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!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Mendon Trail Run 30K

My friend and coach, Heather, and I planned to do an off-season trail run together.  We were planning on running at Letchworth State Park until we found the Mendon Trail Run, which was incredibly cheap ($20 USD) and the same price for 20 or 30K, so may as well get our money's worth, right?

The 30K started at a very reasonable 9:30 am, which meant that I only had to get up at 4 am to make the 2 hour+ drive down.  Forecast called for mainly sunny skies and a high of 14, so I went with a short sleeve top and arm warmers.  Upon arrival, it was overcast and it was really damn cold just walking to the race HQ building.  Even though there was a roaring fire in the stove, I was still freezing, and fortunately I had brought a long sleeve top and changed.

map? I thought this was a trail race, not adventure running!

Everyone was given a course map, and since the race was organized by the Rochester Orienteering Club, I had a sudden panic that we'd have to navigate the course using the map as opposed to course markers.  Thankfully, the course was one of the most well marked I've ever run - plates marked with arrows at turns and forks blocked off with flags.  The Ultrasignup stats predicted a 4:28 finish - considering most of my 30K runs were usually 5+ hours, I would be ecstatic with any time under 5 hours.  At the start, I saw my DM friend, Wilt, such a nice surprise, after he missed the post ATB party this year. 


I always find it amusing when trail race directors describe a course as "completely runnable". There were rolling hills throughout the 10k loop, I walked the bigger hills, especially the calf burner called Kitty Litter Hill.  Each loop I ran a bit slower than the last, but Heather kept me moving and I took Shannon's advice to not linger too much at aid stations.  I fueled with Endurance Tap, oranges and pop from the aid station, and homemade kimbap.  I was quite tired in the last 5K and the cups of Coke I slammed were absolutely life giving.  We finished strong, well under 5 hours, not DFL and hours before the cutoff!


Kimbap with carrots, spinach and tofu.


It was fantastic to meet Heather in person for the first time, and we chatted so much that other runners commented on it.  Hopefully on my next (and 3rd) visit to Corning next spring, I will finally have an opportunity to visit the glass museum!


Post run beers in Corning.
On Sunday, I will be trying out adventure running at Raid the Hammer.  If we have to run through brambles like this, I will probably curse a lot more colourfully than the guy in the video.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Vulture Bait 50K

I knew after last year's edition of Vulture Bait that I wanted to come back to do the 50K.  I registered way back in February and had some second thoughts about doing another ultra so soon after Haliburton..but hey, there's always people who do crazier things.

After this spring and summer of hellish gross heat, finally a race day with near perfect conditions of high 19C (temperature 6C at race start) and sunny.
Fall colours at Fanshawe Conservation Area.
I got up at 3 am to pee and couldn't fall back asleep, so I got out of bed before my alarm.  My stomach felt blah but I ate a hefty breakfast.  

As I remembered from last year, the first kilometre or so is mild uphill, and there are a few small hills along the 25K loop, but the entire course is very runnable.  And did I ever run!  The first loop was definitely the best 25K I've ever run.  My legs felt fantastic.  I wasn't fast but I was super steady.  It was easy to pick people off on the road sections.  There was a lady who blew by me, promptly face planted and then proceeded to spend the next few kilometres doing this annoying fartlek: run really fast for a short distance and then walk a lot, staying just ahead of me.  I finally managed to drop her on an incline and was so glad to not see her again.

One of the highlights at the end of the loop is the themed boozy aid station.  Last year the theme was redneck, this year it was Jamaican, serving Red Stripe and margaritas.


Sampling the offerings.
Unfortunately, the final 5-6K of the loop was very poorly marked, with no flags even at trail forks.  I don't remember navigation being a problem last year.

So what I got from running the best first half ever...was 3:30 clock time, not good with a 7 hour cutoff.  Obviously, there was no way I would negative split the race and I wasn't going to kill myself trying, so I took it easy when it became apparent that I would miss the cutoff again.

I knew I was in my usual DFL position when an older gentleman passed me early in the 2nd loop and someone at an aid station told me that he was the last guy they let go before the 25K cutoff.  I had plenty of food and water, but the aid stations stayed open for me.



