Sunday, December 13, 2009


I've been writing about my injury a lot, but with the benefit of time I have more perspective on it than I did when I first started rambling on about it earlier this fall.

In the time I've been running, this is only my second injury that has required any significant time to heal. The last one was five years ago, when I wrecked my foot during our Rideau Trail fastpack.

There were a few things that led to this injury (a degeneration of tendons in my hip and hamstring):

- I think I'm really good about recovery day-in and day-out, but taking any larger amount of longer, seasonally-based recovery is something I never seem to get around to.

- As runners we can develop a weird relationship with pain. It's sometimes hard to distinguish pain we should pay attention to as opposed to the type that is just a normal part of training.

- After R&I I just wanted to keep going and run a 50 miler. Why start over when I was already there? My aerobic base was my limiting factor for so long, and after a few years of solid mileage, it was seductive to think I could just keep going. My legs were suddenly the things holding me back, which was a strange thing for me, and in hindsight I didn't pay enough attention to what that was telling me. That led to compensating by recruiting other muscle groups, and before I knew it the whole house of cards was falling around me.

- Advil. I started to pop it during races. Never. Again. I can see it being helpful for really long races when used sparingly to relieve muscle soreness. Turns out I was actually masking signs I should have paid more attention to.

- Overstriding, especially on snowshoes.

- Yoga - doing too much too soon. I don't think yoga caused my injury, but I started getting really into it and doing more than I was ready for, which didn't help. I hope to get back to it next year as I really enjoyed it.

Some good things to come out of this injury:

- Huge renewal to my enthusiasm. Getting to the point of missing it deeply and appreciating it more.

- Not being hungry all the time. I can skip a meal and not want to eat my arm.

- Having more time, which is good timing because work has been busy. Change of pace in general. When I get back to harder training, I plan to keep a better balance.

- I always say that if running can't teach you patience, nothing will. Bingo. Again. Learning.

- Deep healing. For example my big toe joints aren't sore for the first time since I can even remember. Toenails are even growing back.

- Working on form. I don't believe in overhauling form, rather tweaking over time and getting in touch with what works for you. I've now been chopping my stride right down and working on turnover. Barefoot has helped me so much this year, because it helped me get in tune with my own natural form, and it feels right.

- Realizing I can live without running. It isn't my life, it's just part of my life.

I don't have time right now, but next time I'll post about the best advice I've received during my downtime.

I started typing all of the above on Sunday, before one of our beautiful dogs, Cody, died on Monday. None of that other stuff seems to matter as much now, and I still miss our golden boy terribly and feel a void in my heart. Last night driving home, the sunset was gorgeous, with a bit of a "sundog" effect shooting up into the sky. I took comfort in thinking that maybe Cody's energy had something to do with it. But still, I would prefer that we could sit on his house and watch it together, and I could give him a big furry hug and scratch his softest, dark ears. Then maybe one more time I could watch him trot across the snow and ice looking undeniably wolfish. We never got to say goodbye to our friend, but take comfort in many fond memories and knowing he lived a long and happy life. Derrick and I play a silly game where we pose questions like, "If all the dogs were rock stars, who would they be?" If Cody were a rockstar he would be Eddie Vedder, and he would have penned this wise and haunting song:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Turning the corner and other news

Whoo hooo. I'm starting to feel a bit optimistic that I've turned a bit of a corner with this injury. The past week has felt much better, and I'm starting to very gradually add more running. I did a half-hour run last week, and also did three days in a row. Both were firsts for a long time. Yesterday was our first snowfall of the season, and it was almost unbearable to not run, but I somehow managed it.

Some other stuff: My brother Jeff and his family are in Australia for the winter. They are keeping a blog of their adventures here. It's been fun to follow what they are up to. Here they are before they left (Jeff, Heather, Whit, Sully).

A really nice sunset this fall:

Halloween at our place is followed by the annual Smashing Pumpkins event.

I went through a puzzle phase early in my injury. I'm over it now. The cats were very helpful.

These La Sportiva stickers say on the back: Stick it to your car, your helmet, your dog, or whatever. Siku played along, but then gave me a look as if to say, "Don't you wish you could run instead of playing with stickers?" Bad doggie.

I took these this morning of the pretty snow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hi from the Pit

Still waiting here patiently in the pit stop, watching the world run by.

Since this is a running blog, I don't have much to write about. Things are improving, but it's a slow process. I'm actually running a few times a week really short, and doing a bit of elliptical. It really could be a lot worse, though it's still a long way from my usual training.

I know it's an investment in healing that will pay off in the end. To be back 100% will make it all worth it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Solo Flight, Feb 2007

I had the day off for Heritage Day, and I sat finishing my coffee while watching the sunlight stir up twinkles in the snow outside. Filled with a rush of energy that had nothing to do with caffeine, I sprang up and threw on my warm clothes and boots. I was on a mission - this was the day of my first solo dogsled ride with our huskies. (I had driven the dogs before, but had always had Derrick with me helping to hook up, and be there in case something went wrong.)

This was before we had Siku, so I had a four husky team. Knowing the dogs as well as I do made it even more special to share this with them. It was the most exhilarating expreience ever, working with the dogs and moving through the gorgeous winter landscape. The ride was about 25 minutes, though it seemed timeless. The last part was a downhill and they raced to the finish where they rolled in the snow to cool themselves off. I gave them snacks and we hung around all proud of ourselves for a while before heading home.

Later, when I had settled myself back onto the couch, the Olympians in my backyard started singing their sweet howling chorus. My heart sang along with them: thank you, too.

Here’s a video I took from the sled. As usual, Meela (in lead on left) is smarter than me. It’s okay, I’m used to it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Week in Banff

We arrived in Banff National Park last Thursday. The drive from Calgary was amazing, with the late afternoon sun turning the entire landscape golden. As we headed west, the abrupt line of mountains rose higher with every passing minute. Soon we were swallowed up by them; more mountains than you could count. We had arrived in paradise.

Even though we were tired and hungry from the day of travel, we couldn't wait to go for a short run. We found a trail near our hotel and got our first taste of the Rockies on some meandering trails near our hotel.

The next day, we drove up to Lake Louise and ran the Agnes Tea House trail and then up to Little Beehive. Unfortunately, the road to Moraine Lake was closed for the season, though at least that helped us narrow down our endless choices. This entire area is usually very busy, but this late in the season, and with the trail being icy, we had it almost to ourselves. Our Kahtoola Microspikes allowed us to run without any problems at all. Little Beehive was 7,300', so I'm not sure if it was my lack of fitness, the altitude, or the incline, but it was a challenging run. As always, totally worth it with the feeling of accomplishment and the views. It was gorgeous looking out over Bow Valley, at the mountain ranges, and down to the brilliantly-coloured Lake Louise.

That night we were invited to have dinner with Leslie and Keith at their amazing place right on the edge of town, partway up a mountain. They made us the most amazing meal and we had a fun night of hearing their stories of adventures in the park. We learned a ton and it helped us get inspired and prepared for the rest of our time.

Saturday took us to the Johnson Canyon trail and out to the Inkpots. It was a nice valley with some beautiful views even though the day was mostly overcast. I could breathe the crisp mountain air right down to my toes. Even with less oxygen, at this height anyway I'd happily trade it for the humidity of home.

We drove over to Canmore that night to meet up with our friends Gene and Sue. Their place is amazing, nestled up a mountain with the greatest views in every direction.

Sunday, we drove further north, past Lake Louise and up the Icefields Parkway. It was a bright sunny morning, and we were gaping at the unreal views the whole way. We stopped at Peyto Lake on the way up, then reluctantly turned around at the Saskatachewan River Crossing. I wanted so badly to keep going, but that will be for another trip. On the way back we stopped at Bow Lake for a run. It was cloudy now, but it suited the barren landscape we ran into. It felt like another planet.

