Friday, February 16, 2018

Hubris and Cursed Boots

Everything was going great, until it wasn't anymore..

Winter wonderland once more!

I saw my osteopath on Friday evening for some TLC on my left ankle, and he tore my chronically tight calves apart  in an effort to settle them down. He wasn't terribly confident I'd be up to running the next day, but really...how bad could it be?

The 4" of fresh snow overnight didn't help, nor did the fact it was still falling when I arrived around half past noon for the Valentine's Fatazz fundraiser for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. I'd hoped to get in 5 laps at Huron Natural Area from 1pm-5pm, but from my first few strides I knew that would be tough to manage.

Very pretty, but not conducive to fast running.

When all was said and done, I did get in 4 full laps for a total of 26km, finishing with seconds to spare before the 5am-5pm window designated for the event closed. I also helped to raise around $900 for mental health research and initiatives!


As well as getting myself thoroughly snowy.

Back home that evening and feeling pretty good (if rather tired), I spent some time getting ready for the next day's adventure: I waxed up our decks to head out to Chicopee to go snowboarding for the first time in 5 years!

I still love my 2004 Lamar Cruiser 149 and 2005 Burton Cartel bindings.

It took some time to get them sorted out, but I finished by about 9:30pm and was just packing everything up into our snowboard bags to get an early start the next day when suddenly my fingers were greasy. Where the heck was it coming from? It turns out my 13-year-old Burton Ruler snowboard boots had reached the end of their lifespan: some plastic plates on their exterior were breaking down to their petrochemical components, exuding greasy droplets over their whole surface and cracking in several places when even lightly flexed. Looks like I needed new boots, but everything was closed.

I did some online window shopping and found a pair of likely-seeming boots on sale at a shop that would open at 11am the next morning. Well, that would still give us a few hours of decent riding time (I was under the erroneous impression that Chicopee still closed at 4:30pm on Sundays) - we could go pick them up after we got dressed to ride.

Down to the mall the next day after some fortifying breakfast, and I pulled on the pair of boots I'd had the employee put aside for me when I called before we left. 

Little did I know they were cursed..


Cannot confirm or deny that all units are cursed, but the ones I ended up with?
Definitely.

I pulled them on, and they felt a bit snug, but my perusal of reviews said the liners would pack out pretty quickly and they'd gain almost a full show size. They didn't have any larger sizes, either, without being ridiculously huge. So, I figured I'd give them a go. They cut the hell out of my hands while lacing them: tearing huge flappers on the last 2 fingers of my right hand, and blistering my left pinkie as well.

But, we were on our way. Arrived at the hill and I headed in to get our lift tickets, just as it started absolutely POURING with freezing rain.


Woo hoo.

I was starting to wonder about the whole business, but I'd waxed for "moist" conditions and we'd already sunk $85 on non-refundable lift tickets. I checked the radar and it looked like the rain would pass within 30mins or so, so I bought Tanker a beer (and myself a coffee), and we headed to the upstairs patio to wait it out.

Cheers!

The rain thinned out, and so did the crowds - by the time it stopped completely, the lift lines were reduced to almost nothing! Off we went to the not-quite-bunny hill (Tenderfoot) to see if we remembered how to do this..

Tank looking confident

Three runs on Tenderfoot and it was all starting to come back, though I couldn't get my bindings reefed down as tightly as I'd have liked. The new boots really did feel too small; both on my feet and for the length of my binding straps. I had a tool to make adjustments, but it was in the car and I didn't really want to waste precious riding time. So, I made do, and then we decided we were ready to head to our traditional favourite run - a blue slope called North.

Which provides a pretty decent view toward Kitchener.

We got a decent run in, but I was feeling a little shakier on the steeper grade - the rain had iced things up a bit, and it was perhaps hubris on my part to think I could jump back into snowboarding on legs that had run 4hrs the day before in deep, shifting snow. Come to think of it, I'd actually run almost 78km in the prior 7 days, bracketed by long runs in fresh snow at Huron Natural Area and Dundas Valley the previous Sunday.


