Thursday, October 20, 2016

Next Up, Chicago!

The week prior to Chicago was spent in recovery mode.  That meant, relieving a toenail of the pressure and watching the colour slowly dissipate.  Usually, I just leave them be, but, figured I needed to address it this time to get race ready.  It also reminded me that I need a pedicure; which use to be my most post race reward.  Cornel had a few toenails, but, I was like that Angela Johnson stand up routine...."Beautiful Nail....just one!".  It also meant replenishing lost calories and building some carbohydrate stores.  I felt like Slimer from Ghost Busters, eating everything in sight and still, it wasn't enough.  And finally, the DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).  And my favourite "adaptation response" which my body is still trying to recall.  Remember, its how the body is suppose to restore itself to balance in response to stress.  I'm pretty sure I never got out of the resistance stage.

Saturday, the day of the road trip we got a fairly early start and I had the good fortune of sleeping a good portion of the morning.  We arrived in Chicago by early afternoon and had about 4 hours to explore the race expo.  We required most of that time to cover all the vendors.  This is one of the benefits of U.S. races, the expo's are quite large in comparison to their Canadian counterparts.  There are now a few more races that have been added to my bucket list. You should have seen the race medal for Little Rock. It was literally the size of a dinner plate.

We got back to the hotel and decided that dinner was in order to ensure an early night.  We were staying at the Drake which put us in the prime shopping district and close to some nice restaurants.  Following dinner, we found our way to the closest drugstore so that Cornel could pick up some supplies for his toes. He was a little concerned that he would have ogre feet forever.  Between Slimer and the Ogre, we could have been additions to Shrek 4.  Nonetheless, we looked at the race map and devised a strategy for him to pull out should his feet give him too much aggravation. None of which he needed come race day. Following that, we jumped into bed fairly early to obtain some adequate sleep.  After all the races I've competed in, I still never get a good night's sleep the night prior.

The next morning came too soon as I was awake to every siren that tore through the city during the night.  Nothing that a good cup of coffee wouldn't fix.  We left the hotel, knowing that we had a 3 km walk to the race start and we were 20 minutes behind already. We were able to catch some of the first wave and then as we approached the park, we were able to witness some of our coral running past us. I forgot to mention our race strategy.  New Balance had partnered with Strava and was offering a pair of shoes to anyone that could produce a negative split.  Knowing that our legs were not at prime coming off the Toad, we figured this would be the most attainable goal and a worthy one. This vision would force us to slow down rather than following the pack and going out to fast.  We could allow ourselves to get nicely warmed up, even though the walk had already taken care of that.  By the time we checked in our bag and hit the chute, we had both missed our coral and we fell in where we could.  It took half an hour to advance up to the start line.  At least, we had another opportunity to visit the Porto-potty. Finally! We were off and the legs felt pretty good, all things considered, rested and limber.  Not the effort I thought it might be.

By the time we hit the half way point, we were ready to pick up our cadence and finish it.  That
feeling may have lasted 2-3 km`s and then it became a struggle.  It was difficult to break free of the group due to sheer number of runners.  It really didn't open up much along the course.  By, the end, we had ran an additional 3 km`s. That`s a lot of weaving.  We were staying positive and we were both feeling good. We lacked any real suffering coming off the Toad, other than lack of energy and that was surprising.  I thought there would be some residual.  Even though the mile markers appeared to never come, we were happy to count them down.  Our feet, to both our surprise were holding up, except for my left metatarsal (normal pain after 10 k), that Cornel massaged for me a few times.  The hardest part was getting back on my feet afterward.  The unlimited number of spectators along the course cheering you on, was exhilarating.  There wasn't a section of the course that wasn't covered.  There were even different organizations that came out to offer hydration and some nutrition.  They had bananas, oranges and even pretzels and gummy bears individually wrapped for you to grab and go.  Truly remarkable to see the support for us runners from the entire community.

