Mogollon Monster 2013 Race Report

My second stab at the Mogollon Monster took place on Saturday, in Pine AZ.   Dan and I flew to Phoenix on Thursday, only stopping in Phoenix long enough to pick up race supplies (we only flew with carry on) and headed to Pine.  We stayed at a fantastic homestay/B&B right in Pine, about a mile from the start line.  Lorrie and Bill, the owner’s of TwoJ’s were wonderfully hospitable and very excited about my race.  Unfortunately on the drive up to Pine (approx 5500′) one of my ears wouldn’t “pop” and I was battling a bit of a sore throat that I picked up after running a charity run on Saturday in the pouring rain.  I wasn’t too stressed though and figured a good nights sleep would have me feeling good to go.

Our home for the weekend.

Our home for the weekend.

Me and a sign.

Me and a sign.

Friday I woke up with a sore throat, a still not popped right ear and runny nose but still I wasn’t worried, we spent the morning getting my gear and drop bags ready, then we decided to visit the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.  It was beautiful, the weather was fantastic, and my ear finally popped on the steep drive down to the bridge!  We walked around the trails and decided to hike right down to the bridge, it was a pretty easy walk, but on the way back up I felt really winded.  I mentioned this to Dan and he (lied) and told me that he felt winded too.  I chalked it up to the altitude, I’ve never had issues with altitude but there is a first time for everything.  We went to get my bib at around 6 pm and had a great evening catching up with other runners and race organizers/volunteers.  I wasn’t sure why I sounded like I’d been chain-smoking all day, but something was definitely up with my voice/throat, however I didn’t feel too bad, maybe a little tired, but mostly just really excited.  I was so ready for the Monster.

Visiting Tonto Natural Bridge.

Visiting Tonto Natural Bridge.

Saturday morning my 4:30 alarm came too soon, I did not have a great nights sleep.  That’s not too unusual, what was different with my lack of sleep was the coughing fits that were keeping me awake (usually it’s just nerves/excitement).  I told Dan that I thought I had a cold, he agreed.  There wasn’t much I could do about it at this point.  I didn’t really think it would affect me much, I kind of hoped I’d sweat it out in the first few hours.

It was cool at the race start, lot’s of dancing around to keep warm while Jeremy ran through his last minute instructions, but Dan pointed out that it was great running weather (just not great standing around weather).  I was excited I was ready, I found Elise and Margaret at the start, I had the pleasure of running with these two amazing women last year and I hoped that we could run a bit together again this year.

It was a tad cool at the start line.

It was a tad cool at the start line.

Finally it was time to go, 44 braves souls set off up Pine Canyon, my goal was to stay relaxed.  My ultimate goal for this race was to finish, my race plan had me finishing in 35 hours and I truly believed that I was going to the finish this year.  Margaret and I set off in a pleasant pace up the first climb, after this climb I heard a strange wheezing noise, it took a few minutes but I began to realise it was coming from me.  As I wheezed away my voice also started to disappear, I figured it was the altitude, Margaret was a little concerned but there wasn’t much I could do about it, I told her she’d have to do all the talking!

As we traversed above the town of Pine I was smiling and taking in the stunning views, still amazing a year later, it’s amazing the things you forget though, like the rocks, I remember rocks, but not that many.  A new twist this year was that there was a lot of rain so the brush on the side of the trail was really over grown and there were lots of trees down, but it was still fun and beautiful and I was going to do this.  Up the climb to the top of the rim (and the first aid station) my wheezing got a little louder and runners around me started to comment that they could hear me coming.  I told myself to stay calm and that it would wear off, I was still moving really well, talking on my calories.  I came into the Pine Canyon aid station about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  Dan was there and I told him about my wheezing, but at this point I was laughing about it, I thought it was kind of funny, but still felt it was going to “go away”.

On top of the rim, wondering why I can't breath.

On top of the rim, wondering why I can’t breathe.

The next section to Dickerson flat aid station is very runnable so Margaret and I had a quick walk break to eat some food and so I could blow my nose, I was alarmed by the colour of my snot, it matched my day glow yellow shirt!  But I felt so much better now that my nasal passage was clear (for the moment) and we set off.  Margaret quickly pulled ahead of me and I happily let her set the pace, as we hit the road section I started to find it hard to keep up and my wheezing was back with vengeance, for the first time I was beginning to think that what ever this was it wasn’t going to just go away.  As we hit the aid station (manned with fantastic volunteers I might add) my voice was gone again, I had to hand signal what I was after!  After reassuring everyone that I would be fine off we went to go back down the rim, I was hoping that the descent would help my wheezing.  I have to add that this is a stunning descent especially as the sun was just hitting some of that canyon walls, my breath was being taken away by the views for the moment.  After navigating the technical downhill we hit the trail and I stopped to use the bathroom, when I stood up from this I was dizzy, in the stumbling around way.  I ate some more food while I tried to catch back up to Margaret but I didn’t feel hungry and I’d been staying on top of my calories and hydration, worry started to creep into my mind.  We finally reached Geronimo aid station, Dan was there and swapped out my bottles, I told him I wasn’t feeling to hot and that I couldn’t catch my breath, he assured me that I would be fine.  I was still 15 minutes ahead of schedule, I re-applied sunscreen as I was heading out for 9 miles of the Highline Trail, which doesn’t have much shade, Margaret set out just ahead of me, but I just couldn’t catch up.  I watched as she got further and further away.  I couldn’t run.  At all. I let this get me down for a bit, but I realised wallowing wasn’t going to get me to the next aid station any quicker, I put my head down and walked/hiked as fast as I could.  I was supposed to arrive at Washington Park at 2 pm and that became the focus, to get there as close as I could to 2.  So “just keep moving” became my mantra, and it worked for a while, but then I had to blow my nose (more radioactive looking stuff) and then I developed a bit of a headache, oh and then there was the chest pain.  Finally I knew I was getting close to Washington Park because I could hear it, but I was still (what felt like) really high up, eventually I descended and arrived at the aid station.

