Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creemore Snow Run

The Creemore Snow Run is one of those ideas that looks great on paper, can be inspiring in reality, but some years, makes slushies out of the most determined runners.  The course starts with 2K on the Ganaraska Trail, followed by 3K on roads for recovery, then finally a 2.5K section on a moderately technical trail.  Sounds easy, right?

What is not described in the brief course description above is that there are cliffs, ravine crossings and beaver dams.  On a summer day it is a tough, energy draining 7.5K loop.  Now add some snow.  Yesterday's conditions were close to ideal, with a packed trail and never more than 6 inches of snow to trample down.  In some years there has been 2 feet of snow.  Trying to run up a steep hill in 2 feet of snow is known as "near-death-running", something only runners lacking the "prudent" gene (most trail and ultra runners) would attempt.

Make no mistake - running up and down hills in 6 inches of snow is no sight-seeing jog.  Although the weather was good, hovering near the freezing mark, it was difficult to take in the scenery along the Mad river and while running the residual moraine, as your attention was focused on your footing.  Looking up generally resulted in one of those seventies dance moves that is a cross between artistic license and spastic release.  Let's move on.

Numbers were down slightly, perhaps because the forecast was calling for freezing drizzle during the night before the snow run.  Those who braved the drive were rewarded with a fine day for running, on a course that was both pleasant and tough.  Lee Anne and Sharon opted to run roads.  Lee Anne would be considered a sane runner in one sense - that running in snow on treacherous trails would never be misconstrued as her preference.  I am guessing that Sharon ran roads because the turn-around point is at the Giffens store, where they sell the world's best butter tarts...

Those that elected to run the official CSR route (FYI:  it is the first 6K and last 1.5K of the Creemore Vertical Challenge) expended considerable energy during the day.  I was the only "short" runner, completing 3 of the 7.5K loops.  Steve and Adi extended their 3 loop run by including a side trail.  The trail girls (Kinga and Dawn) showed all of us up by running 3 consecutive 1:04 loops, then tacking on a spur, for intimidation purposes, no doubt!  Stephen, Stephan and Dawn completed a fourth loop.

After satiating our desire for trail running in the midst of winter, we then sat about in the house, talked of the upcoming season and snacked on cheese, crackers, wine and beer.  We experienced a pleasant surprise when Gerry and Cheryl showed up during the afternoon.  I knew that Gerry would not be running, as reports indicated he was injured.  I thought it might have been a flare-up of his leg problem, but it turns out Gerry had been involved in a serious accident in late November and was still convalescing.  He is badly banged up, but is already talking of starting to train soon.  Gerry:  Listen carefully.  Heal first, train later.  Do as I say, not as I do...

Yesterday's 22.5K run was my longest this year.  I felt tired, after running in snow for over 3 hours, but not overly stiff and sore.  This bodes well for my planned ramp-up.  Just need to continue spending time on my feet and worry about the speed later.

On the maple syrup front, I was at the sugar shack recently and shovelled the roof.  It was a pleasant surprise at how much snow there is in the bush, as it has been a lean year, precipitation-wise, so far this winter.  It is hard to grasp that I will start preparing for the syrup season in earnest, in as little as one month!  As always, I am hoping for a good season.

For future consideration, I marked a trail through the swamp from the sugar shack to an area of the property that includes about 25 acres of mature maple trees.  In order to expand significantly beyond 400 taps, I will need to install a pumping line across the swamp.  Although the cost of setting up the pump line is considerable, it would allow for expansion to upwards of 2,000 taps.  Whether I want the added effort is debatable, but the evaporator is rated for up to 500 taps.  It would be nice to obtain full value out of the evaporator.  And of course secretly, I have dreams of buying a bigger evaporator and actually making some money out of this hobby.

Well, I wonder if there will be a February challenge this year?  The challenge is to run as often as possible during February.  I hope to be comfortable running 25K - 30K as my long run by then.

Enjoy the cold weather.  It is wonderful to get out for a run, ski or snowshoe at this time of year.  Make sure you are ready for the Spring Warm-up on April 11, which is a short 9 weeks away.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015: I'm going to need shades

For those of you who don't quite get the subject line, it is not a reference to the future being so bright I'm going to need sunglasses.  I built a sunroom and I'm going to need to install shades soon.

Sorry.  I had to chuckle at the above!

I am truly hoping that 2015 marks my return to tangible ultra running.  I'm not exactly sure what I mean by "tangible", but it would be a step above what I did in 2013 and 2014, where the ultra races I entered where a study in survival.  Hopelessly under-trained, focused entirely on triage (get to the next aid station, get to the next aid station, get to the net aid station,...); the only realistic goal being to finish.

