When I’m in the Woods by Myself

After yesterday’s blog post Dan sat me down and made me watch a youtube video that reminded him of me.

For the non-Canadian readers Zeddy is the mascot of a company that has gone out of business, there is a prequel video to this one explaining how Zeddy has ended up in the woods, you can watch it here.
Only 5 more days!!!!
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I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

This week has been a taper week, pretty relaxing all round.  Dan has been working late so I’ve been using my extra time to catch up on some girly movies.  I know some people don’t like tapering, but I honestly enjoy it.  Finally getting to start to wind down my mileage, I feel good physically, and mentally, I am happy for the break of trying to fit everything in.
With race day less than a week away (exciting!) my head lamp finally arrived and Dan and I hit the trails last night, with my fancy new light.  It was amazingly bright, like crazy bright, I felt so confident running in the dark, until I noticed all the glowing eyes staring at my from the bushes.  I’d point them out to Dan but he wouldn’t see them, so that freaked me out even more.  When we hit a turn around point there was multiple pairs of eyes glowing at me, and I thought I was going to cry, but these eyes weren’t hidden in the bush, and I could finally make out what was staring at us, it was a family of deer (I don’t know if they were really a family but I decided they were).  Suddenly my headlamp was kind of cool, I started to relax a little, and then Dan turned out his light and told me to run back the road,  he would catch up but that I needed to run on my own for a bit.  He was right, so I took a deep breath, and put my brave face on and took off.  I made it to the road safe and sound, I had to sing to myself a few times, but I often sing to myself anyway.  So there I was standing at the road, pretending not to be scared, when oh so faintly I thought I heard my name being called, in a British accent, that sounded like Dan.  Hmm, is he playing with me?  I heard it again, so I shout back “Yes?”.  Where was he anyway?  Then it occurred to me that there was one big turn that we had to make to get back to where I was, and that Dan’s headlamp wasn’t very good (compared to mine).  So I thought I’d better start back down the trail, I could hear Dan’s shout getting closer so I shouted that he had missed a turn.  He found it.  Turns out that he ended up at a different road, that he thought was the same road but it wasn’t, so he had to back track and he calling to make sure I was ok, because he was worried that I might have been scared.  Oddly enough I wasn’t, I wasn’t even worried about what was taking him so long, my only concern was that he had the car keys.
We carried on together and were enjoying ourselves, I got freaked out by some bucks, because they have antlers, but I do believe my light temporarily blinded them and I made it safely by.  Then my light started flashing, 3 times, and would go dim.  Huh?  What’s happening?  Was the battery dying already?  I was really starting to wish I had read the instructions beyond how to charge and install the battery.  I made the decision that we should head back to the car, because quite frankly Dan’s light was not that bright and I think his batteries were dying too.  Just as we made it back to the car my headlamp died and it started to rain, so I was happy to be at the car.
This morning I read all the instructions to my headlamp, and have figured out where I went wrong, going to go for an early morning test run Monday.
Planned Mileage: 46km
Actual Mileage:
Days Run: 4
Excuses:  Don’t need any.

The Monster is coming for me.

So it’s coming, the big day, as I write this it’s only 12 days away, race day.  For the past 22 weeks I’ve been training for this, I have got past injuries, tough training runs, and slogged out many miles.  Since the Baker Trail 50 miler, I’ve felt fairly confident, I’ve never even attempted 100 miles before but I was feeling good.

This week the nerves hit, straight up, after I received this in the mail:

My in-laws good luck wishes.

It’s awesome! It had me smiling ear to ear for 24 hours and then I it hit me, I’m going to try to run 105.5 miles. Yikes!  What the heck possessed me to do this?

I know I’m ready, “the hay is in the barn” there is nothing more I can do.  I think some of my nerves stem from the fact that my headlamp that I ordered still hasn’t arrived, my race plan is scribbled out on about 8 different pieces of paper and I still don’t have a pacer for miles 85 to the finish.  Again, not much I can do.  I have head lamps that will get me through if the fancy one I would prefer doesn’t arrive, Dan has been busy organising my scribbles (thank you!) and I can run 20 miles alone (at least it will be in the daylight).  I will be fine, and I WILL do this.  Hopefully my nerves will pass as I pack up and pick up my last minute things.

This weeks running has been good, my legs have felt tired but I’m coming off my highest mileage week ever, so that was to be expected.  My long run this week was at the cottage, Dan and I ran the rail-trail to the ski hill and back.  We passed a flea market:

The Frankford Flea Market

A Medieval Fair being assembled:

There was archery, axe throwing and something to do with boats.

