Monday, October 31, 2016

Adding in, Adding on - GPS Notes on Frontenac Challenge

I wasn't aware when planning my Frontenac Challenge that there was a new option this year of swapping a non-official park loop called Moulton Gorge with the standard Little Salmon Loop. I thought of this when, late last week, zooming into my GPS tracks from the confusing second day of Trail Trek for Judy where Carolyn and I did 5 loops, I realized there was a 500m section of Tetsmine loop along the top of Lynch Lake that I somehow missed! I couldn't believe it, and was bummed and mad at myself. What we did was actually longer, but still, that piece got missed. But then I realized I still had an open window until Oct 31 to get out and do that little strip of trail, so Carolyn and I teamed up again and ran a route yesterday that gave us that missing link, plus Moutlon Loop, plus the three remaining loops that she needed to do the challenge, Arkon, Arab and Doe. Without that missing piece I never would have been motivated to do this additional 4.5 hours of running this weekend in the park, so it all worked out just great. I'd been feeling some post-goal blues all week, and this run helped shake that feeling off, so it was especially helpful. Derrick did a big run of his own while we were there, so we had fun afterwards comparing our outings. Between us we covered 8 loops that day!

Here's a link to the run. The short out-and-back at the top is the missing section of Testsmine Loop. The straight line is where I paused the watch while we drove between trailheads. 

Without having a GPS track to come back to, I never would have noticed this and would have happily continued assuming it was covered. Admittedly that would have been an easier way to go, but I'm glad to have a backup and know for sure that I did the entire challenge. I did this challenge in honour of my mom, and I needed it to be done right. (Fittingly, the yellow challenge sign for this loop referred to GPS use in the park. We had a good laugh about that.)

Speaking of GPS, I did a post a few years ago on GPS tracks being able to be modified, but never really addressed the accuracy of the tracks to begin with. It is always interesting to see the differences in our stats when Derrick and I run the exact same route. He has a newer model of Suunto Ambit, presumably with a more sensitive receiver, and he routinely gets distances that are longer than mine, especially on single-track trails that typically wind around a lot. 

Derrick's tracks versus mine for days 1 and 3, where we ran every single step the same. Very different stats for both distance and altitude. (Click images to enlarge.)

Derrick: Day 1

Sara: Day 1

Derrick: Day 3

Sara: Day 3

For comparison, here is the SPOT track for Day 3. Not very useful under such a thick tree cover and only trying to get a read every 10 minutes!

Birch Lake Trail

Friday, October 21, 2016

Trail Trek for Judy

From Oct 16-18 I ran my Trail Trek for Judy version of the Frontenac Challenge, and am very grateful to everyone who has donated to Myeloma Canada and helped me surpass my fundraising goal. 

I put together this short video to show a bit of how it went out there. I hope you enjoy it! 

If anyone is interested in the maps and data, here are the Movescount links to each day. 

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

For more information:
CanadaHelps page

Donation window is open until November 30th. Thank you to everyone for your generous support!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Race Goals versus Projects

The first running book I ever read was Jeff Galloway's Book on Running where he introduced the idea of an evolution that runners go through, from beginner through competitive stages, to latter stages where racing against time or others isn't nearly as important.

At the time I read his book, I was quite taken with improving my race performances and working hard to do the best I potentially could in that respect, so I couldn't imagine a day when I would not care as intensely. But now, some years later, I admit that race goals don't motivate me like they used to. However for me, the simple purity of getting out there for the sake of it doesn't always fully give me enough motivation to run as much as I feel good doing either.

I need goals, but I don't always want them to be confined to the narrow realm of races. Happily, trail running offers a wide range of options for alternative types of goals and projects. For example completing a new trail or network of trails, fastest known times, running streaks, running vacations, volunteering at a race or even race directing, to name just a few.

This fall I've created a running project called Trail Trek for Judy for Myeloma Canada, in honour of my mother who passed away last October. For me it is a very different type of goal altogether because of the fundraising element, but it allows me to use my running in a way that resonates emotionally while doing something of use, and that feels good right now.

I may get excited about some race goals again soon, but in the meantime there are plenty of options as different interests, moods, or life stages come and go and we evolve as, hopefully lifelong, runners.

A project-within-a-project: discovering new trails while training for TTJ

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!