Friday, December 15, 2017

Signs and Portents

If the start of this winter is any indication of what the rest of it will be like, it's going to be a very long few months.


December had been pretty relaxed up until last weekend - sure, I needed an extra layer here and there, but I'd run in a skirt with bare legs on the 2nd and 3rd and had seldom even reached for a jacket yet.

That definitely changed on Saturday, with snow that started just after sunset...just as I was setting out for a run.

Though it did mean I could go without a headlamp for some of it.

It was only about -4c so I still managed without a jacket, though I did have a double layer of warm, longsleeve shirts on. Sunday's temperature was about the same as I set out to explore the Lions Lake Trail around Woolwich Reservoir for the first time, but the wind was powerful and bitter.

..and the snow continued to fall.

With the dam being closed for maintenance until March (a fact I only discovered once I arrived at the closure, having hoped to run loops of the 7km trail), I ended up having to do an out-and-back from Floradale Park to the dam counter-clockwise, then another out-and-back clockwise to the closure, and then one last out-and-back covering the same ground as the first jaunt...only this time in pitch dark with even heavier snow falling.

Glad I brought my better headlamp..

While the trail isn't really technical and is quite flat, my ankles took a bit of a beating from being unable to see roots, rocks, and frozen, lumpy mud under the thick blanket of fresh snow. I'm sure my osteopath - whom I'd just seen two days prior for a treatment on my left ankle - would be delighted with me! It was definitely a return to all the most challenging parts of winter running, and I think now that's a trail I'll leave be until springtime.

I only ran on my lunch on Monday and Tuesday, but even that proved a bit dicey - it snowed heavily enough on Monday that it was difficult to see while I ran into the wind, as the big, fluffy snowflakes blew into my eyes even under the brim of my hat

Not a great way to be in Mississauga traffic.

Tuesday the snow relented, but the late-morning temperature of -4c (for which I'd brought kit to work) dropped to -7c with 50kph winds blowing streams of snow off the roofs of buildings by the time I got out for my lunch run. Windchill: -16c, for which I had definitely NOT brought kit.

The only thing that saved me from freezing solid was the bit of sunshine on my thin, black tights.

Wednesday was even colder as I ran down the trails in the dark after work, once again able to go without a headlamp between the snow and the glow.

Fortunately I mostly had a tailwind for this one, too.

Then last night was the chilliest yet at -11c with a windchill of -18c when I finally set out around 10pm.

I wasn't super happy when my eyelashes iced up and started trying to stick my eyes shut.

We've been thrust firmly and without ceremony into the days of chapped lips, windburn, too many layers, and serious concern over the state of my previously badly frostbitten appendages...all as the 12th annual 100 runs in 100 days challenge begins.

While it may seem a bit cheesy, this challenge - which I've done every year since (I believe) 2011 - really does help motivate me when winter is howling outside the door and I am despairing at the thought of leaving my cozy, warm house or office to face its wrath. Winter and spring are also the only time I am really able to manage double run days due to my schedule: I can run on my hour-long lunch (which is reduced to half an hour in summer, making it impractical), then again after we get home from work. The challenge gets me out the door for that 2nd run on tired legs, knowing that my Fridays off will mean I have a day to make up each week.

To pull it all off, more than ever I'll need to focus on finding the good in every run even as the weather turns miserable. There's almost always something beautiful - or at the very least interesting - every time I step out the door, so the goal is just to be mindful and seek the positive every day.

Like road salt that blooms into a flower on a random manhole cover.

..or a beautiful display of lights.

..or the serene beauty of Cooksville Creek in ice, snow and darkness.

I'd encourage anyone to consider signing up for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge. It's completely free, though to officially participate you need to set up a login on's forums and record your workouts in their training log. They do have Strava integration now if you balk at the minute or two that would take daily, or you can always just record your runs via your own means if you don't care about your name showing up on the leaderboard - there are no prizes other than emerging from the winter with a solid running base and perhaps a few less lingering pounds of turkey, stuffing and gingerbread 'round your middle.