Safely crossed some roads:

Dan was practicing being my pacer and getting me safely across the road.

And saw a tiny railroad:

A railroad along the rail-trail.

Planned Mileage: 64km

Actual Mileage:

Days Run: 5

Excuses: Wimped out over some hamstring cramping at the end of my long run.  Close enough.

Toronto Island 10km Race Report

Dan

This week Heather and I decided to race separate races on the same day.  Conveniently both were local, mine the Toronto Island 10km was unsurprisingly run on Toronto Island.
Because my mileage was a little sad this week I had to run to the race to play a little catch up (got to make sure I am pacer ready for the Monster, and for Heather’s race). What was really cool was that I got to take the island ferry over, much cooler than a school bus shuttle.  A short walk (oops, guess I should have been running) later I was at the start line, before my race got underway we got to cheer on the 5k runners, there were some fast looking guys and gals that looked like they were going to be challenging for the course record, the reward for which being $500, hmm maybe I will try and take the 10k record!!
After the 5k guys were off and on their way I lined up for the 10km.  Quick count down and we are off, I am surging away couple of glances down at my watch and I see that I am well ahead of my planned pace (target time was simply sub 50 mins) my internal monologue went something like this :
“This is easy I own 10k’s these suckers should try a real challenge, they should come to my world try and race a proper distance, silly road runners!!”
Then by 3km it switched to something more along the lines of;
“Shit this is hard, these idiots run this fast all the time, oh my god I am going to die, 7 more km at this speed, no one is even able to talk to one another, I wonder if I can talk?”
Answer to that was yes but not much, I did still manage to thank the volunteers marshaling and at the aid stations, it was kind of sad that I was the only one, guess us trail junkies are just an overly polite bunch.
So after a little more constructive internal discussion I decided that I needed to dial back the pace for a km and get things back on an even keel. After that I ran a little more conservatively and maybe even slowed the pace a little more as I passed the clothing optional beach!  The rest of the race went pretty well, and I was able to start cranking up the pace over the last few km’s, brining it home in 48:39 (made my goal, but had to fight for it).
The race certainly left me with a new found respect for shorter distances and their ability to kick my slow ass.  The race was excellently run by the Longboaters, a long established Toronto running club.  This is a club that I have been toying with the idea of joining, after seeing what a great event they put on I think I may just have to sign up.
Oh yeah and I still had mileage to make up so I had to run home, which was an interesting experience after scoffing down a burger and 3 cookies at the post race BBQ.

Yorkville B&o 5km Race Report

To be honest I don’t really know why I ran this race (maybe because I’ve done it before?).  I signed up at the last minute after some convincing from Dan that I should do it.  He is a very good motivator.
I was regretting my decision as I was getting up at 5:30am so that I could fit a 22km “warm-up” in before the race as I wouldn’t have time to run afterward.  I left my house at 6:30am to make it to the race start at 9:00am.
I spent most of my run trying to figure out how Dan always talks me into these things, trying to decide upon a race goal and looking for a bathroom (why do I desperately need one when there is nothing?).  I knew it wasn’t going to be an awesome performance, my legs were tired from the 95km I had put on them leading up to the race, so what else could I try for?  To finish?  No, I know I can run 5km.  Set a personal worst?  No, not really something one should set out to do.  Run nice consistent splits?  Hmm, that’s sounds like something I can’t do, so yes let’s give that a try.  With that settled I tried to ignore the increasing pain in my right quad and arrived at the start line with 15 minutes spare.
I checked my bag with a women who confused why I wasn’t going to wear my hydration pack (duh it’s only 5km), and then spent the rest of the 15 minutes trying to stretch out my quad and stay warm.  Before I knew it we were all being corralled and once again I  succeeded at seeding myself terribly.  I thought I was in a good spot, didn’t want to be too close to the front as I knew my legs were iffy, but I knew I’d done bad when the girls beside me started talking about running 7:20min/km.  Uh oh, the guy in front of me had what looked like brand new shoes on, an alarming amount of people were wearing the official race t-shirt that was in the race kit.
Air horn sounds, whoo hoo!  We don’t move, people are flooding in from the sides, what the hell, why is everyone being so polite? 22 seconds later I cross the start line, annoyed.  It turns out this would be my fuel for the race.  I spent the first few hundred meters running as fast as I could to get away from the walkers and slower runners, completely baffled at why groups of walkers were ahead of me.  At the first corner (turning south onto Yonge St) I watched in horror as everyone (but one other man) around me cut the course significantly.  The man commented that he paid for a 5km run and he planned on running the whole distance, my kind of guy.
The positive thing about seeding yourself so badly, is that you get to pass a lot of people, I was only passed once around kilometer 1, by I guy who looked like he had missed the start.  Turned the next corner, ran by my building waving to our Concierge (he told me later that he surprised to see me so far back from the leaders, bless he didn’t realise that everyone gets a medal and has always thought I won races!) and then just as we passed the 2 km marker, people started walking, pulling off the course, one man was bent over looking like he was going to puke, what the heck is going on?  Did none of you train for this?  You can’t have all started out too fast?  Annoyed I just kept on pushing, wanting to finish up my trip through this weird ass twilight zone.  As I went by the aid station it occurred to me that I hadn’t looked at my watch at all, doh, how am I supposed to be running consistently if I don’t check in?  Now I was annoyed with myself and all the people around me, which just made me run harder.  So now I’m approaching 4km and this man decides that I shouldn’t be passing him and his wife, and he’s one of those really loud breathers, and he’s trying to tell his wife to stay with me, and he kind of sprints past me and then very quickly slows down and I pass him, I gave him a look to say “try that again and I will punch you and stop breathing like that, it’s annoying”.  He seemed to get the point about being punched but continued his labored noisy panting.
I realise with 1 km to go that I’m not even breathing hard, and I once again get annoyed with myself, what’s the point of racing if you’re not even going to try?  So I tried to block everyone out and just run hard, make myself pant, finish strong (and maybe less annoyed).
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and suddenly all my annoyance disappeared.  Did I just set a PB?  I couldn’t remember my 5km PB but I thought it was around what I had just run.  So I collect my medal, grab my bag and some of the yummy food that is constantly circulated post-race (slowly remembering why I love this race) and went over to check out the official results.  Official 23:49.9, chip-time 23:27.6, must stop being so shy to start closer the front.
 
