Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 LIMBERLOST CHALLENGE 56KM - just signed up

Well, it's 12:30pm on 29th June 2012. After reading everything I could find online; YouTube videos, Blogs, confirmed entries to date and The Limberlost Challenge website I just confirmed my entry a moment ago for the 56km event (4 laps of a 14km course around 5 lakes up in Huntsville, Ontario).

There are race distances from 14, 28, 42, and 56km (1-4 laps of a 14km loop) so I think almost anybody could give it a crack. It is only the third year of this event but it sounds like it's getting bigger and better and there is chip timing and what sounds like a great buffet after. I'd expect in my race distance there will be about 80-100 racers. They are doing staggered starts from 8am to spread us out over the course and camping for a very reasonable $12/night (2 night camping available Friday/Saturday night). The website also provides info for other hotels/motels/b&b's in the area.

If you enter before the end of tommorrow (30th June) you also get a T-shirt in your entry fee. I don't think there are any medals for finishing and that's cool. Maybe some year they'll think of some neat memento other than a medal - perhaps something 'organic': a wood coaster or something. No matter. I didn't enter for shiny trinkets; rather for the experience. What that experience is will have to wait until my post race summery but being only 2 weeks away it won't be long to wait.

It's quite a distance from me to travel to but I couldn't resist based on what I saw and I just hope I'm up for the challenge. The majority of this course - probably almost all since they have changed it this year - will be off-road which I love but pacing is going to be key and not injuring myself on the course which is easy enough to do on any unknown off-road terrain but looks particularly possible here.

Pacing can be extremely difficult in an offroad situation where markers are fewer or non-existant and where you may spend long periods on your own. I guess having a Garmin would help but I don't and generally run by 'feel' which has not helped me. I ran by feel in the Sulphur Springs 50 miler about a month ago and after a lap had destroyed myself and even in Niagara last weekend on a course I am very familiar with still did the first 1/2 far faster than intended.

The organisers ask that you bring your own cutlery and plate along with you for the food after and that the aid stations will fill up your water bottles but they won't have oodles of paper or plastic cups which I think is good.

The organisers also say that wildlife is of the less dangerous kind. I think one runner last year came across a bear and a few of the runners just waited a few minutes for it to carry on. If you come across anything it is more likely to be deer or maybe you'll spot a beaver or raccoon. I'm looking forward to smelling the fresh forest smells and the cushioning of the trails underfoot. I have not purchased any gaiters but it's likely that I may have to empty my shoes if any of those pine needles find their way inside.

I finished the Niagara Ultra 50km last weekend in a pretty favourable time and placing (will work harder for next year) and at The Limberlost Challenge I really don't have any expectations. At this point I'm just hoping I won't have to drop out. My achilles tendon on the left foot is really playing up and icing is not helping much. I did a 10 miler on Tues, had to stop before I even started on Wed as it was really smarting and managed 7 miles yesterday, grimacing for the first 3 miles until things got warmed up. I want to do some hill repeats but that will just aggrovate things so will continue with icing and do my best.

I don't have any camping gear so am begging around, otherwise I'll be camping out in the back of my car. There is a lake right there you can swim which sounds lovely both before and after and while the campers won't have hook-up to electricity you have port-a-potties, fresh water and a bar-b-que pit you can use. The website also mentions the various restaurants/food choices in the area.

I've read a few bloggers reports that say when they punched in the GPS the co-ordinates it didn't get them there first time so be aware of that and have a clue where you are going. I don't have a GPS and have not navigated up into cottage country before so will be a first for me. I'll probably end up in Timmins knowing my navigation skills. Maybe I'll start a race there for one.

I've looked at the confirmation list to date and seen a few names of people I've heard refered to in other blogs - Chris P, Kinga, and a woman who seems to be right about my pacing called Laurie McGrath so maybe I'll run into her and others. I also saw a video that showed one woman at the Limberlost who I ran into at the Niagara race last weekend so maybe she'll be there. I think I also saw a video of the race director for the Niagara run doing this race - Henri. I guess the ultra community is still fairly small in comparison to shorter or more traditional races and you'll start seeing familiar faces which is nice. I've got nothing negative to say about the various people I've met so far in my short ultra career.

Well, I guess I'll sign off. I'm really looking forward to getting up there and hopefully I'll run across some of you. If you are considering signing up I think you should. It looks like a well-organised run in a lovely part of Ontario.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Since I created this blog a few weeks ago I thought I'd try to recall some details about the 'Run For the Toad' 50km in October of 2011. That was my first Canadian Ultra Cross Country Race. I'd done a few 18 mile cross country races when I lived in Kent, UK (called 'The North Downs') and remembered how much I enjoyed being offroad.

I had done the Niagara Ultra 50km in June 2011 and the Toad was my next race. I had spoken with some finishers at Niagara and they highly recommended it so after doing some research and liking what I saw I set my eyes on this race. I like cooler running and the Niagara Ultra I found very warm and know that affected my performance. I didn't keep a log of my mileage last year but I was doing ok with it but in hindsight I was very sadly lacking in the thing that would have helped me most - running off road. It seems pretty logical but all my running was on the paved footpaths along the Niagara River or at my local gym on treadmills.

