Running Free

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chase The Coyote – Challenge 14.4k – September 26, 2015

Chase The Coyote – Challenge 14.4k – September 26, 2015

My ‘running summer’ had been a bit of a disappointment.  After my first Around The Bay 30k race in the Spring I had been either treading water or losing ground.

The excuses are always readily available.  I had some IT Band and hamstring injuries that kept my training a bit below the intensity that I needed and I have been carrying around some extra weight I didn’t have last year.

Regardless, this race made me feel … like I am back in the game baby!

Online, Communication and Race Day Organization

The race was held in beautiful Mono Cliffs Provincial Park.  It is an outstanding location especially with the fall colours coming in.

The Chase The Coyote website is simple and has all the key information.  From race maps with elevation to videos of the course all the tools I needed to plan my race, plan my trip and prepare for the race were there.

Communication from the race was ample.  The last email also warned runners about parking which was limited and with my arrival time meant I walked in from about half a KM away but I expected it which to me makes it fine.

Event organization and volunteers were awesome with many Team Running Free members active on and off the course.  Once getting to the race site the vibe was fun, positive and well put together.  The few organizations that were there with tents were interesting and relevant.

Swag came in the form of a toque or buff.  There were only buffs left when I got there and I had to leave it behind as I didn’t have time to walk it back to my car.  There was nothing left after the race … so just medal bling, no swag for me!

The Race – The Challenge 14.4k

Race distances offered were 5.7k Short, 14.4k Challenge and 22k+ Long.

I chose the Challenge 14.4k distance as this seemed to be the distance with all the climbs and besides … I wasn’t necessarily ready for those extra KMs.

This race I decided to actually prepare a bit.  I researched the elevation chart on the website as well as do a search for actual GPS data on Strava from previous races.

I could see 3 major climbs that peaked at approximately 3k, 6k and 9.4k.  This helped me prepare for how much to push and when.

Reviewing the race map on the website was fun.  The 3 highlighted sections seemed like something out of a horror movie:  Cardiac Hill, 64 Steps To Ruin and The Roots of All Evil.

Race Director Norm confirmed my research a bit with his pre-race chat to the group “take it easy for the first 2kms … don’t start racing until after ‘the stairs’.

146 people started the race according to the results page with 138 finishers (guessing some didn't start and some may be up there still).

I positioned myself at the start about 2/3 the way back of the group based on where I expected to finish like I do every race.  I try to avoid holding people up nor having to pass too many which is what I do for every race which is extra important on a trail race that could be single track early.

The Trail To Cardiac Hill

Out of the gate the trail just starts climbing.  Not a crazy climb but enough slope and distance to put me into heavy breathing right away.  I quickly settled into a small pack of people.  The group I was in had a few huffing and puffing like me and few people keeping the same pace just chatting away (me hates them).

Then came ‘cardiac hill’ around 2km in.  With a name like that I almost liked being warned.  Knowing it was coming and knowing it’s the biggest climb of the day, I resigned myself to marching it vs. running as much as I could and burning my legs and lungs out thinking ‘I can run this, it’s almost over, it can’t be that much longer … this can’t be right … who chose this trail ... where am I … kill me.’

After the hill there were more mild climbs and single track leading to ‘lookout point’ at 3km.  It was a beautiful view.  At the very top I hopped up on a rock and took about 5 seconds to enjoy the view, with 11km+ of running and 2 more climbs I knew a happy vision could be useful later.  I am glad I

Coyote Look Out Point View

64 Steps to Ruin

The ’64 steps to ruin’ section was next.  I could sense when we were back on the lower ground and knew the climb would be coming around 5k or so.  With the name came a warning and mindset to climb close to 5 floors of stairs.

I had been running for over half an hour at this point.  What they don’t tell you is that there is a steep hill … 64 steps over a super steep section of that hill … then more of that steep hill.  It was leg burning and terrible.  The anguish actually seemed to be over pretty quickly but I may have slipped into an oxygen deprived trance.  Next year I may plant an oxygen tank and charge $20 a person ... or maybe rent mules ... not sure ... good money to be made either way.

The Roots of all Evil

The ‘roots of all evil’ section is at the base of the final climb around 8km.  I knew the climb itself wasn’t as intense as the first 2 but it was on the only part of the course that had 2 way traffic actively using the trail.

There were ample volunteers there hollering at people both ways to ‘stay to the right’.  However when climbing a brutal section of ‘evil’ foot tripping roots it’s disheartening in a way to see the faster bunch of the race flying/skidding/sliding down the trail you are laboring up.