We checked into the Banff Centre, where my CIRPA conference started on Sunday night with one of the three great keynote speakers they brought in. Monday morning I got my presentation on GIS over with early, then was able to relax for the other speakers.

Tuesday was a full day of talks, but over lunch time I ran up Tunnel Mountain which was just five mintues from the conference hotel. I loved this little run, as it had many switchbacks and easy footing to make it just a nice workout up and runnable down without too much pounding. Derrick met up with Magi in Canmore for a run in the snow at the Nordic Centre. That night we went to dinner at Melissa's in Banff with Gene and Sue, where a few mountains of nachos and beer went down over many laughs and stories.

Our last run on Wednesday was Lake Minnewanka, where we did an out-and-back to near the end of the lake. Some mountain goats met us in the parking lot and enjoyed cleaning our car while we were gone. What a gorgeous run, and we had a nice sunny day for a lot of it. The views were spectacular, and the footing a little more technical than most of the other runs we had done out here. It had a few rolling hills, but was mostly flat.
We toured around Canmore for a bit of shopping, and were happy to run into Liza for a quick hello. On our way back to the airport in Calgary, we had one more visit on our calendar - dinner with cousin Wes and his wife Ally in Cochrane. Another great visit and delicious home cooking.

All in all, not a bad week of running considering we were both a bit injured. My hip and hammy held up okay I think/hope. Having started some rehab going into the week probably saved me, though I took it beyond the limit of what I should have, ideally. Ah well, we were in the Rockies, what can you do. To top it off, at the end of Sunday's run at Bow Lake I fell hard on a patch of ice just a few steps from the car (stupid parking lot hazzard!) and landed on my sore hip. Nice!

I'll post my favourite photos in a separate post.

Banff Photo Gallery

Friday, October 16, 2009

Status Report

I've been going to Performance Health Studio for ART treatments with Dr. Greg Lehman the last few weeks. He says I have tendonosis in my hip, which after a period of rest and treatment, will be put to some rehab. There's some other stuff going on with my hamstring and glutes, so the whole thing is a bit of a mess. I won't be able to train full-on for awhile, but will soon be able to gradually add back in running and cross training while doing the exercises he prescribes.

I was thinking the other day that if I had have had the same pain in my knees at any point, it would have stopped me in my tracks. For some reason with hip pain I just kept training through it for so long, not taking it too seriously. Looking back, I point to my last five-hour long run before Rock and Ice as a very damaging run. It was on an icy trail, and by three hours in my already overworked hips were completely seizing up and screaming. From that point was R&I and then jumping back into training - doing long runs and adding speed work and never being completely healed. The downward spiral spit me out at the bottom at Haliburton this year, which was actually a bit of a relief.

I’m looking forward to being in a better place for 2010. This has come at a good time, when I'm mentally in need of refreshing anyway. The idea is to heal the damage to the area, and work on improving the functionality so I can hopefully avoid the same thing in the future. It’s actually pretty exciting to think of being in a better place so that I can run longer races eventually.

In the meantime, I can't complain. Well, I could, but I’m not going to. Well, I might. But I’m really going to try not to. I’m in a relatively good headspace about it. I have more energy and more time, not a bad short-term trade off.

Finally, good luck to everyone running the Sydenham Fall Trail Race this weekend! I can’t wait to soak up all your running energy! I hope you have a fun day, as I know we will.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rock and Ice Clippings

We have updated our writing website Montgomery and Spafford Adventure Writing with a new Media page. It contains various newspaper and magazine clippings, including a Rock and Ice Ultra section.

Also about Rock and Ice, upcoming in the December issue of More Magazine is a story I wrote about three women who raced the K-Rock Ski event last year - Barb Campbell, Bev Wilson, and Shawne Kokelj. It should hit the newsstands some time in November, and features photography by Patrick Kane of Up Here Magazine.

Read up, get inspired, and sign up for this incredible race for 2010 as a once in a lifetime winter vacation race experience. You'll have the time of your life!


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Wrong Why

For a long time I've been asking myself why my left hip and glutes are so incapable of keeping up with my training. Turns out I was asking the wrong question, one based on faulty assumptions. All the pain is in the left, but the problem is actually stemming from the right. My right side in that area has less range of motion and strength, so the left side has compensated heroically, but is now overwhelmed to the point of even recruiting adjacent muscles to help out in the lost cause.

This pain I have been having while running is one of the biggest reasons I'm currently taking some down time. I'm also tired and depleted, both mentally and physically. Since Rock and Ice I've been running on empty. Haliburton finally woke me up, and I realized I need to figure out my hip for real and get rested so that I can start enjoying the process again. The thought of not training was scary, but after making the wrong choice after Sulphur and starting again, I ended up in an even worse place. The whisper had become a yell; time to pay attention.

So, I've let it all go, and I'm not insisting on a timeline. I'm running a bit here and there when I feel like it, but mostly letting my body recharge and heal. I've started treatment and rehab for my hip, and already it's starting to improve. I'm finding out who I am without training, and surprisingly, as scary as that thought was to me, I'm just fine. There's a lot of peace in that for me - I'm the same shmuck with or without it!! I suspected as much, but it's good to confirm.

I used running to help discover who I authentically was. Before that, I had spent too many years trying to fit in and be like everyone else, only to realize that the key to happiness is being myself. Running helped me with that, and the discovery was actually more of a re-discovery. Today I have a lot more in common with the me I was at the age of 10 than the not-me I was trying to be at 20, or the struggling-me I didn't quite know how to be yet at 30.

It's healthy to be evolving away from my need of running and find a new relationship with it. One more balanced toward enjoyment of the process, not the end goal. Filling up more my spirit, less my ego. I know for sure that I won't run a 50 miler until I can be in that place with my running. I'm excited to have new adventures like that one open up for me when I fully get there.

Until then, it's kind of nice to have more energy to put into other areas of my life. We went to a fun wedding of a dear friend in Chicago recently, work is very busy, and I even gave our kitchen a badly-needed scouring! And I'm ridiculously excited about Derrick and I both seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time in a few weeks, together.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Haliburton 100: View from the Crew

Haliburton Forest is made up of 60 thousand acres of hardwood forest, lakes and wetlands that border Algonquin Park. Trails wind through the woods, allowing you to explore for hours on foot or bike. Black bear, wolf and deer are abundant, and the human activity - including cottaging, dog sledding, farm animal areas, trail use, and even a sustainable logging operation - is designed to share the forest with the wildlife instead of driving it away. It fills my soul up every time I go there, and helps soothe my shame over how my species has destroyed much of our natural world.

Besides obviously being such a unique and beautiful place, I always thought that the Forest was special to me because I've had good races there. After this year, I know that the reasons go far beyond my own experiences. I didn't even finish my 50k race this year; in fact, I barely even started it. Yet I still had a magical time.

I don't regret trying to race. It was fun to run the first 6 km or so with Aaron Anderson and feel the excitement of his first ultra. My own race is a bit of a mish-mash in my head, but suffice it to say I haven't been feeling 'on' for awhile now, and asking my body to race felt like trying to drive a car with the emergency brake on. No matter how much I slowed, everything hurt and I was wheezing on the uphills. It was such a relief to stop running.

I was sad as I walked back to the car, more about not understanding what was wrong than anything else, and wondering if I'll ever feel better. I pondered the loss of identity if I have to stop training for too long, but much more than that feared the loss of lifestyle. By the time I had walked the mile or so back to the car, I more or less decided I was being dramatic, and just need to give it a while to come back, and take it easy until it does. (Again. Didn't I already do this after Sulphur this spring?)

