Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sometimes you learn from your past mistakes, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you can blame external factors that cause you to fail, but sometimes you only have yourself to blame.
I had been worried about how the Bear 100 would go, but as the days drew closer my confidence soared. At least to the point where I knew I could do the race, it would only be about what my time would be. It was all about just finishing the race and that I knew I could do. I knew this would be difficult and the experience at Harricana 2 weeks before made me feel better about this. So where did it all go wrong?
We had flown to Salt Lake City on the Wednesday before to give us lots of time before the Friday morning start. We met up with Gary on our layover in Minneapolis and got to SLC on time, picked up our rental car (Ford Expedition!!!) and off we went to Logan, about an hour and a half north of SLC.

We checked into the Hampton Inn and set about relaxing. Thursday we checked out the GPS to see if we could locate some of the Aid Stations for Joan and they seemed to work to a tee. So then we headed out to the race kit pick up and pre-race talk. Probably the most laid back kit pick up and talk ever. The talk mostly centered on how much they had improved on the course markings and how no one should get lost. It was also one of the few races where I didn’t know anyone personally. There were a few “celebrities” there though, Bryon Powell from IRunFar.com, Errol “the Rocket” Jones and somewhere about’s there was supposed to be Anna Frost, here to do her first 100, but I didn’t see her.
We went back to the hotel to get our stuff ready and then headed to our pre-race dinner. We decided on burgers at a diner downtown that was very well reviewed and they were definitely good.
We got up at 4:15 a.m., although it only felt 6:15 a.m. to us, as we were still, more or less, operating on eastern time.
We drove to the start which was in a small park at the edge of town in Logan.

We got there with plenty of time to spare and just chatted while we waited. The next thing I know I am standing beside Anna Frost and so I turned around and introduced myself and wished her the best of luck, Joan, Gary and myself then chatted with her till almost the start of the race.

What a great, down to earth person she is.

The race start was like the rest of the events surrounding it, very low key. Before we knew it we were off and running.
The first mile is on pavement through a subdivision to the trail head and is all uphill. We had decided to take it easy and just walk the up hills and see where that got us. The trail turned steeply up hill and we got into the conga line. It was a long steady climb, 5 miles worth is what we were told. Gradually the sun started to rise and we would look behind to see the amazing views down the mountain. I would stop to take the odd picture here and there.

I was also using my poles. Although I had used them at Harricana, this was the first big test and I found that it definitely made the going easier up hill. The only problem was trying to access other things with the poles in my hands. A new Ultimate Direction pack also confused things slightly, but I got the hang of it quickly.
We crested the top of the mountain to some incredible views, which pictures just don’t do justice. The first aid station was just before 10 miles and was a welcome site. We made quick work of it and got going again. There were guys taking swigs of Jack Daniels there!! At 10 miles?
I would say that was a recipe for disaster.
A mix of climbing followed by downhill’s was the norm for this race. The climbs were generally long and the downhill’s just as long if not more so at times. The next aid station was at 20 miles and would be the first opportunity to see Joan. I started running with my North Face Ultra Guides and felt it may be time to change them up already. The downhill to Leatham Hollow aid station was a very long single track that wound around the mountains. I had one nasty fall that banged up my right knee. After that I put my poles away as they seemed to get in the way on the single track flats and downhill’s. Gary had left me behind at this point and I was struggling a bit. I think I was pissed that we had talked about running the whole thing together and he had already taken off. As it was he was waiting at the next aid station with Joan.

We both had to relube our feet and I changed into my Hoka’s, then off we went. The next stretch was a long, mostly uphill, climb on a dirt road. We mixed up the running with a lot of walking and my mood got better. The next aid station was at the end of the road, where we headed up a trail. Again lots of climbing followed on a mix of single track and jeep roads. Gary and I ad run most of this together, but he would take off on the downhill’s and I would leave him behind on the uphill’s. Into Cowley Canyon aid station it was a very long downhill on dirt road and I flew down this stretch, feeling good and taking full advantage of gravity. I still expected Gary to pass me at any time, but he didn’t and only caught up to me at the aid station.

This was about 30 miles in and it was getting very warm. I got loaded up and off we went again.

I hadn’t been eating anything very substantial, lots of fruit and fig newtons etc. If I had a complaint about this race it would be the food at the aid stations. Although it was typical of what you normally get, I think races could do better. I don’t want junk, M&M’s, chips, pretzels etc. P&B sandwiches suck, unless I’m very hungry.
Another climb followed on more jeep roads. After this things became a bit fuzzy at times. It was only 7 miles to Right Hand Fork, but it was a lot of single track and downhill and Gary was struggling here a bit so we walked a lot of it. We finally got to a fork in the path with a guide sending us one way and others coming back the other way. The only out and back on the course into Right Hand Fork. I changed socks and relubed my feet again and filled up my water. I wanted to go to the bathroom, but the only one there was busy!! After a fairly lengthy stay we begrudgingly headed back down the trail. The water here had been in a large plastic container and when I tasted it, it tasted like plastic. That was difficult to “digest”. It was also very hot at this point. We walked to the trailhead and continued on. I had forgotten to wet my buff and cloth so took advantage of the creek beside us to do just that. It was nice and cold. There were some amazing vista’s all along the course and felt privileged to see it all. This section was about 9 miles and about half way through I was feeling rough. I had put it down to not eating, but at the same time didn’t want to eat. I tried one of my honey stinger bars, but the chocolate had melted all over. It was a mess and was tricky to eat. I got through some of it. After coming through a cow pasture we hit a road and came across a girl doubled over. This didn’t look good. We got to her and found she was feeling just like me. She had only heed to drink and was feeling the effects of it. We offered her some of our water and Gary gave her an apple. She ate half and gave me the other half. I ate some of it and it seemed to help. An unmanned aid station was at the top of the hill and we got some of the remaining water there. After that it downhill on a long gravel road for a long way and it felt good to run again. We passed quite a few runners here before heading back off road through a sheep meadow, crossing a river and following the river on nice single track.

