STRAVA Summary

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Year End and Next Year

2013 is fading away into the sunset now and with 2014 fast approaching it time to reflect and look forward.

2013 was probably one of my most eventful running years if not most successful. The main part of which was the Midwest Grand Slam. Four one hundred milers over the summer. I had a blast doing it after being very apprehensive before hand. Each race was different and I have great memories from each. I also met a great bunch of other runners from across the States. I'm sure we will run into each other at other races over next few years.

My only disappointment was "only" completing 100k at O24, but still it was a good warm up run for some of the runs I had planned later. Also didn't get into WS100 again for the third year in a row! Maybe next year.

Finished the Ultra year with a good run at the Vermont 50 mile run. As I write this though I still have a 10 miler to do tomorrow. The Hamilton Boxing day 10 miler, which I only decided to do yesterday. The oldest race in North America I believe.

It looks like next year is shaping up nicely, although as usual I don't have enough holidays or money to do everything I'd like to. A 10 day trip to Florida to get away from this winter starting nice Monday will eat into my holidays a bit. Otherwise race wise:

Snowshoe Marathon in Vermont at the beginning of March, followed by the Green Jewel 50k a week later 4th year in a row for me). A return trip to O24 in April. Helping out Gary at Western States again in June and probably another go at Vermont 100 in July. That will be after a trip to England to see Victoria graduate from Northumbria University.
September will be busy as I have signed up for both Haricanna 50 mile in Quebec and two weeks later The Bear 100 in Utah to finish the year off.

There maybe others I have missed or have yet to find out about, but we shall see...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Midwest Grandslam Recap

So now that the Midwest Grandslam is complete I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how it all went what I thought was good and what was not so good.
Overall I thought the MWGS was an awesome event that surprisingly wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I think I may have got lucky in that I had no difficulties during the races other than the expected fatigue etc.
All the races were different in their own respects. None of them “easy”, but none of them overly difficult either. Again I think I got rather lucky with the conditions, all of these races are usually run in extremely warm and humid conditions, but temperature was never a factor in any of them. The only race that had environmental conditions become a factor was Burning River, with the mud as a result of the rain.
My biggest concern going into the series was the two weeks between Kettle Moraine and Mohican. I had heard that Mohican was the toughest of the races and that worried me. As it turned out I had one of my best runs at Mohican finishing very strong and if anything having 6 weeks between Mohican and BR and between BR and Hallucination was too much time. Funny how you can say 6 weeks is too much time between 100 mile races!
Having completed only 2 100 mile races and DNF’d one before going into the series I had some experience, but think I learned a lot more from the DNF and built on that at Kettle Moraine.
I had a great team of crews and pacers for each race too which I believe was vital to me finishing both the races and the series.

Kettle Moraine was an out and back followed by another different out and back course with a varying amount of hills, but not hard. The second out and back being a lot more technical than the first, with some muddy conditions thrown in to make things a bit more difficult in the dark. I had Joan and Oliver crewing and pacing for this one and I think we all had a good time. At this point I didn’t get to know any of the other slammers.

Mohican was a bigger race and more technical terrain throughout. It was the first multi loop course with 2 x 27 miles followed by two shorter 23 mile loops. I don’t like loop courses, but keep finding myself in them. Conditions were good, except for some mud in and around the falls area, and the heavy downpour for the last 5 miles or so. The downpour got me going though, Again Joan was the chief crew member, although initially she wasn’t even supposed to be here for this one. Scott Garrett and Dave Morl provided excellent pacing too.

I went into Burning River with lots of confidence, also knowing that the weather was much more favourable than the last time I ran it. BR is a point to point course which is my most favoured course type. But the rain sort of backfired a bit as a few long sections of heavy, deep mud sapped a lot of energy and created some nice blisters that hampered my finish. Still a great event. Joan and Roger were the crew and pacers.

The final event was, let’s say interesting. Hallucination 100 was part of the Run Wood stock, hippy themed race weekend. By this race most of the slammers all knew each other and we had built up a good family like respect for each other and were very supportive of each and every one of us. Another multi loop course consisting of 6 x 16.7 mile loops this race started at 4pm on Friday, a first for me and I think this threw a lot of people off too as the finishing percentage was a little over 50% in ideal conditions. Although I had a personal best time here and felt good for the most part, I had a few beefs about this race. The aid stations had a pitiful selection of foods, mountain bikes on the course (single track) in the later stages of the race were a recipe for disaster. I found that there were too many races going on and not enough focus on fewer races. The event was great but….
Gary and Oliver were pacers for this race although Gary decided at the last minute to sign up for the race and so ran the whole thing with me. Joan crewed when she could as she was doing the 50 mile race too. It was also a POB for Gary too.

Again a great experience to do this series which I would recommend to anyone who has any experience with 100 milers. Made some great friends across the U.S. who I hope to keep in touch with run with again in races somewhere.
It's not very often someone can say they are the first to do accomplish something, but being the first Canadian to finish the slam fills me with a lot of pride. I can probably also say that I am the first Brit and Geordie to do it too.

A big thank you to Oliver, Scott, Dave, Gary, Roger and especially Joan.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An End to an Exciting Summer - Hallucination 100

100 miler number 4 to complete the Midwest Grandslam. All I had to do was finish it. I think going in I was a little cocky, but at the same time cautious of what could happen. Everything that led up to this final race was going well. The weather forecast was again looking great. I had more or less lucked out with the weather in all the races so far, except maybe Burning River, and this looked like no exception. The weather prior to, had been dry, so there would be no mud and the temperatures were forecast to be warm during the day and cool at night. The one thing that was bothering me beforehand was the easy going manner I took in approaching this race. The other races I had studied, prepared and had everything covered for whatever may happen. For Hallucination I packed my stuff late and more or less winged it. It was described as the easiest of the 4 races and I think that got me to react the way I did. So we left Barrie a little late and headed down the 400 to meet up with Gary (one of my pacer’s from Montreal) and Ryan (one of Adam Pratt’s pacers who we’d offered to drive down). We met up with everyone and packed everything into Gary’s Xterra and off we went. A stop in London for dinner and then to Brighton, Michigan and our hotel.
One aspect of this race I liked was that I didn’t have to get up early! A 4pm start meant lounging around for most of the day and sleeping in. Unfortunately the natural alarm clock had me awake before 7 am as usual. But we were still able to relax and take it easy before heading down to Hell for the race. We arrived just before noon when the registration would start. I wanted to get a good spot for our tent so figured I had to get there early enough. Oliver (my other pacer) met us there as we walked in. Chris Battaglia was in line already. I knew Chris was running, but I had no idea that he was running the 100 mile race. So I got my race kit and goodie bag. A nice bunch of swag indeed. At some point Gary decided that maybe he would sign up and run the whole thing. He was keen to run as much as possible as my pacer and this way he could run the entire 100 miles.
Now it was time to sit back and relax for the next couple of hours prior to the pre-race meeting at 3.
The meeting made a point of identifying and celebrating the Midwest Grandslam runners which was a nice touch again. We then took some picture and it was then time to race.

