Category Archives: Trails
Alexander Crook traveled to Red Bluff Bay in the South Baranof Wilderness Area. This video is one of the projects that was produced. Running Wild, a short film about trail running in the wilderness.
Warning: this is LOOOOONNNNGGG
Race night, you never get enough sleep. Even if you get to bed at a decent hour you’re usually tossing and turning with anticipation/anxiety or getting up every hour to pee. If this doesn’t happen to you, consider yourself lucky. This race was no exception.
The day before the race was a busy one with packing up the kids, my race kit, camping gear etc. and trucking off to my folk’s place which is a couple hours away. After a quick lunch and a few instructions for my mom, I was back in the truck and on my way again. Another couple of hours in the truck and I finally rolled into Wiarton ready to check-in. A few last minute bike adjustments, filling of hydration packs, and I was checked-in, race kit in my hand and paranoia in my step. The race was well-organized, and gear drop off was relatively easy even despite going over my plan/gear list elevety billion times.
Eventually my friends from Crossfit Opus showed up, and went to drop off their gear as well. By the time we sat down after all the pre-race shenanigans it was 11:30 and the 3:45am wakeup call was coming fast. The next morning consisted of a rushed breakfast at 4am, before a 4:30 pre-race briefing, then an hour bus ride to Cabot Head Lighthouse and the starting line.
At 6:30 the horn went and we began the first bike leg of our 96km day. The first leg left me a little discouraged, as it became pretty apparent that I hadn’t spent nearly enough time on the bike, and definitely not enough time training on technical trails. I knew my biking would be one of the weak points of my race, but the technical portions of the trail were brutal on me. Also, it didn’t help that for the first hour I had to restrain my effort to avoid throwing up everywhere. A couple sips of water sent my stomach doing backflips, and I immediately jumped into damage control mode. The 40km stage travelled gravel roads for a bit, before jumping onto some logging roads which slowly degrade into a rocky/muddy track left by a tractor pulling trees out of the bush…and then it they got worse. Eventually I gave up on trying to ride everything and simply ran the bike on anything that looked remotely difficult. Eventually the course returned to something resembling an “actual” trail, then we were spit out onto gravel roads again. The last few kms were on pavement as we entered Lionshead where transition #1 was waiting.
Transition #1 was uneventful, and despite feeling the fatigue in my quads (I pushed too hard trying to ride through the harder bike stuff) I started up the first hill excited to catch the guy in front of me, and lose the guy behind me. Unfortunately, by then time I reached the top of that hill my quads had decided they didn’t want to play nice anymore and threatened to revolt completely. I turned into the trailhead, stopped and desperately started to stretch. The runner behind me ran by, and I tried to start running again; this is where my quads started to spasm.
Frustrated, I continued to stretch and (now that my stomach had settled) drink/eat as I considered my options. Eventually my legs settled enough that I could walk, which eventually lead to an easy walk-run, then to run and “walk the hills”, and finally to “I feel awesome, let’s rock this”. My race was back on. The trail at Lionshead is gorgeous and super technical; scrambling over limestone boulders, lots of exposed rock shelves, a descent down to a cobble beach, then an ascent back up the escarpment to more rocky goodness. I repassed the guy who passed me earlier, caught/passed the guy I was chasing at the start of the run and didn’t see either of them again until the finish. SCORE. The only issue I had with the run was regardless of my fueling on the run, I was still in caloric and hydration debt from my stomach issues on the bike. I finished all my water and food about 2/3 of the way into the run, and had a mini-bonk on the last gravel road into transition #2 (the kayak portion).
As I trundled into transition #2 I opened my bag, got my hydration bag out and filled it to capacity. The bottle is only a 750ml, so it didn’t take long to chug the whole thing and fill it again. I instantly felt better, and my legs loved the respite from activity. Now let me take this moment to say how awesome the volunteers were at this race. I know it sound cliché, but the volunteers took my information, offered help when I needed it, but also backed off when I was busy doing something. Plus, one of them had baked peanut butter cookies! A cookie and a few complementary pieces of watermelon and I felt like a champ…I only had one concern….getting into my kayak. I’ve gotten in/out of kayaks hundreds of times, but in my minds-eye I pictured both legs cramping instantly as I sat down, the boat capsizing, hitting my head on a rock and slowly drowning or dropping out with a(nother) head injury (some people I work with have already commented on my suspected head injury when I told them I was doing the race so it’s nothing new).
