50K this year and tell me it is easy!  He screamed the 12.5K loop 4 times, each in 50 minutes and change.  Wow!  I find the rollers wear me down in the 25K, let alone pushing hard for 4 loops.  Thanks so much to Peggy and George for all your efforts, for helping the Canadian ultra team and (2013 and 2014) hosting the Canadian 50K championships.  Simply a class act!

From the RR on Running Mania:

Leading up to my first race after knee surgery (torn cartilage), I was somewhat anxious, to say the least. Running had been fine since I started in early September (a few trial runs in August barely count), but I was not looking forward to toeing the line at such a large race, with a distinct possibility of having it end in a DNF...

For those who made it to the Toad, isn't it incredible how much of a show George and Peggy put on? Curly (Lee Anne) and I helped out on Friday by handing out about 600 duffel bags. We chatted with a million people, including Ryan Melcher, an incredible runner, who paced Ellie Greenwood this year at her Western 100M victory.

Race day dawned with about the best weather I have witnessed at the Toad. I asked Peggy to cancel the race as there was no freezing cold rain... Shorts and a T-shirt were all that was needed. The plan was to start conservatively, then slow down. I kept to plan for the first loop, clocking a 1:20 for the first 12.5K. I started the second loop slowly, although when the 50K leader (some young guy!) flew by me at the start of his 3rd loop, I thought that I was standing still! About halfway through loop 2, a funny thing happened. I didn't slow down and I didn't feel tired! I even started to catch a few people. In the distance, I say Joanne Barber (Doug and Joanne are good friends). What? I'm keeping up with Joanne? By the way, Joanne usually race-walks the Toad. In fact, she has won the race-walk outright, in times such as 3:00, for the 25K!

For the last 3K, I did something that was paraphrased in a Mr. Boffo comic. The picture is of a passenger flying a 747. The caption at the bottom reads: "The last thing airport control wants to hear, after a passenger has taken over control of a 747". The bubble states "Let's see what this baby can do!".

I figured there was little chance of a DNF at 22K, so, let's see what these knees can do! I would not call my pace "fast", but I dipped below a 6 minute K. I ran most of the little risers and tried to keep my breathing near max VO2. The second loop was also done in 1:20, for a finish time of 2:41 (2:40 chip time).

Very satisfied with my race and my finishing time. The hope is now that I can train up to a 50K next year.

See you at the Toad in 2013!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back from Vacation!

Well, time flies when you are having fun.  I have been tardy in posting, as we have had a busy late-August / early September.  I'll start with a summary, then wander aimlessly wherever my faulty memory circuits take me.  Us.  Sorry...

Creemore Copper Kettle Dash:

Setting up for every race involves planning, spending lots of cash and fighting a losing battle of trying to avoid forgetting anything of import.  An inaugural event has that added bonus of the unknown.  With 42 signed up and an estimated (you'll hear that word often) 80 expected for the race, what shirt distribution is best?  How many pins do you need to buy.  Water?

Lee Anne (she is the race director) and I put in countless hours (I did not count them) getting read for the race.  Bought a new kiln (the old one blew up real good!) and had some issues with off-glaze pottery, 2 weeks before the race.

The race went smoothly, with one runner going off course.  Last minute panic while talking to the antique car director, when it became apparent that cars would be trying to drive through the race course at the start of the race!

Aside from the glitches, the race itself was well received.  There were awards and spot prizes for almost everyone who raced.  Much positive feedback and some ideas for a better race next year.  The finishing times for the 5K were good, with room to break the record in future years.  The 10K is a different story.  The 10K has a big hill.  Try to remember who is writing this.  Big = 2K up and up and up.  Winning time?  37:31.  I'm not sure which national team Nikoloy belongs to, but I'm not sure how a 10K with a 2K hill can be run in under 40 minutes...


Not sure how we pulled this one out of a hat, but after some fruitless effort trying to set up a trip out west, to climb in the Canmore / Banff area, this is what happened:

Lee Anne:  2nd in the Ottawa Ironman Duathlon (4K run, 180K bike, 42.2 run).

A good friend (can I use your name Dawn?) was being visited by her daughter, who has a beautiful house just outside of Gatineau park, north of Ottawa.  Lee Anne signed up for the Ironman, we drove to Ottawa and Lee Anne tried her first Duathlon.  It was a long day (13:42), but interesting, from a support capacity.  During her race, I was able to get my first "long" run in, by running 14K of the bike course.  The next day (Sunday) was recovery, with a short hike in Gatineau park.

Next, we drove to Lake Placid, for some "little" mountain hikes.  Little is in quotes, because although the elevation was small (circa 3,000 feet vertical) and the hikes short (13 - 21K), the effort was incredible!  Large sections of the Marcy, Phelps and Algonquin peaks were boulder fields.  More up and down, right and left, than actual moving forward.  Some 2K sections took an hour.  Yes, we are slow hikers, but Marcy (highest peak in NY) took 10 hours to hike 15 miles.

We stayed at the Adirondack Loj for 5 nights.  Deliberately rustic, the lodge has no locks on the doors, so keep your passports in your car.  The town of Placid Lake is possibly in decline, although this would be difficult to tell from the restaurant prices.  The food was great, but $30 for a main course usually accompanies a world reknown eatery.

So now I sit typing in a B&B in Niagara-on-the-lake, to end the vacation.  Went out today for what was supposed to be a long run, only to find the knees (both!) were so beat up from hopping boulders in NY, that it took me 1.5 hours to run/walk about 10K.  I guess that serious training for the 25K Toad starts this week!


As I type, friends are running Haliburton.  One of the plans was to show up today and run it.  It fell through, primarily because we are both battered from the hiking in NY.

Other friends are running the 24H in Poland, which (as I type) started 2.5 hours ago.  Thoughts go out to Sharon Z. in particular, who had a tough time in Wales last year.

Good luck to all of you, who toe the line in these epic races.  I fervently hope to join you within the year!