I can't recall what my race goals were. I probably looked at finishing times and did some extrapolations but I don't remember what they were any more. I remember a very early drive to Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area. I got lost and was getting worried but having allowed myself plenty of time I eventually got there and got settled in. I remember it was very cold with a strong breeze. I thought the set-up at the start/finish was superb and alot of effort went into that I know. The toilet facilities were excellent and I quickly got my kit from the marquee and rested in the back of my car, speaking with two guys who had parked next to me. I don't recall their names now but one of them sounded like he was probably going to do pretty well considering his marathon time a few months prior but I think this was his first off-road race also.

I cut holes in a garbage bag for arms and head and with a few minutes to the start made my way over. There were what felt like hundreds huddled in the big marquee trying to stay warm, jumping up and down and you could see the nervous tension at work and smell all the huddled bodies and various applications of Ben Gay and whatever else. At the last moment we lined up and heard the Scottish pipe band play and then it was a go. . .the course is 4 laps of 12.5km loops.

Once we got running I quickly warmed up and actually the day was perfect for running throughout the race. The sun came out later and it warmed up but nothing unbearable. I remember putting a snickers bar under my shirt to eat at some point and holding a water bottle. I didn't wear a belt pack at this stage, nor did I use energy gels or powders but I do now. I like to start not too far from the front pack just to keep away from the masses where you can get into traffic jams in single track and I didn't experience any bunching that I recall. It felt really nice underfoot and the course was undulating/rolling but not dreadful for hills - I thought Sulphur Springs was more hilly overall. There is one hill a few km from the start/finish line that is a total pig. I don't know what the incline is but it's higher than any treadmill setting I think. The only nice thing is that is it quite short. The first lap I jogged up it and was winded and the second and third laps I walked it. The third lap I almost crawled it actually and thank goodness it was not wet or it would have been ghastly!

It was really nice coming through the end of the lap and having a bleachers set up for spectators to cheer from. There was a running (no pun intended) commentary going on but I didn't really clue in to what was being said.

In hindsight I went off too quickly and I didn't do any cross-country training and either of those can be race-enders and I did both and paid the price. I finished the first lap and by the half-way point of the second lap I knew I was in trouble. The third lap was a total disaster and I walked at alot of points, threw up a few times, never remembered to eat the damn Snickers bar even though it was in my hands by this point, and as I got past the finish line at the end of the 3rd lap I knew the gas tank was empty and I wanted to call it quits. They tried to put a medal on me (there were different distances being run) but I told her I had not completed the race and figured I'd earn it next year. I was pretty dejected and sat on the bleachers and heard the commentator announce Ellie Greenwood coming in to the finish. Looking at her times, damn she is fast!

My placing was 142nd of 178. All the ones after me also DNF'd at different points. My three lap splits were 1:03, 1:07 and 1:24. The first two laps would have put in around 14th place but of course it's not how fast you start but how fast you finish and better pacing might have got me around that fourth lap but I gained some valuable knowledge. I remember I didn't have any of the delicious food they had on after. I just wanted to get back to the car, lick my mental wounds and get out of there.

It is a great course and extremely well organised. George and Peggy have been Race Directors for years and they know what they are doing so hats off to them both.

Well, I hope that you will come out to the 2012 event. I intend to enter and try to redeem myself and actually get the medal this time and enjoy some post-race food and hang around to cheer in others so fingers crossed.

It's now two days after the Niagara 50km race and I'm stiff and sore still but am seriously considering the 'Limberlost' 56km race way the heck up in Huntsville because it sounds beautiful. We'll see but if not that one I think the Toad will be my next event.

Here are a few 'me' photos during the race.

Start of lap 3 (called it quits after this lap)

The nasty hill a few km from the end of the lap - first lap when I ran up it

3rd time going up the hill - quads burning - not looking so chipper now

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Hello everybody. Thank you for coming to check out the review of my race day at the Niagara Ultra. I live in Virgil, just 10 minutes from the starting line of this race and have done the course many times in training and have the benefit of being able to visualise every step. You can read my other posting about the course itself in minute detail but this posting is more about how my particular race went and what I observed and felt during the race.

The Week Before

The week of training before the race went ok. I belong to a gym and we have had some scorching weather here during the week with record temperatures and high humidity (up to 43 degrees!) so all my final weeks training has been on a treadmill. There will be some of you that turn your noses up at this type of training and others who think it's invaluable. I personally have no issues with running on a treadmill. I like knowing pace, having the option to create a hill, being able to stop when I want and avoid extreme weather conditions. Additionally I have been having issues with Achilles Tendons most of the year and I find treadmills more forgiving than concrete or paved paths.

This week I did 8 miles on Monday, 7 on Tuesday and 4 on Thursday for a total of 19 miles. The Monday and Tuesday sessions were quite quick at 8-9 miles an hour with the final 4 mile session at 7.5 miles per hour. I hope to maintain 7.5 - 7.7 miles an hour for the race overall. Last week I did a 1/2 marathon and a total distance of 63 miles and the week before was 73 miles with a marathon in training so we'll see how this taper works and hopefully the mileage is ok.