The Way Home

Around 9km/9.5km the trail turned downhill.  The way home from here, though still long at 5km, was mostly downhill and flat.  We were strung out in singles for the most part by this point.  This is when I punched it.  The trail was wide and easy to see.  I stretched my legs and let gravity take me.  My experience in the trails and a bit of luck kept me upright.

I set my sights one by one on the people ahead of me.  Some of these people had passed me earlier and few had lost some pace I suppose ... or maybe they were dog walkers who lost their dogs ... not sure.  I just punched it running like a wild man.  I tried to put a sustained effort and keep the fire burning.

Coming into the race I loosely picked 2 hours as a goal.   I based that on training runs in trail.  A time check at this point put me well ahead of that and that drove me more.

Coming into the final KM I knew at this point there is no point in losing your courage.  I slammed it at the edge of redlining constantly recalculating my reserves and the distance/time left.  Puking in front of people is never a good thing.

In the last stretch of gravel before the end I came across what seemed to be a tour bus of people with cameras from the city.  They were in street shoes, jeans and too much clothing for being in the race.  I said hello while I was skidding by trying not to kick up too many rocks or too much dust.  Not one of them took a picture of me … clearly not into high speed action.  But here is what they missed:

The final turn is a sharp one.  A volunteer warned me and other people cheered me in.  In ‘big event like style’ they called my bib number, name and city as I turned for the short skip across the line.  I still want to know who was spotting for them as you couldn't be seen from the finish line … anyhow, it was a great touch.

I finished in 1:42:58.  I am really happy with my run.  It’s funny how a great day at a great event and great run makes all of the aches and pains the next couple days feel better.
Coyote Results

I highly recommend this race and I hope to see you all on the roads and trails some time soon!

Here’s my Strava Activity.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MEC Barrie Race #2 – 15k Trail w/Bob Marley

Going to any MEC race it becomes clear that their objective to ‘get people out and being active’ is the cornerstone.  Its evidence in the outstanding value, chill vibe and positive attitude of the staff and volunteers.

In their 3rd year of doing race the MEC Barrie team decided to add a trail race.  The location they found was the Tree Nursery Sport Park in Springwater, Ontario just North of Barrie which is surrounded my trails.  I will definitely be back to explore more.

As is customary with their events, it was well organized, they provided water, NUUN beverage, bananas, coffee, etc.  Also a big plus was real flushing toilets and super clean facilities.

The Race
The race day weather had been shifting all week from no rain to potential thunderstorms to partly cloudy.  One thing that didn’t change was the heat.  The temp was climbing to 28 degrees by race finish.  Training all winter for Around The Bay left me little time spent in the heat.  This was going to be fun!

Prior to the race I went back and forth on using my Nathan Speed Belt 2 as there were pretty frequently water stations during the race.  I don't know what I was thinking ... I would have been dead out there without the extra fluid despite frequent water stations.

I was ready for a nice run in the woods and thought about channeling my inner Bob Marley chill vibe.  Trails for me are really an exercise in patience as I can quickly burn myself out on the hills vs. the steady drone of road racing with consistent effort.

Get Up, Stand Up
My strategy for the start of any race is to position myself where I think I will finish and then take it from there, which traditionally is 55% to 65% back.  With this group which looked about 50 people I didn’t rush to be anywhere fast.  The start of the race had some open field for quite a distance so I figured the faster people would shake out and I would be where I needed to be before hitting the trails which can be difficult to either pass or politely be passed.

Out of the gate the pace was quicker than I would normally run.  I had a few friends in the group and fellow Team Running Free runner Patrick Voo was up near the front running quickly but looking effortless as he does.  Another friend Trevor was up there somewhere.  I was unsure where I was in the pack as I didn’t bother looking behind me before hitting the trails.

Roots Rock Reggae – The Start
This is frankly where the Bob Marley theme came to me.  Roots and rocks were the order of the day in this sections.  It felt downhill through most of this part.  I was cooking a little fast for my liking but was in a tight pack of people dodging rocks, roots and fallen trees so I kept rolling with it for about the first 2k I would say which included an OPP monitored street crossing.

Around this time the pace was getting to me so I motioned I would be taking a break and snagged my water bottle for a quick squirt of fluid letting a few people pass.

It was now that I realized I may be in last place.  About 4 people passed me and then I didn’t hear any footsteps.  I had never been feeling like I was last in a race before but I honestly actually like the fact I was now running with no pressure of footsteps and picked my way through the forest at my pace which I felt was good.