Wait, that's just me, isn't it?

In any case, you don't need to feel obliged to put in the full 100 runs - any increase in your running frequency (assuming you're not already running 7 days a week and still take any appropriate rest that your body may require to stay healthy and un-injured) is almost certain to pay dividends once racing season comes 'round, and at the very least it's a great exercise in discipline.

..I'm just not sure what it might portend when this year's challenge starts on my own non-negotiable rest day.

So anyway, between tomorrow and late March, if you're looking for me...I'll be out plodding along, looking for something that makes me smile.

Sometimes it's right under my nose.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Happy Go Lucky

Will you kindly indulge me in being a bit pleased with myself for a moment? It doesn't happen often..

I was also pleased with the lovely sunshine over the weekend.

I had mentioned last week that I'd got a couple of bits of good news lately, both of which had been rather surprising. I'm sure the suspense has been non-existent, but nevertheless I'm ready for the big reveals.

The first piece of news I've actually been sitting on for awhile, because I almost couldn't believe it until I had the proof in my hands.

That free hat cost me 337km of racing between April 29th and October 28th

Somehow a lot of the big guns - by which I mean the incredibly fast and talented ladies who usually dominate the OUTRace Ultra Series - were off racing other things this year, so I managed 2nd place woman under 40. I was even more stunned when I looked at the final standings and saw that I'd managed to place in the top 5 women overall!

Not by much, but there I am.

For someone who really has no clue of what they're doing and just tries to truck along as best they can, it's a huge honour to see my name among such ass-kicking women. It almost makes me feel like I may have some business out there after all..

Nah, not really - but I still have fun.

It's a nice cherry on the top of a fairly successful 2017. Not only did I make all of my racing goals, I actually managed to place in at least the top 3 of my age group in 5 out of the 8 events I ran this year.

Even if everyone else was gone by the time I finished so they could announce the awards..
(True story)

This means 2018 is going to have its work cut out for it in order to top all that. However, the other piece of news I got just last week should help out with that a lot..

Say whaaaaaaa?

I was invited by the kind folks at Happy Trails Racing to act as one of the handful of ambassadors for their growing race series in the 2018 season. With the wonderful experience I had at their inaugural event - the Sticks n'Stones Race this past October - and knowing the incredible passion of the Race Director and Race Coordinator for both trail running and philanthropy, I couldn't possibly say no! I'd already registered for the first event in the new year; an indoor track race in January called Stride Inside that will benefit Women's Shelters Canada, partly because I'm a sucker for punishment (having said I'd never do another indoor track race) but mostly because I know that Jeff and Heather will be sure to nail down every last detail to make it a fantastic experience. The excellent cause that will benefit is the icing on the cake!

Like the gorgeous sunset over the Grand River at the end of Sunday's run.

I look forward to racing or volunteering at as many of Happy Trails Racing's future events as possible, as these two continue to bring more depth and variety to the Ontario trail and ultrarunning scene while selflessly working to support worthy causes. I'm honored to have a tiny part in that, and encourage you to check out some of the unique races they have planned!

Which come with some awesome swag, too!

So I'm cruising on a bit of an ultrarunning high right now, and have great hopes for the season to come.

'til next time, you awesome people - Happy Trails!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Well Seasoned

I'm bad at off seasoning.

Because this is my happy place.

I have been saying for months now that November would be an easy month - I'd only do short, little runs and take as much time off as I wanted.

..and this is how that worked out.
Green squares indicate days that I ran, with weekly totals at right.

I didn't even manage to take every Friday off running, and that's usually a non-negotiable rest day. I did take last Thursday off, but that was under orders from a medical professional - I'm finally seeing someone about trying to patch up my wonky ankle, and had my first treatment that evening. He told me not to run afterward and I hadn't been able to get out earlier in the day, so an extra day off happened.

