Friday, August 1, 2014

2014 - EASTERN STATES 100 MILES - RACE REPORT

Hello and welcome back to my blog - this entry features my upcoming running adventure, the inaugural Eastern States 100  -  held in Pennsylvania and starting at Little Pine State Park. There was a waiting list for this back in February which I joined and watched patiently as my name slowly but surely reached the top of the pile as other people dropped out from other commitments, injury or a realization that their training was not going to plan.

The race is now 2 weeks away with about 190 entrants - among them some of my fellow Ontario ultra runners. I can’t believe it has come so quickly. I’ve been experimenting with a number of new items with various degrees of success such as:

NEW ITEMS I’VE TRIED

Hoka Stinson Trail
No blisters and much appreciated cushioning on both the Laura Secord 100km back in April and the 100km Niagara ultra on pavement. The LS was a mud-fest and the biggest complaint was how heavy they became. In Niagara I had no blisters but the tops of my big toes got hammered with one turning black and I think it is from the fairly large gap between the toes and the top of the shoe rather than any steep downhill’s which forced my toe into the front of the shoe.

Brooks Cascadia IX
My second pair of new shoes has less support but is rugged and has caused no problems for me and is a good off-road shoe.

Salomon Speedcross III CS
I purchased the wrong size initially and the company (Running Warehouse) sent me a ½ size larger which I’ve only had out in 2 long training runs. I may need a ½ size larger again. They fit very tightly around the forefoot and on steep trails down I can sometimes feel my toe hitting the front but I really love the feeling of them and the sturdy tread so I may start with this shoe and swap out if I need. The CS version also has a coating which should make them a bit water repellent in wet weather.

Salomon Compression Calf Sleeves
What can I say? I’ve seen many ultra runners sporting them and was unsure about their effectiveness. $50-$60 is a lot of money on a pair of ‘socks’ but holy smokes do they make a difference. I have issues after a race with potential cramping and my calves look like they are out on the town dancing the night away on runs over ½ marathon distance. I measured my calves as the website suggested and chose the size most appropriate. When I tried them on the first time I was thinking I must have ordered the size too small because they were really tight putting on – not uncomfortable to feel on but felt really tight trying to get over the calve. I went out on a 12 mile trail run and then a 22.5 mile run and I am really impressed. During longer runs I generally begin to feel the calves tightening up but with them on I felt like I was on fresh legs. I’ll definitely be wearing them during and after for recovery – plus the added benefit of not brushing against thorns or stinging nettles or poison ivy.

Salomon Ultra 1.5 litre hydro pack
I’ve always worn a belt with 2 small water bottles and used a handheld bottle system. The belt has a small pouch for salt tablets or a few gels but on this distance I wanted something more substantial. I have been using it for about a month now on varied terrain and distances and I’m going to wear it for part or all of the race. I had a slight rubbing issue along the lower back until I adjusted the straps slightly which made a difference. I had no problems drinking from it once I learned you have to bite the nozzle and suck but it is a bummer not being able to know how much water is left without reaching back to wiggle/lift your pack to get an idea. I like having my hands free and having pockets for small bottles or all the small things you may need on a 100 miler. My one worry is about shoulder/neck complaints. Almost all my runs with it were a success but once last week on only an 11 miler I had a really sore/stiff neck and shoulders for several days. 

Garmin Forerunner 620 GPS watch
I have used the 620 in all my races since I bought the watch back in May 2013 and all my training sessions and love to download the map data after and record the distances, elevation gain, etc. but the most useful features of this watch for me are PACING information and being able to set the watch to beep at a set interval to remind me to take gels or salts (either after a certain distance or time). The battery life is only 10 hours so I won’t be able to use it on this race which is a shame.

Petzl NAO
I already had the Petzl MYO RXP which I used with success in the 2013, 48h Dirty Girls race but I had read that the NAO is a whole different experience with the amount of light it throws out there. I am going to compare it with my existing one with my training buddies tomorrow evening so I’ll let you know. . .

OK, so that is all the new 'stuff'. Will it make me run faster? I doubt it. Will it make me run smarter? If I pay attention to it. Will it make me more comfortable? I hope so. Will I look sexier in it? Hell yeah! Who cares about the other stuff.


TRAINING TO DATE

How is the training itself going? I think reasonably well but still perhaps lacking the uber long runs to take up my weekly mileage. This year I’ve had two 100km races, a hilly 50km race and a 50 mile race I DNF’d in and have spent the last several months doing specific hill training sessions to get an idea what 1,000 foot climbs are going to be like. Wow! That’s a damn big hill! This year all my summer training has been out on the trails (rather than a lot of treadmill training) which has really strengthened my legs and hills which in the past I would have walked I can now jog up quite comfortably. Not only that but I think my body is more used to the hot, humid, sticky days which Canadian summers can bring.

Last year I entered almost all the OUS ultra races and it left me quite burned out as there was little recovery between them. This will be my first 100 mile, point to point 100 miler. The only 100 miler I've done was last summer at the 48 hour Dirty Girls where I got to the 100 mile point on a looped 5 mile hilly (for Ontario) off-road course after 33 hours (and 3 hours restless sleep).

I’ve had the pleasure to train with two fellow ultra runners who are doing a 120 mile run in BC called The Fat Dog. It also has huge climbs and the training with Wayne Pinel and Tim has been a blast. They are good guys and their race is just a day before mine.