I had to look up my last years results but yes I did set a new personal best, by 30 seconds.  I’m really surprised since my legs felt pretty thrashed going into this and I really didn’t have any expectations.  This result has giving me another boost that my training is working and has pushed a little further from being a mid-packer, I’m more like a first thirder!

A River Runs Through It

This weekends running escapades were interesting to say the least.

On Saturday I had originally planned on hitting the trails for my last long run before starting to taper, but the weather had other plans.  We had a lot of run Friday overnight and it continued early Saturday morning, so we lazed around instead of running then headed out at 10:30am.  The rain had stopped for the moment but the skies were still threatening, so I didn’t bother bringing my camera, of course I would later regret this.

Dan had decided since the weather wasn’t co-operating that this would be a “character building” and took us our to the dreaded Spit.  It ended up being a rather pleasant run there as the weather was keeping most (sane) people inside.  On our way we saw some men assembling a cargo net obstacle, that seemed weird and then we could see a beer tent in a factory parking lot which just made us thirsty.  Turned out there was an urban warrior dash (or something like that) happening on the spit.  The event hadn’t started but the volunteers were getting obstacles and aid stations set-up.  From chatting to these friendly volunteers we discovered the race was approximately 10km with 8 or so obstacles.  Having run our own obstacle course not too long ago, it was interesting to see the set up (much smaller scale, and a much flatter course).  While we were out on the Spit we could see that it was raining again downtown and commented that maybe the Spit wasn’t such a bad place to run.  However by the time we were heading off the Spit it was raining and the first was of urban warriors were now coming at us.  We cheered as we ran against the flow of the race, some people near the end of the wave even asked if we were the first place couple (which we replied yes)!   The race had only started about 15 minutes prior, that would’ve been one quick 10km, especially with all the obstacles.

As we started heading northbound on the Don Trail, it stopped raining and the sun was actually trying to come out.  Up until now we had had to go around a few bigger puddles but we had expected that down on the waterfront.  What we weren’t prepared for was that the Don River had swelled and put the trail under water from Queen St to Riverdale Park (about 1km)!  At first I thought this was funny, but we literally had to slog through knee deep (at times)rushing, nasty, dirty river water.  Dan left me at Riverdale Park, and watched me (from the overpass bridge) slog through to the bridge that would get me across to the other side of the Don River (where it was a little higher).  It was a bit dryer for a couple of km and then I had to go through this tunnel thing (which I don’t like at the best of times) and it was full of water too.  There was a man on his bike trying to decided whether or not he wanted to  proceed and as he saw my sloshing through water above my knees, he wisely decided to turn around.  He asked where I was headed, and told me that I would encounter one more water passing and a section where the water had gone down but had left behind some slick mud.  I thanked him for the info and started running again, listening to the squish, squash of my shoes.  Sure enough I had one more “river cross” and the slick mud was kind of fun. The rest of the run was uneventful and I made it home wet but in one piece.