I was looking at running the first lap or two in about 3 hours and see what would happen from there. Unsure what would happen in the darkness. We set off and turned my left ankle with in a kilometer of starting, this was worrisome, but we were soon running with Adam and Bryce Carlson. They were setting a decent pace and I thought that maybe it may be a bit too quick, but Gary pushed it up a notch and we left Bryce and Adam behind. My ankle was relegated to an afterthought, but would remind me every now and again that it was not 100%. I went with the flow, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that this may back fire. I think Gary was on a mission to prove the doubters wrong after his experience at WSER this year. He was running well.
Overall the entire course was very runnable, some single track, some double track, tow path, about a mile or so of road and some nice trails. A 16.7 mile loop done 6 times was the 100 mile course. We started with the 100k runners who have a short cut part way through. The rest of the races would begin on Saturday, including Joan’s 50 mile race.
Initially we seemed to be running about 40 minutes between aid stations, which was quicker than anticipated. We finished the first loop in 2 hours and 40 minutes and I stopped to fill up my pack and replenish anything else I need as a well as having a shake. We were out pretty quick again and headed out to the woods. We took headlamps and a handheld flashlight for back up. Before heading back out I had to take a bathroom break and Gary left walking and I would catch up. I ran the entire trail to the tow path before getting a glimpse of him and it took me most of the tow path to catch up. We were still on a good pace at this point and went through the first aid station onto the road about 5 minutes slower than the first loop. This would put us on a 3 hour pace per loop, a bit more manageable! We walked a bit more in the following loops, naturally and finished the second loop in 3 and a half hours. I realized after the fact that I was taking too much time at the start/finish area and it probably cost me a good half hour or more. The third loop would be the first loop entirely in darkness and for some reason we struggled to stay on our feet. Oliver joined us for this loop as my official pacer and it was nice to have another person to talk too. It changed our whole outlook on how things were going. Between the first aid station and the half way mark I fell 4 times and turned my left ankle again 4 times. Each time was not too serious, but enough to remind me that may be I was a little tired. Gary was also having his troubles staying on his feet, Oliver was stumbling here and there, but was able to stay upright. I fell one more time before getting to the end of the loop, but again without any damage. With the dry sandy, dusty conditions we were filthy and a change of shirts was required for me. We finished the third loop in almost 4 hours and took more than enough time in transition before getting out again.
Oliver would follow us out again for his final pacing loop. If we had a good loop here we might catch Joan and the girls on their first loop as they started at 6 am. I didn’t think we’d catch Joan, but thought we might catch Cindy and the Karens. As it turned out this was slower than expected loop as we took 4 and a half hours and finished the loop as it was light. Changing head lamps for that loop seemed to make a big difference as there was no falling for any of us that time. A lot more walking slowed us down significantly and although we figured the daylight would lift us, I felt that we were just getting tired.
We came into the start/finish area and saw Cindy and the Karens at the tent getting ready to go out again, we refueled changed again and headed back out. I was thinking that We might catch Joan on this loop. She had a great first loop in running 3:50. We left on the fifth loop with a little trepidation. I wasn’t looking forward to another two loops at all.
Surprisingly we ran very well on this loop, we walked part of the tow path and part of the road, but continued to run well on the trails. The daylight had its effect on us and we were running well again. As it turned out the 5th loop would feel like one of the best as we finished as well as we started it, although we never saw Joan! I assumed she was still running well and was still ahead of us. We finished that loop in 3 hours and 55 minutes, not quite as quick as we thought, but not bad at this point in the race. During the 5th loop it had tried to rain a bit too, probably for about half an hour. It felt nice, but not enough to wash the grime off of us. But generally it stayed cloudy which was also a welcome relief as I was expecting it to put sunny and much warmer.
After a “quick” refueling at the start area we headed back out, but it was becoming difficult now. I think we had spent too much energy on the fifth loop and seemed to have nothing left now. We ran what we could, but walked a lot. We had got lucky up to this point with the weather as it had been mostly overcast in the morning, so not as hot as it was predicted to be and on this final loop we had a bit of rain start. It only really rained or about half an hour , but enough to feel refreshing. It helped us keep running which we did on the flats and the downhill’s. The closer we got to the finish I thought it would kick in a drive to run to the end, but that took a lot longer than expected too. We passed the last aid station and the thoughts were weather or not we could get finished in under 23 hours, which had become my goal. With 4 miles to go I really didn’t think we had a chance as we were both very tired and didn’t have a lot left. We would, walk and run, walk and run, but it didn’t seem very efficient. It wasn’t until we were within a mile or two that I thought that we had it and I started to push the pace a bit more, Gary was struggling to keep up now, but I wasn’t going to finish without him. He had got me this far. With the last couple of turns to go I knew we would beat 23 hours easily and finally finished in 22 hours and 44 minutes. A personal best for both of us. We finished together and both got 3rd in our age groups and 17th and 18th place overall.
Out of 180+ starters in the 100 there were only 93 finishers. Hard to believe in almost perfect conditions, but I believe it has a lot to do with the 4 pm start time.
Over all this was a decent event, but some of the organization was not the best. The aid stations were not great, poor selection of food. Having a mountain bike event on the same trails we were running was absolutely crazy and I’d be surprised if no one got hurt. The bikers were completely inconsiderate to the runners and reckless out there.
Otherwise I was happy for my result and extremely happy to be one of the 14 finishers of this year’s Midwest Grandslam. I was also the first Canadian to finish the slam and finished 5th overall in the standings with a time of just over 100 hours in total.
My reflections on the Midwest Grandslam? Something I am very proud to say I competed in and completed. I met some great people in the slam and I am sure I will run into them again at races across the continent. As usual I got to race in places and see places that I would probably never see if it hadn’t been for running.
What next? No idea, I’ve had too much focus on the completing the Slam that what happens next has not been in my vocabulary, but… I will sign up for the Western States 100 lottery, I’m also signed up for the Vermont 50 miler in a couple of weeks, no thanks to Gary for that!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Burning River 100 2013

A tale of two races that were completely different, but ended with very similar results. Burning River 2011 and 2013. My first 100 miler was Burning River in 2011 and it was a hot and humid race. This year was very pleasant temperature wise, a little humid, but after a few hours the rain came and it rained for most of the day and into the night. The result of all that rain were some very muddy trails which seemed to wreak havoc on some of the runners.
BR100 was the third stop in the Midwest Grandslam. There were 14 of us left in the slam and we were slowly becoming a closer knit group, keeping in touch via emails and in some cases on Facebook.
My crew and pacers this time would be Roger and Joan, Roger was looking forward to this as he had paced me for a part of my previous run at BR100. Joan was bringing her “vast” experience as crew chief extraordinaire!
We drove down to Ohio on Friday morning and got to the Packet Pick up at the North End in Hudson at about 3:30, we met Dave and Zach there and ran into a couple of other familiar faces, including fellow slammer Jon Kissel. I was a little disappointed in this year’s venue for the packet pick up. It was a little under whelming and definitely was a little shy on parking.
We then headed over to Dave and Sandra Morl’s who had graciously offered up their home to us again to stay the night and we also enjoyed a nice pasta dinner. I think we were in bed well before 10, but I had a hard time getting to sleep as usual.

3:15 am came too quickly and the alarm was not welcome. By 4:30 we were at the starting line waiting for the start. I ran into Adam Pratt (another slammer) and his sister Laura and chatted with them about my adventures at WS100 before looking for my crew who had disappeared. I found them, Dave and then said our goodbyes and at 5 (actually a little early) the very low key start took everyone by surprise and we were off.

There were numerous changes since I ran it 2 years ago, the first being a 10k loop around the hills behind Squires Castle to start. There was a lot of climbing here, but being fresh we ran most of it, but I blamed Dave for pushing me more than I needed too. Although I didn’t have to run with him I suppose, I did anyway. Dave is a strong runner and although this was his first 100 I was sure he would have no problem blowing this away and I expected him to leave me behind sooner than later. Unfortunately twisted an ankle early and then stepped in a hole and badly twisted his ankle again only 2 miles in. A quick break and he was running again, although with a slight limp. It still didn’t slow him down though. The trails in the first 10k were very nice and runnable even though none of it was flat. We came into Squires Castle in just over an hour had a quick stop at the aid station and then were off again. Another change was instead of going straight onto the road we followed trails for a couple of miles and then hit the road a couple of miles before Gates Mills. Here is where I met Julie Astairs for the first time as she ran by us with Anastasia. We chatted briefly and off they went. I was trying to slow Dave down at this point! Gates Mills came and went and we headed off for our first crew access point at Polo Fields. This road section is mostly flat and easy running, but I was intent on keeping it easy, but Dave was drifting away from me. I didn’t realize that at this point he was keen on getting to his crew (Ben) as his ankle was getting sore and starting to swell a lot. Wouldn’t you know if I didn’t step in a hole in the road coming to Polo Fields as well!!! I turned my ankle a bit, but managed to catch it and continued on without any problems. Coming into Polo Fields is great as it is a hive of activity, lots of people cheering etc. one of which was Pam Rickard, who I hadn’t seen in about a year or more. She was supposed to run, but has been injured for a while now. She was standing in the middle of the drive taking pictures of Dave and I as we came in. I wasn’t sure it was her at first, but soon realized it was and gave her a great big hug. A quick chat and then off to see the crew.

Dave’s ankle was looking very swollen at this time, so he took a seat and put some ice and Traumeels on it. I had a shake and visited the bathroom and then on my way, but Dave was already gone by the time I had left the bathroom. We were well ahead of schedule at this point, but I was concerned about Dave’s ankle and if he would be able to keep plugging away, although knowing Dave, it would take a lot to stop him.

