Monday, December 3, 2012


Hello everybody. I thought I'd keep you up-to-date with my training since the Run for the Toad in September and share my thoughts for the 2013 season.

This morning (December 2nd) I went back to Sulphur Springs at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area (where the Sulphur Springs 25km, 50km, 50mile, 100 mile and 100 mile relays take place). I have not been there since I DNF'd in the 50 miler in May 2012.

We meet up the first Sunday of every month starting in December at 8am in any weather conditions so if you are close enough and are thinking about entering you should. It's a great course and if you are getting into ultras it's a great one to try. Today there were 20 of us and myself and a group of about 5 others headed up the front group but I faded 1/2 way through and ran with a guy who was coming up behind. Joe, who is the race director, helped some of the slower runners around the course. It's got lots of turnings and is very easy to get lost so it's good to stick with someone that has done the course before.

It's about a one hour drive for me but it gets me out and I like to run with other people sometimes and I probably would not have driven an hour to run on my own, especially since it was pouring rain. It was very mild but the wet leaves and my steamed up glasses caused me to go very cautiously. I did the loop in 1:49. Each loop is 12.5 miles. We were soaking wet and I just quickly got into the car, changed my top and then drove to work. I feel very stiff/sore from it as there was lots of slipping and sliding around and of course because trail is allot harder than the treadmill.

I have discovered a new training route which is great. Again, if you are living in the Niagara area you should definitely check out the Short Hills Provincial Park. It's not as extensive as Sulphur Springs but there are 5 different marked trails and the hills are challenging. I wish I'd discovered it sooner but I've gone twice so far and run all the trails at least once. I found it very slippery but when it's drier or when the snow finally falls it will be great.

My mileage has trailed off since the Toad 50km. I have done:

September: 174 miles
October 158 miles
November 148 miles

I will ramp up the mileage after December, hopefully getting in some 100 mile weeks in the Spring and will also try some 2 a-day sessions. My Achilles problems continue and do hurt after the trails but I guess I'll have to live with it. Besides a long lay-off I don't know what else to do.

As to what ultras or races I have my eyes on for 2013, I am considering the Around the Bay but not really that bothered. I would like to get the silver medal if I did that one which is a 30km in less than 2:15. I know I could do 2:20 but it would depend on hills and other factors whether I'd pull that off or not. I'd probably rather go run the trails but I suppose it is in March and gives you a good measure of your fitness. Plus this race gets filled VERY early so if you are considering it don't delay.

I'm definitely doing/redoing Sulphur Springs but the question yet remains; do I do the 50 miler again and actually try to finish it this time using a bit of common sense and tactical pacing, or do I attempt my first 100 miler. I'm very tempted but it scares me. I know other ultra runners seem to be able to grit their teeth and emotionally plough through the tough times but with me it seems when (not if) I fall apart that's game over. Still, I've not tested myself in this way - to take a really long race and slow it down ALLOT and just walk and run when you can. I love the thought of running in the night. Again, we'll see how the training goes but I'll have to start playing with some long walking stints in my training. Walking for long periods is different from running long periods and if you're going to walk far you want to know you can when it comes to race time.

I would like to do the Niagara Ultra again and so the question is either do I re-run the 50km and attempt a sub-4 hours this time (4:07 in 2012) or do the 100km. Niagara is where I live and this course is my regular stomping grounds and the course is pretty but it's like anything, if you do it too often it gets boring. I can wrap my head around the 50km out and back but when I'm back I think I'd be groaning if I had to turn around and do it again - but if I'm contemplating 24 hour and 100 mile races later in the year then it would be good training. We'll see. . .

What else. Well, the only other NEW race I'm considering this coming year is the Dirty Girls. It sounds fun (from behind my desk sitting on my ass that is)! I've spoken to a few people that have done it and I was considering the 24 hour. I like the idea of a race that isn't a specific distance but to go as far as you can in an allotted time. So you can go chill in your tent for awhile if you are feeling rough or need a break. I considered the 12 hour but it starts at night and although I'd like to run in the night, I'd rather not start a race in the dark - especially since I don't know the Mansfield course at all.

I think I'll give the Limberlost a miss this coming year. It was a disaster for me last year but is a lovely course. It is a very long drive there and back and so I'll have to try to redeem my DNF another time.

And of course there is the Toad in the Fall which I definitely intend on running at again. I love this course. The first time was a DNF (my first off-road ultra - all my training was on road and I paid the price of failure because of that), in 2012 I managed 5:09 which was kind of disappointing since the first 3 laps went amazingly well thanks to great pacing by April and Melanie Boultbee, but then I blew it. So I think I can work towards a faster time.

That's what I'm looking towards for next year so we'll see.

Kit-wise I think I'm going to invest in a pair of compression socks. My calves tend to do a very merry dance for hours after long runs and I'd be curious to see if it helps in recovery or to feel better through the actual race.

I'd love to get a Garmin watch telling me pace so I wouldn't crash and burn so often. I have an old Polar which does the usual but back then GPS and pace were not so big it is more of a HR monitor and watch than anything else.

Let's see. What else do I hope Santa brings me. Well, I think my Under Armour shirts are getting 'pongey' so maybe it's time to invest in another one or two and I definitely need a new pair of trail shoes. I have my light-weight Asics Fuji's but need something a bit more supportive I think.

I've also been researching what head-torch to get and will look into that some more and ask around but Pezl seems to be a good brand. I have a clunky one I bought for camping many years ago but it's a weight on your head with 3 big +++A's.

I also want to buy some S-tablets and try them out and hopefully stop throwing up in these ultras. I'll carry on with the Hammer Gels and Perpetuem but I think the Enduroylte doesn't agree with me so maybe I'll try another product.

And of course there is the need to experiment with foods and drinks over these extended training runs and see what works. There is always something to learn and you learn something new each time you have a race.

Well, that's about it for now. I hope all your training is going well wherever in the world you are. Keep at it and keep learning and enjoying :) Until next time. . . The Running Dude

Sunday, September 30, 2012



Welcome back. If you were at the Toad this year I hope you had a great race. I think we can all agree that the organisation is extremely good. The volunteers were plentiful and couldn't help enough - just catching their eye and they were asking if they could help direct you. Peggy & George do an amazing job and I think it's a race where you get excellent value for money (a lovely medal, great organisation with all the volunteers, nice sports bag, some yummy goodies in the grab bag, the Gatorade and nibbles at the aid stations and of course the delicious food after your race). I think my 50km race was $80 - compare that to the Niagara Falls Marathon which after 1st October is $120! I think that is outrageous and won't be running it this year for that reason. .

Course Map (12.5km loops - 4 for 50km route)

Course map - very useful

The Drive and Race Course Set-up

The day was dry and sunny. I left my house at 6am and managed not to get lost this year -and was at the parking lot by 7:30am. There were already many cars present but I still got one of the last places closest to the marquee. I got out, had a stretch and wandered over to the huge marquee where they had Tim Horton's and a number of booths selling goods for all your running needs. There were long parallel lines of tables with chairs in preparation for all the hungry runners and their guests and at the very top the organisers were giving out the goodie bags and your timing chip.

Oddly, you picked up your running number at the other end of the tables - I thought it would  make more sense to get your timing chip with your bib number and actually I forgot to pick up my chip the first time. I like the bibs where the timing chip is on the back. Anyway, I remembered to head back to get my chip. By then there was a longer line of keen runners. Oh, and while I remember, all the bibs were the same. I like races where they distinguish between race distances - perhaps it's a minor consideration but I think for the runners out there it can be nice to know who you are competing against and as it is a loop course and the majority of the spectators are at the start/finish they too would like to know.

