Running Free

Monday, September 9, 2019

5Peaks Albion Hills Sport – July 20th 2019

The third installment of the 5Peaks season was one that I saw on the calendar and knew it would likely be hell.  July is a tough month to run in and unless there is unseasonably cold weather my extra pounds were going to make me pay!  I was not wrong!  The 6.5km Sport race gonna be a challenge.

The advertised weather was 30 degrees Celsius with a humidex of 40 degrees … my weather on my Strava said 27, feels like 30 but they are LYING!  Sorry for being so excitable … it was a tough day.


As always pre-race emails were great.  Lots of info and tons of warnings to the participants.  Its going to be hot, prepare appropriately and judge how your body feels and be cautious when pushing yourself as the heat can knock you out.

The registration, vendors, water availability, etc. was once again well organized at the start.  A real class event like the others.

Waiting to head out in one of the six waves of starters the sun unmercifully broke through the clouds further warming the starters.  We knew we were in for trouble.  There was talk that some over races were cancelled and perhaps this one should be … but this is trail racing.  Its not like a road race where your pace can be predicted before hand and you can build out a plan for the whole race.  On trails you need to take what is given to you and do what you can when you can.

The Race

Out of the gate there was a flat area then some early climbing, nothing crazy but just enough to spike my internal temperature and start the endless sweating.

I had full water bottles and focused on getting to the first water station consuming all that I had.  An additional station was added due to the heat and it was needed.

I knew early this would be a day of hell and just tried to exert enough effort to keep a pace but not drive myself over the edge.  Even in the first third of the race I reach a few times I need to walk to keep from redlining.  The trail started wider and open and then narrowed into some single track.

The middle third of race was the type of trail running I like.  A lot of single track, rolling hills, turns and shaded areas.

In this area is where I started to see people in distress.  Two or three people were on the side of the trail with helpers tending to them.  I quickly checked that they didn’t need either my help or my water and continued on.

Trail running is wonderful in how readily people are willing to throw their own race plans aside to help another runner.

The last third of the race consisted of descending out of the hills and picking up some wider sections of the trail and parts of the park returning to the start/finish.

Again, another section for setting a good pace to make up for some lost time would be the plan but on this day, I was struggling to be running at all and set a plodding pace.

Coming into the finish line there were paramedics tending to people and a lot of tired and exhausted runners.

Heading to the parking lot there was a fire truck and ambulance letting us all know how serious this sport can be.

Didn’t break any records on the day but went home healthy and happy!


After knocking 5Peaks on swag for the other races they DID deliver on this hat ... it looks even better on other people!  High quality, fits well, works great for sweat avoidance ... and matches my bright personality!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2019 5Peaks Rattlesnake Point

I signed up for the 5 race series and Rattlesnake Point in Milton is the second stop.  The first race at Kelso was challenging and fun but was mired in raining, foggy and muddy conditions.  Everyone huddled before the race in packs of reluctant participants.
This race was different.  After parking my running buddy and I made our way to the start area.  For a second I thought I may have stumbled upon a ‘concert in the park series’ featuring perhaps the Doobie Brothers or someone like that.  Tons of participants and spectators with their kids and families all hanging out tossing frisbees and enjoying the weather.
Registrations line were short and moved quickly, overall the organization and execution on the pre-race stuff was great.  These guys seem to know what they are doing and it shows.
The Race

I was running the Sport class which advertising 5.1km.  It’s a trail race so I wasn’t surprised when my final GPS watch tally was a bit off.  Shorter in this case at about 4.9km.
Rattlesnake Point is a well known rock climbing area, so I expected some challenging climbs and descent.  The both of two pre-race emails (which have tons of info) advertised this as the most technical race of the series so … runner beware!
As it turns out the park and race start are at the top of the escarpment, so the first half of the race was relatively flat with and felt like slight decline overall.  My GPS has other info but I was thinking the whole time that the second half of the race was going to be a LOT of climbing.
Surprisingly except for a couple of big “rock walls” which required some focused climbing I felt as thought the climbing was easier than expected.
Regarding the route itself it starts off rounding the park area and entering into some paved and flat pathways.  This switches to some single track about a km in holds your focus throughout with much care required on foot placement and planning paths up and down rocky are.
The sport turns around at the way point and comes back via a different path.

The reward on this route are the views!  At the tops of the escarpment the views were incredible and a bit daunting as you are plodding your way through a tough trail with some significant drops of cliffs nearby.  3 times I came across a climber at near the trail fishing ropes down to other rock climbers making their way up to where we were.
A downhill finish made for some fun challenges as people ran in together.
For my own race, I left a lot of time out there. I was disappointed in the sense that I feel like there were many times I should have made up some pace but just didn’t have it in me … but I had fun and I gave it my all.

