Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Road 2 Hope


   During the short training period I had for the Hamilton Marathon I continually heard the same thing  "a marathon, that's like a sprint for you right".This or "that will be a walk in the park for you",it would be nice if this was anywhere near the truth.The truth is the marathon hurts,every time,no matter what you've run before. Ultras are a long drawn out period of pain,the mind adjusts and sometimes even forgets the pain but in a marathon you jam all that pain into a full speed assault on a 42km run and just hope you hold it together until the finish. There was definitely some advantage in the fact that mentally the distance was not nearly as intimidating as it had once been.
    Training for this event was largely based on shorter tempo runs, my friend Henry once told me you can't run a three hour marathon without running a forty minute 10k first and I used that theory as the building block in my training.The sudden switch to pavement after a whole year of trail running played havoc on my Achilles and feet,while it was a lot of fun to hammer out some shorter runs I'm looking forward to the return to soft muddy trails.
   Race day temps were perfect and I had a sub three hour goal in mind. Gord from Hamilton Runners Den had recommended holding pace and letting the downhill in the second half help me run a negative split in the second half unfortunately the wind had other ideas. The turn onto the downhill section brought little to no advantage this year,the wind was pushing hard into my face all the way down leaving me feeling like there was very little left in the tank when we got back into a more sheltered section. Looking back at  my Garmin I actually accelerated after the downhill. The end result,3:00:41 a personal best in the marathon by 15:19 . I definitely have no regrets,every race is a stepping stone and I really think the sub 3 is coming yet.

  Road 2 Hope Marathon is a great event,it's well organized and the course is definitely fast and interesting,if your looking for that Boston Qualifier this is the race to do it in!

Now back to some mud!


Monday, October 28, 2013

The October Wind Down

  It feels great to be able to let go of the strict training schedule for a little while and just enjoy running for the fun of it.Sure the Road to Hope Marathon is just around the corner but the key races I really wanted to focus on are over and there are no major injuries to contend with so I'm happy. I ran a little on the road through the end of September and first two weeks of October but with the leaves changing and cool weather coming  it was time to give the feet a break and get back on the trails again.

  I'm  looking forward to racing in Hamilton this weekend, the marathon course is fast and the thrill of the start line of a big race is always an awesome feeling. On the other hand I'm also looking forward to the slow build of miles on some beautiful trails leading into another winter of strength training, I'm sure there is a little more speed in these legs just a matter of coaxing it out.

P.S. Gu Energy has a new flavour "Salted Caramel" this should definitely help in the snow it tastes amazing.

Exciting news Hamilton Runners Den with the co operation of Brooks will be taking care of my Cascadia needs next year. Runners Den has always been great to me and I can't say enough about how much I love the Cascadia!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Haliburton 100 Mile Victory

The elusive Haliburton victory is finally mine,still hard to believe. I ran the course this year in 18.36:03 a personal best for me in this race by more than an hour.Trying to summarize everything that went into this race will be tough,but first and most importantly I need to thank my wife Robyn,between the long hours training and trying to balance our busy schedules she does an amazing job supporting me.Waiting at a finish line for almost 19 hours for someone to finish a race while hearing horror stories of injuries in the forest and bear sightings has to be a ridiculously stressful event in itself,but she does it for me time and again.
The race went really smooth this year,trails were in good condition and the weather was as good as it gets for a September race.I ran a large portion of the first half of the race with my friend Mitch who was completing his first 50 miler and had a great race with a second place finish,having someone to run with for this long in a race was a first for me and a welcome diversion from the job at hand.Going into the second half of the race there was the feeling of running out front with no idea of how close second place was keeping the pressure on so I continued to push as hard as possible.Haliburton is a double out and back course with a loop at the end so as I started to see some familiar faces of friends and other racers I received excellent motivation.You cant help but be inspired watching each individual runner work through their own struggles,everyone travels through highs and lows during these long events and the cheering and smiles from everyone along the way really helps keep you thinking positive.Near the end of the race my stomach was giving me some difficulty,I think it was largely due to the humidity of the day and miscalculating my salt intake early on in the race.The last 10k was a struggle but the aid station volunteers were amazing,a few huge smiles and handshakes and I pulled it together for a strong run into the finish.
Haliburton is a very beautiful course and I definitely encourage anyone to try one of the events there,Helen, the race director puts her heart and soul into the event and it really shows.The fact that it is a more remote location encourages everyone to camp on site and the result is more of a family reunion feel than a race,if you get the chance go,you won't regret it.
My gear for this race was the Sugoi Titan 2 in 1 short and Ready T,these shorts are amazingly comfortable and light. Shoes were of my Brooks Cascadias as usual they performed perfect with not a single blister after 100 miles and for a first time I didn't even lose any more toenails.
Thanks again to all my friends for the congratulations and encouragement,I am truly blessed by all of you.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Recovered and Training Again