The finish was within reach and we assumed the New Balance shoes were just a few km's away.  Both were attainable.  There had been some bad smells along he course, but, I came upon one that was particularly foul.  Right about that time, Cornel was saying move to the right, move to the right.  Then I understood why.  You start to move and things start to move within you.  Kudos to that woman for her perseverance as I don't think I could do it.  She just ignored it and kept on going.  We saw people with prosthetic legs.  I always get emotional when I see the hurdles that other people overcome.  We had a few extra walks as fatigue was setting in, but, our pace seemed to be where we needed to be. Coming up that little hill near the finish was one of those, ; we should have pushed ourselves....just like skeleton hill, but, the mental got the better of us.  What a terrible spot for cameras. That's just mean. There was a slight turn and then the finish line came into view.  You get this sudden jolt of energy and surge with whatever you have left in the tank. Ahhh, the finish.  The glorious finish.  First a bottle of water, then your medal, then nutrition, then beer, then Mylar blankets, ice, photo's.  They just think of everything.

It may not have produced any PR's for me (almost 40 minutes slower), but, it was a great race and one that I look forward to racing again.  Once we had wobbled over to pick up our belongings from the bag check and found a place on a bench (easier to get up again) to relax and finish our beer; it all seemed worthwhile.  You recall the things that went well and what you would try differently next time. Then, all of a sudden, you are discussing the race strategy for your next one.  However, I have been told that a certain someone has already surpassed his maximum running distance for the year, so the next race I may have to do alone.  Horror Hill is just around the corner and it would be a shame if I had to run it solo.

We had not finished our stumbling as we had yet to make it back to the hotel which was a vast 3 km away.  We had considered Uber, but, just kept walking, as unsteady as we were.  On a positive note, we passed a Cheesecake Factory and knew exactly where we were having dinner later.  We were in good company along the way with so many runners.  Once back at the hotel, we jumped onto the computer to claim our shoes and wouldn't you guess, a mere 20 seconds behind a negative split.  It certainly sounded easy at the time.

Happy Trails my Friends!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tempo Runs

Description and Technique

Tempo runs are the single most important workout you can do to improve your speed for any race distance. Long runs develop pure endurance, but, tempo running is crucial to racing success because it trains your body to sustain speed over distance. In essence, as runners, we have trained our cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to the muscles but we have not trained our bodies to             use that oxygen once it arrives. Tempo runs do just that by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently. Most important, this faster-paced workout or lactate-threshold workout,  teaches you to push your 'threshold" so that you muscles become better prepared at using the by-products (lactate and hydrogen ions) produced while you run when your muscles fatigue.

Even though there are many ways to perform tempo runs, I normally stick with the progressive type and build on distance, but, have fun mixing it up. For me, the progressive is simple to perform and is in many ways more enjoyable because your body gradually warms up to tempo pace. You feel stronger through the middle portions of the run and are able to finish at a faster pace. To do a progressive tempo run start with 1 kilometer or 1/3 of your distance at warm up pace. Then gradually and evenly increase your pace over the next 1 kilometer or second 1/3 of your distance at an easy endurance pace. The last 1 kilometer or 1/3 of your distance is at 90% of your maximum heart rate or just shy or breathlessness-we can also call this your 10 K race pace. This type of tempo run gives you the additional advantages of running and improving your ability or simply put, to run faster at the end of a long, quality run.  Once you become comfortable with this technique, try mixing it into some of your LSD (long slow distance) .

An interesting article from Science Daily explains how lactic acid can be used as energy rather than the poison that most athletes believe it is:

Ensure that all speed work sessions begin with a dynamic warm-up and cool down routine.

Happy Trails my Friends!

2016 Run for the Toad

Race kit pick up
Another year, another 50k and although, this was my slowest to date; it was also the most memorable for many reasons.  This was the 15th anniversary and also my 5th time running the Fifty. Year after year, I return to the trails and the hills, only to learn to walk gracefully again the next day. There was no sun to be seen, but, you were surrounded by plenty of warmth.  First off, Peggy and George are always improving on this event.  It was an 'A' race years ago, but, their thoughts are of the runners and how they can improve on the experience for us, so they keep trying.  Its obvious, they love everything about this time of year.  We may be planning and getting everything just right for race day, but, they are doing their own ultra of sorts.  The amount of time and dedication that goes into this race is almost insurmountable,but, it always comes out perfect.