THE RACE


Running an inaugural race is going to be exciting. I’m sure there has been a huge amount of work putting it together and regardless of how the race goes personally I am grateful for the RD’s and the amazing volunteers which all these races seem to generate. The race warns that this is not an entry level 100 miler so I am forewarned both by the caveat and by referring to the runners Confirmation list which reads like a 'who's who' of fast runners here in Ontario who are participating – men and women who have 100 mile wins under their belts. I’m sure the same can be said of many of the American entrants; runners who are looking for course records and looking for a new and challenging course - so I am NOT going to put myself with the starting pack and burn out on the first 1,000 foot climb. 

Oh, speaking of hills and climbs here is the race profile which oddly enough I think will mirror my heart rate until the very end where it bloody well flat lines!


Rather than trying to explain to you the route and the course get it from the RD’s mouths' themselves. Here is the ‘About ES100’ description they posted:

‘Only the hardiest of runners will complete this circumnavigation of Pine Creek.  A Pennsylvania Scenic River.  The largest creek in the United States.  The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.  The river route that supplied the lumber that built America.  The Iroquois called it Tiadaghton – the River of Pines.  Or is it the Lost or Bewildered River?  After 100 miles of multiple 900 – 1200 foot climbs and equally punishing descents, the second definition will seem appropriate.

Headquarters will be the beautiful Little Pine State Park and adjacent Happy Acres Resort.  A true oasis in the middle of what will seem like endless nowhere to those who brave the trails.  A lake for boating, fishing, or just cooling off after pushing your body to the max.   Sites for tents or large RVs.  Rustic cabins, deluxe cabins (even several with Jacuzzis), or yurts.   A convenience store for last minute items and hand dipped ice cream.  A restaurant and bar to unwind and pre-fuel or refuel.

Runners will experience portions of some of the most scenic and most challenging trails in Pennsylvania.  The Mid State Trail – Pennsylvania’s wildest footpath.  The Black Forest Trail – the crown jewel of Pennsylvania’s long distance hiking trails featuring hills, rocks, and on average, a vista for every mile of trail.  The West Rim Trail – a backpacker’s favorite for experiencing the Pine Creek Gorge.  The Donut Hole Trail, the T Squared Trail, the Long Branch Trail, The Tiadaghton Trail, and several shorter connector trails will round out the 100 mile loop.

Ramsey at the south end is nothing more than a collection of houses and seasonal residences.  You will cross Pine Creek on a former railroad trestle before climbing to the panoramic Ramsey Bend Vista.  The north end is Blackwell.  A tiny village with the historic Blackwell Hotel restaurant/bar and a small convenience and gift store.  You will cross a unique one lane steel grate bridge that bends in the middle prior to climbing Gillespie Point - The Matterhorn of the Alleghenies - the only true peak in Pennsylvania.’

HOW WILL IT UNFOLD? WHAT'S THE PLAN?

Nerves are setting in as the days pass but all the hard work is now behind me and it's either enough or it's not. I've had doubts about my abilities after a lousy training run or a few missed runs or a DNF but it's not going to stop me towing the line and regardless the outcome I will have stories to share and I'll give it the best I have.

I have booked a campground tent site in Little Pine State Park and will drive down Friday morning to set up and get a look around. It seems like the race start is 1.5 miles from the campground so not sure how this all works with a race start of 5am and if we don't drive there I'm sure not going to appreciate a 1.5 mile crawl back to the campsite after 100.8 miles! There is the usual pasta supper and race briefings and no doubt a very early and restless sleep.

The plan you ask? Survive the 100.8 miles and take that buckle home. 36 hours is the cut-off with strict enforcement's later in the race. The plan is simple but as we all know it's down to the execution of the plan during the race. I am trying to figure out 'the plan' and will probably be tweaking that plan all the way up to the start. I don't know yet how to best utilize the drop bag locations. How will my feet feel? Should I start with the pack or use my belt system until later? Will I need to change shoes/socks? How far will I get before I need my headlight? And on it goes. I've never run a point to point 100 miler, never run in mountains and never raced outside Ontario.

I really toyed with the idea of getting a pacer for the later stages but really want to get my first 100 done on my own. I know when I get to the middle of the night with many miles on my feet and I'm completely zonked that I'll probably be thinking I'm an ass for missing this opportunity but I can always ask for one if one is around and wants to - when I get to some of the aid stations. I just don't want to have the expectation that a pacer is waiting on me and I may let someone down.

I like the idea of a point to point rather than looped which always messes with my head. I'll still hurt as much but somehow knowing that the ONLY choice is to carry on and finish is better for me than seeing the finish line and knowing I have to go out and do another 50 miles or whatever it is. I like knowing that I'll NEVER have to see a particular bog or mountain or rock or tree more than once. 

The plan is to start near the back. Really! No bravado on this one and it's going to feel like a walk to start with because I may very well do that for a few minutes - just to let the fast people get out of my sight so I don't inadvertently join a fast conga line on the first climb. It's a race but this one is MY race. I'm not including anybody else in it. I'm not aiming for sub 30 or sub whatever. I'm not looking to any competitor and saying, OK, he or she is on my radar. Finishing this race in the 36 hours is my race and the only one that matters. There will be future races where I'm competing but this one is about the experience and the finish line. I've worked many many months towards this goal and I don't want to throw it away in the first 8 hours.

