Monday, November 14, 2016


2016 Mendon Park 50km Race Report - November 4th

Hey out there. Thanks for joining me. I had my last trail race for 2016, called Mendon Park, which happened to be in the US and took place Saturday November 4th. It was only 2 hours away from my house and is located just south of Rochester, New York. The course is a 10km loop with distances of 10, 20, 30 and 50km. The 50km runners start at 8am with the remaining races beginning at 9:30am. It also happened to be the last race I’ll have before turning 50! Yippee. New age grouping. Ha ha.

I only found out about this race in the last 2-3 weeks when my running friend Lisa told me she was going to enter the 50km and had raced the 20km a few years ago. I picked her brains about it and it sounded fun so signed up and at $40 I thought it was great value.

After doing some of the Ontario Ultra Series (OUS) races multiple times it’s nice to go somewhere new and I’ll definitely do this race again. It was beautiful and I really hope someone reading this decides to try it. Ok, the weather was absolutely stunning which helped, but the course is lovely too. At this time of year expect the trails here to be covered in brightly hued Fall leaves which can make foot placement critical and while there were a few downhills which had some loose rocks and of course there were roots in a few places too, overall it was very runnable and I didn’t stub a toe, twist an ankle, or face plant at all.

The majority of the course is tree covered and is hilly, although there are certainly enough stretches that you can open up your stride and a number of the hills are runnable although like any longer races, those hills grow as you tire. The elevation profile is more than some of the OUS races with a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet up and 2,500 down for a total of 5,000 feet over the 50km. Just for comparison, the CN Tower is 1,800 feet tall.
200 feet into the race - even though I saw the photographer shoot me multiple times I can't find any others
The setup is really good. The parking lot is really big and there is a lodge called Stewart Lodge a short walk from the parking lot where you pick up your bib with integrated timing chip and pins. The three of us (Tina, Lia and I) then headed back to the car we shared. We left just before 5am and arrived in two hours and even had time for a Tim Horton stop along the way. On the road coming into Mendon Park proper we saw about 4 sets of deer.

It was dark when we arrived. There were 4 port-a-potties at the corner of the parking lot and then a little hill up to a large covered structure open on all sides with many picnic benches where anybody who wanted could leave their drop bags. The course went through the timing mats with the Lodge right there. You hit the aid station set up on the other side of the lodge and then followed the trail another 150 feet to the covered structure and your drop bags and headed past the port-a-potties before a long grassy section on an incline, across the road and immediately into the trails. All very easy.

It wasn’t too cold. We carried our respective drop bags to the picnic benches. I visited the ‘facilities’, lubed up the butt so I didn’t start any ass fires, and, after settling for a bit we made our way to the lodge and sized up the competition. Ha ha. None of us saw anybody we knew but they seemed a friendly lot and the 50km runners were the usual assortment of whippets, grizzled veterans and newbies. The race Director made a short speech and indicated the starting line, which I happened to be standing right on. I made a tactical retreat in amongst the mid pack so I wouldn’t go off to quickly. Did it help? Hell no. I looked back and located Tina and Lisa who ran together and before the nerves could kick in we were off and the stampede began.

I ran with a handheld and a belt pack and simply filled the pouch with loose shot blocks, salt tablets and Advil for later. I wore shorts with two top layers, a short sleeve and over that a long sleeve technical shirt. Shoes were Salomon Speedcross 4 and taller socks with Salomon compression sleeves for the calves. Lap 1 I wore a cap and then dumped it.

There were the two aid stations. I mentioned the start/finish one and the other was 5km in. The volunteers were very helpful, asking what liquids I wanted refills on. I found what I did at every aid station was take two orange slices and one of the little cups of coke for settling my stomach and I virtually spent no time at all there. On offer as well as orange slices were banana slices, coke, ginger ale, Tailwind, M&M’s, pretzels and gummy bears.

Total people entered in 50km was 114. Total who started 100. Total who finished 79

Lap 1 – 0:58:16 (29th overall on this lap)
Lap one there were quite a few people around me at various points. A few speedsters came past and we caught a few and then I settled in around a woman and two other guys. One guy had long hair and a blue hydro-pack and I’d catch him on the flats and keep pace on the ups even though he tended to try a running motion and I power hiked it and then he’d go flying by on the down-hills. The first 10km was a little of a blur but there were many hills of varying degrees and I’d say 2-4 more major hills although short, with one longer steady hill taking you up to a huge concrete water tower about 2.5km into the course.

We came down the final hill which has many loose pebbles and then across a road and run slightly downhill along the grass into the timing chute and the clock said 58 minutes. Oh wow! Er, maybe a bit fast. Hell, no question about it, too fast. I was pooped by 5km aid station actually and was surprised it was ONLY 5km. Anyway, the stampede carried me along that first lap and I hoped I’d gain some wisdom on lap two now we’d spread out a bit. There was some nice clapping as we crossed the mats as the other distances now had about 30 minutes before their race starts.

Lap 2 – 1:01:55 (30th place – dropped 1)
Lap 2 is mostly a blur too with about 3-4 runners around me. It was weird though. About 4 that were in visual range ahead of me came to the 5km aid station and they all stopped. I decided to carry on and expected over the following 1-2km to be caught and passed again but it never happened. From that point on I don’t think I was passed by more than a very few 50km runners. Later it became difficult to know who was in what race as by Lap 3 you were in amongst the shorter races. I was running quickly for me and of course was feeling it but I loved the trails and the temperature and the colors of the trees and leaves. So amazing. I love cooler temps. Two of my summers racers were disastrous affairs in 35+ temps. I felt good about my 11:18 time at the Haliburton 50 mile in September and so felt I had some residual fitness from that and I had completed a 36km training run two weekends prior to this race. I was surprised that I had not dropped my pace too badly and came in at 1:02 for this lap.

Lap 3 – 1:04:10 (24th place – gained 6 places)
By lap three I was feeling it. I was alone and would occasionally pick up some of the tail end of the 10-30km runners. The day was still fantastic out. My pace was still not bad although I was starting to have to walk some of the hills sooner than in previous laps. I think after crossing the finish line this loop I went to my drop box and just sat for about 1 minute to get my wind back.

Lap 4 – 1:13:38 (24th place – no change)
I was really pooped now and plodded up hills and came across more racers from other distances and tried to encourage them along. People were good about moving over for me and when I heard pounding footfalls behind me I stepped aside. If I could improve both my fitness over all on the longer runs and improve on my hill training I’d see big improvements in my finish times I believe. The hills on this course were doable for some of the fit finishers. I threw up on this lap twice but not much came up but right after it I was back to running. I also found that my posture was likely the cause of my really tight shoulders and upper back as I was walking the steeper hills stooped over.