Post-Race, Swag, etc.
Post-race was as well organized as the pre-race.  Food lines were fast and well organized, and we left the event feeling positive.

My only knock is the swag.  They gave out a silicone wine glass that looked promising but its pretty much useless to use.  My requirement of a glass is to hold liquid and to be useful delivering that liquid to my mouth and this one fails at the later.

The Come Back Trail

It’s been a few years since I did any serious running.  Things went off the rails due to a heel injury and had to hang up the shoes for a few months, winter came and went and getting back out there was difficult to me.
In the meantime, I gained weight, felt poorly about myself and made a few attempts at running and then missed a run, then a week of runs, then a month, etc.
Laziness is a curse.
Let’s face it, if you want to change an outcome you need to change your actions.  So this year I changed things up …
I know myself pretty well and I know what worked before so here are some of the things I did or are doing.
Set a Goal
To me the most important thing is to set a goal.  “Do you have a goal race” is runner chat but it’s crucial for me.  If I am not working towards something it’s hard for me to be honest with myself if I stray.
For this year in late December I decided to sign up for the 5 Peaks running series.  As it sounds it’s a five race series in and around the GTA often scampering up hills, ski and otherwise, and has a good reputation for being well run.  Now I had a goal … five goals actually … and because they are in the Spring and Fall I need to build a plan for most of the year.
Measure It
I worked for HP for 18 years and there was a saying attributed to one of their founders, which up on internet searches may confirm he didn’t say it at all but its “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.
To me this is why a plan is critical.  Any runner from a ‘couch to 5k’ to an Olympic athlete needs a plan.  For me, building a plan, updating my progress and adjusting the plan is incredibly motivating.  Sometimes positively “holy crap look at all the running I did’ or negatively ‘that red mark on the spreadsheet is shaming me’.
There are lots of plans out there and they are variations on the same methodology.  I use Hal Higdon’s plan.  It’s online and its free.  I put it into a spreadsheet and track my progress.  It keeps me honest even if I am not honest with myself.
Running Social
I think at the core of running, whether for fitness or competing in races, it’s an individual sport.  In those moments when we are challenged to keep the pace in a race or on a long run working to get home, it’s a personal struggle and overcoming these challenges is what makes it so rewarding.
Second only to that is the joy and comfort you get socializing with other runners.  I am building my way back up to run with the Barrie RunNinjas group, which I was an original member.  The amount of encouragement and growth seen within that group is incredible.
The other aspect is social media.  Strava is a favorite app for me.  I enjoy uploading my runs and having it as a database for every run I ever did.  I also love seeing, sharing and encouraging the work and accomplishments of others.  At the heart of it we all have our own goals.  We all need encouragement whether is ‘Just Nailed A Boston Qualifier’ or ‘First 5K Run This Year’ it’s all amazing.
Relearning The Lessons
Here are a couple of lessons I have relearned:
  1. The hardest stride you’ll make is the first one out the door.
  2. You may regret starting a run at the beginning but you’ll never regret finishing a run at the end.
  3. You don’t know the wind is at your back until you turn around to face it.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

2019 5Peaks Kelso Sport

I signed up for the 5Peaks series this year in a bid to put some races on the calendar to motivate me to get back into running shape.

The series has 2 or 3 distances Sport, Enduro and (sometimes) Half.  I signed up for the Sport with the intention of not killing myself on the road to longer runs and races.

5Peaks has a pretty flashy online presence and my perception was that they are well run with great swag.

I encouraged a buddy who is a new runner to challenge the series with me and looked forward to him waiting for me at the forthcoming finish lines.


Kelso being a little ski hill in Milton provided the first of the 5 ‘Peaks’ I was going to enjoy this year.
The morning was cold and wet.  Getting to the race was easy and parking was plentiful.

Sponsors had a number of tents set up so their people could reluctantly huddle in the cold with their hands in their pockets.

The indoor reception for bib, race swag and additional race series swag lines was big enough to house about 80% of the people squeezed in there in a series of twisting lines.  No fault of the organizers, it’s the only building there and the weather sucked so people piled in.

The pre-race email had lots of information and was extremely helpful answers any question I might have.

The Race

First thing I loved about the race is that it started in 6 waves.  Eric the MC provided plenty of tips and info while helping to remind everyone to find the wave that worked for them.  There is nothing worse in trail races than be either stuck behind a group of people on single track or having someone breathing down your neck while you are trying not to wipe out.