The Day Before

I have been keeping a close eye on the forecast and thankfully it looks like although it will still be warm, it isn't going to be dreadful. I believe they are calling for a high of 24 degrees but at 7am it will probably be closer to 18 or 19 degrees. A 7am start means we'll have at least 1-2 hours before temperatures get too high. Tonight I'll drive over to the start and pick up my race pack a
nd drop off the car at the start line so I get the parking space I want and don't have to drive extra early on Saturday. I'll then get a drive home and have my kit all prepared for the next day. You can read my other posting for 'things to pack for a race' if you want - it's just some of the things I think are useful to have.

I have the day off today and am just going to 'chill' and relax - getting my kit ready. Last night I got a good sleep and they say that this is the more important one and that most of us are fairly sleepless and restless the night before a race and this is true for me also. I try not to concentrate on a race going to bed the night before but invariably thoughts turn to it and I can't stop them once they start.

My Previous Niagara Result and What I Hope for in 2012

2011 training for the Niagara went well. I ran the full 50km course in training sometime in April in 4 hours 17 minutes which I was happy with and I had hopes of finishing the race in 4 hours 15. Well, the best laid plans. . . unfortunately I made the mistake which seems to be plaguing me last year and this year so far. I go out like a bat outta hell, feel great (for awhile) and then pay for my stupid pace. Last year I went out too quickly and I didn't feel good. In fact after about 5km I wanted to throw in the towel and make a right hand turn to my house which is down one of the roads alongside the course (tempting). It was getting warm, I was running alone and could see about 4-5 people ahead of me as we all began to stretch out into the race.
I carried on and where I normally run up the extended hill at the Niagara Escarpment at 11km, this time I walked twice there as I felt the heat and the lack of motivation. It just was not happening. I got to the 1/2 way point -  I'm not sure of the time because I didn't set my watch correctly at the start - but as I started my return journey one of the runners said I was in 6th place. At the 1/2 way point I knew I was finished and the hills going out of Niagara Falls wiped me out and by the 18km point I began walking. I tried several times to pick it up again and it was start/stop for awhile and then I just mentally gave up and the 'death-march' began. I figure I walked close to 9 miles in total on the way back with a final push from 2km. I walked with another guy for a number of miles whose name I can't remember but it was nice to have someone to push each other when we could. The race finished for me in 5 hours 11 minutes (finishing 60th of 160 runners) and I was really disappointed in myself.

I got some pizza and then headed out to the finish to cheer on others and that was enjoyable. I got speaking with one woman who had done very well, finished 5th overall I think and was going to be running a 100 mile race later that year. She told me about the Run For The Toad race in October and I think it was through speaking with her that I decided to enter that race - another one I hope to run in this year. That was how the 2011 Niagara Ultra went.

What do I hope for in 2012? Well, better than 5 hours 11 minutes would be nice. This year I did the full course in training, again in April when it was cooler (I do much better when it's cooler) in a faster time of 4 hours 7 minutes. I've definately been putting in more mileage than last year but I had a DNF at Sulphur Springs 50 mile in May (finishing 2 of the 4 laps) and that has made me worried about repeating my mistakes and going off too quickly. If I can reign myself in at the start and treat it like a training run in my head and get to the 1/2 way point feeling perky (ish) then I HOPE to finish in less than 4 hours 30 minutes. I would not be happy with that but I don't want to get cocky and predict a sub 4 hour (ain't gonna happen). If everything goes awesome then I would love a sub 4 hour 15 minute race.

Race Kit

I'll be wearing a sleeveless black Under Armour top which is body hugging, sunglasses, skimpy running shorts, Therlo socks, Asics Gel Fuji Racer with Spenco heel tabs for support, a white peaked cap, a Nathan belt pack with two 10oz. bottles (one filled with water and Hammer Perpetuem/Endurolyte powder mix (2 scoops of each) and the other just with powder mixture which I’ll fill with water after drinking the other one and filling with water at the turn-around point – that way not carrying around dead weight and the second bottle won’t get warm). I’ll put 2 Hammer Gels (Raspberry flavour) in the zippered pouch and carry a Nathan 20 oz. handheld for water. I’ll fill that up also at the turnaround point. I’ll apply a 50+ sports sun-block spray and use Bodyglide on privates, nipples and inner thighs. That’s it.

Race Kit Pick-up Friday Night

I drove to the Kinsmen Scout Hall about 6:30pm and quickly got my race number (232) and the nice fleece which is identical in style but purple this year (awesome - my favourite colour and will match my Fuji's nicely). There were people coming and going and I left after that. They have colour-coded the numbers this year depending on your race distance which I think is a great idea and also this year the chip is on the back of the bib number which also makes sense - last year you had to wait to pick up your chip until the morning of the race.

Post Race Review. . .

