STRAVA Summary

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Stroll through the Bighorn Mountains

I signed up for the Bighorn 100 for two reasons, one as a backup to Western States in case I didn’t get selected in the lottery again and two, as a similar race to the Bear I could get some redemption for my DNF there last year. Obviously I didn’t get selected in the Western lottery so…

There were a lot of uncertainties with the Bighorn, would I be able to handle the most difficult race of the 100’s I’ve done? How would my gimpy left knee fair? Could we pull the logistics together for crewing and pacing etc.? Amongst others.

Joan and I picked up Oliver and we left for Toronto very early on Wednesday the 17th (it felt like I got up half an hour before I went to bed!) to fly to Billings, MT via Denver. The flight to Denver was uneventful, but we were supposed to have a short turn around for the flight to Billings. Once we got to Denver we found that the flight was delayed by 2.5 hours so there was lots of time to relax and get some lunch. While we were there we started noticing other Bighorn runners, yeah ultrarunners stand out! Chatted with Kevin from Boston, whose accent was so strong, he was almost hard to understand. The next flight to Billings was again uneventful and arrived in the small airport, picked up our luggage and rental car and headed out. Stopped to pick up a few supplies and then off to Sheridan Wyoming, about 2.5 hours away.



Sheridan turned out to be a very nice little town, lots going on. Lots of restaurants, a little shopping. We turned in for the night to get some well needed rest. It had been a long day of travelling. We were up early the next day as we were still on eastern time, went for breakfast in the hotel and ran into Elise from Ontario. Sharon would also be there later. Lots of Canadians doing this race and I knew a lot of them.



Before the expo opened we went to the Sport Stop store to look for a few things that we may need and chatted with the Race Director who works there, she immediately recognized us as Canadians! And we didn’t even say eh! Eventually the race expo opened and I picked up my race kit and weighed in. The swag was great, cooler bag, socks, buff, arm sleeves and a nice water bottle. There would be more for finishing the race too. Also dropped off a drop bag for the Footbridge aid station, the first time I have used a drop bag. I have always relied on my crew for everything, but in this race there are few opportunities to see my crew.

One of my main concerns for this race was my weight. I have found that in hot races I lose a lot of weight and this race has warnings about losing a certain percentage of weight during the race and there would be medical checks on the course. You could be pulled if you lose too much.

That afternoon we found the Crossfit gym for Joan and she went for a workout while Oliver and I wondered around town. It was then that we bumped into Jocelyn and some of her girls. Once done we went to dinner at the Wyoming Rib and Chop House (for the second time). A great place to eat with good food and service. Then it was time to head back and start the wind down and sleep.

With an 11 am start time the challenge was when and what to eat. There was also the 9 am prerace briefing. We went for breakfast and numerous runners were in the hotel breakfast area, including Elise and Sharon, so we chatted for a while before getting our things together and the drive to Dayton. The prerace briefing was in the park where the race finishes and was your typical briefing. Once done, it was off to the start in Tongue River Canyon.

The Tongue River Canyon is warm on a good day and today it was rather hot and everyone was looking for some shade. This is where an 11 am start is not necessarily a good thing. Nervous energy was evident throughout the crowd of runners and supporters.


At 11 am, we were finally running down the canyon for the first mile of road and then into the trails by the Tongue River. I ran with Elise for a bit, but let her go as I don’t like getting sucked into someone else’s pace, at least at this point of the race.



The first aid station was just 2.5 miles in and it was the prelude to the first big climb and up we went. 5 miles straight up, in a conga line on the single track trail in the alpine meadows.



It was neat to be able to fill up my water bottle about half way up in a spring. It was amazing to turn around every so often and take in the views. The higher we went up, the more we could see. Eventually we could even see Sheridan in the distance. I got talking to a guy in front of me, Randy, who was from Victoria, BC. Low and behold he was originally from Ontario and had worked at Ontario Hydro, he also knew a fellow work mate I worked with at Barrie Hydro. Small world.