Lee Anne was second, in a field of 2 women, at the Canadian Ironman Duathlon, in Ottawa.  Nevertheless. it was a gutsy move, for a 58 year old women, to attempt an event that does not lend itself to 55+ women.   The cutoffs, although generous for 30 year olds, can be difficult for older women.

Today is a small setback in my post-surgery running.  I could not run at points because of knee pain, but the musculature is fine.  I anticipate that a fine balance of ibuprofen and red wine will rectify the shortcoming within mere days...

Keep on running!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Running: You Should Try it!

4 weeks to the day of my knee surgery, I went for a run.  Those of you who have run long (half, marathon, ultra) know it is important to have more than 1 goal.  It can be crazy, mind bending goals, such as Ron Irwin, in the recent Dirty Girls 48 hour race:  100 miles, 200K, 200K+.  What allowed Ron to set such lofty goals was a near-debilitating training program, coupled with an intense love of running.  Yes, running can be boring and seemingly pointless, but if you can find 2 or 3 good things about every training run, the race is in the bag.  Training for a 50K typically involves logging 1,000K.  Unless you want to do well in the 50K race, in which case you need to up the training distance...

4 weeks after knee surgery, the "goals" seem almost pathetic, especially for someone who has run fairly long races.  It is good to keep in mind that those just starting to run would love to reach a goal as modest as what I set for myself.  Yesterday (Tuesday, August 14) was my first real run.  I had run/walked a couple of times in the last week and I have been attending physio, but I now wanted to give the knee a modest test:  Run 2K, then asses if I could complete 7.5K of the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  I was told to run on the road by several people, but my reason for running trail was twofold:  1.  Running pavement would be high impact on my recovering knee and 2.  I have trouble running slowly along a road.  This run HAD to be at a slow pace.

I reached 2K without any knee pain and although the pace was slow, surprisingly little issues with my current lack of conditioning.  After a bathroom break, I decided to press on.  My mantra was "keep it slow, keep it easy" as I ran the first 6K of the CVC course, followed by the last 1.5K of the course (up and down the cliffs).  I would be lying if I claimed there was no knee pain, but aside from a couple of twinges, smooth sailing!

My 7.5K probably took about 50 minutes, but I could not be happier.  I awoke with almost no stiffness this morning, although the knee and legs were stiff this afternoon.  I did not run today (chopped wood) and have physio tomorrow, so I might try a short run (4K) after physio, to see if the knee can start handling some training.  I've signed up for 25K at the Toad, which is my optimistic goal.

Dirty Girls:  View from a Volunteer

I ran for 25 years before volunteering at a race.  It just never dawned on me that helping out at a race could be anything but tedium.  Eventually, Lee Anne (my wife) started running such long races, that I helped out to avoid the boredom of waiting around for hours, for her to finish her 1,000,000K race...

I sometimes exaggerate.

Guess what?  Volunteering can be as much fun as running the race.  For those recovering from an injury (hi Kinga) it can also be painful to see your friends and race peers tearing up the trail while you hock water, HEED and boiled potatoes.

This year, Diane and Henri (race directors) decided that it would be fun, fun, fun to hold a 48 hour event, along with the 30K (32K this year), and 6, 12 and 24 hour options.  Let me try to clarify what this means, from an organizational perspective:  Little to no sleep from 2 days before the event, until the entire race site is cleaned up and everything shipped out.  For a 48 hour race, this stretches to about 5 days.  Yeehaa!  And the details!  Food, timing schedules, weigh-in for the 48 hour runners, supply logistics and answering a never-ending stream of questions from the racers and volunteers.

Volunteering has its pressures, but nothing a nice glass of red wine won't fix.  Yes, I smugly sip my wine while cheering on the runners.  If they had volunteered instead of running 232K, they could be beside me, expounding on the merits of an Australian Shiraz...

Seriously?  Helping out at a race is amazing.  I'm not just saying this to drum up some vollies for next year's Creemore Vertical Challenge.  After a while, you get to sense what a runner, in considerable physical stress, needs to make it out there, to the next aid station.  It can be as simple (to you) as coke with ice, but to the runner, it has kept the DNF hounds at bay, for a few more precious minutes.

So definitely plan to run more races, but also consider the benefits of volunteering.  Entry to some races requires volunteering.  Many elite runners pace or vollie at a race they intend to enter the next year, to become acquainted with the venue.

Did I mention we are seeking volunteers for the Creemore Copper Kettle Festival, on August 25?  Did I also mention that Creemore Springs is providing beer tickets to the volunteers, for the Copper Kettle Festival, later the same day?  2 hours work, for a free beer and some fine music...

If you can help out, please contact Lee Anne at 705.466.3253 or email


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Running Approaches

Okay, I've learned over the years that you should never give doctors too much information.  They tend to jump at the chance to draw conclusions and lay down maxims that do not agree with my lifestyle.  This rule applies to most people.  For example, try asking a runner if you should run through an injury.  Make one up!  My chondial Milastis is ruptured.  Should I continue running?  I won't even bother to provide the hypothetical answer.  We've all been there and know what the advice will be.

But with doctors, let's even specify surgeons, the big problem is that one should actually listen to their advice and against all your hopes and aspirations, continue with the painful process of not running.  I have run since my knee surgery in 1975.  I have taken long periods of time off, such as 5.335 days when I had PF in both feet.  Back in the 1990's, there was even a 16 day hiatus, for no better reason than a minor back problem that made standing incredibly painful.

I have now "NOT RUN" since The Limberlost Challenge.  3 full weeks.  21 days.  21X 24 X 60 X60 seconds.  Okay, you get the picture.  So it was with extreme happiness that I received the news from my physiotherapist that I could start runwalking this weekend!  I'm not sure what runwalking is, but I nodded my head and quickly left before he changed his mind, or worse yet, explained what he meant by runwalk.  Here is my interpretation:

Walk to the driveway, run for 3 hours, then walk from the driveway back into the house.