Fortunately my legs co-operated and I was soon paddling out into the big water of Georgian Bay. The skies were blue, and a favourable tailwind left me with a feeling that things might just be looking up. As I made my way along the shoreline a race marshal’s boat pulled along side and warned me of the 3ft swells and a shoal that came out into the bay a significant distance ahead. Apparently a couple of boats capsized in the waves created by the shoal and wind, when I eventually got there I gave it a wide berth and just kept the paddles moving. As I neared the “end” of the 16km paddle leg I started calculating my times and thought that maybe…just maybe, I might able to crack 9hrs total for the day (best laid plans of mice and men). I rounded the corner into the last bay and was suddenly struck with a wicked, gusting headwind. It was the kind of wind where you take 4 paddle strokes and move ahead 1 stroke’s worth of distance. Additionally, the last bay is deceptively long…as in 5km long. Those last 5 km probably took me as long, or longer than the previous 11km. The effort level was full tilt; if you let off for a second you risked being blown off-course and backwards…and there was no way I wanted to cover that distance twice. I watched as my dream of a 9hr finish vanished in the wind tossed waves, but moreover I just wanted to get out of the damn boat. Eventually I made it in, and despite being worn down, I was in high spirits. The week before the race I had said to a friend “If I can finish the kayak, I can finish the race” and here I was, on the beach, post kayak and with lots of time left to finish the last two segments…all I had to do was survive. A banana, a Cliff Bar, some Gatorade and I was back on my bike, ready to slog out another 20km.
The final 20km bike stage was more of the same, with a few water holes thrown in for good measure. I don’t have an issue with getting dirty, but I really could have gone without submerging my foot as I plowed through (what I can realistically call) Loch Ness (I swear I felt something move in there while I was riding through it). The most notable part of this last leg was when my clip-in shoes decided they were tired and stopped letting my clip into the peddles for about 10km…it wasn’t frustrating at all…(cough). Gravel roads, more logging trails, pastures, pleasant horse paths, and finally back on the road before entering the final transition.
In my haste at transition #2 (run to kayak), I had forgotten to take my socks with me. Instead my adrenaline-hazed brain neatly tucked my socks in my shoes and put them in the transition bag. Now, at the final transition I was finally reunited with my beloved Injinji toe socks (no blisters for this cool cat). Yes, I rode the entire last bike leg sock-less. Luckily the bike shoes didn’t rub too much and I came out mostly unscathed. I quickly dumped everything, jumped into my socks/shoes and was out of transition and onto the final 5km run. The run was a mixed experience. The trail was nice, but for most of the 5km I was having chest pains that limited the effort I could put in. I had the usual aches/pains too; quads, IT band, lower back, etc. but the chest pains gave me some concern.
In the end, I didn’t have a heart attack, and my legs lasted long enough to push me across the line to the resounding finish line cheers of…one person. Everyone else was at the grandstand watching the awards ceremony, while us back-of-the-packers were still rolling in. Guess I’ll have to train harder next time if I want some kudos from the crowd (welcome to my pity party, can I interest you in a beverage?)
10 hours and 7 minutes of solid effort. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it, and I’m happy I did. Will I do it again next year? Probably, we’ll see what life throws at me in the next 8 months. My next goal is the Road2Hope Marathon in November, so after some rest it’ll be time to jump back into the road miles and speedwork.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted in earnest, but really what’re a few months between friends?
Here’s a short synopsis of what’s happened over the past few months:
• I ran the Road2Hope Half Marathon in November of 2012, promised you guys a race report…aaaaaaaandthatdidn’thappen… mostly because the rest of November was filled with post-race blues, low motivation, and a general malaise
• Late November and all of December were spent fighting some nasty virus that nearly obliterated our Christmas this year, and caused quite a few absences from family celebrations etc.