   It feels good to be  running stronger again, the first two weeks after Sulphur I had a very clear feeling of how much harder I had pushed myself than in previous races. That clear feeling was felt most obviously in my quads which remained very sore for at least a full week,and on 20-30k runs in the second week they started to become weak after the first 10k. Sometime in the third week things felt a little more normal and I really enjoyed a couple trips around the "waterfall loop" a 40k circuit that tests the body over a real variety of trails,while raising your spirits with some spectacular views.
I think its trails like this that makes ultra running so attractive to me,the ability to cover a lot of ground and see so many different things up close and in a way that many people miss the opportunity to enjoy.
   June 25th brings the 8th  anniversary of my wedding and I am truly blessed to have a wife who understands the demands of trying to race these distances and supports me in my training and racing.Sometimes the demands are high and even spectating at a race that lasts over 24 hours makes for an extremely long day.I know that when I over train I get a little miserable but that doesn't hold a candle to the panic I express if someone so much as sneezes during the final week of my taper,but she supports me through it all.Her own racing continues to improve ,running a personal best this year in the 50k at Sulphur, I was so proud of her it was a great accomplishment!
  Hopefully I can get a few more groups out for a training run in the months to come,we had a great group out two weeks ago and I'm looking forward to following the Ontario group as they run Badwater 135 in a few weeks. Enjoy the trails and the feeling of accomplishment that a tough summer run brings.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sulphur Springs 100 miler

I' m at a bit of a loss on where to start with this entry, Sulphur  Springs 100 is my home race and that being said the one race I have always wanted to win. The last two years I had managed second place finishes once in 19.17 and the second time with 17.53 last year the winner was Glen Redpath with a time of 15.40. After last year I knew I would need to change a few things in order to finish first, but what it would take I wasn't sure.
  I started with a look at past training plans and what seemed to work best for me and what didn't. I had made some impressive gains in races following high volume training so that had to stay ,but real long single runs took too long to recover from. I had shunned speed work during the lead up months to ultras in the past and to hold the kind of pace I wanted I knew it would need to be included this time. Also a good look in the mirror told me that my nutrition could definitely be changed a lot and this was the easiest step of all, so I started there.
    Pasta, while it may benefit some did me no favours so I switched it out for brown rice and occasionally quinoa. Thanks to my Dad's arthritis I learned red meat causes excessive swelling in the joints so it went completely to be replaced with fish, turkey and chicken. I found a shop at the local farmers market that has some amazing homemade turkey meatloaf, broils, schnitzel, sausage and the best wheat free turkey burgers ever so thanks to Oegema Farms this was a welcome change. My friend Krista Duchene posted some great kale salad pictures on her blog and a huge bowl of kale salad has become my afternoon snack everyday now and I absolutely am hooked on it, kale with feta and balsamic vinegar being one of my favorites.
   Training wise I went with a lot of back to back runs, January to March around 280 km in a two week period with 10k runs at Paris Runners Den whenever I could for the Monday and Wednesday night runs, I used the group runs at night as my speed work. March to race day my longest 2 week period was 440km and speed work became my run to and from work, a 7km trip.Injuries stayed minimal leaving out the huge single runs in exchange for more back to back with my most serious injury being a swollen joint on my big toe that switched me back to my old faithful Brooks Cascadia shoe.
  Race day this year my weight was 174 last year was 192 , definitely a bonus. Race day weather was cool and looked like it would stay that way, it was a perfect day to run.  Sulphur is a 20km loop coarse with some rolling hills that somehow get bigger as the day goes on, a mystery yet to be explained. My first loop was just under 1.40 faster than planned but feeling easy second loop was 1.43 still felt great. Loop three is usually when you first realize this is going to be a long day but it went by well in 1.49 followed by 1.55 for the fourth. I had never run out front of a race for this long and it is a different experience, every step your wondering who is chasing and how close behind you they are. Half way through loop five I looked at my watch and realized if I could hold it together I had a chance at the coarse record, this was not something I had planned for at all. 2.0 for lap five followed by 2.03 on six, my quads were starting to really hurt and I was doing everything to relax and remember "running is fun". I remember saying a prayer near the end of six, things were really sore and 40km is still a long way to go, mentally that moment of prayer helped a lot. Seven is always a tough lap for me for some reason but it went by quick in 2.09 and for the last lap my friend Mitch was waiting to pace me through. I was a bit of a whiner by this point but Mitch kept reminding me how much I'd regret it tomorrow if I missed the record by just a little so we pushed the flats and down hills recovering on the ups ,I couldn't have asked for a more perfect pacer on this lap as my legs were screaming for mercy but somehow he kept me moving. The final lap ended in 2.16 ,the feeling coming across the finish line with all of my running friends and my beautiful wife cheering will not be one I ever forget. The ultra running community is like a family and it felt amazing to get all the congratulations following the race. Final time was 15:37:24  a new coarse record and first place overall at Sulphur springs.....finally. I stayed the night and until the finish the next day getting to witness some amazing performances by the other runners Laura Perry broke the women's coarse record in 18:57:59 ,while others completed there first 100 with the giant smile and look of determination on their faces that can only be found by those of us that are just a little crazy.
  Looking forward to a few days off and a couple long swims to help the legs recover, thank-you to everyone who supported me it felt great!