The volunteers were all very concerned, thinking that I had bonked or hurt myself, and I lost count of how many times I told them, "I'm fine! I'm just slow!"
Finally, the sweeper met me, he was running backwards on the course to bring people in.  I did not catch his name but I have seen him before, at Seaton and Sulphur.  We were followed by the medics in a golf cart, I was glad to have some company and for the excellent service but seriously...this was not necessary!

Since I missed the cutoff, I have no official finishing time, but my Garmin showed that this was my 2nd fastest 50K, and 2+ hours faster than Hali.

Still got a medal!

Thank you so much to Jennifer-Anne Meneray and the kind volunteers for taking good care of me, even though you totally did not have to!  I am not embarrassed about missing the cutoff, or being DFL, I absolutely did my best and if my best means DFL, so be it.

Drinking all the beers with Shannon and Darek.
So that's it for ultras in 2016.  I'm going to sweeping at The Bad Thing next week and I'm doing the half Raid the Hammer with team Missing the (check)point in November, my first foray into adventure running.  Big things planned for 2017!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Haliburton Forest 50K

Last year, I went to a fun run organized by one of the AS regulars.  Everyone seemed to know everyone else and it sounded like Haliburton was the fall ultra to run.

I opened up my training log and RFP after Sulphur and realized I did not want to spend time modifying a training plan.  Fortunately, my friend Heather is a running coach, and I got a block of coaching with her as a birthday present.  

Of course, I had no goals other than to finish and have fun, so Heather had me doing a few fartleks for speed and lots of hill repeats for quality.

I headed up north on Friday to pick up my race kit and partake in the pasta dinner.  Even though I knew quite a few people, I was still pretty anxious.  I sat between Agnes and Jon, who commented "atta girl!" on my choice of red wine with dinner instead just water. After dinner, a mic was passed around and everyone had to introduce themselves and say a little something.  Strangely, this did not set off my anxiety as I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to say.."Hi, I'm Patty from Burlington and I'll probably be last at the 50K tomorrow, but my nail polish will match my skirt."

Then the 40 min drive back to my motel in Minden, where I set my alarm for 3:30/stupid o'clock and proceeded to have a relatively decent sleep.

I had brought my Bodum to make coffee, but since there was a Tim's across the street, I decided not to bother.  I stumbled into my car at 4 and got there only to find that small town Tim's didn't open until 5, the race started at 6.  I went back to my room and got my coffee at 5 to have in the car, too late to let it do its magic. 


mug from Sarah Marie Design Studio.

The drive to Haliburton Forest was nerve wracking, due to thick fog, brain fog from the coffee not kicking in yet, and windy country roads.  I parked, did my thing in a dark bush during the 100 mile roll call and prayer and hurried off to the start. 

The first few kilometres was on a gently rolling dirt road and I actually enjoyed this.  When people told me there would be road at Hali, I was picturing asphalt.  The hills were runnable and made me feel strong when I crested the top and just enough downhill to pick up speed.  The first loop around Macdonald Lake was beautiful, just as the sun was rising.  It was a little bit hilly and technical but nothing unmanageable.




Robin had told me a long time ago that the further you go in the forest at Hali, the easier it gets.  I definitely found this to be true, it was quite hilly and technical to start but was a bit flatter near the turnaround for the 50K.

The weather was not too hot, but very humid and I was able to eat regularly.  Saw Agnes at AS4 at 16K, the AS volunteers were the best!  

The skies finally opened up and the rain was refreshing.  I was wearing my new Altra Superiors, but the grip on wet rocks and mud was not as good as the Saucony Peregrines.  I considered changing my shoes on my way back through AS4, but thought that stuffing my feet into a more conventional toe box after wearing the Altras would be a BAD idea.  So I stuck with the Altras, even though I ended up going down a smooth, steep rock on my butt.  

At some point, my left glute/hip, which has been bothering me all summer, really flared up, along with a pain in my knee.  I pulled into AS4 for the 2nd time, and Jon, the dude from dinner was there.  He said that my hip was out and offered to fix it just as I was about to down a handful of ibuprofen.  He said I wouldn't need it after the adjustment but I took the pills anyway.  Jon did these isometric SI joint exercises that I've had done to me after a massage, but my chiropractor cracks my SI at every visit and that has done nothing for me lately.

"Are you a chiropractor?" Nope, he's an RMT.
He could be an amateur rub&tug for all I care, he fixed my hip!

