Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ten Things to Consider When Planning the Frontenac Challenge


I’ve run the trails at Frontenac Park countless times over the past decade, but I’d never considered doing the Frontenac Challenge – that is to do all the loops in their entirely in the months of September and October – until this year as I plan my Trail Trek for Judy project.

Some things I’ve considered (so far) when planning my Challenge: 

  1. Route planning and strategy – What loops to do, and in what order is a bit of a puzzle to figure out. How to fit in the required distance over the days you have available takes a good deal of thought. There are efficiencies to be found when doing multiple loops in an outing by eliminating some of the distances from trailheads, but this comes with the added difficulty of doing more distance at one time. Which trail access points to use each time is also to be factored in.
  2. Work your strengths – In finalizing your planned days and routes, knowing your strengths can help set you up for success. Some people do better with tackling more loops in a single outing to make very long days, and others are happier with more days of fewer or single loops, even though that makes the cumulative distance longer. If you’re considering the Frontenac Challenge you likely have experience to draw on to know where you fit along the continuum. No matter how it is done – running or hiking, many days or all in one - it is definitely going to be a challenge.
  3. Know your style - Do you want to accomplish the challenge as a solo traveler, have a partner or small group, or go on larger group outings such as with the Rideau Trail Association. Or perhaps you want to do a combination.
  4. Register your challenge – The Park Office issues a log sheet for those attempting the Challenge. Letting them know of your attempt also allows them to keep track of numbers for their records and use as promotion to encourage park use. They also acknowledge successful completions each year. 
  5. Know the rules – Familiarize yourself with the Challenge rules, including the fact that each loop must be completed in its entirety. This means that adjoining sections of loops must be traveled twice. There are other rules, helpful tips and information on the Frontenac Challenge page. 
  6. Find the Challenge signs – Every year the park places a yellow label in a tree somewhere along each trail loop with a word that needs to be recorded in your log to prove you were there. An honour system must be relied upon to some extent, but this collection of words helps confirm completion. When looking at the ground (which often happens while trail running) they can be missed, so don’t forget to keep an eye out!
  7. Be safe! As with any trip into the backcountry, tell others your plans including route and time of expected departure and return. Bring a map and plan what you are taking for food, water, and extra clothing so you are prepared for any possible weather. Long days on the trail mean things can change unexpectedly while you are out there.
  8. Cell service – Large parts of the park are without cell service, so don’t rely on being able to use your phone. Generally speaking, tops of hills or along lake shores may have some or better reception in some areas. 
  9. Buy an annual pass – It is worth it to purchase an annual pass for Ontario Parks. Besides Frontenac you can enjoy our other beautiful provincial parks. The more you use it, the better deal it is.
  10. Be good to yourself – Your body is your vehicle through this trip, so be sure to take care of it. Train enough to get stronger, but not so much that you risk injury or burnout. Eat nutritious food, hydrate well, and get plenty of rest. Getting to the start of the Challenge in good condition will make it more enjoyable to experience the beauty of the park as you travel through it.
  11. Mentally Prepare – Just like this list, trail miles are longer than expected, especially when you start getting tired. I’ve found a big difference between meeting a goal and falling short is not underestimating the difficulty. Troubleshoot in advance some tactics to deal with struggles that may arise, and visualize your success in working through them.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Heading West, A Trail Sampler Menu

See Derrick's website to read about our recent trip to Oregon and California. Click here to find it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dion Red Barn 2016

It wouldn't feel right to let a winter pass without doing at least one snowshoe race, so I was happy to be able to run the Dion Red Barn race this past weekend. I had a blast, and am really glad to have kicked off my year by getting in a race. Having not raced in a while, I started nice and conservatively for once, and found the snow conditions good for me, with deep and sloppy snow that slows down the road runners, ha. The last km was a lot more packed from being repeated from the start, and it revealed the true state of my running speed as Bryan and Matt, the guys I was running with, took off and put a lot of time on me in a short distance. It was kind of funny actually, and inspires me as I'm notching up my training. Overall I'm pretty happy with how it went!

Full race details here

Some people asked for the soup recipe...see below.

Just after the start. Photo by
The last hill, nearing the end. Photo by

Brennan, Tasha and Hazel working the kit pickup. Photo by Grace Vanderzande
Start video by ScallyEventPhotos

 Red Barn Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced (optional)
2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2 cups spinach, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic. Add all remaining ingredients except spinach and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft. (Or add everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for several hours.) Stir in spinach just before serving.

Jack Judge enjoying some warm soup after his race. Photo by Grace Vanderzande

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dear Mali,

I wasn’t sure what to make of you when I brought you home for Neeka all those years ago. You’re the only dog she never tried to beat up when she first met, so that was a good sign. She must have respected that you came in smelling like the SPCA where you both did hard time.

You and I didn’t click quite as quickly; my love for you was more of a learning curve. It was really cool how, over time, our bond grew and grew and you ended up being my best furry friend for many years. You weren’t one of those sensitive types though; your needs were your own, and your love of food was bloody overpowering. I always joked you would trade me in a heartbeat for half a crouton - you couldn’t have helped your insatiable self. But I also know that once you gulped it down, you would have looked around and wondered where the hell I was.