Lap 5 – 1:10:11 (21st place – gained 3 places)
Total Finishing Time 5:28:10 – 21st of 100
After getting to the end of loop 4 I knew I was flagging but really wanted a negative split for my final loop and actually felt that my first 5km was quite a bit quicker overall. It was really nice being familiar by now with what was coming up. The first 5km had some particular features which I recalled. A long slope up to the water tower and on the other side down and some good flats.

The second 5km I was doing my best to keep the pace up but there were a few slogs. You pop out to the side of the road and then head back into the trail twice. After the final road sighting you know you are almost there and there are only 2-3 steeper climbs. I caught sight of my two friends Lisa and Tina at this point as they crested a hill and every time I got to the top they seemed to be closing but not fast enough. I really wanted to lap them. That’s what friends do! We got out and crossed the final road and were on the grassy section and I passed one and had a few meters to catch the other but just missed her. She was NOT going to let me catch her. What a cow! I mean friend.
Lisa in the front and Tina just behind

Looking good Tina

After crossing the line I was offered the finishers reward. Tina looked back and gave me a ha ha for not catching her and I smiled good naturedly as they carried on their final loop. The finished prize was a nice glass for beer or whatever which was a change from a medal.  I sat on a picnic table outside for about 10 minutes, massaged the legs and gave them a break and then headed into the lodge which had a lovely fire going.

You helped yourself to two kinds of soup and a bagel with different toppings, a banana or apple, some cookies. Oh, they had some yummy apple cider too. I relaxed in there until I warmed up and really felt good with the way the race went. I got my drop bag, headed to the car and changed and then walked to the finish line to clap people in. My two friends came down the final hill and I cheered them in, let them do my routine with food and a rest and then we headed home.
We all finished top 3 in our age groups. Here we are, back home in a car park about to go our separate ways.
It was a stunning day start to finish. My finish of 5:28 placed me 21st overall and 3rd in my age group of 23 competitors between 40-49.

So what comes next? 2017. I am considering a few BIG races and will let you know when I figure out what they might be.

Again, I can’t say enough good things about this race. It is stunning scenery, beautiful trails. It is runnable but hilly so a good challenge. It is well run and has been around for 20+ years. Make it one for your calendar for 2017.

I hope all of you have had an enjoyable running year and look forward to meeting you out on the trails.

Alex Campbell (aka The Ultra Dude)
PS. It's been a few days since the race and as I post this blog of Mendon Park experiences, I have signed up for two future races in 2017 with one more event left to sign up for. One is a special 'first' for Canada. It is the first 200 mile race, being held in Ontario at the end of May and is the 25th Anniversary of the Sulphur Springs race. I've run the 50km and 50mile races here in past years and it will entail 16 loops of a 20km course. The race has a 72 hour (3 day) cut-off and no doubt will be epic in all ways. I had envisaged doing the 100 mile at some point and as I turned 50 last week I thought I'd do something 'big' for my 50th. Big and stupid and wonderful. So if you fancy joining me and 25-50 other nutjobs, please feel free to go to Race Register and sign up. It's $500 for the next several weeks and will climb quickly in the new year up to over $1,000 so sign up quickly.
The second event (but first in the calendar) for 2017 will be a training run for Sulphur Springs which will be the O24 (Outrun) 24 hour run in Ohio which takes place the last week of April. It is a certified 1 mile looped course.
The final big race I'm going to aim for is the Fatdog 120; a 120+ mile race in British Colombia in August nicknamed the 'Hardrock of the North', i.e. it's bloody hard. I have a training friend called Wayne Pinel who has completed it twice and as we are both doing the SS200 I'll have lots of time to grill him over how to prepare.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


3 Days and Counting. . .

I figured I’d update everybody on how the training is going for the Haliburton 50 mile. Well, not ‘is going’ since it’s now only 3 days away.

I sipped the bitter dregs of failure here in 2013 at the 100 mile distance and quit after 50 milers in a time of 11 hours 57 minutes, but no medal to show for it and no points for the Series, so of course I’d like to earn my finishers medal this time. I’ve completed two other 50km ultras this summer, both in dreadful times in dreadful conditions. I do not do well in heat and humidity. I think I need to move! This summer has broken all records and training has been a chore to be honest.

What has been useful and helpful is finding a few runners close by that are also running in the 50 mile at Hali. Well, that was the plan anyway. Lisa runs with our Trail Apes gang quite regularly; although this summer we’ve not been attending as many Sunday morning outings. Even better, she has a, um, HAD, an above ground pool to soak in after our long training runs. Aaahhhh. Problem is, it exploded one afternoon when she was home – a metal seal gave way after 11 years and adios pool.

The other woman we’ve trained with regularly is Tina Chumak, and I’d heard about her through Lisa. She was entered in the Eastern States 100 miler and after failing miserably at it myself I was curious how she would get on. Well, she completed it and while she doesn’t consider herself an ultra runner she certainly is. Her strategy is to start slow and keep it slow. It works! Later in the race she always passes runners that burned themselves out with a crazy starting pace. Being a postal worker she is also used to her daily 10 mile route. Her plan was to use Hali 50 as a long run for herself as she has Grindstone 100 in October.

So the only problem is that both ladies waited too late to enter and now it is sold out! Er, you have to be ‘in it’ to ‘win it’. Sheesh. Bad planning. Granted, both have had injuries that made them want to see how the training went before entering and the race does not usually sell out but what a shame. The only alternative now is if they get on a waiting list. I feel bad for them because it was going to be Lisa’s first 50 miler and while she is nervous about it, she’s done all the hard work and I know she can do it. Perhaps things will work out regardless. Maybe I’ll get her up with me and someone will be a no show.

So am I ready? Well, I don’t think so. I don’t feel I have the fitness that I had in 2013 and I certainly feel this summer more like the tortoise than the hare but perhaps the training that I did was more effective than in 2013 when it was ultras every second weekend which no doubt left me tired by the end of the season. I also think I am being ‘smarter’ about hills and not attacking them all, more content to walk them and then get back into the running motion. I’ve had one 28 miler, 2 marathons and several 23 milers on the trails in training over the last month or so.


So this race I’ll be wearing a 1.5L Salomon hydro-pack rather than carrying around my hand-held and waist belt although I may start with the hand-held and safe the vest for one of the aid stations at around 15km. I’ll be using my S-caps for electrolytes and orange flavored shot blocks for calories. I did try the much-hyped Tailwind and while it claims to be all the liquid, food and electrolytes you need in an ultra and prevent stomach issues, I had completely the opposite reaction and came close to chucking in training runs a few times. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to keep trying different things.