Stunning, my pictures really do not do this area justice.

Stunning, my pictures really do not do this area justice.

There I was met by Dan, as well as our B&B owners (a fantastic surprise) as soon as I tried to talk to Dan I started to cry, I was panicking as I was now 15 minutes behind schedule and I still couldn’t run, and my voice was gone again.  Dan did a great job of calming me down, I told him I didn’t feel well and just to prove it I started to have a coughing fit that ended with us both staring at solid yellow “thing” in my hand, tears started coming back to my eyes and Dan shook my arm so the “thing” would no longer be in our view.  I had some soup which really soothed my throat and chest, thanks to the volunteer who made soup for me at the hottest part of the day when all the other runners wanted ice, I really appreciated it.  After 20 minutes of sitting and eating, I put on my pack and left.  I just wasn’t quite ready to give up.

Leaving Washington Park, my legs are saying "lets go", my face is saying "why are you making me leave".  Photo curtasie of Lorrie Johnson

Leaving Washington Park, my legs are saying “let’s go”, my face is saying “why are you making me leave”. Photo courtesy of Lorrie Johnson

I had 6 miles to the next aid station, my plan said it should take 2 hours and I was about 35 minutes behind schedule although somehow still ahead of the cut-offs, as I wondered off from the aid station I formulated a new plan, it was to get to the next aid station without coughing up anything solid.  First 2 miles of this section is all up hill including a section that has a 45% grade, but then you end up on the rim road, which in my head was totally runnable, that memory was wrong!  I settled in for some serious power hiking and some serious view absorbing, as crappy as I was feeling the views helped to make me smile and remind me how lucky I was to be there.  Then a car drove by kicking up dust and I was back to coughing.  When I could I would run until I couldn’t and just kept repeating that pattern, and just when I thought I had to be almost at the aid station, Dan drove by.  This was odd as he was not supposed to be meeting me here, in fact I was pretty sure that he quite possibly risked life and limb to beat me to this aid station (by car it was much further than 6 miles).

Up to the rim road I go, it's only 2 miles...

Up to the rim road I go, it’s only 2 miles…



Finally I made it into the Houston Brothers aid station and broke into a fit of coughing.  I did not feel good, I plunked myself down in a chair.  I asked for some tissue and was given some, I was also offered to have “medical” come and look at me, I hesitated for a moment but then agreed.  Danny (who finished the Monster last year) was working this aid station with his wife along with Noah and John, so I was surrounded by familiar friendly faces and my mind raced with the potential consequences of being “looked at by medical”.  I was eating some soup when John the Medic arrived on scene.  He was really friendly and started asking some questions, I was truthful and even admitted to having some chest pain earlier (Dan did not look pleased that I had kept this tidbit from him), John had a listen to my chest and noticed “diminished breath sounds on the right”.  Hmm, basically I had a choice I could go on, he wasn’t going to pull me but, I would have to sign a waiver saying I was continuing against medical advice.  I looked at Dan, he looked at me, I did some math in my head and thought about the next section of trail, and realised I didn’t want to be that jerk who needs to get rescued when they should have known when to stop.  So I quit.

This is the first time I’ve quit, I could’ve sat in that chair and timed out, I could’ve asked the Medic to “pull me” but that wouldn’t have made it any easier, my race was over.  I’ve had an x-ray since being home and it turns out that I have bronchitis, mostly in the right lung, the radiologist I work with was impressed that I managed to run 33 miles with all the inflammation in my lungs.  I’m at peace with my decision because ultimately had I gone on I was not going to finish because I was not going to magically get better and I really hated the idea that I had I gone on I could have put other people at risk if something did happen to me.  Am I bummed?  Hell yeah, but it’s just running, there will be other races.

This was posted on the Mogollon Monster Facebook page courtesy of Michael Miller. If you zoom it you can see that the word "rough" is written beside my bib number (#21), I was a marked women

This was posted on the Mogollon Monster Facebook page courtesy of Michael Miller. If you zoom it you can see that the word “rough” is written beside my bib number (#21), I was a marked women.

Since Dan was there I didn’t have to wait for a ride which was nice, he was happy I stopped too since he was worried and he thought my mother, and maybe his, would’ve killed him had he let me sign a A.M.A waiver.

It also meant that we got to hang out and watch all the finishers (of which there were 23!) on Sunday (well not all, Steve Moore the winner was finished at 3am, I was in bed) and talk to some more of the wonderful people involved in putting on this race.  Not to mention all the runners whose races ended at various parts of the race. Unfortunately Margaret had to drop at 70 miles with stomach issues but Elise made it to the finish, I am so happy for her and I was so happy to be there to witness it!  I met so many inspiring people over the weekend it’s hard to be too upset with the outcome of my race.

I’m just going to finish by saying that this is an amazing race, put on by amazing people, if you’re looking for a challenging race with that “old school” vibe do this race. You wont regret it, and hey isn’t there a saying about “third time’s a charm”?

I love my mug, but does any know if it's dishwasher safe?

I love my mug, but does any know if it’s dishwasher safe?

My chest x-ray. (Well a picture I took of my chest x-ray, honestly the image quality is much better than my phones!)

My chest x-ray.