Isometric SI joint unsticking.  Photos by Agnes.
The combination of the SI adjustment plus the drugs kicking in was amazing - I felt 100% better!  However, the lake loop seemed far hillier going the other way, and the road sections were pretty scary..although they had warned people to drive s-l-o-w-l-y at the dinner, there were cars zooming past, and I had to jump aside a couple times plus inhale all the exhaust fumes in their wake.  Yuck.

The course was a strict out and back and as long as you kept the flags on the right going out and on the left coming back, it was impossible to get lost.  I thought my Garmin was very accurate, the turnaround was right at 25K, and when I got to AS3 at 45K, they confirmed it was 5K to the finish.  So I'm happily counting down the kilometres, and came to AS2 with my Garmin showing 49.3 and they told me it's 2K to the finish and that Garmins lie.  Now I understand that to be true, but every distance had matched up right until the end!  It was very demoralizing and I walked for a bit coming out of AS2 before I could make myself run again.

Finished! and far from being DFL! (photo: Agnes)

Aside from a ton of mosquito and deer fly bites (I was too tired to care about reapplying repellent when the rain stopped), I feel pretty good!  The volunteers and general positive atmosphere made it clear why people love Haliburton and come back year after year.

Kawartha Dairy was about 500 m from the motel.  Sweet Heat ice cream -
vanilla with spicy caramel.  Normally I hate caramel but this was incredible!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Dirty Girls 6 hour


I have coveted the Dirty Girls shirt for a long time, so when I heard a rumour that this might be the final year for the race, I signed up.  

Photo by Steph, Rhonda photobomb.

I generally do not like doing long races in the middle of summer and chose the 6 hour because I could run as much or as little as I felt like.  In hindsight, this was absolutely the correct choice.  Finally introduced myself to Kay, and lots of familiar faces: Jeff, Robin, Rhonda, Spence, Jamie, Steph, Lizzy, Steven, Steve, Clay.

The course was an 8K loop.  I've read other people's descriptions saying it was quite technical, but I thought it was only very mildly rooty and very runnable, in between the few big hills.  My goal was 30K and anything beyond that would be bonus.



The first loop was very uneventful.  The website said the course was 95% shaded and this was very accurate.  It was very hot in the sun (start/finish area) but breezy in the shade and definitely less humid than Sulphur.  The best part was the long downhill before the biggest hill at 6K (dirty runners' pain).  Dirty Runners' Pain started off with a very gradual incline, with a much sharper incline at the top, but the hill is veeerrry long and my first time climbing I thought, "this is not bad at all!"

Finished 2 loops at a very consistent pace (~1:20 per loop).  The 3rd loop I was starting to get tired, I wasn't having trouble taking salt caps or hydrating, but I barely choked down 2 bites of my rice cake (with chinese sausage, not spam musubi) an hour in and the only food I was taking in was oranges and ginger ale at the aid stations, and magical Mexican shit out of my drop bag.  My stomach didn't feel bad, but it didn't feel right, it felt very full despite barely eating and I only peed once despite all the water I was drinking.

So I guess it was inevitable that The Bonk would happen.  The first 2K of the loop is uphill, and I got really dizzy climbing and sat down on a log.  Robin had just passed me before I stopped, but a lot of people stopped to ask if I was ok (people were seeing the symptoms of heat exhaustion when I only thought I was bonking), including Kay, a guy who gave me his ziploc bag of ice, a girl who offered me a gel that I declined (sorry, but it was banana flavoured, and fake banana would have made me hurl for sure), Steph who gave me her Honey Stingers (which was the only food that stayed down, THANK YOU SO MUCH!) and a guy, James, who was doing the 24 hour and kept talking to me to see if I was all right.  Since all the ultra people know each other, it was not surprising to find that we had mutual friends.

James stayed with me for most of the 4th loop, mostly walking.  My legs felt good enough to run on the downhills, but I ran very slowly because I was afraid that I would trip in my loopiness.  There wasn't enough time to finish 4 loops but I was at the bottom of Dirty Runners' Pain at 1:52 (race ended at 2 pm) and just had to get to the top to get in 30K.  Except that the moment I started climbing I got dizzy and nauseous again and had to sit for a looong time and made it to the top where the other people who had checked in around 2:05 and I only got credit for my last official check in at the 4K aid station (28K).  There was a ride back to the start/finish but I stood up again, declined the ride and was determined to make it back on my own 2 feet.  My skin was clammy, I had to sit down a lot and that was the longest 2K of my life, but I'm counting that mileage even though it wasn't race official.

