Saturday, January 2, 2021

Please Do Not Adjust Your Set

The title is likely not all that familiar to the younger generations.  Back in the sixties and a bit in the seventies, TV programs would occasionally crash.  Since reception was typically terrible (as the TV's themselves often had issues) the station was basically saying:  Hey!  The problem is on our side!  This was sometimes the result of someone at the station tripping over a wire that plugged into various machines needed to transmit the TV signal to the TV towers.  More often it was alien space ships landing on the transmission towers.  This happened with annoying regularity and although no one ever talked to the aliens. it was surmised that the TV towers somehow reminded the aliens of their landing stations back home.  Most TV stations had to resort to installing elaborate UFO blocking hardware, affectionately known as "UF Off" devices.

After experiencing such a messed up year as 2020, many of us are anxious to get back to normal, or near-new normal.  We are waiting for various entities (government, medical support, bars) to tell us that our TV sets should now be working properly.

I alluded to this challenge with respect to OUTRace, a series of ultra and trail races in Ontario.  These races are spread across the year, starting in April and finishing in November.  Timing of the lifting of pandemic restrictions will be pivotal in determining which races can proceed and which will once again be cancelled.  The race directors are struggling to answer questions such as "what is the latest date on which I can commit to holding my race?  When should I open registration?  Are my sponsors still in business?

This becomes tricky for the runners who wish to partake in the races.  We need to register before scheduling other aspects of the race weekends.  If I decide to run Ottawa, I need to book a hotel.  Many need to give advance notice at work, that they would like the weekend off.  None of this can be done until race registration is open, and that depends on the current flavour of Covid restrictions 1 - 4 months ahead of race date.  Tricky...

However these problems pale in comparison to what we experienced in 2020.  The uncertainty in 2020 rivalled or surpassed any other year in memory, including Y2K (remember 1999?).  I worked in IT at Honda back then, so I knew there would not be any catastrophes.  However, I also knew there would be some problems, however minor, which could culminate into some serious inconveniences.  Fortunately the calendar switched over without noticeable hitches.  For those who enjoy reminiscing, here is a rough overview of what transpired at Honda in Alliston:

  • 400+ computer systems, about half needed updates & verification they still worked
  • 850 mainframe computer programs that needed updates
  • 37 failures:  1 category B and 36 category C (Category A could impact or stop the assembly lines)

The above is from my very skewed memory, so please don't try to corroborate the numbers!

I doubt that everyone is looking forward to 2021...  I'm thinking some business owners and anyone who is not able to work due to restrictions.  This might be a very rough year for those stuck in an apartment during the winter.  I live out in the country, so isolation is not much different than any other winter.  However I am not visiting friends (Ontario is currently in lockdown for either 14 or 28 days), going out to eat and there is no plan to travel, as I normally do this time of year.

Aside from this, I am looking forward to 2021.  I think we will all savour the easing of restrictions and appreciate our "freedom" the more so, for having experienced the lockdowns.  It is now simply a matter of time before the vaccination is available to all Canadians.  Yes, it will be several months, but hopefully not years, as some other vaccinations have required.  I look forward to dropping into a store on a whim, as opposed to a rigidly mapped out operation, similar to mounting a coup.  Hmm...  Coup on a Whim.  Sounds like a boutique beer.

What will I do first?  Not sure, but I would love to overnight in a dwelling that is not my house!  Planning a trip would be great.  I am already arranging to travel to Scotland and hike with my sister, her husband and (if available) my daughter, but there is little point in planning anything at this point.

