Friday, November 27, 2020


Winter came for a visit. a big way.

Saturday we didn't have a single flake - the trails were actually quite dull-looking, with all the leaves down. It was overcast and dreary, so everything was cast in browns and greys.

It wasn't the most inspiring landscape, but still better than not being in the woods.

Overnight, that all changed - we woke up Sunday to a winter wonderland!

And a sudden burning need to get our snow tires on..

With temperatures right around the freezing point, the thick, fluffy flakes drifted down and clung to every twig. It was supposed to keep it up all day, too! I managed to find a garage that would change up wheels for us (we have our seasonal tires already mounted on rims, so it's a quick job - could have done it in our driveway, but not without quite a lot of cold and damp at this point), and quickly got into some running kit so I could go run through a part of the city in which I've spent very little time.

I even found a tiny stretch of singletrack!

There was almost noone about - it was just me and the ducks in Soper Park as the snow came down in the early afternoon.

I was seriously outnumbered by waterfowl.

The timing worked out perfectly; Tank finished up at the garage just minutes before I returned, then we headed home for a late brunch...with much improved traction!

The snow kept on coming down, steadily blanketing the world in fluffy white robes.

There's nothing quite like the silence of a heavy snowfall

I stayed very local for my second run, hitting the Linear Trail just across the river a few minutes from home.

I had wondered if a groomed, crushed gravel trail would have enough coverage for my purposes, but even with some slushy bits it was fine.

Our later start to our day meant I headed out just as the sun fell below the horizon - not that we'd seen it all day through the heavy cloudcover - so I got to experience the magical glow of a snowy trail after dark, for the first time this season.

No headlamp required - it's just the best.

It wasn't my only "first" of the season, either; the snow had fallen heavily enough that I cracked out my big foamy snowshoes for their first outing since February!


It wasn't easy - it never is. The heaviness of the snow - almost totally untracked through most of the trail - meant I had to adopt a run/walk interval strategy even on flat ground. 

I didn't, however, stop to sit on any benches - I don't think anyone will be using this one for awhile!

I worked up an absolutely legendary blister (ripped off a chunk of skin the size of a quarter from my heel), got soaked with sweat and snow, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'll be a little more careful about which shoes I wear (and how careful I am about cinching them down) in future, but it really was a blast!

The aftermath remained through the early part of the week, when I'm only really able to run around my neighbourhood.

I got to meet some fun new neighbors, though!

By Tuesday the sidewalks were completely clear, and I could enjoy the beauty of the snow while not having to worry about my footing.

But alas, it wasn't to last - the rain on Wednesday struck a fatal blow, and mild temperatures on Thursday meant that all that lovely snow disappeared into thin air.

I never even managed to get a cross-country ski in!

It certainly was fun while it lasted, though, and I hope we'll see more snowy days this winter. If it's going to be chilly, you might as well be able to enjoy the best that winter has to offer!

I always dream of a white Christmas!

In other news, I'll finally finish my space mission tomorrow - the 100 in 100 might be continuing through February, but Sputnik shall be mine before Sunday!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Keep it 100

..even if it's a tad earlier than usual.

I'm still not sure how to feel about this.

Yeah, that's right - off season is over. All 6 days of it, post-MREAH. I can't even say I took more than my usual Friday off, but I did take it pretty easy; just bodyweight strength work during the week (and pretty easy at that), and my runs were slow and short. I even got in for a massage on Saturday after running down to the market!

Still not used to freezing mornings but the sunshine was lovely

A motorcycle ride in the afternoon, and pleasant evening with my sweetheart - the calm before the storm.


It hosed down rain on Sunday morning, with blustery winds that were predicted to just keep increasing. After hemming and hawing about what I wanted to do first, I got out around half past one to hit the RARE singletrack - I had seen the day before that it hadn't been closed for the season yet (but I only had time to do the main rail trail then), and wanted to get one more look in before it became unavailable til spring.

There had already been some pretty significant damage, at least since the prior week

The wind and rain weren't too bad as I meandered down through the sodden forest, though streams were flowing that usually only appear during the spring melt.

My feet haven't got wet here in months!

I emerged at the switchbacks by the Cambridge heart fossil, and could literally watch the gusts of wind whip upriver.

I also saw a bald eagle perched on a rock near the opposite bank

As I hit the pollinator preserve, though, things turned ugly - the rain picked up and was blown straight into my face, then suddenly a flash and BOOM! An explosion of thunder, very close by. Thoroughly freaked out and in a highly exposed area, I straight-up sprinted toward my car as torrents of water lashed down from the sky.