Haliburton Forest 50km Race Report

So the plan for Hali was that we would  be heading out of the city at 1pm getting up there with plenty of time to set up camp and catch up with people before the pre-race meal and meeting.  Isn’t there a saying about best laid plans?
We ended up arriving at the Haliburton Forest at 6pm just as dinner was to start.  We quickly grabbed our race kits because they had our meal tickets, but even that took longer than expected as Dan threw everyone for a loop by announcing that he would like to drop from the 100 mile to the 50km.  I was surprised but completely understood where he was coming from.  Once we got that sorted out it was off to get some grub (as usual I was starving).  Having never run this race before I loved sitting at the big tables in the chalet style restaurant listening to everyone’s excitement.  It just so happened that we ended up at the same table as Carolyn, who I’ve run with a bunch of times now, and her running partner Yves, of all the tables!  As dessert was being served a microphone started being passed around the room and we were all asked to introduce ourselves and say what race we were doing, etc.  I’m not going to lie, I was not excited at this prospect and wondered how long this was going to take, but I very quickly got swept up and enjoyed listening to all the comments and I finally got to put some names to some faces!  After saying lots of hello’s we figured we better go and find somewhere to camp, but as luck would have Dan’s friend Mitch,who’s in-laws have a trailer in the reserve, invited us to stay with him, that was awesome.  The downside was that he was stuck in traffic, so we’d have to wait for him.  Well he didn’t turn up until just after 9, then it was a 25 minute drive to the trailer, then we had to make up beds (Cameron, who was traveling with us slept on the kitchen floor!).  I tried to get myself as ready for the morning as possible but with no space to spread out it was tough, plus I just wanted to get to bed because as it was rapidly approaching 11pm and we were going to be up at 4:30, I was mostly bugged by the fact that I couldn’t tape my toes up and new I would end up paying for it.  Despite the trailer being toasty and our bed comfortable, I had a terrible nights sleep.  I heard every trip to the bathroom, woke up to find Cameron standing over me causing me to scream, scaring Cameron reaching for a pillow over me, making him scream, it wasn’t good.  I was staring at my alarm willing it to go off for what felt like hours, it finally did and it was comical to watch us all dancing around one another trying to get ready.  We somehow managed to get out the door on time.
I’m glad we made it to the start on time because Helen said a lovely prayer and then we had a piper march us to the start line.  I ran around the start line hugging my friends heading out on their first 100 mile attempts (ok maybe one or two second attempts as well) including Alex, Carolyn, and Joe, saying a silent thanks that it wasn’t me.  There was a count down and we were off!  The 6am start included the 100 mile, 50 mile and 50km racers.  It was a little dark, thankfully enough people had planned for this and their lights helped to lead the way, it also helps that the first few kilometres are on the road.
I didn’t really have a plan going into this race, I had only run 10km of the course (10km that was not in my race!) but I knew from that run that this was going to be a challenging course.  After looking at the previous years times, I figured if I finished between 7 and 8 hours and be happy and firmly mid-pack (just the way I like it).  The course is an out and back with a loop in the middle, it sounds and looks confusing but the race organizers did an amazing job of marking the course and letting us know about when we needed to pay attention.
I really struggled with the course looking at this map but once explained and I saw the flag placement it made complete sense.

I really struggled with the course looking at this map but once explained and I saw the flag placement it made complete sense.