Don't worry, I realize that the duration may have to be tailored to suit my current conditioning.  It may even have to be cut short if my right knee starts a dialogue in which stopping before 3 hours is on its wish list.  In reality, I have some trepidation about running outside.  If the knee turns south quickly, it might not be such a good idea to walk 5 - 6 K back home.  Compounding this conundrum is the fact that I am not at home, so using the treadmill is currently not an option.  I'm in Toronto and heading for Niagara-on-the-Lake, then St. Catherines later today.  So here is the plan:  Bike 50 - 60K to warm up the knee and see how it stands up against a bit of exercise, then try running very short.  No more than 20 minutes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Oh!  Synopsis:

The knee is feeling great.  I think my physiotherapist is a bit perplexed.  Every exercise he throws at my knee, it performs without a problem.  He asks if I'm in any pain and invariably I reply "no".  I am starting to wonder if my years playing rugby and running ultras has changed my perception of pain.  He was almost overjoyed when I walked into his clinic on Wednesday and he exclaimed "Your limping!".  He looked a bit chagrined when I mentioned that it was due to my back, which was acting up after chopping wood for 3 days.  The knee is fine.

So, after 3 weeks of forced inactivity, I will once again try the sport of running.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Knee Surgery Success!

Okay, I was a little disappointed that my surgeon, Dr. Koo would not lend me his cute little camera, used for arthroscopic surgery.  I understand; he has standards, a professional reputation, blahblahblah...  And honestly, I'm joking about using the chainsaw to make the incision.   I figure the Dremel tool would be ideal for that!
My wife Lee Anne dropped me at the hospital at 10:30 for surgery on the torn cartilage of my right knee.  The day seemed to progress without a hitch as the nurses/doctors prepped me for surgery.  I think half the questions are intended to make you aware that although arthroscopic surgery is routine these days, things can still go south.  I was asked several times if I was on medication, had any allergies or if I had died during my last general anaesthesia.  Truth is, the last time I had a GA was for knee surgery on my left knee (my other bad knee).

By 12:30, I was in the operating room with more tubes sticking out of me than in an episode of MASH.  The doctor asked me if it was the right knee (it was) and for once I didn't feel like using some glib reply.  I quickly overcame my hesitation (in answering with a glib reply) and said "You can try the left knee, but there isn't any cartilage left".  In the early '70's, the standard procedure was to yank out the whole cartilage.

The next thing I remembered was waking up at about 2:00 PM, post-op.  I was surprisingly alert, so the nurse phoned my wife to provide me with a ride home.  Lee Anne was dropping my daughter Celeste at work, so I chatted with the hospital people until almost 3:00, when Lee Anne phoned that she was at the hospital.  They took me in a wheelchair to the front door.  I walked from the wheelchair to the car.  It dawned on me later that, although the hospital policy (insurance?) was to shuttle you to the door in style, perhaps trying to walk for the first time on a road is not such a bright idea!

Although I walked from the car to the couch, I was very careful, especially since I was feeling no pain.  Lee Anne picked of some Tylenol 3 that I had been proscribed, of which I have a profound aversion.  If you ever see the movie Jacob's Ladder, then you know how T3's affect me.  I decided to take no pain killers until the knee was hurting considerably.  Guess what?  I took 200mg (1 tab) of Ibuprofen the next morning, to ward off any inflamation, but so far (54 hours after surgery) there has been almost no pain.  The odd twinge if I try a back flip, or something stupid (what could possibly be more stupid than a back flip after knee surgery?  You don't know me very well, do you...).

Dr. Koo indicated that the surgery went well.  I'm hoping that during the post-op meeting next week, his comment will translate into "you can start running anytime".  I know... not going to happen, but one can always hope.  I signed on for physiotherapy starting Monday, July 23 in Alliston, with the intent of a speedy recovery.

Surgery Synopsis:  Not too bad.  Although it is a major inconvenience to your lifestyle, it is manageable, and hopefully well worth it.  I keep thinking I'll put on the running shoes and go for a quick 10K, then realize that walking is not all that smooth and easy.  Eventually, the shoes will go on!

It has been a hectic July, with the race, then surgery.  Our plans for a vacation (those all-too-brief sabbaticals from work) are still up in the air, as our usual passions such as mountain hiking, are not in the cards for the next 5 weeks.  One option is for me to take a pottery glazing course, while Lee Anne runs and bikes in Haliburton.

Well, this is quite enough about a topic no runners ever wants to entertain.  As a word of reflection, having surgery to trim knee cartilage is not too bad.  Of course I'm saying this only 2 days after surgery.  If my recovery does not adhere strictly to my plan, I might be of a different opinion.  For the sake of my family and friends, let's hope not!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Creemore Vertical Challenge: Race Director Report

Creemore Vertical Challenge

Race Director Report

It has been 5 days since the race, enough time to reflect on what went well and where improvement is needed.  For 5 of the 6 years, the weather could have been better.  Not quite in my control, but there are opportunities to make improvements that can mitigate the impact of severe weather.  This year, sponge stations were added to the aid stations, for the typically hot weather.  Not of much use in a downpour, at least they could be used to clean the mud from hands, before holding and eating fruit!

Starting a race in thunder and lightning presents a challenge.  The forecast indicated the rain would move out of the Creemore area before noon, but that was of little consequence at 08:00, when the race was supposed to start.  With almost 80 runners shivering in the rain, and factoring in volunteers at the aid stations, a short delay seemed the most reasonable course of action.

One area of improvement is the handing out of race kits.  The bib and name stapled to the bags got wet, making it difficult to hand out race kits promptly.  Perhaps handing out bibs and the tech T-shirt instead of a bag would be faster and less prone to impact from the weather.  Runners could then pick up the promotional material that they want, resulting in less waste.

Race Prep

The 25K course is comprised of about 12K of trail (some of which is on road allowances) and 13K of dirt road.  Preparing the 12K of trails requires considerable effort and at least four passes to remove downed trees and branches, cut the grass or whipper snip the weeds, then add trail flags and signs.  Ken Moon (2010 OUS champ) was instrumental in helping prep the trails, reducing what is normally a 4 day effort into 2 days.  Ken also helped to stuff the race kits, a laborious job at best.  Thanks so much for all your help Ken!