I walked around with a camera and snapped some photos of the marquee and the start line and the facilities which I'll post in the next few days. It was sunny as I said and around 16 degrees and perfect for running. I headed back to the car where I had a few duvets and a pillow and got comfortable and lay down, listening to the commentator back in the tent. I saw lots of runners by their vehicles, getting ready attaching bibs, etc.

Start/Finish matts. We all line up behind the fence. Lake is to the right of this photo - bleachers/marquee to left
Bandstand where race announcements made and where my trophy awaits! Er, maybe next year. . .

Some personal touches which make this race special - a real Fall theme

Pinehurst Lake - we run by this at the start line and head into the trees - one guy I spoke to after race had jumped in. Brrr

Alex fresh and ready for the challenge

In the marquee I saw a number of sweatshirts from the Niagara ultra and struck up a conversation with a few runners. Everybody seemed in good spirits. The setup at the start/finish was slightly rearranged this year with the bleachers moved to the other side and a big bandstand where the race directors made their speeches before the start.

I was still in my car at 9am when they sang the US and Canadian National Anthems and the bagpipers began but I took a few photos of them while they rehearsed in the parking lot.

Bagpipe band preparing in the parking. They were great. Another nice touch

After checking out the toilet facilities I got my caboose over to the starting area 15 minutes before the start wearing shorts and a singlet but I was not too cold as long as I was in the sun - in the shade I found myself shivering a bit but no doubt some was due to the nervous tension I feel before the start.


At the car I had applied sun screen on my arms and head/ears/nose and sun factor lip gloss. I wore my Nathan belt with two bottles, one filled with Perpetuem and the other just with powder. This race I decided not to use the Enduroyte powder hoping I would not throw up - more on that later. . . . In the pocket I had 4 Hammer Gels and some toilet paper in the other compartment just in case. I've never had those problems but you never know. Then I had my handheld water bottle which held my car keys and a lock of hair from someone special to me. Last year I wanted to run well for her and DNF'd so I meant to make amends this time and let her run with me so to speak. 

I wear an Under Armour black shirt which I like very much although damn it gets stinky!  Maybe it's just me or maybe after hundreds of miles it doesn't matter how much you wash them, you just can't get rid of all the perspiration scent. I wore my skimpy shorts and my shoes are the purple Asics lightweight trail shoes. I put a heel gel in each to help with my Achilles issues. These things invariably move around by the end of the race but I like the extra cushioning.

Pre-Race Speeches and the Line-Up

I heard from the race director that there was some competition going on between Canadian and American relay teams this year. Having looked at the entries last year it was apparent that this year there were quite a few less runners entered in the 50km race. The post race stats were:

             Entrants         Finishers
Total         210                145
Male          132                 87
Female        78                 58

            Entrants          Finishers
Total         149                111
Male          104                 75
Female        45                 36

All the competitors were lined up in front of the bandstand and then with 7 minutes to the start the race director suggested we all line up. It is always interesting to see where people place themselves. I did my usual placement, arranging myself around 1/4 of the way back. People look around, some nervously, others sizing up the competition, others looking for a familiar face. I felt good and stood next to a older French woman who had run the 50km 13 times I believe. We chatted good-naturedly and ahead of me I saw two women who I'd seen the year before. They are sisters (I found out later) and were wearing bright pink/purple knee-high socks with matching hyra-packs. George walked through the runners shaking hands and I was pleased to be able to thank him personally. That was a nice touch. I saw this volunteer who was tall and dressed with this big weird had and funky coloured clothing - I guess he was supposed to be 'the Mad Hatter'. We saw him a number of times around the course shaking this big cow bell and encouraging us.

There is no whistle, shot-gun, gong, or whatever. A minute before the race people move to the starting line, crowding together for the first time and then there is just a 'ready, set, go' and we're off. . .

Lap 1 (Steady Does It)

Time for lap: 1:05:30 (last year lap one was 1:03:03)

If you read my lead-up to this race you'll know I had no great expectations. I've had enough failures this summer on ultras to temper my hopes and I knew with my Achilles problems and lack of training (one 22 mile training run on pavement 2 weeks prior), most of my running done on a gym treadmill and fewer miles than I'd have liked, that I'd be lucky to finish this run and certainly would not be placing as well as say, Niagara 50.

Anyway, I was not thinking that as I ran over the timing mats, listening to all the well-wishers and spectators who were clapping and taking photos and looking for their friends and family members. You have to enjoy those moments and savour them. I think it's really nice people coming out and cheering you all on. It was a comfortable temperature and the sun was out and here we all were entered in a tough physical and mental challenge and enjoying the moment.

We ran past the lake on your left and then entered the trees and there are various patches of pavement, a few more trees and then you are steadily on pavement that takes you past camping sites for probably 1-1.5km. You hear a busy road on your left at one point and then there is a sharp left and then you are into the trails properly. We all begin to stretch out over the first bit, getting into our various paces and at some point along the pavement stretch I found myself with who I came to think of as 'The Twins'. I remembered that they had blown me away last year. Watching them from behind I could tell their rhythm and pace were excellent and felt it was a good pace for myself so I tucked myself in. It felt like 6.5-7.0mph that we were doing. There wasn't any talking going on but even as we entered the trails it felt good. We flew down the hills and ran up the hills. There was another lady that had joined our little group. I didn't get a good look at her or catch her name but she said she tries to keep up with the Twins for 2-3 of the laps. She is obviously familiar with them and respects them.

I honestly don't remember much about the lap. It went smoothly, the pace felt good and we all got through the lap comfortably. There were a few runners that came flying by who were obviously the lead 25km runners but I don't think any of the 50km runners came by. Our pace was excellent - some people just have that and I don't. If it had not been for the Twins I would have blown it I'm sure. The lady behind me or myself would call out 'runner on the left' and the Twin on that side would move over so it was a good little arrangement and I was going to be sad when our little group fell apart as I knew it would at some point or another.

Lap 2 (Repeat of Lap 1)

Time for lap: 1:07:08 (last year lap two was 1:07:38)

We passed through the start/finish line and I was surprised to see the clock. I was only 2 minutes off last years time and feeling quite fresh. I remember last year I was pretty winded even after 1 lap. I guess knowing the course helps allot. This course is very deceptive. It is well groomed and there are only a few spots which are single track and these are not technical. There are hills - lots of them. They are not grand affairs except the one at 11.5km which on the 3rd and 4th laps become a dreadful thing to experience. The hills come frequently, they are constant and while they don't seem much the first or second lap, they 'grow'. I swear, they do! I'll be getting to the 4th lap story soon enough but as I'm describing the course I want you to have an idea.

The 4th lap, unfortunately was a death march with perhaps 3km actually 'run' in total. The rest was walking and holy crap there are allot of hills. I determined that I'd walk all the hills and try to run on the flats and down sections but I was walking a hell of a lot and it seemed one moderate hill after another and when you are fresh the hills don't seem that bad but when you are 'spent' they are there, constantly. So be aware. If you are going to do this course for the first time, it is lovely. You definitely should come. But take the first lap gently, ease into the race and don't blow up.