The next section to Harpers Ridge was flat for the first 3 miles then a steady climb to the aid station. Along the way I passed Kimberly Durst-Wheeler who apparently was suffering from a little stomach distress, so was struggling a bit. The rain had started at this point and it felt good, as it was rather humid. The temperature was good, but just a little humid, so I was sweating which was nothing unusual. This next section went by without anything that I remember standing out. I went into Harpers Ridge and left quickly, just picking up a mountain dew, fig newton and a piece of watermelon. I saw Dick Canterbury (another slammer, at 65 the oldest) ahead of me and I gradually caught up to him. Actually after we crossed the road he started down the road opposite instead of turning on the trail, so I was able to yell at him to come back and prevent him from going out of his way. We then chatted for a bit, talking about the slam and the great group of people in it who we’d met. I then left Dick behind as I pursued Dave down the trail somewhere, he had disappeared from view a while ago, so I assumed he was doing well. I was quite happy to maintain my own pace at this time too though.
It was only 3.2 miles to Shadow Lake and my crew and mostly downhill. The rain was steady now, not a downpour, but just a nice light rain, which I think is ideal. I wouldn’t necessarily be thinking that later. I came into Shadow Lake at just under 5 hours for the 26.2 miles and still way a head of a 24 hour pace, so there was lots of time to take it easy. I changed socks here and had my feet relubed with diaper cream. Refueled and off I went.
Dave was at Shadow Lake when I came in getting his ankle looked at and we left together more or less. Dave was running with a group of friends that he knows at this point so I left him behind and went on towards Egbert Shelter 4.4 miles away. There was some nice running here and lots of passing and being passed regularly by others. I tried to keep telling myself that I should slow it down a bit, I’m way ahead of schedule so slow down and recoup some energy that I might need later. I think in the back of my head I was thinking of finishing in under 22 hours. I would check behind to see Dave’s progress every now and again. Sometimes he was nowhere to be seen other times right behind me.
I left Egbert Shelter in the rain and decided to walk and let Dave catch up to me. A well needed rest was warranted anyway. I walked for a kilometer or two and Dave never did catch up, so I continued on, although somewhat concerned. I don’t remember the next aid station (Alexander Rd) I was starting to go on auto pilot and was going through a bit of a rough patch. The next stretch on the towpath was a par tof the race I was dreading. Two years ago I struggled on the tow path in the heat and the sun, but this year it was raining! I put it down to just a mental struggle, but I also talked myself into the feeling that this was good to walk here. After Station Rd. the course changed from what I remember, one many changes. With all the changes and my fading memory most of the course seemed new. I came into Oak Grove looking forward to seeing my crew, it was raining a little harder now and this aid station had a shelter and sat down for a good rest to regroup and get ready for the next stage. This was also the finish area for the Green Jewel 50k in March which I had completed the last 3 years.
Dave came in not long after me, but was hobbling. He sat down and was not looking good. We had a volunteer who was a nurse come over and look at it and her suggestion was that he shouldn’t run on it, although he had already run 39 miles on it so far. Dave told me to go on and not wait for him. Initially I refused, but then decided to head out. Apparently Dave decided to drop at this point, but changed his mind and headed out to see how it would go to the next age station.
I ran most of this section between Oak Grove and Ottawa Point, passing quite a few people in the process. It was almost 5 miles and I was glad to finally hit the aid station, again I had a sit down, some soup and a bite to eat and then I went to use the rest room while there was a decent one around. That made me feel better!!! Back into the trails I went 4 miles to the next aid station and half way, but this would be the toughest 4 miles of the race (at least to this point). We went down into the ravine and immediately noticed the mud going down the hills, it was tricky, but got a lot worse. Shoe sucking, energy sapping mud and it never relented. I got to Snowville and collapsed in a chair, not knowing what I wanted. I looked at the guy in the chair beside me and we just shook our heads. I asked about the next section “is it as bad as what we just did?” they said it was trails and there were hills… not promising! I had gone through half way in 10 hours and 30 minutes, still well ahead of schedule, but I felt like I had expended everything at this time. I got up and headed out knowing that Roger would be ready to pace me at the next aid station, Boston Store. As it turned out the trails did improve somewhat. There was still mud in place, but it was better. Somehow I got a burst of energy in this section and passed a number of runners, including Melanie Peters who we had seen at Kettle, Mohican and WS100. In e ach race she was struggling with achilles issues and was again.
At the bottom of the hill before coming into Boston Store I passed Anastasia and we discussed the mud and how much fun we had!
I saw Roger waiting for me and rushed into the aid station. This was supposed to be a no crew access aid station, but something seemed to have gone a miss there as there were lots of crews waiting for their runners. I had Joan go get me some S Caps which I had run out of, so this gave me a few minutes to rest. It would be 10 miles to the next time that we would see Joan. This is also where I learned that Dave had dropped at Ottawa Point and gone to ER from there. Turns out he was diagnosed with having a double fracture in his right ankle.
The walk out of Boston Store was similar to two years ago, but soon varied as we stayed on the right side of the hwy up a hill and down another road to the trail. I remember the trail to Pine Lane and this is not what I remember, it went on a lot longer than I thought, we passed a few runners and then headed out of the aid station after some more soup.
On the way back from Pine Lane, no on asphalt I ran well we would run the flats and down hills, but anything that even resembled a hill was an excuse to walk. This was quite a few kilometres of road and then paved bike path that I ran well. Another change in the course saw us run in to Ledges Shelter instead of Happy Days and I came in there at 14 hours and 39 minutes for 66 miles (two thirds done), still on a 22 hour pace. The bottom of my feet were now starting to getting tender, especially the part between the balls of my feet. Joan lubed up my feet again and I changed socks, changed into a long sleeve shirt too as the sun would go down soon enough. We left this station with Michael Schaffer and his pacer Kirsten Dickerson and had a quick chat with them, we left them behind as Michael decided he needed another shirt.
A told Roger from memory this was a very runnable section and run we did, at least for a few miles. The closer we got to Pine Hollow the slower I got. I was struggling again and I blamed it on being drained from trying to get through the mud earlier. At this point I was thinking that a sub 24 hour time was out of the question never mind sub 22. By the time we came into Pine Hollow it was dark. We stayed for a bit, I used the nice washrooms there and then headed out again, with headlamps. We “only” had 30 miles to go and I could see this becoming a struggle. It was another 9 miles to Covered Bridge and somewhere in between I mentioned to Roger that we only had a marathon to go and if I could do a 6 hour marathon I would still be close to 24 hours. Seems doable right? Maybe, but the section after Covered Bridge was to be almost as bad as the 4 miles before Snowville.

About 2 miles before Covered Bridge we had to cross a creek, but there were no trail markers which made us second guess where we were. I remembered coming this way the last time, but it may have changed. A number of other runners also caught up to us here and were also thrown off. Eventually someone found a marker another couple of hundred metres down the trail, so off we went. There was a lot of walking for the rest of the way to the aid station. This was a hive of activity last time, but without crew access it was a little bit subdued this year. I did get to see Dawn Herrick here and she was very supportive, with hugs and offering everything I could think of, I grabbed some ginger and a few other items and then headed out again armed with a hug from Dawn for Joan.
Again, the next section from Covered Bridge had some changes, but the main part was the climbing on the Perkins trail which hadn’t changed and throw in the mud and it made this section very tricky. I was not feeling my best here and we really had no choice but to walk anyway as it was straight up for what seemed like “miles”. I mentioned to Roger that we had been doing nothing but going up and was thinking the eventual downhill maybe dangerous as it would a steep down. Amazingly we were still passing runners along the trail. Where ever there was a flat or downhill section we would run where we could. Eventually came out on to the road at Oakhill aid station (water only), it felt good to be on pavement believe it or not, but this feeling soon disappeared. I had no motivation at this point and walking was all I could muster. Mentally I felt like crap, physically… I think it was just the hot spot/blisters on the bottom of my feet that were bothering me. We were looking for the turn on a paved trail towards Home Meadow when a runner we had passed earlier passed us. He had been struggling in the mud, but was doing much better now that he was on the pavement and he disappeared in the distance very quickly. It took well over 2 hours to get from Covered Bridge to Home Meadow, which is probably better than some to over the 7 miles. I was a little messed up with where we were at this point and didn’t realize Joan would be waiting for us here and she would take over pacing here too. So again a change of socks, relubed and a change of shirt made me feel somewhat better. Some soup and off we went. We walked to the road and then ran some, walked, and then ran some more. We went into the woods again, but although I remembered it from 2 years ago, there were very few markings here, but followed my instincts. A lot of climbing followed before we headed into O’Neil Woods, which used to be an aid station, but not anymore. Eventually we came out to a road again and followed it to the tow path. I hate the tow path, it is long and boring and hard on the feet. I thought there was an aid station right after getting on to the tow path, but it was just a water only stop. We went right through. I tried running a few times, but it just wasn’t happening at this point. We did run partly past the Compost plant, which was in peak stink mode!
I’d like to say the tow path went by quickly, but it didn’t. Roger saw us a Merriman and Memorial Aid Stations and then there was the final 6 miles to the finish. I’d had a few people pass me on the path, and was surprised to see Mark Chaloupka and his pacer leaving Memorial as we came in. As we left to cross the river we passed Bryce another Slammer. He was having a similar experience to me, feeling like crap. Bryce is one of the better runners in the slam, so it was surprising to see him back here. We continued on through the town of Cayuhoga Falls and into another park for some easy trails before heading up multiple stairs and stairs and more stairs. Then it was a walk along a gravel path to the final road. It was only about anther mile to the finish from here and I could see Mark also walking about 100 metres ahead of us. Unless I got a burst of energy it would stay that way and that’s the way it stayed.
We ran the last 100 metres or so and finished in 25:51:32! The fastest of the 3 slam event so far, but it came with a bitter taste. I was happy to finish, but felt I could have done far better than I did. We told Roger I would be there between 7 and 7:30 am, but I can in a little earlier (6:51) so he missed us and therefore there was no video or photos of me finishing this time. The official race photographer was away from the finish line at the time too.
I congratulated Mark and Bryce, after he finished shortly behind me and then we hobbled to the car to head back to Dave’s.
I never felt so bad after a race and on the way to Dave’s I had to get Joan to pullover as I thought I was going to be sick. Joan gave me a cold bottle of water to put on my neck which helped. Back at Dave’s I showered up and we had a cup of tea and thought it best to start the journey home. I slept most of the way and then slept for 13 hours once we got home,
The blisters are healing well now and I even went out and did a “recovery” run last night. 7 hills with Joan, not your conventional recovery run, but I felt great. Time to get back into training for Hallucination in 5 weeks. The last step in the Midwest Grandslam.

It was also great to see that all the remaining 14 Slammers finished BR100.

Much thanks to my incredible team Joan and Roger for pacing and keeping me focused and going forward. Joan again does a great job with the crewing and keeps me on track nutritionally.

Burning River is still a great event. There seems to be less to it than two years ago, but the organizers, Joe, Jim and Vince do a great job. I would love to come back and do it during a dry, cool year (yeah, like that will ever happen).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crewing and Pacing at Western States

When we were asked to crew and pace at Western States 100 for Gary Bennington we were very excited, but we had no idea what we were in for. Lots of highs, a few low points, but generally an amazing week of taking it all in!