Race Day

After eight full days of prepping the course and race site, Saturday dawned cloudy and cool.  Some last minute activity, to post signs in high traffic areas and we were ready for race kit pick-up and to start the race.  Then the rain came.  So much for smooth registration!  The timing equipment (clock, computer, printer, etc.) had to be quickly moved to better shelter.

The rain came down so fast, everyone’s shoes were wet and any paper became damp or eligible.  The lightning strikes, at first far off, came closer and closer until the storm front was overhead.  At what time do you think this occurred?  Yes, 08:00, the planned race start!  Delaying the race was a wise precaution, but delaying the start for too long would affect both the runners, who were starting to shiver, and the aid station volunteers, many of whom had to leave directly after their AS was to be shut down.  At 08:15, the lightening stopped and the rain reduced in intensity.  I thought, let’s get these people running!

So, heat at Creemore is tough on you?  Those long uphill slogs make controlling your heart rate tricky?  All you really wanted was a bit of rain, to cool the air and make running easy as pie?  Do you now know what it is like to run in mud?  I actually had one runner mention that he hoped next year would be hot and dry!

Fortunately, most of the runners laughed off the slower times, mud-caked legs, arms and faces, and soggy shoes.  One woman in the 25K was incensed that she had taken the wet option and her friends had not bothered to point out there was a dry option (the suspension bridge near the end).  For some unknown reason, she was blaming her friends instead of the jerk (me) who had created the option in the first place.  The reasonable side of my brain (it is small and atrophied) was screaming to back away slowly and then run…  However, I couldn’t help but mention to her that she was by far the cleanest of her group.  As the saying goes, if looks could kill…

Did the rain affect the top runners?  In the 50K, Corey Smith blasted the course in 4:06.  I cringe to think what he would have done, had the second loop of the 25K course been dry.  4:06 stands as the record, as the course was lengthen this year, but I have to think he would have had the best time regardless, on a dryer day.  In the 25K, the rain added considerable drama.  I may not have the story straight, but I believe that at the 24K point, Kyle Aitken was just in front of Mike Tickner.  Kyle did not see the first rope that helps runners up the small cliff, when it is slick with rain.  In retrospect, perhaps Kyle had never used the ropes before; the course being bone dry in all previous years.  Kyle used hands and feet in an attempt to reach the top of the small cliff, and then proceeded to slide back down to the bottom!  Mike grabbed the rope and the lead, holding off Kyle to win by 11 seconds!  Of note, the new course record of 1:42:46 set by Mike and Kyle’s time of 1:42:57 would have both eclipsed the old record Kyle set in 2011 – 1:41:42, as the course was lengthened by about 250 meters.

I can only imagine what people who were running Creemore for the first time, were thinking of that #^%@ who designed the course!  Paraphrasing Bill Wheeler:  Most years it is the long uphills that are cause for concern.  This year, it was getting down the steep descent intact that took so much energy.  So the newbie’s would be thinking of me:  Trying to kill us on the massive-long uphills is not enough.  The downhills are even more treacherous.

Laurie Mcgrath, holder of the previous course record (F 50K) told the best story.  Laurie ran the 50K with her dad, Ron Gehl.  At the 47K mark, Laurie and Ron hit the “swamp” for the second time.  Laurie had trouble telling the story without breaking out into laughter.  Ron mistepped just before the narrow 20-foot bridge that offers some relief from the swamp.  He sank knee deep in the bracken water.  His other leg also went awry and before he could react, Ron was hands and knees in the muck.  With his face only inches from the water, he called to Laurie for help.  As Ron said, no luck there, Laurie was bent over laughing so hard, he was on his own.  Then the leg cramps struck!  By this point, both Ron and Laurie were thinking that Ron was about to die in a swamp in the wilds of Creemore!  Ron proceeded to crawl 20 feet through the swamp (he could not climb onto the bridge with cramped legs) and thence safely onto solid ground.  Both Ron and Laurie chuckled about the incident, but if I were Ron, I would be re-writing my will!


I had a significant issue with the 25K finishing times.  This forced me to tabulate the award winners manually, never an easy task, especially when the ceremony was to take place in 15 minutes.  Some mistakes were made, such as Wanda Ferguson was first in the 25K F 50+, and the results could not be posted until the next day, but most awards were handed out correctly and I think the winners and spot prize winners ended up with some interesting swag.

The 50K awards went smoothly and since the Creemore Springs did not run out this year, I saw and talked mostly with runners who were happy to be finished and proud of completing one tough race.

Many Thanks!

So many people contribute to making a race a success, it is difficult to figure out whom to thank first.  This year, I would like to focus on the volunteers.  Creemore does not have a large running community.  I like to state that with Peter Taylor running Sinister 7, one third of the race community was abroad!  So what do Lee Anne and I do, to compensate for a lack of “runner” volunteers?  Two things:  Import them, and conscript family.  Ken Moon (mentioned above) was not available on race day.  His son had the temerity to get married on July 7.  I know, you question Ken’s loyalty to running, but in truth, Ken gave us 3 days before the race, to help mark trail and fill race kits.  Ken, your sacrifice is truly appreciated!

Running friends:  Kinga and Stephan Miklos, Charlotte Vasarhelyi, Scott Jurek (sorry, Garret), Donna and Herb Broome, and Henri Ragetelie.  The key benefit of having an experienced runner at an aid station (or being a rover, such as Scott’s duty) is that they know what to do in a situation and when a runner is under stress.

Family:  Christine and Tyler Myers, Michel, Conar and Daniel Marcoux, Louise and Terry Phillips, and Marianne Cheney (my sister, who flew in from her home in Florida for the race).  Louise and Marianne are runners, but most have been at the aid stations for many years and sacrifice a day once a year to help their slightly deranged brother with his exercise in pain tolerance…

Other friends, such as Katie Dawson and family, and Dave Kennedy (he showed up with blackened teeth and a shotgun) helped as well.

The course is run through private land.  This happens at other races, but Creemore is unique in that the use of  the land is freely given, by 7 families:  Audrey Tidd, Cliff Weston, Paul Carruthers, Stuart Lombard, Jeanette Poste, Rene Petitjean and Ron Flack.  This is what makes the Creemore course so varied, challenging and provides incredible views!