We crested the mountain top and went down the other side, a very steep descent. I could only think about how tough this climb would be coming back. We were in and out of the next aid station and on to some dirt forest roads all the way to Dry Fork aid station.


This was my first time to see Joan and Oliver. I came in and asked if they had dry socks, mine were soaked with sweat. They did, but it would mean going to the car half a mile away. I declined and decided to soldier on, first mistake made. Actually the main mistake, because I had already started feeling the effects of trench foot on my left foot. I thought just relubing may be enough. It would be another seventeen miles to my drop bag and dry socks and 35 miles until I would see my crew again. The next 17 miles were mostly downhill to rolling, which you would think would feel good. By about 17 miles I was feeling like crap and this dragged on until the 26 mile aid station. I was definitely starting to doubt myself, but after this aid station I felt rejuvenated and took advantage of some serious downhills.



I came into Footbridge feeling very good, knowing I had a change of socks etc., I took my time changed socks, put some moleskin on the trench foot, relubed my feet and changed my shirt. Just before I left I noticed Oliver F. sitting beside me, we chatted briefly and then I left.

The trail from Footbridge to Jaws (the turnaround) is up hill for 18 miles and is almost entirely single track, through rough rocky technical terrain, forest tracks and meadows. I soon fell in behind another runner named Charles who I ended up “running” with for most of the next 18 miles.


Our conversations would take our mind off things for the next few miles and helped each other along, even stopping to sit down on the side of the trail to take in the incredible view of the night sky at one point. As we went on we often turned around to see a string of lights following us up the mountain, and eventually the leaders would be oncoming with lights coming from the other direction too. The closer we got to Jaws the more we came across some of the famous Bighorn mud, apparently not as bad as previous years, it was still shoe sucking in a few spots and there was lots of it. As the night wore on the temperature dropped significantly, although I didn’t really notice it except for my hands, so I had to at least don some gloves.
As the run progresses I had started this annoying habit of kicking rocks with my right big toe, which was becoming increasingly more sore. Also the trench foot had become somewhat of a pain. At this point I already knew a few toe nails would not last the next few weeks. Finally I arrived at the Jaws aid station (48 miles) to see Joan and Oliver waiting. I went into the aid station to look for the medical check and was told there wasn’t one! Ok, that’s suites me fine, but… So I went back out and had my crew look after my every need! Oliver got me coffee and a quesadea and some soup while Joan prepared a shake for me. I changed socks, shoes, shirt and got some new mole skin. As I was getting ready I saw Charles heading out with his pacer and wished him the best. Oliver was ready to go as my pacer. After a few minutes I was out again, not to see Joan until Dry fork again, probably midday. As we left we ran into a couple of familiar faces. Jocelyn was struggling and would drop at Jaws as would Oliver F, who was having foot troubles.

At least at this point most of the next 18 miles would be downhill, but through much mud. Oliver and myself had many laughs as we headed down the mountain, especially when Oliver was attacked by a tree while trying to maneuver around the mud. He still has the scar to prove it! Eventually daylight returned as we were crossing many miles of alpine meadows. Oliver finally got to see the spectacular sites and views that I had seen on the trek up.

By about 60 miles the trench foot was affecting both feet and they were very tender. It felt like one big blister across the balls of both feet, but worse on the left. In the miles approaching Footbridge again, it felt like the mole skin had ripped the skin off the bottom of my left foot and slowed me down to a hobble. My big toe on my right foot was also in pain and I had started kicking rocks with the two middle toes on my left foot too. At this point I was writing myself off and expecting to drop at Footbridge. It was a long hobble! We finally came in to the aid station and I asked how long till the cut off, 2.5 hours was the response. Oh! That’s better than I thought. I went and got someone to look at my feet, soaked them for a bit and as it turns out the pain was from a blister rupturing and not as bad as I had thought. I saw Elise there and she encouraged me to keep at it. Everything seemed to come together. Another change of socks, fresh mole skin and a new shirt and I was back at it. Oliver modified a long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve and we were off. But not long after leaving we ran into a bit of a roadblock. The next 3.5 miles were all up and steep, it was also getting hot again. Not long in Oliver told me that he didn’t think he could go on. The fact that he got this far with me with little training, I was very grateful for. So we decided it would be best for him to just walk it back to Dry Fork and me go solo. If he went back to Footbridge he may not be able to go anywhere for a long time or at the very least to end up in Dayton. That would mean our car would be stranded at Dry Fork! As it was I would worry about him for the next few hours and what would happen next.