We had met Gary and Kate at Vermont 100 last year and although I didn’t finish the race we tried to help them out as much as possible while trying to crew for Catherine too. We developed a friendship with our Quebec friends and when Gary was the only one to get picked in the lottery for WS100 they asked Joan and myself to accompany them to Crew and Pace. We didn’t think twice about it, the chance to experience the biggest event on the Ultra calendar could not be missed.

We made arrangements to arrive in Sacramento with in an hour of each other and then would drive to Squaw Valley from there. Unfortunately things didn’t quite work out that well. Our flight out of Buffalo was delayed by about 90 minutes due to the weather in Chicago (huge thunderstorms rolling through), but apparently Gary and Kate had it a lot worse as they were delayed hours. We got to Chicago with some time to spare, but assumed our connecting flight would be delayed too as everything in Chicago was delayed! Nooo, not our flight it was still on time, probably the only one. We still made it on time and off to California we went. Gary and Kate weren’t so lucky. They had a lot of problems dealing with the United ground staff trying to get answers and didn’t leave until hours later, and even with the delays would still miss their connection. We arrived almost on time in rainy California (!!!) and when we got there found that Gary and Kate’s flights had become a disaster. They would eventually switch to Delta and go through Minneapolis, but not get to Sacramento until after 7 pm. We had 5 plus hours to wait! We spent a lot of time “relaxing”, ate two meals and watched youtube video’s.

Gary and Kate finally arrived and we picked up nice rental car, fully loaded Ford Taurus, and then drove off to Squaw Valley in the dark, arriving at the Olympic Village Inn fairly late.

We woke up in the morning to some incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks. The temperature was quite cool but nice a sunny. We decided to head over to North Lake Tahoe to pick up supplies since it was only about 15 minutes away. A beautiful little town and some great eating at the Damn Café! Back at Squaw we had a walk around and ran into Simon Mtuy in one of the cafes had our pictures taken and chatted briefly (elite athlete # 1 met). We went to the newbies meeting to learn about the race in the afternoon and then it was back to the room for dinner and relaxing.

Thursday morning was a chance to go to the top of Emigrant pass for the flag raising ceremony. I volunteered to accompany Gary on the cable car, while the girls decided to walk the 4 miles up the mountain! The girls got an early start while we waited to take the car. We met up with Will Jorgensen from Tennessee there, who I had met at O24 and had won that event. The cable car only took you up to about 1 mile from the top and we arrived just in time to greet the girls and then climbed to the top for some spectacular views and meeting a number other folks up there. On the way back we met up with Ellie Greenwood and had a good chat with her too. Too bad she wouldn’t be running this year due to injury. Later we went to the legends panel discussion which was a great information session and then met with Anne Trason, Gordie Ainsleigh and Andy Jones-Wilkins.
Friday was a flurry of activity and meeting famous people. There was the race check in for Gary, pacer sign in a browse through the limited “expo” and buying lottery tickets for next year’s race. We met up with and had great talks with Catra Corbett, Tim Tweitmeyer and Karl Meltzer amongst others. Later in the day we went to the pre race briefing and got to see all the favourites to win the race.
Race morning came quickly, we were up at 3:30ish for the 5 am start. I slept ok and apparently Gary slept well. It was a short walk down to the race for us and it was a cooler than expected morning, but I’m sure was nice for the runners who were expecting extremely hot temperatures well above 100F. At 5 am the rac got off without a hitch and off the runners went for the 4 mile climb up the mountain. We wouldn’t see Gary for about 5 plus hours at Robinsons Flat aid station at 24 miles in. So we went back to bed for a nap for a while.
We didn’t sleep or rest long as we had a long drive to get to the first aid station. We basically had to drive to Auburn from Squaw Valley before heading back towards Robinsons Flat. It was about 2 and half hours driving with a stop at McDonalds for some egg mcmuffins. The drive to Robinsons Flat was spectacular after we drove past Foresthill, and the road got narrower as we went. It was a bit of trek from the car to the aid station and the temperature was climbing quickly. We were there plenty early and Gary came in later than expected, so it was a long time at this spot. Gary was feeling really good and was obviously taking his time, everything seemed fine at this point. It was another 20 odd miles to the next place we could see him so it was going to be a long day for him. And it was only going to get hotter. We drove back to Auburn from here and the proof was in pudding as we watched the temp gage on the car climb from 87 f to 103 f in Auburn, most of the temp change happening in about 15 minutes. We did some shopping and were able to track Gary on line. When we were done we headed to Foresthill aid station and watched some of the faster runners go through while we waited things out. At about 5:30 pm we headed to Michigan Bluff aid station. This involved some more tight roads and then a walk down (or bus ride) a steep hill to the small town. It was a happening place with lots of activity as runners came and went. As we hung around we realized that Gary may not come in before 8pm and thus I would be able to pace him from here, so I got ready to run. We saw lots of runners we knew or had got to now over the previous days. I also bumped into Alex Nemet who is also doing the Mid-west Grand Slam, although he is doing the Super Slam (5 races). He was pacing a runner too.
Gary came in at just after 8pm, a fair bit later than we were expecting him and in hind sight he didn’t seem himself, it was a tough race out there and he was suffering a bit, but the sun had gone down and hopefully it would start to cool off and that may help. Once he was ready we were off… but only walking, he needed a break and this was it. It was also up hill for the next few miles too. I noticed Gary wasn’t very talkative at all and his walking was slow, but kept trying to urge him on, eventually he told me that he needed quiet and didn’t want have to listen, so I kept quiet as much as possible, but….
I though the first section was only a couple of miles, but as it turned out it was at least 5 miles as it seemed to go on forever (a sign of things to come). We did do some running here as there were some good down hills that you really didn’t have an option on. Gary did well on these. It was soon getting dark and headlamps were pulled out and switched on. We came into the next aid station and found out it was only 2.3 miles to Foresthill and the girls. This should have inspired Gary, but he wouldn’t run at all even when we got to the road into Foresthill. We got there and the aid station people and medical folks took Gary for the usual checks and tried some trick questions to check his mental state. “Is your name Eric with a c or a k?”, “The name is Gary with a G” he responded.
Once we got going again we should have been running really well for a while as this next section is some of the most runnable terrain on the course, but Gary wasn’t interested. We had passed Catra at the aid station, but she had quickly caught up and passed us again on the trail. There was a lot of gradual downhill here and we walked it all across a few creeks etc. then we hit some up hills, but they were intermixed with many miles of runnable flats and downhills. We walked on, every now and then I could get Gary to run making sure to encourage for every bit he did run. When you’re walking the aid stations seem to be many miles apart and I was trying to figure out how far apart based on our pace which I estimated at 15 minute miles, but apparently it was at least 20 minute miles.
As the miles went by Gary running became less frequent and no matter how much I encouraged him he wouldn’t run, his mood also started going south too. He started talking about dropping. The walk to Rucky Chucky, again on very runnable terrain was painfully slow and Gary had stop to pee almost every ten minutes. He was beginning to walk unsteadily too and even his talking was sometimes labored. About 2 miles from The river he ran out of water. At this point he was determined to drop no matter what I said.
We came into the near side aid station and told the medical people that Gary wanted to drop. They weighed him and checked him out, but only by talking to him and looking at him. His weight was up as it had been throughout and the medical person (doctor?) said that Gary seemed perfectly alright, but it was up to him whether he wanted to go on or not. Shortly after a race official came over and said all the things that I had said to Gary to try and get him to continue, but he must have said with a certain appeal as Gary decided it was time to continue. I had figured the river crossing alone would help bring him around and it did! Boy was it cold and it was almost up to your chest at the deepest point. The volunteers that were standing in the water helping you across should be given a buckle themselves, standing in the water four hours and giving great directions on where to put your feet as you went across.
A quick run through the aid station on the other side and then a 2.3 mile uphill climb to Green Gate. Gary seemed rejuvenated at this point, walking much better, but still very quiet. I even got him to run a bit and after the next aid station he was running a bit more, but from here on in it got tough for him. Less running as we went on. Green Gate was over 80 miles so we “only’ had 20 miles to go. The next 5 miles to Auburn Trails was tough, the sun was coming up and I thought that that might help, but it only seemed to go further downhill. We walked into Auburn trails at 85.3 miles just after two toots of the horn indicating there was only 30 minutes to the cutoff, Gary got weighed with the usual results and kept on going through the station picking up a cup of soup. I was looking forward to something different to eat and I was rather hungry. So I was very happy when they said they had pancakes, yippee. They also had real maple syrup!!! I ate up a plate load and on I went to catch up to Gary. We had 4. 3 miles to get to the next aid station. At the rate we were going we would be lucky to meet the cut offs and it would take us about 90 minutes at least.
I started counting down the kilometres at this point and Gary told me there was no way that he would be able to go beyond the next aid station even if we beat the cutoff. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would get pulled anyway. I was walking much faster than Gary so I would walk for half a kilometer and then wait for Gary and announce how far we had left, then walk on again. This was easily runnable terrain, but it seemed like the longest part too. There was some good points to this part though, we saw a doe and a fawn on the trail in front of us and she just stood there and watched us. Eventually I could hear the aid station at Brown’s Bar so I knew we were getting close, but soon the music stopped and I got concerned that they were shutting the aid station down and we would miss them. In hindsight that would never happen a as they know from the last aid station who is still on the course. But I was concerned for Gary and ran on to get to the aid station. I got there and they were packing up, but would leave until all runners were accounted for, I assumed we were the last on the trail. AS it turned out we were still ahead of the cutoffs, I told them that my runner was going to drop here, but they said that he couldn’t. They were not allowed to let anyone drop at this aid station and that we would have to go on. I said there was no way Gary was able to go on. Once he got there they had to steady him as he was very unsteady in his feet. They sat him in a chair which he soon got out of to lay on the ground. That’s when the fun began! Gary started throwing up and then got the shakes, he was either to hot or too cold. He was going into shock. One of the aid station volunteers, obviously well trained in first aid at the minimum took charge and never left Gary’s side, keeping comfortable. This aid station was in a ravine, very remote and only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles. Eventually another runner and her pacer came in (they were the last) and dropped too.
We soon loaded Gary into one of the trucks and five of us took the long slow arduous drive up to the road. I could see why they didn’t want anyone dropping here. We had to stop regularly to deal with Gary’s muscles seizing up.
Eventually we got back to the finish line area and went to get Kate and found her and Joan quickly. At this point they had called 911 to get Gary to the hospital asap. Before the Ambulance arrived Gary had a seizure to add to the fun and also banged his head when they were removing him from the truck.
Joan and I located the car and followed to the hospital where Gary was already hooked up to an IV and seemed to be out of it completely. I thought maybe they had sedated him, but apparently not. He was restrained too as he was fighting to get out of the bed and remove the tubes in him. It wasn’t looking good at this point, but the doctor didn’t seem to concerned. He told us that it looked like he may have Rhabdomylosis which is when the Kidneys cannot flush all the waste product from them that they have been to clean out of the system. The waste product is the result of the muscle breakdown that occurs during events like this. This can be caused by dehydration. Eventually we heard that the medical team for Western States were thinking it was form of Hyponaetremia. Gary’s recovery was slow and steady at first then remarkably fast. We kept in touch with Kate when we left via texting and she kept us up to date with every detail. Gary was treated like royalty by the Western States team, they arranged for visitors form the Ultra elite crowd who came by and brought him food and chatted for hours. They have also kept in touch me to know what happened while on the course too.
Although a scary ending to an amazing event, we have all said we’d do it again in a heartbeat. There is nothing quite like Western States.
Gary is home now and resting in Montreal, he’s been given a clean bill of health, but told to not run for about 2 weeks. We are all glad it all ended positively.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mohican 100 Mile