Didn't want to get hit by lightning any more than I wanted to be hit by a falling tree!

I hit Riverbluffs park, seeing 6.55km on my, like an idiot, I decide I'll run a little out-and-back to make 6.66km. I turned at 6.61k as I heard what sounded like an approaching freight train; a massive gust of wind was headed straight for me, and it was only by luck (and having left the driver's door unlocked) that I was able to jump into my car and slam the door shut before it struck.

That was a little too close.

The only nice part was that after it passed (while I ate a banana in my wind-rocked car), I was able to see the lovely little seasonal waterfall tucked away in the corner of Riverbluffs Park.

Silver linings and all

As I drove home, I saw the destruction wrought by the storm - tree debris all over the driveway of the park, two downed pine trees on George Street, and even a branch at least 2.75" thick broken and laying in the driveway just 2 doors up from our house.

There was a second tree blocking the same side of the road about 50 metres further on

I got home and made a late brunch, and discovered that gust had been so powerful that even my mum had felt it - more than 70km away in Mississauga - because she called to see if we were doing ok. I said we were fine, but told her the tale of my narrow escape. I also promised to be careful when I went back out.

Because of course I was.

For some damn fool reason (I'm told there was a poll that I totally missed), the annual Slowtwitch 100 runs in 100 days challenge started a full month early this year - November 15th instead of December 15th, and since it wasn't a work day, I owed myself at least one more run. 

Thankfully, my husband is amazing. We had a couple of errands we wanted to take care of, but he was willing to drop me off and then wait while I ran a downwind (and - coincidentally - mostly downhill) point-to-point so I could get a second run in. This one would be on road, and we made sure I'd have street lights and sidewalk/multi use path for the whole way just to keep it as safe as possible.

Not quite as interesting as running in the woods, but it did feature a neat art installation and about 100% less chance of being hit by a falling tree.

As much as I'm not a fan of the early start to the 100 in 100 - I think it's ridiculous to have such a challenge end in late February, when there's still so much winter to go - it certainly should help me get my mileage in for the Space Out Virtual Race.

Which is going ok, but there are a shocking number of people already finished.

I don't have a numerical goal for this year: my only solid plan is to run more than once on every day I don't work, and maintain my Fridays off from running. Given the hot start that a lot of people have in the 100 in 100 I may not even be able to stay on the first page of the results, but I only really do the challenge for myself, so I won't concern myself with the doings of a bunch of type-A folks who may or may not be working through the pandemic's second wave. 

Just gonna do my thing.

If I get any doubles in on work days, those will be gravy, but since my new employer shuts down from Christmas Eve until January 2nd I should have a little more opportunity for multi-run days. I just hope I have the sense to back off if I need to during that time; the goal is more mileage and fitness, not another injury-riddled year!

Friday, November 13, 2020

MREAH - the Marathon Rematch of Endless, Asinine Hell - Sunday, November 8th, 2020

 I feared this was going to suck a lot.

It had all the earmarks of a terrible day, save for the weather.

You remember last year there was a ridiculous race called "meh - the Marathon of Endless Hell" that involved running around a ~420m paved path in a small park in Hamilton? Well, I gave it a whack, and it didn't go spectacularly - I ended up dropping halfway through due to ankle and knee issues.

Because I make terrible decisions, I decided to try it again. I was going to do it toward the end of November, but due to the 100 runs in 100 days starting early (November the effin' 15th!) and the predicted weekend of unseasonable warmth, the schedule was moved up considerably. I messaged a couple of friends to see if they'd like to come and laugh at me (or keep Tanker company, or actually join me for a few laps), and completely failed to do anything sensible like taper or even stay off my feet the day before - I ran down to the market and went paddleboarding instead, then got hecck-all for sleep Saturday night.

So, basically standard race prep for me. 

It was a gorgeous morning as we headed down to the Hammer (for the 2nd week in a row), and set ourselves up under the gazebo at Mount Hope Park. 

I left a little space in case I felt like over-achieving - only 18.5 additional laps to make 50k!

I honestly had no idea how well or poorly things were going to go - I only had two solid goals:

1) Finish 100 laps
2) Do so before dark if at all possible

What I saw when I started getting my watch set up to begin.
Oh, Garmin - you're adorable.