Fun times on the lift.
Still, we were having fun, and when Tank suggested we go try a little more aggressive slope right next to North - another blue called Easy Rider that starts out quite steep then flows - I had some misgivings, but didn't want to wuss out and hold him back. After all, I'd been snowboarding since I was 15 years old - I should be able to handle this.


Let's give'er.

So, I get into my bindings, and have a look. It's been scraped down pretty badly and there are drifts of snow around on the icy slope, so I'm not very happy that I can't get my bindings as solid as I'd like, and my feet are feeling really cramped in the too small boots.

I drop in anyway, trying to carve to shave off some speed and avoid an errant child. Hitting one of the drifts a little too fast, I went slightly airborne, then landed on my toes with my legs almost straight - kryptonite to proper balance.

I knew I was going down, but I had no idea how hard. WHACK - something feels like a sledgehammer hitting my right snowboard boot as I bail and flip from a hard hit on my back over to my front. I get to my knees wondering if I'm ok, then look downhill and see my water bottle sailing down the hill, having fallen out of my snowpants' pocket. Without thinking further I get up and go corral it with my board, dropping to my knees to pick it up then finishing off the run.


OOF - ARGH - awww crap..

My water bottle making its break for freedom and its retrieval are all that Tanker sees, as he was trying to get over the lip at the top to start his run. He has no idea anything has happened apart from me dropping my bottle.

He reaches me at the bottom and asks if I'm ok, and I have to respond that I'm not sure. He sounds confused until I explain that I biffed hard and I guess my board dug into the snow while my body was whipping around, so my foot stayed put while my leg twisted hard, ratching my ankle pretty badly. 23 years of riding and I've never had anything even remotely like this happen.


Ow.
Just effin' OW.

He makes me take my deck off and walk out to the car, which goes ok with my foot still laced into the cursed boot. I use my tool to adjust my binding, and decide to give it another go. I paid 85 bloody dollars for lift tickets - I'm getting in more than 5 runs. Back to the not-quite-bunny hill, and it feels ok when I'm actually carving; skating and having the board hang from my foot on the lift aren't comfortable, but I can deal. We go back to North, and I even managed a clean run on Easy Rider with my foot better locked into the binding now. 

Some redemption, at least.

Another run on North, though, and all the other stuff is getting more painful - we decide to call last run after just 2hrs, finishing off with Easy Rider. Tanker bails on that one but doesn't hurt himself; I offered him one more so he could finish on a clean run, but he said he was good to go.

We manage to return the cursed boots to the store, then head out to get groceries. By this time it's clear I'm NOT OK - hobbling around in horrible pain as my ankle - the one that was supposed to be the strong one as compared to the chronically sore left one - swells in multiple places. Get home and put it up, then make a comment in a facebook PM thread with some runner friends trying to get a bubble soccer game together that I don't even know when I'll be able to run again. Moments later my phone is exploding with text messages from my amazing RMT/ultrarunner friend asking me what she missed and if she has to use her #sternface on me. I explain what happened, and she tells me I need to get my foot in a bucket of cold water for NO MORE THAN 11mins and get in to see my osteopath ASAP. I do a 10min soak, keep it elevated for the rest of the evening, then go to bed early.


This has been my view for a lot of this week.

I can't sleep at all Sunday night. Can't get comfortable for more than 5mins at a time - the ankle is touch-sore all around it, and it hurts to flex, extend, and tilt my foot in any direction. I can feel the pulls in the muscles and tendons right up to my knee, and haven't felt pain like this since I broke my wrist.

It still looked this bad by Wednesday.

Call my osteopath's office after another cold water bucket soak Monday morning, and he can get me in at 6:30pm - hallelujah! I spent a miserable day at the office trying to put my foot up on my desk when I could, taking turmeric and ginger to fight inflammation, vitamin C, B12, B6 and gelatin to stimulate collagen synthesis, and laving my poor ankle in arnica. I was just barely able to drive and using a cane to limp awkwardly around as little as possible, especially since my left ankle was now getting really sore from having to take most of my weight. After some ultrasound, a bunch of manual therapy, then some electrostimulation with an acupuncture needle in the ankle drainage point up near my knee at my osteopath's office, I was a TON more comfortable. Still hobbling with a cane, but with a little bit of range of motion and almost no remaining touch soreness.