Dan and I settled into a nice pace, by the time we hit the first trail section the runners had spread out enough that there was no conga line issues, something I did start to take issue with was the prevalent use of bear bells.  Okay I get that this is bear country (but so is Limberlost and I’ve never heard a bell there), but seriously bears are way more afraid of you and there is no proof that they work (this article quotes an expert who says you may end up attracting them)!  If you want to scare off a bear then get a bear banger, or at least get a bell with a magnet so that it doesn’t jingle until you need to make noise.  Ok rant over, where was I?  Yes I was finding myself irritable.  I think it was the lack of sleep, but I felt down right grumpy and anti social all of a sudden.  I’m sure Dan was wondering about my short one word answers, and the fact that when we passed people I only said hello instead of asking their life story as usual.  To be fair the course is stunning so I was distracted taking in the beautiful sights (and kicking myself for not bringing my camera).  It’s also gnarly, constant up and down, roots, rocks, moss, log bridges, everything and anything, so I was trying not to fall over, there wasn’t much soft ground to fall on.
After A.S.#4 Dan and I were pretty much on our own (no more bells!), he was leading and we were running some runnable trail, when I could hear two woman chatting behind us, and that was it, I passed Dan and just took off.  I just wanted to be alone in the quiet in this beautiful forest, me and my foot steps (and panting).
Running fast was therapeutic and I loved every step, in the back of my mind I knew this wasn’t sensible and that I would be miserable and cranky if I blew up but I didn’t care.  At 20km the lead runner passed me in the opposite direction, moving crazy fast, he had 10km on me!  Seeing people on their way back to the finish only made me move quicker, the lead lady went flying by looking amazing, I passed through A.S.#5 and headed to the turn around, I didn’t know how much beyond the aid station it would be (much further than I thought!) people already turned kept telling me I was almost there, finally I came up to a sign that simply said “50km turnaround”.  I stopped and stared at it.  I was on my own and was confused that there wasn’t an actual person checking off runners, to be sure I shouted “hello?!”  no one answered so I turned and headed back.  Only in ultra running would there be an honour system turnaround!
It took me 3:11 to traverse 25km and now I had to go back the way I came.  I saw Dan just as I was approaching A.S.#5, he gave me a high-five.  He looked pretty good for a guy who had hardly run in 6 weeks, a bit warm but otherwise not too bad.
At the aid station I ate some oranges and filled my water bottle.  I had made a small error in the morning, because I was cranky and being a brat and I couldn’t find my camera, I decided to just run with 1 handheld, threw some Justin’s PB in my waist belt and figured I’d be fine.  I have no idea why I thought that, I’m always hungry and 1 bottle of Vitargos was not going to last me for 50km!  I even had some in a little bag that I could have brought with me and mixed at an aid station since I only wanted carry 1 bottle, but no I was left with no choice than to eat at the aid stations and hope my tummy co-operated.
As I headed back out on course I caught up to a man and we chatted a bit and then he made some comment about running like a girl and took off.  I was left wondering what the heck he was talking about as I walked up a big hill eating my hazelnut Justin’s, so tasty.  And then the 26km runners started to pass heading to their turnaround.  I made sure to great everyone, I didn’t always receive a reply which quite frankly is just rude.  Then I noticed that I seemed to always be the one getting out of their way, and well that annoyed me so I started charging straight at everyone unless they were looking like they were going to share the trail (and I know I shouldn’t enjoy doing that, but I was running further so get out of my way!).  I caught back up to the man who had run away from me earlier and he started to tell me about all his injuries and why he was going to let me go today….let me go?  What, you’re sure you could beat me any other day? Dude get over it, a girl passed you there is no shame in that, there were lot’s of ladies ahead of you.   Anyway I told him he should just run his own race and left him in the dust this time.
Speaking of running their own race, I was starting to wonder where our friend Mitch was.  He was doing the 26km and this would be the furthest he’d ever run, it’s so exciting watching someone get into running.  Next thing I knew he popped up over a crest, I made sure was alive and told him he was doing great.  He wanted to know when I dropped Dan 🙂
At the next aid station I made the mistake of having some Heed, that stuff just touching my lips had my stomach flipping, thankfully the sweet volunteer saw my near vomit and swiftly took the cup away from me replacing it with water, she just smiled and said “a lot of people have that reaction to Heed”.  It has to be said all of the volunteers were amazing.  I mean fantastically amazing.  Just awesome.
Back on my way, I wondered how my brother-in-law’s 12km went.  This guy doesn’t train and is fast, my sister feels he’s part gazelle.  This was his first trail race though and I thought it might humble him, it didn’t, he was 4th male and was hanging with the winner for the first 5km!  Well done Steve.
As I came into A.S. #2 I actually saw Steve, and it took me a second to realise he was done and back to cheer us on.  What a boost, my Daddy, Sisters and best of all my 3.5month old nephew!  (Cutest little guy, aid station ladies agreed with me!)  With 12km to go mentally I felt the best I had all day (although I give my family credit for that boost) but my body was beginning to feel the hard effort and the constant terrain changes, I reminded myself that sometimes it hurts and to get on with it, I’m going to be in pain for much longer in a couple of weeks at Mogollon.
I managed to pass one man the whole Normac loop, he was lovely and tried to run with me telling me how he’d run the race 15 years prior in 4:15, he said this hurt more (we were over 6 hours now).  He finally had to walk but told me I looked great and to keep going it’s the easy road stretch, no excuses.   And that I did.  The road is rolling and had a funny slant so I was running in the middle where I was sure I’d be hit by a car, but I promised myself no stopping until the finish.  Back into A.S.#2 I was shocked to see the family still there and hugged them all again, handed off my hand held bottle and headed to the finish.  Of course it’s still 2km from there and there is hill (not steep but long), I ran every step.  Passed a guy in the 26km race who told me he pulled his groin…ok boys, seriously enough of this!  I was too happy to be finishing to worry about his ego. The final stretch is through the gate and I lucked out that a nice man was coming through and he let me through before closing it (other runners had to go around the outside of it).  I didn’t have a kick (never do so this shouldn’t have surprised me) so I stayed steady for the finish line, of course 30 meters out pulled groin guy decides he can now sprint and blows past me.  All I could do was laugh, the people on the sidelines were all commenting on what a jerk he was and good job on my finish.
Finally finishing a race happy!

Finally finishing a race happy!

All said it took me 6:46:11 and I placed 8th female and 21st overall.  Not a bad effort for what I thought in the first 10km was going to be a horrible day.
Another one for the pot!

Another one for the pot!

I have to say again that this is a fabulously run race, even at the finish someone was straight over to me with water in hand calling me by my first name (I know it’s written on my bib but it’s the extra effort to actually use my name that’s touching).  I was given a “brown bag” lunch which I wolfed down because (surprise surprise) I was starving.  Then put on some warm clothes and waited for Dan and Mitch to finish.  Mitch did great and has already signed up for another race in November (I think we’ve got him hooked).
Dan finally sauntered in, smiling and happy to have finished a race!  And that made me smile for the rest of the day.

Ultra Truths


To say that this summer has not really gone to plan with regards to racing would be somewhat of an understatement.  My training for the most part has been spot on, clicking off the distances I had prescribed for myself and over all feeling great, ramping up when I felt good and enjoying ‘bonus” runs with friends, and on the days where I wasn’t feeling at my best I would dial back, but on average always hitting the KM’s.  Races however have been a different story….

I came into the ultra season feeling strong, my winter training was focused on speed and shorter races.  With each week and each race, PB’s seemed to tumble with easy, 2 mins off a 5k, over 20 mins off a 30k, my basic 5k track workout was faster than my previous PB.  The transition to an ultra training program was smooth, factoring in more trails and adding in a second long run on Sundays.  The first trail race of the season was PYP 25k this too went great, and then immediately after racing went south….

Some of this will be a rehash so apologies, but as much as anything else I want this posting to help give me some much needed introspection.

Next up was Bear mountain, a race I had been thirsty for all winter, I had some lofty ambitions about improving on the previous years performance.  But the week before I was struck with a random injury, stepping out of bed I had shooting pains radiating from my foot to my hip, this subsided somewhat before the race but my foot was still in pain, still I decided to toe the line, quickly it became apparent that the goals I had set were not going to be realistic and I timed out at the first hard cutoff.  Now here is something that I have not discussed with anyone to this point including Heather – I was in pain, I did sit down and wallow in self-pity at an aid station gathering my thoughts, I was happy to have missed the cut-off, but here is the thing I have not admitted to myself or anyone else, I could have made that cut-off maybe not by much but I could have done it, I let myself be timed out of that race.  The pain was a factor, worrying about more damage that I could have caused also factored in there, but more than anything there was over riding sense of vanity and entitlement.  I did not want to go on if this wasn’t going to be the race I had planned, I deserve better, I will get the “planned” later, but will address the deserve now.  Quite what gave me the delusion that I deserve a given result or time is beyond me, I am still a relatively inexperienced ultra runner, but what strikes me the most as I look at this, is the notion that the race owed me something rather than the other way around.  I owe the race and myself my best effort; the race owes me nothing (well a tee shirt is nice).  I wouldn’t have finished this race and ultimately stopping was probably the right thing for my leg, but I could have maned up made that cut-off and called it quits having pushed as hard as I could to that point, leaving the best of what I had on course, instead I let the clock tick down to take that decision out of my hands.  Key Lesson = Vanity has no place in ultra or any other type of running.