Only somewhat grudgingly..

All told I took 7 days off (3 more than I usually would, as there were 4 Fridays in November) and ran 186.8km. It's the second-lowest monthly mileage I've posted this year, so I was sort of taking it easy..

Now, however, it's that exciting time when registration is opening for events in the new year and plans are starting to become concrete. I'm already signed up for the first four events I plan to race in 2018, and it's just a fortnight away from the start of the 100 runs in 100 days challenge. I can almost taste the double run days now..

In the middle of all this, I recently got some stunning good news on a couple of fronts. I'll ask you to wait a little longer before I reveal all of the details (though some of you may already know about one or the other through different channels), but both are things that I feel shine like sunbeams - one on my 2017 season, and one on my future endeavours.

So, regardless of how much I may or may not have rested in my "off" season, one thing is clear: the time is ripe to get it ON!

..and go chase my happy on the trails.

Oh, and just as weird little notes: by the end of last week (Sunday, November 26th), I'd broken my annual mileage record to date. Last year I totaled 2,640.1km - I hit 2,640.4km during the run pictured at top, on the Royal Recreational Trail and have clocked another 30km since. On Wednesday's run I passed 17,000km since I started running regularly in 2008 - just 19 days after the 9th anniversary of the trot 'round my block that started this whole business. If I have my way, I'll be calling on every single step of that training to get me through the challenges I've set for myself for the year to come!

Friday, November 24, 2017


I know I probably don't come across as the most stable individual in the world, but lately I've been having a lot of fun - and hopefully improving my injury resistance and fitness - by becoming even more unbalanced than usual.

No, not by having psychotic episodes.. least not yet.

I bought a balance board to see if it would help me strengthen and rehabilitate the chronically damaged left ankle I've been dealing with since, oh...sometime mid-last-summer.

This is the one I purchased for $36.11CAN plus tax in October 2017.
I do not receive any compensation for use of the above link and provide it only for information.

Since then, it has become one of my favourite toys. I keep it at my office and try to play with it for a few minutes every day.

There are wooden versions with a plastic bubble on the bottom, but this one is molded right into the board.

At a bit less than 16" in diameter, the size is compact enough to sit under my desk while still offering plenty of space for my big feet.

Made even bigger by my awesome Keen clogs.

I didn't know it at the time, but the specific board I purchased was probably a good bet for someone clumsy like me. It has a little indent in the centre of the base - I think of it as its navel - that lets it default to sitting flat on the floor while still being highly unstable when any pressure is applied.

Belly button.
Yes, my office could do with some serious vacuuming. 

The octagonal shape also makes it a little more stable when mounting up to balance on it than a fully circular board would be. I use mine on the thin carpet of my office with no underpad, which lends it a tiny bit of cushioning and stability but not very much.

As for using it, I generally start by pulling it out while seated to work each ankle separately.

Stripey socks are optional.
Despite the texture dots, the plastic is slippery enough that I'll only wobble barefoot or in shoes.

I start by doing full revolutions of the board in one direction - trying to touch each part of the edge to the floor - then switch directions and do the same the other way. I'll rock the board back and forth sideways, touching a flat edge on opposite sides to the carpet, then do the same thing forward & backward. 16 of each is enough to make things start to fatigue in my lower leg, so I switch sides and do the other foot as well.

I can also use the board to get a really good calf stretch by standing with my heel against one flat edge - a bent leg will stretch the soleus and achilles tendon, while a straight leg will hit the gastrocs.


I can also stand with both feet on the board, rocking it back and forth from side to side to work the stabilizer muscles in my whole lower body - a great exercise that actually feels a bit like running, and certainly engages many of the same muscle groups as running on the uneven terrain of the trails.

Rock, but try not to roll.

My favourite use, though, is just balancing on the board.

Which is damnably difficult to do while taking a selfie.

