Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Albion Grind HM

Believe it or not, I don't usually sign up for races because of the swag, but when I saw that 5peaks race 3 swag was mint green socks, I signed up for the Enduro (12K) but switched to the Grind HM the next day because I didn't want to drive for longer than the run.

Then I discovered that the Grind participants don't get the socks but a tank - which thankfully is also mint green.  

The only time I've run in Albion Hills Conservation Area was during the horrifying experience that was Mud Hero.  I do remember the running parts as quite pleasant, and not ski hills like other OCRs, but I always remember that places usually live up to their name.

I picked up my race kit and sat down to wait for the start.  I didn't see any of the usual trail running people, except for Robin, and Heather G, whom I chatted with for a bit.  There weren't too many people, which was a relief because I saw that the shorter Saturday races had 700 runners, and in all the pictures I saw, runners were clustered close together, which made me super anxious.  Eric, the RD, was very clear in his prerace briefing that the course was 3 loops of 6.9K, slightly short of a standard half marathon, but the car was a short walk from the start so I thought I'd keep my Garmin on after the race to get 21.1K in. He also mentioned that the hard cutoff was 1:30 pm (3 hours)..this was a late starter for anyone who doesn't like getting up at stupid o'clock! And please remember that the flags are on the left.

The race started with a hill (it seems like a lot of races start this way, except for Sulphur), but nothing like that monster at Thom B, then launched into flowing MTB singletrack.  I actually passed a few people in the first couple of kilometres, which never happens!  Then suddenly I realized I hadn't seen a flag and a runner going in the opposite direction.  It was at a junction and the photographer just happened to be there as well, so she told me to follow that runner, he asked me what distance I had (3K) and he was within a couple hundred metres, so thankfully my diversion off course didn't add or cut the course much at all, however all the people I passed ended up in front of me again.  Sigh.

discombobled from realizing I went off course.
I finished the first loop in 1:03, so I thought I was screwed for making the cutoff. I got really fatigued during the 2nd and 3rd loops, because B had been sick and puking every half hour the night before and I had gotten pretty much zero sleep.  I finished the 2nd loop with just under 45 min to spare, thinking I'd get the mileage in, even if I missed the cutoff, but Eric kept the clock going, so I ended up with an official time.

I was going to make up for the other picture, when this guy chose the exact moment to pass me.
My expression pretty much says it all.
My Garmin showed 20.75K exactly at the finish, but then I had a nice chat with Robin and didn't bother getting 21.1K.  I would like to do this race again next year, and maybe do the 6 hour for more swag.

Afterwards, I finally got to have a beer at the adorable Church Pub in Palgrave.  I've been meaning to go there since last winter, but they only open in the afternoons during the summer.

Monday, 29 May 2017

It takes a village

I planned to leave the house at 5 am, but my digestive system had other ideas and I didn't leave until 5:15.  No problem, I thought, there will be no traffic so I'll drive fast and still get to the race start in time, 6 am.  But then I came across construction on the 403 and moving 30 km/h so I had to park really far from the start, awkwardly drag my drop bin and cooler to the Burly tent, picked up my race kit at 5:54, and was still trying to pin my bib on while standing at the start.

Loop 1:
This was fairly uneventful.  Due to my familiarity of the course, I ran where I knew I could and walked the hills.  I had set my Garmin on Ultratrac mode and you know what people say about kilometres going by faster than miles, I swear 1K was taking about 15 minutes, the distance was waaaay short.  Met Kendra just starting her 25K and saw a beautiful little Buddha statue on the side of the Three Bitches.

In-person Supermom encouragement from Kendra!
A moment of serenity.

Loop 2:
My feet were drenched and I had only brought 1 pair of extra socks, so I called Greg and asked him to bring me more socks.  I turned off the Garmin because it was showing 25ish kms when I knew we were over 30, it was demotivating and the numbers were useless.  Despite using tons of Trail Toes before the race, I felt some bad things were starting to happen on my feet.  Met Greg at the tent and he was an amazing crew, helping me clean my feet, and Agnes helped tape them up.  I also asked Greg to buy me the 100K car sticker, fearing that they would be sold out later.  Jess was also super helpful, refilling my water bottles.