Sponsors help to keep the cost of holding a race reasonable.  I would like to single out Steve Martin, of Foodland in Creemore.  The regular source for cups and bags fell through in the eleventh hour.  Steve donates all the water for the race, from a water purification machine.  In addition, he provided 200 bags used for the race kits.  Many thanks, much appreciated!  Also of note was Tim Hortons in Stayner.  With almost no lead-time, they donated coffee, bagels and Timbits.  Creemore Springs Brewery has been a sponsor from the onset.  This year they provided 3 kegs of their finest beer, and cups.  Most runners are quick to point out that although the Creemore course is punishment personified, holding a Creemore Springs while sitting in the Mad River is pure bliss.  The sports drink HEED (High Energy Electrolyte Drink) and gels were donated by the main series sponsor, Hammer Nutrition.

Many thanks to all the sponsors, landowners and volunteers.  You (and the severe thunderstorm) made this year’s CVC memorable!

Next Year

I know I shouldn’t say this, but what’s left?  Aside from 2009, the Creemore race has only seen extreme weather.  In fact, those who ran the OUS Spring Warm-up in 2009 (-2C, sleet and gale force winds) don’t believe there is such a thing as mild weather in Creemore.  I assure you, there is!  If we ever have mild weather, I wonder how many regulars would be disappointed?

Dig Deep!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Creemore is Capped!

Hey all.

Creemore reached cap over the weekend (June 23).  I finally had a chance to look through my emails and the waiting list is now also capped at 10.  That was fast!


My knee was not in the mood to run the half marathon, so at 2K I decided to make it a short training run.  I turned back at 3.5K and "finished" 7K.  I beat the front runners!

Lee Anne had an incredible race, looking strong up to 85K and finishing 100K in a time of 12:29.  Good for first place in her age category.  Since the Niagara 100K was also the Canadian 100K championship, I've started calling her my little national champ!

Well, hope to post soon, but gotta run!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pace Bunny at the Barrie Half

As mentioned previously, I work at Honda, the main sponsor for the Barrie 5K and half marathon, which took place on my birthday, June 17!  With Honda footing the entry fee, it was a no-brainer to sign up.  I even attended the volunteer meeting, but in reality, with running the half, I could not help on race day and there were plenty of non-race day volunteers.  Then I got that innocuous email that seemed so innocent at the time, but caused me much more worry for a mere 21.1K race, than I have experienced since being wholly unprepared (and DNF'ing) my last 50K.  A fellow asked if I could be the 2:00 pace bunny.  The simple answer is no...  But I'm not good at accepting my limitations.

Sunday morning was almost perfect for a race, with a cool breeze floating off lake Simcoe.  Holding the "2:00" sign high, we started down a small hill.  Out and around the south side of the bay, I was able to maintain roughly a 5:30 pace.  For a 2 hour half, you need to average 5:40.  I figured that starting a bit faster would help to bank a bit of time, yet not hurt anyone who would have difficulty maintaining 5:40 for 21.1K.

We were 1 minute ahead of pace at the 5K, so I thought it was reasonable to slow the pace slightly, to 5:40.  This seemed to be working well, but my old Garmin tends to read long on straight flat pavement.  It is fine on tree covered trails, but the sampling out in the open tends to hopscotch about, reading slightly long, with the pace coming in slightly fast.  I forgot all this, but it all came back to me when I hit the 10K sign and the Garmin read 10.26K.  Oops!  Now I was a minute behind pace!

Due to my torn cartilage, I had explained to the group that I would pace at 5:40 until 15K (when it tends to act up), but they might be on their own after that!  Nevertheless, at 10K, I had to pick up the pace to 5:20 (5:10 on the Garmin) for about 2K.  Unfortunately, several in the group could not sustain the pace, after already running 10K.  I like to think that they would have had problems maintaining a 5:40 pace regardless, but it is not the greatest feeling to hear people muttering and exclaiming as the were forced to drop back.

From 10K to 15K, I could only manage to maintain a 5:40 pace.  At 15K, we (I) were behind target by about one minute.  With 6K to go, I made a decision that a pace bunny should make, but not someone running with a torn cartilage.  I increased the pace in an attempt to erase the 1 minute deficit.  The group (including me) were now struggling.  As we passed the KM markers, I figured we would have an outside chance of making (not breaking) 2 hours.  I was calculating that at 19K, if any in the group could maintain 2 - 5:00 K's, they would cross the finish at 2:00:xx.

Remember my bad knee?  I might have been ignoring it, but at 19K, it decided to gently explain who was truly in charge.  I fervently hope my surgeon is not reading this...  With sharp shooting pains, I told the group that if they wanted to finish in 2 hours, they had to increase their speed.  I would be slowing down.  Good luck!

A group of about 3 did go ahead.  I don't know if they finished in 2 hours, but they would have been close.  I looked at the remaining 3 - 4 people and reiterated that now was the time to press hard, to finish on goal.  They sort of looked at each other, then at me.  Remember, this is at the 19K point of a half marathon.  They have not been out for a leisurely jog, but pushing fairly hard.  They turned to me and declared that finishing in 2 hours was no longer a top priority!

The finish is up what I call a little hill.  About 200 meters at about 7% grade.  I'm in pain and with my ultra background, this is an ideal time to walk.  Except, there are about 300 people cheering you on.  I'm the 2:00 pace bunny and the clock is already at 2:01:xx.  I kinda chuckle, then increase my cadence, if not my speed.  Finishing time is 2:02:xx.  Chip time is 2:01:56.  I don't think I let many people down, but in retrospect, pacing the 2:10 crowd would have made more sense.