I've also been receiving a fair bit of tactile therapy of a different kind.

This week has been all about small victories. Tiny ankle circles and toe taps (flexion and extension) on Tuesday. Able to stand on one foot long enough to put on my underpants. Able to do some gentle, seated ankle rotations, tilts, flexion and extension with my wobble board, and balance for 1 minute. Wednesday I was finally able to walk normally as long as I went very slowly and took small steps, and can climb stairs without using the cane. As of Thursday I can even do tiny little calf raises again, and this afternoon I made it 3 full minutes on my wobble board.

Wednesday night I even got out for a little walk around the block; a Valentine's stroll with my sweetheart. I took my cane - especially since the ground was covered in lumpy snow and ice - but I managed not to hurt myself! When we got home I did another cold water soak before bed, then remembered I'd heard lavender oil was helpful for ankle sprains. As I rubbed some in I was sad to notice the bruising on the sides of my heel was worse in the harsh light of the bathroom than I'd thought, and I wondered if I'd made a mistake by going walking.

Thursday morning, though, I woke up to a small miracle: not only had the bruising subsided significantly, but the swelling was almost gone! I also had the least stiffness in the ankle I'd had yet when getting out of bed; basically no pain as long as I was careful about my hobble to the bathroom.

Holy crap I have two almost human-looking feet again!

So, I'm holding out hope that this won't mess with my season too badly. I'm sure the fatigue from Saturday's run is probably a factor in the damage done - the ankle probably could have stood up to that tumble better had it not been beaten up in the soft, shifting snow for hours on end. Still, I don't think my conceited belief that I could go snowboarding for the first time in half a decade on tired legs was truly my downfall - ain't nothing gonna help you if you end up with a pair of cursed boots.

I'm incredibly grateful that I've been able to make such strides (heh) in recovery this week, largely thanks to two caring professionals in my RMT (who has been requesting daily updates and celebrating my small successes with me) and my osteopath, whom I'll be seeing again in less than an hour. I'm also seeing the rewards of my consistent weight training over the past few years (to build bone density, preventing a fracture), and the last few months that I've dedicated to improving my balance and strengthening the supporting musculature around my ankles. This certainly isn't the way I'd hoped it would pay dividends, but I'm sure it's helping me as I work toward my return to pain-free movement once more.

So much for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge, though - today is day 64 and I had managed 64 runs as of Saturday, so now I just get to watch myself fall behind..

Friday, February 9, 2018

Social Climber

Back at the end of January I took a week of easy running after Frosty Trail, and got my two Saturday runs out of the way early in the day. I had heard a few months back that a new place had opened in Cambridge that I wanted to check out, and fortunately Tanker was right on board.

That board had holes in it, and chunks of plastic to pull on.

We trucked on over to Core Climbing Gym for about 7pm, knowing they were only open until 10pm and wanting to get our money's worth for our day pass (which is quite reasonably priced, considering their overhead). We went through the very simple orientation process, then set about trying to fight gravity.

Some of us had more success than others.

This particular gym offers bouldering only, which is deceptively simple. There are no ropes or harnesses: just a pair of climbing shoes (which they rent), some chalk (which is provided for free), and your own determination (bring LOTS) to stay on the wall. Thick crash mats line almost the entire floor, so you'll have a soft landing if the combination of those three proves less than effective.

Not having done any climbing since summer of 2016 and having all of the natural climbing talent of a chubby earthworm, I was delighted to discover that they had problems even I could manage, plus friendly staff who offer useful bits of advice and manage admirably to control their laughter at my ineptitude.

I did actually get off the ground, and even topped out a few routes.

Turns out we shouldn't have worried about the amount of time we'd have - within an hour and a half, both Tank and I were totally spent. Our forearms and hands were screaming, and what little grip strength I possess had left the building. I knew it was time to go when I couldn't even manage the little route they use to train you during your orientation anymore.