With a smaller race (i.e. not thousands like some other I run), you can get a really stacked deck of competitors and this was the case I was telling myself.

I came across an injured runner covered in leaves and whom had obviously took a tumble.  I stopped for a few seconds and confirmed she could walk, didn’t need help, was fine being left and that someone was running ahead to let the aid station know she was hobbling in to see them.

I continued on.

A quick joke and ‘thank you’ at the first water station and cup of cold water and I was rolling on.

Light A Fire – 2km to 5km
It hadn’t rained in area for ages so I am not sure I could blame humidity but the climbing heat started to burn my lungs and beat me down.  By now I was alone in a sparsely wooded forest picking my way back towards where we had started after looping back to the same first water station.

I again asked them “am I still in first” and they confirmed I ‘could be’.  They then pointed me downhill on a dirt road trail and near the bottom I could see someone on course … someone actually racing I think … not a dog walker … so I took up pursuit.
Knowing that pushing too hard downhill can fry your quads I was patient, kept my burning lungs in check and closed the gap over time.
We crossed around a nice pond that had people dog walking.  All happy to nod and say ‘good morning’.

By the end of this open area I was upon the other ‘runner’.  What I discovered is that this man was either injured or a legit speed walker.  Having being passed in my first 5k by a speed walker I knew they could mean serious business.  He was clipping along at a nice pace but keeping his strides short and close to the ground.

Passing him I confirmed he had a ‘hamstring injury’ and I let him know that I would probably see him the next big hill.  Well it wasn’t the next big hill or 3 but the next water station that he motored by me.  I thought I would likely pass him on the flats somewhere but … we were a long way from the flats.  His power hill walking was better than mine and I didn’t see him again.  I realize later he didn’t finish but at the time I considered myself in last for sure now.

After another OPP monitored road crossing, I was about 5km/6km in and 9/10km to go when the 15k-only first section met up with the 5k/10k courses with all people running the same path.  At least I would have some company … albeit heading the other way.

No Woman, No Cry - 5k onward
The course got really hilly and really hot.  Hill after hill gets confusing.  I tried to power walk as much as I could and ‘just shuffle’ as I crested the tops and ran on the flats and down-hills.

There was one big downhill section that had six or seven 5k or 10k runners coming up the hill.  They looked smashed.  I thought to myself … ‘I am going to have 5k or 10k more on my legs when I hit that hill the other way!’

The heat was brutal.  The terrain challenging.  It was uphill to downhill, repeat.  I took in water and soaked myself at stations when I could but I was hurting.

Shortly after the 4th water station (I think) I started to cross into the section only the 10k and 15k runners were running.  This section was an out and back.  I started coming across people I knew.

Rastaman Vibrations (yeah, Positive!) – 6km
Fellow Barrie Running Ninjas: Lewis, Sara, Rick, Rob, Trevor and Patrick on their 10k and 15k races passed me and gave me the high five with encouraging words.  It was a nice boost.  I was glad they all looked strong and their support lightened my feet a bit.

I had read an article in a running magazine on whether it was good or bad to give people at the back of the pack the old ‘keep it going’ or ‘you’re doing great.’  When I read it I remembered doing that on countless occasions as I passed people heading out on a race as I was heading in and legitimately trying to encourage them.

Well … thinking I was basically in last place meant nearly every person heading the other way gave me encouragement … let me tell you … the jury is still out.  I appreciated the positive vibes but part of me felt like ‘Do I look defeated?  Because I'm not!’

Confrontation - Out and back loop - 7km to 13km
There is a time in every running race where you have a confrontation.  A confrontation with yourself.  Being alone for much of the run now I had lots of time to think.

Several times the heat got the better of me and I started feeling ‘the sweats’ coming over me.  I had felt like that a few times before when pushing myself too much.

I was running last in a race and feeling rough.  I didn’t consider turning around or quitting.  I just kept plugging away.  Honestly, my place in the race didn’t bother me.  I knew how hard I had run and pushed on.  I ran past fellow Ninja and run leader of our of MEC running group Jim Willett who was marshaling the course on bike and he offered a 'keep pushing' but no bike ride.

Turning around at the final water station I let them I know I was likely in last place and they could pack up and head home.  They had been counting runners and informed me I wasn’t in last ... I felt they were wrong.

The way into the finish stretch was just an exercise in pushing and working hard.