In 2015, I want to develop a sound ultra running base.  I.e. 80K - 100K per week.  No time off, no distractions.  Sculpture the body until it is a lean mean ultra machine.  I am retired and I have run out of excuses.  Without the annoyance of having to work, I can set up some impressive weekly tallies, even during maple syrup season.  This is all theory, but I will no longer allow reality to encroach on the Running Dream...

I am retired, but live in a very strange financial landscape.  I stopped working at Honda on May 1, 2014, but my first pension cheque arrives on February 1, 2015.  How did I do this?  Mainly smoke and mirrors, but also some esoteric portfolio manipulations.  I would provide more details and insight, but I'm not altogether certain I understand what transpired...  Suffice it to say that for 2014 and this year, I will be focused on races that are within biking distance of home.  Please ignore the races and holidays that Lee Anne and I did last year in New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and Florida.  Those were momentary lapses of reason, for the most part.

Focus Item 2015:  Run more OUS races.

Until recently, not many people realized that Ontario has become a hotbed of ultra running.  With a 14 race schedule, there is little in northeast North America to match it.  I say "until recently", because some of the bigger names in running have started to plunk down races in our back yard.  North Face and Red Bull to name two.  I expect more to come.  At first, this filled me with a modicum of trepidation, but now my stance is "bring it on"!   OUS (Ontario Ultra Series) has grown the Ontarian ultra base from circa 25 people, to north of 800, over the last 20 years.  Doug Barber recalls races in the '80's where 7 people showed up.  In 2014, two of the bigger races (Sulphur Springs and Run for the Toad) combined, had 400 people in their ultra events!  The ultra segment of Trail Runner's Trophy Series is chronically sprinkled with Ontario runners.  If the big names come into our neighbourhood, I expect even more people will be trying trail and ultra races.  This will inevitably help us little guys!

Lee Anne has signed up for a very strange race (this is news?) in Tennessee.  It is called "A Race For the Ages" and is tailored to older ultra runners.  The race ends at 6:00 PM on Monday, September 4, 2015.  Runners are given one hour for each year they have lived!  Lee Anne (61 years old) starts at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning and has 61 hours to tally as many miles as she can, before the race ends at 6:00 PM on Labour Day.

OUS will have 14 ultra races.  My 2015 aspirations are twofold:

1.  Run a 50 miler.  I'm tired of being labelled a baby ultra runner, regardless of how good my reasons might be (surgery on both knees, back problems, broken neck, being only semi-rational... Okay, the last point is an advantage).

2.  Run more of the ultras.  Yes, this will stress the knees, but I can't help but think that running a 50K on little training is a bigger stressor.  My skewed logic states that simply running more ultras will get me ready for the next race.  Please don't reply and burst my bubble!

2015 Race Schedule:

2015-04-11:  Spring Warm-up.  Hopefully I can get in a run (maple syrup season)
2015-04-25:  50K at Pick Your Poison.
2015-05-23:  50K at Sulphur Springs
2015-06-06:  6H at Kingston
2015-06-20:  50K at Niagara Ultra
2015-07-04:  50K at Laura Secord
2015-07-11:  28K at Limberlost (nope, I can't do B2B ultras yet)
2015-07-25:  12H at Dirty Girls (yup, longest ultra yet.  Might run the night option)
2015-08-08:  RD at Creemore
2015-09-04:  Crew at Race for the Ages
2015-09-12:  50M at Haliburton.  Training:  Please make this happen
2015-10-03:  50K at Run for the Toad
2015-10-31:  6H at Horror Trail

Horror Hill was a toss-up between 6 hour and 50K.  I would prefer the 6H (secret plans of running more than 50K) but I plan to enter a lot of 50K series races.  Realistically, I have no chance of doing well in the 50K series, so let's focus on the ultra series specifically and sign up for the 6H.

Is 13 races sufficient to keep me out of trouble in 2015?  Stop!  You're killing me!  Ah, but seriously, along with our plans for travel and renovations, I should avoid long stretches with idle hands...

Will the schedule change?  Count on it.  I'm sure commitments such as vacations will crop up that will preclude running some of the races.  I'm fervently hoping that the "commitment" is not of the surgery flavour...

Very long term (2016+) plans are to align vacations with goal races.  I don't ever see myself being able to run a 100 mile race.  My knees and back are nodding their heads in agreement.  Races such as the West Highland Way are most likely out.  But there are still many 50K - 80K races around the world than pique my curiosity.  Even shorter races, such as the Fell runs in GB would be a blast.  As a tantalizing tidbit, check out Scotland's Ultra website