There were few good points resulting from the pandemic, but I should mention the benefit of shopping online.  I am not a natural born shopper.  I never enjoyed going into a store with the exception of Canadian Tire.  For me, shopping online is a quantum leap in preference over driving to an overcrowded parking lot and spending time in various line-ups.  And then there is wine online (www.wineonline.ca).  Insert a deep sigh of gratitude here.  I know this sounds like a promo, but imagine a store that not only delivers to your door, but also makes suggestions that appeal to you!  Okay, I doubt there are many people out there that enjoy wine as much as I do, but this beats a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake hands down.  Yes, I enjoy running and biking in NOTL and there is wine tasting, but unfortunately, I like red wine.  Aside from Marynissin, most of the good red wines cost between $25 and $50 per bottle.  I am talking good wine, not great.  I have trouble spending $30 for a journeyman wine.  No problem spending as much for a truly great Australian Shiraz, or a Cabernet Sauvignon from California.

Well, take care out there.  Let's err on the side of caution until the vaccinations have been deployed.  Not much fun in overloading our medical facilities now.  We are all itching to get out there, but let's do so when it is safe for all.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

May You Live in Interesting Times...

I fully intended to post to this blog on a more frequent basis this year, but a couple of factors have prevented me from doing so.  I am still at a loss as to what to write - as a warning, this post might become a bit morose.

The title is actually an ancient Chinese curse.  Interesting times include pandemics, after all.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones as Covid was a minor nuisance to me this year, compared to the loss of my wife Lee Anne Cohen, who succumbed to lung cancer in September.  As you can imagine, it will be a challenge to find humour in my current situation.

Let's start with a recap of all that has transpired since we returned from Portugal in February:  Nothing much at all, thank you very much.  As with most everyone, Covid drastically changed our lives and even Lee Anne's death.  Surprisingly, there was virtually no change in making maple syrup.  Most days I travelled to the sugar shack, started the evaporator and boiled down until it was time to go home.  In retrospect, I have been isolating every March and April for the last 15 years!

On the OUTRace front (Ontario Ultra and Trail Race series), it was a very interesting time, as races were cancelled and the race directors struggled to figure out what to do.  Seaton Soaker held a virtual race, as most of its registration fees had already been spent on race gear and expenses before Covid restrictions came into effect.  I was very glad not to be a race director in 2020!  Run Off the Grid was the only race physically staged this year.  It is north of Algonquin Park and all race distances were capped at 50.  The OUTRace series awards were cancelled and prizes were distributed to only one race.

In the fall of 2019, Lee Anne started complaining that she was having trouble breathing, while running up 4 kilometer hills...  We figured that this was normal, as she had dropped her running from 150K per week, to "only" 80K per week, due to a knee injury.  This, coupled with turning 66, explained (we thought) the difficulty in breathing.  However during our vacation in Portugal in January and February 2020, it became apparent that there might be a different reason for her difficulties.  Then Covid happened by...

Perhaps not a perfect storm, but after returning to Canada, it became difficult to see our doctor.  Lee Anne finally held a phone appointment with our doctor, who thought her condition might be asthma.  However puffers had little effect and in June, Lee Anne was finally able to get a lung x-ray.  The prognosis was not good.  She then underwent several tests and a lung biopsy before lung cancer was confirmed in August.  The Oncologist estimated that Lee Anne had between 6 months and 5 years to live.

We put the 93 acre property were I make maple syrup up for sale, in the hopes that we could travel more frequently after Covid was over.  Lee Anne underwent her first session of chemotherapy in September, but unfortunately, passed away 1 week later.

It is interesting that someone as fit as Lee Anne (she broke the Canadian 100 mile record for her age category in 2015), who doesn't smoke and eats much better than I (she was a vegetarian) would contract lung cancer.  But as one of her Oncologists stated, cancer is not overly discriminating.

So, as with most people in Ontario, I am in lockdown.  I am running a lot and chopping wood.  My daughter Celeste is currently living with me and will be renting her house in Wasaga Beach for the winter.  One interesting aspect of the pandemic is that there are almost no places for rent in the Collingwood / Wasaga Beach area.  People are staying in the area, rather than travelling to Florida or elsewhere for the winter.