Next up was the Niagara Ultra.  Here again I went in with an expectation of what I was capable of.  However this is a good news story, I set out to sub 5 hour this, despite being on pace up to around the 30k mark the heat kicked my ass, and I ended up far far slower.  The difference here was I acknowledged that I am not a good heat runner and was able to adjust my expectations.  I realigned my goals mid race, resetting my watch and in essence starting a new race mentally.  I crossed the finish line, and didn’t give a toss that my goal time had been chucked out of the window, I was happy to have adapted.  Key Lesson = Mental strength and adaptation = medal.

Limberlost, “lost” being the key part of this race, so a few things went wrong on this one.  Physically I was A-ok but I did get lost on lap one and later lost my race bib, these things added a few kilometers to my race.  After getting lost on lap one I automatically gave up on the race, I decided I would lounge around wait for Heather and then go out for a lap with her and call it a day.  I waited the better part of an hour for H before we went out together, then after some miscommunication I lost her half way around, I came in from that loop and flopped down, justifying that with my detours I was not that far off 42k anyway.  The reality is I had hours and hours to do one more lap, but again it wasn’t going to be the race “I wanted” so why bother.  So here is that vanity again, but also I think it shows a lack of respect for the people who did finish the marathon in 8 hours,  somehow I put myself above them, yet they were the ones with a medal at the end of the day not me, so who is the better runner? Key Lesson = Respect the race, respect the racers

Dirty Girls, now this one is something different again (look at me learning lessons).  The 24 hours at last years race was my A race, I loved it I got my first belt buckle and my first hallucination, so was excited to hit up this race again.  This time was the 12 hour race, run over night, I love night running so it was going to be a good time.  As we know I had a slight mishap putting a hole in my knee that required stitches and subsequently got infected.  For the infection I was given a 10 day course of antibiotics, which I was told may upset my stomach, I explained the race to the doctor and he suggested I stop taking the antibiotics the day before, I hadn’t explained it was a night race so I figured I could just stop taking them 8 hours before the race.  The running felt great and I had some great company but by the third lap I had stomach cramps and some kidney pain, I called it quits at 24k.  This time I absolutely did the right thing stopping, I was putting pressure on my body that it wasn’t up for, in essence I had done my best.  It did not however feel that way, especially not as I was shivering in the car under a picnic blanket, with thoughts of not toeing the line at Haliburton or reducing my distance running through my mind.  What I should have been doing was acknowledging on this day under these conditions I had given my all that I could/should give and far from being a bad thing that was something I should celebrate.  What more can I expect than my best on a given day. Key lesson = My best is good enough.

Acknowledging these short comings is, I believe, essential for my growth as a runner.  The entitlement and to some extent arrogance I have shown in these races has led me to feel far too much pressure which in turn means that I have not enjoyed the races, which is a shame as they are all fantastic courses run be great RD’s.  Also accepting that the people who finished and finished slower than my planned time still achieved something I did not, to the trail gods I apologise for this lack of respect.   Another question I had asked myself was around my mental toughness, am I softer than I think? The answer I came back with is probably I am, but I am tough enough to run 120k at Dirty Girls and 50 miles at Bear Mountain, so I was tough enough to have run all of these races.  Whats more is I am mentally tough enough to run a 100 miles?

Haliburton race strategy is as follows, run without a watch, run by feel, keep it simple, run happy and stay on course until I either finish or they drag me off.

Dirty Girls 12 hour Race Report

Or how not to do Dirty Girls
I was really looking forward to this race, my training had been spot on (although lacking some quality workouts) my goal was 80km(50 miles) a tough challenge on this course, but I wanted a challenge.  Five days before the race however my body decided to have a melt down.  It started while Dan and I had been hiking/camping, we’d set up camp, had a snack and were now lounging around enjoying the view, Dan asked me a question and my response came out as  a squawk.  I cleared my throat, but got the same noise.  My throat had been a bit sore in the morning but I had put that down to allergies and all the fresh air I was getting, I was wrong.
I ended up losing my voice completely, it felt like I was swallowing razors and had a constant stream of snot coming out my nose.  I was told it was a virus and that it would just run it course, I asked how long this course would be since I had a course to run myself in a few short days.  My doctor enjoyed the joke but just shrugged, “you might feel better tomorrow, but you might not feel better until next week”.   I proceeded to spend the rest of the week trying all sorts of home remedies and by Saturday morning I sort of had a voice, but there was still a lot of snot.  Oh and my period started. Sigh.  I’ve been pretty lucky thus far with my cycles and have only run one race prior on my period, typically I skip all exercise day one and two, great, a new “challenge”.
The race starts at 8pm so we tried to have a relaxing day, ate a big meal at lunch time, then some ice cream at 4pm and a granola bar in the car on the way to Mansfield.  I felt fuelled and ready but I had quickly looked at the website to find out how far I needed to run to get my OUSER points, so 48km (each loop is 8km) became my worse case scenario but I was stilling holding out for a miracle hope.
Wake up Dan we have to run a race now.

Wake up Dan we have to run a race now.