Two down, two to go!

Yes, Mohican 100 is in the books and although it wasn’t my fastest 100 yet, it definitely had to be one of the most satisfying races I have done. Why? Let me tell you:

We left Barrie on Friday morning and headed over to Scott Garrett’s to pick him up. Joan hadn’t initially planned on coming as she was supposed to be working on the Barrie Half this weekend, but that didn’t work out and I’ll leave it at that. So to my delight she would come along and crew for me, with Scott and Dave Morl doing the pacing duties. A great mix for a crew; Joan is great with her organizational skills and an expert on the nutritional side with the Isagenix, my main fuel. Scott has run 17 100 milers and ran Mohican last year so would have some great insight and experience to pass on. Dave, who hasn’t run a 100 miler yet, but ran 100 miles at O24, is a strong solid runner and this would help him as much me with some night running on a not so easy course.
With pacers allowed after the second of four loops, we would look at Scott pacing loop 3 and Dave loop 4. That way Scott could get some sleep before driving home Sunday morning.

So we set off for a first stop in Novelty, Ohio to stop in on Dave and have lunch there. Dave would come down and meet us on Saturday later in the day.
We arrived at Dave’s without incident and enjoyed some pizza and salad and then off again to head to our hotel in Wooster. We got there about 5:30 pm and relaxed for a bit before heading out to the race kit pick up and pasta dinner at the race start area in Loudonville.

We did have a few issues with finding the race headquarters, but we can blame that on the GPS unit. We arrived with about 30 minutes to spare for the pasta dinner. Picked up race kit and awaited the race meeting. The usual topics were discussed about markings, dos and don’ts etc. The Midwest Grand Slammers in attendance were introduced and lined up in the front. It was nice to be given some credit for what we were trying to accomplish.

After the pre-race meeting the Slammers got together for a couple of photos and had the opportunity to meet each other.

Back to the hotel to attempt to get to bed early, which didn’t happen! By the time I had all my race stuff laid out and ready, showered and in bed it was already after 10. 3:30 am was going to come quickly.

I didn’t sleep too badly and woke up with a start with my alarm going, thinking that it may have been going for a long time, it hadn’t. I gave us about 30 minutes to get ready, and to be out in the car, it was about 25 minute drive to the race start. We were off in time and only took the essentials as Scott and Joan could come back later to pack and nap if necessary. Unfortunately about half way there I realized I had forgot my gaiters and calf sleeves. Scott dropped us off and drove back to get them hoping that he would be able to meet me at the first aid station.

The start of the race was right on time and off we went. We headed out to the campground down the road and through the campground roads for about a mile before finally hitting the single track trails. Then it was switch backs and climbing for quite a while. Not much we could do here but follow those in front. Nothing wrong with this, being slowed down would help later on. Most of the first 4.3 miles to Gorge Overlook aid station was single track followed by a stretch of forest road (double track) and single track to the aid station. I came into the aid station in 47 minutes and my crew wasn’t there yet, but I really didn’t need anything so I continued on. The temperature was cool, but still a bit muggy, especially in the woods. The next section was 4.5 miles to Fire Tower and was a little easier, some very nice scenic forest trails almost entirely single track. When I got to Fire Tower Joan and Scott were there so I slipped on my sleeves and gaiters and headed back out. It was early, but I was feeling good.
From Fire Tower we would take the long loop for the first two laps and it was rather, rugged, muddy, wet and beautiful. Waterfalls, gorges and climbing up tree routes to get out. We climbed out at the dam and then down the front of it to a flat section of dirt road, some of which was under water. About a mile later we came to Covered Bridge aid station at 15 miles.
To me the next section was the hardest part of the course, up and out of Covered Bridge we would climb, it was probably the hilliest part of the course, but it was also very pretty too. It seemed to take forever to get Hickory Ridge aid station, the 6 miles seemed like 10, but once out of there it was a lot of downhill. Another 6 miles section this was very runnable and I had to make sure I wasn’t running too fast, I got in with a group of runners in front of me to lead the way, but unfortunately some of them just wouldn’t shut up, nothing but talk, talk, talk. Not bad now and then, but not throughout. I had passed them a few times earlier and thought how I didn’t want to get stuck near them, but here I was. There were four guys who were particularly irritating, but one I could tell was suffering a bit already and sure enough he dropped off, before the campground and shortly thereafter another also fell back. Then there were two. Just before the end of lap one another one of them ran into the campground never to be seen again. I finished the loop with the last one, he told this was his 7th Mohican and his 40th 100 miler!!!

I finished the first lap in under 6 hours, which was not bad. Not too fast or slow. Joan and Scott looked after my feet and I just had a moment to sit and relax have an Isagenix shake, some watermelon and off I would go again. I left and followed the same route that we followed at the start, but though it odd that there were no runners in front of me and only one behind that I could see, but I got to the switch backs again and up I climbed. The crowds had thinned out a lot and it was much easier running without someone breathing down your neck. The odd individual could be seen here and there. I’d pass one or they’d pass me. This loop was quite a bit warmer; it was already the middle of the day. Once I got to closer to the waterfall area I hooked up with three other runners, Tim from Tiffin, Ohio, Peter from Chicago and Meredith from Annapolis. Meredith made mention that she had noticed a few runners take the road after the last loop, when the trail was available… yeah that would have been me. So now I knew there was an alternate route through the bush which was less exposed to the sun.
The humidity in the waterfall and gorge area was very high and I was dripping with sweat. At the waterfall I was able to put my head under for some relief, which felt great.
I would use any water to douse my hat and wash cloth that I always bring along with me
for hot runs. The run between Covered Bridge and Hickory Ridge was again very demanding. A couple of miles from Hickory Ridge I hooked up with Dennis Peyton from Louisville, Kentucky. Dennis had been going through some issues and was struggling a bit. I got talking with him and soon he asked to tag along as that might help him. From here we chatted throughout the next few miles and I gave him pointers about how to overcome the negative thoughts, how preserve his energy etc. and this also helped me as we pushed on to the start/ finish area. The time seemed to fly by with someone to talk to. We came into 53 miles with smiles and our faces and finished the second loop in a little over 7 hours, it was also trying to rain, but not much. I wished Dennis good luck as we now had ur pacers ready to go. A quick change of socks, feet lubed up and some more nourishment and off I went with Scott Garrett pacing. Scott is full of great stories and with his experience in doing 100 milers is a great help, especially pacing (12 100 milers in 2012!!!). We started off slowly and spent a lot of time walking. It was still light at this time, we left Mohican at just after 6 pm. This was also the first shorter loop of 23.6 miles, missing out the waterfall section between covered bridge and Hickory ridge. At covered bridge I was suffering a little, just fatigued, but needing a good break. It was getting dark and we put our lamps on. The last section was very humid coming through a low densely forested river bank area. I was not looking forward to the next section from Covered Bridge, but off we went. We walked a lot of this, lots of single track and climbing. Eventually we got to a road crossing into some tall pines and double track and then back into the trails again, and we immediately came across a group of runners around a girl who was having feet issues. She was sitting down and the others were trying to help out, it seemed carrying her out may be the only option. Scott told me to go ahead and he would catch up. So off I went and soon started running, being by myself again seemed to invigorate me and I ran well. A few walks breaks thrown in and then running, until I went over on my right ankle and crashed into a tree! This was just after passing another runner who was rather startled. I quickly picked myself up and was none the worse for wear, so off I went again. Now running a little more tentatively as I thought to myself that I was getting just a little cocky. So I decided to walk until Scott caught up. Scott had some interesting conversations with the girl with the feet problems, but managed to get her going again. Whether she finished or not we will never know. She was “only” doing the 50 miler. We walked up into Hickory Ridge and took a quick break. Here I noticed Brent Colwell sitting with a blanket on, so I asked him how he was doing and that hopefully he wasn’t dropping. He wasn’t, he just needed some time to settle his stomach down and recharge. Off we went to finish off the last 6 miles of this loop. Another 6 and half to 7 hour loop and it was time to switch pacers as Dave had managed to find Joan and was ready to go. I changed into a long sleeve shirt as the temperature had dropped refueled and was ready to go. I told Dave to expect a lot of walking.