Kittyloaf ultra spectator.  Absolutely chill among all the dogs.

Loop 3:
I was starting to get lonely, really lonely and questioning "why the fuck did I want to do this?!?!?"  I don't have any problems running 50K without music or running partners, but I really needed to talk for some distraction.  I have to say I was kind of upset to learn upon registering for Sulphur that only 100/200M were allowed pacers.  Then I saw Jen running with Gemma on her final loop, so I asked her to try to find me someone to run with for the next loop.  I also texted Agnes to ask if she would run with me.  I went online to post an update, and saw that Alison had posted an encouragement thread. 

Supermoms are the fucking best!!!

Alison's post about turning off my mind...and remembering the car sticker was my main motivation, funny as it seems.

Loop 4: 
When I got back, Agnes told me she'd head out with me for the last loop and Steve F. would pace for the 4th loop.  Steve had already said a day or two earlier he'd run with me if the timing was right, as he signed up for 50 miles, regretted not signing up for 100K and wanted to make it 100K for the day.  It was 5 pm and quite sunny.  I remembered last year finishing loop four in the fading dusk but still light out enough to see a bit, so I didn't take my headlamp.  It got dark and cold really fast, I was only a little chilled wearing just a tank, but being in the dark with no headlamp was absolutely terrifying. If I hadn't had Steve to keep me company, my race would have ended right there with me curled in a ball in a mud puddle, crying.  We hooked up with a 100 mile runner, who shone his headlamp back at every mud pit so I wouldn't fall and somehow I stayed upright. I could see my breath but I think it was the humidity and fog, not cold.  My Fenix yelled low battery and I couldn't get satellites on the 210, so I just left it on watch mode for the time.  Steve overheard some 100 milers saying "100K people aren't allowed pacers." and I wondered if they would snitch on me to Tim, the RD, and get me disqualified, but I made up my mind I would finish 100K even if officially DQ'd.

With Steve after loop 4. 20K to go.
Loop 5:
Put on my long sleeve shirt and headlamp right away.  Even though my headlamp was fully charged, I put my backup one in my pack, just in case.  It had been a LONG time since I've run with Agnes, she wasn't wearing proper running shoes, so she borrowed some.  We saw Tim and he asked if Agnes was heading out with me.  I whispered, "is that ok?" and he replied, "she's not pacing you, she's a friend keeping you company." THANK YOU TIM!!!!!!!!! This was my first time in the overnight portion of a race.  As a kid, I'd always get disoriented at night even on my own street, (ahem, Halloween) so I was very surprised to still know exactly where on the course I was.  My mind was tired, but I drank a lethal amount of Coke and thought about the 200 mile runners out there on their 3rd night and told myself to suck it up.  Agnes and I counted all the landmarks that I would not have to see again: mud pit on Sulphur Creek, Three Bitches..then counting down the kilometres once I got to 90K.  Past the Martin Rd. aid station for the final time - ONE KILOMETRE TO GO!!! Climbing Martin Rd., Greg jumped out of the dark, as Agnes ran up the hill ahead of us for finish line pictures.

photo credit: Agnes

 Medal presentation by Tim.  photo credit: Greg.

A shout out and thanks to everyone whom I saw and encouraged me on course: Matt, Mari, Kathy, Jenn, Jeremy, Rhonda E., Clay, Steven P., David V., Javaid, Robin, Sarah, Heather G., Catherine, and ALL the Burlys who paced, crewed and volunteered. I'll also mention Karen, who cheered over the phone when I called Greg. And of course everyone who messaged and posted encouragement on FB and Insta!