Once we arrived it was fun to catch up with our ultra friends and see some runners in the 24 and 48 hour race go through.  It was finally time for us 12 hour runners to go, I had brief panic as I momentarily misplaced my headlamp (I really did not need anymore challenges), but found it with about 30 seconds to spare.
Ultra friends.

Ultra friends.

Lap 1 – 1:07:14
Dan and myself ended up running with friends Pete (met at Sulphur and he too had a bad day at Limberlost) and Carolyn (met at PYP and ran with at Limberlost- have I mentioned I have no business running with this girl?)  We set off at what Carolyn considered a “conservative” pace, I felt it was a little harder than that, but that was my aim, I was still delusional enough to believe I could push myself for 12 hours.  The first lap was fun we all just chatted, took in as much of the course in daylight that we possibly could and found ourselves back at the start in no time.
Lap 2 – 1:10:06
We cruised on through the aid station and headed straight back out on the course.  It was dark now, I have to say that I love my NAO headlamp, I had no issues seeing what was going on around me.  We just plugged away still rolling a good pace, saying hello to runners we knew who’d been out there for hours already, apologising for our fresh legs, near the end of this loop I felt like I could use a bathroom break but I really liked the groove we were in so I didn’t stop and we rolled on.
Lap 3 – 1:07:19
Dan had topped up his bottle at the end of lap two and mentioned that his stomach was feeling a bit off.  Unfortunately for Dan he has had a rough go since he injured his knee, the wound ended up getting infected and he had to go on antibiotics, the doctor told him he could run the race but to stop his medication as it’s hard on the tummy.  Dan took his last dose at 12pm that day, but realistically he should have stopped at 8pm the night prior.  Our little train eventually lost Dan, we could still see him on the switchbacks so we knew he was never far behind.  I hoped he could rally.  Half way through this lap I absolutely needed the bathroom which was pretty much the only thing that kept me hustling back the start (there are indoor bathrooms with running water!!!).  Pete took a ninja like spill while checking out his watch to confirm that we were running way too fast (for us), it was impressive, in daylight I wouldn’t have even known he went down, but he was behind us and it went unsettling dark behind me so I turned to see him roll right back up on to his feet and carry on running!
Lap 4 – 1:36:46
Once back at the start/finish I went to take care of things in the bathroom, I bumped back into Pete at the aid station, we filled our bottles and wondered where Carolyn was.  She had wanted to stop to use the bathroom and eat but we could not find her.  Dan finished his lap and told me (and the RD) that he was going to take a break, his stomach was not good.  This was something we had not planned on doing so we had not brought a tent or sleeping bag.  I reminded him of the picnic blanket in the trunk of the car and told him to keep warm.  It was hard because it seemed quite warm running up in the forest but down in the field it was frigid.   After standing around for what felt like forever (only 10 minutes) waiting for Carolyn it occurred to us that she must have gone on, so on we went.  Pete confided that his stomach was also doing flip-flops, and I confided that I was have some serious lady cramping.  I could tell we’d definitely slowed and were running a more appropriate pace.  Pete had a pack malfunction that we had to stop and fix, then it was my turn to hold us up by doubling over on the side of the trail to wait for some cramps to pass.  At the mid-loop aid station Kinga tried to cheer us up by making us some interesting combinations of food (I had humus on white bread with sliced green grape, not bad, but not my new found race food!) but we looked beat up and we’d only run three and a half loops, oh ultra running you humbling sport of crazy people.  We pushed on, we were actually still moving at a decent pace but we had to stop one more time for me to whimper on the side of the trail (it was a quiet whimper as my voice was losing power).   I finally pulled myself together and decided to get the heck out of the bush, plus I needed the bathroom again.
Lap 5 – 1:40:02
After another pit stop and some broth at the aid station, Pete decided he needed a break, I decided I did to.  Back at the car I found Dan cocooned in the picnic blanket wearing all the clothes he could find (I was impressed he thought to bring a beanie).  I got into the passenger seat, leaned it all the way back, put my coat on and proceeded to shiver.  Dan woke up and gave me a small corner of the blanket and asked what was going on.  I told him we were taking a break, he asked if I told the RD I was doing this, I said no and he said I should because that’s what she had asked us to do at the pre-race briefing (which I had missed looking for my headlamp), oh.  I laid there for about 5 minutes (shivering) before deciding that if I was going to get up to tell them I was taking a break I should just get up and run another lap.  I gave Dan his corner of blanket back and told I was going to go torture myself.  I took his iPod (I’ve never tried running with music or earphones)  and I listened to a podcast on this loop, making sure to pause it and talk to any runner that I would go by or passed me.  I had to keep sucking on lozenges because it was painful to swallow, I started to worry about my nutrition as I wasn’t eating or drinking (lozenges have sugar in them though right?) This time at the mid-loop aid station Kinga gave me a rice cake covered in peanut butter GU topped with a slice of banana and one M&M.  Again pretty good, but not life changing.   On I went just plodding away, running as much as I could because I wasn’t dressed warm enough to walk for long.  Finally made it back to base, used the bathroom again and warmed up with some lentil soup (tasty!).
Lap 6 – 1:30:07
I hemmed and hawed about going out again.  Pierre and Leanne were a little concerned about my voice, it was screechy (worse than usual) and I was getting cold.  I resolved that I had to finish lap six (48km) before I tried to take another break because realistically it was going to be difficult to get going again.  So off I went, new podcast queued up, and a little pep in my step knowing I could rest soon.  I was getting tired and started tripping a lot but managed to keep myself upright.  Had a chat with Maryka (we met at Sulphur) the #1 female in the 48 hour event with 236km, she was moving so well I was so inspired/amazed, I can’t even imagine what that would feel like.  She eventually told me to get going so I did, then I ran into Hutch (met at Limberlost last year) he was death marching his final few laps for his 120km in 24 hours (actually he ended up doing the 122km).  We had a good long chat and I tried to pull him along but eventually he told me to get going and to not beat myself up for not reaching my goal and we can choose to learn from failure (he is still too wise for his age).  Smiling as I came into the mid-loop aid station I skipped the smorgasbord and opted for some icy cold water to soothe my throat.  I helped light the way up the long hill for a 24 hour runner whose flashlight was dying.  I offered to stay with him, but he insisted I move on.  How can one not love a sport where we encourage each other so much? As I ran into the start area I made sure to tell the time keepers I was taking a break.  I hit the bathroom again, had more broth, changed into my sweatpants and shirt and stole half the blanket from Dan.
In the end I woke up at 5:30am and thought about going back out, but I fell back to sleep until 6:30am (race ended at 8am) so we decided to call it a day.  We still got medals which finally put a smile on Dan’s face!
Dirty Girls is such as awesome race, I wish I could have had a better day, but I would encourage anyone to give this event a try, the people you will meet will make it worth while whether or not you reach your goal.
Disclaimer:  We do not endorse running with a virus or infected leg wound.
Super cool medal.