• January, I finally kicked the bug and started training for the Around the Bay road race; there was much speed work, but motivation was still lacking at times and I missed more long runs than I’d like to admit (wait…did I just admit it?)
• After the ATB I signed up for the Bruce Peninsula Multi-Sport Race, and have been “training” for that ever since. I say ”training” because after a few weeks of putting in 7-9 workouts a week I blew up and took most of June off (there were a few other issues that popped up in June but over-training was the biggest cause of my meltdown)
o The BPMR is a 5 stage adventure race that consists of a 40km mountain bike ride, 16km technical trail run, 16km kayak in Georgian Bay, 20km bike section, and finally a 5km trail run into the finish. Sound daunting? It’s downright pant-shittingly terrifying
• July wasn’t too bad, I started riding my bike a lot more and throwing in brick workouts whenever possible, lunchtime trail runs even a couple small kayak workouts (I think I’ve done 3 total over the past 4 months which is more than a bit frightening…foreshadowing anyone? )
So here we are, 2 days from race day and I’m feeling…busy. I’ve only ever done a destination running races, and for that I stayed in a hotel so a lot of the amenities were covered. For the BPMR racers are required to bring equipment for 3 sports, first aid gear, extra shirts, food/fuel etc. and that doesn’t even include the camping equipment etc. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind bringing the equipment, it’s just been unusual to be packing for multiple days and still only be half done. Knowing my luck I’ll forget my toothbrush and be stuck using my finger and gum all weekend (kidding…kinda). Here’s a quick pic from last night’s equipment “assembly”.
(clock-wise)Run pack on the left-bottom, required gear to go in run pack (first aid, extra shirt, whistle, etc.) trail shoes, and back up trail shoes, misc. gear including bike lock/leatherman/bandana/etc., transition bags at the top (green and red), life-jacket beside those, bike pack far right, bike shorts, Emergency (space) blankets, food/gels/chews in a ziplock bag, extra ziplocks, sunscreen, Gear for bike bag, (not pictured) rain jackets, camera, transition foods, water bottles; and finally, as Ford Prefect said: “If you want to survive out here, you’ve got to know where your towel is”
Anyway, things are…good? I’m paranoid about race day, but by next week I’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about (in all honesty I’d prefer to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared). At the very least I get to spend some time with old friends, and get away for a weekend, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself to “relax and enjoy the moment”.
Before I sign off, I guess I should post some goals. For this race I’m aiming for goal D but it’s always good to have something to shoot for in case the stars align and you feel like a million bucks. Here goes:
• A.) 7:45hr or under
• B.) 8:00hr or under
• C.) Finish standing upright
• D.) Not pooping myself (Thanks Claire)
• E.) Injury-free
As you can see, not terribly ambitious but realistic. I want to do well, I hope to do well, but this amount of effort scares the living bejeebus out of me. Again, I have to walk the line between having fun and being competitive; it would seriously suck to pay all this money, train, put in the effort of packing/traveling etc. and end up having a terrible time. If things go bad, I’m going to do my utmost to roll with it.
Let’s do this thing!
Oh…Hey…didn’t see you there.
So, (cough), it’s been a while. I’m just going to drop these here for now…I may be back later but I’m not sure yet. Give them a look and let me know what you think
A few weeks ago I went for a little run at our cottage in northern Ontario. The roads up there are almost entirely gravel, with quite a few unmaintained right-of-ways leading to hunting camps or logging claims criss-crossing the landscape. I knew from past experience that there was a decent logging road about 3km from our place, and chances were good that with the dry summer we’ve had that the water-logged section near the start might be dry enough to bypass on foot. Well, I was wrong. Recent rains had replenished the wetland adjacent to the trail and the spillover was significant (and typical). Now, I don’t have issues with getting wet or dirty but slogging through shin deep mud (pic 4 in the gallery at the end of this post) would have been bad enough on it’s own without the knowledge that I was going to have to come back through it on my way home. Deciding to make the best of a bad situation I looked around and noticed a fence gate a little way back (pic 5). After eyeballing it and the pasture beyond for a while I made my move, hopped the fence and skulked off into the pasture (Pic 6-8). Upon cresting a hill I noticed a small lake off in the distance and (much like a goldfish) I was suitably distracted .