And an even bigger thank you from the bottom of my heart to Steve and Agnes for their support during the final 40K! Finally, thank you to Greg for bringing me socks, helping me clean my feet, helping me to the car and getting cleaned up post-race.  I could not have done this truly takes a village to succeed.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Thom B Trail Run 52K

It's been so long since I chose my spring races for this year that I can't really remember why I chose Thom B 52K for my last long run before Sulphur 100K, but it was probably the opportunity to visit Heather in New York again, and try out different races.  Plus, the odd distance made it an automatic PB!

I got up at stupid o'clock and was the first runner to arrive at the race.  I had taken Gravol to help me sleep and I had almost an hour to kill after picking up my bib.  I sat down at a picnic table and put my head down on my arms to nap off the Gravol hangover, I really could have used a nap pillow.  

The forecast called for 15-20 mm of rain a few days out and then changed to showers early in the morning, it was a total downpour when I was napping, but let up at the race start.  There were only a couple scattered showers during the day.

The 52K runners gathered at the start, which was at the bottom of a hill, and five minutes before the start, a U-Haul truck came zooming down the hill, screeched to a halt just short of the pack and the RD, Joel, jumped out.  He said some poetic things about finding peace on the trail, especially in this pine forest about 5K in, one of the runners who had known Thom B told a story about them drinking many beers and then attempting to run a sub 3 marathon, then Joel yelled, "get out of here!" and everyone took off, FAST.

The race started with a little incline, which grew to a huge hill, and the road was in really crappy condition, so I had to jump from side to side for the best spots to run.  A guy absolutely face planted barely 100 m in.

That first hill seemed like it would never end (the next loop I looked to see how long it was - at least 800 m?) and I was already thinking, "shit, how nasty is this course going to be if the first kilometer was like that?"

Top of the first monster hill.  Apparently Boris is some dude from the FLRC
who always manages to get lost, despite being familiar with the trails in the area.
Photo credit: FLRC FB page

And then it was down, down, downhill.  I still held back, remembering, "what goes down, must come up." and waiting for more giant climbs, but it really seemed like 90% of the elevation in the 13K loop was in that first hill. 

There was a time limit of 2 hours per loop, and I finished only the first loop under the limit, around 1:58 or 1:59 so I knew I was in trouble.

The peaceful pine forest at 5K.  I could not capture the beautiful darkness of the trees.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep."

The 2nd loop, I tried to run the downhills more aggressively, but of course I was slowing down already.  Got in a few minutes over 2 hours and they let me continue.
First loop on my Garmin was 12.84K, 2nd loop was just under 26K, third loop was...39.6?!?!! I always feel that the 3rd quarter of every run is the hardest, and it didn't help that it was also the longest!
By the end of the 3rd loop, I was about 10 minutes over the limit and I was going through the possible scenarios when I got back to the start/finish area:

  1. Finish at 39K, DNF.
  2. Official DNF but run a bit of the 4th loop out and back, to get at least a marathon in.
  3. Remove bib and run 4th loop on my own.
  4. Finish 4th loop officially.
There were no volunteers waiting when I finished the third loop, so I drank some Coke and ate an orange slice, when two racers asked if I was done.  When I told them that I wanted to continue, they called Joel over, and I said, "I know I am over the limit, but I am feeling fine, I am just slow."  He looked at his phone and replied, "Your splits are very even, so go ahead and we'll see you in a couple of hours. We'll still be here cleaning up."

I felt really strong the final loop and really pushed it the final couple of kilometres, which were totally downhill.  

"The last horse in the barn had the most fun on the trail." 
Photo credit: my Dad.
Heather and I celebrated with taper cake from Wegmans, of course.
Then Heather sent me out on a 12K recovery run the next morning.  When I saw this on the schedule, I seriously did not think I could do it.  But she hooked me up with a group from STRC, and people ran with me, my legs felt quite decent, I kept up and even ran a bit faster than my usual easy road pace!

Chemung River, Corning NY.

12 days until Sulphur 100K.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Floating away

After my first float, I had a lot of comments and questions about the experience, so I decided to write a blog about it.