I'm going to walk the hills and if I see an amazing view I will stop and admire it. I'll do my best to eat and drink and keep the distress levels below the barfing point. I am a bit apprehensive about running through the night alone on a strange course - worried I may get disoriented and wonder off, the possibility of bears - hey, I'm comfortable admitting that! but am looking forward to it also - well, not the bears or getting lost parts. The solitude and just focusing on the narrow area that the headlight illuminates and taking each step forward to the next goal - whether it is an aid station or a new trail or coming across another runner and sharing the darkness together.

Well, enough rambling for one evening. I'll post this now and if I think of something else to add in the lead-up I'll carry on.

Happy running for now and thanks for taking the time to visit.

The Running Dude (aka Alex)

POST RACE REPORT

This will be a very short race report - for a very short race - well, mine was anyway.

What a place! What a course! What a disaster!! The train wreck came early and after 26.9 miles on the Garmin I called it a day. I knew before I got to Aid Station 4 that I was pulling the plug and as I shuffled in I told one of the volunteers that my race was over. It took me 7 hours 45 minutes to cover that distance. I was not injured and it was only 1pm. I was just fed up and tired, and doing the math I knew that I was only slowing down (I don't know how that is even possible) and I was likely not going to finish in the 36 hours so I threw in the towel. In the end I believe 72 of the starting line-up of 158 runners finished in the time limit. 

The elevation profile above gives you an idea of the course; one extended 1,000 foot climb with a little respite at the top and then down the other side, over and over. The climbs were really tough and went on and on but it was the downhills that frustrated me more. They seemed to follow beside mountain streams and were just a jumble of loose rocks. There was no bombing down and making time up from the long walks up. They were not all like that but enough were and valuing my life and limbs I was quite dainty with my footing after the first few times of twisting my ankles and cursing loudly. Come to think of it a number of uphills were the same bunch of loose rocks.

We started at 5am from a beautiful location (well, during the daylight it was - steep tree-covered hills . It gave you a real idea of what the course was going to be like - SCARY) and there were so many new faces but the usual excitement and well-wishes. I got a quick hug in with Laura who I expected was going to do amazingly and she did, even after slipping at 5 miles and hitting her head on a rock and getting a concussion - I believe she got to 50 miles as second place female before dropping. Talk about determination. 

There were a few other runners from Ontario who I know from many of the races and they had mixed results. Some DNF'd (much further along than me) and some made it to the end with a little time to spare.  These are good runners. Trust me, if Steven Parke takes 32:45 to finish a 100 where 36 hours is the cut-off - and he wins 100 milers, then Alex is pretty much up the creek. But I knew before I went that this was going to be a hell of a course. I really liked the idea of a 100 that was point-to-point rather than loops which can really depress you when you know you have to go out and do the same thing again.

There really isn't much else to tell about my race. I sat and waited for a ride for about an hour and watched the runners behind me come in. In the last 5 miles I'd found various rocks that looked appealing and just sat down for a few minutes to rest and I chatted with a photographer a few miles from my final aid station for awhile. Once I called it a day and sat down, I was able to offer my pack of S-Caps and Advil to a woman at the aid station who was going to continue but was in rough shape at the time.

After my drive to an earlier aid station to pick up another 3 who were calling it a day we drove back to the Start/Finish where I drove back to the campsite and went for a shower. I kept on my compression calf sleeves and this really helped prevent the uncontrolled twitching and possible cramps from developing. I tried to sleep but didn't have much luck and after a few hours drove back to the start/finish to see if any of the drop bags were there. I found my head light and one drop bag and watched 2 runners coming in from the marathon after more than 11 hours! The marathon followed the 100 mile route up to a point and then deviated. I was told they faced one hill which was worse than anything on the 100 course so I felt sorry for them.

The next morning I headed back and saw some of the Ontario friends I'd seen and we were able to clap in a few of the 100 milers completing their super runs. The day was lovely and I collected my final drop bag and then headed home for my 4 hour journey.

4 days after this I was one of the guide runners with Rhonda-Marie Avery on her epic Bruce Trail run - 880km from North to South. It was great that she was able to have so many of the ultra runners in Ontario join her on guide runs at different points. It was a really enjoyable experience to help someone else achieve a big life goal and I'm really proud of her and all her supporters who helped get her through it. After my 13 hour day with her and feeling pretty tired myself I was pretty damn impressed that she'd been out there doing 18 days of this already. And for those of you that don't know her, the reason she was being guided is that she is legally blind! I'll do a blog of my experiences with her when I get a chance.

Happy running all. Sorry for the long delay posting this. I just was not thrilled with my result on this one and wanted to just chill. I have photos and stuff but that will come another time when I can look at photos again and not be a bit bummed about it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 - CREEMORE - 50KM - RACE REPORT

Final Week Prior to Creemore 50km

It's Monday evening, July 1st, and I took the leap and signed up for the Creemore 50km which will now be my last race prior to the 100 mile Eastern States in mid August. I was not actually going to do Creemore this year which is why it's the final week and I only just signed up. 


I thought I'd do long runs on my own but it is hard to motivate myself to run 31 miles, although it has been easier lately since I met two guys who are training for Fat Dog in BC, which is the day prior to my race - so we've been going out for regular long runs together which is great. I stick with them for 4-5 hours and then have to go to work and they carry on but it has been pleasant. They are Wayne Pinel and his friend Tim Nelson. I read Wayne's blog report after the Laura Secord 100km race and on his Facebook page he had posted a picture of a training run at the Brock Monument which is close by me so I contacted him to see if he fancied doing some training runs, found out about his race schedule, and it worked out great. They are going to do the North Face 50 mile run in 2 weeks at Blue Mountain and I decided to opt out of that one - I saw someone posted a You Tube video of parts of the course and it didn't grab me so I'll be curious to hear their opinion of the race - great hill training of course!