What was SUPPOSED to be a quick detour, turned out to be a 2hr “adventure”. By the time I reached the lake the vegetation had gone from rolling meadow -> grassland -> to bog with knee deep boxwood shrubs. My progress slowed ridiculously, but I was out in the sun, not a sound to be heard; peace and serenity. Had I been a little more boy-scoutish I probably would have reminded myself that I was in the heart of bear country without any protection, and my movement essentially slowed to a crawl, but it was lost on me at the time and the adventure continued on.
Eventually, I reached the far end of the bog and realizing how long I’d been gone, I thought it prudent to get back and let the family know I hadn’t been eaten by bear/sasquatch/hungry lumberjack. My bog-slog morphed into full on bushwhacking as I tried to skirt the wetland and return to the logging road. Another half hour of crashing through the tree and underbrush later, legs scratched and bloody, I was back to the road and on my way.
All in all I was pretty pleased with my day, but I really should have taken more precautions while out there. Enjoy the outdoors folks but respect it at the same time. Regardless I’d like to go back with a few friends and see just how far we can take that logging road (water, mud and all), according to the map there’s a lake 5km past the area I was, and it might make for a fun afternoon jaunt. Only time will tell at this point.
Enjoy the pics, let me know what you think! Would you run alone in unfamiliar territory?
Looks like we’re taking off camping for a week, which means lots of trail runs, bike rides, swimming, fishing, paddling etc. for me…and maybe the family too.
The park we are heading to has a few decent technical single-track trails, unfortunately they aren’t very long. There is a nice long double-wide cinder coated bridle-path that runs along the spine of the park which works ok, but gets a tad repetitive after spending 5 or 6 days of running the same thing over and over again…regardless, it’s still better than being at the office 😉
Anyway, enjoy the week and I’ll give you a shout when I get back, hopefully with lots of pictures.
Exactly how much gear does one take to a race? Sure you have shoes and some sort of body covering (unless it’s a naked mile), but how much gear does one really need? Marathons and Ultras aside (where food and hydration factor in), do I really need to pack the kitchen sink when I leave the house for a few hours? My “problem” is that I’m a bit of a boyscout, I pack a tonne of stuff that should cover any and every possibility but more often than not doesn’t get used.
Below is a pic of everything I took to Saturday’s trail race (minus my coat, a banana and a coffee), did I go overboard? Some think so, but let me give you a little background information before you make your decision: The weather was calling for 20-40% isolated showers, an afternoon high of 8C but an overnight low of -2C; possibly wet, possibly dry, possibly cold, possibly warm….essentially a crap shoot.
1.) Running Shorts
2.) Ruez Compression Boxer Briefs
3.) Nike Running Pants
4.) Clif Builder Bar
5.) Clif Bar – Peanut Butter
6.) MP3 Player
8.) Nike Running Gloves
9.) Micro-Fleece Running Gloves (heavier)
10.) Long-Sleeved Tech T
11.) Short-Sleeve Tech T (MEC)
12.) Skins Calf Compression Sleeves
13.) New Balance MT101
14.) Asics Running Socks
15.) Brooks Running Hat
16.) Brooks Toque
18.) Light-Weight Running Toque
19.) Easy Reading
20.) Sun Glasses
21.) Garmin Forerunner 305
22.) Tensor Bandage
23.) Back Pack
- A set of long clothes for cold weather, a set of short clothes for warm weather, and the right combination that I could mix and match as necessary (long sleeves and shorts anyone?)
- And what about hats & gloves? Without them you are freezing but if they are too heavy then you have to carry around extra unnecessary gear. I honestly didn’t think I’d need the winter hat & gloves but the lighter set definitely came in handy.
- Calf sleeves? Since I was planning on running the next day, I put these puppies on as soon as I got back to my vehicle.
- What about food? A Clif Builder’s bar, for post race recovery and an extra pre-race Clif bar in case I got hungry. I don’t see the problem. Yes races provide post-race food, but you can’t always be guaranteed to like what they have so I (almost always) carry extra food. Plus some people gave me dirty looks when I dove face first into the chocolate chip cookies, but that was only once …(maybe twice).