Another long downhill on road took us into Temple Fork aid station.

A quick fuel up, grabbing our head lamps and a jacket just in case and were set to go. The clouds had started to come in and the temperature had dropped significantly, darkness was coming soon.

Out of this aid station we climbed on single track for a long way up a canyon. Lots of cattle in the surrounding hills and fields, as well as an Elk that came tearing through the bush after having an altercation with a bull up the mountain side. There was a lot of climbing here, but we were pushing on strong. I don’t remember much of the run into Tony Grove aid station, except that it was dark when we got there and I needed a rest. I got some black been soup and sat in the back of the truck while Joan looked after things. Gary had some chicken noodle soup and then threw it all back up. We were now over half way through. It seemed strange that it was dark already and we were only half done. Once we were on the go again we felt better, but I think Gary was struggling. It was a long climb out of Tony Grove, but an easy climb. We ended up with a string of us in another conga line going up. When we finally got to the top Gary didn’t want to run, so we walked, it was quite technical anyway. We ran a bit here and there, but it was a long 10 miles to the next aid station, which I do not remember at all. After Franklin Basin at 61 miles we wouldn’t see Joan again until 75 miles and Beaver Lodge. It was in this section that it started to rain. Very gently at first. I put my jacket on but it was still too warm. We hit a long flat stretch that I wanted to run, but Gary didn’t so I stuck with him and we trudged on. Soon the ground started getting a bit muddy. It became difficult going and then it became treacherous. On the side of a hill trying to navigate the ankle deep mud and stay on the hill. I had my poles which made it somewhat manageable, but Gary was all over the shop. A couple of guys went by us like we were standing still and wondered what we were doing wrong. After about 45 minutes of this we were out of it and I was hopeful that, that was all there would be. Soon we were back into it again and it was a lot worse. Gary asked to borrow one of my poles. As soon as I gave him it I was down and out. I could barely stand for any length of time and was almost resolved to crawling through the mud. We must have “crawled” through the mud for an hour, before finally coming to a dirt road. At this point both of us felt like shit. The mud had sapped our energy, we were tired and wet and Gary was feeling borderline hypothermic. We walked down the road and followed it to the next aid station at Logan River. It was a bit like a triage unit. We got some hot soup and sandwiches of some sort and sat by a nice warm fire. We left the aid station and had to cross a river. There logs and rocks to use so as not to get wet, but Gary slipped off the logs and ended up in the river and so walked across though it. I was luckier and stayed “dry”. We then climbed straight up and all of a sudden there were “runners” in front of us and behind us. It had become very busy. As a group we struggled on. Eventually we could see the next aid station, but as we approached the lightning resumed and soon it was pouring down. The aid station didn’t seem to get any closer! It actually seemed to be getting further away. Was it actually the aid station?
We descended for a long ways and then turned back towards Beaver Lodge. Making our through the trees and the rain, we came across another section of mud, a guy passed us and went right through like it was nothing. I tried and ended up down the hill in a ditch covered in mud. I noticed then that there was a road beside us, a paved road. It must be the road to Beaver Lodge. It was, but the course detoured us back up another sloppy hill. When we got there I was destroyed. I had never felt this bad. I told Gary I was done. I Couldn’t go on.
The aid station was in the lodge, with some warmth (hard to believe we could feel so cold and miserable after the heat earlier). I saw Joan and told her I was done. I had a hard time keeping myself together as I said that. She said no way and she would get me back on track. I disagreed with her. We went inside and I sat down and had a complete breakdown. I could not see myself going on for another 25 miles.


Gradually, somehow, Joan managed to turn me around. I got a fresh set of shirts etc. on. Changed back into my UtlraGuides and got a garbage bag to wear to keep the rain off. Apparently Gary was ready to set off by himself at this point, although I wouldn’t know this till after we got home. After some sustenance we headed back out and surprisingly I felt ok. We ran across a field and a road onto a dirt road and then started the usual climbing up the road that slowly became less of a road. It was again muddy in spots but manageable. It was another 5 mile climb to the next aid station and we would cross the Idaho border in this stretch. We got to the Gibson Basin Aid station with only 19 miles to go. The sun was up and it was still raining. From here we had to cross a large meadow on a double track that was basically flooded or muddy most of the way. It was more tough going, but things were looking up, or at least we should have been because more climbing followed. Then more downhill and the mud returned. We were trying to find ways around the mud by going through the bush rather than on the dirt track. The last downhill section was all rock and technical. It was also pouring down rain. We had step across stones to cross the river to the aid station. I was soaked. I got there before Gary and sat by the fire. Joan welcomed us and asked what we needed. I was ok, but Gary needed new socks and relubing. At this time Gary said that he was not enjoying this anymore and was not having fun. This meant that he wanted to quit. Although I was feeling ok, I was also tired, wet and looking for an excuse. Gary gave it to me and we decided that we were done. As much as Joan tried our minds couldn’t be changed.
To this date I still can’t believe I dropped so easily with only 15 miles to go, and 8 hours + to complete it. I can’t believe that I couldn’t be convinced to go on. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since. All that way to DNF! My mind has not been right ever since and I will suffer this one until I go back and try again. What didn’t help was seeing all the runners that were way behind us that still managed to finish.
But, what’s done is done and all I can do is look forward to coming back in 2016.
The next week I read that the area got 2.8 inches of rain from when it started to late Sunday. That’s a lot of rain. And a lot of mud!!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The week before The Bear

It’s Monday and this coming Friday at this time I will be 6 hours into the toughest race I will have ever run, The Bear 100 in Utah/Idaho.