Now the bad news.  My knee is swollen and for the last 3 days, I have not been able to run.  Of concern is that walking is painful.  Yes, I have another half marathon in 3 days:  Niagara Ultra on Saturday, June 23.  I have never DNF'd a race shorter than 42.2K.  I see 2 choices:  Run the race very slowly (try for a PW) or DNS (did not start).  I know what you are trying to tell me, and yelling at a blog makes no sense whatsoever.  What you are not considering is that I will be forced to stop running for 6 weeks after my surgery on July 17.  This has altered my normally good sense (all right, borderline delusional sprinkled with hyper optimism) so that I would like to get a few races under my belt, before the forced hiatus.

I have told Lee Anne that if I run the Niagara half, I will not be pacing her for the last 50K in her 100K Niagara Ultra.  I think this speaks volumes for my sensibility.

Surgeons should be barred from reading blogs...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Convocation! My little Brit!

Okay, I've been remiss in posting lately, for no good reason.  Perhaps the 6 week post-surgery hiatus, to start July 18, is dwelling more heavily on my mind than I am willing to admit.  It is not that I have run every day since 1973, far from it.  But I have run with few extended breaks, for the last 40 years.  40 years!  Ouch.  I'm old and injured...

Enough self-introspection.  I'm approaching much too closely to where no man has gone before.  I made one of those tactical errors that, in hindsight, makes you want to hit yourself with a sampling of blunt objects.  Emails are insidious.  I was asked by a fellow worker if I could be the 2:00 pace bunny for the Barrie half marathon.  Honda has footed the bill for me to run the half.  Sweet!  In a reply email, I theorized, with copious conjecture, that I might be able to pace the 2:00 crowd.  The next email?  "Great!  You are now the 2:00 pace bunny!"

Did I mention ad nauseum that I am having knee surgery on July 17?  Did I not intimate that I have run no faster than 6:00 K's since last year?  You must have heard my surgeon, in a voice stuttering with disbelief, indicate that running was not something I should be doing just now, and racing was (what would be a good German phrase?) VERBOTTEN.

So, last week's training (I can't hear you shouting "you #@&#@^ IDIOT", as this is a blog) involved some attempted speedwork, liberally laced with failure.  Read "brown-out periods".  Read "not going to happen on my shift".  Not surprisingly, I am doubtful if running 5:40 K's will be possible on Sunday, June 17 (my birthday).  Hey!  great idea!  I can use the "birthday" card to avoid getting lynched by irate runners, who failed in their attempt to break 2 hours in the half, due to some disillusioned physical-wreck-pace-bunny.  Soon to be the late wreck...

6 days after the Barrie half, I'm running the Niagara ultra (again, the half) then pacing Lee Anne in her 100K race.  I'm going to pace her for about 15 - 20K.  Did I mention my pending surgery?  Do you think surgeons bother to read their patients' blogs?

Oh yeah, the title.

Today, my oldest daughter Brittany, graduated with a BA from Nipissing University.  Yes, the spelling is correct.  Unfortunately, that is the name for a Canadian university...  Brit will go to teacher's college next year, hopefully graduating in 2013 and obtaining placement soon thereafter.  Brit and her beau Geoff just moved into a house in North Bay, situated very close to Nipissing lake.  The house Geoff bought is small, but well appointed and surrounded by mature trees.  Very relaxing!


After Niagara, I am hoping to run 28K at Limberlost, one of the finest trail races in Ontario.  Limberlost will likely be my last race for a while.  If physio and training go well, I have my eye on Run For the Toad.  I would love to show up at Haliburton, but it lies within the 6 week moratorium my surgeon has imposed on my running career.  Running Toad assumes I can ramp up to 25K in about 1 month, after knee surgery.  Too easy!

The Creemore race progresses nicely.  It will reach cap within days, possibly before the Niagara race on June 23.  160 people have already decided that running hills is a good idea.  Another 40 rationally challenged and the cap is reached.  Details are also coming together and hopefully we have good weather (warm, but not crazy hot).

Well, if you hear about irate half marathon runners in Barrie, who could not meet their goal due to some peg-legged 2:00 pace bunny, pay no attention to the story.  The media exaggerates everything!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sulphur on a Fine Day

Lee Anne and I visited the grandchildren (oh! and their parents - hmmm - Lily and Daryl) Friday evening and slept over in Toronto in order to get to the race site without leaving at some ungodly hour in the morning.  Some might take offense to calling 04:30 a late start, but compared to 03:30, worlds apart man!

Sulphur hosted arguably the largest ultra race in Canada yesterday (Saturday May 26), with 250 people running 50K, 50M and 100M.  The 50M and 100M runners started at 06:00 (Lee Anne was running the 50 mile race) and it was a bit eerie to see so many people starting such a long race.  Lee Anne ran a smart race, paying attention to her salt, food and liquid intake.  She shaved 15 minutes off her 50M best, with at time of 10:10.  Good enough for second in her age category.

I ran the 25K as I'm not trained for anything longer.  Although the 50K looked tempting, with knee surgery scheduled for July 17, perhaps some semblance of moderation would look good to my surgeon.  It is quite interesting to run Sulphur, with the staggered starts and sections with 2-way traffic.  You tend to see friends and fellow racers for much of the race, which gives the race a wonderful social aspect.  I said hello to many people, although dredging up a name quickly is not my strong suit.  I said hello to Jeff Cooper twice, calling him Jeff the first time and Jim the second.  Perhaps he should change his name.  He kinda looks like a Jim!

The 5K spur went smoothly, as I kept the pace down in an attempt to favour the knees and legs.  The 20K loop was in fine shape, although I had a few moments where I fondly recalled all the water and mud on the course last year.  Although dry and fast, last year's conditions where much more exciting!

I ran the first 15K without issues.  I am just getting over a significant bout of the flu.  I had not run much of the last 2 weeks, being "mostly dead".  With the lack of training, torn cartilage and a cough that could stop traffic (hey you!  Can you hand me that lung?) I was concerned that finishing could be problematic.  In short runs last week, I was having trouble getting oxygen.  Sure enough, I started to struggle at about 20K, at the top of the 3 hills on the lollipop loop (I've heard them called the 3 sisters).  My bad knee flared (strike 2) forcing me into a lurching run.  I almost had to walk the downhill section on the backside of the lollipop, as my knee was misbehaving badly.