Lively Up Yourself - 13km to Finish
Hitting the last aid station I knew the way in was pretty flat and although it did lead out into the hot direct sun I was on my way to the finish.

Greeting last place me on the way into the finish were some of the Barrie Running Ninjas who so graciously stuck around to see me come in.

I ran through the inflated banner and felt like a champion with my head held high!

For the record I wasn’t last after all.  I finished alone at 45 of 52 and that was just the people who completed the race.  Rather than dwell on the people ahead or behind me I asked 'what would Bob Marley think?'  In that light, I like to think I ran better than the me of 2 years ago who might be sitting on the couch that morning rather than 'blasting' through the woods.

For anyone considering this race they should expect a well run event, a challenging course and amazing people.

It may have been the air conditioning and Bob Marley music on the way home but when I pulled into my driveway I felt like going for another run … One Love.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Am I A Real Runner?

Am I A Real Runner?

“Veronica and I are trying this new fad called “jogging”, I believe its “jogging” or “yogging” it may be with a soft ‘J’ I am not sure, apparently you just run for an extended period of time … it’s supposed to be wild.”  Ron Burgundy – Anchorman Channel 4 News

It’s an odd thing but I have heard and read on a few different occasions when people have said “he’s not a jogger he’s a runner”.

A guy I know asked me how fast I ran and after I told him and he said “oh, you’re jogging then…”

What if I run at the speed you jog?  What then?  Have you seen these legs?

Have you ever heard someone tell their kid “don’t run with scissors … oh wait, your jogging … go ahead.”  I think I might prank call someone and ask them "Is your refrigerator jogging?"

My wife said something funny the other day, “I didn’t know a runner could look like you”.  Zing!  Thanks Honey!  She explained while laughing how impressed she was with my accomplishments yet still haul around my extra poundage.  I feel better now!  At least she didn't call me a Jogger.

But is there a great debate?  I did a web search and found some conflicting/confusing information and it returned a bunch of different criteria:

“Joggers run with mantras like ‘push out the pain’ runners run with mantras like ‘no fun, no run’”.  I actually figured it would be opposite ...

“In jogging, the speed is generally considered to be less than 9MPH, while in running, the speed is normally more than 9MPH.”

“Running, on the other hand (vs. Jogging), is done at a faster pace. A mile is typically completed in 8 minutes or less … Runners often maintain that same fast pace throughout a running event. They don't slow down and they don't quit unless they've injured themselves.”  Hmmm ... sounds like the jogger camp thinks that runners are a little psycho ... no comment.

“Joggers have more of a bouncy movement when they move, while runners have a steady rhythm that includes longer steps and faster arm swing”

Well I think that clears it up perfectly!  The only thing that is more confusing to me is when serious ‘runners’ get mad if they are referenced as ‘joggers’.

Here are some reasons I may be a ‘real’ runner:

I have swallowed a bug while running.

I have gotten so lost running trails I ended up back where I started without intending to.

I have left an item of unneeded clothing and malfunctioning ipod hidden on a run in order to come 
back and get it later.

I catch myself nodding at other runners, when I am in the car.

I feel more comfortable forgetting my wallet going to work than forgetting my GPS watch on a run.

I have 4 pairs of running shoes … hold on … 5.

I ran in 7 races last year.

I have plans to do something creative with my race bibs … though I won’t.

I wear my race medals for 24 hours after receipt no matter where I go.

I’ve been tempted while stuck in traffic on the highway to just park the car and go for a run.

When I taper for a week before a race I feel the very real phantom injuries coming on.

I admit to creeping people on

I have a double running stroller … and I have taken drinks from the kids’ sippy cups on a hill climb.

I have a running clothes drawer.

I know the distance to every major intersection in every direction within 10k of my house.  When people in my city ask how far away I live, I tell them in Kilometers with a decimal point.

I have watched a marathon on TV and even worse, I have watched a marathon online.

Also, lastly, I have a running blog, you should check it out.


It doesn't really matter I suppose.  I run faster than some, slower than most and long enough to make a lot of people think I am crazy.

In the end … you be the judge … is this the face of a jogger?

I hope this article has helped muddy the waters and fueled the debate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015 Running Year-In-Review

2015 Running Year-In-Review

I've decided to do the ever popular year-in-review blog because I sense the world is just dying to hear from me.  Somewhere there is a great demand for below-average running information … and hopefully that somewhere is the internet.

The Races

Without hurting myself, here are the races I can remember and short blurb on each.