Part of the reason I keep the board at my office is that it works as an incredible stress reliever for me. When things are getting hectic and I'm feeling overloaded, it's absolutely blissful to take a minute and focus on nothing else but balancing. I'm not terribly coordinated, so it takes a bit of effort - I choose a focal point to stare at and think about drawing my spine up tall, as though a string were being pulled upward from the top of my head - but I can happily balance for a minute or so before returning to work with a better mindset and better posture.

For an extra challenge, try squatting on the board.

For me, the centering effect of the board would be worth it even if it had no beneficial effect for my damaged ankle or running in general - after all, not all aspects of fitness are physical. I do, however, already feel that through a few weeks' use my lower leg stability and general balance has increased. I'm a huge fan of this little toy, and highly recommend giving one a try - they're not terribly expensive, and you can even make your own if you're so inclined. You could even make a larger one that would be more stable to start, then decrease the size of the deck as you become more adept over time.

There are heaps of exercises from beginner to advanced that you can do with the board, and I can't think of anyone - runner, athlete or just someone interested in living a better life - that wouldn't benefit from better balance and stability. Why not give one a shot?

Just don't expect me to demonstrate any of the more challenging exercises for you..

It won't go well.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Super Looper

Because ultras are long (by definition) and the logistics of manning and maintaining wide-spread aid stations and caring for runners over vast areas are nightmarish for race directors, I end up running a lot of loops of courses. This is even more prevalent in timed races - where you aim for as many laps of a set course as possible in the time limit - but it happens even in training, where it's more practical to run around a tract of trails multiple times to make the time/distance you desire than to travel to somewhere large enough to do a single lap, or to arrange transportation for a point-to-point.

Sometimes the trails themselves send you looping back on yourself.

Some people find the prospect of many loops intolerable, and either avoid those races or resort to distractions like music to keep them from turning into a dizzy zombie. After several years now of racing looped courses from 20 kilometers all the way down to 232 metres and many distances in between, I've never actually resorted to any tactics to take my mind off the repetitive nature.

So, how do I keep myself from turning into a drooling moron even when running the same stretch up to 281 times in a row?

Wait, that's actually me every day.

I think it comes down to philosophy, really. For me, it's not truly repetitive because no two laps are actually the same.

"You cannot step twice into the same river for fresh waters are ever flowing upon you."   - Heraclitis

Every moment of each event has its own unique qualities. In some races the light will be the only change from lap to lap; sometimes it will be the weather that lends each loop its particular character, growing more or less overcast, colder or hotter. The sun may rise or darkness may fall. Other times still it will be the trail itself, evolving through the passage of many feet from one surface to another - sometimes it will improve, other times it will worsen dramatically lap by lap. Your foot will seldom fall in the same place twice as your stride changes through fatigue and you try new lines through technical sections.

I have run through this root well countless times, but I have yet to repeat a particular pattern of footfalls.

Even when the course is stubbornly static, you are not necessarily the same person from pass to pass along its length. The strange nature of ultrarunning dictates that sometimes a part of your body will begin to hurt, then the pain will pass. Other soreness will simply grow over time as the pounding takes its toll. You can feel joy, despair, hunger, fullness, camaraderie and loneliness all in the same place with the simple shift of time. Like watching a single spot in a river, your experience of a multi-loop race is both unchanging and yet never the same from moment to moment.

So, rather than let your mind become bogged down with negativity at having to run endless loops of an unchanging venue, why not revel in the chance to experience the course in many different ways throughout the day?

Of course, I do have an extra sweet incentive to enjoy races with multiple laps..

Nothing quite like being able to get smooches during a race.

Friday, November 10, 2017


It's not that it's unusual for us to get snow in November, but I was not at all prepared to wake up to this:


Ok, I was somewhat prepared - they'd been talking about this Arctic blast coming in for days, and it's not like I don't have an embarrassingly large collection of warm apparel. It's just a terrible shock is all - it had been 16c on Sunday when Tanker and I went hiking in a thunderstorm, and I haven't even needed a jacket to run in yet despite the sun pulling a disappearing act every the afternoon this week..

