Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Fat Ass Trail Run 6 hour

I was so tempted to sign up for the 50K, as it was a dirt cheap $20 for the no-frills option.  But after my experience running 2 50Ks in close succession last fall, I knew it would be a bad idea and signed up for the 6 hour instead, where you had to do a minimum of 4x7.5K loops to be considered a finisher.  

My only other experience with a 6 hour race was pretty craptastic and barring total disaster, I'd be able to PB.  In addition, I thought I'd aim a little bit higher and go for 5 loops.

I couldn't afford another motel room, so I stayed at my parents' in Toronto the night before and that cut the driving time in half.

Home base was the chalet at Batawa Ski Hill, with races of varying distances from 4-50K+ doing various combinations of the 7.5K and a 10K loop.  There was a tent at the bottom of the ski hill that marked the start/finish/aid station for the 6 hour race.


I left my overnight bag in the chalet and took my drop box out to the aid station.  It was pretty cold and I tried to borrow arm warmers, without luck.  Thankfully, once I started running, I warmed up.

The race started by going up the ski hill, which was snowy at the bottom from recent snowmaking.  At the top, there was some softer snow which was difficult to wade through.  Then the loop went into the woods and right back down the back of the ski hill.
about halfway up the hill.

The loop was described on the website as 'lots of elevation' and I didn't find this to be true at all.  After that first initial hill, the loop was entirely flat and runnable for at least 5K.  This year, there were some knee deep icy puddles to cross, which totally sucked during the first loop but then subsequent times was a lot less horrible due to feet already being wet and cold.

no way out but through!
After my favourite part of the loop, singletrack through forest, there was a short but steep climb back up the ski hill, then about 1.5K of mildly technical trail along the top of the ridge and back down a really steep hill to approach the finish from the opposite direction.  Parts of the final hill was snow and ice covered, and I wish I had the nerve to handle downhills Kilian-style..and the other option would be to slide down on my butt, but that would have wrecked my clothes, since there wasn't that much snow, just enough to be slippery.

screenshot: Kilian jornet burgada
Loop 1 went by really quickly and I saw the participants gathering for the start of the shorter distances and suddenly felt uneasy about my overnight bag with my laptop inside left at the chalet, so I called Matt (who was crewing/cheering) to haul it over to the start/finish so that I could see it every loop.  The 2nd loop was the worst, as trails were more crowded, and lots of people being super newbie-ish (whining about hills, mud, puddles, passing without warning, tailgaiting) but thankfully things cleared up again by the 3rd loop.

I met up with Burly teammate and super hardcore badass Party With the Varty, he was having pain in his foot and some end of season burnout.  I haven't really talked to him much before this race, and his company was a pleasant distraction from the later stages of the race.  

It was tempting to quit after 4 loops, as that was the minimum distance needed to be considered a finisher, but I said I wanted to run 5 loops, and with 1:30 left for the final loop, it was entirely doable.  David and I finished with about 10 minutes left and immediately someone asked if we wanted a beer.  It turned out to be the top finisher in the 6 hour, he brought enough beer to share!



Now to enjoy a few weeks of casual off-season running before training for 2018!

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Bad Thing 50K

I've carried the flavour memory of the delicious cream puffs for an entire year.  I was given a couple after volunteering to sweep and pick up flags at The Bad Thing and they were so unbelievably amazing.  

The race registration opened at midnight back in February and sold out by noon the next day, I was lucky to get a spot!  Drove out to Goderich in horrible Friday afternoon traffic, sucked down carbs and beer with Bogdan and Shaun and settled in for the night.


The Burlies went with a new company for the fall gear sale, and when I saw they had skirts, I HAD to get one and received it on Friday night.  Since I like to live dangerously, I wore it for the race. I had my trusty 2Toms, what could possibly go wrong?  Except that when I was rummaging in my drop box o' ultra gear...I had forgotten to bring it! So I put a piece of industrial strength medical tape on each thigh and hoped for the best.

I drove to the finish in Auburn, and we boarded a bus to the surprise start location, which turned out to be the Huron Historic Gaol.  We ran down the steps of the jail, and about 1K of road before reaching the Maitland Trail.