Sunday I was up at 5:30 because I had to run 22km to the start of a 5km race (more on that later).  I love running early when it’s quiet and there is hardly anyone around…except for the guy run/shuffling through Cedarvale Park talking on his phone on speaker!!!  Nice.  I said hello really loud to make sure the person he was talking to didn’t think I was ignoring him.  I made great time across the Belt Line, because I needed to pee and the next bathroom wasn’t until the cemetery.  After my bathroom break I felt sluggish and started to regret my 22km warm-up for a 5km race, but I arrived with a few minutes to spare.  The lady at the bag check wanted to know why I was checking my water pack, I explained that I ran 22km to get here, and I could manage 5km without water and fuel (I hoped).  Her face when I said 22km, priceless.

Planned Mileage: 99km

Actual Mileage:

minus

 (This was included in my last weeks mileage)

For a total of 101km!!!

Days Run: 5

Excuses: None!  I nailed it, this being my last big week of mileage I really just wanted to hit the numbers.

Back Country Training

When Dan was a kid he used to go backpacking and orienteering.  He has often told me stories about his trips, I never really listened apparently which is why I agreed to go “back country camping” with him this past long weekend.
We had purchased a backpack for me  few years ago (heavily discounted) and I had managed to dodge actually having to go backpacking up until this year.
Dan was a little concerned at the weight of our tent but wasn’t willing to invest in a new one in case I didn’t enjoy myself, so Friday night we found ourselves divvying up camping gear and clothes between our packs.  When Dan was satisfied with the packing I got out the scale, curious to find out just how much my pack weighed, 32lbs! It felt ok on my back but I hadn’t gone anywhere yet so I was a little nervous, then I decided to weigh Dan’s pack, 32lbs!  Hmm.  We did some “redistribution” and got my pack down 5 lbs,to 27lbs which seemed so much lighter already.

Off we go!

Saturday morning we drove to Algonquin Park, stopping for a big lunch on route at a fabulous pub.  Got our park permit, used the flush toilets one last time, then Dan helped me into my pack and away we went, with two other groups also starting out on the same trail.  Huh, so much for the isolation we expected.
We quickly passed the two groups ahead of us and passed another two.  It wasn’t a race (we still won) but Dan and I just aren’t dawdlers, I guess our trail running has helped develop our ability to appreciate nature and still move at a decent clip!  Speaking of appreciating nature, I was enjoying myself but found it weird that I couldn’t lift my head due to my pack, I mentioned this to Dan and he agreed that wearing a pack can make it feel that way.  I pondered this and thought “This isn’t a feeling, I really can’t lift my head”, I rationalised that maybe this was a good thing because I was being forced to look at the ground in front of me.  It wasn’t until we stopped to consult the map briefly that I figured out things had shifted in my pack before I put it on and when Dan had to move things in the top pocket I was suddenly able to lift my head a little more.  I started laughing and asked Dan to shift everything thing in that pocket toward the back of the bag and sure enough I could look around like a normal person!!

The hiking was tougher than expected, kind of wanted to throw off my pack and just run it.

Off to find our own piece of wilderness

We hiked 15km to reach Maggie Lake, we reserved a site on the west side of the lake, basically the sites are first come first serve, we ended up hiking around a good portion of the lake before we found a site that was free and to our liking.  This is where things got a little comical with the tent.  We have a great tent, but it’s a four person one so that when we are “camping” at the cottage we can use one of those nice blow up double mattresses and still have room to spare, turns out people who backpack typically carry smaller tents (unless I guess you are a group of four), so when Dan was trying to decide where to pitch the tent, there was really only one spot.  And the tent still didn’t really fit, guy lines were going into the bushes, a large tree made getting in and out of the tent interesting and weirdest part was to see just how much room we had with only two therma-rests instead of our luxurious mattress (we could fit both packs inside and still had room).   I set about the task of sterilizing water using our newly purchased Steri-pen (I had to bring the instructions with me), it was quite easy, but the first few sips of water were tentative to say the least.  Thankfully we didn’t catch any dirty water illnesses so I think the pen was a success (so much easier than constantly boiling water)!

Our home for the night.

Looks like I use a miniature light saber to “clean” our water.