Kingston in true competitive form
Another eventful point was having my daughter Mindy and my grandson Kingston toeing the line for the 1 km Toad Pals.  This was Kingston`s second race and he was pumped.  For only being 4 years old, he has quite the competitive streak already.  He tried his best and did amazing.  We also got to watch Mindy try to catch him as he sprinted the entire way.  You really have to push to catch this kid when he goes out of the gate.  He`s got legs.  All the children received a full size medal and the events they had planned post race were incredible: movies, reptiles and more.  My daughter absolutely hates running and post Toad she commented about wanting to run another 5 km race again.  You know that the energy and impetus was flowing that day for her to be so inspired.  Such an incredible feeling.

The other momentous account was that Cornel was running his first Ultra.  He had signed up after meeting Peggy and George post race at the Boxing Day 10 Miler.  His longest distance prior to this race was 25 km and although we were going in under-trained, we both knew that a finish was all that was required.  He would be covering his first marathon and ultra distance in a single race.  It was being used as a training race for next weekends Chicago marathon.  Slow and steady was the strategy.

All started out,  anything but well.  The socks I had worn had already slipped under my heel on my right foot.  As the race would be running past the first water stop where I had placed my bag, I decided to wait and change my socks after the race had begun.  Cornel stayed with me, but, I`m sure he must have been feeling anxious.  Then, at only 4 km in, I had already determined that I had overdressed for this.  It seemed to be warmer than last weekends Tour de Hans; we were just absent of any sun.  Thankfully, it was not raining though.  I ducked into a public washroom (another great feature of this course is not having to use the bushes) and shed my base layer.  I suggested that Cornel keep running and I would catch up.  Well, that never happened.

My first two loops were  enjoyable.  I felt good.  There is something about that course. Its just so innervate and tranquil.  At about the 15 km point, I met up with Susie and Maxine and ran with them to their finish.  These were passionate ladies that had a zest for running, family and life in general.  This is one of the benefits I have found in trail races; you meet some incredible people.  I think trail running cultivates not only a sense of resilience, but of conversation among fellow runners.  Sharing experiences and personal details.  The pace, the environment, competing with one self and giving back to the community seems to have a calming affect whilst bringing us all closer to nature.  Appreciating what we have around us, out on the trail and at home. Speaking of which, Mindy and Kingston were waiting for me to loop and we walked to their car; Kingston beating me up the hill.

Now, for the third loop, which is always my slowest.  My nemesis.  The loop where the mental and physical struggles attack in full force.  I know many times over, that I just have to get through this and I'll be golden.  The last loop always produces faster turnover with the idea of finishing and sitting down to that gourmet meal at the end. I could feel the second toe on my left foot, it was creating a problem, but, I was too lazy to do anything about it.  I know, having to run another 25 km really doesn't justify the term lazy at least to some people, but right now, it was more of an apathetic feeling.  Its a loop that I ran alone with only my thoughts and one major thought at that......where is Cornel?  I have seen him on the course, during some cross overs, so, I know he is just 3 km ahead of me.  I thought for sure that I would catch him on this loop. At this point, I'm feeling like I should pick up the pace, but, I can't as its the dreaded 3; like the witches in MacBeth. "Double, double, toil & trouble.  When shall we meet.  When the hurly-burly's done. When the battle is lost and won".  There was some other language I was citing, but, we won't get into that right now.  Then, before you know it, I'm approaching the 9 km marker and I know I'm just 15 km's from finishing this thing.  I see Rhonda whom I met at Sulphur Springs and she is there merely to cheer us on.  The timing couldn't be more impeccable.