So, where was I? Ah yes, lap 2. Well, there is not much to report, again. It went by much like lap one. Yes, there was the beginning signs of fatigue at some points but thanks to the Twins and their steady comfortable pace we were all still there although there had been one change. The lady that was behind me began to breath harder and harder and it was obvious she was struggling which is a shame. I know that feeling well. The Twins I could never hear and I breathed hard for awhile on the first lap but then seemed to find a comfort level where I could breathe easily. I turned my head and saw the woman back around 50 feet and then she was gone. Oh, I'd almost forgotten. On lap 1 there was a guy also with our 'pack'. He had really long hair and a baseball cap. I didn't catch his name but he was with us about 3/4 of the first lap and then off he went ahead. The first time he went ahead we almost caught up. He had obviously run into the bushes to relieve himself but even as he came back to the trail he took off. I don't remember passing him but at some point we must have because I think on the 4th lap he came by me again. I never got his name.

Having been together quite a while by now we introduced ourselves. Hi, I'm Alex. The left Twin was April and the right Twin was Melanie. Looking at their results they are April and Melanie Boultbee. It was nice to meet you both :) They placed 1st and 3rd for their age groups so congratulations. One of them had bowel problems on the 3rd lap but she got through it. Their times were 4:46:18 for April and 4:42:30 for Melanie. Had I not fallen apart on the 4th lap I could have realistically anticipated a time of around 4:40 but I'm not begrudging my results. I did the best I could on the day. It would have been lovely if our group could have finished together but you enjoy the camaraderie while it lasts and you see those familiar faces in future races.

Melanie, April and I about 1/2 way through lap number 2

As some point on lap 2 I tripped up on a root. I was probably too close on the heels of one of the Twins and missed it and landed palms down. No harm done and I received the usual calls of 'are you alright?' I got up, dusted myself down and resumed my place. We all got through the lap much as we started. Last year, after 2 laps, I knew I would not finish but struggled on for another lap. I was getting tired by this point, as you'd expect after 15.5 miles, but I didn't feel 'wasted'.

During the second lap you begin to have to navigate your way around the 25km walkers. They are giving it their best also but it can be frustrating those that wear earphones and don't keep to the right. They are very apologetic when they get in your way but if they were more aware of their surroundings they wouldn't have to be sorry in the first place. But for the most part it was all good and some would yell out to others 'fast runner'. That made me laugh because I didn't feel very fast by that point and you try to pick up the pace just a bit so at least it feels like you're going by quickly. ha ha.

By this point it was getting very warm out. I'd guess 24 or so. The sections in the sun it beat down on your head. I had decided not to wear a cap and had sunglasses mounted on the top of my head which I never wore. They would slip down sometimes so I was constantly adjusting them and it was silly to have them really. They are Bolle's I got in the UK and are ancient. One of the lenses was broken and I glued it together, the nose guards are almost chewed off, and they really look like they've gone through the wars but they are sentimental to me, having been all over the world and in many races so they came along for the ride.

During lap 2 we had picked up a new runner who tucked in behind me; a guy. I didn't catch his name but I think he was wearing a red top. So that is how lap 2 finished.

Lap 3 (The 'Pack' disintegrates)

Time for lap: 1:10:23 (last year lap two was 1:24:46)

We all got over the timing mats and I was really surprised to see that the pace was still very good. I have a watch but I don't like to look at it and save the 'surprise' for the clock at the next cycle. We carried on around and then got on the pavement part in amongst the camping ground and it's here that it all fell apart for our group. One of the Twins moved away from the other and seemed to be struggling and slowing down. Sometimes it might be a way of breaking up the pack or sometimes it's a way of saying, OK, someone else take the lead. Either way, it happened pretty suddenly and I was concerned. We were all over the road and so I decided to forge ahead, going a bit slower to see if she could recover.

I found myself going into the trails alone and so just put my head down and carried on. I was very worried I might go too quickly but tried to be consistent and sensible and I think the guy came with me for a bit but then I was alone again although I looked back a few times and saw the red shirt not too far back.

There is a part that has a sharp left up 4 or 5 rudimentary 'stairs' which after the terrain comes as a nasty surprise and you are not used to having to actually lift your feet. So of course I tripped up there and was lucky not to hurt myself. At the top there is a very tempting white bench with a glorious view into the distance. A guy happened to be there when I tripped and said he'd really hurt himself there in the past, pulling a hamstring I think.

I was starting to feel it now, getting tired but still didn't walk anything but the huge hill and maybe one of the larger small hills. Besides the two tumbles which go with trail running I was feeling remarkably well. The Achilles was not hurting much but the calves were getting tight with all the steep downhills and then ups. This is much tougher on your calves than a treadmill or paved footpath and I think they were letting me know they were getting unhappy.

I'd fully expected to see the Twins again during the lap but I wasn't looking at my watch and was not sure my pace. I just remember passing a number of people. Oh, I do remember we had stayed with a tall guy earlier on who had a 'radioactive' black T-shirt on. He stayed at our pace for awhile and then the Twins passed him on one of the uphills.

I had tried to keep the drinking/hydration/gels going and it had seemed to work until now but I was forgetting to take the gels and I'd finished my powder drink and kept forgetting to fill the other one that had powder waiting to be mixed, so I was soley on water now.

It had been fun being with the Twins. Because they stand out people really cheer them on and of course I soaked up the encouragement. 'Go Charlie's Angels'! Hey, weren't there 3 Angels? I hope they were not confusing me! sheesh. There were a few places little boys and girls were waving and cheering and that was nice. I always make time to wave or say thanks to those people and a little boy I told him I hoped I'd seem him at this race in a few years. He seemed to like that.

I want to thank one of the volunteers in particular. He was within the parking lot area at around 12.2km steering you to the right and every lap he was clapping and being encouraging. I thought that was really nice of him. His hands must have done a marathon themselves.  I also ran by Henri a number of times, the race director from the Niagara ultra. He wasn't running but I said hello and said thanks for your race.

So I finished lap 3 and was getting pretty wrecked. I was not quite 'done' but I had run 37.5km without stopping which, considering my 22 mile training run on pavement 2 weeks prior when I'd walked lots, I was quite encouraged.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end as they say, and it was just into lap 4 where it all fell apart. . .

I think this is me completing lap 3 just before the 'meltdown'

Definately looking less 'chipper'
Lap 4 (Here Comes The Barf Monster)

Time for lap: 1:42:28 (last year lap Four was DNF)
I got through the start/finish line and wanted to walk for the first time but didn't want to do it right by the cheering section so carried on to the aid station about 100 feet further when that familiar sensation came on that heralds the emergence of the 'barf monster'. I choose a big tree out of the sight (but not the hearing I'm afraid) of the aid station volunteers and up it came. This really annoyed me but it usually comes on in these ultras when my pace is too fast for too long or I'm pushing myself too hard. I just can't seem to get the gels/powders to work with me or maybe forgetting to drink enough was the problem. I don't know but it is very frustrating.

I got that out of my system (so I thought) and carried on and unscrewed the cap to my hand-held and had them fill it up. Unfortunately my 'end' came on very suddenly and I found myself walking at around 1km along the pavement before you get back into the trail. From there I really don't remember much running because every time I put in an extended effort (which by that point was not very extended) the barf monster put in another appearance. In total I yacked 5 separate times and some I must say were quite impressive shows. Sorry for the graphic picture but wanted you to get an idea of the whole race - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I shouldn't be that surprised really. The training isn't where it should have been and I am happy I kept it together as long as I did. I'm just disappointed that I couldn't keep it together a bit longer, maybe get to 7km before I felt rough, and then soldiered through it for the last 5.5km. It was on this lap that I realised how many damn hills there are and I was frustrated to see people passing me. After a while one of the Twins came past, I guess Melanie as she finished first. I wished her well and then 'red shirt' came past, and then April came up. She stopped to say hello and encouraged me so thanks. I told her not to wait and off we went but I quickly realised her pace was more like mine on lap 3 and I just couldn't do it and keep the barf monster at bay so I began walking and wished her well. After that some more women came past and the radioactive dude. I mean, it was not a 'flood' going by me but in total I'd guess 25 came by over 10km.

