Running Free

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!