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 :)