I never got to experience this final lap last year having given up after 3. By this point it is much quieter. You don't pass the walkers any more and you are by yourself for long periods. I would have liked to be in a 'pack' again and don't always do well on my own when I'm exhausted. Some points I put my hands on my legs and just zoned out for a few minutes and at one of the picnic benches I sat down for close to 5 minutes just to try to get a second wind as my heart was pounding in my chest just from walking.

My calves and quads were shot and walking was an effort. I just wanted it to be over with. I got to the top of that nasty hill at 11.5km and at that point there were two walkers and one runner. It was a girl and after a tiny recovery at the top she ran on and after gaining 20 feet I decided I'd try to grab onto her for motivation. I'd been passed so often over the last 8km and being almost finished I wanted to try to 'compete' again.

I caught up to her and then there was a little hill which winded me and she got away. Then I recovered enough to carry on and caught up to her. We both knew we were getting close to the finish and it was turning into our own private competition. I passed her just before you get to the main gate house and saw my faithful volunteer clapping and encouraging us, even now after 5 hours. About 50 feet past him I had to stop again and she came by and I was almost ready to call it quits but then the competitive spirit arose in me again and I sucked up the last reserves I had and gave chase. She had definitely picked up the pace and I was cursing her under my breath for making me work so hard. ha ha.

We got past the final 'crossroads' that leads down and then a sharp right for a final small incline on dirt to the finish line. I caught up to her and managed to say 'you're going to make me work for this, aren't you?'. She acknowledged that she was and I smiled and then we both did what we could. I managed to outpace her as we got to the bottom and ran over the finish line. She finished in 5:05:32 and I gave her a hug after we got our medals.

My Finishing Time: 5:05:20
Placement: 13/23 for my age group
Finishing Place: 42nd of 111 that finished
Lap times again: (1:05:30, 1:07:08, 1:10:23, 1:42:28)
Michelle Leduc and I in a battle for the finish line
Enjoying some healthy competition - we're both smiling after 31 miles!
Michelle looks like she is enjoying herself but she made me work for that win!

Post Race

I was wiped and grabbed the closest seat I could find on a picnic bench. I saw the woman I'd narrowly beat and she came over and we sat and talked for about 20 minutes. I found out her name is Michelle Leduc, from Ottawa. She told me about her race and I told her about mine. After we'd recovered I began to feel a bit chilled as you do after a long race. By then we were hankering for some food and fortunately the marquee entrance was close and there were no line-ups. Our walking was as you'd expect after finishing 50km and after having seized up after sitting. We did the two-step shuffle until the feeling came back and as you entered the marquee the temperature went up a notch and it was quite warm and smelled of multiple bodies. Not bad, just maybe a little more stuffy than outdoors. There was a guy playing guitar and a woman doing a dance along with the music. People were seated at the long tables listening to the music and eating and no doubt sharing experiences.

Michelle and I grabbed what caught our eye. I had a chicken breast with some coleslaw and some Asian noodles with a Chipolata sauce, a bottle of water and for dessert a rhubarb strawberry pie. I asked for small servings as my appetite was definitely not high but I knew it is important to get food into your system after such an effort.

We sat down together and ate and I found out more about Michelle. Unfortunately her husband had not been able to come down to see her and she was new to the ultra running but has definitely caught the 'bug'. I'm sure I'll see her again at future races and well done to you. It was a pleasure to meet with, and compete, with you :)

Part way through the meal the Twins sat down at the next table over and I said hello and asked how their races had gone. I thought their times were very good although one had done better the previous year and one had done worse. I remember one saying she had stomach problems so perhaps it was her whose race was not as good as the previous year but last year April had run a 4:33! Pretty impressive and she only narrowly lost to Laurie MacGrath, a runner who I spent a fair share of time with running at the Limberlost with this summer. Last year at The Toad Laurie narrowly beat April to place 1st in her age group; April coming in a few minutes later to place 2nd in her age group.

After finishing my meal I said goodbye to Michelle and wished her well and then headed back to the car where I spent the next 30 minutes organising myself, cleaning myself off and washing off my body and putting on a new shirt. I drove home and reflected on the race and when I got home hobbled into the house. Stiffness had definitely set in. I tidyed everything up, washed my shoes and unpacked my bags and then went for a glorious hot shower. I then came out and crashed for 30 minutes before wolfing down a lasagna and more strawberry rhubarb pie.

Proud to FINALLY be wearing this medal

No feet problems this time and the shoes are relatively clean

That concludes my narrative of the 2012 Run for the Toad. It was great to meet some new people and compete in my fourth ultra of the year. I failed to complete the 2011 Toad and so I can now rest easier. I don't know if the strands of hair helped or not but I was glad to have a part of her with me at this race.

I learned more lessons and hope to come back stronger for 2013. I'd definitely do this race again. It is close enough and is a great course and challenging. If I am fit and injury free and have done the proper training I don't see why I could not achieve a sub 4:38 but I have a year to contemplate and work towards that. I'll post some photos over the next few days and once again thanks to all of you that took the time to read about my experiences. Please do come out and run it next year. It's an amazingly well-organised race.

The Day After

Ouch is all I can say. Calves in agony and stairs a major challenge. Thankfully, so far, no cramps but I think I'll take another shower or maybe an Epsom salts Jacuzzi. Ahhhhh. What's next? I don't know. As I said, there is the Niagara Falls International Marathon but for $120 I have better things to do. I'll see what there is on the calendar of events but I'll keep you up to date. . .

All the best for now.

The End

Post Race Development

I emailed Peggy and George a few days after the race to give them my thanks for organising such a lovely race and offered a few suggestions which they were kind enough to take on board. Chances are they had already determined what they were going to change for 2013 but I thought I'd pass it on to you.
  1. They are switching over to an integrated chip on the back of racing numbers (except the relay teams which will have the chip and that will be passed on to the next runner.
  2. They will have different coloured numbers for the different races.
  3. After two (that I've been there) kit bags they will be looking at possibly changing to something different for next year.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

2012 RUN FOR THE TOAD 50km - just signed up

Hello everybody. Thanks for popping back and looking in on me. In my last blog I posted my results and experiences at the 56km Limberlost Challenge. That race really wiped me out physically and mentally. I have said in the past that I do not perform well in the heat and that certainly was the case at the Limberlost, posting my second DNF of the year and my slowest EVER marathon distance (a lap short of finishing the 56km distance) in just under 6 hours!! At least I wasn't the only one that found it tough going.

For any of you contemplating running it in 2013 please read my race-report. It truly is a beautiful course and if you want a challenging cross-country race I would highly recommend it. It's a long way for me (4 hour drive) but I would definitely like to re-run it again. Thanks mostly to jumping in the lake fully clothed half-way through the race I did pick up a doozy of a blister on each heel. I also got a black toenail but it didn't come off thankfully (still to experience that in the future no doubt).