All is good.  I think to myself, it wasn't that bad really.  The loops seem to be getting shorter each year I run it.  I pick up the pace a bit.  It wasn't near as fast as I thought.  Really just a slow increment. As I see from my splits post race, but, it was something.  I start to pass a few on the course and I think that I may just be able to catch Cornel at this point.  He has to be struggling, right?  There is a light misting of rain and it feels refreshing. I lavish in glorification now as I know the end is near.   I approach Skeleton Hill and my 4th loop is the only time I run up that thing.  Its just me and that hill as all the volunteer supporters have left at this point.  I have the internal struggle with myself and I think this year I'll just walk it, however, I recall telling Cornel that the fourth loop is the only time that matters, so now I'm forced to fire up it with all I have.  Victory at the top and then a walk to bring my heart rate back down and I'm off and running again.  Just another km until the finish.  Its about 300 m when I spot Cornel.  He has finished about 15 minutes ahead of me and has come back to run me in.  I have my selfish moment and tell him that I just want to run it out solo and I'll see him at the finish.  

Another great year for the Toad and I have so much adoration for Cornel for finishing his first marathon and ultra distance that day.  He really has that mental fortitude.  Don't mention it though as we wouldn't want it going to his head.  For me, not my best Toad race, but, I figure that will happen next year.  We both had some purple toenails and some chafing and blistering, but, we had success and a great time overall.

Next stop, Chicago.

Happy Trails my Friends!

2016 Tour De Hans

2016 Tour de Hans

My first ever road cycling race and boy was I nervous.  It could have been the cold temperatures that had me shaking too.  However, I have heard of it being just shy of winter in past years, so I wasn't complaining about 13 degrees and sunny.  Regardless of how many races I do, the nerves always get the best of me.

After the initial sign up, I had taken a good look at the 2015 results and these ladies were fast, especially in my age group (40-49).  Faster than I could comprehend. This is such a competitive age group.  I thought to myself, that's okay, this is going to be the fastest I've ever gone over the 100 km distance and I will just be happy with that.  Normally, when we ride with the GCBT group, we stop for a nice relaxing lunch, some conversation; there would be no such pleasantries here-it would just be 100 km straight out.  I had never done that distance in a single stretch before.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Tour de Hans
The morning was cool as I said so I decided to keep my jacket on as I hate being cold. That turned out to be a good plan as the wind continued to stay cool for the day and I remained comfortable for the entirety of the race.  It also helped that Cornel or as I occasionally call him, the "Crazy Train",  is a good deal larger than me and with him pulling, I was relatively sheltered.  The beginning of the race, had me struggling to keep up to Cornel and Karen.  I require a good warm up,but had no time prior to our start.  It started with very gentle hills, but, had me huffing and puffing a bit.  Finally, after about 5-6 km, I felt good and we started to roll.

The course was capacious, covering relatively quieter roads through the country, all with decent surfaces and moderate to little traffic. There was a tremendous amount of volunteers helping to direct the course and provide hydration.  I was riding my new Liv Avail and having only road it twice previously, we were already establishing a fairly tight bond.  She was light, compact, responsive and I felt inspired to push it down.

Cornel had been trying coach me on riding within a peloton, but, having never tried it previously, I was reluctant on trying it now.  I think he was aware of my inhibitions as he commented on safety and said that he would prefer to do the work, than ride perilously.  I know he was worried about me, but, didn't want to acknowledge it.  I was more comfortable than I use to be, having rode at the velodrome last year, but, still require some improvement when riding with a group. However, with Cornel pulling, its like hopping on the A-Train or Crazy Train as I like to call it.  He is rapid and precise.  He just flows like water.  Its so easy to draft him. I only pulled twice and the first time, as luck would have it, we were caught by the camera crew.  Beautiful!

Once we hit the 60 km mark, we came into a fairly strong head wind and Karen caught up to us at the water station, having said previously that she would grab a slower group.  She is an experienced rider and triathlete, so I think this was part of her race tactic.  We now became a party of three.  I was beginning to struggle and our pace slowed.  It was becoming tough.  Physically, mentally, but, I knew I had to maintain some consistency or all our efforts to this point would be in vain. I was thankful to have to experience riders to draw from.
AG Winners

In the end, Karen placed 2nd in her AG and came in 8th overall ladies and I placed 3rd in my AG and came in 9th place for the ladies.  What, top 10?  It was beyond my expectations.  In the end, I think some of the ladies that had raced the year prior decided to stay home and I'm okay with that. If I decide to race it again next year, I hope to be able to join one of the groups and pick up the pace a bit, but, we will leave the race planning to Cornel.