Wow. What a day. I don't know where to start but I slept quite well and had pasta for dinner along with strawberry rhubarb pie (love the pie season). I went to bed at 10pm and got up at 4:30am to have 2 pieces of toast with jam and honey and a banana and then went back to bed until 5:30. Then I had my morning constitutional and put in my contacts and had all my kit prepared so jumped in the car and a quick ride (10 minutes away) to the course. The 100km runners had gone at 6:00am. I got to the course at 6:15am and walked to the car I parked last night and got prepared. There were already people lined up to use the porta-potties and I got my camera and took a few shots of the starting area which hopefully I'll figure out how to post later - then I got in the back of the car and just chilled until 15 minutes to go. I applied sun screen and locked the car, put on my belt pack and then the race director, Henri, made his pre-race announcements. I lined up at the front with the first 20 runners and looked back to see if I saw any familiar faces which I didn't. Then it was a 3. . .2. . .1. . .and off we went.

The day was already bright and sunny and you could feel it was going to get hot. The grass was still wet and dewy but the grass part is over in 100 feet or so and then you are on the paved foot path. I kept it in my head that I was NOT going to go quickly and tried to reign myself in. I felt good and after crossing the road after The Commons my Mom was waiting there to see me. I ran over and gave her a hug, thanked her for coming and then ran back. That is the first race she's ever seen me at ( I lived in the UK for 18 years) and it was nice to see her when I felt fresh and keen rather than smelly and exhausted. Once we got past Fort George and out along the Niagara River we started stretching ourselves out. I was not running with anybody and passed a few runners over a period of time, just taking things easy.

It was a huge relief that I didn't feel like I did last year when mentally I just didn't want to be there and felt like quitting and was exhausted very early. Today I felt good and just tried to keep things ticking over. I had a Hammer Gel just before the start and kept up with water and Perpetuem drink (every 5km). We got to the 11km point and the climb was hard but I didn't stop. I passed a guy who said that put me in 6th place and I was thinking, oh no, not again (6th place last year at the 1/2 way point before I fell apart)! I got to the top at 13km where I always peak at my watch and I remember telling you guys that if I was there in 1 hour I should kick myself and there I was again, 59 min, 53 seconds. I don't know what my feelings were but I decided I'd try to slow things down a bit but for now the wheels were still on.

I just carried on running. I found it very hot by the Power Generation Station and was happy to get into some tree cover around 15km. I had not been stopping at the aid stations every 5km and there was one guy ahead of me who would always stop in there, loose some time and then pull away from me once he got going again. He was not wearing a shirt and had brown sort of khaki's on which I thought was strange running attire but I guess it worked for him. The km's just came and went and I still felt pretty good and we passed the marathon turnaround point. I had already started to pass some of the slower 100km runners and it was nice to actually be seeing people ahead of me - it felt like a race. The final km from 24-25 seemed to go on for ages and The Falls, while not packed, did have a few people so required some dodging. Unfortunately the race director didn't take my advice on putting a sign at the 24km point to indicate to people NOT to run into the chute for the Maid of the Mist tours and after the race I spoke to the guy who placed third and did just that. He told us all in the race briefing to hug the wall which isn't correct as you stay to the right past the traffic light and then veer to the left. Oh well, I knew what to do this time around. Hopefully you read my in-depth course description and didn't make that mistake.

I got to the 1/2 way point just past the Falls and topped up my empty powder drink container (having drained the full one to the 1/2 way point) and my handheld. I looked at my watch and was pretty shocked as it showed 1 hour 55 minutes. Holy Crap! I'm in doo doo. What happened to pacing myself. I was off quickly and it was interesting to see then the 50km racers and how close people were to the turn-around point. There required a bit more dodging of people on the way out and the open sun was getting quite hot. There is actually quite a long hill getting out of Niagara Falls and it's here that I started feeling it badly. I ran with another guy for a few minutes and then stretched ahead but I think he caught up to me later on. I found myself passing the marathon turnaround point and was then passing by many of the marathon runners that were coming up to their turnaround point.

I love the whole camaraderie as runners in the various distances wish each other well but sometimes it's hard to keep saying 'keep it up' or 'looking good' or whatever else. In the end I do some nodding or will hold up a hand or put it out a bit more to indicate an acknoweldgement of what they are doing. At some point the number of marathon runners grew less and I was back alone again with a few ahead that were amazing enough to enter the 100km distance.

At km 17 the wheels started coming off and I walked for the first time. I tried to get going again and did but walked many times over the course of the return from 17km. I did get from 13 to about 10.5 down the escarpment fairly quickly but again was having to walk once or sometimes twice each km. I filled up my bottles at the 10 and 5km aid station and tried pouring some nice cold water over my head which helped for a bit. I was feeling pretty shot by the end and would keep looking at my watch seeing the hopes of a sub 4 hour dissappear but was able to maintain my walk/run strategy to keep from grinding to a halt. I think in this time I lost 3 places but again there were other runners I was passing who were doing the marathon or 100km and then when I'd stop we'd trade places but there were not alot of runners around me at this point.