Stupid time change stealing all the fall colours on the trails - the sun sets before I even leave work!

And now there's this, seen out my front door this morning:


I can't even really say I'm safe from winter's sudden onset in my office, because we're now in week 3 without a functional furnace. As I type this, I sit here in an insulated skirt, wool tights, a wool long sleeve shirt and a heavy fleece sweater - just enough to fight the chill.

In a stroke of comedic timing, the new furnace is supposed to be installed on Monday.

Of course, none of this should be a problem since it's Friday and I always take Friday off from running, right? I can just cuddle up on a nice, warm couch with Tanker, a kitty or two, and a hot cup of tea..

Um, about that.

You see, not only did I get an invitation that was too tempting to refuse, it also happens to be the 9th anniversary of the day I started running. I always try to make sure I run on my runaversary anyway, so why not do so with friends?

Ok, that's a pretty decent reason.
When, however, have I listened to reason?

So, despite having thrown my back out while raking leaves last Saturday and the Hoth-like conditions out there, I'll be bundling myself up in my most Armageddon-y run gear and heading out into the night to run for a few hours with some folks who have been at it all day long.

I'll try to keep up.
Oh, and not freeze to death.

If you happen to be nice and toasty sometime between 9pm and oh, maybe midnight tonight, try to send some warm thoughts my way, ok?

I'll be out here somewhere.
(Photo source)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Horror Trail Run 6 Hour Ultra - Saturday, October 28th, 2017

We had the best trail conditions I'd ever seen for last year's Horror Trail. Had to know it was too good to last..

Pretty much sums it up.

The rain that began overnight was predicted to end around 1pm, with the skies clearing to partly cloudy by 3pm - right as the 6-hour was to end. Charming, no?

Race morning arrived and I was tired, sore and cranky. I had no race nerves, but also no stoke - unusual, as this has always been one of my favourite events. Between quite a bit of racing in the few weeks prior and some female biology-related stuff, though, I wasn't really feeling it - I knew it wasn't going to be a PR day, and was more than happy to go back to bed for a 40min nap after having my early-morning bowl of oatmeal. Ahh, the simple joys of local races!

Back up and out the door with time to grab a coffee and arrive at Camp Heidelberg with over an hour before race time, I did all the usual pre-race chatting with people, lubing up various bits that rub, flailing of limbs in an attempt to get them ready for punishment, and threw on my Halloween costume.

Peace, love and running, man!

I managed to completely forget to tape up my still-damaged left ankle, but at least had the wherewithal to sprinkle copious amounts of BlisterShield powder in my socks before I put them on. I knew it was going to get muddy, and my feet get pretty munched in muddy conditions unless I take precautions.

All too quickly (as I needed to pee again but had no time before the start), we all lined up - a few others were in costume as well - and then set off. Rich gave Tanker his camera for some start line video:

Apparently Tanker slipped on some wet grass while filming, and that section was cut to make the video flow better. Conveniently, I am only visible in the section that ended up on the editing room floor.

Things didn't start out too badly: the rain was quite light and it was just barely warm enough that I could get away with just my costume. The peace sign glasses provided surprisingly good range of vision for most things, but it became rapidly apparent that I was holding my head awkwardly trying to peer over the bottom of the to see the somewhat rooty trail. With an already-sore lower back (thanks, hormones!), I knew that the poor posture would leave me hurting quite quickly, so I ditched the glasses right after my first lap.

"Got a pic of it all together? Good - now TAKE THESE DAMN THINGS!"

