Sunday, January 6, 2013

Race Report: Run 4R Kids

I joked with a few of the runners at Run 4RK that I did not sign up for the 30K as I was undertrained for that distance, so I signed up for the 6 hour.  "A" goal was to run further than 30K, B goal was to run at least 10.2% more than 30K (to indicate I was obviously so much better trained than the 30K runners) and C goal was the first ultra of the year.  I also had sub-goals.  Could I run for 3 hours before the first walk break?  Could I run faster than my current tortoise training pace?  Read on.

Run 4R Kids:

After last year's race, Lee Anne waxed eloquently about this charming race.  I tend to discount her opinion about races as she is not the strongest trail runner and she had placed second female overall.  If I ever place second male in a race, that race would be the best race ever!  However, she assured me that the indoor trail had a number of hills and some river crossings, so I opted in.

Before much more confusion sets in, the course is a rough concrete flat oval track of about 240 meters in length.  There are no river crossings, no hills, no trees and it was strongly recommended that you use the washrooms when nature calls, instead of going beside the track.

The event is organized by Cindy and Scott Gallagher.  Neil Jefferson graciously stepped in on race day to help out and provide aid station supplies.  The event is chip timed, which goes without saying, as there is no way to manually track the laps of 60+ people going around a 240ish meter oval for 6 hours.  Chip Timing had a very cool display projected onto a screen, which showed the latest person to cross the timing mats, with their current total distance!

Race report:

My biggest concern of late is that I am training at a very slow pace.  I can't seem to run at my normal pace and suspect that I will need to incorporate speed work into my training regiment.  With knee surgery 5 months earlier and a lack of training, I was content to run at a slow and steady pace, while Cameron, Chris Baker and Marylou lapped me every 3 minutes...  Note:  I think "content" is the wrong word.  No one likes being the tortoise in any race, but more so when it is so evident on a short oval.  I also ran out of witty remarks as they constantly flew by.  Imagine me, at a loss for words!

And so I slogged on, roughly 1:30 laps (one and a half minutes, not hours.  Please, let's not be overly rude about a sore spot) going around and around.  I tried Nuun in my water bottle for the first time.  One nice aspect about running an indoor track is that you can pick up your water bottle, continue running and drink, then set it back down on your table after 1 loop.  One downside to running an indoor track is that you can pick up your water bottle, continue running and drink.  I think you see what I'm trying to say here!  The only time you need to stop is to grab a gel, than back to running, as you eat the gel, then grab your water on the next loop to swallow the gel.  The Nuun probably helped, as I felt comfortable running until 25K, which was further than my current long training runs.

How slow was my pace?  It took almost 3 hours to hit 25K.  At that point I was getting very tired.  With considerable knee and back pain, although a baby ultra was still possible (42.3K), I was struggling with selling the trade-off to myself.  Was running an ultra worth re-injuring my knee or back?  I was woefully undertrained and not overly interested in a 3 hour painfest.  As in any race, you need to set shorter goals, so I focused on hitting A goal (30K) before 3.5 hours and without walking breaks.  I almost made it!  At about 28.5K (I could not focus on the results screen any more) I had to take a walking break.  I grabbed my Nuun/water bottle and walked a lap.  I was then able to run until I hit 30K, at about 3.5 hours.  After that, the intent was to walk a lap, then run a lap.  Guess what?  Didn't happen.  I could not increase my speed past a painful hobble.  I even tried sitting for 5 minutes, in the hopes of some recovery.  I walked slowly until 33.95K, when my knee started hurting at a walking pace.  Time to pull the plug!

As I said at the start, I'm satisfied with the results.  It could have been worse.  I'm sore this morning, but no more than the day after any other race.  I have no lingering pain and I fully expect to be able to go for a run tomorrow.

Surprisingly, the race truly fills a niche.  A fellow runner (I forget who) mentioned that Run 4R Kids is a rude wake-up call from the holiday season's excesses.  Think running a flat 50K is a piece of cake?  Put up or shut up.  It was also a blast to see and talk to so many in the ultra community.  For 2 years I have been relegated to the "trail" distances (14K - 25K) while I waited for, then recovered from surgery.  Running the trail races (Ontario Trail Series) is a lot of fun, but I miss running with my ultra buddies.  33K also implies that with some serious training, I can run a 50K again this year.

The last 30 minutes of the race was quite exciting and chaotic.  Cameron put on a finishing kick I could not have matched at the start of the race.  He was clocking 1:12 and 1:14 laps, finishing with over 66K.  Lee Anne finished with 51K, 3K under last year's result, but good enough for 4th women overall and great considering she is nursing an Achilles issue.  I think the dark horse in the event was Chris Baker, who finished 4th overall.  Until this year, Chris has not been known for his speed, but for doing well in longer events.  He ran over 60K, which is a significant achievement and makes me wonder if 2013 will be the year of the Bakers?  We all received nifty finishing medals which looked vaguely familiar...