Marden Marathon 10K – April 12th.  This race is named “marathon” in the classical sense in that there is no marathon distance.  However my friend/coach Dave and I cashed in on a 24 hr. sale and signed up for $20/$25 in like December.  I ran the 10k as a race as a practice in my plan for the half marathon.  I ran it in 57:29 which was around my goal but I ran it like a fool.  Running too fast, blowing up into walking and then running too fast again, repeat...  In the last 2 km I was passed by a guy I saw all day who ran a consistent pace and cranked it in the end, never to be seen again by me.  Highlights were great people, well organized, great food and tolerance to post-race beer in the parking lot.  Personal Best.

Goodlife Toronto Marathon Half – May 4th.  This was the race I ran all winter 4 times a week to be able to run.  I wanted my first half to be a big event and this was it.  Highlights behind the scene had my wife go the wrong way on Yonge Street and rather than see me cross near Bloor she walked 4k herself to get to Wellington before taking a cab to get near the end and running to see me cross the finish line.  Highlights for me included convincing a lady coming out of a Starbucks to nearly hand me her coffee because I extended my hand (love Seinfeld) and being beaten by a man in a Batman costume.  This big event with kids holding signs and high-fiving runners was a blast.  I finished in 2:12.57 which I was really happy with as I ran the whole way minus walking for water in-take and a shoe adjustment.  Best thing about first time running a distance … PB!  You could say I was beaten by 3000 people in this race but I prefer to view it as beating 1500 people.

Mount Albert Sportsday 5k - June 7th.  This was the second time at the event as last year this was both my first 5k race and first 5k running at all.  If you are looking for a community feel and great organized event then this is it.  I sadly will not be going back this year but it’s worth the drive.  They added medals this year which is a nice touch.  The loot bag, shirt, etc. are great for the price.  I encouraged friends Dave, Bryce and Ron to join me in the team competition and it resulted in a win.  This is the first time I was allowed to be on a podium legitimately.  I ran 27.21 which was a PB and on target.

Peak Performance Miramichi RocknRun Half - June 22nd.  This event in New Brunswick aligned perfectly with a visit to see my family.  I wasn’t counting on a PB as it was at the end of one week of drinking and eating too much, however, running in my Dad’s childhood (and current) stomping grounds much of which is along both sides of the Miramichi River was a treat.  Including a crossing on the Centennial Bridge below:

Great food, Newcastle town square finish and family cheering me on during and at the end was awesome.  I also met some new NB running Twitter friends: Rod and Joanna Paul.  I didn’t PB at 2:17 but I had a blast.  The hand written bib was a little comical but due to the inclusion in a new “New Brunswick Challenge” the enrollment to the race apparently shocked the organizers and they ran out of real bibs.

The North Face Endurance Challenge 10k - July 13th.  This was the first year for this event in Canada and TNF brought the big hype, big event amenities and pain as promised.  It’s at the Collingwood Blue Mountain ski resort.  The 10k map suggested 2/3km up the ski hill and then 1km down.  So I figured “get through the climb and then turn on the burners as much as you can for the rest”.  What I learned was having such a big climb at the beginning makes and rest of the hills on mid-part of the map look small … they weren’t.

I also learned it was closer to 11k.  Highlights of the day were watching people wipe out on rocks, wet bridges and muddy hills.  The early morning rain made everything wet and mid race sun cooked everyone.  I am certain I panted like a dog.  However, the event was top notch.  I am heading back for the half this year …

Collingwood Half - October 4th.  I wrote a whole blog on this one.  So scroll down if you like.  Great event, great people, big hill at 16km and downhill finish.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I PB’ed at 2:09:30 and was happy with how I ran it.

MEC Barrie – Races #4 (15k) and #5 (5k).  I blogged about one of these races but can summarize in that this MEC race series at $15 is the by far the greatest value there is in running.  Marked and measured courses and food and drink afterwards for $15 is crazy.  MEC Barrie will have chip timing next year which I think is additional coolness.

The Medals

My favorite medal for the years on the left as it was my first half marathon.  I worked the longest and the hardest for that one.

The Mount Albert medals are great because we actually won a placing in the team event and got to wear 2 medals while drinking parking lot beer.

The RocknRun medal had to be mailed to me as they ran out of medals due to a major influx of participants.

The TNF Endurance Challenge and Collingwood Half medals are both of high quality and I felt good wearing them while limping to the car.

That’s a wrap on 2014!  Thanks to the 1 or 2 people who reads this.