Friday, August 1, 2014


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:


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.


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.


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.’


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)


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.