The Enduro and Sport also had different start times so it lessened the size of each wave again.
My buddy and I started in wave 5.  They set the starting waves by best 5k time on the road.  This was a very logical way to do it.  I am nowhere near my top running shape so starting where I did made sense.

Out of the gate the well marked trail lead across the bottom of the ski hill for maybe 500 meters.  It gave some additional room for people feeling eager to get out in front.

It then started the big climb.  In a way I like having the climb out of the way at the start but that was no consolation when tackling over 1km of climb up the ski hill.  I huffed and puffed as my running partner slowly disappeared ahead of me.

Once up to the top the path narrowed from what was like a service road for the groomers into some fun single track trail.  There were several ‘lookout point’ locations where I am sure a wonderful view was possible on another day but the fog was strong so visibility seemed like a few meters.

The recent rain provided a few ‘shoe sucking’ mud pits to power through.  All participants in and around me seemed pretty happy given the chilly, muddy day.  The rocky and rooty climbs were wet and slick and keeping our focus on staying upright.

The trail was well marked, well signed and water tables were well placed where they were supposed to be.  The volunteers were very smiley and cheerful!

The final decent back to the finish was exciting!  The rain had started adding to the slick conditions and temptation to make up a little time was tempered with treacherous cut backs down the hill.

The return to the final shoot was back to the open area at the bottom of the hill.  Runners were rewarded at the end of the race with a final little hill to climb!

As far as my race is concerned, I feel pretty good about it.  I was aiming to go sub 60 minutes and got there.  My fitness isn't where I wanted it to be so I had to work hard .. I'll take it!

The Swag

I had the impression this series had great swag.  We had signed up for the full series so got a pretty great hoodie that was a $60 value.  I really like it.  The race swag however was some sort of head-band thingy.  It may suit some of the runners and it looked kind of cool on some people but it was something I would never wear.  That and there are no finisher medals.

I bet some people get jaded by getting a medal when they run many events but for me, I love them!  Only having medals for the winners of each age group is fine if the swag was awesome and it wasn’t.


A great event!  Well run, great communication, an interesting route and great volunteers!  I wish they had medals but what can you do!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Chase The Coyote 12KM

I’ve raced this venue a few times.

The first time in 2015 was for the 14.4km Challenge Course.  I loved it.  I was reasonable trained for it and loved the experience.  My review is here.

The second time was last year.  I had been injured in July and was under-trained for the race.  I had signed up for the 14.4km Challenge Course again but was in no shape to run it so I checked down to the 5.7km Short Course.  I was glad I did.  My review is here.

This year the wonderful organizers Norm and Jodi changed up the distances.  Now they are 12km, 25km and the dreaded 50km.  Obviously a big push to get this race into the ‘Ultra’ class.  The 2 longer distances are either one or two laps of a new 25km loop.

The Race Stuff

Once again very well organized.  Information available and email communication was great.  The exhibitors/sponsors at the race were friendly, helpful and had interesting products to talk about.

Before the race things were well run, had a great feel and having a bag drop which was great as I like to recheck and pack-up my nutrition, etc. just before the race.

During the race the volunteers were awesome once again.  Tons of Team Running Free support!   Signage and course routing was clear even under the duress of race conditions.

After the race I will say I was disappointed not to have a barbecue like in previous years.  A wrap and fruit is nice but a hot burger is AWESOME!  I understand logistics of cooking for 200-300 people must be a pain but it was something I missed.

Age group prizes, access to timing sheets, draw prizes and all the other post-race stuff was well executed.

My Race

Like last year I came into the race under prepared.  I starting training again in July and getting back to any long distance has been tough in the heat.  I had managed a few 8km+ plus runs but certainly not what I needed to truly ‘compete’ on a personal level where I wanted to.

With the changes in distances there wasn’t anything lower than 12km to check down to.  I knew it was going to be a pain train so I set my expectations to not killing myself and enjoying what I could.

The weather this year was in the midst of the popular sequel “Summer 2 – This Time We Mean It”.  With temps in the low 30’s and humidex purported to hitting around 41 degrees I knew the distance wasn’t my only challenge.

I prepared for the heat by taking a carry bottle to ensure I never was out of water.  There is a gap between water stations between 2.5km and about 6.5km which concerned me.

Water is amazing in the heat to both quench and soak yourself down.  I also packed gels to make sure I was replacing electrolytes.  If I am anticipating a lot of sweating, which I was, I also take and carry salt pills.  I took one before start and another about 45 minutes in.

I started three quarters of the way back in the pack.  I try to guess where I might finish and do my best to get out of the way of faster runners before the race even starts.  It’s the nice thing to do.