We leave this coming Wednesday to give us some time and will return on Monday. So far the run up to the race hasn’t been the best. A number of injuries have affected my training. I really haven’t run that much since Vermont in July. I was hoping to get in lots of hill training and some speed work. I did get in s couple of days of running at Snow Valley Ski resort and try out my new trekking poles. I also ran Harricana, north of Quebec City a week ago to get in a good training run, although it wasn’t quite the race I expected. I had calf issues pop up out of nowhere and cut the distance back to 65k from 80. I thought the calf was going to cause me to drop, but I was able to continue with the help of a new friend on the trail Tim, from Waterloo. I still managed to finish the race strongly, so that made me feel good. The fact that I was on my feet for over 10 hours was also a positive to take with me.

The calf was a secondary problem, which hadn’t been an issue before Harricana, although I have had numerous calf issues before and they are habitually very tight. The main problem going in to Harricana was my right hamstring, which had knotted up badly. Although it was tight throughout it never got worse than that. Since that race I have been nursing both through, rolling, massaging and lots of soaking in the new hot tub.

Although I am somewhat intimidated by The Bear, I plan on approaching it similarly to Harricana. That would be to run very easy, walk the hills and trek a lot of the race. I plan on finishing this race, not winning it, or even doing a PB.

Fingers crossed the muscles cooperate and I can get to the end.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vermont 100 - Redemtion

To say I had some concern coming into this race would be an understatement. At the same time I was also feeling relatively confident. I knew my training was not up to what it should have been, not enough long, long solo runs, but I had run a few decent races. The main problem was the previous 4 weeks. It started with an accident at home moving a large cement step. A slip and a fall later and I had 6 stitches in my chin and some bruised ribs. It was the ribs that concerned me the most. Doing anything, even laying down, hurt. Seeing what Joan had gone through with her fractured rib, I was definitely concerned for my ability to run at all. The next 4 weeks would be busy and hopefully the healing would be sufficient.
The first test would be the trip to California to pace Gary again at Western States. This would also be my first test with running and sore ribs. A test run the night before didn’t look promising. I had bought some tensor bandage to wrap the ribs and this just didn’t seem to work well. My thought was to try a larger tensor and try that. I would look for some the next day while crewing.
Crewing went well and Gary’s race was going good too. Lots of driving made for a tiring day. I found a 6 inch tensor and by 8 pm started to get ready for pacing. I put on the tensor around my upper abdomen and had to adjust it 3 times before I either left well enough alone or just said to hell with it. I ran from Foresthill back to the next aid station about a 1.5 miles to meet up with Gary. This would be the test and it seemed ok. Sore at first, but nothing too bad and manageable. I ran the next 40 miles with Gary to get him in at 29 hours and 3 minutes. A success all around. The only negative was my ribs the next day or trying to sleep. Very painful.

A trip to Timmins for work mid-week was followed by my trip to England for Victoria’s graduation from Northumbria University. In all 8 plane rides in 9 days. The trip to England went well, other than Aer Lingus misplacing my luggage for 4 days! Managed to climb Scafell in the Lake District. The highest peak in England took us 6.5 hours to climb and come back down on a beautiful day. Good time on my feet training is the way I saw it. A couple of days later I ran up Cheviot Hill, the highest point in Northumberland. Another test of the ribs that went well. It also gave me some good confidence with the hill running and the length of timeout there running.

I arrived back on the Sunday prior to leaving to Vermont. Jet lag and general fatigue set in, but decided to get out for a run on the Tuesday. Again to test the rib, but also to try it without wrapping my ribs. It was a short and successful run and felt good about the approaching weekend.

The Vermont 100 weekend began on Thursday after work with the drive to Montreal to stay at Kate and Gary’s, before setting off Friday morning to Vermont. Scott and Rhonda were supposed to come along for pacing and crewing duties, but had to back out. At this point I was looking forward to seeing what it would be like to run without a pacer. As it turned out Kate had been struggling with some foot issues and doubted whether or not she would be able to run the race. Eventually she would back out and volunteered to pace me. We arrived in Montreal about 10:30 pm and after something to eat and a drink or two we headed off to bed. We were up fairly early Friday and got off to a fairly quick start at 9 ish. Stopped in Burlington, VT for some supplies and lunch. We arrived at Silver Hill Meadow just in time for the registration , weigh in and then the pre-race talk!

Gary had made reservations at Skunk Hollow Tavern for dinner rather than the crappy pasta dinner. This was a good call and we enjoyed a great meal. Got back about 8 pm and attempted to get some sleep, as 3 am would come around far too soon.