Dave is a lot different pacer to Scott, both were great just different in there ways. Scott kept you r mind going with funny stories etc., Dave much quieter, but still had a way to keep your mind off the negative side of things. Scott would take advantage of the next few hours and get some sleep, so he could drive home on Sunday.

Once we got up the switchbacks I started running and surprised myself on well I could still run. Similar to Kettle Moraine I had no stiffness or soreness in my legs, I was just tired. We came into the first aid station and missed Joan there. She was there in the car, but I didn’t see the car. So we just quickly got going again. As we went on my running got better, I didn’t think this would last so I thought I’d take advantage of it while I could. I was apologetic to Dave, because I didn’t think I would be able to run as much as maybe he would want to. But as he said it was all about me here. The next aid station we again seemed to miss Joan, but she caught us as we were leaving. She was tired and a tad grumpy, but that was understandable. I had enough to get me through this now, I just had to get to the end. I promised Dave that the next section was mostly downhill to the ravine and the river, but although the first part was, it kept going back up hill all the time. Dave though this was amusing. I’d only been through this section once on the last loop, so I was a little off with my memory. This section to Covered bridge took a lot longer than I thought it would. Again I was dreading the section out of Covered Bridge. It seemed that my head lamp was losing its battery life and my hand held wasn’t any better, So I decided to change them up. I tried Scotts larger head lamp, but didn’t think it was any good so eventually switched to the cheap little one that he gave me ”just in case”, it worked great and I found that I didn’t need the hand held any more either.
I told Dave to expect a lot of walking in this section, but to my surprise I started to run once we go to the top of the first hill, and continued running. For some reason this section now seemed easier than the last 3 laps. Maybe it was the fact that we had a couple of runners behind us that spurred me on, I’m not sure. I ran this section very strong, walked the hills still but when running I was going well. We came into Hickory Ridge and didn’t stay long at all before heading on, knowing that we only had 6 miles to go. It was starting to rain at this point and rained a little heavier than it had all race. The rain continued until I was only a mile from the finish. It felt good to get cooled off by the rain and soon my shoes were soaked as the single track became flooded, but it was a case of just get it done now. As we got closer I was flying down the trails, Dave was having to remind me to back off a bit and be careful as I almost went over on my ankle a few times. I couldn’t believe that I could run so strongly without any soreness at this stage of a 100 mile race and only 2 weeks after the last race. I felt on top of the world. At some point I realized that sub 26 wasn’t going to happen so there was no hurry to finish, just to finish. I came in once the rain had stopped at 26:11:16. I was extremely happy with that. I had been looking at a 28 hour finish going into the race, so this was a bonus. Over all I felt that this was one of my best races ever based on that this was two weeks after KM100 and how I felt and finished.

Also finished 28th overall out of 98 finishers and about 200 starters. A great feeling of accomplishment with 2 races done and 2 more to come.

I can’t say enough about my crew and pacers: Joan, Scott and Dave. They kept this all together for me.

Bring on Burning River!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kettle Moraine 100

So Kettle Moraine is done! Over all a great race, where I felt good throughout most of the event, finishing better than I had planned or expected. The first step to the Midwest Grand Slam completed.

We left on Thursday morning from Barrie, car loaded up with less stuff than I thought we would have. Oliver and Joan would be my pacers and crew. We drove to Kalamazoo, Michigan and stayed there Thursday night leaving us a nice 4 hour drive on Friday. While in Kalamazoo we went out for dinner at a nice Indian restaurant that Joan had looked up on the internet and came well recommended and the recommendations were well warranted. We filled up (fuelled up) and then headed out to do a bit of shopping. Back to the hotel we relaxed and hit the sack with no anticipation of having to get up early. The Fairfield Marriott in Kalamazoo, while sufficient for a night’s sleep was disappointing as far as Marriotts go. It was old and in need of much repairs and upgrades. Breakfast was good though!!

We were up fairly early and took our time to get back on the road and headed off to Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The route took us through Indiana and up through Chicago (the only place where we encountered any traffic). We passed another Ontario plate on the way and it just turned out to be Vince Charbeneau from Burlington. Just past Chicago we stopped for lunch and looked for some shopping opportunities (running stuff). We passed a Road Runner Sports and decided to try it and were glad we did. The cheapest gels we’ve found and some good prices on other goods and the best customer service. One thing Americans know how to do better than most!! Also found out that Vince had been in just 20 minutes before us.

On the road again we arrived in Elkhorn earlier than expected and as we couldn’t pick up our race kits until 4 we settled into our room for a bit of a rest. The Hampton Inn was a much better hotel than the Fairfield in Kalamzzoo. Of course I was paying for this one, whereas the other one was a freebie on points.

We headed up to La Grange and the Nordic Trails site for the race pick kit up at 4pm. There was already a crowd there and I immediately bumped into Dave and Kim Bohn from Ottawa. I had run my first 50k with Dave in Haliburton and then met him again a few yearas ago while we were doing the 50 miler at Sulpher Springs. So we got our obligatory photo taken again to add to the two other times we had raced each other. Then we saw Sandy Stiner and her entourage. Joan had kept in touch with Sandy since O24 and was looking forward to seeing her again at KM100. She had a big troop of family with her for the race.

Kettle Moraine is a very low tech event and not much of an “expo” actually a race kit pick up was about it, in a tent at the start area. A nice touch was throwing in a book (Once a Runner) as part of your kit.

Back to the hotel we went and stopped at the Holi Cannoli restaurant on the way back, as it was recommended by Dave and Kim. It was very good. Once at the hotel we went for a dip in the hot tub and then back to the room and made sure we had everything laid out for the next day before hitting the sack.

4:30 came quickly and although I slept fairly well, I was up lots going pee throughout the night. So some oatmeal for breakfast and dressed we were out the door and on our way by 5:10, with only a 15 minute drive to La Grange we had lots of time. Just had to pick up my timing chip and do the usual potty runs.

The race was off and running at 6am and into the cross country ski trails we went to start.
The first 8 miles are on these ski trails which are a roller coaster of small, but sometimes steep hills. My right knee was giving me a bit of grief in this section as I was being very tentative with it. I had it taped and it felt ok, but just a little unstable. I saw Dave ahead of me as he gradually moved further ahead. I never saw Vince in the early going at all and assumed he was behind me. One aid station at 5 miles in a nice tall pines area was fully stocked , but I didn’t stop here. The first aid station to meet my crew was at 7.6 miles, Bluff Rd., here I grabbed a sandwich and some water melon. It was getting humid and I was sweating a lot, even though the temperature was not that hot. I started with taking my S Caps once an hour, but would increase that to every half hour once the humidity rose.