I purchased a new pair of Salomon’s this season, a ½ size larger than my old ones, and have found them good but I am annoyed that after only 2 months there is already a split down one seam at the base of the toe box!

On the morning of, I’m going to lube the hell out of everything with Bag Balm, even the lower back where I’ve had some hydro-pack rubbing issues, which is never fun. I’ve gotten away from the short ‘crew’ length socks and found the taller ones work better for me. The short ones always seem to end up down my shoe and cause nasty chafing, especially as they get soaked from perspiration or rain. And of course I’ll have my calf sleeves on. Hell, I’ll probably keep them on in the shower after to keep my legs from exploding in cramps. They really do work. I have yet to decide if I’ll utilize aid stations for drop bags but we’ll see.


The forecast as of now calls for 26 degrees, feeling like 31, with 80% chance of precipitation with several showers. Oh shit. It figures that the day after calls much cooler temperatures. Wonder if they’d postpone it for me? Ha ha.

Expected Time

Yes, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. So, in 2013, I managed just under 12 hours. What is that, about 4.17 miles an hour? Seems so bloody easy doesn’t it? Hell, who can’t fast walk that pace on a street but we are not on a street. Hali is not a mountainous course but it has its fair share of hills which I’ll soon be re-acquainted with. I remember at the end of it feeling that, based on all the OUS races, it was the hardest to date. We’ll see how it goes this time. Round 2. I intend to be sensible with the pace and not burn out in the first 2 hours and hopefully I can keep the pace down but sustain it. Ok, so I think I’ll finish in 11 hours 37 minutes! There. Happy? If I finished in 11:20 or less I’d be well chuffed and if I match the time from 2013 I’ll be disappointed with myself. So here we go. That’s all now until after the race. Any last words? How about 'I'm coming for you, Normac! Ya bitch!'


Here we are. I've had a few days to reflect Awesome experience. I went out for a 17km run on Thursday and the legs are almost mine again. I came away this time without blisters, Achilles pain or any other trauma to the feet. Just a little wrinkly from being immersed in some of the boggy sections.

Tired pair of wrinkly feet with NO blisters! Yippee

I drove up Friday at 10am and by using the 407 toll for part of the journey managed to get up there in 3.5 hours. The drive was uneventful. I love Highway 118 which is the last 60km or so which really is where you begin to feel you are in the ‘Great White North’ with the Canadian shield blasted to give way to the rolling highway which sweeps through great swaths of trees and bogs.

I called into the Boiler room and got my pack and then made my way to look for a camping spot. I found the identical one as in 2013 albeit this time I had to remove big horse turds. I guess with all the really hot days the horses were standing under the trees but it was ok (and dry!). I got set up and chatted with another runner a few cars away who was going to sleep in his car. Then I headed up to the toilets to check out the shower facilities and saw you need a $1 to run them for about 5 minutes. I had a bag prepared for after with a change of clothes and toiletries and money so I could just drive straight there.

Yes, I could walk too but after 50 miles I’m driving even if it’s 200 feet away.

All the kit bags inside the Boiler Room

I saw Ron and his wife Barbara and later that evening saw Richard Takata and KimberleyVan Delst running up for her pasta dinner with the other 100 milers. I’d not seen them most of the summer. Richard invited me to their ‘tent’ but holy crap it was more like mission central. It was about 40 feet long and like a giant caterpillar with various sections. I wish I’d taken a photo but they had comfortable chairs, a stove with water and all sorts under the table, then into their ‘bedroom’ with two sturdy cots and supplies neatly stowed under for each runner. I was amazed. These two are the most prepared people I’ve ever seen but considering they do 6 and 10 day events, comfort and preparation are key. After a nice beer with Richard I headed back to my tent and ate my home made lasagna. It was not warm but it went down a treat. I had two coolers with all sorts of food but really wasn’t that hungry. I organized myself for the morning and called it a night.

Having time, I explored just around the corner from me where I was informed there was a captive Moose in a paddock and I found him easily. He was small but it was interesting to watch him feeding and across the road was a pig pen with the biggest damn pig I’ve ever seen. When I saw him all I could think of was Rhonda who is crazy about bacon in all forms! Ha ha.

5 year old Moose in enclosed paddock - small but interesting to see up close

Ok, it's only a pig but this was one was HUGE. They get fed all the restaurant left-overs - corn husks and the like

The weather was sunny, warm and comfortable on the Friday, nothing like the crazy temperatures we’ve had all summer. I could hear all the activity around me and through the afternoon and evening had seen all sorts of people arriving and getting set up. Things did settle down eventually and I did manage some rest but don’t remember much actual sleeping. At some very early hour some muppet’s car alarm went off for five minutes, successfully waking up anybody and everybody I’m sure. Thanks asshole.

My camp setup - same spot as 2013

Tent set up - just have to run 50 miles now.

When I started hearing activity in the darkness around 4:45am I got up and went to the port-a-potty, had ½ a banana, got dressed and lubed the hell out of everything, and made my way up the road to the start line where people were milling around in groups chatting.

Helen, the RD, was there informing them there would be no roll call of names, just a gathering and a prayer. We followed down the road where her and Gary had a few words and Helen made references to Forest Gump. We had a quick silence while we contemplated our respective journeys and then it was time. It was going to be a long day for many.

The temperature was perfect and not everybody had headlights. I choose a handheld flashlight only and was wearing a belt with two small bottles and room for the flashlight and some salt tables with Cliffshot Blocks. I had a drop bag waiting for me at Aid station 5, located 28km into the course. That contained a hydro-pack with 1.5l of water and some items in the pockets. The idea was to run light and refreshed, pick up the vest and then on the way back see if I would keep wearing it or swap back to my hand-held.

There was a count-down and we were off and I guess I placed myself somewhere in the mid pack but it was a relaxed start and I was conscious that I just wanted to stay comfortable. The first 6km is all hard packed dirt/gravel road and has a few up hills which we walked comfortably but much had a downhill bias until we then get onto the Normac trail by which point the runners had thinned out enough that it was not a cluster heading into the single track. There was enough natural light by that point.

The trails were dry and I don’t remember much about this section. Over the next 25km I found myself with runners for shorter or longer periods. I was quite a while with Stephan Miklos who was in the 100 mile and I knew he was capable of a fast time and figured I’d stay with him as long as I could. That strategy worked quite well until almost the turn- around by which point I was with another runner called Chris I believe. We carried on and there was always a tall skinny guy with glasses without a shirt ahead of us. Sometimes he would get ahead and other times we’d pull him back, usually at aid stations. I reached the half-way 40km turnaround in a respectable 5 hours 5 minutes.