Knowing the course I was relieved to see the road crossing back infront of Fort George and walked one more time in the parking lot where I'd hugged my Mom earlier and I knew I had a chance to keep the time under 4 hours 10 minutes so didn't stop again. The legs were like rubber now and though I'd felt nauseous a number of times in the last 10km I was able to keep everything down. I can't say I sprinted the final 500m but I did hear the clapping ahead of me and saw the guy who had passed me earlier but I had nothing to give and he was a good 45 seconds ahead. I got to the finishing chute and I got a round of clapping which is really nice to have and then I dragged my sorry ass and weary legs across the finishing matt alone in 4 hours 8 minutes 56 seconds. Yippeee.

That makes a nice change from Sulphur Springs 50 mile DNF 3 weeks ago and my poor showing in this course last year so I was happy but things were 'foggy' as I accepted my medal and shuffled my way to the front of the car in the shade and collapsed on the pine needles and just was breathing deeply and heavily for what felt like 5 minutes. Then my right calf seized up terribly and I screamed out (what a wuss) in pain and tried to get the damn thing to let go and get the hell out of my kneecap! Ahhh, I hate that.

A few minutes feeling sorry for myself and then I hobbled into the Hall for my pizza slices and I sat down on a chair and got talking to some of the other runners as they came in and we contratulated each other. A woman had done her first marathon and had qualified for the Boston and she had a big smile on her face :)

After the pizza slices and water I grabbed a plastic cup with beer they serve. Really? Well, it was cold and sounded good to me so I walked sideways down the stairs and made my way to the finishing chute in the shade and spent the next hour clapping in many of the other runners whilst drinking my beer and talking to a guy who finished in 3 hours 38 minutes - and he was in 3rd place! There were some very fast runners out there today. I was very humbled by the guys and girls going out to do another lap in the 100km as it was by this point very warm and some of them looked really beat up. I knew there was no way I could do that again.

I spotted some sheets up against the wall of the Hall and saw people checking out their placings so I said my goodbyes and headed over and found my name. I placed 12th overall. I'm not sure of the total runners but I believe it was 170 or something but I'll know later when everything is official and we found out how many finished but I can't complain about that showing. I wish I had not gone out quite as quick as I did but I felt quite good for the first half and although I did alot of walking in the second half I didn't fall apart and got my caboose home.

I drove home smelling, um, definately not sweet but alone so nobody had cause to complain. I stumbled up the stairs, had a nice shower and then crashed for an hour. Stomach grumbling I made a nice big salad and here I am, giving you my impressions of the race almost while the press is still hot!

Thank you for following along with me. Once my calves stop their merry dance I'll think about my next race. It was nice to meet the people I talked with and I hope to see more of you at future races.

The End

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Hello everybody. Ok, so it's like a week and a bit before the Niagara ultra which has a bevvy of choices for distances from the 10km up to the re-introduced 100km race which is going to be a double out-and-back from the Kinsmen Scout Hall in Niagara-On-The-Lake (on the Common) to just past the Horseshoe Falls. If you've been here and done any of the distances before all that follows will be old hat but for you newbies perhaps a little course description will help on the day.

For me this is my training grounds and I've done the full 50km course several times with several marathons also completed when I can't be arsed dodging the aimless tourists at the Falls themselves. If you love off-road races than this is not the course for you and while it is scenic it is all on paved footpath along the Niagara River. Not to let that put you off because the scenery is stunning, following the Niagara River from pretty much where it empties into Lake Ontario all the way to the Falls themselves. If you are not a speed merchant I can recommend taking a camera with you on your bum bag and taking a moment or two at the falls to remember the occassion.

The weather in 2011's race was hot and humid and if you are going to be out there a long time bring a hat and sunglasses and wear sunscreen because there are alot of open sunny sections. As others have mentioned there is not allot of spectator support but we don't do ultras for crowd support. There is certainly a cheering section in the final 100 feet to the finish so save your energy for that. You are sharing the footpath with the public and in nice weather you can expect to see alot of cyclists and dog walkers at certain sections closer to the start/finish so be aware.

My recollection of the aid stations was that there were not enough of them - for my liking anyway - they are a few tables set up by volunteers and I can't recall exactly the positions of each but it was hot out last year and I found I would have liked a few more but perhaps for others it was ok.

My 50km race last year was disaster. I went out too quickly, suffered in the heat and my walk became a death march. I went from 6th place at the 1/2 way point to 66th at the finish (of 160 I think). Note to self: remember to pace yourself! Duhhhhhhh.


OK, so the course starts at the Kinsmen Scott Hall and parking is tight but they do open up the field for cars. You can pick up your race pack the day before inside the Hall, but you don't get your timing chip until the morning. [Note: after 2012 they introduced an integrated chip on the number]. They have a line of porta-cabins behind the Hall and the start-line is on the grass at the front of the hall. For about 100 feet you run on grass until you join the footpath which takes a sharp right and then goes through a tree-lined section until you get out into the open sun as you pass through the Commons. All flat.