3 am did come far too soon and as usual I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but that is par for the course when it comes to these type of events. The start was at 4, so it was just a matter of getting ready and a bite to eat and then we’d be off. Kate had decided not to run, because of a foot injury and therefore would help Joan crew. Gary had said we would run together so that we could both pace each other. I’m not big on running someone else’s race, but would see how it would go.
At 4 am the race started and we trotted down the gravel road from Silver Hill Meadow to the first hill and then the trails. I had worn a long sleeve over a short sleeve shirt as it was a cool morning, but we hadn’t hit the trails before I was taking the long sleeve off. There was definitely some humidity out there. When we hit the trails Gary started pushing the pace a bit. I wasn’t willing to go any faster than I needed and decided that if he wanted to go I wouldn’t hold him back. When I stopped for my first pee of many he was gone.
I tried to temper my pace so that I was taking it easy, but I was already struggling mentally for some reason. I just felt out of sorts. I was peeing a lot and started feeling the urge for a bathroom break in the first 5 miles or so. Like the last time I did the race the first porta potty was at 11 miles and I made sure I used it again. Ominously it seemed like a lot that was going on this race was very similar to 2 years ago when I DNF’d here. The course was slightly different in areas and I could only remember bits and pieces of it. I was in no hurry at this point and was more than willing to let runners pass me, which they did. As it was my running math equation was figuring out my pace and how I was doing based on a 24 hour finish or just finishing etc. I was well ahead of where I thought I should be. Eventually I came in Pretty House aid station where my crew would be at 4:07. I was thinking it would be closer to 4:30. I tried to eat a few things here as the Trail Butter that I was using wasn’t working well. Got rid of a few extra items I was carrying with Joan and as I was leaving I ran into Brent Colwell, who I had run with at the Midwest Grand slam last year. We ran and chatted for the next 10 miles to Stage Rd. and as Joan had told me, this made the time go by very quickly and I felt so much better at this aid station. Also ran into a couple of other Ontarians crewing for a runner here too, Joe Cleary and Kim van Delst. I grabbed more to eat, more mountain dew as usual and headed back out. A short run down the road was followed by a step climb straight up. At his time I was by myself again, but was feeling in a much better place. Definitely in a better place than 2 years ago. Typical of the trail sections, this climb was long and steep. It would be another 16 miles before I would see the girls and it would be a medical aid station. The only concern I had was losing too much weight, otherwise I was feeling stronger by the mile. At about 35 miles I was starting to pass some of the runners I had been passed by myself earlier and at the Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station (39.6 miles) we turned to power up one of the longest hills in the race, at least that’s the way it seemed.. I remembered this distinctly from 2 years ago. I was running/power walking with Bob from New Hampshire at this point and we chatted a lot. He is the president of the Sub 4 Hour 50 states marathon club and urged me to join up. He is 66 and this was his second attempt at Vermont to finish his first 100 miler. As the hill went on I left him behind. I was passing lots of runners again as my power walking was much quicker. This gave me a lot of confidence and I knew I feeling a lot better than last time. By the time I came into Camp 10 Bear I was feeling great and had just powered down one of the long downhills. I jumped on the scale and I was down 10 pounds!!!! Holy shit! I explained that the scales they used yesterday could not have been right as it showed me to be 176, about 10 pounds heavier than I normally am. After talking to the medical director, he realized I good to go and let me. I filled up with food and drink changed my shoes, socks and shirt and relubed my feet and off I went. I was only about 20 minutes behind Gary. I then chased off to get to the next aid station where I had dropped last time. I had been suffering muscle seizures and not fueled myself at all right. This time despite being down a lot of weight I was doing really well, both physically and now mentally. I wasn’t really looking forward to the next 20 miles as it “seemed like a long way”, but knew that Kate was going to pace me from Camp 10 Bear (2) at 70 miles. From this point on though I was running strong powering through the flats and down hills and power walking the up hills. I even had a few people comment on how I was doing on the up hills. I started picking runners off. I passed 40 runners between the Camp 10 Bear aid stations and had finished 70 miles in under 15 hours. At this rate I was on pace to go under 22 hours, although I knew this was unlikely as fatigue would set in soon enough and it did shortly after 70 miles. I cam into Camp 10 Bear and again got weighed. 165lbs! again they had to confer and talk to me. I told them it was the best I had felt in a race and was ready to go. I guess that was good enough as they let head out. Again a quick bite, some broth and drinks and off I went. The next section was another brutal up hill. Kate helped push me at this point as I was struggling to keep my pace up. I would still run the down hills hard and again no one was passing me, I was doing the passing. I came into Spirit of 76 aid station strong and was only 4 minutes behind Gary, but I Had to sit down and recoup here. I didn’t stay long, but just needed a little downtime. A can of mountain dew seemed to help too. I headed out again with 23 miles to go and a little over 7 hours to buckle (sub 24hours) Now I began to think that this was definitely possible. Initially my goal was to just finish and get the opportunity to qualify for Western States. Now it was to buckle as well. There were still a lot of hills to climb yet and I had stay focused.
Bills aid station at 89 miles was another medical weight station and I thought we’d never get there. It seemed to take forever. But we got there and I was surprised to see so many runners who had passed me early in the race. I had now caught them. One of the “elite” women racers, Denise Bourassa came in after me. Although I had another sit down I got going quick with a coffee in hand. My mind was losing it a bit and the coffee would help.
I was still running the down hills well and passing more runners. By the time I hit Polly’s at mile 96 I had passed almost 80 runners from mile 21. With less than 5 miles to go and 2 hours to complete 24 hours I knew I had this in the bag and could almost crawl in. The only problem was that running down hill had become an issue with a sore left knee starting to act up. So we walked the last 4 miles as much as possible anyway, knowing fine well that I’d have no trouble making it in under 24 hours.
I finished at 23:15:21 for 105th place. 14th in my age group. Very satisfying indeed. It was a tough course, the toughest 100 I have done. I know there are a lot tougher out there too, but for me right now I’m in good place, knowing that I have conquered one of my demons.