Anyway, I set the whole muddle in my head aside for the time being, and put on my crew hat. I piled stuff in the car for the day ahead and took off, first stopping to officially drop out at the closest aid station. (Which I realized after I didn't really need to do - it might have been a refreshing change to be a DNS instead of a DNF!) I went out farther on the course, to the turnaround for the 50k, which all of the runners would pass through. I was happy to meet up with Jenn Iskiw there, who was crewing for her husband Keith.

We watched as Adam Hill, doing the 50M, blazed through first, followed by Glen Redpath in the 100. Derrick, Keith and Pasquale Brandi from Italy followed practically together. I assured Derrick that I was fine and was excited to crew the entire race for him from this point. He looked okay, but not great, but I know that in training he starts feeling good in long runs right about the time I'm cooked, usually after 4 hours.

I waited a few minutes for Aaron, who made the turn in great time and looked fresh as anything. I'm usually partially cooked by then, so I was really impressed with how well he was doing. I wished I could have seen his finish, as he went on to nail his first ultra on a tough course and hot day. It will be exciting to follow his running goals in the future, as I'm pretty sure he's hooked on trails and ultras. (Among all the other great finishes, I must mention JD Begin who ran a tough 50 miler, and wrote a wonderful report on his inspiring - and inspired - experience here.)

From here, Jenn and I piled into our respective Crew Mobiles and headed over the dusty road to the next stop. It's always neat to see Jenn and Keith work together as a team. They have a cool dynamic and have a lot of fun together. She's seen Keith through some tough races, and is an expert on what to give him and when. It has been really nice hanging out with her the past two years at some races, and supporting each other as we support our husbands on their epic "man dates".

All day, the crewing pattern was to unload everything possible that might be needed, anticipate the most likely items, and hope that anything beyond that is close at hand. Then pack up, and move on to do it again. It was nice seeing Derrick this way periodically and making sure he was okay.

We continued out on the course in this manner to the far turnaround point at 40 km, then retraced all the way back until we were back at aid station 2. Here the runners would pass four times so I could HQ for a bit. The first time through the station, Derrick flew in and just kept going, which kind of stunned me. I quickly remembered racing (Yoo hoo, Sara. Remember me, Racing?) and that he was focused on trying to catch up to Glen.

When Derrick returned from the turnaround, he mentioned that David and Kimberley Bohn had arrived, and that I should go pick them up at base camp. I was excited to see them, as David was going to pace later, and in the meantime they would both help me crew. We had fun getting caught up and having some good laughs. These two were such a great help throughout the rest of the day, I can't even describe how good it made me feel to have them there. I tend to worry about Derrick, and knowing that David was going to be his pacer for the last 30 km was a huge comfort to me. We were all getting a bit sleepy by the time the sun went down, but David set off on a mission.

Kim and I then progressed back along the last stretch of aid station stops and helped the guys get what they needed. The hours flew by as we chatted and traded stories. Kim is so sweet, and the more you get to know her, the sweeter she is. The guys were making amazing time, always coming along much faster than I was expecting. David sure looked fresh next to Derrick, but Derrick looked a whole lot better than he did last year by this point.

Eventually all there was left was to get ourselves to the finish line and celebrate as they came across the line. What fun, and so satisfying to see. We broke out some Guinness and I felt all the tension of the day melt away. Derrick was all smiles, happy to be done and deservedly proud of his race and grateful to David for helping him break 18 hours. He ended up only about 30 minutes back of Glen, and took 50 minutes off his time from last year. He trained hard for it, as I witnessed every single day, and I couldn't be happier for him.

Not long after, Keith came in for third at around 19 hours. (Such fast times this year, and it was a hot one even.) He came back from some bad patches and finished the last 20 miles so impressively strong, just flying. What a great feeling that must have been to have it come together after some difficult races here the previous two times. Seeing his gutsy finish last year with a horrible leg infection, and Jenn by his side, is an image I'll never forget.

This year it was Martin Mack's finish that made me weepy. There was a good crowd around to watch him finish the next morning. He was comfortably under the cut-off but had to keep moving forward to make it in time. As we watched him come in the last km, we were all in awe of the anguish he was in, yet still willing himself on. Witnessing 100 milers doing their thing moves me in a way that I find hard to comprehend. It is beautiful in a way that I don't understand. Martin had no reserve of energy to pick up the pace even for the very end. All such pretence had long since been whittled away, and the very last step that got his wrecked body over that all-important finish line looked just as painful as all the rest leading up to it.

I'm in awe of Derrick's performance, and just as in awe of Martin's, and of all the 100 milers. To me they are equally courageous and inspiring; they gave everything they had to go a long way in a beautiful, brutal forest. It is a privilege to bear witness to their efforts, and to help surround them with the love of friends. Haliburton is about the people, and it attracts a very special breed.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ready (or Not) for Haliburton

The taper must be working; everything is starting to hurt and I feel like crud. I meant to bring vitamin C, echinacea, and a lacrosse ball to work today, but ended up forgetting all three. Lacrosse ball? My back is riddled with knots, and when lifting some things on Sunday (with all that extra taper time we've been doing some stuff around the house) it totally spazzed out on me. So I've been rolling my back over the ball to release the knots. I feel like my dog scratching her back in the grass, (but in slow motion, and without all the kicking, plus she makes really psycho noises). Anyway, it's painful but effective. Econo-Massage.

I think my back woes might be from adding in more yoga, and doing a few things I'm probably not ready for. I've fallen into that trap of TWBEWIWY! (This woulda been easy when I was younga!) Eventually it will get used to it and be in a better place. I have sympathy for those trying to patiently work past the aching joints (typically knees)* of starting a running program after years of not doing it. (*Not to be confused with people telling me it's bad for MY knees.)

I'm looking forward to Haliburton this weekend, even though I have no idea what to expect. August was tough training-wise with nasty heat and humidity, and the last few weeks I've done very little. Hopefully enough to not lose fitness, but nothing to gain either. I felt fitter going in last year, but then a bit off on race day, so I'm going to try to flip that around this year by going in well rested. My confidence is a bit lowish in terms of racing, but as far as going up to the beautiful forest and hanging out with a bunch of cool people, enjoying the trails, and the excitement of crewing for Derrick's 100, I couldn't be more ready.

As usual, thick crowds of deer will be lining the trails to wildly cheer us on. In some places they are six deep and the noise is deafening!

Photo from - Haliburton '04.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Shelf

I just read two books with similar themes - people who find themselves despairing over modern life so they pack it all up and move to the wilderness - they both end up along the Yukon River, one in the Yukon Territory and one in Alaska's interior.

I recommend both books to anyone who can relate to their desire. (Be warned though, they don't make coming into the office any easier.)

The titles are Up the Yukon Without A Paddle by Dorian Amos, and Call of the Wild by Guy Grieve. (Another excellent one is Chris Czajkowski's Diary of a Wilderness Dweller.)

Here is a short interview with Grieve:


Monday, August 24, 2009

Week of Aug 17 - 23

M - 60' started at 8pm when it cooled down a bit. Finished up at house with some laps with Siku then a lap with Neeka and Mali.
T - 60' Cat W
W - am 30' Rideau Tr with Ro&Ro; pm 70' Cat E + Wallace Rd with 30' tempo (start on Cat then long uphill). Cooldown at home with Siku and Jesse. Nice to see the stars again this week.
T - 60' Stuffed from work potluck and really hot and muggy. Blech.
F - am 60' ridiculously muggy. Radar showed it was raining but it wasn't, grrr; pm 46' Cat W, felt good then crashed. Had two naps after and then right through the night too. Zapped.
S - am 40' Cat W, felt ok; pm 20' house trail barefoot + 90' yoga
S - 4:38 Fr Park North Perimeter. Felt great in first half and had a nice swim at Birch Lake at around 3 hours to cool off. Felt great until about 3:20, then horrible. Crawled in 27' slower than last time I did this loop. Derrick went ahead at 3:30 and checked back with me as I was finishing up and he was going back out to add on. I ate and napped in the car, happy to be done. Not sure why I crashed so hard, but think it was too much Nuun (I drank a bottle of it, and then when I refilled my pack I added a tablet to the bladder too...should have left it), which in turn made me not eat enough. Temps were reasonable compared to what they have been, and no deerflies until the very end. Trails in great shape. Tons of people out, good to see the park being used. Almost every group had a dog. Lucky pups.