The weather for the first 6-7 hours was fantastic. It was overcast and not too muggy and then on the way back, as I was running along one of the road sections, it began to pour heavily and continued on and off for some while and the trails became wet and slippery with the boggy sections becoming very muddy. I enjoyed the rain actually but along the Ben trail I was getting very tired and the continuous steep ups and downs I was having to take tenderly as my quads were shot by then and I was really slowing down.

I had intended to take an Advil at the return Aid Station 5 but couldn’t find it and went off again just keeping the same gear I had. I found 10km aid stations were enough with the water I had. Fortunately at Aid Station 2 when I sat on the bench for a few minutes I mentioned my legs were about to seize up (they were twitching strongly through the calve sleeves) and he provided an Advil which I was grateful for and which kicked in about 15 minutes later and gave me immediate relief, giving my legs a bit more pep.

I managed to get to about 28 miles before I barfed violently at the trail side. As you know from reading my blogs, it isn’t anything new but as usual it really helped make me feel better. In the entire return journey from the turnaround only 2 runners passed me and I was on my own most of the way. I didn’t catch up to anybody but I really enjoyed the solitude of the trails. Climbing up the road and heading into Normac didn’t bother me too much. Yes, I was tired by then and the climb up the road to the trail tired me so I bent over and chilled, collected myself and headed in. Honestly, I didn’t find Normac as bad as Ben. Ben is relentless. Very steep up-hills and down-hills, over and over. The first section of Normac there was a lovely breeze coming off the lake in a particular direction and it felt great. Eventually I began to get tired of the trail and just in time I saw the road again. At this point it didn’t register that there was no more trail but I was relieved to be on the logging road again. The mosquitos were a bit more feisty and I was a lot slower so I was swatting myself quite a bit but once on the road it was fine.

The last several km along the road is constant gentle rolling and the rain begin a few times and stopped. I was pretty hot and poured water into my cap which was cooler than the rain. Finally I pass Richard on the final road stretch back to the start line and he is looking for Kimberley and seems to think she was ahead of me but that was never the case so I ran by him, wanting to finish and stop that clock. My Garmin 620 was till telling the time but I’d stopped it’s GPS tracking functions after 40 miles by which time I’d had 3 low battery warnings and I wanted to keep having clock functions. So I ran through the finish line, weary but extremely happy, in a finishing time of 11 hours and 19 minutes, 40 minutes faster than 2013 when I was entered in the 100 mile and gave up after 50 miles. I have seen the results and placed 25th of 60 finishers so I’m happy with that.

After crossing I hugged Helen and thanked her, getting her a bit wet in the process, sorry. I was just so happy to be finished. Almost immediately upon getting my medal the rain started pouring down and I walked over the marque and sat on the edge of the picnic table, getting soaked but it was nice to be rinsed off. I waited for the next runner to come in and it was a woman, gave her a hug and then headed back to my car as I was getting chilled.

One happy ultra runner, medal earned.

Can I go for a shower now, please?

After a nice recovery in the car I drove up to the showers which didn’t work for me despite trying 3 separate coins and then another guy comes in and it worked first time for him! Grrrr. So after slamming my Loonie in multiple times I finally got my hot shower which felt fantastic. After that I drove to the restaurant, showed my meal ticket and had chicken, baked potato and corn on the cob. I headed back to the tent and headed in, hearing various runners completing their 50 mile journey or the 100 milers turning around. Around 11pm I was starving again and went into the car and finished ½ a sandwich and then headed back to bed.

The second night was uneventful. I did hear an animal of some sort close to the tent making weird grunting noises and the wind started to get really strong all through the night. As morning approached it was a lot colder out and was only about 11 degrees but it was pleasant. I woke, ate some food in the car and then packed up my stuff and headed home.

That’s about it for this race report. After a fairly non-descript running season I’m glad I entered a longer distance race and that it went well for me. It was great seeing some of the runners I know and meet new ones along the way.

Thanks for checking out my blog and let’s see what comes next.

Happy running.

Alex, AKA The Running Dude

Monday, June 20, 2016


Niagara 50km Race Report

Welcome back and thanks for looking in. It’s the day after my fifth Niagara Ultra race and fourth 50km race distance here. It’s almost my back yard and I know the route very well. 

This was my second OUS series race in 2016 and came 3 weekends after my last one at Sulphur Springs. That race was hot as stink and this one shaped up to be the same, well into the 30 degree mark with baking sun. For me, it sucked out there! Damn I hate heat extremes. It was my worst performance at this distance at this race but I can’t complain, both for the fact it was so hot, and that I’d only completed two 10km training runs since SS due to an 8 day layoff with a severe cough. Poor Alex.

Until the afternoon before the race I was not going to even go. However, realizing how sorely I’d be missed I decided to cheer everybody up. . . Ok, so that wasn’t the reason. Try again. . . Um, sitting at work, having registered, I realized I’d like go out and see friends and maybe just have a nice social run and enjoy the pizza and beer at the end. Better?

Also, I can’t very well go and get my hoodie and wear it with pride if I didn’t earn it. I like the atmosphere at this race and know a number of runners so it’s great to cheer them on. That evening I went to collect the usual runner paraphernalia at the Kinsmen Scout Hall in Niagara-On-The-Lake and while there chatted to Diane and Henri (the RD). I stuck around for an hour or so and helped get people their timing chips and numbers and then headed home. According to the lists I saw, 200 were entered in the 50km event.

Minutes before the start, listening to race instructions. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners

Seconds to go - checking watches. I'm right in the middle. Shirtless Jack is here along with John McAlister (beside Jack) who won this race. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners
Fort George to Left - passing through open field to the Niagara Parkway. First 1km of race. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners
Myself and Jack running together. The other guy/gal were with us for 10km. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners

I believe this is the 10km aid station. Paramedics present along with volunteers supplying water, Gatorade, and various tasty morsels. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners
After getting home at 8:30pm I organized my stuff and called it a night, waking at 5:15am, at which point I had ½ piece of toast with honey and a banana. After liberally applying bag balm (used on sensitive cow teats I believe – but makes a great body lubricant) on my various cracks and crevices I headed down to race HQ by 6:40am with a 7:00am start where people were busy little bees preparing their bodies and minds; huddling about in little groups, visiting the port-a-potties and generally trying to stay calm and chilled. The 100km race had started 30 minutes prior. Poor bastards on a day like this. It was going to get damn hot out there. I did this distance 2 years ago and did reasonably well but it was much cooler then.