The next day, I was in AGONY. My hands didn't want to function properly, and it hurt like hell just to pull up my trousers. Fun fact: you use your shoulders WAY more when running than you think you do. It was Tuesday before doorknobs stopped being the bane of my existence. I had bruises on my right knee from bashing it off holds, and had scraped the skin off my right elbow somehow.

So, of course I leaped at the opportunity to go back with a few running friends a mere 9 days later.

Rachael, Catherine & Chris watching Debbie crush it.

Being a little more experienced and having done a bit of reading about tips and tricks for bouldering, I was emboldened to try some more challenging problems.

Like the ones that start on slabs - chunks of wall that lean back toward you so the fight against gravity starts early.

And also went back to some of the beginner-level problems to build my confidence.

Ok so it's basically a ladder BUT I CAN CLIMB IT, DAMNIT

Predictably, Tanker tried tackling some even weirder routes - ones that don't offer anything on which my hands could get a grip.


Spider Tank, spider Tank..

In some cases, I failed spectacularly at what I was trying to achieve. I fell a lot more frequently the second time than the first.


"..down I go again.."

But, I had some success as well. I was starting to make some progress with my footwork, climbed a route that had only rounded chunks without ledges for fingers (which, given the shape of the holds, I dubbed the Boobs Route), and I was finally able to make it to the top of a problem that started on a slab.


"..be a spider monkey...be a spider monkey.."

..and got some deep satisfaction from the small amount of progress I'd made. 


WOOP WOOP

While my grip strength waned and my forearms tired almost as quickly as the first time, I wasn't anywhere near as sore in the days afterward. After only 2 sessions, I can feel myself getting stronger!

I know that the last thing Tanker and I really need is another hobby, considering we have so little time to pursue those that we already have...however, I've long despaired of my lack of upper body strength (I've only ever been able to do a pull-up once, and that was years ago when I was doing factory work), and this is certainly something that will help to develop that. I had been feeling a bit one-dimensional this winter, what with running almost to the exclusion of other activities. Swimming is a bit tough because it means sacrificing sleep (and therefore precious recovery during a big running block), and it's hard to get excited about getting on the trainer to cycle in my livingroom while the conditions outside are too hazardous for my limited bike handling skills. Indoor climbing is something we can do regardless of the weather, and the gyms in the area allow drop-in climbing at any time so we can make it fit our schedule.

It's also made me realize how much I've missed climbing in the past few years. I used to do some top roping in my youth, but it's been a very long time since I was on belay.


For perspective: this is my old climbing harness. Anyone remember when Black Diamond last used that logo?

We had gone Treetop Trekking at Horseshoe Resort a few years back and done some via ferrata in Quebec, but it had been quite awhile since I strapped into a harness and just tried to pull myself up a rock. Tanker used to free climb in the Rockies in his youth, but has never climbed with ropes at all.

So, of course I got us booked for an introduction to top rope course at Grand River Rocks for next week. What better way to spend Valentine's Day than harnessed up and pulling on plastic?


I do so love this man - always up for my stupid ideas!

I am under no illusions that climbing will help my running - as a matter of fact, I'm more likely to end up with a bit of "useless" muscle mass to cart around. However, I do expect it to improve my overall quality of life through addressing the imbalance between my weak upper body and strong(er) legs, while also helping to develop some more core strength and maybe even make me a little less clumsy overall.

Besides - while incredibly difficult, climbing is a boatload of fun and gives me another challenge I can pursue while spending time with my sweetheart. What other justification could I possibly need? 

If any of this sounds remotely interesting, I totally endorse giving Core Climbing Gym a try. Take your kids, take your spouse, take a bunch of friends, and just go have a ball! It's not too expensive to be a family day out, and the staff there will get you climbing in no time. We all know we should be doing some strength work, so why not have some laughs while you're at it?

Believe me - if I can do this, you can too!