The start here is uphill out of the gate.  The first 2km is a combo of some up hills and flats on well-worn wide open trails that see a lot of feet through the year.  It felt early on that I was in for the hell I thought I was.  It was hot, humid and it felt like hard work immediately.

At 2km ‘Cardiac Hill’ starts.  I had no illusions of running ANY of this.  I put my head down and marched up as best I could.  Regardless of distance or fitness, this is an early test that you need to avoid torching your legs and lungs at.

Mid-way to the highest point of the park “Look Out Point” there was a water/electrolyte table where I filled what I had used of my bottle.

“Look Out Point” offers a great view of the whole park and many of the competitors took the time for a selfie.  I took a second and soaked it up.  At its heart trail running is a struggle balanced with the beauty of nature.

The middle portion of the race consisted of me and a few different racers running alone or in pairs that passed each other a number of times as each of us took breaks at different times or felt up for some brisk running at different times.

My trail running sorta-mantra is ‘get what you can get when you can get it’.  Feel like sprinting as far up that hill as you can?  Do it.  Feel like walking?  Do it.  The terrain takes and gives away so when you feel good use it, when you feel rough just slug it out the best you can.

At the 6.5k water break I took a bit of a 30 second break and immediately regretted it.  Refilling water and immediately walking/shuffling would have been better as I felt like crap as soon as I tried to run again.

Next up is “68 Steps To Ruin”.  This one never disappoints.  The illusion the map gives first time runners is that the steps are the only challenge when you get there.  But they are not.  There is a significantly steep slope leading to the steps … then the steps … then two more climbs before cresting the ‘the top must be here … no crap it’s still going’ peak.

Much of the race after this point is downhill.  Working through trails coming slowly down off the escarpment is a pleasure with slight ups and mostly some downs to keep you rolling.  I had a bit of gas left in the tank so enjoyed this portion.

At 9km the final water table appeared.  They had lots of stuff for the longer distance runners as this is a station shared by all three distances.  Water, electrolyte drink, Coca-cola, pringles, gels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc.  I stuck to my plan and refilled water and popped a few gummy gels.

The last 2-3 km is flat or downhill.  This is a portion 2 years ago when I hammered it stretching my legs and cranking the pace.  I had saved some energy and slowly poured it all out spreading it to the finish line.

This year gutted out a run/walk and was passed by a number of runners.  It’s all I had left.

Crossing a finish line immediately erases a lot of tough memories.  Someone asked me how my race went and I said “It looks great looking back on it”.

Once again a wonderful event, a memorable well-run race and some wonderful nature sitting there waiting to challenge you.  No coyote again this year … I will need to go back again!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

EC3D Compression Review

When discussing compression clothing I default to what I call my “Rocket Man Song Defense” which is a nice way to say “All the science I don’t understand”.
The Science – That I’ve Read

The gist of compression garments is that creating varying compression of parts of your body can assist in strategically increasing blood flow to either improve performance and/or improve recovery.

Great right?  Who doesn’t need help keeping the wolves at bay deep into a race or training run?  And what would you pay to shorten the recovery time between racing and training or between training runs when the legs feel like lead and the kids want to kick the soccer ball around the yard.  Seems like a drug free and natural way to help the body perform better.

EC3D Product

I want to disclose up front that I have both paid for and also received free product from EC3D for testing.

EC3D is a proud Canadian company that got their start with this technology making compression garments for the medical market.

Their claimed advantage is the variable compression that their products provide.  The compression varies in the garment in order to offer specific compression in specific areas in order to elicit the result of improved performance or improved recovery.

EC3D Calf Sleeves

I bought this product when wanting to try compression sleeves to help with my training efforts.  My legs were often fatigued when increasing mileage and I thought they would help.

I went to my trusty Running Free location and the store rep quickly ran a measuring tape around my calf to assist in picking the specific size I needed.  This is very important as they are sized based on calf circumference.  I was concerned that the garment might be too long as I am quite short but they fit just fine.

What drew me to this product was the variable compression claims and also the fact they were made in Canada.  They were very competitively priced so I felt it was 3 strikes against the competition.

The first thing you will notice is that these suckers are tight and hard to get on.  But once on you appreciate the fact the compression isn’t uniform as your legs aren’t uniform in shape.

Secondly, the box advertised that the product works for both performance and recovery which is what I wanted.

The other cool thing about this product is that is uses Antimicrobial fibres (Rocket Man) that thwarts the stink of frequent use.  I can tell you first hand it works incredibly.

EC3D 3 in 1 Hybrid

This product is for someone who wants it all.  It includes three garments:  Performance compression sleeves, recovery compression sleeves and compression socks.