Total: 12:04. Good week of training. Haven't been over 12 since April, but with so many singles it didn't seem like that much mentally, though I was certainly tired. Humidity is brutal, looking forward to crisper days now hopefully. Hip/glute/hammie improving, really noticed at 2:15 into long run they weren't sore at all. I think yoga is helping.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fall Running Plans

Haliburton Forest

I decided to sign up for the Haliburton 50k again this year, which is September 12th. This will be my 4th time running this 50k, and I'm looking forward to enjoying the beautiful trails and great atmosphere again. I really thought I was going to prioritize a fall marathon this year, but I simply enjoy trail running about a million times more than road running, and Haliburton has a lot of single-track which I find particularly hard to resist!

I've also been flirting with the idea of moving up to the 50 miler, but with the chance to crew for Derrick's 100 miler when I'm done my race, I'm more than happy (relieved even?) to put that off for another day. I need to be 100% mentally 'there' to do a 50 miler, and am still not quite at that point. I'll know when I'm feeling it, and look forward to it eventually happening. After Haliburton we'll see how we both feel about what races we want to do for the rest of the year and into 2010.

Sydenham Fall Trail Run

We're getting ready for the 5th annual Sydenham Fall Trail race on October 18th. Derrick has been working hard to make it the best year ever, and with the support of generous sponsors we know it will be a fun time.

Banff National Park

From October 22 - 29 we're going to go play in the Rockies! I have a work conference in Banff for a few days, and we're tacking on some holiday to get in some amazing trail running and mountain gawking. We'll likely do a 2-3 day fastpack, as well as some shorter runs. I'm already jealous of the days that Derrick will be going without me while I'm working, but I'll probably be more tired out than him anyway. Looking forward to seeing some friends in the area too! Can't wait!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week of Aug 10 - 16

M - 42' in storm
T - am 53'; pm 21' barefoot + yoga
W - 48'
T - am 30'; pm 45' + flexi
F - 20' after dark in the cool field
S - 20'
S - 21' + yoga

Total: 5:00

A hot week for running. I found a million reasons and excuses to take an unplanned recovery break through the weekend. Enjoying yoga so much. Feet were sore from it after tuesday, but just fine yesterday.

Had a nice lunch with David and Kim yesterday, after their trail run in Frontenac Park. Thanks for meeting us, guys!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weeks from July 27 to Aug 9

Week of Jul 27 - Aug 2

M - 60'
T - am 61'; pm 45'
W - 51'
T - am 40'; pm 30'
F - off
S - 56' Whiteface Trail
S - Long hike to Avalanche Pass

Total: 5:43

Late in the week traded humidity and deer flies of Ontario for Adirondacks.

Week of Aug 3 - 9

M - am Catamount Mt; pm 64' South Meadow - Truck Rd - Marcy Dam - Heart Lake, tempo-ish effort
T - 20' back in Ontario thick air
W - 2:05 steady. Less humid. Good run even though I bonked at end. Totally knew I would and didn't care.
T - am 90' yoga; pm 45'
F - am 44'; pm 20' barefoot
S - 2:00 felt great, solid pace
S - 2:42 easy, needed more food before going out

Total 10:00

Feeling back in the groove. Loving the 2 hour runs at faster than my usual long run pace.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Week of Jul 20 - 26

M - am 20' + flexi; pm - 20' barefoot
T - last 'yoga in the park' of the summer
W - am 26' + strength; pm 60' incl 20' tempo
T - am 30' + flexi; pm 60'
F - am 40'; pm 20' barefoot
S - 42'
S - 3:00 Frontenac

Total 8:18

Monday, July 20, 2009

Week of Jul 13 - 19

M - am 30' + flexi; pm 41' + strength
T - 94' road & trail loop
W - am 36' + flexi; pm 40' with 10 x strides + strength
T - 42' + flexi
F - am 32' + flexi; pm 60'
S - 60'
S - 3:00 + flexi

Total 10:15

Great long run on Sunday, best run of the week. Went in well rested from skipping strength workout on Saturday which helped. Wore my fav road shoes, Gazelle CC's as there was a lot of road connecting trail sections. Good weather, lower humidity at around 60% (nice to be able to breathe!) as well as breeze and cloud cover.

Missed yoga this week, but did lots of hip/leg flexibility stuff.

Read an amazing book, Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith (thanks for the loan, Keith). It's about the history, characters and current state of British fell running. Askwith tells his own story as well, which I found very inspiring as he discovers new depths of inner strength and level of committment required to meet his ultra running goal.

No idea what I'm training for, but doing what Rainer Maria Rilke suggests: Live the questions now. Perhaps then, without hardly noticing, you will live along some distant day into the answers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Recipe File: Veggie Burgers

There are a lot of good commercial veggie burgers available, but when you want to make your own, here’s a great recipe that I adapted (i.e. made even easier) from an old Food & Drink magazine.

Super Easy and Tasty Veggie Burgers

1 can red kidney beans
2 Tbsp oil
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mushroom, chopped
1/2 cup salsa
2 Tbsp chile powder (plus any other spices you like; I like cayenne)
1.5 - 2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (for extra flavour use seasoned breadcrumbs)

Mix together onion, garlic and mushroom and cook in microwave for a few minutes.

In a bowl, mash kidney beans, then add the onion mix and rest of the ingredients. Adjust the amount of rice to get the right consistency.

Form patties and roll in cornmeal to prevent sticking. They cook well in frying pan or on grill.

This makes 4 large burgers or 6 smaller ones. They freeze well if you make a larger batch.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weeks from Jun 29 - Jul 12

Week of Jun 29 - Jul 5

M - 25' barefoot
T - off
W - 20' barefoot
T - 21' barefoot
F - off
S - 6:20 Finger Lakes 50k
S - off
Total: 7:26

Week of Jul 6 - 12

M - off
T - off
W - am yoga; pm 15'
T - 54'
F - 27'
S - 30' barefoot + strength
S - 60'
Total 3:06

Looking forward to running more now.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

That Dirty Magazine

The nice people at Trail Runner post their older issues online so you can flip through just like the actual magazine. (They also provide passwords for new issues to subscribers as an added bonus to the print version.) Go to and click the Free Digital Editions link to take a browse.

On a related note, congrats to Taylor Murphy for making the cover of this year's Trail Runner Trophy Series Race Edition! It's a great shot of Taylor taken at 5 Peaks Kingston, and can be found inside the June issue (as well as given out at the Trophy Series races).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fun in the Mud at the Finger Lakes Fifties

Without exception, every runner coming through the finish of this year's Finger Lakes Fifties had mud caked solidly up to their knees, with splatters reaching even higher. The trails were a disgusting mess. It was so much fun.

I can't say enough good things about this race that winds through the beautiful Finger Lakes National Forest near Ithaca. There are 25k, 50k and 50 mile races all held on the same loop. With the 50k and 50 mile both starting at the same time, the race organizers give you the option of deciding mid-race which distance you want to complete. With conditions like this year's, it was an especially welcome option.

Logistically the event is low-key and no-hassle, with campsites available within a few steps of the start/finish. It poured through the night but thankfully it stopped by the time morning rolled around.