I saw many familiar faces milling about and chatted to 'shirtless Jack' Kilislian. I saw Kimberley, bubbling with enthusiasm and good cheer for everybody. There was Henri, RD, with a wide brim hat who gave a quick overview of the race and then there was only 30 seconds left. The 'go fast' brigade were all at the front, raring to go, and I made my way back from Jack and John McAllister (who won the 50km in a smoking hot time) to the front 1/3 and had every intention of starting slow, and finishing slower!

Off we headed on a short grassy section before reaching the paved path with the sun shining down, the birds chirping and feeling in good shape. My race prediction was to hopefully squeak in under 5 hours. I've had two times of 5:01 and 5:11 and one awesome time on a cooler day when I was in better condition of 4:07.

I caught up to shirtless Jack going past Fort George and decided to stick with him and we had a few words and then settled down running side by side. Behind us I could hear Kimberley chatting away to someone and then as we got about 2km in an Asian fellow and a woman came past chatting and Jack and I sort of hooked onto them and we stayed this way until the 10km point.

Up until this time there were two occasions where a red van had stopped by the side of the road and a guy and two women were kindly offering Mr. Freezies for runners which I would have been hugely grateful for slightly later in the race but I lost my chance and declined the offer as I wasn't burning up yet. There was no real breeze but there are quite a few shady sections this time of morning for the first 10km. Things were ok but I had very little running fitness left after 3 weeks of hardly any training and even 10km without stopping was probably too much but my intention was to get to the big climb and walk that so Jack said he would carry on past the 10km aid station and I stopped to top up.

Up until now my plan had worked and I was at 5:25-5:45km/min pacing and on pace for a 5 hour finish. I didn't want to waste energy running the hill and walked the majority of it and was surprised when the field didn't come whipping by me. I got into a running groove past the hydro plant in the open sun and knew by the time I hit this coming back it was going to be scorching but I got into the 15km aid station and topped up and was out but after this station I quickly went downhill and was having walking sections every km and it was getting hot. I think by this point I'd passed a few of the 100km runners and there were certainly other morning joggers out coming towards me that had no race numbers and were enjoying the day.

It was a relief to get to the 20km aid station and I was mentally focusing on one aid station to the next. I was really paying attention to taking salt tablets and having my chewy orange blocks and drinking almost a full bottle between stations. I'd pour the small amount left over my head, top up at the aid station and drink one of their cups and another of ginger ale and usually popped an orange wedge or two before carrying on but didn't waste a lot of time at the aid stations as I was walking anyway. One of the aid stations, I think it might have been this one, had ice cubes which I popped inside my had and this gave me some relief for a few km.

It's after 20km that you start the rolling hills into Niagara Falls and there is a lot of exposure to the sun and it is sidewalk and road running from here until the turn-around point. By now more 100km racers were coming by and I gave them all kudos and carried on running and walking. By this point I'd stopped looking at the watch for pace and had no intention of looking at it again until the 1/2 way point. I lost a few places but far fewer than I expected and I guess everybody was feeling the heat.

I got to the marathon 1/2 way point and one of the guys I regularly run with was there taking bib numbers for that race color. He recognized me and made a comment which pissed me off. A bit of a joker, he's run a few ultras and should have known better. As any of you who run 50km, 50 milers, 100km, 100 milers, etc. knows, your mojo is hugely important. It's all about keeping positive thoughts going as long as possible and believing in yourself and knowing that when you are tired and feeling shit, wanting to quit but pushing yourself physically and emotionally, that any negative thought, once introduced, can eat at you and potentially derail you.

That's why the volunteers are so important at races and the aid stations and why you always hear such great things about them giving up their time and being so supportive of everybody. It's critical. So as I'm going by he quips, 'You've got a looonggggg way to go Alex. No, I mean, a llllloooooonnnnnggggg way to go!' Thanks ass! So I replied, yeah, but I'll get er done! I know he didn't mean it because he's a nice guy but shit man, don't fuck with my mojo.

The last 2km to the turnaround point got busy with tourists but I didn't find it too painful and always found gaps and it was interesting seeing how many were ahead of me and honestly it didn't seem as many as I expected. I finally hit the turnaround point and was feeling pretty rough but damn glad I was at least at the 1/2 way point. Diane offered me one of her home made cookies and I really wanted to oblige as I'm sure they would have been delicious but I honestly couldn't force one down, even walking so I did what I needed to, checked my watch, and turned around to narrow that gap to the finish line.

First half 2 hours 27 minutes. . .

Running back through the crowds there were many runners coming to their 1/2 way point, some familiar faces and many new faces, and I always gave some acknowledgement of their efforts and did my best to run as much as I could but honestly I was pooped. My shoes were Altras and they are trail shoes but very lightweight with minimal support and my feet were really feeling it and I might have been better off with a heavier shoe. I ran the 100km here two years ago with Hokkas and was thankful for their cushioning.

The hills leaving the Falls seem larger and longer on the return and I walked the majority of them. There was a steady stream of runners, sometimes singly or small groups. Many of them looked pretty shattered and I knew I felt this way too and I was trying not to think about the long way back. It's always this section until getting back past the hydro station that drains me mentally. Once I'm heading back down the escarpment it becomes more tolerable.

Jack had left me a long time back and I'd not seen any sign of him until coming in to the Falls but here he was, like me, walking up one of the hills and I'd caught up to him. I asked what was up and he said he was having some issues and I wished him well and said I'd see him again soon, certainly expecting that he'd recover and come past me but I learned he waited for one of his running friends and they ran the rest together.

Not much to highlight in the middle section. It was not pretty and the graph of my pace during this part of the race indicates what it was like; a short period of running followed by a period of walking and this many times coincided with any shady sections. I think at this point I was walking shady sections and running sunny sections but I soon ran out of shade and decided it was far more preferable to walk the sunny sections and run the shady sections. By the time I got down the escarpment I don't think I gave a crap if it was a sunny or shady section, I just walked or ran when it tickled my fancy.

I was relieved to be back on the way down the escarpment but my feet hurt and were taking a beating. I could feel blisters forming on the heels and my toes were getting very sensitive so running downhill was not pleasant but before I managed 1km of running down to the 12km point I spotted something delicious. Either the race director or Parks Canada had arranged to put out at the little round-about at the base of the stairs to the Brock Monument one of their big grass sprinklers. They'd put it on some table or barrel or something and it was squiring out a tight, powerful spray of beautifully cold water, going around and around every 30 seconds or so. I followed that sucker two full circuits, covered my eyes and let myself be doused. I loved every second of cool, refreshing water. That perked me up beautifully.