So, now we wait for the Creemore snow run.  It is open to all, but please note it is on Sunday, January 13.  I have to work Saturday!  Format:  Starts at 09:00, run as many loops as you want on a course comprised of some trail (there is currently a foot of snow) and some country roads.  We will have some cheese and crackers and soup after the run.  Also some wine and Creemore suds to help with recovery...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 in Review

I'm at an age where many of my friends are approaching retirement.  For those of you who like to nail down details, the group spans 35 to 58.225 years of age.  The last sentence is a bit nasty, especially to those who are 36 years old and consider themselves to be one or two geological periods away from retirement.  What those of you in your late thirties / early forties don't appreciate is that you will wake up one morning and shout "Holy snapping left bananas captain, he was right!"  It totalling, insidiously sneaks up on you.

If the planets align according to Pierre (please don't let 2008 happen ever, ever again) I am in my last FULL year of work.  That's correct, retirement is pegged for mid-2014.  The light at the end of the tunnel is turning out not to be a train...

What do I want to do in retirement?  Those of you who know me, or believe the impossible rumours about me (not the one about a waiting list at Honda of people that want to kill me - that one is true) understand that I have plans to expand the maple syrup production, run more races, make more pottery (with my dear wife Lee Anne of course), chop more trees, wear more high heels, enhance the Creemore races and build a house using trees from the bush.  What I hope to do in my spare time is turn my hand back to writing.

Before life got busier than a bear at the dump, I used to write short stories.  I attempted to instill some humour, so I certainly did not bother to let reality or practicality spoil the story.  I would like to use the same technique to describe the events of 2012...  Consider that a warning!

The year of 2012 actually started in 2011, when Creemore and the Town of Blue Mountain (where we have a sugar bush) received 170.2166 feet of snow during the latter part of November and most of December.  Although deep,  the snow did little to mar the trail running.  I considered it practice in hyperventilating.  Since the area had joined the polar cap, the lakes froze early, resulting in less precipitation in late January and February.  This, in turn, resulted in sunny days, which generate unseasonably warm weather in March.  Great for running, not so good for making maple syrup.

For those of you who have seen the old movie "It's a Wild Wild Wild World", recall the drunk, who explains that he cannot stop smoking, because "the smoke bone is connected to the booze bone".  I would enjoy paraphrasing his analogy.  For those of you who are wondering how the hell this ties in to reminiscing about 2012, please be patient.  There is a 42.2% chance that it is meaningful.  Maple syrup is a cash crop.  What this means is that if you have a lot of cash, and don't mind spending 485 hours per year fixing sap lines, chopping wood (the list is truly endless) etc. then you can make enough syrup to pay for half your bills!  Unfortunately, I am only referring to your maple syrup bills...  So I spend about $1000 per year to make enough syrup for myself (24 litres), friends and family (36 litres), the CVC race (52 litres) and to sell.  In a good year, I have made 156 litre, which if my math is correct, means I sell 44 litres.  At $20 per litre (I've rounded up), I almost pay for my expenses!

In 2012, I made 37 litres of maple syrup.

Please don't interrupt my sobbing...

Priority was given to the race and with some creative replacements (Lee Anne made pottery for the land owners) I was able to provide almost the full complement of race prizes offered in prior years.  Tricky part #1:  The maple syrup sales is used as seed money to finance the CVC race.  I also pull money from savings, but in 2012, the amount withdrawn was rather hefty.  The profit from CVC goes to the national ultra team (ACU), St. John's Ambulance and I sometimes (race director's discretion) direct a small percentage somewhere else.  In the fifth year (2011), 10% went to returning the entry fee for the past 5 years to the top male 25K runner (Mike Tickner) and the top female 50K runner (Laurie McGrath).

Most of the proceeds go to paying for the race, which I have already "invested".  Tricky part #2:  This money is normally used for a vacation, but in 2012, it went to finance a new race, the Creemore Copper Kettle Dash (Lee Anne is race director).  And so it evaporated...

Makes you want to start a syrup operation and race of your own, eh?  Yeehaw!  Pass me that $120,000 seed money baby!

If you think the abysmal syrup season and watching funds drain away into races was tough, I haven't yet told you about my racing season, have I?

Racing season:

Creemore Snow Run:  Injured (unsure what)
Spring Warm-up:  Injured (suspected torn cartilage)
Pick Your Poison:  Injured (diagnosed as a torn cartilage)
Sulphur Springs:  Injured
Barrie Half:  2:00 pace bunny (could I be more stupid?)
Niagara Ultra:  DNF in the half (shortest race I've ever DNF'd)
Creemore Vertical Challenge:  Race director
The Limberlost Challenge:  Injured (surgery in 4 days)
July 17:  Surgery for torn cartilage in my right knee
Dirty Girls:  Volunteer
Copper Kettle Dash:  RD assistant
Run for the Toad:  2:41 for the 25K (very happy with that!)
Creemore 100 Mile:  RD assisstant

High point:  Good result at the Toad, given my training
Low point:  2012

The really really bright side to all this?  My running in 2013 can only get better, I'm looking forward to allocating as much time AS I WANT to running in 2014, and 2013 should be a better maple syrup year.  Please.  Not kidding.  Anyone with pull with the weather gods, think of me before your pathetic wish for warm weather in March.

Well, didn't truly get around to writing something with panache, wit or introspection, but I hope to do so in the next blog or two, when I figure out what it is I hope to accomplish in 2013.  Until then, may your runs be filled with fun and the sun shine brighter (but not so much in March).