My only concrete goal for this race was to enjoy myself, so I was thrilled that many things lined up to make that easier. Some things I couldn't control (notably that the weather was ideal and the course was beautiful), as well as the things I could control (I went out at an easy pace and kept a positive attitude throughout). All the mud made things harder in a way, but I was in the mood to enjoy it. My Crosslites were the perfect shoe, and I never felt like I was out of control even in the slickest sections. As usual, the worst obstacles were the slippery wooden boardwalks.

I had signed up for the 50k, but I went out at a relaxed effort on the distant chance that I'd feel good enough at the end of the second loop that I would want to go on to the 50 miler. The first loop was spent waking up, settling into a nice rhythm, and enjoying the trail. It took a little longer than I had expected, 3 hours, but with that much mud it made sense.

Going into the second loop I felt great, and up until 4 hours in I still saw going on to the longer race as a possibility. I was enjoying the trails and was feeling up to going through them again. However, over the next hour I started to wind down, and I eventually decided that I wasn't prepared for that much more running in the muck. I reshifted my focus to enjoying the rest of the loop and finishing strong.

The mud made things difficult and slower, but I'll take that over a heat wave any day. In a way it felt like running through snow, and for the majority of the race it was at least above the ankles, and often a lot higher. By the end I had certainly had enough of it, and it did a number on my leg muscles, but for the most part it was just plain fun.

The course from the knee up was beautiful, nicely broken into sections with a lot of variety so you never got bored of one thing. Most of the hills were in the first half as we climbed and descended through beautiful gorges and ravines. The worst was a particularly quad punishing 1.3 mile downhill on a dirt road. It was the longest road section of the course, but it sure wasn't easy on the legs. (There were two other very short paved uphills that connected trails later on.) Most of the course was under the coolness of thick tree cover, with a few open pasture sections where herds of cows would curiously stomp towards us. There were also stunning open views looking down an immense valley with glimpses of Seneca Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). These sections has a welcome cooling breeze even as the sun gradually heated things up.

I had started running a bit harder for the last five miles, picking up the pace. Less than ten minutes before the end, my calf painfully seized up. This has never happened before, it must have been from all the shifting in the mud. If there was any fear that I'd at some distant point regret not going on, the wonky calf told me loud and clear that I was making the right call. I had passed quite a few people in the last loop and pulled up to 4th female postion in about 6:20, which I was happy with. Not the conditions for a particularly fast day, but that's trail running for you!

Unlike some races, I had no chance to see Derrick out on the course, and hoped he was making out okay. I checked his split times and saw him come through for his last 3.5 mile loop and then to finish. He looked strong, and it was great to see him have a successful race. He executed his race perfectly, just totally nailing the effort and nutrition.

The post race barbeque was amazing, and they even had tasty veggie burgers to go along with pasta salad and potatoes. Yum!

Two days later, my legs are still ridiculously sore.

Photo: Tom Perry, Western NY Ultra Series

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Week of Jun 22 - 28

M - 60'
T - am 16' + yoga; pm 60'
W - 60'
T - off
F - 41'
S - am 30' FF; pm 60' ladder 1,2,3,3,2,1 found the heat really tough and felt a bit blah. Fun running warmup with D and H while B biked along.
S - off, feeling off and tired.

Total 5:27

Not sure what distance to race this coming weekend. Options are 25k/50k/80k. Or 0 k I suppose. (Hey, why does zero k look like "ok"? That's not the option I'm "ok" with.) Brain is saying 25k. Soul is saying loooonger. Heart/lungs are saying they are game. Legs aren't so sure.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Week of Jun 15 - 21

M - 60' with 6 strides on grass
T - am 21' FF before yoga; pm 50'
W - 20' FF
T - am 20' Tindall Track easy in the rain; pm 80' Richardson Track - 8x400m with 400m jog (with D pacing me - thanks!):
F - 20' FF + strength & flexi
S - 2:32 Escarpment, Gould Lake Rd, Mine Loop, Wagon/TomDixon and back. Easy, felt good except tough on steep hills. Light rain made for a nice muddy anniversary trail run! Legs had much better range of motion, and not sore.
S - am 20' FF; pm 74' Napanee Track - 12x200m w/200m jog:

Total: 8:37

Three different tracks this week! The fancy new Tindall is only 400 yards. Too bad. Nice to have just steps from my desk though. Great surface and infield. Workouts this week felt great. Experimented with taking a longer recovery than I usually do to change things up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Week of Jun 8 - 14

M - 58'
T - 62' Workout on Cat Trail:
1 mile 7:07, 2' jog,
1 km 4:29, 2' jog,
1 km 4:18
Felt horrible. Max HR 179.
W - 25' FF before yoga
T - am 35' Tindall Track; pm 20' FF home
F - 90' Workout on Cat Trail:
2 km @ 4:53/km, 5' jog
1 km 4:33, 2' jog,
1 km 4:23, 2' jog,
0.56 km 4:37/km
Worse than horrible. I had thought of 4-5xkm reps, but bailed in the third. Thought I was going to die. This will get better, right? Max HR 174.
S - 30' FF home
S - 2:44 Fr Park - nice run on north side of Big Salmon. Not much fuel req'd, had just eaten lunch.

Total 8:04

I used Derrick's Forerunner 405 for both workouts this week and was ready to toss the thing. "Simply tap the touch bezel to change screens without fumbling for a button." That sounds great, but for the life of me I can't operate the bezel thingy. (Too bad cursing at it didn't change the screen, I'd be good to go. As it is, I'd vastly prefer buttons.) Looking forward to next time.........on the track.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ultra Running Guy

Once in awhile a new blog comes along that just speaks to you; it's like it is written just for you. You can relate to it on so many levels, like you're the Super Hero in your very own comic strip. I think Derrick can probably relate to this one.

That URG seems soooo familiar!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Week of Jun 1 - 7

M - 20'
T - am yoga; pm 20' FF
W - 63' 11.3 km hilly loop
T - 38'
F - 20' FF
S - 120' Frontenac Park - Slide Lake blue loop clock-wise from Perth Rd. Very fun, so many fallen logs to hurdle. Yay!! Took 2 gels and tried Nuun. Lots of deer flies on west Slide. As usual, I was Derrick's best bug repellent. Great to be back out there.
S - 25' FF/barefoot on D's newly manicured trail

Total 5:06

Lots of planks and Myrtl, etc. after runs. Range of motion improving. Ready to start ramping up a bit more this coming week.

Star article wasn't in on Saturday. I'll update when I know the date.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Since Saturday I've done a few short barefoot and Five Finger runs, some paddling, a bike ride, yoga, and started my new strength and flexibility work. It feels weird to not be running more, but I'm looking forward to building into a new program that includes some of this other stuff.

Yoga in the park with Katie was great - thank you Karen for inviting me, and Katie for a great class! (Dylan Wykes was in the class, how's that for a good endorsement of yoga for runners!) Karen and I did a bit of barefoot in the grass after, and then hit the high bars. Eliza, how are your chin-ups coming along? Karen is better at them than I am after months of me working at them!

I've been doing planks like Eliza, David and Debbie all suggested, plus some other exercises David and Kimberley gave me. Planks are amazing, I can see why those guys were all raving about them. Thanks for enlightening me!

I also really love this strength stuff that Running Times is putting up.

Here is a handy pdf of the Myrtl Routine they do, which is amazing. Should help the log hurdling.

Check out the Toronto Star this Saturday (June 6) for a trail running article that Derrick was interviewed for.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Donut Week

I'm enjoying a week of No Running more than I would have expected. It's my "donut week" because my log is full of "0"s, not because I've been eating donuts. I've actually been eating well, lots of raw veggies. I feel my body healing more each day. It needed this. I'll do a few light runs next week, but won't start training again until I feel ready.

Why did it take me so long to give in to some extended recovery? I thought I was good at giving my body rest at times it might benefit from it more than work, but I guess I wasn't seeing it beyond the micro scale of days and weeks. I haven't had an extended period of sickness or injury in a long time, which is very fortunate, but that means I haven't given my body a really good break in all that time either.