Sponsorship free product endorsements:
Gu energy gels - 29 gels in one day, no stomach issues
Sugoi - Titan 4" 2 in 1 shorts-no chafing at all :)
Brooks- Cascadia trail shoes

Monday, April 29, 2013

Positive Signs

 It's been a long winter and a colder spring then last year but this was definitely a welcome sign at the trail head today! Through the winter I get used to seeing a fairly consistent group of people hiking through the Dundas and Ancaster trails,an elderly woman with her German Shepard who counts down the weeks to my race and when I stop to chat in passing is always encouraging. She is definitely a hero of mine as I notice she covers no less than 5km no matter the weather or trail conditions. There is also a younger(mid to late 50's)couple with a brown collie,I swear that collie is part ultra runner,when he injured his paw this winter he carried a stick instead of his trusty orange ball "to slow him down a bit" his owner said. Now that the warm weather group has joined in and suddenly there are people with strollers,bikes,wrist weights,umbrellas and cameras all over. A friend said to me he dislikes it when the trails get crowded but i see it as just another sign of spring.
  Training is going well this year,the last several weeks mileage was higher than I have ever been to before and I could definitely start to feel the aches and pains.Last week I noticed the aches come to a point that everything hurt and there was little to no recovery from one days long run to the next.I was beginning to get that miserable feeling that comes with over training and decided since it was my weekend to work anyway it was time for a recovery break.Friday,Saturday and Sunday there was no running,by Sunday I had a craving to ride my bike to work but a quick look at the notes in my logbook reminded me to rest. This morning I went out for my first run in three days and it felt great,an easy paced 40k and nothing hurt,it was rainy but warm and I felt on top of the world.Hopefully with some careful attention in the next several weeks I can carry this feeling into the Sulphur springs 100 miler.Looking forward to the first week of slightly reduced distance and finding out how the winters work will pay off in the spring.
 As far as my shoe trials,after experimenting with several different ones for my longer runs I'm back in my tried and true Brooks Cascadia. The saucony shoes were amazing but once the weekly distance exceeded 160km they just didn't allow enough room in the toe box for my slightly swollen toes. I definitely plan on running a mix of both shoes in my shorter distance runs as the lighter feel and lower heel/toe was great. Other gear I've fallen in love with lately includes my Sugoi Titan 2in1 shorts and Titan short sleeve top,the shorts are great with a non chafing liner and the shirt has a nice fit and doesn't chafe even when wet. Also my mountain hardware plasmic jacket,I bought this jacket last year not even thinking about running in it,but with the weather this spring it became my go to jacket for wet snow,rain ,wind and everything else the days threw at me.It breathes well and performed flawlessly every run.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Around the Bay

