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.

Pre-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.

Aftermath
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.
2016-12-29_08-54-58
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.
2016-12-29_09-01-41
20161218_130212

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!

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!