Last week's race attempt snapped me out of my routine and mindset. The first couple of days felt a bit odd, but now I feel liberated from the 'need' to run, and am getting back to the 'want' to run.

This is my favourite poem, it pretty much sums up my philosophy on life (and on running).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Clean Slate

I decided to try a 50 miler this past weekend, figuring I was tapered and ready to go. Turns out my body wasn't ready, so at 15 km I abandoned my attempted race pace. I wasn't feeling good at all for that early on, and my hips had started to ache. My left leg in particular felt like it was dragging, and I didn't want to do more damage. So I slowed down and looked forward to packing it in at the end of the 20 km loop.

No big deal; I feel I made the right call. In fact, I feel relieved and refreshed to just let all of my racing expectations for the rest of the year go; to just empty my head of it all and have fun starting over. My initital plan after Rock and Ice was to try to get more out of my winter training, but obviously my body has different ideas. My revised plan is to not really have a plan, though I do want to do a bit of cross training, get on some serious stretching and hip exercises, and let my achey joints heal up by cutting back on running mileage. In a month or two I'll hopefully feel a lot better.

I'll know I'm better when I start hurdling over fallen trees on trail runs again. I used to love doing that, but for a long time now I've been stepping over them very gingerly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Week of May 11 - 17

M - off
T - 23' barefoot
W - 51'
T - off
F - 64' J&J trails night before 5 Peaks. Really wish I could race this course!
S - off - Busy day with 5 Peaks. Thunderstorm made things messy. Timer guy showing up an hour and 45 minutes late made things tricky. D had just started giving out backup bibs for manual timing when he finally arrived. Ugh. (An analogy might be like having the caterer not show up to your wedding and you're just about to order pizza.)
S - 36'

Total 2:54

Recovery week. I think I needed it mentally even more than physically. Really needing to switch gears and change up my training.

Here's Siku. I took her asparagus hunting with me yesterday and then she came to Heather's soccer game with us later, so along with her regular daily plays with the rest of the dogs I'm sure she slept well last night.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Week of May 4 - 10

M - am 42' (chinups, triceps); pm 48'
T - am 68'; pm 75' (20' tempo, 5'jog, 5x[2'hard, 1'easy])
W - early am 80'
T - am 60' (trdmill - 5'each @ 6,8,10deg, 90"jog, 5' @ 10deg, 2x[1'each@8,9,10,11,12deg] + chinups); pm 50'
F - am 65'; pm 30' Five Fingers (pushups, triceps)
S - 60'
S - 3:15 Charleston Lake

Total: 12:53

A good week, but tired out for Sunday's long run. Just took it easy and took pictures along the way while Derrick went ahead. It was fun, and nice to enjoy the scenery as spring takes hold. Trilliums are at their peak. I found a rare and beautiful Clif Flower on the trail too, planted by Derrick where I couldn't miss it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Going for it

The three main races I chose for this year have something in common: They all scare me a bit, in a "I'm not sure I can do this" kind of way. I've missed that feeling of taking a risk with my race choices; it's been a few years since I've gone out of my comfort zone. I'm enjoying the motivation it is giving me to train. I love training, but it's more satisfying when it is fuelled by a specific purpose.

Rock and Ice is done, and although it definitely intimidated me, I also felt that it suited me rather well because it was somewhat similar to fastpacks we've done, plus my body deals better with cold than heat. Easy for me to say now that it's over.

With my first 50 miler, my worry is I'll be in a bad place by five hours in, with still such a long way to go. I don't want to do it if it's not mostly enjoyable, so the plan is to train hard and then go in well rested. The race I want to do - Finger Lakes Fifties - is in early July, so maybe I should find a back-up in case the temperature/humidity is extreme. Regular July weather is bad enough, I don't want to try it in a heat wave.

And finally, a fall marathon might just scare me the most because I have a specific time goal. So black-and-white and quantifiable those road races are. Heartless. Best to avoid really, and I'm sure I'll get back to that. At least it is really easy to find a back-up if it's too hot, with so many good fall marathons within an easy drive.

They're all just silly little fears. Definitely worth a few risks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Worlds Collide

Cool video featuring my brother Jeff's song, sis-in-law Heather's paintings (she produced the video too), and nephew Whit's trip (with Heather) to Uganda last fall with Buy-A-Net Malaria Prevention Group of Canada.

For more info, see Heather's website.
More of Jeff's music.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Week of Apr 27 - May 3

M - am 57; pm 41
T - 65
W am 52 (6' tempo; 8 x 35-40 sec hills); pm 48 (15' FF)
T am 40; pm 43 (+strength)
F am 76 J&J trails before work; pm 30
S 62
S 3:43 Frontenac Slide Lake Loop from Arab Lake Lot (c-clockwise)
Total 12:17

Finally a good week. It was higher than I expected, but the main thing is I felt great. Five Fingers are awesome - same feel almost as barefoot, but no worries re stepping on anything sharp.

Slide Lake was a blast. We had so much fun and the weather was ideal. Downed six gels, a pack of Bloks and a bottle with Sustained/Gu2O mix. Plus lots of water of course. Feet and glutes a bit sore by the end, but not too bad. As much as I love the feel of Crosslites, Fireblades were perfect for me on this very rocky run. Those shoes have saved me so many times. There are countless beautiful views on this loop...Flagpole Hill, Devil's Gorge, nice waterfall between Buck and Slide Lakes, Mink Lake Lookout, endless lakes. Only saw one other person the entire time.

This coming week I'll get into the groove of workouts on tue/thur and a med-long run wednesdays before work. It feels really good to be enjoying training again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Week of Apr 20 - 26

I really struggled this week, but near the end I think things started to improve. Probably the Frontenac run last Sunday was just too much.

M - off
T - 44
W - 60
T - 58
F - off
S - 35 + strength
S - 84
Total 4:41

Having some extra time, you think I'd at least clean the house or something.

UPDATE: In response to the comments on this post: Derrick wouldn't post a photo, but I will:

Thanks, Eliza. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rain, Shine or Whine

We had a nice run at Frontenac Park on Sunday, doing Big Salmon Lake and Little Clear loops from the inner parking lot. I ended my run there too, and then drove to pick Derrick up at the Trail Centre after he added on another 15 minutes. The 2:45 loop was more than enough for me, as my hips and ankles got progressively sorer as the run went on, plus I totally ran out of energy. It’s amazing how long it can take to recover. Even though it was a tough run, it was nice to be out there in the woods, recharging mentally at least.

I’ve been taking an awful lot of days off lately, and I know I can use the extra recovery, but I’m starting to feel guilty about it. That’s probably a good sign, as my rule is if I feel guilt about skipping a run it is my gut telling me I’m fine to go. But yesterday my legs were sore, and I was tired, plus it just happened to be rainy and miserable, blah, blah, blah (whaa, whaa, whaa). Tonight I’m out there, rain, shine or whine.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Week of Apr 13 - 19

M – 50’
T – am 37’ + strength; pm 45’
W – 34’
T – 64’
F – 38’
S - off
S – 2:45
Total 7:13

Boston Marathon day today! Exciting day for U.S. distance running with contenders in both men's and women's races! Go Kara!!

Update: Thirds for Americans Goucher and Hall. Kara looked very strong at the end; looking forward to seeing more exciting marathons for her in the future.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Crashing Taper, Race, Clawing Back Up

My last several weeks of running/not-running:

Week of Apr 6 - 12
M - off
T - 25'
W - 30' + strength
T - 38'
F - 41'
S - off
S - 60'
Total 3:14

Week of Mar 30 - Apr 5
W - 20'
Total 0:20

Week of Mar 23 - 29
M - 6:15 R&I Day 3
Total 6:15

Week of Mar 16 - 22
M - off
T - 20
W - 10
T - 31
F - off
S - 8:56 R&I Day 1
S - 7:57 R&I Day 2
Total 17:54

Week of Mar 9 - 15
M - 48
T - 45
W - off
T - 35
F - 40
S - off
s - 38
Total 3:26

Week of Mar 2 - 8
M - off
T - 40
W - 60
T - 57
F - 40
S - 40
S - off
Total 3:57

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Return to Running

On Tuesday I ran for 25 minutes, and yesterday I ran for 30 minutes and even did some strength stuff.