Gary finished 100th only 10 minutes ahead of me. Brent had a great second half finishing in 22:38 for 88th place. Bob got his finish too, in 26:52.

What’s next? Harricana 50 mile in Quebec in the middle of September, followed by the Bear 100 two weeks later. That one will be the very hard.

Monday, June 2, 2014

North Face Endurance Challenge

I know! I’ve been a little negligent in updating my blog. So here is the latest since just before O24.

O24 in Kirtland, Ohio was a little different from the previous year, cooler temps, more runners, but for the most part the same good crowd of runners. So it was good to meet up with some old friends from the Ohio area and beyond.

We arrived on Friday around dinner time and went straight to the race site for our race packets and picked up Dave and Ben’s packets too. Then it was off to Dave’s for dinner and the Morl’s special hospitality. Great to have a place to stay when we go to the Cleveland area for races. Dinner is usually an open invitation to all who want to stop by and I’m surprised by how few do take advantage of it. My only issue was since switching to a low carb, high fat diet recently, pasta and bread really don’t work. But when in Rome…

We were up early the next morning to get ready for the nice 8am start. The race follows a 1 mile trail loop through a park with I hill in the middle. Actually its more or less uphill for the first part and downhill for the second.
I wasn’t sure what my goals were, just to go and have a decent time. Joan was coming off a recently fractured rib, so would be just happy getting in a few loops to see how it felt. For me, in the back of my mind I had to think about next week which would be the North Face Bear Mountain 50 mile race. As the day went on I started to reign in any lofty goals that I may have had. Partially being lazy, partially using as an excuse to stop early. As it was I got in 50 miles, and really didn’t feel like going any further. Although I got in another 5 miles pacing Dave later.
Joan surprisingly got in over 40 miles on the day. Her rib was sore, but she was able to run off and on and do a lot more than anyone thought. Quite a few people didn’t do what they expected to do. Our friend Sandy from Michigan was going for 100 miles, but settled with 100k. Dave managed a repeat of last year, getting in his 100 miles. The winner ran over 120 miles.

As I stated before the following weekend was a trip to Bear Mountain, NY for the TNF 50mile endurance challenge. Gary from Montreal was also coming down for it and would meet at the race hotel on Friday. This would be my first real race while on my new LCHF diet. So far I was feeling good and the food was great. Staying away from sugar was no problem, away from starches a bit more difficult. Not that I wanted the potatoes etc. it was that everywhere you go it is the main option, or fires, or chips, and bread!!!
We had made some pemmican the week before to experiment with snacking options. Although the consistency wasn’t great it tasted good. I would use it in the race to see how that would sustain me as opposed to gels. I would also bring a bag of nuts too. I had been running gel free for the past few weeks and only using nuts to sustain me with no issues at all. The LCHF theory is that after an initial time of getting used to the diet your body would then use its own fat stores to fuel itself, negating the need for carbs during endurance events. I had some special bacon/egg muffins for my pre-race breakfast too. Very tasty!
Friday night we had to drive down to White Plains, NY for the packet pick up and found a place to eat nearby, although not without some difficulty. The North Face store was in an upscale mall and we had a hard time finding our way out of it. We met up with Kent from Niagara Falls and he joined us for dinner.
The TNF race started at 5 am so it was a very early morning/ Up at 3 and on our way before 4. We travelled to the other side of the river to get on our shuttles o the start area. Unfortunately we went to the wrong place, the start area! Luckily someone was there to direct us to the shuttle bus pick up spot. It wasn’t long before we gathered at the start area milling about with others trying to stay calm. This race is advertised as the toughest on the NF circuit, lots of climbing, rocks, routes, water and after last week’s rains mud! And it didn’t disappoint in any of those. To the point that, it really hampered my race. The rocks gave me lots to worry about, due to the week ankles that I have. I made it worse by using some different shoes than I am used to. With the talk of the mud before had me questioning the use of my Hoka’s, which tend to be useless in the mud. Therefore I went bought a pair of Salomon Speed Cross 3’s. This was a very questionable move, knowing what my history with Salomon was. Years ago I owned a pair of XT Wings and they almost broke my ankle, the number of times I turned over on them. So I was very hesitant to buy Salomon shoes. My friend Scott had bought a pair of Fell Raiser shoes and raved about them. When I went looking for a pair they only had the Speed Cross, so I thought I’d take a chance. No don’t get me wrong these shoes are nice and enjoyed them on the trails at home, but they aren’t as gnarly as Bear Mountain was.
To make a long story short I had a crappy race, fell once, turned my ankle an unknown number of times (only the right one) and took it very easy on the rocky downhills. I think also the previous weeks 50 mile run took its toll. It was a tough race, very technical, lots of climbing, water and mud as advertised. Normally I would have expected to run about 10 to 11 hours for this type of race, but I finished in just under 13 hours!! I almost dropped at 40 miles. The aid station at 40 miles was beside the parking lot where my car was parked…. Oh so tempting. I had to lay down for a while before leaving that station and struggled mentally to keep going.
Scott and Gary had great races, although they were only about 45 minutes ahead of me, they were very happy.
So after that what do I do? Sign up for the next North Face Endurance Challenge event in Washington on June 7th. We Ultra runners have very poor or short memories.
Since NY, I’ve been taking it easy, maybe too easy. But I figured I needed some rest. Gary mentioned to me that running a quick half marathon and a decent 30k Around the Bay in the lead up to NY as well as the 50 miles at O24 probably had a lot to do with my lousy race than anything.
The LCHF diet is going good. I’m down to the lowest constant weight that I have been at in many years and feeling good. It’s still a work in progress, but we are working with recipes etc. Also started to see a new Chiropractor/physio/everything guy who is helping me with my ankles and especially my right side issues. Hope this will help the weakness in the right joints and make me a stronger runner.
Since originally writing this posting, I turned my ankle again last Thursday on some awesome trails that I was running with Scott. So I haven't run since an don't until the TNFEC DC race. Hopefully my ankles will cooperate.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Prep for O24