Happy Trails my Friends

Thursday, August 25, 2016


I've heard of this race, (for all intense purposes we will call it that), referred to as many things, including Hell. And its not just the name that's clever. The courses are well designed and all the proceeds benefit the farmers and land owners that want to protect it from unwanted development. And without farmers....there would be no beer.

 I must admit, studying those elevation maps, watching all those videos and reading the numerous blogs prior to the event, had me a little terrified.

Time to pick up our race kits and meet a few locals
We arrived on the Friday around six to pick up our race kits and everything was well organized with numerous volunteers and and there was a plethora of D2R2 souvenirs to choose from (jerseys, mugs, posters, arm sleeves, etc).  The maps and cue sheets were printed and waiting.  There were a few vendors too which included, "Dug's Art" , a local artist with an extensive racing background and
his stories were as vivid as his paintings.  "The People's Pint", a local brewery and restaurant in Greenfield attended, serving up burgers and beer.  Plus a few more.  Cornel and I  anxiously grabbed for a cold one, for the carbs of course-it had absolutely nothing to do with that seven hour drive.  Unbeknownst to us, was the group of cyclist that had gathered on site at the People's Pint.  We'll be sure to follow up on that one next year.  Oh yeah, there is definitely going to be a next year.

The starting line
As we were toeing the start line, or wheeling in our case, I for one was happy that we had decided to scale it back to the 100km distance.  Everything about this "race" was very relaxed and casual, except for the actual distances and routes-oh, and did I mention elevation?  We took off shortly after 9:00 a.m. and had a good warm up section, traveling on pavement, before the climbing started.   The first hill I took pretty fast and Cornel worried that I would tire myself out too quick.  I was just thrilled our first climb was on pavement; I had also set a goal of finishing within 6 hours and I was pumped, well, at least for the first half hour.  The asphalt road quickly turned to dirt and the climbing on intensified.  I assured myself that all the climbing must be at the beginning.  Prior to the first water stop, there was a steep paved incline and I had to dismount and walk my bike up as I couldn't see a thing.  The sweat was dripping down into my eyes and stinging with contact and without travelling at any significant pace, my glasses were fogging.  This is huge for me as typically I'm not much of a sweater, mostly just a little perspiration; something that resembles Mickey Mouse. That's all I will say about that.   It was only an hour into the race and things were heating up by 10 a.m.  Cornel easily pumped his way to the top.  The assemblage of road surfaces as we wound our way up the hills of Massachusetts made it quite cumbersome, but, on we trekked.

Pickle Juice
When we got to the first water stop, my time limit already expired as we were an hour and fifteen for the first 20km.  That would add another hour over and above.  It didn't seem like an aggressive goal at the time.  I grabbed my half empty water bottle and headed to the water jug to refill it.  On the jug, was a written sign that said "pickle juice" and I thought how cute. What a great simile.  Not so cute and poetic after all, because after I took a big mouthful of the stuff, I realized it was legit.  I've done a few races, marathons, ultra's, a half ironman and never, not once was I ever provided with pickle juice, flat cola maybe, but, never pickle juice.  If you can get by the taste, that stuff is apparently magical, or so I heard.  Much like cabbage juice on a hangover.  I did end up dumping it out, as I was worried about the mixture of coconut water and pickle juice and didn't want to have any emergency stops.  I was a little unprepared in the kleenex situation.