After Lee Anne passed away, I had thoughts of taking the maple bush off the market, but decided to leave it on the market, as making maple syrup requires about 1,000 hours of effort and I am not getting any younger.  The 93 acres sold recently and the new owners are keen to continue with the maple syrup operation, which is great.  I hope to help a friend make syrup in 2021, Covid willing.  Otherwise I will have little to do this Spring, assuming that travel will not be possible or advisable until the vaccination is available worldwide.

Wishing everyone a happy and SAFE holiday season and new year.


Cheers!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Flight from Portugal Home: Not Much Fun!

Hey!  Rather than adding pictures to the 2 previous Portugal posts, I'll simply add them to this post.  That way, no one has to re-read a post.

Recap:  We flew from Toronto to Lisbon, then to Funchal, the main city in Madeira.  Purpose:  Hike and run a half marathon.

Hiking along a "Lavada" - an irrigation channel built in the 1840's to transport water to drier spots of the island.  In places they would tunnel through the mountain, rather than build the channel on the side of a cliff.  Headlamps came in handy!


Very strange!  Between 2 tunnels was this waterfall.  The strange thing was that the irrigation channel bypassed the water from the fall (?).  Perhaps this stream dried up?



As stated before, Madeira is a young island (about 5,000,000 years old) so the mountains are incredibly steep.  This picture does not show the steel stairs/ladders in the steeper parts.  I was too chicken to take photos while trying to avoid plunging to my death...


Just outside our hotel in Tavira (in the Algarves) was the "Roman Bridge".  I figure it was built before the 1950's...


The bike routes went beside salt flats.  Tavira has hundreds of lagoons that are flooded from the Atlantic ocean and then dry up, leaving a salt residue that is harvested and sold.  You might be able to pick out the salt pile in front of some 5 story buildings...



After Tavira we stayed in Cascais, about 40 minutes west of Lisbon.  We decided not to run the Cascais half marathon as we only had 3 days and wanted to hike instead of rest, run a race, then recover.  We hiked in Sintra, just north of Cascais, which has more forts, castles and palaces than in all of Canada (okay, not so hard to do).

Below is a Moorish fort, which in circa 1200 the Moores lost to the European knights in a poker game.  Note that I am taking the picture inside the fort.  It is big!


This is just somebody's home.  Not really a palace by Sintra standards.  Sintra was where the Portuguese royal family stayed, so this was likely some hanger-on's house...



The king had 2 palaces in Sintra.  This was the summer palace.  The picture was taken from the Moorish fort, so they are quite close together.  It was painted red on the north side and yellow on the south side so that people would be able to orient themselves by the palace.  One part (not sure which) is much older than the other.  The new part was built in the 1600's.  There are many similarities between the summer palace and my house in Creemore!


Okay, 2 more pictures, then I'll describe the exciting flight home...  Lisbon has so many incredible buildings, it is difficult to pick just 2 for this post.  Below is the "square" where mariners would return from exotic parts of the world and sell their wares.  The vast square is surrounded on 3 sides by the yellow building.


Another building that we visited was ridiculously huge, which this "little" church tacked on one end.  I took another picture near the end of the building, but from there it is difficult to make out the church!



Homeward Bound!

If you are enjoying a meal, you might want to read this later...

Flying these days is a tenuous adventure, what with the pandemic making us question the prudence of rubbing elbows with people from all over the world.  Imagine my dismay when 3 days before we were to fly home, I came down with a cold.  With travel restrictions changing day-to-day, I wondered if I could travel without many noticing my sickness.

Wait!  Let's make this even more exciting!  Thursday night (our flight departed at noon Friday) my nose started to bleed.  This is actually a common occurrence when I catch a cold.  The problem was, I could not get my nose to stop bleeding.  And when I say bleeding, I'm not fooling around.  If I pinched my nose (what I usually do), my mouth would fill up with blood within 5 seconds.  Not a viable situation when you can't breath through your nose!  I would rush to the nearest sink and spit out the blood, release the hold on my nose and with a dry part of the towel, reapply pressure.