Just like in longer runs, he who tries to outlast a bad spot either does better or ends up in the hospital.  In this case, with the finish so near, my body gave up on complaining and I was able to finish at a run, instead of a painful shuffle!  Walked the final hill, but could not resist breaking into a run for the top part, finishing in a respectable 2:45.

A humorous note on finishing:  One of the runners who finished near me claimed I must have won the "most greeted person" award.  I explained it was mainly due to being a race director, although you see a lot of the same people when you attend ultras for 10 years!  I only wish I could greet everyone by name, but that would require a memory and I lost mine (can't remember where...)

After completing the 25K and while waiting for Lee Anne to complete the 50M, I helped John Turner hand out medals to the finishers.  It's great fun to see all the smiling faces as people complete their races, happy to be done.  I mentioned to several racers that they are encouraged to run an extra loop, at no charge.  All declined!

When Adam Hill came in, 6 hours and 49 minutes into the 50 mile race, I was thinking it was a bit slow for Adam, at the 60K point, then it dawned on me, he was finished!  Adam shaved 58 minutes off the previous record, making us all look bad...  Congrats Adam!

Well, with a date for the knee surgery (July 17), it means that Niagara will likely be my last race until October.  Now what's a good 25K trail run in early October?  Hmmmm.  Talked to George and Peggy Sarson for a brief time, while blocking the road near the finish line.  It was great to see everyone again, hope to see you soon.  Outside chance of doing Kingston, although we are supporting Charlotte V's Bruce Trail speed attempt and Creemore falls on June 7 and possibly the 8th.  Definitely Niagara!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

For the Creemore Vertical Challenge, I invite runners to participate in a training run.  Not many partake, as the trip to Creemore to experience the "Scream More" course (people can be so insensitive when describing a race while the race director is standing nearby...) can be a bit of an ordeal.  The training runs also should fit in between other races, but close enough to the race date to make it effective.  Can you say long weekend?

This year's practice session #1 (there is another on June 2) was attended by Doug Barber, who recently smoked the Mississauga marathon in 3:55.  At 65 years of age, that is some cool running!  Doug dragged another famous runner from Owen Sound, Joan Matthews, who happened to run the CVC in 2009 in 2:15, for second women overall.  Elise Maguire showed up early (can you say more punishment, please) and added a bit to the course, for a total of 34K during the training session.  Elise was going to run the course twice, but was a bit tired, after her 84K Seaton trail second place finish last weekend.

Round out the group with eveready bunny Lee Anne Cohen (50K?  why don't we run long instead?) and I'm looking at a recipe for disaster.  I am battling a significantly vicious bout of the flu (plague?) and have not run all week.  I have a torn cartilage.  (Violins please).  I'm supposed to LEAD this group?

Fortunately, Doug has a knack for remembering race courses, so I was able to "waive" a few of the sections and pare down my run to about 20K.  The group was most sympathetic, especially when Joan handed me one of my lungs, after a nasty coughing fit.  Fortunately, the temperature soared near the end of the run, so it could be considered true training for CVC.  Doug asked if he could drop to the 25K...

Overall, the day was fun and a great chance to catch up with my buddy Doug.  Elise, Joan, Doug and I sat in the Mad river and enjoyed some running talk and about the coldest water I could endure.  Think torture, with your legs going numb in about 3 minutes.  Perfect recovery!  Lee Anne (of course) decided to tack on another 25K to round out the run to 50K.

So, today (Sunday, May 20) I could enjoy a day off, right?  I earned it, didn't I?  Have you met Lee Anne?  "Let's go for a little bike ride".  I'm a man, not a quivering pool of jelly.  Okay.  (Note to all men married to an Amazon, never EVER say the O word).  From Creemore, we biked to Collingwood, then up Osler Bluff road (a nice hill, about 5K long, very doable, on FRESH legs), then on the Ravenna for a coffee and a date square.  Then retrace our route.  I kinda forgot to mention that we also took the rail trail from Collingwood, about halfway to Thornberry, before going back to Osler Bluff road, Ravenna, blah blah blah.

Did I mention I have the flu?  It was 31 degrees out.  At 85K, near the Collingwood airport, I bonked.  The sun was beating down, my calves and hamstrings were cramping and I also didn't feel very good.  Fortunately, Nathan (Lee Anne's son) was in Creemore and drove out to pick me up.  Lee Anne continued home on her bike.  Let's add it up!  50K run yesterday and 105K bike ride today.  Yes, Lee Anne is tapering for the 50M Sulphur Springs race in 6 days, why would you ask?

Take care, but make sure you also do something really stupid!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kiln Woes

Okay, sometimes things don't go according to plan.  Like life, training and sex...

Today, I'm going to talk about life.  I organize a race called the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  It is very rewarding, but includes an element of tension.  Every year I ask myself if I can I afford the cost to put it on.  Like everyone else, I struggle a bit to meet expenses.  This time of year, I suddenly have to "find" about $8000 to pay for up-front costs.  If you are not rigidly financially structured, being race director might be a bad idea.  Most races are fronted by a racing organization, for good reason.

By the way, I included "sex" for humour.  I am not complaining and I fervently hope neither is Lee Anne.  Okay, let's glaze over that component.  Much too difficult to tackle in a running blog!

The CVC evolves around some simple precepts.  Maple syrup:  We have 60 acres of hardwood bush and I am a bear for punishment.  Make an extra 40 litres for prizes and land owners.  Simple!  Lee Anne was a potter before becoming and retiring from the profession of teaching.  Cool!  For prizes and bribes to the land owners, we produce maple syrup and pottery.  I buy coffee to round out the 40 prizes.

This is going to hurt:  On Sunday, I started the kiln with a significant load of coffee mugs (second and third place prizes) and some bowls (first place).  The kiln sitter (controls when the electrical elements are turned off at the end of firing) malfunctioned, resulting in too high a temperature for the pottery.  The pottery over fired (read melted) and so did the kiln.  We need a new kiln!