The stunning views of Franklin County
As we departed from the water stop, we had company and some of the people started to become familiar.   There wasn't a whole lot of conversation going on, but,  I think that was mostly attributed to attrition, better save it for the next climb.  Within a very short time frame, we ascended our way up and once at the top, you had to grab a photo or at least blink your eyes.  The vista was breathtaking and laid down the perspective of all your climbing thus far.   It was certainly worth the view. The distinction between green and blue was truly epical. Now, this is living. Shortly, thereafter, we were halted by a fire truck as one of our fellow cyclists had gone down. Glad that he was okay. This is the dilemma, you are on a paved decent and then the surface changes to gravel.  There was a lot of sections like that. At the end, we had heard, there was only four mishaps of a similar nature, but, everyone was okay.  Lucky for me, my coach, Cornel has always taught me to stay loose and reactive; much to his chagrin, I still take the downhills with not near enough caution, loving that top-speed.

Almost 3 hours in and we had hit our lunch spot.   A captivating little oasis in Vermont by a relaxed river and covered bridge that was currently under construction. We probably spent at least an hour there enjoying the lunch that was provided.  There was also another pickle juice table and they were serving shots this time. I graciously accepted the sour and salty notes for the gains they would provide as the day continued to heat up.  Thankful for what little breeze there was.  Departing from lunch had to be one of my most favorite spots on the course.  The road followed the river and it was pretty much flat and shaded, so a good way to digest lunch and warm back up again.  This was also the section for the family ride and I was impressed with all the youngsters that were riding their bike.  We still have some work to do where my grandson Kingston is concerned.  Hopefully, one year soon, he'll be able to join us.  I was still convinced, quite unequivocally that we must have completed the majority of our climbing prior to lunch.   Cornel also has this sinister side to him, evilly telling you that there is just one more climb.  All in all, I was still feeling good and was still pretty strong on the climbs, relatively speaking. I just preferred not to do anymore.  Unfortunately, the choice was not mine to choose.  By the end, was had a total elevation gain of 1800m, which was just 200m shy of the hike we did in Austria.  The comparison really put things into perspective for me.
Cornel pondering how I beat him up that last hill.

 One of the most significant clambers in my opinion was on the way up to the orchard.  It is appropriately named Apex Orchard. I received the full definition from a cycling perspective from Cornel.  Who Knew? We were greeted with cold peaches and apples, cookies and other hydration.  It was hard to leave, but, knowing that there was only 20km remaining before cold beer was enough to put you back in the saddle.  Upon leaving, Dr. Evil made his usual remark.....just one more climb.

It was a nice descent and although, I still felt good, I was content knowing that the ride would be over within another hour or so.  There was a technical tailspin close to the end and this is where I suspect I broke my spoke.  It was the only casualty, so not so bad.  This last sag was also another concern for Cornel as he felt I was taking it way too fast for my level of expertise.  Poor guy, I can only imagine the amount of cringing he must do riding behind me making sure that I'm safe.Without him, I'm not sure I would have been able to do this journey.  He has taught me so much.  He is my rock. Fortunately, the broken spoke didn't cause any further damage, most of which, I was totally oblivious to anyways.

Following that, it was just a nice flat section where you could sprint to the finish if you still had the legs to do it. It was such a moment to cross the line with some energy left to eat, drink and enjoy some camaraderie amongst the other cyclists.  Each of us giving a full description of the days events and our favorite portion of the course.

Looking forward to heading back up there next year and hopefully taking some friends along for the ride.

Happy trails my friends.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

July Movement

Upon seeing the following quote from Dr. Steve Maraboli and a slight prodding from Cornel, I was inspired to write about the events of the past weekend:

"Yesterday was not your defining moment.  The calendar moved forward; why not you?"

The game plan was to do a trial run of the Hardwood course for the Epic 8 Hour Summer Reggae race the following weekend.  Cornel and Zen are the glue that will hold the team at a respectable time and I am the weakest link.  However, what I lack in experience (only my second year MTB), I make up for in passion and resilience.  I say pliancy due to the shear amount of times that I have fallen, scraped, cut and bruised myself and my ego on attempting to get better at this sport.

I'm ashamed to admit, but, the first miscalculation came prior to getting on the course.  It didn't prevent me from continuing as I came here with a mission.  I've pretty much concluded that long dresses are a must for me during MTB season.  There are also certain other benefits to falling at this age---I have confirmed without the aid of a physician that I do not have osteoporosis as my mother has.  As I rapidly approach 50, this is an important discovery.