So after the Niagara 100km ultra 2 weeks ago I was off for 5 days. I got shooting pains in my big toe and after 4 days I was able to start running again and at this point the toenail bed has begun to turn black over allot of the toe but so far it looks like I'll keep the nail. I have not done a single treadmill session this summer so it's a waste of money keeping the gym membership but I feel that I'm making good strength improvements by running trails so much and getting used to the heat and humidity better. I went out for a 10 km run today when it was 33 degrees outside with a 41 degree humidity and while it was not fun, I did it! And yesterday on the same course in very similar conditions I was with my friends and I did 16 miles with them. I was informed later that evening that a Massassauga Rattler bit his shoe on about the 11th loop - fortunately it was a small one and didn't puncture his shoe but just shows you have to watch yourself out there.


So Creemore. Why do it and what do I expect? You can read my 2013 race report to see aspects of the course if you are contemplating it. Although it's not the prettiest course in the OUS calendar, with 50% trail and 50% road it may not appeal to the die hard trail runner. However, it does have allot to offer so read on.


What can I tell you about it? Traditionally it is bloody hot and looking at the forecast it's calling for 24 degrees with sun and some slight cloud. Chances are on the day it will feel hotter out in the exposed sun. There are some nasty hills by Ontario standards and those are out on exposed country roads. Some of the views looking down are magnificent but they do hurt on the second lap. Last year I really suffered in the heat, barfed after lap one and got slightly lost in my daze and finished in about 6 hours 20 minutes. The second lap was not quite a death march but was not too far off at times and I was very glad to finish it. I actually don't remember much of the trail sections but some of those road sections are firmly burned into my conscious mind. 


I again want to treat this purely as a training run and use it for the hills and the heat. The other reason to do it is enjoy running the race with ultra friends I have made and to support Pierre and Lee Ann, who put on a great race right from their house. And of course after the arduous course to have pizza and beer and sit in the cool, flowing river behind their property is bliss.


I have just ordered a running vest, the Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set, but I don't think it will be here in time to try it out so I'll have to use it in training. To run with I'll likely use the Hoka Stinsen Trail shoes and my Nathan belt with 2 mini water holders. The Hokas were bliss to wear in the Niagara and support so much cushioning and beside the big toe, there were no blister issues.


Pre-Race Predictions


I'll likely drive there very early on the Saturday morning and my race predictions are sub 6 hours. I'd love 5:45 but really want to at least improve on last years 6:20 and hope that all the trail running and heat training (and rest between races) will make a difference so watch this space :)


I hope I'll see some of you out there and I hope that my blog has encouraged a few of you to try out a race or two in the series. 



It's a Hill. . . Get Over It!












Post Race Report



Hello my running friends. Welcome back and thanks for looking in on me after the Creemore 50km. Sorry it took a few weeks to post this but life got in the way. Here we go. . .

This was my second Creemore and my second finish. I’m really happy about that and to date it is the closest I’ve come to nailing my pre-race prediction. I got it done in 5:45 - spot on what I hoped for. The first loop was done in a fairly respectable 2:23 and then the wheels came off on loop two – now THAT sounds more familiar I’m sure. I was not too surprised it happened though as I really was trying to run most of the hills on the first lap – and boy are there some hills. I’ve now had an opportunity to download the GPS info and it shows 3,300 feet of elevation gain over the 50km. The CN Tower is 1,800 feet approx so almost two CN Towers to give you an idea. It is probably the hilliest OUS race for the distance. Sure, if you run SS 100 miles or Niagara 100km you’ll cover more altitude (actually the Niagara one surprised me but it shows even more elevation than Creemore over the 100km) but we’re talking in 31 miles. Here are a few charts from my watch.

Course Map - 3,366ft Elevation


Elevation, lap (3.1 mile or 5km), and Pace information
                       
They put up cheeky little signs around the course that say things like ‘not a hill’ when the incline has you wishing for a chairlift. Even some of the ‘non hills’ are steeper than many OUS races. Sure, what goes up must come down (eventually) but the downs can mess you up also and I’m sure some of you were pretty damn sore for a few days and not all from the ups!

The drive up was uneventful. 3:45 am out of bed after a restful sleep and 4:30 am out the door after cereal and toast. Straight up Hurontario (Highway 10), East on 89 and North on Airport Road got me to Creemore in 2 hours 15 minutes. I got the identical parking spot as last year and went over to see the action at the start/finish where I ran into the usual suspects and some that I had not seen since last year.

Waiting the last few minutes around the car I was chatting to Kimberley and there was a car of intrepid runners getting ready for their particular races. One of the ladies asked if I was the guy with the blog. Sweet. My 5 minutes of fame. I can’t recall her name so I apologize but maybe I’ll see you again or you’ll post a message when you get a chance to read this blog. She had a pierced nose and was a with a group of about 4 friends and while she’d completed the 25km race last year she was moving up to the 50km, her first attempt at that distance. She explained that she scours the net for all the blog reports she can find for as much information as she can about a particular course. It’s not a bad idea actually and I certainly do it. I have a few favorites but if you do a search for ‘such and such race report' you can generally find something about the race you are considering.