After 5 long minutes of this, I asked Lee Anne to call an ambulance.  I had lost about half a litre of blood so far and my concern was that I could lose consciousness.  I wanted to walk down 3 flights of stairs to the street before feeling any weaker.  Lee Anne phoned the hotel owner, who in turn phoned the ambulance.  While sitting in a chair on the sidewalk, waiting for an ambulance, my nose finally stopped bleeding.  The ambulance drove us to a hospital that, at 10:00 PM, had a nose doctor onsite.

After a 2 hour wait, I was seen by the doctor.  He realized I had burst a blood vessel and cauterized my nose.  It is interesting to see smoke coming out of your nostril.  His English was quite good and he explained that if I was a local, he would have sent me home.  However, having learned that I planned to fly in 12 hours, he then shoved a tampon (his word) up my nose.  It didn't hurt much, but wow, was it uncomfortable.  My left eye started tearing from the pressure.  We took a taxi back to the hotel, where the owners had already cleaned our room and the kitchen sink!

After very little sleep, we thanked the hotel owners profusely for their help, then headed to the airport.  How is flying after minor surgery with a tampon shoved up your nose?  I no longer enjoy flying.  Most people can do without the airport hassle, but try breathing through your mouth for an 8 hour flight, with a terrific sinus headache.  All flights out of Lisbon on Friday morning were delayed, due to fog, so we spent close to 10 hours on the plane.  We got up on Friday at 7:00 AM (2:00 AM Toronto time) and landed in Toronto at 6:00 PM.  The headache lasted until Monday.

I was late posting all this because I have started prepping maple syrup lines.  That's my excuse!


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Cascais DNS, Lisbon and Homeward Bound

The end of our 30 day venture into Portugal looms nigh and with it comes a mixture of anticipation and regret.  One month is not a sufficient time to truly experience a new country, culture and language.  As I write this, outside the window is a church with a massive dome.  It holds some famous name, but as this is our first time visiting Lisbon, we have yet to view and learn about this European landmark.  The same can be said about our stays in Madeira (a small island off the African coast belonging to Portugal), Tavira (an small city in the Algarves) and Cascais (near Sintra, the home of Portugal´s royalty).  We have barely brushed the surface of Portugal, yet we are set to travel home.

Is Portugal worth a visit?  Most definitely.  The landscapes, architecture and mild weather make it an appealing option for snow smothered Canadians.  Flights, hotels and meals are reasonably priced, compared to the rest of Europe.

Still, we are ready to travel back to the ice and snow of Creemore.  In fact, we are both of the opinion that a month is a bit long to travel.  We have been away from family, friends and haircuts for too long.  Okay, the last is my fault, as I did not earmark adequate time to get mine cut, before we set out for Portugal...

Lee Anne is getting anxious to start building pottery inventory for the upcoming shows.  I have considerable work to do, before I can fire up the maple syrup evaporator.  And the latest technology (I think it is called Snap Crackle Pop Chatting) is a pale substitute for spending time with our children and grand children.

Cascais Half Marathon:  DNS

I must admit that we were both lukewarm about running the half.  Our DNS was due more to logistics than what I like to call Ultra snobbery.   Yes, we both consider running a half marathon more as an afterthought than a true race goal.  Lee Anne has cut down her running to the point where she is running a half marathon (or longer) only 4 times per week.  I consider 21K a long run these days, but I am more embarrassed by my lousy speed than the thrill of completing another half.  We only had 3 days in Cascais, which is close to Sintra.  What is so special about Sintra?  Nothing much, aside from being the residence of the Portuguese royal family.  The last king died in circa 1908.  As such, it has more palaces than in all of Canada.  Oh, it also has a Moorish fort, which is close to the size of Creemore.  I´ve never seen so many stairs!

So our option was to take 3 days to recover and run the half, or visit some of the most interesting structures built between 950 and 1850.  Hmm...  Pictures will be added next week.