- MP3 player and a book. Last year’s RSP race was delayed when some douchnozzles moved course markers overnight. You don’t have to use these to pass the time, but it’s nice to have them if you’d like to.
- Tensor bandage and a bandana. Stuff happens, so…you know…just in case.
In the end I went with the long pants and shirt with a t-shirt overtop, and light gloves/hat but shed these by the 3km mark (thank you pants with zip pockets!). By the end I was pretty warm, but within minutes of finishing I was back in my hat and jumping into my heavy jacket and could have easily been in the heavier hat/gloves had it been a few degrees colder.
Sure it takes extra planning and effort to pack all that crap, but there’s nothing worse (for me) than needing something and knowing that I simply didn’t take the time to prepare.
What a great weekend! The Rattlesnake Point race went off without a hitch, and the weather co-operated in spades.
The course for the race offers a little bit of everything; winding single & double track, easy & technical descents, rolling hills & steep uphill slug fests, scrambling rocky ascents, technical rock gardens, fallen logs, and even a couple crevice jump/crossings! There had to be something for everyone on this course, and if not I’m at a loss what else they could have been looking for.
My race went really well, in the early going I was forcing myself to slow down and relax, this wasn’t a “race” merely a training run on my way to the Ottawa Marathon at the end of the month. Sure, I wanted to do well, but most of all I was paranoid I wasn’t going to crash and hurt myself. After the initial double-track section form Rattlesnake Point, down through the valley, you venture towards Crawford Lake and into the technical rock gardens and severely single-track portion of the race. This area is difficult to pass in, and with my injury paranoia looming I simply found a groove and recouped as much energy as possible. (Photo credits to: http://ryderphoto.zoomphoto.ca/)
(stolen from – http://www.5peaks.com/maps/Map_Rattlesnake%20Course%202009.pdf)
Once through this technical section, you start heading back down into the valley and onto easier running. Through here I was able to slowly pick people off and do my own thing with much interference from (or interfering with) others. My quads were starting to feel the burn and I knew that I was probably running too hard but it was too late, the competitive bug was in my ear now and it was my job to hunt down those in front of me.
The only goal (other than not creating a crater with my face/body) I had for the race was to beat my time from last year, and long story short(er), I did it! 1:05:02 this year vs 1:10:05 last year!! All in all a great day!
(un?)Fortunately, my weekend of pain wasn’t done there. Actually after the RSP race I felt pretty good, but I could tell my quads were fatigued and I needed to carbo load if I had any hope of surviving Sunday’s 30km sufferfest.
5am Sunday, my bladder shot an electrical signal to my brain telling it that there was going to be an imminent evacuation if I didn’t get my ass out of bed. As I trundled to the bathroom I realized that regardless of the 5:20 alarm I had set the night before, I was indeed awake enough to go get dressed and get out the door (grumble). My main concern was meeting up with my speedwork partner SpeedyDan halfway through my run for some much needed motivation and companionship. Coffee, water, peanut butter toast, banana, clothes, pack fuel belt, start watch, tie shoes… and I was off; another pre-dawn long run. One of the reasons I wasn’t going to do another marathon this spring was the monotony of continual long runs; 2 hour runs weren’t bad, and even the occasional 3hr one isn’t that bad, but once you get into week after week of 30+km trudging the fun starts to fade, and they simply become means to an end. As you can tell, I’m not the biggest fan. The run itself was uneventful, but I was glad to see it done.
One thing I had forgotten to consider when planning my grand adventure was the two neighbours I have been coaching recently in preparation for a fall half-marathon. Although they were impressed my athletic feats they seem uninterested in my excuses when it was time for our evening run. Eventually they wore down my resolve, and I ended up pacing them through another 6.7km that night. Now, I like to consider this heroic, but I’m sure there is a line-up of people ready to tell me that I’m a complete idiot (and they are probably right)..still there’s something pretty cool about being able to say “I ran 50km this weekend, what did you do?”
Have a good one kids!