I don't think I'll ever be good enough to do any traditional climbing (where you place your own hardware on the rock), and possibly may not even be able to manage sport climbing (where you clip into existing bolts on a wall), but that's not the point. I'm happy to just try my best and learn along the way, even if I never progress past a very basic level. I don't need to be good at something in order to enjoy it - something that should be evident from the fact I keep running!


Friday, February 2, 2018

Salad Days


The January thaw came and went, leaving us in a world of ice.


Which does have its pleasant aspects.

I succeeded (mostly) at taking an easier week, but still ran doubles on Monday and Saturday because the 100 runs in 100 days challenge is still a thing until late March. I'm actually hanging in decently well - at the halfway point (today), I'm technically 5 runs ahead of pace.


..and just barely in the top 10.

The ice has made it tough to get out on the trails safely, though. I ended up running down to the farmers' market through town on Saturday instead of via the trails, as Tanker and I did a small scouting mission on Friday evening and discovered they were nothing but icy death. It did give me an interesting view of some of the flooding in town, though.


Like this small conservation tract just blocks from our house.
There are trails under the floodwaters and ice.

Another road run on Saturday afternoon, then Sunday was brunch in Guelph with friends. I couldn't resist the opportunity to run on the Royal Recreation Trail along the Speed River, but I threw on my spikes just in case it was a bit icy.

"A bit" didn't begin to describe it.

Yowza.

There was a full sheet of 1"-2" thick ice that started at Victoria Road (where Tanker was sweet enough to drop me off so I could do a 6.5k run to our friends' house) and covered all but a couple of small patches of the trail for the full 2.25km down to Woodlawn Road.


With some sunshine and mild temperatures to melt the top layer, making it extra slippery.

It was lovely to run jacketless on the last weekend of January, though!


I've run on this stuff before without issue, as the carbide spikes in my traction devices have been able to bite in and give me decent grip. Not sure if it was due to wearing them with a different pair of shoes than usual or just the hardness of the ice itself, but even with my spikes I was getting some slippage.


NOT COOL

With some quick feet and a lot of butt clenching, I made it through ok. In some cases the side trails were actually the better option, but I tried not to be an idiot about taking anything too sketchy if I could avoid it.


The layer of snow on top of the ice actually gave some welcome traction.

The snow that came howling down this Monday buried all that ice under a thick layer of white. While I wasn't super keen on running through it (twice), it did allow me to finally get back down into the creek valley for the first time in a month on Wednesday evening's run. I'd been trying to spare my ankles while I went through the sizeable block of running from Stride Inside through Frosty Trail (and my "recovery" week thereafter), but for my last run of January I couldn't resist taking the chance.


I had missed this sorely.

That put the cap on 294.5km for the first month of the year, which is a pretty decent start. I've also been slowly chipping away at the extra insulation I put on through my "off season" in November and through the holidays, mostly thanks to paying some extra attention to my nutritional intake.

Proper nutrition not only leads to better body composition; it's also a path to decreased recovery time from taxing workouts, plus the best way to support your immune system for general health. So, I'm going to share with you one of my favourite recipes for a meal that you can almost feel revitalizing you after a long run. I hereby give you..

K's Big Effin' Salad of Awesome


That's one of those big 312g salad boxes, about half full.
Go big or go home!

This is something I make at least once per weekend, usually after my longest, hardest day of running. It's so wonderfully filling that I sometimes find myself not wanting dinner afterwards, and it has tons of nutrients to help me recover for the next day. I swear you can practically feel the vitality radiating through you.

The ingredients are all things that I generally keep on hand:
  • couple of big handfuls of baby spinach and/or spring mix
  • 2 large mushrooms (white or cremini, sliced)
  • 3" piece of English cucumber, sliced
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • six big slices of pickled beets, chopped
  • sprinkle of vegan mozzarella cheez shreds
  • a tablespoonful (give or take) of raw pumpkin seeds, shelled
  • your favourite dressing (I love Farm Boy's apple cider vinaigrette)
Toss it all into a giant bowl, mix it up and go to town. The best part is, you can tweak it based on your preferences or what you have on hand. Don't have any dairy issues? Use regular mozzarella. Don't have any hardboiled eggs, or have an aversion to them? Just leave them out, maybe substituting a different kind of protein (hemp hearts, tofu, chopped lunchmeat). Don't like beets? You could leave them out, but there's a fair bit of evidence they're really good for you both for general health and performance. I'd really suggest giving them a chance - you may find you don't mind them when they're all mixed in with everything else. You can add other things in if you want, too - I've enjoyed it with dried cranberries, cooked sweet potato, and even chopped raw broccoli in the past.