Before experiencing a country with a language that is new to me, I like to make some effort to learn the basics.  It is polite to at least try to communicate in the host country´s language.  Problem:  I know English quite well, a solid base in French and a smattering of Spanish.  The latter is the problem.  Portuguese is quite close to, but not exactly, Spanish.  In Portugal, I found myself continuously mixing up Spanish and Portuguese.  And even the Portuguese admit that their language is not easy to learn.  How do you say "The" in Portuguese?  You have 4 choices:  A, O, As or Os.  Unfortunately, you can´t simply pick one and move on.  Too easy!  "A" is used for singular feminine, such as "A Mulhere" (sp?) - The woman.  Try translating this when listening to someone fluent in Portuguese and is speaking at 3,000 words per minute...

So, in 3 days we fly back to Canadaland.  Although hard to keep in mind, we are both retired.  Regardless, we both have impressive itineraries waiting for us in Creemore.  We will be visiting 312 family and friends.  We will miss my daughter Brittany´s birthday, who turns 30 tomorrow.  Happy birthday Brit!  I need to help Lee Anne reactivate the pottery studio.  She needs to start making pottery.  I removed several of the maple sap lines as there was a chance the maple bush would be logged while we were away.  It is marked and is now under the forest management program.  I need to rebuild the lines.

I need a haircut.


Friday, January 31, 2020

Racing in Portugal

This will be a short post as I am a little pressed for time and using a Portuguese keyboard.  The latter results in a squiggly red line below almost every word, indicating that my Portuguese's spelling is atrocious.  Fortunately, spellcheck checks for English spelling errors, so not all is lost...

Lee Anne and I are spending a month in Portugal, starting with 10 days on the island of Madeira, which although part of Portugal, is off the coast of Africa.  Madeira is a relatively new island, at about 5 million years old.  This may seem like a long time, but the mountains have had little time to wear away.  Most of the mountains have steep-to-vertical sides,  So when we were told the Madeira marathon was flat, it reminded me of when people used to say the earth was flat...

We opted for the half marathon, as we planned to hike the next day.  The first 3K was uphill.  Not 20% gradient steep, but enough slope to affect our breathing.  The course was a bizarre mix of out-and-backs and loops.  All this to avoid any serious hills.  There was one steep hill about midway through the half, but fortunately it was downhill.  Our times were slow.  Really slow.  I was barely under 3 hours.  This is due primarily to a lack of training, but the sad time was also influenced by my left ankle, which behaved quite badly for the last 8K.  At one point I realized it hurt just as much to walk as to run, so the last 3K was an impressively fast hobble.

Hiking in Madeira is another story.  We were lulled into a fantasy state on our first hike.  We walked beside a Levada - a small viaduct used to transfer water from one place to another, as water is scarce is some regions of Madeira.  We walked along steep hills, cliffs and through tunnels, but the gradient was unfailingly a gentle downhill slope.  We were not so lucky on our second hike!  Think metal ladder\stairs ascending 1,000 meters vertical.  The metal stairs were aesthetically arranged up near-vertical cliff faces.  I´ll post pictures when I get home (February 15).  When not ascending or descending metal stairs, we were on rock stairs, similar to those found on normal European hikes.  Flat sections?  Re-read the part about the half marathon above.

We are now in Tavira and have rented mountain bikes.  Tavira is on the Atlantic ocean and fortunately, quite flat.  We had rented road bikes but on our first day in Tavira, we did not see any smooth paved roads, aside from the highways.  Dirt roads in the country and the roads in town are either cobblestone or square stone.  Again, pictures are needed, but think of 5cm X 5cm stones set in concrete.   The patterns of white and black stones are beautiful, but I would hesitate to walk my road bike over the surface.  If you are ever in Tavira, I recommend Abilio Bike Rentals.  Great service and very accommodating.

That´s it for now - I hope to post again within a few days.


Bom dia!










Friday, October 18, 2019

Ultra Running: Guide and Tips

I don't know about you, but I find the title of this post hilarious.  Those of you who have read previous post, try to imagine some neophyte runner, desperate for information on how to effectively prepare for an ultra, reading this post.  Perhaps those few thousands of people who claim I'm deviously evil are not entirely wrong.