The first loop of the course was not uneventful with a few more spills, but, I was surprised to have completed it within the hour.  Cornel has the patience of a Saint.  He carefully rode behind me to watch my technique and offer any guidance along the way.  Zen led the way and already had an extra loop in on us.  The second loop again proved uneventful and lucky for me, the ground was quite soft with the lack of rain.  My confidence was improving as I was able to shave 6 minutes off my previous run.  I'm really not hoping for much better during race day as both Cornel and Zen are just wanting me to arrive alive.

While I cleaned up the extra dirt I had acquired along the course, Cornel let out some steam on his final loop; finishing the course in 37 minutes.  I was amazed by his time and felt that we were in pretty good standing, until I heard from the pro shop that some of the practice runs had resulted in times of 20-26 minutes.  Oh well, if you're not first, you're last.

............then there was Sunday.  The game plan was to do an out and back on the T.H. & B rail trail from Dundas to Port Dover.  I was still suffering silently from the events of the day prior, but, wanted to do this ride in preparation for the upcoming D2R2.  Cornel and I had signed up for the 180k gravel grinder that takes place in Deerfield, MA.  It was a little bit ambitious at best for me, but, I get excited when I first learn of these races.  Then, all of a sudden, we are signed up and I'm trying to get some training in......all the while, pondering what I just got myself into.  

Town of Waterford

The ride was pretty uneventful at least until we hit Scotland (which actually has a nice paved section), where we met up with a couple from the area and followed them back to their place for a nice cold beer and some nibbles.  Now, these are the kind of rides I enjoy.  Saunter about ,saunter about.  Oh, and the cold beer.  After all, the temperatures were climbing, but, the trail was pretty optimal in regards to shade with good tree cover for a significant portion.  We headed back out after about an hour break and our next goal was to make it to Dover for an ice cream.

Once we hit Dover and our ice cream was devoured, Cornel figured out that we would need to maintain a 20km average if we were to make it back within full daylight.  Sleeping in does have an occasional disadvantage, but, I'll take it when I can.  I was committed to maintaining the average, so off we went, into the sunset, me and my blue beauty.  Everything was going relatively well until we hit Brantford; that's when I figured out my legs were done.  The muscles were starting to fatigue and it was everything I could do to keep going.  This is another one of those times that Cornel will doesn't matter if you go fast or slow, the legs are still going to hurt, so you might as well go fast.  If only I could convince the legs of such matters. I believe it was at this moment that I figured the 180km D2R2 route was probably more than I could chew, considering the elevation gains and we had just completed an entirely 156 of flat.  Cornel graciously accepted whatever distance I was comfortable with.  Its a difficult revelation to have to pull back the reigns, but, sometimes it just makes sense.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sulphur Springs 100 Miler

What a race....and a race it was.  Against time, heat and mental anguish.  O all you host of heaven! O earth!  What else?  And shall I couple Hell? (William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Running Supplies
It all started well and I was feeling very well prepared....well mostly spoiled.  My nutrition, my hydration, the tent and all supplies other than what I would need to wear was all prepared for me....thank you Cornel.  You truly are the most considerate and caring person I know.  Just knowing that you and Claudia were in my corner and would be there to run with me when things got tough was motivating in itself.

Sulphur Tent City
Arriving at the dinner the night before and meeting some seasoned veterans like Guy and Lucy and hearing their stories provided a mix of excitement and apprehension.  Could I really pull this off?  Guy had only been running Ultras less than 2 years and he already had quite a few under his belt---held on with the choice of 100 Miler buckles I am sure.  Guy provided a lot of insight and really helped in finalizing my race plan.  Start off slow he said.  It was also my first time meeting the race directors, Tim and Andrea, and what an amazing pair. I would come to get to know them quite well over the course of the following day.  They provided the utmost motivation and insight to continue, but, we'll save that tidbit for later.  Everything was extremely well organized by all the volunteers and that was even more evident the next day.