This can all be whipped up the day before (sans dressing - add it just a few minutes before eating, unless you want things to get a bit soggy and wilted), too, and stored in the fridge so it's ready to just grab and eat after a hard workout.

It might seem a bit odd to be eating salad when it's now about a million degrees below freezing, but from both a flavour and nutrition standpoint you just can't beat this for a meal. Add a hot bowl of your favourite soup and you'll be ready to take on anything!

Because even icy trails of death can take you beautiful places.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Frosty Trail Run 3-hour - Saturday, January 20th, 2018


So much for my predictions - this was far from the slushfest I'd envisioned, though the course conditions were definitely the story of the day.

..and the beautiful sunshine, too.

I'd actually got a pretty good night's sleep before waking up at an absurd hour to have my pre-race oatmeal, but the 68km I'd run in the prior 7 days didn't exactly bode well for "performance"...so I took the luxury (after eating, braiding my hair and taping my ankle) of going back to bed for a 25min nap, and just hoped I'd even be able to get 20km in.

Back up and out the door just as the sun began to rise, we grabbed coffee and headed to Camp Heidelberg. I swear our car nearly knows how to get there by itself by now - this would be the 14th event in which I'd participated there.

It's like coming home, only colder and with more hills.

I arrived with plenty of time to say hello to everyone and pick up my race number - it felt really weird pinning it to the bottom of my shirt instead of a skirt, but I was afraid the wind blowing across the snowpack would be just a little too chilly so went with - gasp! - full tights. I availed myself of the facilities, flailed my limbs around during the pre-race announcements, and decided against starting with spikes - Jack had gone out for a lap with his Microspikes and one without, and his judgement was that "nothing really helps". Not super encouraging; I figured I'd try a lap without, but leave my traction devices by the aid station with Tanker in case I felt I needed to stop and put them on. I did, however, wear my neoprene toe covers; if there was going to be any slush out there, I didn't want to risk my previously frostbitten toes in the wet cold and wind.

One last visit to the washroom, then line up outside and it's go time.

Look at those fast people flying off the start!

I stayed toward the back, knowing that this wasn't really a race for me - just a supported training run in some pretty woods.


Starting my multi-hour meander.

The sunshine was beautiful but it was still below freezing at start time, and the snowpack varied considerably throughout the 2.1km loop of the course. It was fairly deep and sugar-fine with a crust of ice near the surface where we headed into the upper woods, but thinned out significantly to become quite runnable in the trees.


This was tough to run through for the first while.

This was much easier.

As you exited the upper woods to hit the long downhill to the driveway and down to the main forest, you'd emerge into the warm sun - it was always a welcome burst of heat as the air stayed quite cold, but my dark-coloured tights absorbed the solar energy nicely to blanket my legs with coziness as I ran.

Quite runnable all day all the way down past the pavilion.

The only deep spot on the way down the hill was just as you transition from the grassy hill to the driveway itself - this stayed deep and mushy for most of the day.


Some careful footwork required.
The driveway itself was absolutely fine - just a small amount of snow - so it was a great place to make up some time.
Yes, I actually did run some!

Things got a little more interesting past the pavilion, where there was some lumpy, deeply footprinted ice under a thin layer of snow. Cautious of my taped-up ankle, I took it really easy through here and wondered if I'd made a mistake by going spikeless.


Yikes.

The way down into the woods wasn't bad early on - a bit of snowpack, but I took my time and was careful of my footing, especially around the spot where I doubted the broken board from Horror Trail had been replaced.

No, it had not. It was, however, buried under quite a bit of snow.