Dear neophyte ultra runner:  You have two choices:

1.  Do NOT read this post.  In fact, block this blog from your device.
2.  Read this post, but do the exact OPPOSITE of any suggestion contain within.

There, hopefully I won't be responsible for any more runners meeting an untimely end.

What this post is actually about, are a few anecdotal incidents and observations, which might provide some insight into the twisted reasoning of an ultra runner.  Almost perfectly parallel to my training, this post is completely erratic and is in possession of limited logic and order.  This is a little weird as in my professional life (I have been retired for 5 years now) I had to maintain more than a modicum of order, planning and logic.

What is it Like, to be an Ultra Runner?

It sucks.  Think of a perfect hobby, then tick off which of the following list are represented:

  • I have been thirsty since 1975.
  • I am never adequately trained for any ultra I run.
  • One of the best lines in Joseph Heller's (author of Catch 22) book entitled Good as Gold:
    Before I started running, I was sore every morning.  Now I'm sore all the time.
  • If I sign up for a race that is not an ultra, I feel like a failure before the race even starts.
  • There are no conspiracies except my doctors, who must talk behind my back about new and different reasons why I should stop running.
  • The speed at which I run an ultra is inversely proportional to the hours of training I log in the 6 weeks leading up to a race.  If this rule is applied to its logical conclusion, I perform best at ultras in which I have not run at all during the previous 6 weeks.
  • Regardless of the rule above, I spend an inordinate amount of time training for a race in which I will perform miserably.
  • Unlike shorter races, you do not "learn" from an ultra, aside from the fact that more things can go wrong in an ultra than can reasonably be expected.
  • You need nutrition during an ultra.  The best foods are those that are the worst for you.  High on the list are pretzels, boiled potatoes dipped in salt, sugar and candy.  Canada boasts a company that sells a gel (small package of sugar) made almost entirely of maple syrup.  Go figure!
How Do I Train for an Ultra?

Think of almost everything you learned from your running coach (if you never had a running coach, or any coach at all, you will perform much better in ultra races) and do the opposite.  This is tricky, because at the start of this post, I mentioned that you should do the opposite of anything I write, yet I am now attempting to convince you that you should ignore your coach's advice, which means that...  Look!  An eagle!

Training for an ultra running race involves learning how to walk.  A typical rule-of-thumb is that you walk any hill over the top of which you can't see.  In the longer ultras (more than 80K or 50 miles), you need to train by walking at a brisk pace, typically 5 KPH or faster.  You don't want to walk too fast, as it is not possible to maintain 8 KPH for more than 20 hours.  Yes, you might be walking for 20 or more hours, so incorporating walking into your training is paramount.

Learn to run slowly.  Some ultra runners target 10 KPH, but these are typically the podium finishers in the longer races, so most of us need to run even slower!

I could spend 32.6 blogs describing how to properly hydrate, fuel and which is the best concoction of electrolytes and drugs for a given distance, but since all these parameters are different for every person, you are going to have to figure this out on your own.  Some runners never experience GI issues, while others have stomach problems at every race.  Others need to balance Advil (known by ultra runners as vitamin I) to coax the most out of their knees, ankles, hips and/or backs.

Training? I would avoid putting much emphasis on this component of ultra running.  I think it is more important to sign up for a shorter ultra (50K or 6 hours) before investing the time in training.  That way, you will quickly learn what it is like to run an ultra under-trained, which is the normal state of affairs for most ultra runners.  If you insist that I describe a reasonable training schedule for a short race (let's say 50K), you should be running for about half of your spare time.  Good luck!

As a note, I have very little or no memory, I can't remember which.  This was an advantage in my job, because it forced me to write down everything and to rely heavily on my scheduler.  This is also a significant advantage in ultra running.  I rarely recall what I did for training, hence I am usually confident going into a race.  A tangible upshot of ultra races is that what happening yesterday is not important, so missing a training day has no impact.