Sulphur Mascot
Toeing at the start line the next morning, I was ready.  I took off at a comfortable pace and heard someone say, I'm just going to walk down Martin Road and let myself warm up nicely.  And, I recalled from the previous 50 Miler last year, how much havoc that Martin Road decent played on my quads.  Little did I know, but, this runner with all her expertise would be my running partner for most of the race.  The tips and encouragement that Robin provided along the way helped immensely.  I don't think there was a person on the course that didn't know her and lucky for me, she was using this 100 Miler for training and was running a slower pace than her usual stride. In the 3rd loop when my legs were feeling off, sluggish and painful, she offered me a Tums and almost instantly, I felt better.  Tums will be in my pouch for next year, amongst other things.  It was great conversation that passed the time away.  You meet such nice people with amazing stories at these races.

By the beginning of the 4th loop, the heat had intensified yet again and we caught up with another veteran Ron.  He was also feeling the affects of the heat and we collaborated and decided to walk the entire loop.  I had met Ron at a previous Ultra, That Damn Hill, so it was nice to catch up again.  Robin and Ron are the many faces of Ultras.  You see them at all the big races.  We had an enjoyable loop despite the conditions and even came across a snake in the grassy section.  Snakes, I'm okay with, now June Bugs, that's another story.  Despise them and the thought of them had not even crossed my mind at this point.

By the end of the 4th loop, I was still feeling pretty good, considering the heat and length of time already on my feet (considering I finished the 50 Miler in 11:35 the previous year).  Upon making another ascent up Martin's Road hill, I found some additional support at the top.  There beside Cornel was Susan, Jorg and Helen who had come out to support me.  I sat with them and drank a Radler while I worked on releasing my heel blister (never had one there before-in fact-I never usually get blisters at all).  When I started back down the hill, I thought, this is totally doable.  I started into a walk and by the time I got to the Hermitage, I was feeling good and really picked up the pace into a nice run.  I was thinking, where did this come from?  Then, it was right around the area where we had run into the snake earlier, that it was too dark to continue running and on went the head lamp and back into a walk I went.  It was shortly after that, that my calf seized, despite the salt tablets and lots of hydration through the day.  Susan met me at the last aid station and was willing to walk with me through this last portion. Thank you again for that, Susan.  Out came the June Bugs (you could hear the 2 of us scream as each one crashed into our headlamps) and the 3 Sisters to battle; while I struggled to keep it together to get to the finish.  I knew I was done.  My calves were obliterated.  I'm not sure, if they buckled under over use or whether it was the unfolding climate of the day.

At the top, when I told Tim I was done.....he said...oh're not have 3 more laps.  He helped with trying to work through my calves and Cornel was there to take over.  I think Cornel was a little disappointed that he wasn't doing the next loop with me as he had taken it easy on the 25k that morning, so that he would be in good shape to see me get to the finish.  Well, as easy as he could considering his daughter Claudia was also racing the 25k and the challenge was on.  Claudia was determined to beat her Dad this one around and that she did.  Her training and determination definitely paid off.  Well, just touching my calf at this point sent me reeling into pain.  I was happy to admit that I completed 100km (my longest distance thus far) and I would not be continuing.  Andrea also gave me a great pep talk and I am grateful for their attempts.  As I sat with Cornel and Susan and  drank another Radler, Cornel softly coerced me to try again.  It took some time, but, no convincing was enough to get me back on my feet, well,  until the pouring rain hit and then I didn't even have enough in me to run to the car.

The next day after a semi restful sleep, we arrived to bring down the tent and gather our supplies and were fortunate enough to see the last 3 runners come in.  It was Deborah, a gentleman and then Rhonda.  Rhonda was the last runner and this was her first 100 Miler;  to see her come up that hill, was so empowering that it convinced me to give it another try next year.  I think I've also talked Cornel in attempting the 50 Miler.  Well, truth be told, it didn't take much persuasion at all, come to think of it.  See you at the Sulphur 2017.

Happy Trail My Friends