The climb out of Footbridge was brutal. It was hot and very steep. I was sweating buckets. I would pass a few runners before the next aid station and once I got there I was able to maintain a positive run/walk with more running than walking. I was already starting to do the math in my head as to how I could finish. I initially gave myself an extra 1.5 half leeway, but then realized that I was wrong and only had about a half hour. Doing math and running an ultra is not a good thing at the best of times. It wasn’t working well here.
The section from the “bacon” aid Station to Dry Fork seems like a long haul, there were lots of 50 milers on the course now and when the sun was out it was hot, as we were in the open for the most part. I was being consistent though, running the downhills and flats as much as possible and power hiking the hills. I was using my trekking poles and they were a god send in this race. I really noticed how much on the last climb into Dry Fork. I was passing lots of runners. As I approached Dry Fork I looked up and saw what looked like Oliver. I had to give my head a shake! It was. WTF are you doing here? How? Apparently he had walked back to Footbridge and found someone who was willing to give him a ride to Dry Fork. At this point I was very relieved to see that he was ok and had made it here.

I was surprised how cool the air temperature was when I stopped. I fuelled up, Joan was ready to pace and off we went. Not long after we started I had to find somewhere to sit so Joan could relube my feet again. They were a mess. We kept moving forward though. The dirt road sections from Dry Fork were difficult to run or walk on due to my tender feet. Once we were on trails again, I was able to run again. I know Joan was happy to get out and run! I had only 17.5 miles to run when I started with Joan and about 6 hours to do it. We passed through one aid station quickly and then headed to the last major climb. We basically climb up the back side of the mountain that we have to go down back towards Dayton. It was the descent I commented on earlier. It was a long tough climb, Joan let another runner user her poles to try them out. He liked them a lot. They do make a big difference. Cresting the top of the mountain top/pass we could again see for miles and only had to go down to the bottom and the road into Dayton. Easier said than done. My knee hadn’t bothered me at all during the race, until we started down this hill side. I was moving very gingerly down, trying to move as fast as I could without doing any damage. Still runners passed me though as I was moving slowly. It was a long way down and seemed to take forever. But we made it to the aid station with about 7 miles to go and I had 4 hours left, easy! Someone at the aid station asked me how I felt? It was then that I realized that other than my feet I felt amazing. Not tired, nothing sore, just trashed feet that hurt! We ran/walked through the canyon to the trailhead and knew we only had 5 miles to go. This was the hard part, on the road, in the open. It was a dirt road, which again hurt the bottoms of my feet and it seemed to go on forever. I kept thinking the next corner is the last one… nope!!!

Finally we got into Dayton crossed the old bridge and turned the corner to the park and ran into the finish. Joan had to yell at a few people standing in front of me not realizing they were blocking my way to the finish line.



I came in to the finish at 32 hours 19 minutes and 4 seconds. My longest run ever. It all came crashing down at once, I had to lay down. I went to the river next to the finish line and soaked my poor feet and that was painful. Joan got my sandals, a chocolate milk and a beer! We then went and sat down in our chairs and relaxed for a bit, eventually I struggled to stay awake and suggested we think about heading back. I looked around for Charles, or anyone else I knew, but it looked like most were gone. I did see my new friend from Victoria, Randy. He had finished in 27 hours and change, awesome.

We headed back to Sheridan and on the way I started feeling a lot “off”, I was struggling to focus. Oliver pulled over and I blacked out completely. I awoke to Joan and Oliver putting cold water bottles on the back of my neck and just as quick I felt great again, tired, but great.

At the hotel I had a quick painful shower and then collapsed in bed, only to wake up at 3 am!!