A quick stop in the aid station and back out I went this time into some nice single track to Horseriders aid station which was an unmanned one. I just ran straight through this one. I had been trying to keep the pace to a slow and steady pace and was running with a group of about 4 others and we were running the single track nicely. It was a beautiful area with a mix of terrain and vegetation, from tall pines to crowded brush, area’s with thousands of wild flowers everywhere. The next aid station was Emma Carlin at 15.8 miles and I came in there at just under 3 hours, feeling good and sweaty. I loaded up my pack and had a couple of sandwiches and changed my socks and lubed up my feet.
The next section is notoriously hard, with long stretches of open meadow with exposure to the sun, luckily this year it wasn’t near as hot, but it was still sunny. The other “problem” with the meadows was it could be wet and muddy in spots and it was. This section from Emma Carlin to the next manned aid station at Hwy ZZ was more than 10 miles and usually takes its toll on runners and I know I felt it when I finally came in and saw my crew. They reminded me that I was well ahead of where I needed to be so could back off if I needed. The next section to the turnaround at Suppernong started off nice enough, but I found I struggled through the second half of the 5 miles. The miles seemed to be getting longer! It was in this section that Vince passed me going on the way out already. I was somewhat surprised to see him so far ahead of me.
My crew was there and I sat and enjoyed an extended break taking in extra fluids, a shake and some water melon. I also saw Matt who I had run with off and on for most of the first 26 miles. He was doing the 100k, but dropped at ZZ, he was struggling and had some past injuries that were bothering him. It just wasn’t his day.
I then head back out. The run back from Scuppernong didn’t seem to be as bad, as Matt had said it was more downhill going back. There were still a lot of ups too. Eventually I started running with Bill another “local” runner and we chatted for a long way. We came into Hwy ZZ and I changed socks and lubed my feet again in prep for the wet and mud and sweat of the meadows. I was prepared to walk most of the 10 miles if I had to. I started off running with Bill again and we stayed together for a good portion of this section. At an unmanned station in this section I left Bill behind and didn’t see him till much later in the dark. When I came into Emma Carlin again at 47 miles I was suffering a bit from the long stretches in the meadows. Again a good rest here and a change of socks and I was ready to go again. Although this was one of the best sections of the course and most runnable and with my crews insistence I decided to walk the entire section to Horseriders. With the exception of a few downhill’s that is exactly what I did. I had a lot of runners pass me in this section, but stayed the course anyway. After Horseriders I had renewed energy and ran great. I passed everyone that passed me earlier and a number of others. Just before coming into Bluff at 55.6 miles a thunderstorm hit and it poured down. Initially this felt great breaking the humidity somewhat and refreshing my tired body. It was pouring down when I got to Bluff and I just sat down in the rain and had some noodle soup and a cup of Mountain Dew. At this time I found out to my surprise that Oliver was going to be able to pace me from this point on. I was wondering why he was dressed to run already and hadn’t expected him to join me until the turn around at 100k. Oliver and Joan had been alerted to the early pacing possibility by Sandie’s crew, so we took advantage of it. At this point I was in 90th place out of 233 starters. This was also a low point in the race for me, I was ready to walk for a long time. I warned Oliver of this and he was happy to walk or whatever it takes.
Once back on the trails to the Nordic Center we found ourselves walking with an older guy from Minnesota, Steve. He was full of stories and I found it surprising that this was only his 7th 100 miler and he’d only finished 2. Once we started to hit the hills we had no choice but to run the downhills and this seemed to pick me up a bit again. We arrived at the 100k start/finish are in 14:40 with 38 miles to go. Darkness had set in at this point and we had timed it just right. Getting our lighting systems together and having another extended rest I was out of the aid station before 9 pm. I was surprised at this point that I hadn't seen either Dave or Vince, so I started to worry that maybe they had dropped.
A good section of running and walking the hills ensued and I wasn’t feeling to badly at this point, but in the back of my mind I was already thinking about the final 8 miles on the ski trails again. I wasn’t looking forward to it as it was going to be a hard slog over these hills again.
We came into Bluff Rd again with anticipation of running some new trails shortly afterwards. The first 2.5 miles were a nice change of flat to downhill soft enclosed single track. We flew along this stretch feeling really good. Another unmanned aid station on a road crossing signaled the end of the 2.5 miles and the end of the flat part. We also though the next stage would be another 2.5 miles, but found out that we were wrong and it seemed to go on forever even though it was only just a little over 4 miles, and it wasn’t flat!!! All hilly. A tough section that I struggled on, but finally came into Hwy 12 aid station at just under 19 hours and in 83rd spot. We refuelled again and headed back out quickly for the last 4 miles of running with Oliver. More hills to climb, but we knew the turnaround was approaching. We found it strange that we going to Rice lake, but kept climbing to get there. We arrived finally at 20:23, had a shake, thanked Oliver for the great support and pacing duties and had Joan join me for the next 19 miles back to the finish. 81 miles done and still feeling no soreness at all, just general fatigue. Although I could tell I was having some difficulty with a toe nail or two. I left Rice lake at 2:30 am in 60 place.
Joan did an awesome pacing job and would prod me anytime we came to a downhill we ran well going back to Hwy 12 and didn’t stop long there before heading out again towards Bluff Rd. As we approached the unmanned aid station between Hwy 12 and Bluff we noticed that it was getting light and I was able to shut off the lights. We passed a couple of ladies on the trail and gave us the incentive to stay ahead of them so we tried to run as much as possible.
At Bluff road we were at 93 miles and the end was in site, the temperature had cooled off over night, but I still felt comfortable in a Tshirt, as long as I kept moving! The last dreaded section was left and Joan pushed me well on this, forcing me to drive hard with my arms on the up hills and run well on the down hills. The last 2 miles are flat to uphill and seemed to take forever. We had one 100 miler pass us in this section, but I didn’t care, I was walking most of this anyway. With about one hundred meters to go I could finally see the finish line so we ran (uphill). I had been thinking that it was looking like maybe a 27 hour finish and I would have been happy with anything between 27 and 28 hours. So it quite a shock when with about 30 meters to go I finally saw the clock and it said 25:52:… I was going to finish in less than 26 hours. Holy crap, way faster than I had planned, or expected. My final time was 25:53:15 and I finished 39th out of 233 starters and 113 finishers.

A great race overall. I still have a hard time comprehending how I never felt sore throughout the race, even since the recovery has been amazing. The only affects were an uncomfortable drive back to Michigan after the race. A sore right leg that I couldn’t get comfortable. And some toe nails that don’t look good. Blisters under both big toe nails.
Dave Bohn dropped at the 100k mark and therefore got credit for that. Vince Charbanneau finished in just over 25 hours so he did very well too.
Sandy dropped at 93 miles, so close yet.... Still she got the 100k buckle anyway, so good for her.

I can’t say how much I am thankful to both Joan and Oliver for being there, crewing and their awesome pacing abilities. I am sure Joan’s nutritional know how with the Isagenix products really made the difference, the ionix (adaptagens) drinks at aid stations and the recovery concoction afterwards worked wonders. The shakes throughout the race were about the only thing I could stomach at times.
It's Wednesday now and I’m still feeling good, even went for a run last night and will go on another tonight, but that might be it until Mohican in 9 days. Bring it on!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just over one week to go to Kettle Moraine 100, so I guess I should be getting organized! I have started preliminary plans, but I have a lot to do yet.
The taper is well under way with a couple of runs left to do, but I’m not fretting about that at all. I will run tonight (Thursday) and Sunday and I won’t be doing any great distance either. It’s all about rest now and regaining any lost strength, fueling and getting my brain on track mentally. I think I’m there, but you never now. I thought I was mentally ready last year at Vermont, but that didn’t work out quite as planned. This will be different though as I learned from Vermont and I’m not looking to do a specific time goal; it’s just about completing the race.

This weekend I will go down to Sulphur Springs and cheer Joan on while she does the 25k race there. She is running really well now and has a lot more confidence in her running which is great to see. There will be a number of Barrie runners taking part doing most of the distances. The weather is supposed to be quite cool, so I would imagine that there will be a lot of good times.

Sunday will be a day to start putting my gear together. What to bring? I will get everything organized in the garage and set to pack. Make a few lists to make sure I’m not forgetting anything and my crew (Joan and Oliver) will be meeting to make sure they are both on track.

I won’t much time next week to put things together as I will be up north for work on Monday and Tuesday and then we leave on Thursday morning.
The drive will be split up so that we stop in Kalamazoo on Thursday night. Then we only have a 3 – 4 hour drive on Friday morning. Kalamazoo has a local running store that will have a presentation by Max King on Thursday night on his ultra-exploits. Good timing on our part!

I was hoping for cool weather next weekend, but at the moment the long term forecast is for typically very warm weather.

My only worry is not being acclimatized to hot humid weather. It was very humid last night for my run, but the temperature was not too warm. That is my only exposure to it this year so far. I have to remember to just take it easy and not woryy about running fast. Its all about completing the race, not the time I do it in.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Outrun 24 Hour race

I'm going to keep this short as its been about a month since we did this race and as usual I've a been a little lax in keeping my blog up to date.
AS it turned out we went down to Dave & Sandra Morl's place to spend the night prior to the race on Friday night where they also hosted a pre race pasta dinner for whoever wanted to come out and enjoy. There were about a dozen or more there and we got to meet a few people we hadn't met before including Jeff and Will from Tennessee.
After a hot tub and a couple of bottles of water we hit the sack to "sleep". Unfortunately too much water had me up most of the night going to the bathroom.
The race started at a nice 9am, so it wasn't a ridiculously early time to get up to get ready for the race.
We had set up a couple of tents and a table the night before near the start finish area and so all we had to do was show up. Dave and Ben were using part of the table and us the other side and then we had two tents.
THe race started and off we went. The course is a 1 mile loop on trails looping around a fire pit at the end of the loop, it was not a flat loop, the first half was gradual climb to the "hill" then some rollers before down hill to the finish.
I ran with Dave for the most part. Dave hadn't run a hundred miles before and that was more or less his goal. Not bad for someone who was on crutches a few months ago from an operation on his achilles and foot. Joan was looking to double her longest mileage ever by getting in 100k, but was very hesitant about whether or not it would happen.
Dave and I would run together mostly, but every now and again we would be split up only to get back together later. It was a very nice day and actually got warm later in the afternoon.
We got to the 50 mile mark at about 10 and a half hours, we had done some walking loops and this helped with some recovery and it was after this that Dave started talking about stopping at 62 miles (100k). Joan was plugging away well still and had teamed up with BEn to push each other. I was starting to have trouble with my right knee again, but only during the walking stages. Running felt good, but I was stopping to walk with Dave, I should have just continued on with my own run. On the 62nd lap my knee started to give out while running, this to me was a sign. as the lap went on it was getting worse and I decided that was all I needed to do, 100k was a good run for the day so leave well enough alone to run the more important races coming up. Dave decided to go on until at least Joan and BEn finished. I had done the 100k in 13 hours and 19 minutes. not bad at all. I decided to get some sleep as we had to drive home in the morning. I didn't get any sleep for the hour or so I tried to lay down, but when I got up Dave was still going, actually he was flying and was approaching 80 miles. Meanwhile Joan and Ben were approaching 50 miles!
I got the video camera out and started taping bits and supporting them. It wasn't long before Joan and BEn completed there 100k. I was so proud of Joan (and Ben) for pulling it out. A great job for Joan especially to help her confidence after struggling with injures over the past two years.
Dave meanwhile was turning into a running fiend, racing through the miles. He completed the 100 miles in 21 hours and 32 minutes. An amazing feet anf thats where he called it quits.
the eventual winner was Will Jorgenson who we met the night before. He racked up 117 miles, a new course record.