I felt totally drained after that days efforts and it took me 4-5 days before I even wanted to start running again. In the past if I have suffered a major disappointment like this one I generally give up for 6 months and lick my wounds but I'm trying to stay focused and encouraged. I get really down on myself when I've been training for a year doing high mileage and it begins to come together and you are feeling good and then on the day when it counts to crash and burn is so demoralising. It's such a skill to bring it all together on the day and it's certainly a combination of wisdom, knowing yourself mentally and physically, having a good sense of pace, and not getting carried away or influenced by what anybody else around you is doing - oh, and not doing ANYTHING new on the day.

Alas, my Achilles tendon is hurting like a son-of-a-gun and it's really, really, really irking me! Yes, I'm irked. My first run after a 1.5 week layoff after Limberlost felt dreadful, like all my hard earned training had been sucked away in my time off. My training has really taken a beating mileage wise. I'm trying to give my tendons a rest day between workouts but I'm finding it hard to run through the discomfort. I should take a page out of Chris McPeake's blog - what does he say - SUCK IT UP! ha ha. He's got a good point but we all have to weigh up a 'niggle' which can be addressed with a day or two off or some ice versus an injury which we are making worse by our training.

It just irks me (again!) that this injury is not going to go away now through icing or any short-term layoff. I've had Plantar Fascia in both feet in the past and that took almost a full year to recover from. I've also suffered from this Achilles problem in the not-so-distant-past and maybe it's age (now being an old 'git' of 45) or building up the mileage too quickly or the speed work or the hills. . .whatever it is I'm trying to be responsible with my training and how I feel. I went to my doctor before Limberlost and he's given me the paperwork to go get a scan so I will do that but at this stage I'm pretty sure it's not serious and all they'll tell me is to back off and let my body heal itself.

I really don't know how you guys and girls do so many long-distance races through the summer injury-free and keep up the momentum having 50km races every weekend (or longer!) or second weekend. After Limberlost I had pencilled on my calendar to do the Run for the Toad in late September which I did last year (my first DNF). I want to improve on last years result but with this persistent injury I was really unsure whether I'd be up for it or not.  

So I found myself going through the calendar of races and I do love the sound of the Dirty Girls but for this year I'll give it a miss - so many distances to attempt and I spoke with one runner who was going to do the 48 hour race (Lisa)! Geez, respect! Then I see the Iroquois Trail Test 32km and 50km and I'm thinking, hmmm, maybe I'll do the 32km as a good training run in preparation for the Toad but then, damn, family commitments and I have to give that one a miss.

I then look at the registration deadline for the Toad and it is almost closed - I know that the fees go up 1st August so I had to decide quickly if I felt I could do the Toad or not. So I decided, injured our not, I'm going to give it a go and if the training doesn't go well or I am injured I'll just do my best which is all any of us can ask of ourselves. I liked the course and I do like to have all you crazy people with me through the highs and lows.

Okay, so I'm registered for the Toad and that means I've got almost 2 months to get to the start line.

I got a message from Chris McPeake who is a keen ultra runner so thank you. He mentioned he had a tough time at Limberlost and I saw him beginning his 4th lap and he didn't look like a happy bunny at that point but he stepped up and did it whereas by that point I was looking for shade and trying to make sure my calves didn't cramp. He wisely said that sometimes it's not a good idea to look for a pacer as competent as the Laurie McGraths of the world and I'd have to agree. She was chatting away for the first lap at least and didn't seem to be in any way in distress and probably on that day it was a bad idea. I hope one day I can be the one comfortably chatting and having 'hangers-on'. ha ha.

No problems Chris on not chatting at the start. I fully understand how you feel and everybody is different how they approach a race. Some like to surround themselves with activity and friends, some sit quietly on the sidelines, some triple-check their drop-bags to ensure they have not forgotten anything, some pace nervously, some stand on the starting line just keen to get started. I also want to wish Chris the very best with Leadville. I really look forward to that race report and have been researching more about it online. Holy crap that looks like a bad-boy! Chris mentions that Seaton is also a bad-ass course so now he's gone and done it, hasn't he! I'm going to have to do it at some point and HURT some more! You're all trying to punish me I think. What did I ever do to any of you!!! Ha ha.

How Cool Would This Be?

You know what I would LOVE to see in the future of trail races and running events? I'm sure it is just a matter of time but think of it... Our race bibs would contain our timing chip but also a GPS transponder and the course would be marked out digitally or with MapQuest or whatever and you would be able to log in at home to watch the race unfold over whatever distance.

A different colour dot would represent each distance and a race number beside the dot for the runner (which you could click on to get their profile/previous races, times, placings, etc.) with the course super-imposed beneath the dots with elevations, etc.. You would be able to search and watch by gender, distance, place, etc. - wouldn't that be ultra cool? What else?  And perhaps at certain spots a live-feed cam as your favourite runners go by. And maybe you could have it on your wrist watch to see how far you are away from your closest competitor. Or maybe it's just stupid but I'll bet it will happen.

Ok, enough blabbering for now. I'll keep you posted later with how the training is going but for now I hope I'll be lining up on the start-line at the Toad with the rest of you! All the best.


Update - It's Now 11th September

Well, normally by this point before a longer race I'd have my hard training over and be in a fairly good position as far as fitness goes but I'm very jittery right now. Only 3 weeks before the Toad and with the ankle issue I have not been getting in the right kind of training at all. This past week was my highest mileage since the Limberlost Challenge at 60 miles which isn't stellar. The week before was 45 miles, then 40, then 25. And to make matters worse my longest run to date has been only 15 miles last week! I'm hoping to get at least one 20-22 miler in within the next couple of weeks but forget about competing. I think this one is going to be about surviving! The only good thing is that with the cooler weather coming on that I can get outside and actually enjoy some 'fresh' runs. By this point I'm getting pretty tired of the treadmill.

I read all the blogs from the runners that went and attempted Leadville. Some didn't finish but I enjoyed the blogs for their personal experiences. The 3 extra miles and cut-offs seem to have played a big factor in some of the DNF's which is tragic considering the months of training and personal sacrifices some of those runners went through to get there but most intend to attempt it again and certainly their experiences this year will put them in a better position next time. I certainly would love to attempt this one at some point but I better set my sights a bit lower and concentrate on getting the Toad out of the way (and hopefully finishing it this time after my DNF last year).

I've started a 'log' on excel to track mileage, exertion levels, type of run, etc. It is something I did when I first began running and kept it up for a number of years and I do find it fascinating to look back through sometimes so I thought I'd try it again. I don't know how many of you keep logs but they can be useful to see if you are doing the right kind and level of training for a particular race.

Well, that's you now up-to-date with my training since Limberlost. It is what it is and there is little I can do now to change my fitness in a few short weeks. The key will be getting 1-2 long runs in and if I can do that ok then, knock on wood, I will finish this time.

All the best for now and I hope all your training is going to plan.

Update - It's Now 25th September

Hi again. Well, this will be my last entry before the Toad so you'll have to wait for my Post Race Summary which I try to do fairly quickly after the event while it's still fresh.  It's been a few weeks since I posted my last update here. Well, I did get one 22 miler done outside with a few 13.1 milers but again, no crazy weekly mileage. I'll do one more 10km tommorrow (Thursday) and then take Friday off and then it will race day! I know I will have to walk sections of this one both strategically and because I'm not in peak fitness so we'll see. The weather forecast is for rain unlike last year and the temperature is supposed to be around 17 which would suit me - even a few degrees cooler I'd be ok with. I'll carry my handheld and wear a belt with two Nathan bottles but not going to add the Endurolyte powder this time, only the perpetum. I think the Endurolyte is making me sick. I also will only fill one bottle with water and the other I'll have the powder and will fill around the course once I drink the one (less weight). I got lost driving to the course last time so hopeful not to repeat that exercise.