In the morning we went to the awards and post-race breakfast in downtown Sheridan, met up with a number of people, Charles, Elise, Sharon, Chantel from Minesing, Oliver F amongst others. Collected my buckle and jacket and off we went to continue our journey in Yellowstone National Park.



In conclusion, the toughest race I have done. Although I think the foot issues added a lot to that. I think I could have taken a lot of time off if my feet were better. A great event, well put on, very remote aid stations, not a lot of opportunities for crews to meet runners, spectacular scenery and amazing volunteers.

Other than the blisters on the bottom of my feet, around my ankle and heels bones and multiple sore toes and black toe nails, I’ve come out of this rather unscathed. Oh yes my knee is very swollen, but that seems to be normal lately and I have an MRI scheduled for July 4th.

I highly recommend this race. With this I have now qualified to enter Hardrock, and Western again.

Ok what’s next?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

O24 "Training Run".

It was a decent training, but it wasn’t what I had planned. I’ve been to the O24 24 Hour endurance race for the past two years and never seem to be able to do what I plan on doing. This year was the same. My goal was 100 miles or more, but stopped at 80 miles after 18 hours and 38 minutes.

The day started well enough I ran with the eventual winner Steven Parke for a couple of loops to start and then backed off the pace a bit. I have learned that there is no point in going out like you are going to win it. Better off to start slow and maintain.

I had been worried somewhat about my left knee as I had some swelling and that had followed a few weeks of instability in the knee. While I had been amassing some fairly substantial mileage I had no problems, but when I started to back off the distance for my taper, the swelling started. As it turned out I had no issues during the race, except for the odd twinge here and there.

The first couple of hours went be quite uneventful, watching Steven cruise through the field and Dave Morl pushing himself with the look of someone who also wanted to win it. After 4 hours I stopped for something to eat, an Isagenix shake. The plan was to try Isagenix again for race nutrition and have one shake every 4 hours. I would also have an E-Shot every 4 hours too, but started them 3 hours in. SCaps would be taken based on the conditions and started with 1 every hour and a half.

Joan was running and looking to get in 100k at least. She had been through a lot lately and would be running on little training. Not long in she was having trouble with her breathing and asked our old RMT Rhonda to look at her. Rhonda was there as crew for Steven. Rhonda checked her out and said that she had a rib dislodged and some of her organs were twisted, probably due to her shoulder issues. It was time to reevaluate. Joan got her 50k in and then stopped, but walked a few extra laps with me later on. She would go on to be the best crew person a runner could have, again. It would have been nice for her to get in over the 100k, but under the circumstances still a good outing.

I ran on well and went through 50 miles just over 10 hours or so. Things were still good at that point, but I was getting tired. A few stops to get my legs rubbed down with Arnicare helped. By 58 miles things were going a bit rough. I was thinking that 100k might be good enough today. I stopped and actually had a lay down, changed my shoes and socks and headed back out. Shortly thereafter I got a spurt of energy and ran off 10 miles feeling rather good and probably moved up the ranks a lot. But by 70 miles things weren’t go quite as well. Approaching 80 miles I started to deliberate about stopping, leaving well enough alone. I still had time to get in the 100 miles easily, but my mind wasn’t in it any more. The argument that made the most sense was that I had got in a good long run in and had done some night running so rather than risk injury, play it safe for Bighorn. And with that my race was over.

I watched on as Steven and Dave ran hard against some other great runners. Steven winning with a new course record of 127 miles. Dave coming in second with 114 miles.

My initial feeling was of disappointment, but that quickly subsided as I was happy to get in the miles and some night running. I still have a lot to do to be ready for Bighorn and unfortunately ever since O24 I have aggravated the knee and haven’t been able to run. I tried on Wednesday and stopped at 2k. Now I have decided it’s time to rest and recover, ice and elevate for a few days. Went for physio today and the prognosis is that it could be a problem with my meniscus, but rest and icing might be all that is needed. So I have decided that there will be no running (let’s see if I follow through with that) until the Horse Capital Marathon on the 16th.