Find a float studio
I have been to 2: Mystic Float and Zee Float.  I got a discounted float from MF thorough Groupon.

Arriving at your appointment
Both spas have an inviting waiting room, where you fill out a waiver.  Then the attendant shows you to your float room.
Reception area at Zee Float.

The attendant shows you the vanity area, for after the float and then goes through the float procedure.  The room includes a shower, and you must shower beforehand, to get oils off your skin, remove your contacts, put on earplugs, and apply petroleum jelly if you have any cuts/scrapes on your skin.  There is 1000 pounds of epsom salts in the water and you will float regardless, but there is also a foam headrest which is shaped a lot like a toilet seat, which I like to use to ensure my face stays above water. Getting any water in your eyes or cuts on your body will sting like a @#$&* if you are not careful.

Floaty time!
The tanks at MF and ZF are very different.  MF has a pod, and ZF has a tank.
"Escape Tank" at Zee Float.
Pod at Mystic Float.
I prefer the pod a lot more, as you can leave the lid open at any angle or close it completely, there's cool lights inside, and underwater speakers (you choose the light colour and music upon arrival).  The pod at MF is quite large (I floated 180 degrees during my session) and when the lid is closed, I cannot touch it with my arms outstretched.  The water is body temperature so it is not hot and steamy.  I think if it was steamy, I would feel very claustrophobic with the lid closed.
Then you get in, and float.  Sessions are either 60 or 90 minutes. At MF the lights inside come back on when the session is done, and at ZF, since it is silent throughout, music starts playing in the room.  I find the quiet time is very good for my anxiety and the magnesium benefits me as a runner.  My muscles are less sore, and I sleep like the dead afterwards.
Shower again.  Make sure you rinse out your ears! After my first float, I did not do this and was picking epsom salt dandruff out of my ears for a couple of days. Enjoy using the high end, organic skin and hair products.

At Mystic Float, at this point you are done, although you are free to chill in the reception area and drink some water/tea.  Nothing more except to pay.

At Zee Float, this was the beginning of my favourite part.  There is a lounge, with comfy chairs, funky lighting, books, a journal for sharing your floating experience, an oxygen bar, and a kombucha tap.  Everything is included in the price of the float, so I tried it all.

Oxygen bar with different scents.
The oxygen bar was really fun.  You stick hoses up your nose, and choose a scent and huff the scented air.  The benefits are dubious at best, but I'm sure it's healthier than huffing a Glade plug-in.

Looking like a hospital patient with the oxygen tube, and some light reading.
I had never tried kombucha until recently and I love it! It sounds pretty gross, and I imagine that some brands/flavours probably are, but the ones I've had were delicious.

Live Kombucha Naked blend, tastes like ginger ale.
I could have stayed and chilled in the lounge for a long time...but alas, it was time to go home.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The inglorious DNF

After an absolutely brutal 23K road long run a few weeks ago, I had already decided that this this would be my final ATB and "retire" from road races longer than a half.

It was my first time doing ATB with no one to meet up with beforehand.  I was expecting to meet up with some people, so when I didn't see them, my anxiety started to rise...the fact that everyone else seemed to have friends and the huge crowd definitely didn't help.

There was another incident that happened before the race that embarrassed me greatly and made the anxiety even worse; I won't go into detail but let's just say I was already in a poor mindset when the race started.  

My Achilles made itself known with a dull ache immediately. I was hitting the pace for the first couple 10 minute running sections, but it was a struggle, my legs felt tired, I got rid of the sign after 1K because my fingers hurt, and I was so anxious that I was blinking back tears.  After making the turn onto Burlington St and seeing that I was way slower than goal pace even though my effort was high, I decided to pack it in.

I took off the ears and thought about making it to the 10K relay checkpoint, but the medical staff on bikes passed by and they called the dead wagon for me.

Shared the dead wagon with an elite Kenyan (Gilbert Kiptoo, just looked him up on Sportstats) and a dude who was so fucked up from dehydration that he was completely delirious, even though it was less than 10K into the race.