I offered advice such as not starting too fast (seems obvious but very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the day on fresh legs - maybe I should heed my own advice on that) and getting out of the start/finish as quickly as possible after the first lap because you feel tired and knowing you can just stop/quit is too tempting sometimes when you are having a bad day. And let’s face it, we all have bad days sometimes. After wishing her and her friends all the best on a great race, I took a few quick photos and got the rest of my stuff together and was off to the start line. Here's a shot of the cars arriving and a nice shot of some of the familiar faces at these ultras.



Richard Takata, Alex Campbell, Jack Kilislian and Kimberley Van Delst

Lap 1

I arranged myself in the starting line according to how fast I know others are so I guess I was about ¼ of the way to the front. I was just chatting generally and then heard there was 30 seconds left so a few final deep breaths, set the watch and bang, we are off. The temperature was so much better than the year prior. Cool enough with a light breeze so I was very happy. I made a point of going slow for the first trail section, just tucking behind a lady and taking it all in. We then popped out onto Airport Road for about .25 km and then it is a sharp right onto what must be some rural concession road and you can see for about 2km ahead as the road climbs up. This is not a hill (according to the RD’s) but it can mess you up. Last year I had gone far too quickly on the trail part and by this first hill was already in walking mode. This time around I was slower but was doing a steady, slow jog up the hill. That was pretty much the story of lap one. I certainly did power walk some of the really nasty hills but was able to jog a number of the others.

I found myself running among 5 guys for a number of the middle miles on the first lap and being lemmings we all followed the leader straight at a turn and went back into the woods in the wrong direction. Fortunately we came across Joe Cleary I think and he said to the lead of our group that we were going the wrong way. Slightly dejected by the prospect of turning around up an incline, we had no choice and after groaning a bit I joined the caboose back to the intersection where we saw about 8 runners who were now ahead of us. Jack Kilislian was right there now and I was thinking I might have been slightly further ahead of him as I’d felt my pace had picked up with the group but he was running strong. Fortunately our wrong turn was not miles out of the way and I’d say we lost about 2-3 minutes.

There was one creek where you could not avoid getting a soaker but I had no blister issues. The downhill and uphill gully section with all the rocks sucked and seemed to go on and on. One of the property owners had kindly left her hose at the back for us runners to soak our heads which was a lovely relief on the second loop when things were getting toasty. Same smell of manure by the silo but a little breeze to stop you gagging. This is quite a lonely stretch of road. And of course close to the start/finish you have the two steep, short ravine sections where you pull yourself up a rope. At least you know you only have about ½ km to the finish line.

By the end of lap one the temp was going up, bright sun, but still a huge improvement on last year. I felt I’d gone slower and could manage the second lap but I was feeling it and my 2:23 loop was considerably faster than last years run.

Lap 2

I think I pulled in together with Jack but he got out ahead of me and that was the last I saw of him. I got back into the trail at the end of their driveway and went the correct direction this time. Last year I was barfing by this point and a bit dazed but managed this year to avoid throwing up for another 2km. By the time I hit the road I was starting to feel like a zombie (but not the Zombie’s from World War Z or I would have won the race). I walked all the way to the top of the hill and had about 5 people pass me and knew my ‘race’ was over and that the second lap was going to be a walk up the majority of hills. I took a right down the road towards the aid station and then had my first barf by the side of the road. With it getting warmer and with the water not getting absorbed and just sloshing around in my gut I was kind of happy to reboot but sorry that it happened just as Kimberly was running by me – especially since she had lent me her extra handheld bottle. Oops. I promise to wash it. It must be why she insisted I keep it at the end. Ha ha.

Actually, I liked her handheld better than mine. The reason I was not using my yellow Amphipod was because of a mishap in the dishwasher a few days prior. A Tupperware lid found it’s way onto the heating element in the dishwasher and the smell of smoke woke me in the middle of the night. Flying down the stairs and looking for a fire I discovered that the source of the fumes was the Tupperware which had melted right through. Unfortunately this smell completely contaminated the plastic handheld and made the water taste/smell of burning plastic. Yuck. So thanks Kimberley for helping me out.

After my digestion mishap I ran up to the aid station in time to have a toast of ginger ale with Kimberley, discuss politics, love, life and liberty, ya de ya. . . ok, just a toast of ginger ale. Then I insisted she run into the single track ahead of me and she was gone. I was back to walking but the ginger ale did help settle me for a short while but most of lap two was not pretty. A few others passed me along the way and then it was just me on my own thinking I was the only one in the race and determined not to let anybody else pass me.

At a few points the horseflies were a nuisance once they honed in on your sweat and I was waving my cap around like a madman zigzagging across the road cursing. One more woman (Caroline Caskie) came past me on a hill and I kept her in my sites as we walked/ran along the stile road which was very depressing to me now. For the final 15km nobody else passed me.

I had now barfed another 3 times and choose the 5th spot on the stile road which was spectacular as it shot out my nostrils at the same time. Damn I hate that! For some reason it ‘smelled’ like fish. Not sure why. So things were definitely not comfy for me but as I saw Caroline turn right into the woods ahead of me at least I knew I’d be off that damn road shortly. I got through the wood section back to the final nasty mother of a hill (but with a wonderful view) which left 3km to the end. I was a bit dazed and saw the aid station directly in front of me on the road but paused and looked around slightly confused and felt I might chuck again so was looking for some cover to spare the aid station workers. They called me over thinking I was totally out of it (not far from the truth) and I explained myself and just said I needed some ginger ale. Only 3km more they said and I thanked them as I grabbed a sponge at the station and poured it over the back of my neck. Aaaahhhhhh. Nice.