 Hamilton's Around the Bay 30k road race is one of the more popular local races,unfortunately my first experience with it in 2009 left me with a bitter feeling towards the race. I had been training for a marathon and was feeling quite proud of my progress,my long runs had been over the 30k distance and I was a lean mean running machine. Leaving the start line in the pouring rain I was on fire,flying along with the greatest of ease,17km later I was a wreck my legs were cramping and I was feeling sorry for myself.I went on to finish in 2 hours and 32 minutes, it was a finish but not what I had anticipated at the start and walking up the hills with the horrible leg cramps left me never wanting to see the race again.

  Fortunately time heals all and several years of waiting at the base of the largest hill to run up with friends I have made while running I decided it was time to make amends with the Bay race. I signed up late in the fall   last year after qualifying for the "A" start corral in the Hamilton half marathon and was actually excited to run.As race day came closer I realized I would need to adjust my training a little to accommodate the race but really didn't want to lose too much time as the countdown to the Sulphur Springs 100 miler is quickly closing in.The decision was made to drop 1 long run from the front of the week to allow for a bit of a recovery for the Bay, then I would race at a relatively survivable pace and just enjoy the race.

   Race day was perfect weather and at the starting line I was relaxed,I planned to run just under 2 hours and 15 minutes to achieve a silver medal and put the bad feelings behind me,in the back of my mind I knew a 2.10 would be possible if things went well.The race start was fast as everyone takes off to try and get some open road,I didn't worry too much when my first 5k was faster than I wanted to be.The second 5k somehow slipped by too fast as well,at this point I took a quick assessment of how I was feeling and decided to push the pace for another 10 I was feeling good. At the 17km mark doubt crept in ,am I making the same mistake again,this is the fall apart point,am I running too fast? I did another assessment and decided no things are good,smarten up ditch the negative thoughts and go, the hills are coming and unlike 2009 that is where I feel good now. Now that the brain was back under control the ease came back to my stride,I let the hills loosen things up a bit waved or smiled to a few friends who were spectating and hit the big hill .I knew Mike would be waiting to run up the hill with me and its amazing what a distraction can do to take the bite out of a hill,a few more km and it was all over 2 hours and 7 minutes.

  I'm definitely glad I ran it again,it's amazing how far things have come since 2009. I think the biggest change has been the mental side of running and how to drop the negative feelings,every race has a low point or tough spot but being able to put it aside and not dwell on it has made a huge difference. It doesn't hurt that I have realized I can't charge out full speed and expect not to turn into a stiff legged zombie at the finish line.

Friday, March 8, 2013

First Hints of Spring

  Had a great run this morning,five degrees and you could feel the heat of the sun on your face,it really doesn't get any better than that in March.Everywhere I looked as I ran through the trails there was activity,snow melting off rocks, squirrels running across logs and a group of deer feeding in a newly exposed clearing in the trees. The trails were a little sketchy at times with ice and ruts but overall it was a good day to run.
 I guess part of what made this day so perfect is the fact that Wednesday night I was hit with a stomach bug that took me to a childlike state.I was curled in the fetal position on the couch,moving only to ingest some chicken broth made by my wonderful wife and once to call my mom like any grown man needs to when truly sick. Thursday brought more of the same and I really didn't start to feel better till late afternoon.Feeling much better now and from the state of the trails today I guess tomorrows long run will be back on the road to get a decent workout in,here's hoping for more sunny days for us all.