The difference in the performance vs. recovery sleeves are the placement of the varying compression components.  It makes sense in theory that specifically designed sleeves for differing purposes could deliver better results vs. one garment.

The compression socks are great as well.  They fit tight and feel very thin.  They feel great on and I have had zero rubs or hot spots wearing them.  I put them into the sock rotation immediately.

Does It Work?

I think the scientific and running community jury may be out a bit on whether there is a lasting effect provided by compression.  It’s kind of like the ice bath debate.  As long as I see ultra runners wearing compression and jumping into ice baths I have to think it’s a bit more than a theory.

In this case I don’t care if it’s a placebo effect or a real medicinal effect, it works for me.

Putting on the garment elicits an immediate cooling effect.  It’s as if you can feel the blood flow improve instantly.  In recover situations it definitely seems to shorten the fatigue.

The additional effect is a reduction of damage resulting from the constant pounding and vibration of thousands of steps on the road or trail.  This is a real benefit to me as well and is a noticeable effect.

In closing, if you haven’t tried compression it’s a good time to give it a shot.  Buying new cool stuff is a definite side benefit to running and EC3D has the science behind it at a great price while being made in Canada.

Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Catch The Coyote Sprint 5.7k - September 24, 2016

This is the second year that I have run at this event.  Last year I rant the 14.4k Challenge course and this but this year I was running the 5.7k Sprint course.

What a difference a year makes.  Last year I wasn’t exactly in top form from a training perspective but I came into the longer race with a solid plan and what resulted was a really positive race that lead to an effort and time that I was proud of.  You can read about that one on this blog.
This year I came into the event very ill trained.  I had injured myself trail running this summer and have been trying to build a bit of mileage on an injured heel.  It still hurts a bit but running doesn’t make it worse so I am just running.  Regardless, I had been run/walking 5k distances.

I emailed the race coordinators and they were happy to check me down to the 5.7k distance.
Everything Before The Race
Sign-up and communication before the race was great.  What you would expect with the services out there now but an extra gold star for a very detailed email in the week leading up to the race loaded with information on parking, schedule, etc.
The pre-race amenities were ample and the mood at the start line was very ‘community’.  I just like the vibe of trail running events.  Good showing of vendors on-hand and waiver signing, pickup up of swag, food availability, etc. was great.

The Race
The 14.4k or longer distances have the ‘pleasure’ of running up 3 lovely sections called:  Cardiac Hill, 64 steps of ruin and Roots of All Evil.

The 5.7k race turns back around the start of the Cardiac Hill climb.  The course had some ups and downs but no big climbs.  I found the race to still be challenging but not super technical.  The course ranges from wide open gravel trails to tight forest single track.
I did all I could out there.  I took a few walks when I was red-lining and pushed as hard as I could.  I wasn’t in-shape but focused on soaking up the scenery and doing all I could.

The delight I had during this race was running with and listening to a little 6 year-old girl running with her Mom.  She was chatting away like a young girl would, covering all kinds of topics.  She started to run with and chat with me.  I was trying to answer while breathing hard in a ‘this is no big deal running and talking like this’ fashion but it WAS a little difficult.
Abruptly she stopped to take a walk break.  I hollered up to her Mom that she was taking a break and the lady said ‘oh, she’s not my daughter, we just met’.  She stopped as well and stayed with the girl who was still chatting away to people passing her.

Such is trail racing to me.  A real brotherhood/sisterhood endeavor.  Shortly after I finished, she came through the finish line with cheers from a small group of women who apparently DID know who she was before the race.
I am proud of these results.  It likely ranks up to one of my slowest performances but I try to feel good any time I strap on the shoes and toe the starting line.  I worked hard out there.
Post Race
Lots of food from bananas, cookies, coffee, water, etc. available as they were before the race but if you’re like me, a hard trail work-out matches well with a burger.  The barbeque was fired up and the burger was great.  I am sure there were vegetarian offerings … kind of sure … I wasn’t looking for those.


The medal is great. It has a customized ribbon/strap with exact date which is a classy touch.  Obviously ordering the same medal and using it for a number of years is a cost saving measure vs. doing a different one every year but the date on the ribbon/strap is great when looking back in the closet on all your medals that all look the same and trying to remember when you ran that race.
I believe there was a choice offered around swag.  I paid for this race so early I can’t remember what I the other options were.  However, when I got there and saw the Trucker’s Hat, I was happy I apparently chose that.

Once again this was a great event.  I will be putting it on my calendar for next year.  With distances of 5.7k, 14.4k and 21.4k there is a distance for everyone.  And according to their social media feed they have been out trying to map a longer distance …