Rest is good, right?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April update

So April has flown by. Probably because I’ve been running so much, not too much, but…

I have had 3 good high mileage weeks to start the month off capping it off with a 52k run this past Saturday, running from Penetanguishene to Barrie. Now that the weather is improved somewhat, the trails are finally clear of ice and snow, so trail running is going to be the order of the day most of the time now.


Last week was the peak so far of my running, getting in 115k, but this week is a down week as the taper starts for O24 on May 2nd. Nice to know that next weekend I can just run and not worry about being out there for hours. It’s also Pick Your Poison this coming Saturday, Joan is running one loop to get back into the swing of things, so I’ll just go and support/watch for the morning. Then get a run in on the afternoon.

My first decent trail run (single track) was this past Sunday. I was little concerned, due a left knee issue that I had picked up over the past couple of weeks, but as it turned out my knee was better on the trails than on the road. I think the high mileage on a cambered road was doing the damage. It was great being on the trails again and plan on going out regularly now. Hopefully the weather cooperates. There is some cool temps coming for the remainder of the week.

The training for O24 has been good and I hope to get at least 100 miles there. For some reason there is always something that comes up that prevents me from doing what I want there. Maybe it will be third time lucky!

As for preparations for Bighorn? Things are coming together. Finally booked some flights and confirmed Oliver coming to crew/pace. The prices for flights never did come down and if they were to come down it would not have been the most desirable of flights and connections. I think I got a decent deal and was able to get the flight times I wanted. Leaving early June 17th via Denver and returning later on the 23rd, also via Denver. Hope to make a good trip of this on top of getting a nice buckle. A drive through Yellowstone also.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Goodbye March!!!

Last week I realized that it was only about 12 weeks until I run the Bighorn 100 in Wyoming. Although I have been getting in some decent mileage I was knocked back a bit last week with the dreaded “Man Cold”. I’d had a sore throat the week before and expected something, but I was hit hard and took 2 days off work. Last week, the only day I ran was Friday. I felt good running, but once I was done I felt like crap and realized that it was a mistake to run. I therefore took off the rest of the weekend from running. It was another cold weekend anyway and I really didn’t feel like running in the cold.
This week I thought I should actually put together a training schedule too. I can’t remember the last time I used an actual training schedule, but I figured that having it on paper I’m less likely to miss or skip a run. So here it is:

In another 4 weeks I will have O24 and hope to get about 100 miles there and thent he Horse Capital Marathon 2 weeks after that. Then it’s clear sailing until Bighorn.

There is a lot of high mileage (as far as I am concerned) in this schedule and its been a while since I’ve done this much.

The weather is improving somewhat, but winter is still trying to hang on with some sub freezing days still in the forecast, usually aligning to my long runs. I’m still not quite over the cold, but at least I can get out and run now.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Destin Beach