I'd hoped to start by 11am, in order to give myself a solid 6 hours before sunset - the day had other ideas, so we were a bit late getting on the road. I'm not very experienced with having to bring everything I'll need all day for myself PLUS a full aid station, so there was some last-minute racing around to grab some things, like plastic cups for friends to use if they wanted to have some water from the big 18L bottle (with pump) we were bringing, or split a beer with Tank. We had also packed along our single-burner camp stove so my darling husband could brew up as much coffee as his heart desired, and maybe I could get a cup along the way, too...which meant I needed to make sure we had coffee cups, as well! 

If you've ever been lucky enough to have Tank's coffee, you'll understand why I was so stoked about this.

By a little after 11:30am, I was finally ready to go, and set off with no ceremony whatsoever. Heck, I hadn't even done any ankle circles or anything as a warm-up; I just went.

Not that "warming up" was necessarily required, under the hot sun!

I knew I was going to be quite lazy (errh "conservative") right from the start of this thing, but hadn't actually determined what that would really look like. Run-walk strategy for sure, but what proportions? All I could foresee was that there would likely be a lot more walking in the latter half; perhaps almost all of the latter half, depending on how beat up I was feeling by the endless pavement.

At least there weren't any icy patches this time!

I ended up settling on running 3 laps, then walking one - mostly because it felt pretty achievable as a way to keep myself in check, with about 1.25km of run before a walk break to pass the mile mark, and also because it made the math easy. Do it 25 times, and I'd be finished. I also decided it worked out cleanly to change directions every 20 laps, so the plan was set. It's amazing how clearly some things can come into focus if you ponder on them while letting your legs do their thing.

Of course, I couldn't just let my mind wander: while not half as busy as I'd feared on the beautiful, summer-like day, my first few laps were a bit fraught by a couple out walking a triumvirate of dogs. The gentleman was quite good about keeping his two charges leashed in, but the lady was paying no attention whatsoever to where her pup was wandering, which was generally straight toward me on a 12'+ long leash. Since the path was only a dozen feet wide, I had to take action to evade being tripped by her doggo. I'm sure he or she was friendly - certainly not aggressive, just curious - but it's bloody inconsiderate not to be attentive when there are others using a public space.

I'd got about 9 laps in when I saw Sher and Dan arrive, not much after noon. I think it took all of about 3 laps in the midday sun before Sherry said screw it - it was #sportsbrasquad time. Having already heartily considered this option (even though I was wearing a sleeveless shirt), I was only too happy to oblige. 

Dan - being a bit on the pale side - declined to join Team Skins

Tank was good enough to remind me as I hit my walk lap that maybe I should eat something - I was past 30mins, so grabbed a stroopwafel and munched as I walked and chatted. I wasn't quite able to finish it during the walk break, so I ended up carrying it with me as I ran another 3 laps, polishing it off along the way. As I said - what kind of ultrarunner would I be if I couldn't chomp back a stroopwafel while running?

Fun times!

The run 3:walk 1 pattern remained in place as I hit 20 laps and turned from clockwise to counter-clockwise, noting with some dismay that somehow the new direction felt like there was more uphill. I know it's literally impossible, but there was maybe a 1-foot elevation difference over the hundred-or-so metre stretch directly opposite the gazebo that created a false-flat downhill one way and a very slight uphill in the other. Having already run for around 1h15m before switching directions, I could actually feel that, as well as the mounting wind blowing across the open field.

Coming into the "uphill" stretch

Sherry had 10 miles on her plan for the day, which of course would take significantly longer than usual due to my walking laps, as both she and Dan were kind enough to fall into my lazy run/walk scheme. I'm sure the building heat of the day might have contributed to their charitably not leaving me in their dust! 

Well, not by much, anyway.

I wasn't amazing at remembering to eat stuff, though I did make sure I took my water bottle with me on every walk lap to get good hydration in under the hot sun. 

It would often come along on the run laps, too.

It wasn't until 1h20m that I managed to get something else into me - a little "fun size" pack of Fuzzy Peaches. What's weird is that I swear this was the first time I'd ever had candy during a run; I don't really eat much candy to begin with (though I have a deep and abiding relationship with 73% cocoa chocolate covered almonds outside of running), and I've never really been inclined to try gummies during a race after some unfortunate lip-, cheek- and tongue-biting incidents a decade or so ago while trying Clif Shot Bloks. However, I'd had a tiny packet of Sour Patch Kids while out running amok with Dree on Halloween the weekend before - which had tasted incredible - and we'd been beseeched by the owner of the vegan ice cream shop we'd been to on Saturday afternoon for some post-paddling carbo loading to take some of the candy she'd put out for customers, so I found myself nomming away at the wee salty-sugary drops of gelatine and quite enjoying them.