That last steep hill down hurts but I was able to pick up the pace somewhat and had one final peak up the hill before heading cross country to see if anybody was going to make me run faster (please no!). Fortunately the only person I saw was a good 4-5 minutes back and while I didn't relax, I didn't have to panic either. Through the grass field, back into the woods, climb the two gullies with ropes, pass the garbage tip and out into the open, over the bridge which totally messes with you by that point and the final 100 feet past people clapping with the big finish sausage and over the timing mat with a medal waiting for you. Done!


Final stats


Entrants: 69

Finishers: 65
My placing: 29
My time: 5:44:53
Last years time: 6:19:59


Nice Hand Made Finishing Medal. Thanks Pierre and Lee Anne
After finishing I hobbled to the chair next to the first aid station and the Ambulance dude kindly gave me a cold water from his cooler. Oh that was lovely. Legs were crying out at me and I just needed to sit for 10 minutes to get the calves to stop twitching so badly. I saw Kimberley who had an excellent race and carried on to 17th place in 5:25. I headed over to the food but no pizza yet - the first lot had been wolfed down by hungry runners but more was on it's way. I grabbed a Timbit I think and sat again and then we were called to present awards so we sat on the grass around Pierre and Lee Anne as the winners and their times were announced and they came up to receive their goodies. Some really quick runners out there for sure. I saw Jack and congratulated him on his 9th place and 5:04 finish time. Damn that is fast for this course. I went over and congratulated Melanie, Steven, Elise and Lisa on their excellent races.

After that, pizza was back on hand and I grabbed a slice and headed over to the river to sit and enjoy. Many people were relaxing in the river but I was still fairly dazed and just needed to get some calories inside me to get me out of the stupour. That done and not wanting to seize up I marched over and grabbed a beer and headed out past the finish line to cheer on any runners that were coming in which I always enjoy doing. After 15 minutes of that it was back up to see Kimberley and Richard who was now sitting after completing his race. We sat there and joked around for about 45 minutes, relaxing and talking about the race and I won a spot prize which was a hand made ceramic bowl. Sweet. Thanks Lee Anne.


I didn't get into the river this time around and after feeling able I said goodbye to people and made my way to the car and headed home. Oh. I did get to meet the young woman who had entered her first 50km also. The first time was at an aid station and it was the second loop. She was feeling rough and I gave some encouraging words as did Maryka who was manning the aid station and we got her going. The second time was as I was sitting relaxing at the end and she did it :) Her first 50km. A great moment and I was really happy to be able to congratulate her. Well done. :)


Thank you for reading my Creemore Race Report and my next one will be after Eastern States 100 miles in mid August. Gulp. 20,000 feet of elevation instead of 3,300 and on trails, not road. No blogs I can read since it's the inaugural race. Damn. Anyway, it's going to be hard as hell. Am I ready? I don't know but I'll give it my best and that's all anybody can ask.


Happy running from Alex. Aka The Running Dude.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 - NIAGARA 100KM - RACE REPORT

Hello again my friends. Thank you for visiting my running blog. Another weekend and another race in the bag. This one was the 100km race in Niagara-On-The-Lake although other distances were on offer including a 1/2 marathon, marathon and 50km. 

The Course

Think Niagara Falls. The water cascades over the falls and churns it's way along the Niagara River and then empties into Lake Ontario about 25km distant. The little Town of Niagara-On-The-Lake (or NOTL as locals call it) is nestled where Lake Ontario greets the Niagara River and our race start is about 1km from Fort George at the Kinsmen Scout Hall situated on the Commons. You can certainly read any of my past race reports to get the intimate details of the course but suffice it to say that it is completely paved footpath or road so not the kind of race to do if you want trail running. However, it is a beautiful course in it's own right and how many races take you to one of the Natural Wonders of the World? (if you are doing the 50km or 100km races - the marathon falls short by about 5km). 

The first 10.5-11km are almost flat but then you get a cheeky climb up the escarpment, passing by the ever watchful Brock and his monument. Now you are quite high up and take a left turn along the footpath and follow it by the floral clock before passing the hydro-electric station. It is very exposed with a magnificent view deep into the gorge where seagulls frolic below you and on some days eagles soar in the air currents. From 17-18km you are running flat with the golf course on your right. At the 18km point is a short climb which takes you to a left turn which takes you past a tourist helicopter pad and The Great Wolf Lodge and then to the Gorge cable-car crossing. It was quite peaceful to this point but after this from about 20km you are starting quite a few rolling climbs and descents as you come into Niagara Falls proper. 

Finally the last decent with 2km to go greets you before the turn-around point - it's now the beginning of something new with the hustle and bustle of hoards of tourists. On the 50km, because of the early start, it's possible to get in and out of Dodge before noon but my first experience of running this 100km race in Niagara means that, by 2-3pm, the area that was relatively navigable the first time around, becomes a minefield of human bodies (you call them tourists - I call them a pain in the ass) who seemed completely blind to my neon green shirt hurtling towards them at 4kph (hey, I was tired by then, sheesh). 

Race Day Minus One

Ok, so let's backtrack to the day before and lead up to my race. I met up at lunch with Jack Kilislian, a fellow Ontario Ultra runner who I've seen now in many races. Jack is a talented runner and has made it 2014's mission to race all 14 OUS races. He's off to a very good start and I'll be rooting for him through the series. We watched one of the World Cup matches at The Irish Harp pub in downtown Niagara and talked about ultra running and then I headed home to pack my kit. Along the way I got some chips, seaweed and more keniso-tape for my Achilles issues.