I ran down the hill with another runner whose name I've already forgotten despite talking with him after the race. Sorry dude! At the 1/2 way point down the hill I needed to walk again and let him go ahead but over the course of the next 8km he was within my sights with me catching up a bit when he walked and then him gaining when I walked. There were others like that too and the final 10km is really about getting it done and usually isn't very pretty. Yes, a few may pass you but everybody is hot as hell, tired, sore, and doing their best to run when they can and sometimes the gas runs out after 50 feet or 100 feet and then you walk some, muster up some energy and give it another go. Stop/start/stop/start. At least that's what it was like for me.

At the 1/2 way point down the escarpment my left calf really began tightening, so much so that it felt like it was going to cramp up badly and I had to stop for a minute to massage it painfully and then carry on down the hill. By the time I hit the bottom it hurt badly and was again on the verge of cramping completely and I was getting pretty worried. There seemed to be some village fair happening in the grounds of the old Laura Secord school but I'm not sure what it was exactly but I stopped again in the shade and took a bit longer to massage it and down two salt tablets, hoping they would kick in soon.

At this point I passed a big chap who seemed to be having some issues of his own and certainly wanted the race to be 11km closer to finishing than it was. I knew the feeling but you commiserate about the heat, your issues, tell them 'you can do it', and onwards you go. I was happy to be walking a hill than the flat and was able to make a staggered run/walk to the 10km aid station.

9km mark coming just past the tree cover with the river on your right and pine cones littering the path. . .8km to the little park bench and the split in the path, followed by a yucky camber in the path which messes with your legs, 7km mark after a sharp short downhill followed by one of the last small hills. . .6km mark over 2 of the 4 wood bridges and 5km mark at the final aid station and also the Line 2 Road which goes directly to my house! Hmmm, it's about the same distance to both so lets get this race done! I saw another one of my running friends, Tina, at the aid station and a quick hello and top up and off I went.

4km mark across the road from a farmers market barn, people with bikes in the shade eating their ice creams. Bastards! Many more people about now on bikes and walking by. A few runners I keep passing and being passed by. I have no idea if they are in the marathon or 50km and I don't really care. Just looking ahead at the next tree or sign and trying to run to it, or the next shady section, or whatever, just moving forward as best as I can.

I finally get to the sharp left in the path which takes you across the road and into the grounds of Fort George and this is the only time I ever look back. I hope it's deserted but no, I see a woman not far off and another woman I've just passed is walking. I get into the open sun and it's blazing down and getting to the big group of trees and the 1km mark seems so far away through the open field but I get about 1/3 of the way there before walking again, catch another runner who is walking who I believe is in a different race and finally make it to the trees and the car park before crossing the road again on the final 1km section.

I get across the final road and hit another open sun section before the tree lined path and then the unthinkable happens! That woman, damn her smelly socks, passes me! I'd been aware of her and trying to keep up my blistering 1mph but it wasn't enough. Now if it had been 4km back I would have said to hell with it, but with only 0.5km left I just couldn't let it stand. I saw a flash of red in her bib and knew she was a 50km racer. Neither of us said a word to the another. Normally I'd say you are doing great, keep it up but she went by, huffing and puffing and making a great effort and I was huffing and puffing and I almost let her go. I thought, what does one place matter. Who cares if she or anybody else beats me by 10 or 20 seconds. But then something kicked in and I knew it did matter, that it was a race and that while I would have preferred walking a bit longer before making a last dash for the finish line, I just couldn't let her run past me with only a few hundred meters left without at least trying.

So that's what happened. I jogged and caught up to her and passed her and 20 seconds later I was out of gas and walked and she caught up again. I think she did pass me this time and again I found a reserve of energy and passed her by and again, shortly after taking the lead I found myself walking. 2 more times I heard her footsteps and breathing behind me and then we were approaching the final bend in the path leading to the cones directing you to the finish chute and the timing matts. I didn't exactly sprint although it sure as hell felt like it at the time, but I knew I couldn't afford another walk. I was dimly aware of the people under the trees clapping for us both and then I was just focused on crossing that finishing mat and I was done, just slightly ahead of my rival. I'm glad she pushed me and I hope I pushed her. I feel bad I didn't turn around and give her a hug or acknowledge our little private race at the end but I did find out her name is Gillian Baxter. Congratulations to you on your race.

So there you have it. Final time, 5 hours 27 minutes which placed me 46th of 180 who completed the race.

30 feet to go! Being chased to the finish just out of picture

20 feet to go!
10 more feet to go! Finishing photos all by Mike from ''

Race Statistics

Happy camper with race medal. 2016 Niagara 50km race done. 5 hours 27 minutes

After stopping my watch and having my medal put over my head I made my way to the side of the building and just huffed and puffed with hands on legs for awhile and then slowly made my way to a shaded section and flopped down. After about 10 minutes of this I headed inside and grabbed a plate with a few pizza slices and sat down near the back with a cool fan blowing air and the side door open and began chowing down. There I chatted with Paul Chenery who I'd seen in a few races but it was two years ago at this very race where we both entered the 100km and for almost 50km of that him and I were running together. Unfortunately today was not his day and after bronchitis and 2 doses of antibiotics 50km was his limit. I also chatted to Pierre (RD of Creemore) and saw a number of other familiar faces. After about 30 minutes of sitting here and recovering I topped up for another 2 slices and the beer and headed to my car where I got a chair and went back to the finishing chute, set up my chair and cheered runners coming in over the next hour.

I sat next to Jack and Dave Rutherford who is bloody fast. He ran the marathon on this day and placed third. And then John McAlister stopped by and he won the 50km in a very fast time and shared some experiences of the 100 mile Easter States inaugural race from 2 summers ago.

It was really satisfying to be cheering on runners, knowing how they were suffering just as I had, and so damn close to the finish; looking weary, hot, but determined. I'm glad I didn't just not show up to this race. I'm sore now, 2 days later, with 2 toenails blackening, my calf very tender and legs that are still stiff. Every race is unique and I am glad I got the chance to experience this one. Congratulations to everybody that was out there. I look forward to seeing you out there again. Happy running.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Where does the time go! It seems only a short while ago I was racing
frequently, with varying degrees of un-success. This was in 2013. Then a
season went by with few races and less motivation followed by a season
of fewer races but more satisfaction; pacing a few others in their
personal quests, and just ticking over personally with my running.

 Now here we are, 2016, with Sulphur Springs only days away. I didn’t sign up
until 8 days prior. I had no fantastic months of training and was away
in the UK for a month but managed some lovely 10-15 mile trail runs
while in ‘The Garden of England’, Kent. Running in the North Downs I ran
through beautiful carpets of Bluebells.