Of course I just HAD TO look at the race results for myself and everybody else from last year and I've pulled out my 'flawed' crystal ball and my predictions based on current fitness will be 5:15 - 5:25. If I pull a sub 5 hour out of the hat I'll be well chuffed but the goal regardless of time is to finish this time and gut it out even if I'm feeling crap and not doing well.

Well, there you have it.

Da da da dat's all folks. See you on Saturday and good luck to everybody.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Two Weeks Before Until a Few Days Before. . .

Hi everybody. Wow. I've had 76 'hits' on my blog. How cool is that. It took me a while to figure out that when I viewed my own pages I was getting hits also so perhaps 50 are 'unique'. ha ha. Well, eventually I figured out how to turn off this 'feature'. It's neat being able to see where in the world those hits come from and for whatever reason I seem to have more interest from Russians than North Americans. Go figure.

Well, after the Niagara 50km I took 2 days off. My left Achilles tendon was very tender and I think I mentioned I had one day where I started running and quit after the first minute. In the past it would be tender to start with and then once I got going the pain would dissipate. Well, since Niagara I've been finding that the pain doesn't go away and on runs over 10 miles the pain increases so I finally booked an appointment with the doctor. He examined me and thought it was swollen and has filled in a form for me to make an appointment for a scan on the area. I told him I'd book it after Limberlost so I'll keep you informed. To minimize the damage I've been training on the treadmill where there is more 'give' and wearing my most cushioning shoes (which are also the most heavy and make me feel like I'm running like a slug) and trying to avoid excessive speed or hills although a few times I cranked it up - just couldn't resist. . .

I can't say I'm happy with the training or mileage but as well as the Achilles it's just been so darn hot outside (many days into the low 30's to high 30's) and I HATE humidity and baking sun. Yes, I could wait until the evening or get my butt out of bed earlier but the gym has won out so I don't think I've run outside since Niagara. So last week I managed 45 miles with one 15 mile run and this week, yesterday I did a fast 7 mile session and today I'm going to do a slow 6.2 miles (10km) at 7mph to 7.5mph to hopefully remind myself what sort of pace I should be aiming for. I've been icing the tendon and will do that tonight also which seems to help a bit.

Strategy / Race Goals

That's about it as far as training. Not great but could be worse. The race director sent an email saying it looks like it's going to be hot and humid later in the race so I will have to remember to keep hydrated and not blow up (i.e. go too fast) and hope the Perpetuem/Endurolye powders don't end up tasting like hot soured milk like they did in Sulphur Springs.

I've viewed the results for the past two years and it seems if you can do it in under 6 hours you're going to be right up there in the top 5. Since I'm not exactly happy with my training/injury/quality of my workouts or distance and the fact I have never done this course I'm going to keep my expectations realistic. If I do a sub 6.5 hours I'll be satisfied for a first attempt. Sub 6:15 I'll be happy and close to 6 hours I'll be smiling like a Cheshire cat.

I hope I'm sensible and start off slow and maintain a good rhythm for the first 2 laps and do each in about 1:35-1:40 until we are stretched out and then try to increase speed if possible once I am comfortable with what's coming up and try not to fade too badly once fatigue sets in. Maybe I'll find someone at a similar pace but generally I find myself alone on these things. I find it hard to be with someone on a race and always view them as an obstacle to be overtaken. This is especially a problem when there are other racers doing shorter distances when you see them ahead of you and get caught up in a pace which is great for them but not so great for me.

Well, not long to wait now. It's Wednesday and I'm taking Thursday off to do my packing. I'll set off Friday morning and camp out Friday night and if I'm totally wrecked after the race on Saturday I'll crash for a bit and either stay another night or drive home in the late pm.

I'll try to get my race report in shortly after I get back. I'm looking forward to it in many ways as it will be a very unique run I think. Thanks for visiting and come back soon :) Keep up the running and maybe I'll see you out there. . .

Post Race Summary

Short Version: placed 62nd of 81. 64% of the racers finished
Lap One (14km loops): 1:34:23
Lap Two: 1:44:15
Lap Three: 2:37:15
Lap Four: Quit end of 3rd lap

Start/Finish area - Car Park Number 2

Camping with my new tent - no shade - 33 degrees all day

Race Number Pick Up. Just a tiny fraction of the wonderful volunteers who were brilliant!
15 minutes before the start - silly grin soon wiped off my face. . .

Well, I've now updated the title of this particular blog '3 days to go', to 'Race Report'. I'm at the computer the day after the race and it's going to take me a while to sort through my feelings about this one. The first thing that comes to mind is, I suck. I'm beginning to think they should introduce a race called 'DNF' or 'Bringing Down the Cocky Bastards', so I can enter and potentially win it. Yes, it's true. I DNF'd my second race this year and my 3rd in two years and considering that I've only done 5 in two years I'm seeing a worrying trend.


My second observation is this about Limberlost Challenge. This is the HARDEST course I have ever had the pleasure of throwing up on! Don't worry; before all you die-hard ultra people write or make comments about how easy it is compared to their other races at 'such and such'. Sure, I know that is true. But for me in my limited time doing these things I can truthfully say this is the hardest physical thing I've ever attempted. This makes the Run for the Toad or Sulphur Springs seem like a picnic (the course, not the mileage because make it a 50 or 100 miler and there is no such thing as a picnic).

It is also the most beautiful course I've ever run. Sulphur Springs is well groomed and nice and you do get ups and downs but it is easy to run - except up the final hill to the start/finish and the '3 bitches' or '3 sisters' if you prefer a politer nomenclature, because of their steepness and your desire to conserve energy. I remember less of The Toad but again the hills are short and it is well groomed. The Niagara is an ultra but is all footpath or road and it doesn't compare at all to this race. Let me say that if you are a road runner and you have not done off-road you may NOT complete this course. The organisers of Limberlost warn you and having done The Toad and Sulphur Springs (even though I DNF'd in both) I believed I could take it on and even do OK. Even if you do hill repeats and fartleks and everything else you could possibly do on a road or on a treadmill, you will not complete this 56k without a DNF or walking a very big part of it. That I truly believe.

So what makes this course so much tougher? I think there are a number of factors. The biggest factor is the natural terrain. If you take your eyes off your feet and the area just ahead of you, you are going to be tripped up. There is constantly changing elevation and some of the downhills have you putting on the brakes hard so you don't slip on your ass. There are so many places where you cannot run at a normal pace. You either have to shorten your stride, sidestep, lengthen your step, step over logs, be careful on rocky sections, cross over wood bridge boardwalks. . .the list goes on and on. If you disrespect this course it will spit you out. I'm not trying to make excuses but advise people out there of my personal experiences. I failed at this one and the reasons are simple. The course was too much for me and I took on the course too quickly.


Yes, I had expectations. You can read about them above and I wish I had not made any 'predictions' now but I thought my goals were realistic. I spoke with people at the course about taking it gently and easing into the race by running smart on the first lap, running it slowly and getting to know the course. Should I have listened. Sure. Did I? Hell no. So once again I have only myself to blame. And trust me, I don't keep doing this just to spite myself. I honestly felt I was going to take it easy and with that in mind positioned myself half way in the pack. One of the guys I got talking with (Laurie McGraths father Ron) tried to coax me up closer to him at the start line and I said, 'No, I've learned my lessons, I'm going to stay back here and pace myself'. He passed me on the third lap.