The weather forecast looked perfect for me, cool with some cloud cover with some sunny breaks. I was happy. Every other Niagara 50km I've entered in the previous 3 years has always been hot. I got my kit together and the only change in my wardrobe on the day was going to be a long sleeve thin mesh shirt to keep the sun at bay. Bright neon, I found it winking at me from the bottom of the drawer and knew we were meant to be together for 100km at least. I failed to post this blog post before race day so I can't offer you any race day predictions but the plan was to go out slow, and try for roughly even 6:30 minute km splits. I had my Garmin 620 watch and set it to warn me every 20 minutes to take water or gels and do lap splits for each 5km. Great idea and all went well until the final 25km return trip when I started getting low battery warnings. Guess where it finally stopped working? 15 seconds from the finish line - so I lost ALL my data. Damn!

Race Morning

My sleep was pretty good and I woke before my alarm clock. A quick bowl of cereal and banana, a poo or two and I was out the door ready for my tiring 10 minute drive to the start. I parked beside Hans Meier and got my stuff together. Ultra friends arrived and I said hello to Richard Takata and met Jack's wife, chatted to Hans and got my bib and ultra cool blue hooded fleece. I congratulated Henri, the race organiser, on his recent marriage to Diane who is race organiser of Dirty Girls and Laura Secord races (without them we would not have so many great ultra races in Ontario) and then chilled in the back of my car so pre-race nerves would not overwhelm me. I had my lucky charm in my handheld which I take to all my races and applied body glide liberally before heading out to the start.

We got quick instructions and the 50 100km runners took their mark, set, and off we went. I settled into a slow pace and made a habit of checking my watch quite regularly and while 6:30 was the target/km I was finding I was doing closer to 5:45-5:50 early on which I was not worried about. I ended up beside Ibrahim Asghar, one of two brothers whom I finished the last parts of the 100km Laura Secord race with back in April. It was nice to learn about his roots in Dubai and his brothers and life in Dubai and we were quite comfortable chatting and getting a good rhythm going.

Workman Confrontation

At 10.5km you take a sharp left turn down a road which crosses a bridge with a ravine and it was closed to traffic - ALL traffic. Amazingly, there was a work crew there at 7am and they were NOT happy to see runners. About 5 runners had turned back up the road towards us and we started walking back up the road to the intersection. I knew the route always went down the hill and the markers said so also. I knew we could take the left road and it would eventually lead us up to where we needed to go but I thought I'd seen some of the faster runners get by so I turned back and passed the barricades only to come face to face - literally - and chest to chest - with a very irate workman supervisor who told me I couldn't come through, etc. etc. and I very politely told him that he didn't need to worry about stopping me, but the next several hundred runners might be more of a problem.  I smiled and slipped by him and carried on and got the disapproving look of several of his colleagues and then we began running again. I knew that by the time we returned the race organizers would have sorted something out and they did and we had to take the long way back. Oh well.

Getting to the hydroelectric station I lost my running partner and gained a new one, Paul Chenery. I met Paul 2 years ago at the Limberlost run and last year he represented Canada in the Worlds. He is no slouch and has run most of the OUS races and him and I ran together the entire way out and back so I learned more about him also. We then ran into Jack Kilislian who almost always runs shirtless and he was employing a 5/1 run/walk strategy so we fell into that for awhile with him which felt kind of nice although those 5 minutes seemed longer and the 1 minutes seemed to shrink each time we did it. 

Niagara Falls the first time around was quite pleasant with fewer tourists and we got to the turn-around and I grabbed a ham/cheese and avocado wrap which I ate half and gave 1/2 to Paul. Some time on the return journey we lost sight of Jack while he went for a pit stop and we carried on. We came across many runners now in the shorter races and had been passed by a few of the leaders in the 50km race. It was nice to encourage the other runners and be buoyed by their enthusiasm also. Unfortunately Paul told me that it was likely he was going to stop after 50km so his wife would not have to wait another 6 hours. I tried not to think about heading off for another loop but how I felt and while I was tired, our pace had been relatively reasonable and we passed the start/finish in a time of 4:59:31 which was pretty darn good I thought. I've run the 50km 3 previous years and my times there have been 5:11, 4:07 and 5:01 (and no, I didn't take a car in that middle year!). Now you see what hot weather running does to my times.

I grabbed another wrap and walked away, eating it slowly, although I didn't find the wrap very palatable by that point and only had half. I just wanted to not have to face the clapping and cheers of other runners coming in who were done. About 1.2km from the start I came across Kimberley Van Delst who looked strong and gave me a big smile and I cheered her to kick ass to the finish line that was well within her sights.

A number of runners returning were impressed I was going out to do the same thing again, knowing how they felt. I knew what they meant also. I was at the finish line of the Niagara ultra 2 years ago, cheering fellow runners in, and saw these poor bastards going out to complete another 50km and I said, nooooo, I'll never do that here. I could not stand the thought of turning around to do it again. My reasoning to do the 100km this year was to get a good long training run in before Eastern States 100. Now, 100km pavement isn't the same as 100 miles of trails or mega climbs but 62 miles is 62 miles, right? I wanted to see if my Bruce Trail training runs over the past month have helped my fitness at all. I think they have and while the 62 miles hurt, I have been in 50km races and hurt far worse. 