Going to regroup tonight with a float and try again tomorrow on the trails.

Escape from anxiety.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Oh 2016.

First of all, some numbers:

2016: 3116.3K running (2 runs remaining).  You can bet I'm going to aim for 2000 miles (3218.6K) in 2017!  I've never run more than 2600K previously so I am thrilled!
Lifetime: 20264.2K (since 2008)
Bruce Trail badges: 8

Cycling: 524.2K.
Events: 17. 5 road races, 11 trail races (4 ultras; 3x50K, 1x50M), 1 bike.

Some of the more memorable moments of 2016:

  • Running in -41C windchill at the Oracle Trail Race.
  • My first 50 miler at Sulphur.
  • Getting reacquainted with Shannon, my friend from elementary school, and her husband Darek, who are avid trail runners.
Showing Shannon and Darek the wonders of the Bruce Trail.
  • Meeting my friend and coach, Heather, in person and running a race with her.
  • Joining a really cool local trail running group.
  • Trying snowshoe running.

The big year end question: what's in store for 2017?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Raiding the Hammer

My previous experience with orienteering/adventure running prior to this year was in elementary school in the late 80's/early 90's when we went on short hikes to the nearby conservation area and culminated with a field trip to a meet.  I remember that it was snowy, everyone took off running (I don't know about other people in my class, but I always walked during the hikes) and I started crying at the meet because I couldn't run more than about 10 steps before getting winded, much less in bad weather....

So let's just say those were not exactly positive memories.

Then we signed Bryden up for ARK last spring, culminating with ARKfest, which was a 1 hour choose your own adventure race to get to as many checkpoints as possible and a very low key way to get re-acquainted with orienteering.  Poking around the Don't Get Lost site, I thought the adult events looked kind of fun.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on the Burly Trail Runners FB group, a team for the half raid was looking for a 3rd member, was anyone interested? I replied, thinking they would choose someone else, but it ended up being me and I was committed.

Team Missing the (check)point!

I met up with Blair and Matt 2 weeks ago for a short run at Dundas Valley, confirmed a million times that my plodding slow running pace wouldn't piss them off and that was it until race morning.

The race start was at Saltfleet High School and they did not give out the maps until 8:30 on the dot.  Then we had until 9:45 to study the maps and plot a course.  Since I didn't have a compass (except on my Garmin), I could only offer tips on what terrain was like in specific areas.

We got bussed to the start (King's Forest near Albion Falls) and we were off.  The section in King's Forest was a little bit technical, my legs got a little scratched up (as I was expecting) and people would NOT stop commenting on how I shouldn't have been wearing a skirt.

For most of the race, I was running behind Matt and Blair and basically not having to do any navigation.  We got to checkpoint 6 (out of 13) in just under an hour, that was very quick considering we were thinking the whole race would take 3 hours.  

The second half of the race started with a choice of 2 checkpoints in an area that I am very familiar with - I ran nearly all my hill repeats on that section of BT this past summer and ran there the Thursday before the race.  I thought the south CP was easier to access, even though it was at the top of the big paved hill, but I was outvoted and we went into a forest via a little singletrack directly across from the BT underpass and found the CP...HOWEVER..then we had to get up the escarpment. Off trail, on small loose rocks, bendy little tree branches.  I went up on all fours and was so glad I had 2 guys as teammates to pull me over the top.

Matt going down the escarpment, off trail.
The next section had us running on the BT through Stoney Creek and had 2 checkpoints that were not marked on the map.  The BT follows a paved path and then veers off into the woods, which would have been a great place to hide a checkpoint, as many people ignored the blazes and stayed on the paved path.  Turns out, the 2 "hidden" checkpoints were right on the side of the trail.

We finished 19th of 50 teams, and well under 3 hours.  I don't think I'll give up ultras for adventure running, but it was certainly a fun change of pace and thank you Matt and Blair for giving me the opportunity to try something new!