Stuck in the slammer.
Shaun and I were going to run together, but he was way ahead by the time I got to the bottom of the stairs at the start of the trail.  Soon, I let a group of about 5 people pass me, and I was alone.

sunrise along the Maitland River
The Bad Thing is not recommended for novice trail runners, and the point to point format is a reason why.  Although there are flags marking the entire route, there are long sections with fewer flags and participants are expected to follow blazes.  I went off course 3 separate times during the race, and fortunately I never had to backtrack more than about 200 metres.  

There was about 1 cm of bare skin between the bottom of the shorts attached to the skirt and my medical tape, and it started to chafe.  At the second aid station, we were allowed to drop our headlamps, but they had no lube, but the volunteers said they would call ahead to the next aid station to have some for me.  I understand this would be much more difficult to manage logistically, but I really wish we would have been allowed drop bags.  

Inner thighs still burning, I ran on and at 15K came the namesake hill, The Bad Thing, which we had to run up and back down.  I honestly didn't think the hill was that bad, I felt Martin Rd at Sulphur was much more soul-sucking.

Running down The Bad Thing. 
It looks like I shat myself, but it's just mud.  Really!

A big reason why I chose The Bad Thing as my A race was because of the generous 10 hour cutoff.  There were also cutoffs for each aid station, but I didn't pay very close attention to those.  So I was pretty shocked to see the RD running towards me at around 17K. "You're NOT shutting me down for missing cutoffs after 17K?!" Turns out he came to save me with tape and Glide! 


There were definitely some rooty technical sections in the first half, but I was surprised by how much of it was flat and very runnable.  There also was a bit of road, which I wish wasn't there, but when the race is E2E on a trail, some road is inevitable.  

At 31K, I passed someone.  I talked to him a bit, he said he was walking the entire thing, and I took off as fast as I could when it was runnable, because I was not going to finish behind a walker!  I find 35-40K the most difficult in marathons and 50Ks, and this part of the race had a lot of short but steep technical climbs/descents, numerous water crossings.  I saw a girl in the distance, walking very slowly through the technical parts, but her running pace was very fast.  I assured her that I wasn't last, and she admitted that the climbs were hurting her knees and let me pass.

I had run the last 8K last year, so it was very comforting for me to reach the part that I was familiar with.  There's a lot of dirt road, and less scenic than the first half, but it was great knowing what was coming up. I pride myself on having a good memory of trail landmarks, and it came in handy when I saw apple trees that I remembered, heavy with big ripe sweet and crunchy apples, delicious trail snacks to carry me the last 6K to the finish.


Even though the weather was much warmer than last year, the water crossing with 1K left was much colder than I remembered.  Also, the current was very fast and after I started making my way across, I panicked a bit.  Although there were volunteers on both sides of the river, I would have appreciated a rope to aid with the crossing.  We were also given the option to skip the crossing and take the bridge across, but who wants to run farther than necessary? 

Once the river was crossed, we had to pick our way through a field of medium sized boulders under the bridge.  I saw someone just ahead of me and recognized him as James, who pretty much saved my ass when I bonked at Dirty Girls in 2016.  I know he's a speedy pants so I was surprised to see him.  Turns out he had stomach issues.  Well, I knew it was time to return the good karma - "James, you helped me at DG so I will finish the race with you." 800 metres to the finish, on road, and with a big uphill.  We walked, and then he said we'd run strong to the finish.




Then beers and cream puffs with Bogdan and Shaun.
photo credit: Bogdan
creeeeeeeeam puuuuuuuufffffff
OMG, I loved this race.  Amazing volunteers, great swag, beautiful challenging course.  I thought I was barely going to make the cutoff, and would have been sub 8:30 (one of my faster 50K times) if it weren't for the slow plod across the river.  I'm going to have to put this on my schedule for next year again.


Monday, 9 October 2017

Sticks n' Stones 25K

I'm usually a bit leery of inaugural races - they can end up being a hot mess - but I had no qualms about signing up for Sticks n' Stones 25K. The race directors, Jeff and Heather, are very experienced ultrarunners and I knew they would have thought of every detail to make sure everything went smoothly. In addition, this was a local race and I knew I'd see lots of familiar faces.


Bogdan, Katie, Cody, me, Neil.

Race day was humid and waaaaay too warm for Thanksgiving weekend, thankfully it was overcast, as sun would have made the weather far worse.  This was my first taper long run leading up to The Bad Thing 50K so no goals other than to have fun!  Turned out to be Agnes' birthday as well, so extra fun!