Fields of Bluebells in Kent, England along the North Downs Trail

North Downs Trail - constantly rolling hills with great beauty

Taking a break from DIY chores on a lovely day in Kent, UK

More trails which are beautiful

Follow the acorn markings for the North Downs Way

Glorious Kent Countryside

Rochester Cathedral in Kent, UK

Returning to Canada I became re-acquainted with Short Hills, The Bruce
Trail, Woodend Park and when I checked out the OUS (Ontario Ultra Series) race calendar noticed
Sulphur Springs was quickly approaching. I popped out for a 23 mile
training run in Short Hills to ascertain fitness and willpower,
remembered why Body-glide is an essential addition to any ultra runners
repertoire, and decided 50 miles was likely 19 miles further than I was
capable of and settled on the 50km, a race distance I’ve not attempted
at Sulphur Springs before.

Start of 50/100 mile races at 6:00am
I’ve looked at the entrants and found few familiar names from previous
years. Of course there are many race distances at this particular event
and many will be doing the 50 mile or 100 mile distances but it will be
nice to be in a race situation again and be amongst fellow runners. I
also know race directors Andrea and Tim from social runs together and
look forward to supporting their race.

While my training run gave me confidence that I can indeed complete a
50km run (I didn’t say race), the temperature on that outing was a
comfortable 20 degrees. I’ve mentioned several times in my blog how
poorly I perform in elevated humidity and temperatures. It saps me
entirely so I was less than ecstatic, looking at the forecast to see
Ancaster temperatures rocketing on Friday/Saturday/Sunday with humidity
making it feel like 37 degrees and possibly rain as well. Bugger!  I
feel sorry for those poor souls doing 50 and 100 milers. I’m glad,
however, that it is not the weekend for the Niagara Ultra which is far
more exposed.

I’m not sweating emotionally about the race and don’t imagine I’ll
start over-thinking things or not be able to sleep restfully. The course
is pretty ingrained in memory and the only difference this time is doing
a 10km short loop initially, followed by two of the full 20km loops. The
50km race commences at 7:30am alongside the 25km runners and they turn
back 5km into the beginning 10km loop.

I always like to have a goal in mind and it makes for good reading
after the fact, to see how right or wrong I got it. I’ve made a few
fairly accurate predictions but also got it horribly wrong on a number
of occasions. Two things that often bite me are the same factors that
any other runner faces, and getting it right comes with experience and
lots of practice - pace and fitness. Go out too fast and you’ll wind up
with an impressive first lap followed by -- DNF on the result sheet.
Been there! Don’t put in the right training and you’ll face the death
march, that unenviable position when your head is no longer in the game
and isn’t willing to push those legs any faster.

So my prediction is, with a very hot day forecast, that I’ll finish in
5 hours 30 minutes. Well, we’ll know soon enough. . . .

Race Day

4:15am awake, out the door by 5:00am and it’s 21 degrees already with
sunrise yet to come. An easy 45 minute drive up the mountain gets me one
of the last remaining parking spaces by the athletic complex. Sun is up
and temperatures are rising. I take myself over to the start line and
get my bib for the 50km and chat to runners I know who are minutes away
from their 50 or 100 miles start. Jack is there and Ron and they line up and off
they disappear down the hill. My time is only 1.5 hours away. I head
back to the car, organize my stuff and head back to the start with my
packed bag and folding chair which I place by Barbara, Ron Gehl’s wife.
Ron is doing the 50miler.

I’m just sitting comfortably, watching the
comings and goings, and on my other side a family sets up, a woman
called Trish with several bright tattoos. She’s already done several of
the OUS races and looks fit and ready for the day, also doing the 50km.
With 15 minutes to go I feel stomach rumblings despite two trips at home
and I join the lengthy line-up but it moves well and I’m back in my
chair with 4 minutes to go. I decide no shirt today which is the first
time I’ve ever gone shirtless and Barbara kindly rubs it in my back and
I then join the starting line and just relax before the air horn goes
and we all begin our respective journeys on what promises to be a very
hot day!

Lap 1 – 10km. Time about 55 minutes

I’ve looked at the finishing times and it’s a bummer that there are no
lap times, only finish times and average pace but the first lap went by
pretty quickly. I’ve never done the 10km loop to start so there was a
tiny bit of new trail where they tied it into the 20km loop but soon I
was in familiar territory. My pace was too fast but I wanted to get as
much done before the heat peaked. We passed 2 bridges which then takes
you to a right turn past a park bench and eventually to the 3 ‘sisters’
hill which is nasty. The final bit always leaves me gasping although on
the first lap I was able to do a short walk and get back into running
fairly quickly. When I’m on fresh legs I always enjoy the downhill
lollipop section and before long I was back at the final aid station and
climbing up the steep hill back to the start/finish. Only two more laps
to go!

Lap 2 – 20km. Time for this lap about 2:05

I started the lap feeling reasonably well and did make a conscious
effort to slow it down after lap 1. I ran with a few runners around me
while others passed by or we passed them and I was not checking bib
colors for the race distance they were in and just wanted to finish
feeling not too bad. By the time we got back to the Aid Station by the
road I was starting to flag and the heat was getting pretty strong. They
had popsicles for awhile and dang they tasted good! One of the
volunteers had a sponge with cold water and poured some over my neck and
down my back and it was like AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, that feels good.
Immediately it gave me an injection of energy and I lasted about 3km
before the heat overwhelmed me again. During the lap I caught up to Kimberley Van
Delst who was in the 100 mile and we walked and ran sections and she
would fly down the hills. At the aid station I lost sight of her and
then caught up to Catherine Kelly who is a tall woman, with two long,
red, pig tails. I saw her last year at the Laura Secord 100km and she
did awesome there. During the first loop there, she caught a root and
did a spectacular face plant without managing to get her hands in-front
of her bounced up, unscathed. I retired from that race after only 1.25

We stayed together for awhile and then she was bounding down a steep
hill and I got that horribly queasy stomach feeling which indicates I’m
seconds away from a ‘reboot’ so I let her get away and stepped off the
trail and up came whatever needed to. Being so hot I had been very aware
about hydration and salt and was taking S-caps every 30-40 minutes and
drinking a full handheld between each aid station but I think I still
was short on water. I barely managed one pee in 8 hours. I had some
ginger ale at the next aid station.

Getting into the open fields at the top of the lollipop loop was an
instant blast of heat rising from the grass and the sun was so intense.
I was so happy to get back into the trails and tree cover and be heading
back to the start. The climb was less than fun and I knew I would get
out on the final loop but also knew my ‘race’ was over and that my
energy was expended.

Lap 3 – 20km. About 3 hours 5 minutes

I managed to keep it together until I was back in the trail at the
bottom of the hill and then it quickly deteriorated from a run, to a
jog, to a periodic jog, to a long walk and half hearted attempts to jog
for 20 feet. My breathe was ragged even on the flats and on any hill was
more like a steam train. My exhalation was very hot which meant my core
was overheating and I was really not enjoying this lap at all and
everything that passed by relatively quickly in lap 1 and 2 seemed to
take forever to appear. By this point I was with several people who were
similarly hurting and I’d pass them only to be passed, back and forth
over the course of several km.