Tips That Will Help You During an Ultra Race

Don't wear your glasses during trail races.  With glasses, you will see clearly and the technical terrain will freak you out.  By not wearing my glasses, I run much faster and my finishing time is better.  There is some correlation between the bruises I have the morning after a race and not wearing my glasses, but I don't remember it, so let's move on.

There is a certain angle at which (this is different for everyone) it is more efficient to walk up a hill than to run it.  Keep in mind that running a hill, if you are over your max VO2, means you are building up lactic acid, which will slow you during and after the hill.  Walking gives you some recovery, which is handy.  Walking hills also gives you a logical point at which to hydrate or fuel.  I try to time my hydration and gel breaks during ascents.

Going into a race, fix in your mind a virtual energy gauge.  This gauge is (hopefully) at 100% when you start, but gradually descends as you progress through the race.  The rate of descent on the energy gauge is low during downhill sections and faster during uphill sections.  If you turn up the speed to pass a runner ahead of you, the gauge registers this.  I.e. you only have so many "bursts" or can run up only so many hills, before the gauge starts registering in the "unhealthy" range.  Once familiar with it, this gauge can tell you when you are about to hit the wall, or when you should adopt a death march over a marathon shuffle.

One of the most difficult aspects to grasp of ultra running, is that nutrition plays such an important role.  I allude to this in the above paragraph, as nutrition heavily impacts the energy gauge.  It is difficult to ingest more than 200 - 300 calories per hour while running.  Shovelling in 1,000 calories in 38.2 minute is easy while sitting in a restaurant, but quite tricky while running over a mountain.  Running (for someone my weight - no, please don't ask) expends between 500 and 1,000 calories per hour.  Do you see the problem?  You are at a net loss of 300 to 800 calories an hour during a race.  These are supplied from the body's reserves.  Please see the latest technical papers on how stored fat is converted to glycol by the liver, blah blah blah.  This holds no interest to a runner who suddenly goes glycol deficient.  The symptoms are usually revealed as charming items such as a death march or if you are lucky, hallucinations.  Gels can help to alleviate the worst, so carrying a few extra is worth it.  But the best approach is to fully understand your body and how much you can push it, before meltdown begins.  This is quite easy to figure out, but takes time - usually 3 or 4 decades.

Run your own race.  I often notice the 25K podium runners going at it all in a pack.  That means that one person is setting the pace and the others (in the very small pack) are tagging along.  The same happens in a marathon, with the elite.  This is not such a great idea in an ultra, because if you attempt to run at someone else's pace, you are setting yourself up for considerable misery.  During the ebb and flow of an ultra, your body hits good spots and low spots.  These are typically influenced by your fuel, hydration and drug schedules, which will differ from someone else's timing.  I rarely run a race with another person.  Don't get me wrong, I run with other people - this can help to pass the time, especially when running with people I know.  But I rarely plan to run the entire race with another person, because you must then travel at the slowest pace of the highs and lows of two people.  Or suffer a lot more.

Embrace the experience.  This is a shoddy way of saying "deal with it", but has some merit.  The only constant in an ultra is that you will have low spots.  These bad times are part of the experience and are instrumental in helping you to devise or alter your ultra training and race plans.  As another runner once put it, if ultras were easy, everyone would do it.  You run ultras to explore your limits.  It is never comfortable near a limit!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Autumn Already? What Happened?

Yes, it has been some time since my last post.  I've been busy, of course, but the real reason is not placing high enough emphasis on sitting down and writing an entry.  Period.  Rather than list all the excuses why I haven't blogged of late, let's get to it.

2019 Update:

This is a cleverly hidden attempt to justify not blogging this summer...

Spring Warm-up:  We had a record crowd in attendance and quite good weather for running.  The trail was "mostly" in good shape, but a few icy spots ensured an interesting time.