Just one of the myriad treats I'd brought along to sustain me - we were well stocked!

Two hours had ticked past, and I was just about to 40 laps and my next turn-around. I was pleased to note that - with changing direction every 20 laps - I'd get to do 50% more running in the "downhill", clockwise direction than counter-clockwise.

Screw you, non-existent uphill!

It wasn't until 2h10m, though, that I finally managed to remember to get some more calories into me: a coconut date roll, and a handful of pretzel crisps. Once again, I failed to eat everything during my walk lap, and ended up carrying half a dozen little pretzels in my hand for the 3 laps I ran. 

I did make an effort, though, hence my pretzel-stuffed my face here.

It was shortly thereafter that I made it to 50 laps, and which Sher did 1 or 2 more with me to finish her 10 miles (and then some - she was a little late starting her watch, and it read more than 17km by the time she stopped), then bowed out.

Smart girl, that!

As you can see above, Andrea has also showed up, and was keeping Tank company. Dan decided he'd keep going, which actually helped keep me motivated to maintain the 3:1 run/walk pattern for another 10 laps to get me to 60% complete and him to just under 25k before he had had enough. I'd been rolling for a bit more than 3 hours by that point, and decided it was time for some real food. I still have no idea why I even brought gels; it was time to crack out the shoulder bacon and eat a full banana! I also requested that Tank brew me up a cup of coffee, as things definitely weren't getting any easier. I was pretty stoked about the progress I'd made with the help of my friends; if I was going to get this thing done before dark (which would give me about 6hrs total), having 60% of it in the bag in 3h5m was a great start!

Pulling out my coffee cup and chatting with Sherry and Dan before their departure

I was really starting to feel the effects of the pounding on pavement - this was my longest run by far since the end of May, and I usually stick to trails for multi-hour excursions. I was happy I'd been able to truck along decently well while Sherry and Dan were getting their own training in, but my left hamstrings, glutes, and hip (symptoms of an ongoing lower back injury) were starting to complain a lot. I really needed to honour my body by cutting it some slack, and figured I'd laze my way through the last 40 laps leisurely-like.

I'm so grateful these two came out to join in the madness with me, on just a few hours' notice too!
(Bananas for scale)

Feeling like I could afford to take things a bit easy since I was already more than 25km in, and knowing I was now going "uphill" again, I decided I'd just walk a lap and see how I felt. I also put my shirt back on, as the heat was starting to diminish now that it was approaching 3pm.

Andrea switched from crew support to pacer as soon as Sher & Dan left the course.

As it turned out, I spent most of the second half doing a run 1:walk 1 pattern, while checking out all the hot cars and motorcycles ripping it up on Upper James along the eastern border of the park. 

You can see the almost clockwork pattern of 3:1 through 60 laps, then things get a bit...sporadic.

When Tank got the coffee ready, though, I took the opportunity to just walk 3 laps and enjoy my delicious cup of joe.

Advantage of having brought a mug with a sipper lid - I could walk and drink!

I can't tell if the coffee perked me up, or I was just motivated to get things done. In any case my 3 walking laps took me to #69, then I managed to get my butt moving again and ran in #70.

Not half as easily as it looks here.

Around 4h15m and 75 laps in, I realised that my fingers had got all fat and sausage-y - I had brought S!caps, but hadn't taken a single one yet. I downed two of them, knowing I was into the last few laps of the "uphill" counter-clockwise direction. I had a hotspot on the ball of my left foot, another one coming up on the outside of my right foot, and my left TFL was starting to get really stiff, but overall I was actually still moving pretty well. 

Even if it was starting to feel like work.

While my body was responding ok to my demands, it was also making some of its own. I'm not sure if it was the coffee at work or something else, but I was starting to feel some...uhh...urges, for which there were no facilities available. Last year there had been a portajohn at the park; this year, no such thing was present. I had stopped at a fortunately-placed portajohn at a construction site about a mile away from the park on the way down, so things had been fine so far, but that after one rather high-risk fart I really started to wonder if the library in front of the park might be open so I could use their facilities. There weren't even any decently densely leafy bushes behind which I might relieve myself, particularly as most of the foliage was on the windward side. I wasn't going to be responsible for stinking up a park with a playground and fitness equipment!

Finally reaching 80 laps (about 33.75km) in ~4h25m, I had less than 10km to go and made my final direction change. It was literally all downhill from here!