Whoo hoo, I think I'm back. It's a start, I'll take it.

It was fun running with Derrick and the two sweet Little White Dogs. Jesse is 100% sweet, and Neeka is 99% sweet, with just a dash of sour (aka psycho) thrown in to keep us on our toes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Craving Fruit, and Such Pretty Fruit it is!


Check out the sweet bouquet my co-workers brought me when I got back from Yellowknife! I can't think of a more thoughtful and appreciated gift.

Thanks guys!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Recovery and Looking Ahead

I thought I'd be back training by now, at least ramping up a bit, but I've done practically nothing since Rock and Ice ended. On April 2nd I did a 20 minute run which felt kind of nice on the brain, but within an hour of finishing I had caught a cold. I took that as a clear message from my body that it needed more rest. I will do a few runs this week, and by next week I should be okay to gradually start training again.

Aside from just feeling run down with no energy, my body feels okay structurally. My toes and heels were mangled (very ugly) from the race, but are doing okay now (still ugly though).With all the downtime, I've thrown some energy into picking a few races for the rest of the year. Things may change depending on what Derrick decides to do in the short-term, but for now it looks like:

June 7 - Whiteface Uphill Foot Race - Something to focus a bit more hill work on. I get a lot out of the uphill tempos and need something to keep me at them. Looks like a fun race too, and a good excuse to get down the the 'dacks!

July 4 - Finger Lakes Fifties 50 Miler - My first 50 miler attempt. I'm nervous, but excited. This looks like a nice course, a low-hassle event, and isn't too far from home. Perfect!

Oct 4 - PEC Marathon This is one I've been wanting to do since it started. I have been wanting to do another marathon for several years, and I mean it this time! I'm looking forward to switching gears from the 50 miler. I like the early Oct date, because there's good opportunity to switch to a later one in event of bad weather or if I mess it up.

I may throw some shorter tune-up races in here and there, but knowing myself, I may just as easily talk myself out of them!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rock and Ice Report


We arrived in Yellowknife three days before the race start, giving us time to settle in and meet our media host Brian Desjardins. Brian would be kept busy through the week with all of the media needs/wants and perhaps a few headaches! Brian put in some long, long days for us, and is a great guy – very mellow with a dry sense of humour.

We were graciously accommodated by Chateau Nova Suites, and had a cushy last night of luxury before heading down to the Matrix Village for the race. It is amazing the little community they constructed for us right out on the ice - a true little Athlete’s Village.
Our Italian Friends
Our first night in Yellowknife we had the opportunity to meet some of the media and racers from around the world at the Black Knight Pub. We found ourselves at a table with the Italian contingent. This would be the start of a special friendship that would develop over the next week or so. Fransceso (Checco), Pietro and Katia were all here to take on the 6-day foot/snowshoe race, while Gabriela (Ela) was to document their adventures on film. They are all so warm and friendly, and each very accomplished people. Luckily for us, their English is very good, and it was amazing how much it improved each day.

Day 1 – Let the Games Begin

This race had me nervous, but I kept telling myself that if I got through Day 1, it would all be okay. This was the longest leg, and it felt like venturing into the unknown. Would my clothing be okay? Would my body wake up from the long slumbering taper I had given myself? Did I forget anything? These and other unanswered questions badgered me. To make it harder still, the wind was very strong and we had to head into it for almost the entire day.

Despite all this, I started off feeling good, even though the first lake crossing was a challenge in itself. I started without my snowshoes, figuring my Kahtoola microspikes would be fine for awhile. Eventually I started breaking through the snow more and more, so about half way to the first checkpoint I pulled over to throw on my Dions. By this time I was settling into a rhythm and feeling more confident. It felt good to be running, and I kept reminding myself to look around and soak in the scenery of the beautiful North.

There were some neat moments early on when the media helicopter went flying by, really low to the ground. It certainly added an impressive exclamation point to what a great amount of thought, effort and planning went into this race.

A few hours in and the weather started to throw some more challenges at us. It had been snowing lightly, but now it was starting to come down a lot harder, and blowing in our faces. One lake crossing left me struggling to see as my eyes got all puffy and it made me disoriented. Finally I got to the next portage and rested in the wind for a snack and drink.

Later, as I was starting to wind my way through another of the welcome portages that separated the long windswept lakes, I was surprised to come up on Derrick. I feel sick even writing this now, because with the benefit of hindsight I see so clearly what I refused to believe at the time. Even with a pulk weighing him down, if Derrick is anywhere near me in this race, something is wrong. We struggled over the last endless lake together, trying to keep our spirits up as we fought the wind and whiteout conditions. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t having the day he wanted, so I forced myself to stay positive. I kept saying that we just had to get this day done, and it would all get better.

Right before we reached the stage camp he said he was going to drop. I cried a bit but then pushed it away and said he just needed some rest, that this was a tough day last year for him too, and not to decide anything yet. I kept insisting tomorrow would be a better day, but a little more of the reality had seeped in.

As for the Italians, this day saw Checco’s pulk break and he unfortunately dropped out at the final checkpoint. Pietro also ran into pulk problems, but he was able to use spare parts from the broken sled and continue on. Katia, all maybe 110 pound of her, is a fast runner who is sponsored by Inov8, but was overwhelmed by the heavy sled and was forced to drop with the knee problems it was giving her.

Day 2 – The Highs and Lows

Emotionally, this day wrecked me. Derrick was continuing to struggle and starting to know that things weren’t going to turn around. I didn’t want him to drop, but I realize now how selfish I was being. I kept insisting things would get better, and at Hidden Lake checkpoint he stopped to tend to some blisters and encouraged me to go ahead. I felt confident he would return to the course as the racer he really is, and in no time catch up and pass me. In the meantime, Lisa Broughman was having a good day and I felt the need to pick up the pace to stay ahead of her.

I was having a good day physically, but still the lake crossings and deep snow were relentless. The weather was perfect, sunny with wind at our backs; it was just the ideal temperature and I often had my gloves off. By now it was getting tougher to keep fueling, but I set my watch for every 15 minutes and alternated snacks, hydration, or whatever I felt I needed. Peanut butter cups were a nice treat, and didn’t freeze. The timer helped to keep my focus on small sections, as I felt I needed some mental help at this point. I looked behind me several times hoping to see Derrick. Coming into Jennejohn stage camp was the coolest sight, with the ring of teepees set up just out from a gorgeous outcrop of rock.

When Lisa came in she broke the news to me that Derrick had dropped. To pull a sled that far when you’re feeling healthy is brutal enough, but to run it when sick might as well have made his pulk 200 pounds. I felt awful that I had chosen my race over my husband, and that I didn’t stay with him. If I could have snapped my fingers and been back at Matrix with him I would have. I knew though that he’d feel responsible if I dropped because of him, and I never seriously considered it. Instead, I went into my assigned tent and had a good cry, leaving Dennis and Credence with a melting down female to contend with. (Sorry guys!) Thanks to Barb and Bev for their support and providing a shoulder, and the guys from Arctic Response who generously allowed Derrick and I to speak on their satellite phone. It would have been a long night worrying without their help.