After the Pistol it was time to get ready for my next adventure, Destin Beach 50 miler in Florida. But before this I signed up for Javelina Jundred the night after The Pistol. I woke up at 2 am in my hotel room in Alcona and thought “hey registration has just opened for Javelina”. So I got up and registered and as it turned out, I was the first to register.
No it was 6 weeks or so till Destin and lots of time to recover and then get back at it.
Problem was the weather was not cooperating. Like last winter it looked like this one would be a long one and ready to set records for cold temps.
We were invited to Destin by our friends from Michigan, Sandy and Eric. Joan signed up for the 50k, as did Sandy. The training sort of sucked, no really long runs, just doubling up long runs on the weekend. Longest run being about 28 – 30k.
Destin is in the panhandle area of Florida, so doesn’t get as warm as the more southerly areas. And the initial forecasts didn’t come across as even shorts weather. But it was still better than the Barrie area, or anywhere in the North East. We arrived on the Wednesday night and it was cool, but still shorts weather. The sun was shining and that again was positive. Race day meant an early morning as my race started at 5 am and the girls 50k at 6 am. The race travelled along the beach, on sand, for 15 miles to the east. You then turn around and head back to the start/finish area and then head west for another 10 miles, before turning around again back to the finish.
I started out in the dark, just trying to keep a nice easy pace and avoid any of the soft sand, as well as the water off the gulf as the waves came in. For the most part this was easy, but there were the odd “rivers” form lakes beyond the dunes to forge across. Most were easy, but we were warned of a large one that had just broken through the dunes the day before and could be waist deep or more.
Running into the sunrise was spectacular. And getting our feet wet didn’t seem to be a problem for me. I was looking forward to the turnaround as it would give me an indication of how I was doing in respect to the rest of the field. About ten miles in I started running with Ryan, a young local guy who went to school in Rochester, NY. He hadn’t run an Ultra before so he jumped in with both feet. It was early in the race and he was doing well. At the turnaround he left me as I looked for the washroom. After getting going again I guestimated that I was in about 14 place. Not bad, although there wasn’t a lot of runners in the race it was still rather popular, but not as popular as the 50k.
As we headed back to the start area, I started passing a few runners. It was a long way back and as the sun came up it got warmer than expected. I had to put sun tan lotion on 3 times. A nice breeze helped keep things cool.
For the most part the beach was deserted, but the closer we got to the start are the more populated it was getting.. I had to keep reminding myself it still early in the morning, about 9:30 when I got to the start area. At this point I figured I was in about 10th place, but not sure. I caught back up to Ryan at about 31 miles, and we walked to ether for a bit before I started running again. Ryan wasn’t doing well, but it was good to know that I had another behind me and was probably top ten. Top ten then became my goal. I was well ahead of PB pace, but could see that slipping away slowly. The beach was much more crowded now, but with lots of people cheering us on. At the next turn around I now knew that I was actually in 8th place and was determined to keep that, but I would be looking over my shoulder regularly on my way back. There were a couple of runners not far behind, including Ryan who now had a pacer.
Those last 10 miles were a struggle, but I could feel the runners from behind. I completed the last 2 miles bearfoot, figuring that would be better than having wet shoes for the last part of the race. It was actually harder on the feet.
I finished in 8:33:00 a new personal best, by about 10 minutes or so. I was 8th place and 1st in my age group. A very successful day, but again I was thinking of what could have been. Keeping myself running later in a race is still a problem and I need to work on my mental game. The day was the best day, weather wise, of the whole time we were down there. We went to the awards get together later and I got my age group award.
Joan had a very successful day, with her bad shoulder she un sure whether she would be able to do the race at all, but she started and finished in under 9 hours, using a run /walk plan. She was very happy and enjoyed her day. Sandy also had a good day on the 50k course, finishing in 7:08.
Now I have 2 weeks to get ready for Green Jewel, my 5th year in a row there and probably my last. After that a good two months before O24.