My un-taped ankle whined a bit in the first couple of laps, then graciously shut the hell up and let me get on with things. I also managed to hit a portajohn on about my 3rd lap to finally have that pee I'd been waiting on. What was very odd, though, is that I was getting an intermittent vibrating sensation in my lower left leg just above the ankle - right where my timing chip strap was. It almost felt like the chip was vibrating, but having dismantled one in the past (just to see what was inside) I know it's just a coil of copper wire and only receives power from the timing mats as you pass them. The vibration had no correlation to my proximity to the mats, nor did the timing company guys have any idea what might cause a chip to vibrate. I couldn't discern any pattern to the sensation either: sometimes it would come on after I dropped to a walk after running a bit, sometimes it would happen while running, and sometimes I'd notice it after I'd been walking for awhile. It was neither painful nor hindering - just bloody puzzling.

Through the woods - I could probably run this trail with my eyes closed by this point.

On second thought maybe not.

The other sensation that was rather more annoying was the string of beads - real wooden beads from the sixties, on loan from my awesome Mum - bouncing against my chest. I ditched them with Tanker after about 6 laps as I'd had enough. The mud was already starting to be a factor, with one particular section just above the major 2-part climb on the course deteriorating into an un-runnable mess of slippery mud before I even got 10k in.

By the end of the day all my red tags on this map would just read "MUD"

Oh, and maybe "broken board", since 2 holes appeared in the first hour or so of the race.

So, there was an increasing amount of walking happening as the laps progressed. Fortunately all the stuff I could control went fairly well: I only tweaked my damaged left ankle a couple of times, and in very minor fashion such that it didn't hurt until after the race was done. I gave my right ankle a bit of a wrench when it slipped sideways in the mud, but it's been ok since. Nutrition was fine, if a bit light: I had 3 sips of slightly dilute EFS Liquid Shot from my flask (around 40mins, 1h45m and 2h30m), 2 of my salted maple crisp rice squares (1h5m, 4h), 4 corn chips (2h - Tostitos Rolls are the bomb!), a mini chocolate chip cookie (3h), and a chunk of banana from the aid station (3h30m) and one small piece of salty, delicious bacon (4h). I also broke into the caffeine for the last part of the day with a couple of sips of watered-down sea salt chocolate Gu Roctane gel from a flask (4h45m, 5h15m) just to sharpen me up a bit.

Partly to avoid stepping on the right side of the farthest board, since it would then try to launch you off into the woods

Unfortunately it couldn't be used as a springboard to vault up the hill.

All told I took in about 650cal - a little more than 100cal per hour, which I suppose isn't far off my usual. Maybe it just felt like I ate lightly since it was one of the shortest-duration races I've done this year (so I needed to eat less overall than usual), possibly because I didn't have my turkey wrap (I just wasn't hungry for it), or maybe it's because I wasn't taking in S!caps - I wasn't really sweating enough in the chilly, wet air to warrant it (EDIT: apparently I couldn't math when I wrote this, as I'm usually closer to 150-200cal per hour during ultras. So yes, I ate quite a bit less than usual). My hands didn't even swell much, which was a good thing because at some point my steel tunnel/gauge fell out of my left ear and was swinging on the ring that goes through it. With a crisp rice square and my water bottle in my right hand, I actually managed to finagle it back into place (ceasing the clanking racket it was making) left-handed, while running around the pond, and with gloves on! Probably the greatest feat of manual dexterity I've ever accomplished.

And noone saw it. 

This was doubly impressive given that my hands and wrists had taken a beating. I believe it was my 7th lap that saw me get about 3/4 of the way up the mud-slicked major hill, then have my foot go out from under me and fall right onto my hands.


I hit pretty hard, and since my bottle (which got smushed but wasn't damaged, though the mouthpiece got a bit unpleasantly muddy) was in my right hand it led to my right wrist being painfully over-extended with a large percentage of my bodyweight resting on it. I wasn't really hurt, but neither of my hands or wrists was comfortable, and my shoulders got tight and sore as the day wore on. I still had 11 laps to go to make the distance I wanted, too - in spite of the tough conditions, I was really hoping to make 45km for the day.

Rich at the top of the hill.