The big stinkin' hill in the main forest was my biggest concern, as any ice on it would make the climb nigh impossible without spikes. As I approached I could see slip marks from other people's shoes, which wasn't very confidence inspiring.

Following a 6-hour runner up through the snow.

Fortunately traction was probably at least as good on the face as it was anywhere in the course. I did experience a bit of slippage, but was able to stay upright. I did end up consciously tucking my left arm into my body as I climbed, though - I'd fallen on my hands on this same hill at Horror Trail in October, and my left wrist and thumb were still causing me some pain and trouble as a result. The worst possible outcome would be for me to fall on it again, so I tried to make sure that if I did go pitching forward I'd land on my forearm instead,

Which might not have been any better, but such is my logic while running.

Through the first lap without incident, the morning sun was so lovely that I wanted to grab the camera from Tank, but he was nowhere to be found when I came through the aid station - off being useful to everyone else. It wasn't until the start of my third lap that I was able to snag it from him to take some photos of the conditions.


In between the major hill and the secondary stepped hill.

The gentle uphill above the stepped hill, with the 1km mark somewhere in the middle.

The upper portion of the main forest did have some nasty lumpy mud under the snow cover - I had to be very careful from about the 1.2km mark (seen below) through 1.4km, as it would have been very easy to damage even my stronger ankle.

Things had clearly just frozen in place after the mudfest that was Horror Trail 2017.

I kept nutrition pretty simple as I went round and round the loop - just a swig diluted of EFS Liquid Shot from my flask every 30mins until I finished it at the 2-hour mark, adding in a chunk of banana from the aid station around 1h so I wouldn't get too hungry. Unfortunately, while I never experienced any drop in energy, my strategy for keeping the growlies at bay was less than effective - by 2hrs in (now 5hrs after my morning oatmeal), I was starving.


Keep your hands and feet away from her mouth, folks!
(Photo credit: Race Director Patrick Campbell)

I'd managed 6laps in the first 90mins, but was slowing down through the second half. It became blatantly apparent that I haven't spent much time running long on technical trails lately, as all the stabilizing muscles in my hips and groin started to whine about the conditions. Knowing that I'd still easily surpass the 20k goal I'd originally hoped for and would probably even make it past 21.1km (I always like to at least attempt to beat half marathon distance in the 3-hour here), I decided to take my phone out to get a few shots of the sun's effects on the course.


Hmm, there might have been a bit of melting going on..

WOWZA!

Apart from the emergence of the mud in several places on the loop, there were other changes as well - some for the better, and some for the worse. On the bright side, the deep sugary snow had been nicely packed down in most places by now; there were visible trenches where the passage of feet had created a runnable surface out of what had been a shifting, unstable mess earlier.

Score!
Unfortunately, the effects of sun and feet weren't all positive - the stretch before you exit the main woods to run up the driveway had its layer of snow scraped off by people's toe-off, revealing very slippery ice underneath.

Yeah, might be grabbing those spikes after all.
Map from my Garmin, plus some annotations - all workout data here.

Doing the math and trying to get an idea of my lap times from my Garmin, I figured I could probably get at least 11 laps in if I didn't dawdle too much. I gave myself an extra boost in the last hour with a good slurp of diluted sea salt chocolate Gu Roctane from a flask around 2h30m, then dropped it off with Tanker after my 10th lap with about 25mins to go. 

I still had about 8mins once I'd completed my 11th lap for 23.1km, and finally ran down Grant and Robin - I stayed with them for the final few minutes, of COURSE ending up having to climb the big stinkin' hill one last time before the horn sounded to end the 3 hour race. I didn't even get credit for it, either - we could only report the last 200m marker we'd passed before time ran out (which had been the 800m sign) even though I was at least halfway from it to the 1k marker. Blargh!


Done and back in the sun on my way up the driveway to the building.

Official distance: 23.9km (11 laps + 0.8km)
4/10 women - tied for 5/13 O/A

Official results - I was only passed by the 3rd place woman in the last 10mins or so.