The Pistol

Again, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’m still running, just finding it hard to find the time to hit the keyboard. The last blog posting has been sitting in my in box for months waiting to get posted. Since then I had been planning on some down time before starting training again in the new year, but…
About 2 or 3 weeks after the Bear I got a message from Will Jorgenson (RD of the Pistol in Alcoa Tennessee). He asked me about coming down to do his race at the beginning of January. Initially I said no, but the stress of the Bear failure was getting to me and I thought, I really needed to get back on the horse and show what I can do. So within a few hours I had signed up, booked flights and hotels and was ready. Just meant starting the training program a bit earlier than expected. To make a long blog shorter, the training went well, not perfect, but well. I had started going to the gym and doing some weight training and yoga as well. On boxing day I went with Theo to Hamilton to do the Boxing day 10 miler again and had a good race, setting a new PB with a 1:08 time. Confidence was high again.
I travelled to Knoxville on the Friday before the race (The Pistol) and settled in. I met up with Crystal from Ohio at the pre-race meeting and also met up with Aaron from Guelph. A rather lack luster pasta dinner was followed by an early night. The 100 mile start was at a nice 8 am. So no issues with getting up too early. The weather forecast was for about 8C during the day and then rain late in the night.
The race would be a multi loop course consisting of 9 x 11 miles. All paved bike path and some slight hills here and there. By all means this could mean a new PB. The unknown was the pavement and what kind of toll it would take on my legs.
I met up with Aaron at the start and as the gun went off we wished each other good luck.
I would try to keep a nice easy pace, at least that was the plan, but as usual I was moving faster than I really needed to. I met up with and ran with Max from Corning, NY and ran with him for a bit, before pulling away from him. To say the first couple of loops went well would be an understatement. I had to slow myself down when I checked at one point and I was running a 5:20/km. I went through the marathon point under 4 hours! I hit 50 miles at about 8:20, well under any 50 mile time I have run before. Up to half way I was moving quickly, but I had also gone through the required bad patches too. A few stops at Woody’s aid station helped, but as usual eating was a challenge.
At some point I expected to lap Aaron, as he had been dealing with some mechanical issues and was walking a lot. He also hadn’t got much training in! This kept me going stronger. I finally caught him as I finished my 6th lap, we decided to help each other out and see if that would get us through this. At this point I know the pavement was taking it’s toll. We walked for a bit and mixed up the walking and running for the next two loops. It was on the 6th loop that the rain started.
The rain was light initially but gradually picked up steam. By the 7th lap it was pouring down and we had to avoid the underpasses as they were flooded to probably waist deep. A lot of the path through the mid point of the course were also flooded to ankle deep water and there was no way around them.
For most of the race I was well ahead of schedule, about 18 hour pace. I knew it wouldn’t last and it was a matter of how good my finish time would be and whether or not I could get a new PB. Gradually 20 hours flittered away and then it was whether I could get under 21 hours, but that seemed remote too, especially with the turn in the weather. When I got to my 9th and final loop, Aaron still another to do, I thought I might as well just walk the whole thing, I wanted it over, but I knew I would still beat my PB. There was no incentive to go any faster than a fast walk. The rain had slowed down for most of this last loop, but just as I finished the wind picked up and the rain came down again. The only positive was that it was warming up a bit.
I finished in 21:11 an new PB by over 90 minutes. 14th overall and 3rdin my age group. Over all a great day (and night), but I couldn’t help think what could have been. If I could have kept my mind on track I might have finished hours earlier.

Post The Bear

Originally written on November 5th , 2014

It may take a lot of mental fortitude and strength to get through an ultra, especially a 100 mile race, but for some reason that mental strength seems to disappear when the question of signing up for another challenging race presents itself. This again happened to me just recently. Failure at the Bear was still sitting heavily on my mind and I was trying to find another race to do, maybe not till next spring, but the sooner the better. As it was Will Jorgensen, who I met a few years ago at O24 and ran across a few times at races over the next year or so, is the race director for the Pistol Ultra in Alcoa, Tennessee sent me a message asking if I’d be interested in coming down for his race in January. Iwas interested and had actually talked to Joan about it in the weeks before, but we had decided that we should stay at home over Christmas and New Year’s this year, especially with Jack around now. But after mentioning the message from Will Joan said if wanted to go myself then that wouldn’t be a problem. Within hours I was signed up, flights booked, hotel rooms booked and car rental arranged! What a pushover I am.
So I have gone from running for maintenance only and not worrying about mileage, to ramping up the mileage and putting in a lot more running. Mix this in with going to the gym 3 times a week and a bit of yoga once a week at least and I’ve become very busy again.
The Pistol Ultra is a 100 mile event (also with 100k and 50k events) that takes place in the town of Alcoa in eastern Tennessee, near Knoxville. The course is an eleven mile looped course on paved bike path. The course is basically flat and probably good for PB’s, with no hills/mountains, routes, rocks, mud etc. to worry about. Having said that, it is still a 100 miles and anything can happen. Weather could also be a factor, and in that part of the world, we could be talking about cold(ish) and snowy to warm and sunny. So who knows what that will bring.
As it is I am looking forward to this race and sure it will be a good time regardless. Training has been stepped up and I have now got just over 8 weeks to get ready.

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.