Two weeks from the writing of this blog entry I should be done Kettle Moraine 100 the first step towards the Midwest Grand Slam. Training has been going well and one thing that O24 taught me was that putting in huge mileage is not necessary, as in O24 I felt great later in the run. Now it is time for two weeks of taper.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Two Weeks till 24 hours

Yep, it's only two weeks until I line up at the O24 24 hour race just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. This will be my 2nd go at a 24 hour race and this time Joan will join me, but not in support, but as a competitor herself. As Joan is herself training for a 50 miler in September she would love to get some mileage in this weekend too and what better way to do it than to run all or most of the night!
So the training has been difficult, mainly due to the weather, which hasn't been pleasant to say the least. Spring never seems to want to get here, every weekend run seems to be a cold wind run. Never the less, I have still put in some good mileage. One of the questions I have been asking myself of late is what is "enough mileage"? Is it necessary to put 100k+ weeks? I would feel better about myself if I got a number of weeks of 100k+, but at the same time there is the thought that although running a lot of mileage during the week will add up, sometimes you need the extra rest time to recover from the weekend long runs. So therefore I am not to worried about the numbers. I have read many different views on what mileage is best, and it is all over the place. What works for one may not work for the other.
So as for O24, the goal is to try and get to 100 miles, but it is not necessary. This is a training run for the 100 milers to come and to work on some of the important support stuff, like nutrition.
The course is a 1 mile loop, so easy to keep track of your progress. It is also a trail and not entirely flat, which is a good thing as far as I am concerned. Joan is hoping to get in 100k, which may be a tough number to get to, but when you have 24 hours to do it... The main thing is that there is no pressure.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beyond the Green Jewel

Now that Green Jewel is done and over with I can start concentrating on training for the Midwest Grand Slam. The Green Jewel went well, a good weekend with good friends even if it never stopped snowing all weekend.
Regardless of the snow I wore shorts anyway and was glad I did as the temperature wasn’t too cold. The Green Jewel is a gage of where my training is each year and although I still did well I felt that I struggled in the second half. A lot more walking than I would have liked, but from what I heard afterwards most runners were 10 to 20 minutes behind their normal times. So maybe I went out to fast or maybe it was the footing. I felt very comfortable through the first 20k, which I can probably attribute to the Isagenix E-shot that I took prior to the race. It made the first 20k feel really smooth. I was on course for a PB for the half, but knew that it would not continue in the second half, where it gets hillier.
I did run the big hill this year instead of walking it as I have in the past. I got to the marathon distance at 4 hours, so I don’t think that I was pushing it too hard.
Either way I finished in 4 hours 46 minutes, about 15 minutes slower than last year and 2 minutes quicker than 2011.
The rest of the crew all did well and were very happy to finish. 7 runners and 4 crew members left an lasting impression on some of the locals, glad to see a “large” international contingent taking part.

Now that I have a had a week to recover I feel it is time to step it up a gear and get the training started for the MWGS and more specifically the Kettle Moraine 100, first race on the agenda.
Last week’s recovery was not quite that, what with a nice trail run on Tuesday and then a tempo run on Wednesday I also ran fairly hard on Friday. No long run on Saturday and 29k on Sunday at a quicker than normal long run would be.

The plan is to work on the long runs as time on feet as opposed to distance and work on my endurance. I need to be feeling better longer in to a run than I have been.
Nutrition is another item of concern, but with Joan’s help with Isagenix I am working on rectifying this.
So the Crossfit experiment is over as I won’t have time for it and although I liked the whole idea of Crossfit and the way it works, it doesn’t work into my plans right now. It may again in the future when I have more spare time and I’m not training for a race(s).
For now it will be running trails on Tuesday, regular runs on Wednesday and Friday, which maybe the equivalent of speed work, long runs on Saturday and Sunday. Thursdays maybe trail runs too, but I might also try experimenting with other workouts on Mondays and Thursdays as cross training.
For my long runs I also have to work on pacing, running too fast with others doesn’t work and so it will be either by myself on Saturdays or with Joan for part of the run. Sunday’s, I will just have to play it by ear. This past Sunday’s run was quicker than I would have liked, but I still think there is a place for quicker long runs too, once in a while.
Next on the Agenda is the Harry Rosen 8k run in Toronto, yes I said 8k. It’s Joan’s benchmark race for the year every year and lets her know how she is doing. It should be interesting this year with next to no training for most of the last 6 months. I’m sure she will do well though as she is a tough competitor.

The schedule for the year is now:

March 2 – Green Jewel 50k – Done – 4:46

April 6th – Harry Rosen 8k

April 27th – O24 24 trail race

June 1st – Kettle Moraine 100

June 15th - Mohican 100

June 29th - Pacing at Western States 100

July 27th – Burning River 100

September 6th – Hallucination 100

With possibly more to come.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The New Year and what is to Come

It’s a new year and time to start planning this year’s racing schedule etc.. Two years ago I was listening to a few podcasts while doing all my long runs in preparation for Burning River and one in particular was the 100 Mile Ultrarunning podcast. I found the podcaster’s (is that a word?) commentary very relevant and found that I was looking forward to each and every one, but they were not aired that often. One topic that Dale (the podcaster) touched upon was about creating a new series similar to the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, but something that was logistically more manageable for the average Ultra runner. Especially those of us that live on the east side of the continent. Getting into the Grand Slam is difficult if not for just the challenge of getting selected in Western States lottery, which I missed out on again this year. Then there is the cost and time involved in getting to and racing 3 western based races.
So Dale came up with the idea of a Midwest Grand Slam, approached four race directors, who were all over it, and got it together for an inaugural series in 2012. As I was listening I thought that it would be a great series to do and contemplated it for 2012. My problem was that, at that point I had only completed one 100 miler and was a little unsure of whether it would be a good choice to attempt four in one year with my lack of experience. As it turned out it was a good choice as my experience at Vermont last year taught me a lot, and if I had attempted the Midwest Grand Slam instead I may have faltered at the first hurdle.
So with my failure at VT100 behind me and completing 100 miles at NC24 as well a great run at the Creemore 100 I think I was deemed ready for the challenge. So one of the first things I have done this year is to sign up for all four races and send in my registration for the Slam.
The races are:

Kettle Moraine 100 in Wisconsin on June 1st
Mohican 100 in Ohio on June 15th
Burning River in Ohio on July 27th
Hallucination 100 in Michigan on September 6th

I am now committed to do this and one factor that is motivating more than any is the fact that if I complete the Slam I would be the first Canadian to do so!

Part of the buildup to the first race will my annual trek to Cleveland to do the Green Jewel 50k in March and then April I will again go to Ohio to compete in the O24 24 hour race. So the training has been well under way, double long runs with Oliver and Rick on most weekends. Oliver is doing the Green Jewel as well and both will hopefully be crewing/pacing for me through some of the races, along with Joan of course.

Another part of the training that cropped up recently was that I have tried Crossfit the past two weeks. I have tried to get into a training regime that worked on strength and core work, without the required results. Mostly due to my inability to keep the work up. I have found that at Crossfit it is only about getting there. The instructor drives you through a tough 1 hour work out that varies daily. I am not fanatical about it like some, but I can see how this can really help me. I will do this to mid-February when I have to start to taper for Green Jewel and another month afterwards prior to O24. After that we will see, as there will be a lot more running to do then.

Another running trip popped up by chance when I didn’t get into WS100. One of the people we camped next to at VT100 last year did get in. Gary Bennington from Montreal was successful and congratulated him via Facebook, I also let him know how lucky he was!!!Not long after his girlfriend Kate got in touch with Joan to ask if I’d be interested in Pacing and both of crewing for Gary. Woohoo! We obviously said we would do all we could to make sure we could get there and help out. Other than having the opportunity to run it this is the next best thing and the experience will be invaluable for when I get in next year!!!!! Let’s hope.
WS100 will still be a logistical challenge. We will be there, but We go to Virginia Beach the first week of July so we will go to WS100 and then drive to VB from Buffalo Airport when coming home. Another possible issue is the Midwest Grand Slam. I will have done KM 100 on June 1st, Mohican two weeks late and then in another two weeks be pacing Gary. I don’t see this being a problem for pacing Gary at WS100, so hopefully everything goes well.

It’s going to be a busy year. Luckily I get another 5 vacation days this year too. And when Joan gets back into running condition there maybe a couple of other running trips for her races too. The first one is already planned with Joan’s benchmark race the Harry Rosen 8k in Toronto in April. Looking forward to many more and a busy year.