P.S. Mom called back last night to make sure I was feeling better,you can't beat a good mom.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inspiration by treadmill

  The latest sloppy winter mess finally drove me to a place I never thought I would go,the treadmill. Tuesday night after work I was watching the weather forecast and I decided if I woke up and it was really messy I'd give it a try.I have listened to my friend James speak highly of treadmill training in the face of uncertain weather so how bad could it be, he's an intelligent man and dedicated runner with some excellent marathon finishing times.
  I further stoked my enthusiasm with some new songs on the ipod and thoughts of running free of all my winter gear in a nice warm place with dry feet the entire time,a welcome relief after months of pruned appendages.I arrived at the gym early selected a sturdy looking machine in the back row with a good view of the dozen or so televisions and started poking at the buttons to fire it up. This is when some alarm bells should have started going off, the timer maxed out at  ninety nine minutes, no consideration for someone wanting to get a long run in.Oh well I guess I can restart at a nice even mileage say 10 miles, poked a few more buttons for a nice steady pace of 8.13 per mile and away I went this was going to be a piece of cake. Ten minutes passed I had found the incline button and set a steady grade of 4(whatever that means but it felt good) and was questioning myself as to why I hadn't tried this before,so nice and warm.Twenty minutes in and I realized all the daytime t.v. shows were about buying, building or renovating your home,one t.v. playing the same 2 minutes of news over and over and a cooking channel of all things, not overly exciting after all. Thirty minutes in cranked the tunes,who cares about some rich guy trying to decide which three million dollar home he likes more but my feet are warm. One hour in my wife waves as she comes in to see her trainer,this will help pass some time, I can watch and maybe pick up some tips for core exercises from what my wife has shown me this trainer has some excellent ones that really work. Nope they are around the corner in another area,so much for that idea.Two hours in the t.v.'s are driving me crazy the clock seems to have stopped and I think when I'm not paying attention the treadmill is counting miles backwards.
  It really fell apart from there,I managed to finish the planned marathon but it was pretty ugly,at twenty miles I actually dropped the pace to get it done and by the time I hit twenty six I was begging for wet feet and a cold wind blowing in my face. Would I do it again? Not for awhile but in hindsight I can see some benefits, definitely an advantage to the ground controlling your pace for keeping things steady and your feet stay dry, that's about it.
  Today I hit the trails feeling inspired,it didn't matter how wet my feet were I was outside and felt alive. It started out cool and lightly snowing but postcard perfect to look at, a couple other sets of footprints on the main trail but none as I headed up the escarpment. It warmed up after an hour and started to rain lightly but that's OK it was way better than the treadmill.Two hours in the snow was soft and several spots I broke through the ice crust under the slush to find myself shin deep in water but again yesterdays treadmill experience had me laughing off any discomfort. At the end of the day I squeezed in thirty six kilometres I was cold wet and extremely happy, who knows that treadmill might be good for something after all.
  The good news is everything was slippery so the ground and rocks were the least of my worries.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Road Miles

 All my excitement over the snow is over now,I'm ready for spring,really ready! The beautiful snowy trails have melted and re-frozen into a pot-holed icy mess.I'm sick of trying to figure out just how many layers it will take to get through a long road run and as usual the roads are taking there toll,aches and pains from to many miles on a surface that is just too flat.
  The only upside has been getting in some faster runs than normal and getting some longer miles in my Saucony Triumph 10's,a shoe I switched to for my longer road runs after deciding the Asics Nimbus was just too much shoe. The Triumph has been great,providing the protection needed for multiple long runs in one week while still feeling light and responsive on the feet. Fast looking colour too!

 Hopefully the next couple weeks brings a good thaw ,I'm definitely ready for some mud and sunshine. Three out of four groundhogs said yes to an early bring it!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow storm running

 We finally got a good storm in southern Ontario! This one really delivered,Friday I ran about 20k in the morning and had a really good workout the snow in the eyes got a little annoying while facing the wind but overall it was a great day.
I didn't see another person out there which surprised me a little,I figured the cross country skiers would be racing to be the first ones out.Ran past this small doe and she just stared at me,I guess she didn't want to leave her sheltered area in the pines
 Saturday morning I met with my friend Mike at the trail head for a repeat of the same and we had one of the toughest runs I've ever done.The first 10k was manageable,slow going but we kept up a steady pace and managed to find some footing in the loose powdery snow.We ran a short 4k road section to loosen the legs back up before tackling what I figured would be the easier half of our loop. My wife had went out early in the morning on snowshoes with a friend so I was sure we wouldn't need to break trail through this section.Unfortunately after she went through a few cross country skiers did and the trail they left was like walking a tight rope in ball bearing shoes.
 Overall the day was a real character builder and I know when the tough times come in the race this spring I can look at it as "at least there's no snow on it".