This race definitely lives up to its name.
Rhonda told me there was a creek that people were sitting in post-race, but that it was a 15 minute walk up the road.  I settled for washing off with a hose and having my beer in her tent.


I'm not sure if I could have done anything different to prepare, as my stomach issues weren't anything that I had ever experienced before.  Dirty Girls was a fantastic race, I hope it will be back next year!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Out of the freezer, into the fire

Race day started out less than spectacularly, as I made my coffee all wrong and had to make an emergency Tim's run at 4 am in PJ's, I nearly put the weak-ass SPF 15 sunscreen on my face, and worst of all, I tripped on my shoelaces and did a full face plant walking through the parking lot from the car to the drop bag tent.

Things could only get better from there, right?

The forecast for race day could only be described as "hotter than hell" - even hotter than Chicago Marathon in 2011.  I can't believe that I've run 2 races with an 80 degree differential in temperature in the same calendar year! I wanted to use the lighter Salomon hydration pack, but figured I really needed 2L of water on me in such hot weather.

Made my spam musubi and mashed potato cakes, and added an extra pinch of Himalayan sea salt to the potatoes, figured I could use it.

Drop bag: shoes, socks, anti chafe, peppermint oil spray, sunscreen, bug spray, extra food, a change of clothes, iced magical Mexican shit, frozen Skratch, a tupperware of ice cubes in the cooler.

Loop 1

The race started when I was still a little shaken up from my parking lot tumble and still spitting out dirt. I ran behind two ladies, Rhonda and Karen, who were doing the 100 and running at a perfect pace, they promptly nicknamed me Pinky. We ran together for most of the loop, and caught up again later, they were running with Robin and came up behind me.  I still haven't recovered from the shock of Robin running behind me in a race!  The sun was just coming up so it wasn't too hot yet.  Saw a whole bunch of people in the span of about 5 minutes going up Headwaters for the first time - Steph, Agnes, Anna, Emma, Sam, and Nicole.

Loop 2

Headed out on loop two at 2:55 clock time, I thought that every loop would take a minimum of 3:15.  Starting to get hot, but it was only really awful in the open sections, on Monarch Trail and the open fields after climbing the Three Bitches.  I caught my toe on a root on that single tiny technical section connecting Monarch to Sulphur Creek and I would rather not think about what would have happened if I had fallen - I would have likely fallen into the deep valley. Refilled my bladder and changed shoes before loop 3 - the plastic "bead" on the lace was digging painfully into the top of my foot, and I was starting to get some hot spots on my toes.

Loop 3

Started loop 3 at 6:20 clock time, still well within my secret goal of sub 15 hours.  I knew that the 3rd quarter of every race, regardless of distance, is the one that sucks the most for me, and I wished I had company for this loop, with the sun being overhead.  I walked a lot of this loop, but ran steadily on the downhill part of Headwaters.  I knew there were 2 people behind me, and some of the ultra speedsters had lapped me.

Loop 4

Pulled into the start area to change my socks, Lori was nowhere to be found.  I changed my socks (feet were already a blistered mess) and had unlocked my phone and was about to call Lori and yell, "WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?!" when she came running into the tent, she was there waiting but due to a bunch of things happening all at once wasn't at the start when I came in.  There were a LOT fewer people on the course during loop 3, I figured there were a ton of DNF's.  My feet hurt so I told Lori that we were going for an easy 20K stroll, I'd run if I felt like it, but no pressure at all.  There was about 8 hours until the cutoff, I knew I'd finish if I was smart about it.  Refilled bladder again and replenished the food - the extra pinch of salt in the potato cakes rendered them inedibly salty.  I had taken a salt pill every hour and my hands were swollen, but nothing worse than a normal long run.  


Top of Headwaters.  Photo by Lori.
I wasn't going to let Greg miss me finishing this year, so Lori called him, and he met us with about 3K left.  The last of the sun was disappearing behind the trees but could still see pretty well without a headlamp.  By some miracle, I only got 1 small mosquito bite.

Of course I ran the chute to the finish!

THANK YOU Lori for pacing me and THANK YOU Agnes for sticking around to see me finish!
Celebratory chugging of Spumante Bambino straight from the bottle, like the classy lady I am.