Maple syrup season was abysmal.  There is scarcely enough syrup to make up the prizes.  I was counting on supplementing the syrup with extra pottery to fill the prizes.  I now need to spend $2500 to buy a new kiln.  Not sure what I can give as "thank you" gifts (bribes) to the land owners.

Oh, and the Honda lawn mower broke (wheel fell off, including part of the steel deck) after cutting 1.2 acres of grass every week for 15 years.  I'm hesitant to replace it with anything other than a Honda.  Since I work at Honda, it does make sense...  I priced the steel deck:  $298.  A brand new machine?  (I get a discount) $309.  Although saving $11 has merit, I think getting a new lawn mower is the correct move.

So, with a lack of maple syrup and finished pottery in question, It might make for a lean race.  I just hope AC winners are empathetic and understanding, and don't carry firearms...

Lee Anne started a running clinic for her Creemore Copper Kettle Dash, a race that will take place the same day as Creemore Springs Brewery's Copper Kettle Festival, on August 25.  Should be a fun time!  Last night we ran with 2 people that hope to take up the incredible sport of running.  I don't drink beer (I do drink wine and when experiencing kiln trauma (a medical condition) black russians...) but I can't think of anything more appealing to a runner than to race 5 or 10K, then relax with a Creemore Springs beer and listen to music.  If you have never experienced the Copper Kettle Festival, you should soon!

So, this week's balance is more trials and tribulations, than smooth sailing.  But we are runners and what runner looks forward to smooth, safe and boring?  We prefer action!  Even if it involves knee-deep pain and suffering!

Time to train up to Sulphur 25K for me and the 50M for Lee Anne.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Personal Worst: And Loving It!

Another exciting weekend, the first race of the year, seeing old running buddies and using a chainsaw to prepare for a wedding...

Yes, ultra runners were involved, why do you ask?

First, the important stuff.  not sure if Dawn Hamel, hubby (remember, I have no memory...), and Adam Hill will read this blog, but once again they put on a stellar race, the 2012 offering of Pick Your Poison.  Sign up for their race and you get a T-shirt, honey and (if you finish) racing socks.  I have many T-shirts, but a dire lack of honey and racing socks.  Double bonus!

I should mention the course and weather:  Perfect.

I often rate a trail course on how it would be viewed (in my opinion) by a road racer.  To me, road racers should do well on a trail, because they are experienced at monitoring their energy output and staying near, but not superseding, their max VO2.  This is a fine art that eludes me at this juncture in life, because I now enjoy running trails and care little for training or racing on the edge.  I put in my 20 years of chasing PB's, now I am chasing PW's!  So the hypothetical road warrior lined up at PYP, more condescension than trepidation, for the trail ahead.  And he or she would be well rewarded for ignoring the subtleties of trail running - for the first 5K.  Blazing speed would get you to aid station #1 in good time and fine form!

The next 7.5K would be a subtle series of road racing miscarriages.  For the most part, each new hindrance (I would use the word hill, but it is not just elevation gain or loss that causes a re-alignment of the racer's psyche during badass single track) results in the necessity to establish a new baseline.  If the road runner is flexible enough to compensate for the arsenal of mischief being thrown his or her way (as I fervently hope was my case in 1978, when I started running trails), the obstacles are no big deal and the pace adjustment seemingly negligible.  Until the end of loop #1, when the road runner sees the time on the clock.

Race Report

I was very concerned that PYP 2012 would be the first short race that I DNF.  I have DNF'd 2 marathons, which is cause for some embarrassment, as it is a distance that is too short to pull out purely because I am having a painful run.  50K is okay to DNF, as I am not always healthy at 30K and will not run in extreme pain for 20K.  12K of pain is fine, but not much longer.

So, my game plan was to run the first 12.5K loop SLOWLY.  Are you listening legs?  NO SPEED IN LOOP 1.  For the most part, this worked well, mainly because I have never run a race with a torn cartilage, so I was very diligent in keeping the revs down.  Waiting for knee surgery is a very good motivator in keeping to a slower pace.

The first loop was completed in about 1:30 and off we went on the next loop.  Strangely, I was feeling fine.  For loop 2, I focused on keeping my cadence high (foot turnover) and relaxing.  I passed 3 - 4 people at the onset of loop 2, which I can only describe as a surrealistic feeling.  I was fully expecting to crash and burn circa 20K!

Near the end of loop 2, I was feeling strong and although tired, would easily complete the 25K race.  Then I tripped over some phantom root, went down hard, and my right leg (the one requiring surgery) cramped up severely.  Not just the calf or hamstrings, but the entire leg!  I quickly stood up and worked out the cramps.  Enough smugness, I might be convincing myself that it was smooth sailing, but my legs saw the 22K mark in a different light...

At circa 23K, I must have entered the twilight zone.  While power walking the last big hill, I heard Allistair Munro, second place in the 50K, coming up behind me on his third loop.  I stepped off the single trail to give Allistair room to speed on by.  Instead, he stopped and shook my hand.  It was all I could do not to yell at him to get going!  Second place in a tough trail race and he stops?  Unbelievable, except for Allistair, who is a calibre player on the circuit.

My finishing time was 3:02, which is very close to an even split.  Although I am sore today, it is a post-race tired muscle soreness, not a wheelchair cripple condition.  I would have loved to stick around and cheer in the 50K runners (including wife Lee Anne) but I had another engagement, with some newlyweds...

Gerry Arbour (Sulphur 100 Miles) and Cheryl D'Sousa (runs races and paced Gerry for 60K) tied the knot last year in an unusual wedding that witnessed the minister, bridesmaids and grooms running 10K to the ceremony site.  This year, Cheryl and Gerry will tie the know again, with those who consider a 10K trail run something intended for the lunatic fringe.   I.e. normal people!

After the race, we headed up to the sugar bush and cut 14 - 10" rounds for the centre pieces and 3 - 16" rounds for the wedding cake.  Gerry looked impressive, carrying most of the rounds with a yolk.  Saturday night we enjoyed a modest bonfire (less than 15 foot flames).

I am currently trying to post pictures from PYP on Flickr.  Wish me luck!