Another factor which did me in was the heat. It was 33 degrees by late morning once the sun came out. Thankfully there are only a few exposed parts to run through the sun but it felt like like a physical weight every time you stepped into it and you couldn't wait to scuttle back into the woods to evade it. There were a few places where a breeze would occasionally pick up from the lakes and it was such a relief, if for even a few moments. The bugs were sometimes annoying. You'd get one hanging around you, keeping up with you until it got bored, got fed or you outran it's territory. No bears although one of the Marshall's parked in a big truck at one of the intersections mentioned being careful of a bear on loop 1 or 2 and at the time I thought it was just a 'tease' but maybe there had been a sighting.


I found the chipmunks funny. You have to remember I'm pretty much a 'city' guy, even though I live now in what many would consider semi-rural. Cultivated grape vines don't compare to the bush. I lived many years in the Toronto suburbs and lived in London, UK so those are the sounds and smells I'm most familiar with. I have camped and been up North to cottage country before but we're talking 30 years ago. Well, I had forgotten many of the things from those times but these chipmunks were so annoyed with you running through their trees, flapping their tails and making these thumping sounds with their bodies. I had to laugh. Another 'weird' noise which I didn't clue into until lap 3 by which point I was walking, was the sounds of bullfrogs in the marshy area. There was this one place, every time I came around I'd hear what sounded like two people talking quietly in a canoe but I looked below and it was very marshy with lily pads and dead logs and I'm thinking, why would anybody be out there? I finally stopped and listened more intently and heard them more clearly - it was pretty cool.


I've run many times 'alone' but this time felt special. You truly felt you were alone and yes, it felt good when you were in a small group and running together in sync but when I eventually ended up alone and not a soul would pass you or you pass them and there is no sign of man's imprint I felt inspired by it. Even the 'path' is hard to detect but the Marshall's did an incredible job with their marking of the course and there was no place where there was any question about which way to go, even if you were in an exhausted state. I think if this course ever became a 24 hour one it would be scary as hell - not because of wild animals but the terrain by flashlight only.

Lap 1 (of 4) - OK, 3. I DNF'd after completing my 3rd lap.

Well, after the speeches, they had all the 56km runners line up. I looked around and saw some of the familiar faces I'd seen or spoken with from the previous day and with very little 'adieu' we were off. There were a few cheers and we were immediately on the gravel road leading from our campground. There were small cones keeping us to the right of the road but it was dead and we got 800m down the road and were signalled into the woods. I was calm but my left Achilles tendon was troubling me. I could feel it was very sore even though I'd stayed off it for a number of days and I popped a Tylenol at the start hoping it would not be something that finished me off.

It's hard to remember much about the course because so much is the same but these are my memories of different things: trees, roots, rocks, bends, turns, climbs, downs, marshes, lakes, mud, boardwalks, a few patches of gravel road, a rock quarry in direct sunlight, two small wood cabins, a bench or two by the lake, a boardwalk by a big rocky cliff, long grass stomped down, spongy forest floor, pine needles, bugs, occasional breezes, stifling heat, baking sun, amazing aid stations who couldn't help you enough....

I ran for some time passing people, feeling comfortable and truly enjoying the course and then eventually I ended up running with 3 people; a woman who I had said earlier I would try to have 'pace me' called Laurie McGrath and a guy she was running with and another guy whose name I'll know as soon as the results come out because he finished lap one right with me. Laurie and the one guy were having a great time it sounded like, chatting away like it was nothing. By that point I was already winded but was able to keep up but there was no way I had enough energy other than for a few 'witty' one-off comments about having just got my 'fourth wind' - hint hint - it's lap one - I'm screwed! So it was her and this guy chatting and the guy behind them who stayed quiet and was just tucked in with them. I'm not sure if he knew them or not. He looked to me like another guy that has a blog and had won his age group at Sulphur Springs but I'm not sure. I guess I'll look for his name. Ok, I looked at the results and his name is Paul Chenery. He ended up in 12th. Nicely done. Laurie finished 10th and her father Ron Gehl came 23rd.

I was tucked in behind him and enjoying our group. It can be really helpful for pulling you along and getting you through some tough spots but invariably something happens to upset or change the dynamics in an ultra and that's what happened. Perhaps Laurie was tired or was fed up with the 'hangers on' so when we got to an open area she said she didn't want to lead anymore and so the quiet guy and I went by and and although I could hear them still chatting behind us we eventually ran out of earshot and so it was him and me behind, huffing and puffing but following along. I hate the runners that don't sound tired when I'm beat. I couldn't hear any distress coming out of him! He didn't seem annoyed by my presence and I would have offered to take the lead if he wanted me to but he seemed content with his shadow. There were a few instances of two or three guys wanting to get by. I think they were the fast runners from the shorter races but then it was him and me again. This guy never seemed to drink except at aid stations although he had a water bottle on his waist. I was very conscious about getting dehydrated and took turns drinking water or my mixed powder drink. So that was pretty much it although I do remember thinking, bloody hell, this is a LONG 14km! It was not until lap 3 that I realised that the white notice boards with witty sayings (something about smiling and toenails comes to mind) had a small number below them indicating what km you were at.

Finally we were at the final lake and the path which I had taken the previous day to get a feeling for the course from the opposite end of it and after a few boardwalks we were back into the main field and crossing the line. 

Elapsed Time: 1 hour 34 minutes.

I don't know what to say. When I looked at my watch and saw this I think I was horrified. I was very tired and even after that effort, hanging on to that guys coat-tails it still took me 1 hour 34 minutes. Even if I kept up that pace for another 3 laps which I knew was impossible, I was only going to manage a 6:15 - 6:20 race. I thought for the effort and how I felt, that the watch would read something like 1:24 and then at least I could have gone, oh shit, I need to rethink this, I'm going too fast. The course is very deceiving. It may be true km markings but trust me, the effort level is huge and the km's feel like they are never going to come.

Lap 2 - Time to fertilise the course

I started the lap with my new silent partner and off we went into the trails. There was some cheering from the spectators at the start/finish area and then immediately you are alone again and that is a weird feeling also to go from noise and support to nothing in a matter of seconds. Besides the aid stations and the people that you either pass or get passed by there is no man made noise at all - I did hear a plane once.

I again don't remember much about this lap but there came a point that I couldn't keep up with him any more and dropped back so that we were very soon alone. . . 'WILSON! ! !'. . .Ok, maybe I wasn't desperate or insane by that point but I knew I was in trouble and that the wheels were coming off.

I tried to reduce the speed and got passed by a few more people and then at one of my alone spots that dreaded feeling came over me and I knew within 10 seconds I was going to loose the contents of my stomach. It seems to happen when I over-exert myself for an extended time and so I just put up with it and again have to apologize to the one runner that went by me at that point. A few 'episodes' later I took a few deep breaths and continued on my merry way. . .

I think it was somewhere on this lap that I caught up for a short while to another female runner who I recognised from the back although I'd never spoken with her. Lisa is her name and Laurie McGrath had pointed her out to me earlier in the morning saying I should stick with her to pace me around (Laurie felt her endurance was off). I don't know how I caught up to Lisa but I said a friendly hello from behind her and told her that Laurie had mentioned her to me. She was friendly and she kept the lead. I told her I was pretty knackered and she left me more knackered when she told me about her future races this year - the 48 hour Dirty Girl for one! That's just insane. What is it that these crazy ultra runners have that I don't? ha ha. Don't answer that please. Well, I kept up with Lisa and she inspired me for a short while but I knew her pace was above what I could do and told her I was going to drop back so she didn't have to listen to my heavy breathing and I wished her good luck. About 100 feet after this I almost wiped out on a root but recovered and she asked if I was OK. That's the nice thing about these people. They are all hurting but they always offer to help one another. It is really nice. Fortunately no damage done and I carried on and so she disappeared as I slowed and then I'd catch up for a short while and then fade again and then I stopped to walk a bit and didn't see her again. Lisa finished in 24th place.

