Pick Your Poison 25km 2014


Every busy schedule needs some respite. In years past that rest has been in the form of breaks from running, however the past 6 months we have been more than a little preoccupied preparing for next big adventure (read www.jfdioverland.com) so running has actually become the break, the pro of this is that any long run feels like a treat, the con is that I have turned into a rolly Polly tub of lard trundling down the trails.

So with the stress of condo rental, insurance, truck mods, route planning, and what bloody social media outlet is the most engaging and interesting for people, oh and not to mention how to pack my personal gear into a 62L tote, put to one side for the weekend (well a Saturday morning) it is time for my first race of the season, Pick Your Poison.

This is how I found myself driving a motley crew of Cam, Mitch, Ben and myself to Horseshoe ——- with Geoff meeting us there. We arrived to find the hill shrouded in fog and still covered in snow, conditions obviously weren’t going to be quite as conducive to a fast run as they were last year, that combined with getting fat over a cold ass winter and all reasons/excuses for not getting a PB were in place. Now don’t be thinking that this is one of those under dog stories where at the end I triumphantly dip at the line to shave a second off last years time, I didn’t, in fact I added several hundred seconds to last year. Ok there, that is out of the way, so I can continue and any of you reading won’t have false expectations.

It was great seeing all our trail buddies coming out of hibernation, it was unfortunate that Heather had to work, however Mitch and Geoff were keeping me suitably entertained. Mitch had decided to throw down the gauntlet and declare that he would be pipping Geoff to the finish on this day, Mitch is an aspiring ultra runner, where Geoff is much more of an ultra veteran, still I thought this may be an entertaining dual as Mitch has been training hard in preparation for Sulpher 50k his first ultra. Geoff was a little taken a back by the challenge but more than happy to take up this whipper snappers challenge.

The race started at pretty gentle pace, the trails certainly were going to be challenging. I got to catch up with a few more friends on that first loop. Just after the first aid station I decided to look back and see how the Mitch-Geoff battle was shaping up, I saw Geoff was a minute or so behind me so I waited for him to catch up, we chatted for a while and established that Mitch was just behind. Mitch caught up and we cruised together for a while with me chastising Geoff for his decision to sign up for a Tough Mudder. Near the end of the first lap I pulled away from the boys on some long up hills.

At the start of the second loop I was going to wait for the guys and run some more with them and watch their battle unfold, but at the first aid station I got talking to a girl I had been running just behind during loop 1, and we ran together for half of that second loop having a good old natter so time just flew by. The only slight hiccup of our time running together came when we were taking about work life balance, as the word balance left her lips she tripped and hit the deck hard, fortunately the irony did not escape her and we had a good laugh about it after she had dusted herself down. I had put some distance between myself and the boys but had been able to catch glimpses of them as the trails switched back and forth. I saw that Geoff had built a lead over Mitch but couldn’t really tell by how much.

The trails were enormous fun, I actually really enjoyed all the slipping and sliding, then to cap off a great race I got lapped by a 50k runner a couple of minutes from the finish, not normally a bonus, but it was Simon Donato from the TV show Boundless, we had a brief chat and I was a little star struck.

I happily collected my socks and settled in to wait for the boys battle to pan out. To my surprise Geoff game blasting in just a few mins later, he must have turned on the afterburners in the later half of that last lap. Mitch came in not too long after, but I made sure to be fully changed for when he did just to psych him out, young grasshopper needs the odd slap down. Mitch was delighted however this was only his second time running this distance on the trails and he had taken the better part of an hour off his previous time.

The rest of the morning was spent chowing down on the awesome post race food, and waiting for our 50k friends to finish up.  Shout out to Melanie who took third female in the 50k.

The only low point of the day was the near 3 hours it took to drive home.

Only two more races before we head out on our big trip.



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.