You can see where other runners' feet have slid in the mud

Fortunately in subsequent laps I was able to safely pick my way up the left side of the hill, where there are some roots and branches to offer some stability under the cover of fallen leaves. I managed to stay upright for the rest of the day, but I couldn't resist telling Debbie it was her fault I'd taken a spill: when I'd talked to her that morning she was laughing and saying that I always fall, but I told her that I almost never fall at Horror Trail - just that one time 5 years ago when I slipped in the mud on my way up a hill in the upper woods. Welp, make that twice now.

Just above the big hill - this is the bit that got bad first.

Unfortunately the tumble onto my hands and the ensuing soreness made gripping and squeezing my water bottle - necessary to be able to drink from it - rather difficult for a few laps. I stayed on top of hydration, though, having to hit a portajohn again before the 4-hour mark. It was getting chillier and chillier as the day progressed: I had to put on a wind vest after my 11th lap as I was getting close to hypothermic, and I strongly considered changing from the stretchy little Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves I was wearing into a pair of windproof gloves I had stowed in my cooler bag at the aid station.

It never happened - the wind vest was just enough

Some parts remained runnable

Other parts less so.

As it got colder and muddier, I was having less fun. Snot rockets were a thing. I took a big drip of cold rain right down my cleavage, and then another in the small of my back. I had some kind of weird cramp or heartburn near my sternum around 4h in, but it went away when I took in some calories. It came back again around 5h15m right after I took a sip of caffeinated gel, though, then disappeared once more a few minutes later. Still have no idea what that was about.

Still lots of green for the end of October

Lots of lovely fall colour as well, though.

And, of course, the relentless mud.

As the day progressed my body kept complaining more and more about the conditions. First my hamstrings got whiny, then my glutes, then finally my entire hip girdle on both sides. My adductors, abductors and every other little tiny stabilizer muscle in my lower body was screaming at me by three quarters of the way through the race.

Gee, I can't imagine why.

Still running though!

At least this bit of sketchy downhill just before you exit the lower woods didn't get too slippery.

I'm sure the mud was about the worst I've ever seen at Horror Trail, despite having raced in both rain and snow before. You'd never know from lap to lap what section would turn out to be un-runnable this time - it was at least as bad as Sulphur Springs this year by the end, with no similar hope of the mudholes being walked dry.

Even the gravel driveway got very splashy.
Ontario ultra legend Hans Maier coming up out of the lower woods.

I may have been having a bit of a tough time out there, but this race has always been first and foremost about the people for me. Offering an encouraging word to others as you pass them on the trail; chatting with fellow runners for awhile if you happen to fall into step with someone; sharing a laugh with the wonderful people at the aid station who take care of us all day long. I'm even lucky enough to be able to get a few smooches along the way.

Tanker in his bright green rain jacket making everyone's day a little easier, and my own life infinitely better.
The upper woods were no better than the lower ones when it came to muddy conditions.

I rather profited from someone else's tough day, too, in that Rich decided by his 16th lap (my 15th) that he was too hurting from the slippery mud to keep pushing. So, he hung back and meandered along with me for the last quarter of the race. I was delighted to have the company on such a cold, miserable day, and we had fun whingeing about what bits were sore, which bits were going numb, and fantasizing about hot showers and a steaming cup of coffee after the race.

Rich clowning a little on the way down to the pond.

Tanker got a photo of us as we set out for our last lap.

We did actually run from time to time, too!

Having managed 16 laps for 40km in a hair over 5hrs, I was basically assured of reaching my goal of 45k for the day, so I grabbed the camera from Tank for my 17th lap to record the conditions. Rich was very specific about making sure I let everyone know in my race report that they were SHITTY, and I couldn't agree more! Even trying to re-frame it in my mind as just a fun splash through mud puddles hadn't worked to improve my outlook, especially after I nearly fell a few times due to the slickness of the trail. Cornering became very treacherous, and I had to employ some interpretive dance moves to prevent toppling as I tried to come to a stop to get some of the pics you see here. I also nearly ran a couple of people over as it was very hard to control pace; no sudden moves were possible past 4.5hrs.