It's the Wednesday before O24 and I've just got my last run in, a 10k at a fairly quick pace. Not sure why I was running quick as )24 won't be quick.
O24 or Outrun 24 hour endurance run is held in Kirtland, Ohio and this will be the 3rd year of "running" this event and my second time there. I met the race director Zack Johnson while running Green Jewel the year he was preparing to put on the first O24 and invited to come down. Unfortunately I had already committed to Pick Your Poison and couldn't make the inaugural event. It has been held the same weekend as PYP each year. So I told him I would definitely make it for 2013. It was a great event held in a nice wooded park on a 1 mile trail loop with one significant hill in the middle. I dropped at 13 hours last year after getting in 100k. Although I was disappointed in not getting 100 miles in, I was looking at the bigger picture. I had a few knee issues the seemed to be getting worse as the race went on so with the Mid west Grand Slam on the horizon I thought it prudent to cut it "short". What made it more special though was Joan coming up with just over 100k to get in more than double her previous best mileage.
This year we committed to head down again and race and run with lots of friends we have made in north east Ohio, who we haven't seen in a quite a while.
The build up to O24 has been fairly good. While not getting in much long distance runs, I have been getting in lots of weekly mileage with many back to back long runs, culminating in the past weekends 85k. A couple of races thrown in for good measure have me feeling fairly good. Just the usual right leg issues which don't seem to bother me as much in long, long events.
Around the Bay was a surprise to be involved in and cam e up with a good race there. Then last week I did the Marden Marathon, actually a half. Not sure why they insist on calling it a Marathon. It was a good little event on a tough rolling hill course with some good climbs thrown in for good measure. Came out with a 1:34, which I was very pleased with.
So Friday we are off to Ohio. Joan is injured after fracturing a rib in a fall on some ice a few weeks ago, but is intent on getting some mileage in regardless, even if it is all walking.
We both have races the falling week too. Joan is off with her girls to run the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati, where she is also supposed to run the 5k and 10k too, to complete the triple.
I wil be off to Bear Mountain, NY for the North Face 50 mile race. Hopefully I can recover in time.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Around the Bay Recap

The 120th annual Around the Bay Road race too k place on Sunday and I was fortunate enough to pick up a bib, courtesy of Justin from the Running Room. He couldn’t run it and as Joan had already picked a bib herself I thought…

So with a 9:30 am start we could get up a reasonable time (6 am) for a race and drive down to Hamilton for the race. We got there with about an hour to spare and set about getting into Copps Coliseum to keep warm. Although it was milder than previous weeks it was still rather chilly, but sunny. I expected to see lots of familiar faces, but didn’t see anyone until we got into the start corals. We got there a little late and I wished Joan good luck and headed forward in the crowd to try and get a better starting position. The closest I could get was quite a ways behind the 3 hour pace bunny, but as nothing was at stake and I was “just running” this race I stood back and relaxed. I saw Chewy before the start, but that was it.

Soon we started, or at least shuffled towards the start line. It took about 4 minutes to get over the line. My goal was to just run by feel and hopefully get finished in under 2:30. My previous best was the last time I ran it in 2006 and was a 2:07, but those days were long past. Once we were able to actually start running I tried to keep a consistent pace and found myself passing lots of runners and knocking off pace bunnies as I went. Quickly passing the 3 hour bunny, then the 2:55… 2:50 and so on. About 4 k in I passed Steen and then Donna, I looked for others, but wasn’t seeing the runners I was expecting to see. I noticed my pace was steady at about a 4:35 min/k, which is much quicker than I was expecting, but it was feeling good. The first 10k were much different than when I last ran this race, with a few more hills to deal with. After about 13 k or so I came across Jamie Nielsen, who I hadn’t seen in a long while. So we chatted and ran together for the next 5 k or so, also passed Jim, before hitting the Burlington section of the course. I was surprised to come across Chris McPeake at about 18k or so. I was still passing lots of runners, but now the hills in Burlington were starting to slow me down a bit. Although they were probably slowing everyone down at this point. Through the next few k I passed Andre and Terry and then somehow lost Jamie. I was starting to get a little sore as we came across the last aid station before the “hill”. The next downhill helped and high fiving the “little” guy helped, but then the “hill” took a lot out of me. By the time I got to the top my legs were like jelly. I didn’t stop, but kept on going, albeit at a slower pace. 4 k to go and I passed Vince C. from Burlington who I’ve seen in a number of events of the years. I came into Copps and finished in 2:23. Much better than I was expecting and feeling good. Saw a few others after too, Bryan came in not long after me and Jamie.