The prospect of aid stations was what helped spur me on and I’d try to
manage my water to empty it just before getting to the next one. Any
sections in the open sun were brutal with temperatures easily 37-38
degrees. I sat at one aid station for up to 4 minutes just trying to get
it together and by this point I didn’t care about time at all. The final
downhill section on the lollipop, normally great fun, hurt, and my toes
were now getting mashed into my toe-box and my heels felt blisters.

I felt sorry for myself to be sure but every time I saw a 50 or100
miler come by I had huge respect and told them how great they were
doing. I found there was a lot of camaraderie out there with everybody
acknowledging each others efforts and that gives you a boost.

Also, the aid station personal were fantastic, acting quickly, showing
you where things were, asking what they could get you, etc. The
popsicles were a huge hit and the ice put in my hat or ice sponges
drenched down my back were a great relief. I did think the aid station
offerings for food were a bit on the thin side as far as calories and
selection. From what I remembered they had watermelon, orange slices,
some sort of colored candies, pretzels I think. That’s really all I
remember. Perhaps there was more but I did hear that feedback from some
other runners at the end.

I was so happy to be climbing that final hill and Jack was ½ way down
and high-fived me going by. I rounded the finish line with a few claps
and managed a run for 25 meters, got my medal and made my way to my
folding chair and flopped down, drank some hot coke and topped up on
more water. Final time, 6 hours 4 minutes, good for 54th place of 138

After about 20 minutes I made my way to the marquee and grabbed a
water, a banana and choose the pulled pork sandwich which was AMAZING! !
! Oh my I loved that. They had brought in a company whose name eludes me
but it was yum yum yum. I sat for a bit and was chatting to two other
French ladies who had completed the 50km. My biggest injury came then
when I went to adjust my chair and my hand slipped down the side of the
chair, jammed into the folding mechanism and bent back the nail of my
thumb which proceeded to bleed profusely. Nothing like a new pain to
replace an old one.

After enjoying my sandwich I hobbled back to my chair, moved it closer
to the cones leading to the finishing chute and cheered on over the
course of the next hour other racers.

Then I got back to the car, enjoyed A/C for a few minutes and then
drove home. There you have it. It was not a pretty run but I did get it
done and it was my first ultra in quite some time. I’ve signed up for
Niagara 50km in 3 weeks and hopefully it will be a nice day out.

Here is a shot of my race stats from my Garmin. This race seems to be a few miles short of 50km (31 miles) at 29 miles. Perhaps other people's GPS shows a different statistic but I've long suspected the course is slightly off on the 20km length per loop.

Home and stinky

50km done!
Thanks for visiting and I hope you are enjoying your races and runs and
hopefully I’ll see some of you out there.

The Running Dude, aka Alex

Lap 1 – 10km – 55 minutes
Lap 2 – 20km – 2 hours 5 minutes
Lap 3 – 20km – 3 hours 5 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 4 minutes
Place: 54 of 138

Friday, February 12, 2016

London - Thames River - 11th Feb 2016

Hi again. I only got one canal run in while in Birmingham as work kept me busy but had a chance meeting which was pretty cool. While waiting for a crowded bus in the evening with a cluster of people that didn't seem to quite know what bus they wanted, I look beside me and this woman is looking at me and is smiling, very animated, waving her arms and I'm like, um, what is this all about? I look behind me thinking I'm going to embarrass myself if I say something, but no, nobody there. She says to me, Tibet, Tibet, but looks like she is trying desperately to say something more but is either about to have a seizure or is having a brain fart....

I'm waiting for more and then finally she says bike trip, Tibet, and it finally dawns on me who she is and who the man beside her is. 12 years ago I went on a cycling holiday for 3 weeks, quite intensive, in Tubet, and we biked to Everest base camp and cycled over 3 of the highest mountain peaks in the world, around 6,200 meters or something. It was an amazing holiday. Anyway. We hugged and laughed. Amazing she remembered me. 12 years is a long time after all and just cool to run into someone random like that.

She and here husband got on my bus and we are chatting and I'm asking about what has happened, any more cycling trips, etc, and she says, not really, I'm more into running now, and my face lights up and I say, really, me too. I love ultra running and she is all animated again, saying she too is into fell running and long distance running. We could have chatted all night after that I'm sure but the bus got to the train station and I had to say farewell at that point and with a hug and a kiss and a business card they went their way again.

And here I am now, a few days later, in London. I lived in the UK a very long time, 18 years, and being back is like putting on a pair of well worn shoes. There is something comforting and familiar about it.

The apartment I'm at is incredible. Right on the Thames, 16 floors up in a set of modern buildings that have decks jutting out like the bow of a ship. Right below me is the river boat dock at St. George Wharf and as I look up river I see the London Eye. This is city living at its best but looking at the cost of these units I'd need to win a lottery or two. I've spent many hours while working just looking out at the views and this morning I looked down and saw many many runners and decided I had to join them so donned my gear and headed along the river for 45 minutes until I got to Tower Bridge. Lots of tourists out and about but no real problems, just a little traffic jam by the popular tourist spots.

3.5 miles from apartment looking to Tower Bridge (obviously) across river into The City

Running along Tower Bridge to Tower of London and along Thames River Path on North Side of Thames

View from apartment towards London Eye (in red in middle)

River bus on the left which I used to take from Greenwich to London Bridge and walk up to city (towards the Gherkin building you see in the middle)

Oh look, it's me. Heading home along North side of river

London Eye - was dodge the tourist on this side so took the quieter way home

View from 16th floor of the apartment up the Thames
 I met one guy wearing a banking shirt I recognized who was in training for the Brighton marathon and was out for a 15 mile training run. It was great because there were runners everywhere, single women, blokes, small groups. I really enjoyed it. After that I schlepped my way up to Piccadilly and had a wander through Fortnum and Mason and smelled some delicious perfumes and candles from a company called Roja. There was a lovely scent, strong, but totally delicious. And for 350 quid it bloody well better be!

I went into the Penhaligon's perfume store in the Burlington Arcade and smelled some of their new fragrances which were amazing also, one called Blasted Heath, especially I intend in introducing in my boutique!

Better go for now. Have to figure out some more runs but maybe I'll do that one again, or head up river next time, but most of the popular landmarks are where I went today.

Enjoy the minus 30 degree weather in Canada while I basque, relatively, in +10. Ok, last year in the Med was warmer still but I'm not complaining.

Happy running