Sleep was eluding me this entire trip, and this night was no exception. I hung out by the fire until around 11 pm trying to get tired. Morten Hilmer from Denmark, one of the race photographers, was just getting himself fed and warmed up after another of his epic days on the trail covering the race. It was great getting to know Mort, a real sweet guy and such funny stories. I think he’s a real fan of Canada, especially after his first taste of our maple syrup!

Day 3 – My Finish

I woke feeling ready to go. I felt strangely refreshed, I guess from being so emotionally drained before. I made sure to bandage and tape up any hot spots and blisters so I wouldn’t have to stop on the trail like yesterday (I changed to thicker socks and covered a heel blister about 90 minutes into the first day). My mind hadn’t been in any big cut-throat racing mode or anything, but I felt fairly confident that if I ran strong today I could win my category.

That would be great, but the bigger gift was the glimpse into what I assume is the attraction to ultras. At Haliburton last fall I remember Laurie McGrath telling me to “be careful, they’re addictive”. I think the feelings that swept over me on day 3 were what she was talking about. I became a slightly different person than when I started this race, stripped down to something very basic and raw. The rhythm of my snowshoes and my breathing were all I heard, and to be moving through such an endless wilderness was truly awesome. I look forward to feeling that again, but in the meantime I carry a small piece of it back with me to curiously ponder over and enjoy.

As I’ve mentioned to numerous people already, another thing I thought about was how fortunate I am to have people in my life who would be genuinely happy for me. This sport is my hobby and I don’t expect anyone to care that much. But it’s also a big part of my life, so when family and friends are happy for me it feels good. I very much appreciated all of the messages I received after.

Hitting the ice highway was something I looked forward to all day. I took the time to peel off the snowshoes and put the spikes back on, then took off for home. It felt so good to be really running, and I was determined to savour every moment of finishing this race. When the media guys drove up alongside it was great to see Derrick who was with them, and have the distraction for a bit, but I soon needed to be by myself so I told them I’d see them at the end. (Later they told me they had a good laugh at my non-subtle dismissal.) Finally reaching the finish, it was great to get a big hug from Derrick, who couldn’t have been happier for me to have experienced this race that had gotten so much under his skin last year. We had very similar races actually, maybe because I picked his brain so much about his race last year.

It was really nice getting to know a few of the other women in my race - Lisa, Shirlee and Fumi were all wonderful and all had amazing races.

Trout Rock Lodge

With our races done, we were able to go out to the final stage camp of the 6-day race, at Trout Rock Lodge, west of Yellowknife on Great Slave Lake. We were driven in by Ragnar and Ari on giant enclosed Swedish snowmobiles, and hosted to a nice evening hanging out in the lodge. It was nice to watch all of the remaining racers make their way to the final stop before their last day of racing.

Katia was there to cheer Pietro on, and to run the last stage of the race the next day to scout it out for next year. Pietro’s snowshoes had broken the day before, but luckily we were able to shuttle out a pair for him to use the last two days.

It was fun chatting with Harold Mah from Get Out There a bit more. Harold is super outgoing and he makes you feel like a good friend right from the minute you meet him. I had heard he was a crazy adventurer, and he shared some of his stories. Really powerful stuff; Harold has seen and done a lot. For not the first time on this trip I felt very much in awe of the experiences of the people around me.

That night, at 11:00 pm Mountain Time, which is 1:00 am our home time - so it averaged out to midnight which was exactly Derrick’s birthday - we popped out of our cabin to see the Northern Lights. Wow, they were worth the entire trip right there. Trout Rock is so remote; it was a great place to see them.

The Finish of the 6-day

The next day we were at the finish line to see the end of the battle between Michael Argue and Phil Villeneuve in the men’s ski race which stirred up so much excitement over the week. Michael ended up winning, with Phil a super close three minutes behind. It was cool to be there to see Greg and Denise McHale both win their foot/snowshoe races, and Liza Pye finish strong in the women’s ski – she looked just beautiful gliding in. Jen Segger ran a gutsy race with an injury to finish second behind Denise. Inspiring performances by all of them and everyone else who finished.

Pietro finished strong in 7th place before having a well-deserved beer handed to him by Ken in Matrix Village. He is no stranger to fighting challenges in order to achieve a goal, having reached the summit of Everest in 2005. Both Pietro and Katia will be back in 2010 with some heavy tweaking to their pulk design. I predict they will be competing for some top finishes. Katia mentioned they will form a training group in order to bring more Italians to Rock and Ice next year.

Post Race

BHP Billiton, in addition to a whoppingly generous sponsorship of $37,000 worth of diamonds to the race category winners, threw in a flight for the winners up to their Ekati mine. The mine is located 300 km north of Yellowknife, above the tree line. We piled into a cozy Twin Otter and headed out, arriving about 90 minutes later. We could see the open pits from the air as we approached the mine, and I had Gary Tait from BHP Billiton sitting next to me for commentary which was helpful. Gary is a mountain biker, so he could relate to us doing Rock and Ice. It was interesting seeing the operation, as we have friends and family friends who work in the diamond, gold and other mining industries and have heard much about what they do and how they do it.

From the air, I was blown away because I had never seen a landscape like this before. From flying in the south you are so used to seeing the land parceled up, but here it was so untouched. Yes there is a mine here and there, an ice road there, and maybe a sparse network of snowmobile trails, but for the most part it is pristine, untouched and gigantic. Pretty much the entire flight up and back I saw absolutely no trace of human impact. It was freaking amazing and gave me some serious chills. I’m so glad I had the chance to see that.

There is no intercom on such a small plane, so at one point when we were hearing loud banging noises, the pilot sent a note back telling us it was just ice and all was fine. He didn’t look worried, so that was good to see too!

Later that night was the wrap up party hosted by Coyotes and Bacardi. After the awards and a slideshow, it was time to say goodbye to our Rock and Ice experience. An amazing time with so many special memories and people.

Piles of Thanks

In Yellowknife: Thank you to Scott, Brian, Jeff, Ken, Elaine, and the entire Rock and Ice crew; the course volunteers, who are complete angels; Ken from Matrix, Mike and his team from Arctic Response (more angels, they are), Gary from BHP Billiton, Jenni from Chateau Nova, Ragnar from Trout Rock Lodge, and all of the other sponsors; Pat from Up Here, and Bev, Shawne and Barb for kindly allowing me into your lives and races – it was a pleasure to spend such a unique time with you; Sarah and Troy Marsh for your generosity and kindness.

At home: Thank you to our parents for your help and support; to Brennan and Heather for being excited for us; to Jack, Rosemary and Duane for looking after our pets – we have a helluva lot of them and this isn’t easy!; Karen, Ken, Anna, Shannon and Reilly Dawg for the fun and comforting stops in Edmonton; Debbie and Jack for the loan of my sleeping bag and other gear, and always inspiring us with your cool adventures; Bob Duess of Duess Geological Ltd. for the use of your GPS units – they now have the race waypoints if you want to go check them out, Bob!; Buzz Burrell and La Sportiva for your generous support; Ashan of CyclePath for the great deal on race fuel; PowerMAX for merino base layers that are like miracle garments; Outdoor Research for pants that saved me from the wind; Karen Murphy for helping me train this winter, but even more for your positive energy and friendship; and Derrick, my rock.

As for that other rock that everyone asks about: During the race I had the perfect special spot picked out for it in the event that I won, and it feels really good to see it there now.

Some Pictures

Racers from many countries were represented. One notable absence - next year some of our US friends need to come!

Me on the ice road, so close to the finish

Self-portrait after the race

Travelling in style to Trout Rock Lodge

Derrick helping out at stage finish - not easy to do when you'd rather be racing

Katia having fun in the sun

One more day to go, Pietro!

Racers at Ekati in stylish gear

Untouched landscape

K-Rock awards

Full 2009 race coverage, including results can be found at Sleepmonsters.
Complete race information, including 2010 registration is on the Rock and Ice page.
Derrick's race report is on his blog.