Joan felt good about her race, she wasn’t racing and just determined to get it done.
All in all it was a good day. The weather cooperated and it wasn’t as windy as predicted.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Around The Bay

Well apparently it has been 8 years since I last ran Around the Bay 30k. I had to look it up and I thought it had been at least 5 years. The last Time I ran it (2006), it was the first year that it finished in Copps Coliseum. I also thought I had run it seven years in a row, but it seems that it was only 6, according to the results at Sportstats.
I had no plan to run it again, but when Joan picked up a race bib from a friend, it became a question of how to get her down to Hamilton for the race. As it turned out the opportunity came about for me to pick up a bib too. So thinking that I would be running at least 30k that day anyway, I figured it would be worth running the race.
The last time I ran it I ran 2:07, still a PB for the distance which will not be in danger of being broken this year, or ever actually. 30k is basically a sprint now, in comparison to the races I normally do and I haven’t run “fast” in a long time.
Still I am looking forward to competing this weekend as “Justin” and looking to at least break 2:30. The silver medal days are past me now.
The course looks to have changed a bit from what I remember. Starting near Copps, it goes north toward the lake instead of going east. Taking Burlington St. out to the east end. Always a great event, hoping the small niggling injuries stay put long enough for me to get it done.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Green Jewel 50k

I think this race was one that wasn't meant to be. Fortunately it did happen for me and ended with a decent result.
The week before was a challenge, with a calf strain on my "last" long run on Saturday I was worried about how that would affect my run. Then the tingling of a sore throat starting mid week, what else could go wrong? We had said that if there was even a hint that the weather would be crappy in Cleveland we wouldn't go after such a lousy winter, but as it happened the forecast was for temperatures above freezing. So we headed down to Cleveland on Friday afternoon.
This would be my 4th Green Jewel in a row. A great early season race to see where your fitness levels are. It would also be Joan's first crack at it. She was injured last year and came along for support the year before.
Its not an easy race, although its all on pavement it is mostly uphill, gradually for the first 38k, then sharply uphill and followed by about 10k of rolling hills and then finishing with 2k down hill. The 10k of rollers usually get me.



We arrived in Cleveland at about 6:00pm with the temperature at a balmy 11C!! woohoo.


We went directly to the Vertical Runner in Brecksville to pick up our race kits and then off to the hotel, a bite to eat and get ready for the morning.
The race doesn't start until 9am, but you have to be at the finish area by 7:30 to get on the buses to get you to the start. This changed from two years ago when the start was delayed as no one was allowed into the finish area until late due to a salamander migration was complete!!
No such troubles any more though.
WE got to the buses and off to the start where it was much cooler than the previous day. The temps were hovering just above freezing and there was ice on the paved trails. The forecast was for it to warm up and then cool down later. With snow possible. Luckily we were able to stay on the bus until just before the start.
Off we went and my plan was to take it easy for the first while as I was still unsure about my calf. The cold that I was battling had also taken hold and was affecting my breathing somewhat, but I couldn't do much about that. About 1.5k in my calf started to bother me a bit more and I started to think that this wasn't going to be a good race if I finished at all. The calf though, didn't get any worse, just some tightness (at least for now).


I was watching my pace and surprisingly Iw as keeping my pace under 5 min/k's (maybe that's not a surprise). The icy sections were tricky and care was needed to get by with out slipping. Just when I though I was doing ok, I went to avoid some ice and my feet went the wrong way and I ended up down on the ground. I quickly picked myself up with the help of another runner. Brushed it off an continued on, but I could feel my right ankle, knee and hip had hit the ground hard and there was some looseness in my ankle that wasn't there before. That was at about 10k. At 12k my left calf cramped badly and I began to think my race was over not even a quarter of the way in. I stopped and walked, walked for about 20 yards and thought I have to try it to see if I can get going again, otherwise I will be done. I slowly started trying to run, it was painful to start, but gradually it just subsided a bit. I backed off the pace to my "goal pace" of 5:20ish and this seemed manageable. I would feel the calf tighten every now and again, but no sharp pains. So I continued on.
I got to half way with no other incidents and my cold didn't seem to be affecting too much either. I passed through half way at about 2:08, which was well ahead of where I though I should be and was on pace to at least set a personal course best (4:31 in 2012). I was feeling very good, but took precautions to walk any steep hills to protect the calf. At the 38k mark is the major hill on the course and although I ran it last year I decided to proceed cautiously and walk it this year. I was starting to unravel a bit here too, my glutes were so tight it was almost painful. I walked past the aid station at the top of the hill to the next stop sign. Once past I ran and continued to run all but the hills. When I was running I was moving well, it was these damn hill stetting in the way. At the same time I was looking forward to them as it was a respite from the running. Somewhere along here with about 10k to go, Laurie Rehbergar passed by in her car to say hi. What I didn't realize initially was the person in the passenger seat waving madly at me was Joan.

She had dropped due to a "broken bum". Her periformis had cramped really badly and caused her enough pain to stop. Unfortunte, but she was smart about it and made the right decision. She still got 25k in.
I continued on and knew as I got closer that my time was liable to be more like 4:40 than 4:30 and as I hit the last 2k downhill stretch I was glad that it was almost over.
I came in at 4:37:52, 9 minutes quicker than last year, so I was happy with that. I will be much happy if one day I can run the entire last 12k strong.