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Joys of a Cold

  I knew it was coming last week already,I was having a great week training and running very comfortably,my poor wife on the other hand was suffering miserably. The joys of a winter cold had their grip on her and she hardly ever gets sick, and this time she really had it, stuffy nose, hacking cough the works. I was eating oranges by the dozen chewing vitamin C tablets like candy and taking cold FX ,but Sunday morning I woke up a little sneezy and by Sunday night I was the 200 pound baby in the cold medecine commercial.
  Monday I had planned to run a 20k morning tempo and speed work at night in Paris but switched it out for a 30k trail run at a very easy pace. The cold air cleared my nose and although a little more tired than usual it felt OK.Today I woke up with one plan, sit on the couch and be a giant sick baby.The plan was going well,had my first coffee brought home by my loving wife after her night shift, watched a little news and generally felt sorry for myself.
 It was at this point I recieved my inspiration to get off the couch, my friend and fellow runner Krista DuChene posted a great entry on her blog entitled perseverance (see it at if it doesn't help you get out the door I don't know what would. I read the entry, layered up in my running gear and headed out the door. There were a few little trails I had wanted to explore around Dundas Valley and I figured a nice slow easy run wouldn't hurt. Ended up having a great time the weather was good and I feel better for having been out.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31

 It has been a strange weather month to say the least,yesterday night I ran in Paris and the temperature was around 14 degrees.I dressed in my sugoi Titan 2in 1 shorts and ready T had a great run and even managed to work up a pretty good sweat.This morning I went for my long run and it was definitely a different day.Negative 4 degrees ,blowing snow and even a few tree branches flying past.I surprised a few small groups of deer while running through some more sheltered spots but even they didn't run away,just looked at me like I was a little off my rocker.
  Last week while running on a crisp negative 14 morning I actually contemplated doing my long run on a treadmill,but then pulled the ice off my eyelashes and realised I'd never make it more than 10 minutes staring at the TV instead of being outside.
  The other oddity I found this week was people decorating trees with small blue and yellow bags,it turns out that on closer inspection they've actually gone through the effort of cleaning up after their dog in the middle of nowhere,only to hang the bag in a tree fore some kind of poop fairy to come along and clean up.You would think if that was going to be the extent of your effort you'd just take a stick and flick it into the shrubbery.I guess from a distance they figured it looked nice.
 Oh well enough ranting on my part, one month of winter running down I've had some great runs and building a nice base for some more serious training. Regardless of the strange weather it has been a good year so far for staying on the trails and I've managed to run with a really diverse group of people so far.Actually looking forward to seeing what else is in store for us before the spring gets here.
A final picture for my friend Gus,last saturday we ran past this set of falls and it was almost completely frozen.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Loving the Snow!!

    I love running in the snow! Usually about ninety percent of my training takes place on some of the same trails over and over,when race season finally arrives I've named hills,trees and even the odd mud hole.whatever it takes to help the miles go by,some of the names are good,some unprintable. The great part about all the snow is these trails suddenly change,every corner looks different and the runs change from being judged by pace to whether or not you can walk at the end.

    The secret to really enjoying snow running as opposed to just staying vertical lies in an old pair of shoes and some sheet metal screws.Without these the unpredictable hidden patches of ice could spell disaster.The downside to these shoes is after falling in love with the Saucony Kinvara TR  these suckers weigh a ton,but I guess that's a good thing for training ,right.

  The other upside to the snow is you can quietly get a lot closer for some great pictures of  the local wildlife.I received a camera for Christmas so should be able to post a few more good pictures to this blog as well.Its hard not to enjoy the changing seasons and how much the trails change as they go by I can't imagine training in a more beautiful area.
  Embrace the snow and go for a run,who says winter needs to bring the blahs.