Super cool medal.

Mec 10km Race Report 2013

Short and sweet.

This race was back in July, Dan and I had planned to run it as a bit of speed work.  MEC offers low cost races 5 times a year, and at $15 for a chip timed event we thought it was worth a try.
Of course Dan would continue his dismal summer of racing by falling and gashing his leg open 2 days before the race, so it was just me and now the race cost $30, hmm the value was disappearing.
Race morning I overslept and just didn’t get going until I realised I had to run to the race start, what was supposed to be a gentle warm-up turned into a 5km mad dash.  I made it to the start line with 6 minutes to spare, just enough time to pick up my chip, figure out how it went on and line-up.
Low key race kit pick up/start and finish

Low key race kit pick up/start and finish

My goal was just to beat my previous 10km PB which was pretty soft at 59:38, that was set in 2011 (link), I haven’t run a 10km race since then.  So as I stood on the start line I was trying to do some math to figure out what pace I needed to run but my math stinks so I decided to aim for 5min/km, that would get me a new PB.  I should probably mention that I hadn’t been doing any specific training for this race, I spend more time doing hill workouts than speed workouts, this course was flat as a pancake so I wasn’t overly confident my training was going to get me a PB.
The race started and my first plan of action was to not start too fast and to safely get around all the people who insist on starting right up front and then walk 10 minutes into the race.  This included passing a 7 year old girl who was already crying at the 1km marker because her and her dad were “losing”, way to set your kid up for success!  First km was a 4:49, I just tried to focus on staying consistent.  The course is a lollipop out and back that you run twice (there was also a 5km option) which was nice as you got see lots of people, there were only about 130 people in the 10km and 160 in the 5km.  I was surprised there was an aid station at such a low key affair and although I didn’t use it many people were.  It was a pleasant day for a run, a little humid but cloudy so we didn’t have the direct sunlight to deal with.
I came into the 5km turn around in 25:32 minutes and decided that there was no way I was going to sub-50 minutes since I never negative split (and there was a surprising head wind on the return portion), but then I thought “why not”, new goal, let’s get uncomfortable and negative split and go for the sub-50 mins.  The course was busier now with all the 5km runners returning, it was fun to cheer people on, although I felt like the only one doing this.  I do like holding something back for the second half, it is fun to fly (at least that’s what it feels like to me) by all the blown up people who went out too fast.  It’s also strange that after 40 minutes the race was almost done, that’s short races for yah (oh yeah and the race was already over for the winners).
With 2km left I really started to push, smiling as I came around the final corner I couldn’t see the finish clock and had no idea how I was doing for time (I had pushed something on my garmin and it was only displaying my average pace and I suck at math…) so imagine my surprise when I crossed the line in 49:50.  I had done it, I actually ran a negative split, I actually ran a sub 50 minute 10km (mediocre yes, but MY mediocre time).
The finish line was, well nothing really, there was some cookies, and bananas and you had to line up and fill your own Dixie cup with water (which I kind of liked).  I did run the 5km home at a much more pedestrian pace since I didn’t have anywhere to be.
I would do one of these events again.  It was well supported for the cost and it was a fun way to get my morning run in with a bit of speed work.
That'd be a PR, with zero training, my favourite kind!

That’d be a PR, with zero training, my favourite kind!

And now a little rant….
I have never seen so many water belts in my life.  Ok it was 5 km or 10 km and yes its the summer, but I would hope that most people had been training for this.  I was alarmed at the number of people I saw with hydration packs.  I’d like to believe that some of those people had done what I did and had run there and were going to run home, but I know that was not the case for some.  I didn’t bring anything with me and only had one Dixie cup of water after the race.  That was plenty.  These companies have certainly done an excellent job of marketing and selling the need for hydration, but I have to say after dealing with Dan’s hypernatremia and making changes myself, I believe we are becoming a waterlogged nation and these short races are proof of it.  People too afraid to run a supported race without their own water.  Plus who wants to run with water if you don’t need to, I’m sure (at least I hope) most of those runners returned to the finish line carrying most of that weight.
Rant over.

The Dangers of Drinking and Running


Well I suppose it would be remiss of me not to post on the latest running mishap. This time it wasn’t even Heather damaging herself it was yours truly.

Last Thursdays training run was a run of two parts, the first part of the run was a brisk 10k followed by a couple of pints and plate of nachos with Heather and Cam. Part one was very pleasant, part two not so much. Heather and I bid farewell to Cam and started our run home.  Barley 500m later I managed a very public trip and nose dive into a flower bed whilst trying to dodge pedestrians.  A little shaken I got to my feet, quick system check, hmm a little dirty, little shocked all seems ok, oh hang on did I always have that hole in my leg?  On rapid reflection I concluded that this was a new hole indeed.  Heather was great making sure I wasn’t more broken and suggesting I also clean my face up a little as it seemed to be disturbing passers by.  At this stage my options seemed to be; feel sorry for myself and catch the subway home or run the last 5k of my run, obviously I chose the latter which elicited strange looks from people, fair considering the blood running down my shin.