We are also lazy backpackers and we just purchased the “boil in the bag” dinners.  Which were pretty good, where we went wrong was buying the desserts, yuck.  Next time we’ll just bring some chocolate and cookies!

Maggie Lake

Moonrise was quite spectacular (picture doesn’t do it justice)

That night I decided that I would be getting a new sleeping bag, as I hardly slept because I was cold (and it didn’t even get that cold!)  While Dan was toasty hot in his new sleeping bag, I was wide awake a 6:30am convinced that something was trying to get into our fuel canister, Dan woke up to find me precariously leaning out of the tent trying to see what it was.  When I explained what I was doing, he listened for a moment, told me it was a woodpecker, in a tree, nowhere near our fuel and to go back to sleep.   I watched the sunrise and laid back down thinking how I’d never get back to sleep, and then proceeded to have a solid 2 hour nap!
Day two we hiked around to Guskewau Lake, it was 16km.  I was once again shocked at the terrain, running up there would be perfect training for Bear Mountain.  I had every intention of going for a short run each night after setting up camp, silly me, carrying an additional 27lbs takes its toll and there was no way I was running anywhere!  We only saw a few other people on the trail, passing in the opposite direction, but we were over taken by a “fast packer”, these are super minimalist campers who run/hike, with just the bare necessities (which is what I thought we were carrying).  It was impressive to see him go.  He snuck up on me too,  I thought briefly that the worlds largest chipmunk was after me!  We didn’t end up stopping for lunch so by the time we arrived at the camp site I just stormed on in, and surprised a camper who was already there, lying in his tent, naked.  I managed not to yelp or burst out laughing, I almost felt bad for just barging in, but wait it’s a public campsite and unlike our previous night’s location that was secluded this one was clearly mapped out for 4 tents clustered together.  And really if you want to lie around naked in your tent maybe you shouldn’t have the mesh door facing the trail!!!!

Lake Guskewau

We set up our tent as far away from naked dude as we could and managed to avoid him for the rest of the night, as I was setting about to make our late lunch, annoyed at how far the lake was from us (maybe 50m) I remembered I had water in my pack, 3 (heavy) liters!!  We had packed it in case the Steri-pen didn’t work, to have some safe water ready to go but forgot about it, so I hiked all day with 6.6lbs of needless weight!  After our late lunch we went for a refreshing swim, in the crystal clear lake, so clear in fact that after the swim while sunning ourselves on the rocks and sterilizing some more water I spotted a giant flat thing floating in the water.  Oh my, is that a leech???  Dan looked and agreed that it looked like a leech but had never seen one that big either.  I was so relieved to be out of the water, I made Dan check again that I was leech free (I have a somewhat irrational fear of them thanks to spending my childhood summers up north and the movie Stand By Me).  I don’t think they really “do” anything to you, in fact they are often used medicinally, but they just freak me out.  After dinner and another failed dessert, it was off to bed (all the walking and fresh air really tuckers one out), Dan sweetly offered his sleeping bag since it wasn’t that cold and he found it too warm the night before.  I slept like the dead.  Dan on the other hand, agreed that I needed a new sleeping bag.

These are my frog friends, by the time we got the camera to take a picture of the big leech it had gone into hiding, or one of the frogs ate it?

We broke camp early with a hearty breakfast (scrambled eggs and hash browns, you can make anything, except dessert, in a bag!) and hiked the 4km back to our car, I was noticeably faster, thanks to getting rid of the not needed 6lbs of water, and we had eaten all our food.  I think I like the last day of back country camping best.
Once home we headed off to the pub for dinner and debrief on what had gone well and what we could improve on for next time.  We both agreed that next time we shouldn’t carry large hardcover books with us, better planners would have brought small paperbacks (but my book was too good to put down and start something new).  Also Dan wanted to know why I had brought my little ziplock that usually lives in my running pack.  (It contains a few ibuprofen, tums, imodium, and a couple of band-aids).  I told him that I brought it in case we needed any of that stuff.  Dan asked why none of that stuff was in our first aid kit.  I slowly watched his face as he realised that he had just taken one of the clumsiest people he knows into the back woods without a first aid kit.  I pointed out that our first aid is kind of big and heavy…..I can see his point now.  We’ll also be getting a new smaller first aid kit.
Planned Mileage: 58km
Actual Mileage:
+
Days run: 2 plus 3 days of hiking.
Excuses:  I was  still a little wobbly from the Baker Trail 50 so I didn’t run until Wednesday.  But I feel that the hiking that we did, especially carrying the extra weight was better training than running on the flat roads around here would have been.