You cross a road and are in the trees and the parking lot for Fort George and then it's a sharp right as you exit the trees and see Fort George on your left. You are now out in the open sun and it's about 1/4km beside the fort until you go back into trees for about 10 seconds and emerge at another road (Niagara Parkway) which you cross and take a sharp right. You are now following the Niagara River and at this point you've run 1 mile. This is the only point you'll see a mile marking and shortly after this you'll see a 2km mark. All flat still.


The path is lovely here and the road is right beside you until you veer away from it slightly while staying beside the river. There is a slight gradient for about 200m and you'll be back in amoung the trees again passing an open park on your right with trees along the river to your left.

The 3km mark is on a short steep uphill (literally 10 footfalls and you are up) and I believe there is an aid station here. You'll see the path turn left at a bridge but you stay to the right and follow the path around and then there is a short downhill followed immediately by an uphill and a sharp right past the Macfarlen teahouse. You're out in the open again for a short stretch and then back against those trees along the river which depending on the time of day can give you periods of shading on the path. This part is very flat with a final slight uphill at about 4.5km. You'll then hit your first of four wood bridges in about a 2km stretch. Just past the first bridge there is the 5km mark and turn-around point for the 10km runners.


Almost all this stretch is dead flat and it's not until you are at about 6.8km there is a short down that is a private road for some of the big posh houses right on the river. This section is pretty and partially tree-covered on the river side. You'll pass 3 more wood bridges after the 5km mark. The 6km mark is the 3rd bridge of 4 I believe.


After the 7km mark which is in a dip you then have to go up your first real incline. It is short and sharp so take it easy and then you are out and easy again, back into the trees. There is alot more tree cover after this for about 1km and enjoy it although the path here is on a camber so be careful of your ankles and as it is tree covered can get mossy and slippery so if it's rainy be aware of that. Just before 8km mark you'll join with another path and bear right (this path went down closer to the river but you don't take it on the way back). After the 8km mark you have one more small dip down and then incline and then you are flat until the 9km mark . Then you have a nice longish slowly decending downhill under pine trees with more posh houses as you enter Queenston. Of course with any downhill there is an uphill to follow and this one is gentle. There is a huge stone on your right and shortly past it on that up incline you'll hit the 10km mark. This feels a bit tough because you can't see further. Stick with it because you are almost flat again. You are right beside the road now and it's flat with a little bend until you see a monument infront of you and on the sidewalk just before the monument is the 10.5km mark (1/2 marathon turnaround).


Immediately after the 1/2 marathon marker you are off the footpath and onto road and you make a sharp left and an immediate sharp downhill over a little bridge. Pay attention to this section because you can really screw up your race if you get it wrong here. This is the hilliest part of the course and it goes up the Niagara escarpment. Earlier in the course at about 8.5km there is a lovely vantage through the trees where you can see the first bridge to the US and you can see Brock's Monument at the top of the escarpment. It is to these lofty height which you are now heading. . . at the bottom of this road you'll see for a long way ahead and it is uphill but it doesn't look too bad but it's deceiving. There is the 11km mark on the right side of the road but I often miss it. 

The first little bit past the park on your left feels not too shabby but then you get to the stop sign and holy shit, you realise that you're beat and it just seems to keep getting worse and worse. I don't know why but this section just sucks the life out of you. If you need to walk then this is one section to do it on. Right at the top of this rise you'll see an old printing house I think it is - I've never stopped to read the sign. Reduce your speed and save your energy. You'll then be turning sharply right up the road as it bends around. You can breathe a sigh of relief. It still goes up here to a T-junction but compared to the bit you just did it is a relief for about 100 feet. Then it starts to feel hard again as you are almost at the T-junction. Be CAREFUL at this interection.

Cars are coming fast down the escarpment and the intersection as you join the footpath is a bit awkward here as another road merges into it. You have to cross the road here which will likely have volunteers to help but on your way back they may not be there anymore. You're pretty beat by this point but you have a short reprieve as you enter the footpath on the other side of the road and it's tree covered all the way up the rest of the escarpment. So as I said, there is a short flat section and then you take a sharp left up the path which is quite wide going up and you'll feel the coolness thanks to the tree cover and there is always such a lovely fresh 'foresty' kind of smell.

This incline is not as bad I find as the first stretch up to that intersection but it does seem to go on and on and on. You'll pass a big transformer box on your right and then a last section until you pop out of the trees and pass by the stairs on your right up to the Monument. You don't go up there. Follow the path and it's still going up and you're beggining and thinking, DAMN, when is this going to end. Just persevere a bit longer. It continues and then you cross the road again and there is a final uphill with one cheeky bastard 10 foot uphill just to finish you off at the end. Sigh. . . . gasp. . . look at that watch, quaff that water, squeeze that gel. . . you've finished the steepest section of the course.

After about 50ft you'll see the 13km marker. If your watch reads 1 hour or less at this point and you can keep it up you will place in the top 5 very likely. If your watch reads 59 minutes and 43 seconds and you are me you are going too bloody fast and need to take the rocket out of your ass but it's probably already too late! Just be happy that you have a very long completely flat section infront of you now.