Overall a good day and good to break the string of bad luck with races so far this year.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Run the Bruce Adventure



The Challenge -- The Bruce TrailLegally blind runner, Rhonda-Marie Avery is set to run the Bruce Trail end to end (885km) in 20 days starting August 4 2014 in support of Achilles Canada... The Bruce Trail is Canada's longest, oldest footpath measuring some 885km from the north end in Tobermory to the south end in Niagara.  It is small piece of heaven that many are unaware of, that few have ever even set foot upon.  For those who have, they know the magic that the ground there contains.  They have, perhaps, felt the lingering mist on their cheeks in the cool sunrise.  They have heard the water falls and touched the moss trees, stood where bears have crossed and, maybe, spun around, arms wide, staring up through the coloured leaves at noon on a fall day.  This small piece of earth is a welcoming place for hikers and, more recently, for  a few brave ultrarunners.  This challenge is about a journey from the northern tip of the trail to its southern most end.  This journey has been done before, but never quite like this."My name is Rhonda-Marie Avery.  I am legally blind.  And I run. And I bike. And I swim.  A lot.  And I'm on a quest....to be the most powerful verb in my own life.  None of these activities are easy for me to manage without the help of Achilles Canada"This nonprofit organization connects those with disabilities with volunteer guides.  "Over the years, they have helped me to take part in events from 5Km to 100 miles of running, 13km of tethered open water swimming, and 500km of tandem cycling.  Without their involvement, I wouldn't be possible for me to participate to this degree. Oftentimes, for the disabled athlete, getting to the start line is the most difficult task.  As a disable endurance athlete, my goal is always to show up, do my best and put all concepts of my disability aside. I am there to complete an adventure, which regardless of having fewer limitations, perhaps, most would not undertake or would not consider being within my capacity to undertake.  I say BE BRAVE, everyday!  No matter what, do your best and see what you can accomplish"."Let me ask you this; What do you know of disability and sport, or disability in general?  Did you know that apparently 10% of the global population is disabled?  Did you know that the "disabled" are the world largest minority group?  Did you realise, that this is  also the group that any one of us could become a member of at any time?" "When you imagine an olympic swimmer, do they have two arms? Can they hear you cheering them on?  Do you think altering your image of this swimmer changes your thinking....or changes theirs?   Now, what if a disabled swimmer is impeding your exit from the gym change room?  What if a disabled swimmer is stuck at home without a way to get to the gym to train? What if a disabled swimmer is a child lost in their dreams of one day, merely, taking part?..... This is why I am undertaking this journey"  Every day, we are given a choice; not only how we view the world, but also how we let the world view us.  It's time to see "disabled sport" differently, without limits, without boundaries and with all the hope and bravery it deserves, whether a person with challenges wants to simply participate or excel.On August 4 2014, with the help and support of a team of over 50 volunteers, Rhonda-Marie will be starting her quest to run the Bruce Trail from the north end to the south end.  Each day accompanied by two guide runners, they will travel at least the distance of a marathon (42.2km).  Each night they will be billeting with a volunteer family who has kindly opened their doors. The goal of this adventure in ultrarunning is to raise awareness for disabled athletes.  The entire journey will take 20 days.  On the last day, August 23, 2014, please come join in to walk the final 5km of the Bruce Trail and to complete the quest.  In this way, together, we can all help create a space for openness for the involvement of all people, disabled or not.You can follow along in a number of ways;The Envisions Blog

Envisions On The Bruce Blog

Twitter

http://twitter.com/envisions2014

@envsions2014Facebook"Envisions ... Rhonda-Marie ... Bruce Trail... Totally Awesome!" Please go investigate the Bruce Trail's webpage... find out how there membership works. Also, find out how, through your help, they secure access to private portions of land that the trail runs through, as this trail is not eclusively on publicly owned land.

The Bruce Trail

Please check out Achilles Canada, this empowering  organization that enables disabled athletes to take part.

Achilles Canada

Achilles Canada is directly sponsoring this run. Please show your support and donate here today.  In the meantime, now you know the challenge.  Please follow along as we attempt to make some changes to the way the world thinks about "disabilty" and "sport".We need your help to make this happen!!  We will be uploading videos as the campaign continues.

Envisions YouTube Channel

As we travel through this Bruce Adventure, a Feature Documentary is being filmed;

8% No Limits Feature Documentary

Friday, February 28, 2014

No Snowshoe Marathon

Well this year is off to a good start race wise, a DNF at Croom Zoom 50k in Florida and a DNS at the Snowshoe Marathon in Vermont. It looks like the Snowshoe event just wasn’t meant to be. Although I really didn’t have my heart in it, as we got closer I was definitely starting to look forward to it. As luck would have it though, a number of things mounted up to scuttle the whole thing. Number one was our Daughter in Law Johanna was admitted to hospital with complications to her pregnancy yesterday. We were not sure what was going on at first and we still planned on going, but then it sounded more serious and likely that she might have to deliver early… Trip off! This was the same day we were going to leave, so rather than leave and have to return we thought it best to stay. It wouldn’t have been a good trip if she had given birth while we were away or have us worrying the whole time either. The other problem was the weather, the cold and very windy conditions along with what turned out to be hours of snow squalls made travel from Barrie near impossible late yesterday. So we stayed home and watched the wind howl and snow blow around outside while we snuggled in and watched a movie.
As for Johanna? Turns out all was ok, at least according to the hospital and she is being released today. She had a fall last week which they believe caused her to have some bleeding and the contractions she was feeling was merely false labour. A night in hospital and lots of rest seem to have done the trick. Fingers crossed that the hospital is correct and all IS ok.
So after a week of tapering it’s time to get back on the horse and run. Although next week is taper week too as we have the Green Jewel again. My 4th year in a row at this event. This also has been up in the air due to concerns about racing in the freezing cold, but it looks like the weather is becoming a bit more favourable in Cleveland with a daytime high of nearly 8C. So at the moment with the forecast the way it is, we are going. Joan is concerned about completing a 50k at this time in her training, but I’ve told her she is very capable of getting it done and if the conditons are good it will be worth it.