Now when I am not moaning about an injury it is bad news.  If I am moaning typically I am just being a wuss, however if I get all stoic then we may have something of an issue.  We had an issue, Heather attempted to clean out the wound but as she did he realized it was both dirtier and deeper than our home first aid kit was able to handle, despite my efforts to dig bark mulch out of the gash with a Q-tip (eventually this resulted in me feeling kinda woozy).   So this was to be my first trip to a Canadian accident and emergency (they just call it Emergency here).  The Doc did a great job of cleaning me up, and I ended up with 4 stitches. During the stitching and cleaning I chatted to the doctor about running and up coming races, which I think was good because he didn’t say I wasn’t allowed to run.  I think he knew that I was not going to abide by this even he did say it, instead he simply told me to stick a band-aid over it and keep it clean.



The next day my leg was stiff and I was hobbling a bit, decided to skip the MEC 10k I had planned for Saturday and rest up ready for my birthday run. Heather however still ran the race and set herself a new 10k pb.

You will all be pleased to know that I am whingeing and complaining about my leg – I must be in the mend.

Beer Mile Race Report 2013


Heather’s stipulation for the 2nd annual beer mile was that under no circumstances must Molson Canadian be the beer of choice. This resolution however quickly faded, as is tradition with the beer mile we provide beer for anyone foolhardy enough to enter, that mornings hung over (Heather not me for once) run to the Bleasdell Boulder left H somewhat spent, so the thought of travelling further than our local rural LCBO was decidedly unpalatable. This is how the field once again ended up with Canadian, to my mind whilst a vile beer a great choice for a Canada Day Weekend beer mile. Heather however was bound and determined to find an alternative that would fit within official beer miles rules, this is how she ended up with James Ready 5.5’s, I can only put this choice down to her lack of experience with bucka’ beers.

Having made a few more friends in the ultra community I have encountered more benchmarks for what constitutes a good beer mile time. In particular the Boultbee sisters sub 8 mins. Now in a normal race those ladies can kick my ass, but surely where beer is concerned and the mechanics of drinking said substance in abundance and quickly I had to have the advantage. I stand around 8 inches taller and out weigh them by the better part of a 100lbs. Non the less their time was over 2 mins faster than my previous years effort, but last year was my first effort at this and in general I have become a faster runner in this last year, perhaps this increased speed was to be the foundation of a beer mile legend…

Our motley crew of beer milers.

Our motley crew of beer milers.

We had several returning competitors, including Heather and her cousin Alex both seeking redemption, last year Alex avoided the lap of shame by the narrowest margins, finishing with hampsteresque cheeks full of vomit, and we know that Heather was the sole participant in the lap of shame.  Alongside these veterans we had a few newbies, not least of all Blake the younger brother of the previous years ladies title holder. Blake lined up in little more than flip-flops but from the go he was snapping at my running shoe clad heels. Don’t get me wrong dude looks like a runner, but damn he could put those beers away too.

Where'd everybody go?

Where’d everybody go?

But as Blake and I were duking it out a quite interesting fight for third place was brewing. Last years runner up Brandon was being bested by Alex, by his own admittance Brandon had let his running slide over the last year, but was Alex really going to be able to maintain this drinking pace?  It seems that in the last year Alex has spent as a student has strengthened his constitution, but surly he was punching out of his weight class.

Also new to the race we had Geoff who in his own right is a beer drinking champ but on this hot day the combination of the running and drinking led him to bow out after finishing the first loop in a respectable third place.

One of the biggest shocks of the race is reigning Masters Champion Dalton blowing a gasket after just 2 beers, this was blamed on the short duration between lunch and the event, and he is my father in law so what he says goes ;-). He then bowed out of the remaining race.   Last years runner up in the men’s masters took top honours in that division, congratulations to Neil.

Meanwhile I was 2 beers in with Blake still just seconds back, this bit of fun was all if a sudden feeling like a race, we trotted in for beer number 3 still with seconds separating us we each watched the other chugging at their beer neither of us wanting to go to fast and risk a technicolor explosion and at the same time not wanting the other to take the advantage. As we left for our penultimate lap I passed Alex still in third place and still with enough spring in his stride to high five me as he bounded by (our course is a 200m out and back).

Having a bit of fun before realising how close those legs were behind me!

Having a bit of fun before realising how close those legs were behind me!

Meanwhile in the ladies race Heather was the only returning combatant, going head to head with her was her mum Cathy and older sister Laura. The latter were both running with modified rules Laura chugging diet coke and Cathy an unappealing combination of cider and diet coke.  Both finished ahead of Heather but under beer mile official rules that leaves only Heather to take the official female title in a time of 19:50 mins, with no lap of shame. However there was copious post run vomiting.

Alex was the only one brave enough to go near Heather.

Alex was the only one brave enough to go near Heather.

Alex held on to his third place beating Brandon into fourth although I am not sure if he held onto his beer as he seemed to disappear into the woods for a long time post race.

As for Blake and me we came in for that final beer still only seconds apart, it was here however that I was able to pull away as Blake struggled a little with his last beer. I finished up just over 9 mins, would have been under had I not stopped for another beer forgetting to actually finish the race. I am bewildered at how much faster people can run this.

I did make a couple of errors that slowed me down, the long training run completed an hour so earlier probably slowed the legs down a bit. However the biggest mistake I made was making the beer ice cold, it actually hurt to chug it, maybe that is just because my British taste buds are accustomed to somewhat warmer beer.

When all said and done it was a blast, and if Blake trains as he was threatening to do I think next year I will be handing over my title.

Until next year my friends, stay thirsty!!