Ok, after this climb I find this section a big relief and I soon recover. It's nice and flat now and after about 0.4km you go under the first bridge across to the US. The gorge is very impressive here but don't worry, there are better vantage points. Directly past the bridge there is a crumbly car park which you enter and then at the top end join the footpath again and do a sharp left past the floral clock. The 14km mark is here. You are now flat as a pancake and running beside the Hydro Power Plant with huge cables crossing the gorge and if the weather is right you'll see giant eagles playing in the updrafts and if it's wet or been rainy sometimes they land in the trees and open their wings to dry off which is pretty cool and you can have a great view way down into the gorge thinking that you climbed all the way up here!

The views into the gorge here are really spectacular and the seagulls seem to be waaaayyyyy down there. The path is very straight. At the other end there is a small area for cars to pull up so be careful of cars which may be pulling out. It's a small section and then you are back in the trees past some more big power lines and then it's all quiet. The 15km mark is here and then it's more quiet running until you do a sharp right across the road into another huge extended parking lot for the Butterfly Gallery.

Across the road it's a sharp left and after about 100 feet there is the 16km mark - you are on the edge of the car park and just past here you run across the main entrance to the parking lot so be careful - the double length busses also use this area to drop off/pick up people and ferry them along the Parkway into Niagara Falls. After crossing this parking lot you'll enter a final parking lot on your left and then you are out with the road on your left and a golf course on your right. It's all open here and the 17km mark is immediately before you take a sharp left and cross the road once again. This section is all flat.


You're back on the river side again and it's flattish here until about 17.6km where you cross another car park on the road with a big vantage point across the gorge (this is the point where the cable car runs and it is a lovely viewing point but you're too far from it to see clearly). You get back onto the footpath and it's now a gentle uphill for about 0.3-0.4km. You get to 18km mark on your way up here. You are in the tree cover again and it's a relief.

At the top you do a gentle left hand turn and you're flat and somewhere along here is 19km. You then pass the intersection to the road which heads off to The Great Wolf Lodge and there is a helicopter pad which you may here some activity on. You pass on by the traffic lights on the sidewalk and come to yet another parking lot which you need to be careful crossing. It is a dip down and then a slight up. This is the entrance for a viewing gallery and for the rides on the cable car across the gorge. You get back on the path for a short bit and then there is the 20km marking. There is an aid station here. It is here that I get on the road facing the traffic. The sidewalk is quite narrow and I find it gets a bit uneven.

The painted line for the curb is very large and you are on the road but you can see traffic coming. There are a few longer climbs uphill now as you enter Niagara Falls proper and you are out in the open from this point on. It is getting busier and busier and more built up and there is a high wall on the left so if you are on the road you won't see anything. You have one final climb and then you pass another car park with one of the bridges that crosses from the US but this area usually is pretty quiet. You'll see the 21km mark and then you'll be at the 21.1km turnaround point. Lucky bastards ONLY running the marathon! ha ha.


OK, this part is less familiar to me as I've only done it in training about 3-4 times but it's built up and you stay on the road or sidewalk as you choose. You'll pass under the final huge bridge across to the US and the sidewalk here is quite narrow and you'll see down into the gorge. It smells a bit dank and like piss actually - sorry but it's true. Damn it's a long way down. After you get under this bridge it's likely to start getting busy with tourists and they can be a total pain in the butt. It's like lemmings who have lost their leader and they get in your way even when they see you coming! You'll be doing alot of veering and trying to guess which way they are likely to move. Depending on the day you might have a lovely cool mist from the Falls or it could be scorching hot.

There is one tricky section where I went wrong last year. Immediately after the traffic lights there seems to be a 'split' where you can go left along the river or semi-follow the road on the sidewalk/footpath. Don't follow the left as it takes you to the entrance to the Maid of the Mist ticket booths. If you do this you can get out, you just have to take the 5-7 stairs to the right and join the path you should be on. Stick to the right and you will pass by the ticket booths and veer back to the path along the wall looking down into the gorge. I mentioned it to the race director so maybe they'll have a sign at this point.

You are almost there. . . at the main viewing area for the Horseshoe Falls with the fixed binoculars and such and the big tourist centre and there will be the most people right at this point. You follow it around the Falls and about 50 feet past is the turn-around point and an aid station with water and such. Well done, you're half way there. . . Now the hard part. . .

The Way Back

There are several 'worst points' for me on the way back. I find the hills which brought you into Niagara Falls proper get to feel very steep and hard work on the way back. I then always hit the wall or get an empty feeling back at the Butterfly Gallery at the 17-16km point and I try to grit my teeth to get past this. I always try to push myself just to get back to that 13km marker because I know I then have 3km of downhill back to what feels like the homestretch. That downhill to the bottom of the escarpment is bliss in some ways and painful in others. Your quads are burning by now and it hurts allot both to be running downhill and to be picking up the pace which inveriably you do.

At the bottom you have a short incline which can hurt but don't give up and get back up to the 10.5km marker. I then will myself to run again and I find 8-5km is the hardest section. When you get to that 3km marker you know you're on the homestretch so grit your teeth and when you cross that final road onto the home stretch it's an amazing feeling as you come into the trees again, turn left and then right onto the grass for the final rush into the finshing chute past cheering people.