So I think everyone wants to know...will there be a 100 miler in my future? I won't say never (because you know what tends to happen when I say never) but I will say that staying up all night to run doesn't sound terribly appealing.  Will there be another 50 miler? Absolutely, yes.  I would love to run another in more ideal conditions and see what I can do!

For now, I'm just going to relax, Eat All The Things, and get ready for my 5th NFWHM next Sunday...gotta keep the streak alive!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Seaton Soaker 50K

 50K was all that stood between me and 2 weeks of taper before Sulphur 50 mile.  A mini dilemma the night before trying to decide what to wear on top.  In similar weather at Mississauga, I wore a long sleeve and vest was fine except when I stopped to eat after the race.  But the consensus was to wear something short sleeved so I went with that and arm warmers.

The rain really wasn't a factor and I quickly got warm and ditched the arm warmers.  The first kilometer was paved trail/road but then we got in the forest and it was stunning.  Even though Seaton is only about an hour away, the terrain was different and looked "exotic" to me, accustomed to running in the escarpment rocks.

The first half was otherwise fairly uneventful.  Of course there were muddy spots, but most of it was runnable.  Spent less than a minute at the aid stations, supplementing my spam musubi and mashed potato cakes with orange slices, ginger ale and Coke from the aid stations.  

The second half is where things got interesting.  The 25K was an out and back with a little 3K split at the end to cross the river and loop back to the start/finish area.  I remember at Sulphur 50K last year I walked a LOT but kept things comfortable.  At times, the sun would peek through and it felt like it was about to get hot, but then suddenly the sky went very dark and a hard, cold wind started up. There was a girl who was following me, not very closely, but she was walking when I was walking, and running when I was running, and that made me very uncomfortable.  So I stopped (and she stopped) and I asked her to please pass me.  It was nothing against you, girlfriend, I just would rather be last than have a shadow following me.


1st water crossing and my trail stalker.

As I approached the 12.5K turnaround for the final time, a old man in a neon rainbow hat (whom I have seen at many trail races) said to me, "nice...but you better hurry if you're going to make the cutoff." I looked at my watch and it was around 2 or 2:15 pm..almost 2 hours to make it 12.5K.  On a really slow day I do 10K in approximately 1:30.  Still, his passive-aggressive compliment/motivational talk (?) planted the seeds of doubt in my mind and I texted Agnes (who was with Lori at the 7K aid station) that I would drop if there was no way to make the cutoff when I passed through the aid station for the final time.

I started feeling really pressured to keep running and not walk whenever I wanted, which I really hated but I guess in hindsight was a good thing.  Came through Lori & Agnes' aid station with about an hour left, chugged some "magical Mexican shit" (lime agua fresca) and kept running.  


Approaching the 7K aid station for the 2nd time.  Photo by Lori.
The final aid station was packed up when I passed it, and the rope going across the river was gone.  The first time across the river I held onto the rope just because it was there, but I was thinking, "oh no big deal, I've done tons of water crossings without ropes and been fine, so I'm sure I don't need it anyways."  The river bed was covered with medium to large rocks, I slipped on one of the larger rocks and fell.  Not a huge deal to be soaked with 3K left to go, but it was coooooooold!

With 2K left and 15 minutes left on the clock, I ran as fast as I could. "It hurts up to a point, and it doesn't get any worse."  Thank you Ann Trason, for that piece of wisdom.  I thought about Rainbow Hat Man making that comment and I was reminded of the time in university when every week, for an entire semester, the piano professor told me I would surely fail my jury..which I ended up getting a fairly decent mark on.  Why was I letting the negative voices get to me? So what if I am last? So what if I miss the cutoff? does that mean the fact that I ran 50K get negated? Hell no!

The finish mat was packed up when I crossed the finish.  Even by Garmin time (which I stop at aid stations) I had missed the cutoff.  But I had a cheering section at the finish line: Robin, Amelia and Agnes! 


finishing with a smile, even.  Photo by Amelia.



I'll continue to call it DFL, thanks.


I think there are some people I know who would be completely mortified being DFL.  I am totally OK with it.  I covered the distance, I got my run in and I beat everyone who was sitting on their arses on the couch.  The very back of the pack is where I feel the most comfortable at races, I had fun...and as they say, I saved the best for last.