The second half of the 2nd lap is a bit of a blur to me even though it's only yesterday. I honestly don't remember it well anymore and I do know that by 1/2 way through the second lap I knew I was not going to finish. At this point I only wanted to push myself to finish another lap and not disgrace myself after only finishing two laps. I honestly have no idea where I was in the field of runners. I had passed a number of runners from shorter races that were probably feeling as bad as me and been passed by a few runners that had caught up with me - a few I recognised from the Niagara Ultra.

I got through the finishing chute and looked at my watch but I don't remember. Looking at the results it was Lap 1 in 1:34:25 and Lap 2 in 1:44:15, therefore 2 laps in 3:18:37. I hobbled over to the aid tent and lay down in the shade. One of the other runners came over and I recognised him from somewhere. He had finished his race and I asked how he'd done. We shook hands and after dousing my head in cold water I decided I would do another lap.

Lap 3 (the beginning of the end) - lap time 2:37:15

I wanted to get away from the thought of my car and tent being 50 feet away and get away from the cheerful sounds of people and the smells of food cooking and my feet hurt, my legs hurt, I hurt.

I walked down the road and about 100 feet from where you dip into the woods I walked to the other side of the road into the shade and put my hands on my legs and almost said 'no more' and walked back to the start. I had had enough and the thought of walking 14km did not hold any appeal to me. Another two guys passed me at this point and I think that was what finally convinced me to carry on. They were hurting but they were still shuffling and if they could then I shouldn't be such a wimp. I had no injuries - I was only tired.

So I got my sorry ass moving and headed into the woods and I tried to run when I could and walk when I needed and soon it was all I could do to walk. I was getting out of breath simply walking up an incline and when I was able to get into a run and try to find a rhythm, the slightest obstacle (log, incline, rock) or enticement (bench, nicely shaped rock to sit down on) got me walking again. I was pretty discouraged and demoralised and was getting far too hot. It was at this point that I got to that pretty spot with the cliff on one side and a lake on the other and a sturdy boardwalk. Well, I looked at that clear, cool water and decided that I just didn't give a crap anymore and so I jumped in. Yup, and what a relief. It was only about 4 feet deep at that point with some dead branches at the bottom but it was clear and clean and it was delicious. Another runner went by while I was paddling around cooling myself off and when I first surfaced after jumping in I could swear I heard some laughing from ahead on the trail - maybe some other runners figured what someone had done and wished they'd done the same thing. I knew I was likely to get some blisters now that I'd soaked my feet and shoes but considering my pace I wasn't too concerned. The horsefly's did bother me for a few minutes after I hauled myself out but it was well worth it to clean off the grime and get my body a bit cooler. The medical guy had suggested it in the pre-race briefing but I don't think anybody took him seriously.

Hot? Jump in the lake so of course I did right here! Ahhhhhhh. How do you spell relief?

The rest of this lap was just about surviving from one km marking to the next, always with that goal in mind. I hung out at the aid stations quite a bit and ate salt and vinegar chips, grapes and drank more water. I always filled up my water jug. I remember shortly after my lake immersion I came to a big low level rock and sat there for a few minutes and then got going again. Moments later a guy and girl behind me I heard giggling asking each other if that was a bum print on the rock. I yelled back, 'yup, that's my butt print'. They passed on by and a long while later I think I caught up to them again at an aid station. The guy had had a severe leg cramp and had taken quite a while to get going again but he was good-natured with all the aid-station workers and had us all laughing. I told the helpers that my delusions of grandeur were over and that this was one tough course to crack.

On it went and a few times after km 10 I found enough energy to run a bit again. I did manage 3/4 km before stopping for a walk and then maybe another 1/2 km again around 12 km. I passed a few other runners from the shorter races, a photographer in the final km and then I was crossing the boardwalk, climbing the final sandy climb where we then skirt the parking lot and head into the start/finish area again. I got a few cheers but by then it was baking hot and those people that were there were sitting in what shade was available. Final time was 5 hours 56 minutes I think. It's funny when I think that I was hoping to finish the 4 laps in 6 hours 10 minutes or something close to that.

I walked over to one of the tents that had a few people serving food and found an almost deserted table except for 4 runners eating and no chairs so I just huddled myself over the table until I found the energy to walk back to my car, get my fold-able chair and sit myself in the little shade there was.

I sat there watching my calves dance and twitch and decided that I was not going to camp out another night. I got my shoes and socks off and there were a few lovely blisters on my heels from the wet shoes and some of my toes had really been pounded by the constant hitting force on the downhills but I could see I wasn't going to loose any nails. The tent and car were fully in the baking sun again. Rather than walking to the lake to clean myself off I grabbed some water and a towel from the back of the car and toweled myself off. The heat was horrible and once I got cleaned up and changed I jumped into the car and started it and the air conditioning. It was 33 degrees. I stayed with the A/C on until I could bear it and quickly went outside and dismantled the tent and threw everything in the back of the car as quickly as I could.

Before I left I saw Chris McPeake shuffling into his 4th lap. He at least didn't quit. I had read his blog and had the chance to introduce myself to him and Kim about 5 minutes before the start. He seemed distracted, wanting to get organised and possibly thinking about Leadville which is his big challenge. Anyway, I enjoy his reports and it's nice to have met him and I hope he is happy with this days results. He said today was just about getting in some miles so he wasn't really there to compete although competing is a very subjective thing in ultras. Finishing races is competition enough many times and he's had his share of DNF's but I think he definitely will have finished the 4th lap after having started it and I'm sure he'll write his report soon. Just looked at results. Yup, he finished in 45th in 9:11:13.

I grabbed some cookies and salted chips and a sandwich and brought those to the front seat and was drinking as much water as I could. I'd peed once on the course over a period of 6 hours and knew I was very dehydrated. Perhaps I should have hung around a bit longer to make sure I was recovered enough but I started the car and said my goodbyes to Limberlost Forest Reserve. If I had been in a better condition and it was not so darn hot I would have stayed, eaten something in the tent and cheered on others but I just couldn't manage it this time. It was a 4 hour journey each way which is a long way to go for a race and while I'm licking my wounds now I won't say never again. Limberlost and me have unfinished business!

Thanks for reading this long-winded trial. I'm tired of sitting here now but I'll add some more over the next few days and add a few photos but I hope to meet more of you over the coming races.

My next challenge (should I choose to accept it) will be Run for the Toad in Paris, Ontario. If I do any length it will be the 50km run that I DNF'd in last Fall after 3 laps. I need to lay this ghost to rest and finish it this time.

Take care and happy running.

The Running Dude (aka Alex)

PS. Can someone, anyone, add a comment please. I'm new to this blogging and not sure if I'm just boring people to tears (yawn) or whether I'm totally rivetting (now that would make a change) but with 120 page views now I've yet to receive my first 'howdy'. Plus I'm not sure if the comments section works or not but I do see comments on other people's blogs. It would be nice to hear a HELLO, YOU SUCK, YOU DON'T SUCK, PACE YOURSELF YOU MUPPET! or whatever your goals are :)