I headed inside, getting changed out of my wet kit almost immediately as I had a plan. While my legs, hips and ankles were all a bit whiny, I didn't actually feel too badly beaten up. I put on a fresh set of running clothes - a little warmer than those I'd worn to start the day - had a cup of coffee, and stuffed my face for a bit. I made sure not to sit down, preferring to stay on my feet and keep moving to try to keep my legs from getting stiff. One hour (the minimum requirement), a turkey wrap, some chocolate fig energy balls, a couple of mini chocolate chip cookies, and a few cashews later (I told you I got hungry!), I headed back out on course to do another few laps. After all, the 100 runs in 100 days challenge was still on!

The course had not improved in my absence.


The upper woods were now lumpy, too.

I'd told myself that I'd put my spikes on before I went back out, but when it came time to actually go run again I left them at the aid station once more. I wanted to see what it was like out there without them first, which may have been a dumb idea.

It had got rather slippery on the descent into the main forest.

Despite the day staying quite chilly in the brisk West wind, the sun had continued to blowtorch the snow from the woods, exposing more and more of the mud below.

The difference in the hill between 10am and just before 2pm.

While it never actually got slushy or even too sloppy in the time I was out there - which constituted about another hour between 1pm-ish and 2pm-ish, so the 5th hour of the 6-hour race - there was significant melting going on.


And the beginnings of a quagmire at the top of the big stinkin' hill in the forest.

Fortunately the melting included the ice under the snow where you emerge from the main woods, so other than a couple of little slips here and there I never really regretted leaving my traction devices off - I actually managed to stay upright all day! I took things pretty easy, though, as I was just out to fart around while Tanker continued taking care of the 6-hour racers and get myself one more run closer to 100.


Even if it meant climbing that bloody hill 3 more times.

Dressing warmer than I had in the morning and re-donning my wind vest proved to be excellent decisions, as I would have been chilly at the lower effort level had I not had the extra insulation against the cold wind.

The sunshine was still gorgeous, though.

It was actually nice to be out on this trail with no particular drive to push myself for once - able to walk or stop and take photos whenever I pleased without worrying about the clock. It was just a pleasant traipse through the woods, exploring all the differences the sun had wrought while I'd been inside trying to stay loose and silence my growling stomach.

Very happy not to have to push the pace through the lumpy frozen mud of the upper main forest.

It was probably a good thing I could take my time, as I had probably eaten a bit more than I should in my sojourn indoors. I wasn't quite in danger of decorating the course with half-digested cookies, but there was a bit of rumbling in my belly during my first long, jostling run down the big hill from the upper woods. Fortunately it settled down fairly quickly - I hadn't had any G.I. issues all day, and didn't really want to start now.

The minimum requirement for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge is 30mins, but my own personal minimum is 5km...so that meant 3 laps (or 6.3km), since I figured there was no point in cutting the loop short, and that would net me just over 30km for the day. It took me the best part of an hour, getting chilled by the wind and warmed by the sun as I meandered around the course, but I actually felt pretty good by the end.

Just what the doctor ordered?
Of course, Tanker was still being amazing for another hour after I scuttled back inside to some warm, dry clothes and a bit more food. He not only ran the aid station basically by himself, he also did his level best to make sure the other volunteers recorded every one of the laps for all the runners - something that has historically been a problem in the past.

Straight talk: if you're really uptight about accurate timing, this probably isn't the race for you. If you just want a fun day in some pretty woods with plenty of interaction with other racers and a hot bowl of chili at the end, you'll probably have a great time!

Especially with this guy making sure all your aid station needs are met!

Even with my idiotic insistence on going back out for some bonus laps, I was still able to run the next day, and pull a double the day after that. I have been taking it a bit easier - as I said I would - this week with mostly minimum-distance runs, but I'm encouraged by how strong I've felt since racing the 6-hour at Stride Inside just a fortnight before Frosty Trail.

Hopefully it means I'm becoming a little more resilient and able to recover from big efforts, because there are definitely plenty of those to come this year!

While still hopefully having lots of time to spend with this awesome fellow <3