For the sun as well as me - daylight was burning fast.

The wind began to fade with the daylight, and I was actually able to put in a couple of bursts of running. As I finished lap #85 around 4:30pm, I asked Dree if she'd mind going to see if the library was open, as if they were I expected it would only be for another half-hour or so, and on top of needing to "get down to race weight" I now needed to pee as well. She took off to check, and I took off to run lap #86...then, when she hadn't returned, I somehow just kept on running and finished lap 87 before dropping to a walk again.

Who knows why we suddenly get these surges of energy after so many hours?

Of course the library was completely closed on Sundays, so I figured I'd just have to hold it all in and finish the damn thing off - just over 5k to go. I walked lap #88, then took off running again and managed to run another 2 to complete #90 just before the 5-hour mark. At that point I finally grabbed some more calories: another stroopwafel down the hatch. I'm not sure if it was the heat, or the extended walk breaks from the start, but I just hadn't been hungry all day.

Nomming my sweet, delicious waffle.

I had planned to just walk in the last 10 laps while drinking a can of cider, but since things were still feeling pretty good I figured I'd just finish the damn thing off and have a drink afterward.

Especially as the day was fading significantly faster than I was.

The temperature was dropping, too, so I paused to throw on my sweater to keep me warm. When I thought that I'd be doing a lot more walking than ended up being the case, Tank and I had planned to walk a bunch of laps together. Since that didn't seem like it was going to happen, and Andrea needed a moment, I asked Tank if he'd like to join me for lap #93.

Of course he did - he's awesome like that.

I'd been hoping to grab my sunglasses for the last couple of laps because the sun near the horizon was getting a little tough on the eyes, but by the time I finally managed to mention it to Tank - while we were out walking - it was basically a non-issue.

The one and only photo I took from opposite the gazebo all day, with Upper James Street off to the right.

Andrea apparently got back to the gazebo aid station not long after we departed, and kindly sent me a few photos of my sunset stroll with my sweetheart.

"I don't know why I'm like this! I'm sorry! I swear, we'll try to have a nice, chill weekend next week.."

With the sun having set at 5:04pm, it was time to get it the heck done - I was able to coax myself to run laps 94 and 95. 

It's almost like more than a decade of running ultras has some lasting effects, even after a period of de-training.

..which still didn't make this any less stupid an idea.

I walked #96, ran #97, walked #98, then ran #99. If you think it's weird I'd decide to walk #100, you clearly haven't figured out how much of a true dork I am.

And I can't thank Dree enough for coming out to enable my idiocy - the time honestly flew while we chatted away!

I wasn't stopping at 100 laps. If each one was truly 422 metres as advertised, then 100 laps was exactly a marathon distance: 42.2km. That meant if I did even one more, I could call it an ultra - the only one I'd run all year due to the pandemic. I ditched my sweater after walking in lap #100, then beat feet with Dree to finish this ridiculous business off!

She peeled off at the last moment to leave me as the focus of my "finisher pic", but I'd have been more than happy to have my excellent friend by my side for it!

The final tally: 101 laps (43.15km per my Garmin) in 5h39m50s

Yep, still a stupid idea, even if it worked out.

Celebration time!
Who, me? Drinking in public? Nahh..
I definitely didn't befoul some bushes along Upper James under cover of darkness, either.

It wasn't until I took my hat off that I realised just how warm a day it had really been - the salt stains on it were epic, particularly when you consider I only had 2 S!caps the entire day.

I was almost tempted to let them grow, as it looked like they were forming a skull!
Tank insisted I put it in the wash, though.

I was super pleased with how well my body held up, considering my overall lack of training this year and utter failure to taper or properly care for myself before the race. As the cherry on top, this was probably the first time in maybe 3 years that I'd run more than 20km without a single stitch of kinesiology tape holding some ragged part or other of me together! 

Happy girl!

As day turned to night, we bade farewell to Dree with profuse thanks for her help. Without her, Sherry, Dan, and most of all the tireless patience and hard work of my sweet husband, there's no way I could have pulled this off in as fun a fashion as I did, if at all. I'm incredibly grateful to have such amazing people in my life, and that we can find safe ways to share adventures even in the midst of a global pandemic.

I'm also grateful to have put this silly business to bed, so I can wear my "meh" shirt without sensing an asterisk hanging in the air about it!

Funny enough, despite it being the #1 thing I exclaim when I'm having a rough time, I never even said MREAH once all day..