Like a skating rink, only messier.

Even the grassy downhill from the upper woods got churned up.

The start/finish fared no better than the rest of the course, and I was careful on the mats each time as they can be very slippery when wet.

Of course, stopping every minute or two to take photos meant that I wasn't working nearly as hard as I had been, so I started to freeze in the cold wind and relentless rain. I was quite happy to ditch the camera with Tank and get one last smooch as I headed out on my 18th lap, which would give me the desired 45km for the day. I was able to warm up just enough as I chased Rich through the mud to keep myself from shivering. With just over 13mins left to go as we came through on our final full lap, it fell out the way it almost always does: I'd end up having to climb the big stinkin' hill one more time before the horn blew to end the day.

I don't think I can blame all of the pace decay on the mud, but it was definitely the main factor.

My Garmin map - basically turned 90* clockwise from the course map above
Full workout data is here

Somehow on that partial lap I ended up absolutely covered in burrs that I missed every other time - neither Rich (who was burr-less) nor I can figure out what the hell happened there. In any case, the horn blew with about 200m left to go to the exit of the lower woods, so we picked our way out. We actually even ran a bit (after dropping our bags of pasta to mark our position at the end of the 6 hours) because it was easier to stay upright while running than walking - the extra pressure at foot plant gave you better grip in the slop!

I am a burr-ito!

And one filthy hippie.

Official distance: 46.87km 

1/3 W0-39 - 3/6 Women - 17/28 O/A

My lack of hunger through the race disappeared as we walked out of the woods, and my stomach gave a mighty roar demanding ALL THE FOOD. As I reached my cooler full of deliciousness and tore into a turkey bacon wrap, I looked around and realised the predictions had been exactly right. Not only had the rain stopped in the last few minutes of the race, but within moments after the horn blowing the damn sun had come out!


Oh yes, blue skies NOW. 

I limped my way up to the building, shivering in the cold wind and still bedraggled from the hours of rain, sore out of all proportion with the distance I'd covered for the day. I swear I was actually in better shape after 50 miles in the Haliburton Forest 7 weeks beforehand than after a piddling 47km practically in my own backyard!

Which was suddenly looking much more welcoming.

At least it was nice and sunny out for me to use the icy water from the hose to try to rinse the worst of the mud off my shoes and gaiters. I still made an awful mess in the Rehkopf building taking my footwear off, though.

Not that I'd managed to get all of the clumps off.

No complaints!

My feet were actually in remarkably good shape, though, for having spent hours with mud squelching right into my socks. I'm really grateful to have discovered BlisterShield, as I know it was definitely the difference between my relatively unscathed tootsies and some painful blistering in the muddy conditions.

While I was disappointed to miss out on a post-race massage (while too busy eating, removing muddy footwear, cleaning up my mess and changing into dry clothes), I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name called as the 3rd woman overall in the 6 hour race. I was actually in the bathroom at the time, and managed to coax myself into a hobbling run in my comfy Keen clogs to go claim my prize! It was actually the second furthest I've ever gone in the 6 hour at Horror Hill despite the challenging trail conditions, so I have the added bonus of feeling like I'm getting stronger even when carrying fatigue.

The best reward of all, though, is the time spent with friends old and new on the trail. It may have been a tough day, and I may still be feeling the effects (mostly just a bit of achiness in my hips after returning to running, plus some arthritic-feeling soreness in my hands from my tumble) even now almost a week later, but that just makes the memories of friendly faces in the woods all the more poignant.

Cliff, myself and Rich just after the race.
They both did amazing, clearing more than 50km on the day!

Now it's time for a bit of easy-peasy, do-what-I-want training for a month before I get back down to business in December. I've got big plans for 2018, and even the 176.87km of racing I put in during the last 7 weeks of my season will count as building blocks for what's to come!

Stay tuned!