Carrying on with the race I tried to concentrate on the km markings, one at a time. Not think about the distance left, only about the next 5km aid station. About 10km along I had my first stomach upset and threw up allot which is never pleasant but made me feel a bit better once it was over. I kept trying to manage my salt and water intake and had managed one pee in about 5 hours. As I mentioned earlier, the second time into Niagara Falls was not fun with all the tourists and I was never happier to leave the hoards behind. Those rolling hills were no fun and Jack at this point passed me along with another woman and I had them in my sights for several more km and then they were no more. Now there were only the runners ahead and behind with no more that would be passing by so I was now conscious about not letting anybody pass me. I don't look back but I knew I was slowing and I was taking walking breaks each km. 

I was starting to hurt but my mantra this time was to say out loud that 'everybody else is hurting also so just shut up and get on with it!' That seemed to do the trick and then I'd look ahead and visualize the next place I would allow myself to walk again.  I'd always try to extend it that much further when I got to that point. It didn't always work but it helped.

Before I knew it I was at the 10km aid station and then 5 and I knew the finish line was a tangible thing. It felt strange passing by tourists enjoying their picnics on a lovely day, to them probably looking slightly crazed and them wondering why. Or maybe we never even entered their consciousness and they were just focused on their families and the smell of cooking food from their bar-b-ques. Bastards!

There is a street crossing with 1 mile to go and at that point I took a look back and thankfully there was not a sole to be seen and I knew I would not be passed. 1km mark, into the open field, a bench on the right, tall grass, large trees providing shade, a tiny concrete bridge, a row of trees lining the footpath, pink flags marking the route, a big puddle to cross and then a sharp left and a final sharp right onto the grass, the final 100 meters to the finish mat. Pick up the pace but just a bit - savoir those last few seconds, the claps of those that are left by now, the claps of your fellow runners that have experienced everything you have and done it quicker; Steven Parke and Jack Kilislian. Cross that line and get that medal and ribbon around your neck and put your hands on your knees and thank goodness it's all over and that you are here after 10 hours and 32 minutes.

That's right, 10 hours 32 minutes, enough for 9th place of 39 starters. My first lap was 4:59:31 and my second was 5:33:02. For me that is very consistent pacing and it surprised me (6:20/km). I'm very happy with my result.

I then hobbled over to Steven and Jack and hugged them both and congratulated them and then we cheered in the following runner 10 minutes later, Charles Smith. I'd seen him last year at the Ottawa 24 hour race. I wasn't feeling too swell and decided to go into the Hall to sit down and massage my legs. This is usually what happens. I have no appetite for about 20 minutes and then try to get something into me but while I was told fresh pizza had just arrived I couldn't seem to work myself up to eating anything and then had to go outside and dry heave about 8 times which was very unpleasant.

I was starting to shiver and decided to forget about the pizza and drive the 10 minutes home for a long hot shower and an Advil followed by the 2 hour throbbing, intense pain that follows. You know that feeling, don't you? Until the Advil or whatever takes the edge off. Still with a very unsettled stomach I did manage to eat two pizza slices and then went to bed. 2:30am I was having a really bad time with my stomach on the verge of revolt and this time I tried to shut it up with an apple which seemed to soothe it somewhat. In the morning my legs were stiff but not to the degree I've had in past races. My feet had zero blisters from my Hoka One One Stinson Trail shoes (I didn't have the road versions). The only punishment they suffered seems to be the large toe and the nail-bed. It's very tender and I'm hoping I don't loose that one but the next few days will tell. This pair of shoes supported my heels and the soles of my feet extremely well on this race.

So overall stats for this race were:

50km 1st lap:  4:59:31
50km 2nd lap: 5:33:02

                 Entrants      Finishers
Total             48              25
Male              30              17
Female          18              8
Other             0              0 (who or what the hell is √≥ther'?)
(39 started and 25 finished, 48 entered)

That's about all there is to say about this race. Perfect weather conditions for me, a lovely course and I hope next year you'll consider running one of the Niagara ultra race distance events. Niagara is a lovely place to visit and there are plenty of places along the course to park and cheer on your runner  (just not within 5km of the Falls!). I hope all your training is going well and thank you once again for stopping by to see how my race went.

Alex (aka The Running Dude)

__________

My Garmin 620 was rated for 10 hours but actually died 10 hours 29 minutes and I thought I lost ALL my data but it stored it so here are my 5km (3.1 mile) splits throughout:



Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary10:29:59.062.7410:00
128:29.23.119:10
228:39.43.119:13
332:52.03.1110:35
430:07.53.119:42
529:26.63.119:29
631:52.23.1110:15
728:35.13.119:12
828:20.83.119:07
929:02.43.119:21
1028:14.33.119:05
1132:54.83.1110:36
1231:48.73.1110:14
1335:07.23.1111:18
1432:00.43.1110:18
1533:20.23.1110:44
1633:03.73.1110:38
1733:45.53.1110:52
1832:23.13.1110:25
1932:54.23.1110:35
2031:12.63.1110:03
215:49.20.609:38


Elevation Gain:3,715 ft
Elevation Loss:3,725 ft
Min Elevation:246 ft
Max Elevation:563 ft

Oh. And I got an email after a week saying I won an age-group prize! I looked and I was 3 of 3 for my age group (top 3 get awards). I had to laugh. I'm getting an award for being last in my age group :) I think it is a digital plaque.