I have always run the Christie Lake loop going counterclockwise, in order to avoid one particular big hill.  At the race preview run, to my surprise, going clockwise, the loop is almost entirely flat or downhill, with the exception of the aforementioned hill, plus one other, so it was very fast.  It seemed like no time at all before returning to the start/finish area, where Rhonda and Clay were volunteering.  Agnes and I yelled to Grace after she wandered off course when she was in a zone.  We walked a bit with #partywiththevarty.  On the final loop, I heard giant stomping footsteps and it was Robin "I knew you'd turn around to see who was that asshole stomping."  Finally, Steve F showed up in the final kilometre to run us in.  It was not my fastest 25K, as I thought at the time, but 2nd fastest, by far.

Bogdan, Agnes, me, Steve F.
I was resting and relaxing when Jeff started the awards, and to my absolute and total shock, I heard my name being called as the winner of the 30-39 age group!  I ran up to the podium, shouting, "HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!!" and I think everyone present who knows my sloth speed history was amazed as well.
My FIRST AG win!!! Maybe my new Burly trucker hat
has magical speed powers?!

My runs during this training cycle have been much faster compared to last year, as I used the same training plan in the summer/fall of 2016, and heading into my A race of the fall season in the glow of happiness.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Ragnar Trail Cottage Country

photo credit: Diana.

To me, running has never been a team sport.  In fact, I have never been on any sort of sports team in my entire life.  So it was definitely a new experience to be on a team for Ragnar Trail Cottage Country.  My team was sponsored and I didn't know any of the other team members, except for Jessica.  So to say I was a bit anxious was an understatement.
I arrived at the venue and found the team campsite. The campsites were decorated to match the team name/theme.  Ours was outdoors/Canadiana.
Home base for the next 24+ hours.

I loved this team's Barkley theme,
 complete with license plates and the infamous yellow gate.

Our team start time was 10 am, but I was runner 3 and my first leg wasn't scheduled until noon, so I walked around the "village" a bit.  The start/finish area was there, the swag booth, a bonfire, and a cafe.



couldn't resist buying a mint green Ragnar visor.
I fueled up (grilled veggie wrap, fries: $10) for my first run leg, and met Skinny the Cat, who was very purry and friendly.
Skinny totally reminded me of Sheriff Mama.
Time to run! Unlike road Ragnars, which are point to point, Ragnar Trail has 3 loops of varying difficulty, that all start from the village.  My first leg was the red (difficult) loop, then yellow (intermediate) and finally, green.

"drunken donkey" MTB trail.
I was so glad to have the difficult loop done first, in the daylight.  It was definitely a bit technical in spots, but there were also lots of very runnable sections.  I did not see a single person on this loop and I loved it.

repping the Burlies on leg 1.
Then I had 8+ hours to kill before my second leg.  I used the free wifi in the cafe, tried to nap a bit, and had dinner (included for all runners).

The Fatboy Lamzac definitely isn't
 as comfy as their youtube video makes it look.
dinner: quite edible.


The yellow loop was completely in the dark.  I had my headlamp, but because the trail was unfamiliar, I took it easy.  I loved how the beam of the headlamp kept me focused on the couple metres in front, which helped me run up hills strongly. There were a few bridges, but very little in the way of climbing. It was very peaceful, and my trail zen was disturbed a few times by runners passing.  I realized it was my first time actually running in the dark and solo.  Usually, my headlamp runs are in the morning, and finish with increasing daylight, and the two night runs (Sulphur 2016 & 2017), I was pretty much walking, not running.

Then it was time to try to sleep.  Another first: I have never camped, with the exception of in someone's backyard, and that was almost 30 years ago. 
The night sky was so beautiful, a shame that
phone cameras cannot capture it.
My original plan was to sleep in the car, but after some consideration, decided that I would rather be able to stretch out than be crammed in the backseat.  But the thought of being in a tent with unfamiliar people was not appealing, so I put a blanket down on a tarp and put my sleeping bag on top of that.  It was amazing to see the outline of the trees, the moon, and millions of stars when I opened my eyes.

stupid o'clock and I was toasty warm.
It was kind of terrible to have to extract myself from the warmth of the sleeping bag to run my final leg.  According to the schedule, it was supposed to start at 4 am, but we were about 90 minutes behind at that point.  My phone was out of juice, so I dressed and went to drink coffee while my phone charged.