Pick Your Poison 25K:  This was to be the start of my dominating the old guys in the Ontario Trail Series.  As you read on, you might note that several other initiatives sidetracked my plan to run many of the trail races - typically the 25K distance.  After scrutinizing the Men 50+ Trail series category of prior years, I had estimated that running only 4 of the races would place me on the age category podium this year.  Perhaps several other old guys made the same estimate, as there are 4 runners with more than 3 races - so far...

Back to the drawing board!

Great Room:  During the second half of May, I poured the foundation for a 16' X 16' addition to the house.  June was spent in construction and by early July, it was complete.  A few of the finishing details were completed in September, as I needed a break.  It looks fine and will hopefully provide us with a nice area during the winter months.

OUTRace:  Coordinating the Ontario Ultra and Trail Race Series (OUTRace) moves along nicely.  We opted to purchase 100 dark blue towels for distribution amongst the 15 races.  New this year is moving the OUTRace awards from the last race of the year (Fat Ass Trail Run) to a fun run, staged by Tony Martin near Waterloo.  I thank Tony for allowing us to leverage his fun run for the awards!

The decision to change the awards was mainly due to the short timeline for Jim Orr (OUTRace statistician) to tabulate the series standings.  It also puts pressure on the last race to provide accurate race results, sometimes before the longest race has even ended.  In the years where the last race has had to spend time verifying their results, the OUTRace awards have been delayed until almost all the runners have left the race site.

Award winners have the option of registering for the fun run (imagine not having to kill yourself during an OUTRace event!) for the low fee of $27, including lunch!  Or you can attend the awards ceremony for free.  I plan on entering the Fun Run, as it means I won't be in last place!  To register for the Fun Run, use this link:

Ultra Legends 3 hour Fun Run and OUTRace Awards

If you would like to attend only the OUTRace awards ceremony, please use the above link for information on location, etc. and note the awards start at 12:30.

Creemore Art Festival:  The Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society hosts the Creemore Festival of the Arts this weekend (October 5 and 6).  Lee Anne will be displaying and selling her pottery during the festival.  This is more or less blatant solicitation for you to attend the event!  As I am also on the PHAHS board, spreading word of the event is important.

Run Off The Grid:  Yes, I actually made it to a second series race this year!  After 2 races, I stand 16th in the OUTRace Trail series Male 50+ category.  So much for series domination!

ROTG 25K Race Report

The race would be a chronic sell out if it was closer to Toronto, but it is "way up there", north of Algonquin Park.  I drove up from Creemore on the morning of the race, but from the GTA, it would involve a middle-of-the-night start, or finding nearby accomodations.  However, a good portion of the appeal of this race is that it is in such solitude.  It is aptly named, for as far as I could tell, there is no power grid up there!

The course is a true oxymoron; an out and back loop...  I know, which is it?  The course is a 12.5K loop, but the second loop is done in the reverse order, so it is also an out and back.  Yes, I noted the ominous undertones of a Barkley'esq style race - it filled me with a modicum of foreboding.  But the course is a wonderful mix of technical single track and easier broadpath trails.  This made for less issues when meeting oncoming race traffic.  Rarely did I need to step off single track to let another runner by.  With my incredible lack of speed, I thought that 2-way traffic on single track might be an issue.  I saw myself running through the trees, to avoid slowing down oncoming traffic, but it was not so.

I ran the 12.5K course out, then back in the reverse direction, for a total of 25k.  The 50K runners did it all over again.  The way out seemed to be comprised of fairly steep downhills and gentler uphills.  A few of the hills were truly steep, including a 100 meter hill with rope assist.  This was a great mix as it meant that on the way back (the 12.5K reverse loop), the course was a few steep uphills interspersed with long gentle downhills.  From those of us who have had surgery in both knees, thanks!

I was happy with my finishing time of 3:50.  Slow, yes, but the overall winner ran the 25K in 2:19 and the 50K winning time was 5:30.  I recommend this race to anyone who wants to experience a race in a wilder environment.

Well, this is getting longish, so I will end here and hopefully be back in the not-too distant future.


Run long and prosper!