You never had the raw running talent of our huskies - and believe me I know what that kind of comparison feels like - but neither of us let that stop us from doing it anyway. I have so many memories from all those miles we logged together. Do you remember the epic snow run around Arkon Loop? It’s astounding that you were able to do that, so impressive. You always did like the cool winter runs. And now that I think of it, the fact you preferred running with booties meant you had more in common with Iditarod dogs than the huskies did! You were also the best at defense in our pond hockey games. They were all too puck-obsessed to block the guy with the stick!

In later years you preferred warmer temps, and I’m so sorry we didn’t get to the beach again. I longed to take you swimming to soothe your achy joints. Then we could have sprawled in the grass and enjoyed deep, satisfying sniffs of spring. I wanted to see that contentment in your eyes after enduring the olfactory desert of winter. That’s not easy for a hound dog.

We were lucky this winter wasn’t too bad, so we could still get around as best we could. I’m grateful for the special time we had these last few months. It was hard for both of us, but we needed each other.

I never told you, not wanting the others to overhear, but you were my mom's favourite. With your floppy ears and soulful eyes, you were pretty damn irresistible. She would have been sad for me today, but she would also point out how fortunate we all were. A life well-loved is a life well-lived, she would say.

I’m not sure you knew my name, so I won’t bother signing this letter.

You knew who I was.

Miss you my friend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


It has been an easy winter in Ontario this year, but finally we do have some snow. I got my usual winter cold out of the way last week, and after a couple of days of barely making it off the couch, I was able to at least enjoy walking on our property, which I did once in the morning and once at night for a couple of days. It's amazing how even if you can't run, simply sticking to your normal routine in a modified way is such a mental boost.

These photos don't do the winter sky justice, but the pale yellows and pinks are stunning this time of year.

I'm currently developing my running and adventure goals for 2016 and am excited to be a member of the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team again this year. I appreciate their continued support after a difficult last year for me, where running goals took a back seat.

More soon!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Storm

I've spent my whole life trying to outrun my fears.

Dodging around rain clouds of doubt, anxiety, darkness, insecurity; always trying to fight my way toward patches of sunshine. 

Then I encountered a storm that was too big, too dark, too powerful. I could see it on the horizon chasing me down. I knew every time I saw it coming that I was so fucking doomed. So I ran harder than I ever had, driven by my quaking fear. 

But there was no outrunning it; grief storm had me cornered. Wearily I turned to face it as I crumpled to the ground. In my surrender it raged over me and turned me inside out. 

The storm re-calibrated me like mountains have done to the hills I run at home, the north did to our winter winds, and my ultras have done to my ability to endure all that fear.

Now the sky is clearing, the winds are subsiding and the sun is starting to warm the ground I rest on. I am sensing a calmness and a trust rising up in me. I know I'll never be the same. 

I would give it all back a thousand times over to have my mother back. With her passing she left us each some of her mighty courage. We need it, and I don't intend to squander her gift.

I'm through with running away.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rest, Regroup, Redirect, Share

After a bumpy and stressful first half of 2015, I’ve been enjoying a period of rest through the summer, feeling my energy seep back in a healing way and experiencing a good reset. As with benefiting from a training effect after a hard workout, now that I’m feeling recovered I’m emerging a stronger person. From that place it is possible to see forward with more clarity. I’ve switched up my training to get back to doing a lot more strength work at the gym. Yoga has been great for base strength and injury prevention, but I’ve lost some functional, dynamic strength and it is fun to get back to having a dedicated time and place to re-develop it. 

From a place of starting to get more excited about the direction my training is heading, it follows that lining up some races is next. It has been a quiet year in that regard, and I hope to make up for lost time now that my enthusiasm is back, and just in time for some cooler weather.

Coaching and Workshops

Something I’ve long-known about running is it is sometimes best when shared. I’ve recently formalized what I’ve been doing informally for a few years, and started working as a coach with Spafford Health and Adventure. I have current openings for a couple of athletes if anyone is interested! Full details can be found at

Also, later this year and into 2016 Derrick and I will be putting on a series of trail and ultrarunning workshops. This was something we were hoping to have off the ground for earlier this year, but it has taken longer than expected to get them rolling. Stay tuned for more details! With the rapid growth in the sport our goal is to introduce participants to every aspect: tons of practical information, guidance geared to every level, inspiration, and direction. We also want to pass on a sense of the ethos and culture that has historically been aligned with the sport, to help preserve some of the best aspects of trail and ultrarunning as things evolve and grow in exciting new directions.  

I think the sport has taken off because people are looking to it for something authentic and life-affirming. We live in a time where it is overvalued to be perfectly polished. Individuality is stifled in favour of trying to be just like everyone else. It is refreshing to come back from a trail run with dirt-caked legs, oozing scrapes, bug bites, dripping sweat and disheveled hair, raw-yet-empowered from pushing our limits. it brings us in touch with our natural state of being. It's also a visceral reminder to bring to other areas of our lives the courage to make our own decisions, to risk making mistakes rather than always playing it safe. 

Some photo highlights of the Summer

On Whiteface Mountain, New York (photo by Joe Azze, Mountain Peak Fitness)

Ray Zahab of impossible2Possible dazzling us with his keynote for our work conference in June

Playing on the trails at Gould Lake Conservation Area

Frisbee with my mom!