Pleasant chat with Jess in the phone charging tent.
By the time I got started on my final leg, the sun was rising quickly.  The green loop was non technical singletrack and wide doubletrack and was an absolute pleasure to run.



I left shortly after to beat the traffic home, and so I missed the traditional "We Are Ragnarians" medal photo. Photo by Diana, the team captain. ↓ You can tell I wasn't in that picture, as there are no painted nails visible.




Would I do another Ragnar Trail? Yes, but only with familiar friends as teammates.  I loved the running, but my anxiety was through the roof whenever there was socializing, and I hated the feeling of letting everyone down with my slow running.

Friday, 25 August 2017

A mini trail adventure

I was heading up to Orangeville to pick B up from Grandma Camp and planned to run on ORMT beforehand.  On my way to the trailhead, I saw a stile and a sign.


The Stile of Opportunity
I had to stop for gas, so I googled Humber Valley Heritage Trail to make sure it was long enough for my planned 14K, downloaded the app (free!!!) and set out.  I decided to head north first.  The first couple kilometres were really overgrown with tall plants and grasses, so it was very slow going.  The runnable parts were beautiful, peaceful forest.


Clearly, the map showed a left turn at Duffy's Lane, but I saw blazes to the right.  I went left (north) anyways, and the blazes resumed north of Old Church Road, heading into Albion Hills CA. Having run in Albion Hills recently, I knew it would not be too hilly or technical, although I don't think my route today took me on any of the same trails from the race.  I did find, The Best Trail Name Ever:

WOO WU!
I turned around after 5.5K, but took the road back to the car because bushwhacking once through those tall grasses was enough.

Heading south, it was pleasant going for almost a kilometer, when the trail came out to the edge of a large field, and I lost the blazes.  I started running around the perimeter of the field, and I thought I was on that stubby penis outcropping as shown on the map, but my Garmin info shows I was north of there.  It was really hot in the sun and I was close to my distance, so I turned back to the car.


Well worth the adventure!  My favourite thing about this trail was how quiet it was, I'm sure it's not very well known and will be good for long runs because it connects to ORMT.  I will be back soon for an end to end adventure!

post run blueberry pie.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Iroquoia Trail Test, 2017 edition

WHYYYYY do I keep doing this race every year? 4th year now.  I guess it's because it's a good late summer race, and it's nice to have company instead of grinding out long miles solo, and it's close to home.  At least this year the weather was far more comfortable than in 2015 and 2016.

This year's race fell on my cutback week, so I could sign up for the 18K and just add on a few more kilometres, instead of grinding through the 34.  Greg signed up for his usual 7K and we got there early to see the 34K people off.


Grace, Bogdan, Greg, me, looking spiffy in our Burly gear!
It was 7:58 and I thought I had 15 min to do a nice leisurely warmup..Greg said, "that's gonna be a really short warmup." "what?!" "the race starts at 8." "?!?!???!!!!"  There was an email sent out the night before with last minute instructions, including the start time change.  It should have been written in bold, flashing, red font but I just skimmed the email and didn't notice.  

I barely had time to recover from the shock when the race started.  Ran my own pace, got stuck in the bottleneck singletrack down to the canyon and opened up on the gorgeous flat at the bottom.


I knew I wasn't last, but there was a guy in front of me, mostly walking, and I thought I really should be in front of him.  I put on a surge on the wide doubletrack section and passed him.  Then came the nasty technical singletrack.  There were 2 girls, whose running pace was definitely faster than mine, but kept stopping (selfies, taking gels).  I guess they didn't know there was a lookout point and an aid station less than 1K ahead, but I'd pass while they stopped and then have to stop and step aside on the narrow singletrack to let them pass.  I don't mind doing this once, but I had to stop at least 3 times for them in the span of about 1K and in that time, walking dude had almost caught up to me.

Fortunately, on the second loop at the bottom of the canyon, I saw Robin and chased after her for about a kilometer, and I never saw walking dude again.

I was feeling pretty tired coming out of the canyon for the final time, there was a guy taking pictures yelling "GO BURLY!" and introduced himself as a fellow member.

Photo by Neil.
Finally, it was nice to see that Greg had stuck around waiting for me..I don't look terribly overjoyed, but I'm sure it's better than how I looked finishing the 34K last year.



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.