Once you have your finishing medal and have recovered your equalibrium you have 8 more stairs to climb to get inside the Hall and grab pizza and beer and find a chair. Or you can recover under some trees in the shade and cheer everybody else on. Whatever you do, congratulations on your achievement!

I hope the above description helps. I'm going to sign off now and in another hour I'll be out there on this course doing one of my last 26km training runs on the this course before next weekends race. Look forward to seeing you all there next weekend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My first posting - my first blog. How cool is that. . . er, not very they say. Well, it's thanks to others bloggers like Chris and Jessica that I decided to try my hand (feet actually) at the Sulphur Springs ultra this past May. Damn you all! Just kidding.

Thanks to them and others I had a good idea of what to expect but just to be safe I went to the course each month from January to meet other intrepid souls who were also contemplating either the 50km or 50 mile or 100 mile event. During those outings I met some really nice people and we would share our stories and form our little groups. You know how it is.

I met Joe, the race director from the Burlington Runners, along with Rich Humber, who had done the 50 miler the year before but decided to do the hundred this year because he was tired of being treated like a second-class citizen when he did the 50 miler (his bib number was hidden and alot of people asked him if he was doing the hundred or ONLY the 50 miler - ha ha). Well, I'm happy to report that he is no longer a second class citizen and did a kick-ass job, finishing in 24.5 hours.

The start of 50/100milers - 6am - I'm number 213

Well, I'll cut to the chase and tell all you folks that I DNF'd. I completed 2 of the 4 laps and called it a day and after reading other people's stories out there I feel pretty miffed with myself that I didn't step up to the plate and carry on. It's always easier to feel that way a few weeks after an event but at the time I felt happy enough about it to say I've had enough and I'll be back again.

Me - end of first lap

Rich will be the first to tell you that if I'd heeded my own advice gleaned over and over again in those training sessions I might be here telling you a different story but alas, I didn't; and got caught up yet again in the excitement of all that adrenalin we feel at the start of a big race. My 'comfortable' 20km loop time would be around 1 hour 55 and I had hopes of doing the 50 miler in 8 hours. I'd done 2.5 loops of the course in training and had been putting in 60-90 mile weeks since January and I believe I was not being unrealistic to think I was capable of achieving my goal. I had tapered well, was fortunate enough not to get a cold or have an injury sideline me for any length of time. My fastest single training loop was 1 hour 41 minutes - I'm only telling you that so when I tell you in the race my first lap was 1 hour 39 minutes you'll see what an idiot I was :) Once I saw that on my watch I thought, oh oh, I'm in a world of hurt now!

And yes, that world of hurt came along alot sooner that it should have. That monkey climbed on my back and the speed lessened and the doubt grew and the people passed me. Now, I'd done nothing new on the day (except run the race like a 10km). I had my new Asics 2012 Gel Fuji's. They are the lightest cross country shoe Asics currently has and heck, they are even in my favourite purple colour so of course that means they are going to make me run faster, right! Wrong.

I had my Hammer Gels and my Perpetuem and my Endurolyte all tried and tested in my long runs but holy geez did that go wrong on the day. As anybody who was there knows, it was warm at the start and it got toasty pretty quickly. Well, my drink with the heat soon began tasting like warm soured milk. . . YUCK. That was the beginning of the end and had me chucking shortly after the photographer - sorry, whoever you were. I did tell you the first time past that I wouldn't look as pretty the second lap and I guess I was right.

I thought I'd get my shit together if I walked some during the second lap but it just continued to be a shuffle and my legs were really not happy bunnies. I ran into Rich just before my final summit up the final hill to the finish and told him I'd had enough. He was really good and tried to convince me to carry on but I wished him well on his journey and got his text the next morning 'DONE - AND DONE!' Good on you Rich!

You can read on other bloggers reports about the course if you'd like but if you are considering it for 2013 I can highly recommend it. It is mostly tree-covered and is not very technical and is well-groomed. It is NOT flat and there are hills that you will be walking up. There is enough room to pass around most of it and the aid stations were well spaced, well stocked and with alot of support. They were really great and enthusiastic.

I even saw one of the other bloggers I mentioned earlier, Jessica. I said, 'I read your blog' and she smiled at me. Well, it's better than a scowl any day. I can tell she enjoys her running.

Ok, so my first lap was 1:39 and my second was 2:01 and my 3rd and 4th would have been worse and worse if I'd had the will to finish but I do promise to get back on the horse next year and conquer that puppy!

Next race is June 23rd where I'll be running the Niagara 50km. I ran it last year and did a horrible time (well, to me anyway) of 5 hours 11 minutes. The annoying thing is that in training last year I did it in 4 hours 17 minutes and then it fell apart on the day - yup, too fast out of the gate AGAIN. This year in training I have done it in 4 hours 7 minutes but all bets are off so you'll just have to wait and see and I promise I will TRY to pace myself.

I hope I'll see some of you out there soon and thanks for stopping by.

Rich Humber sometime during his 100miler - early on I'd guess considering that big smile