Friday, August 22, 2014

Running Dirty Girls 2014 – 48 hours of bliss, hell, tears, and total absolute joy.

As I sit here in the comfort of my home I can’t help but reflect on the fact that 2 weeks ago at this time (it is 9:30 am Aug 22, 2014) I was completing the first 8km lap of a race that would see highlights, lowlights and almost all conceivable emotion in between. Let me take you through a walk in my mind of that fantastic weekend.

I don’t know when I decided I would do Dirty Girls 48 hour, but like most race signups it was preceded by anticipation and excitement and followed by fear and self doubt. Could I train for this event? How would I feel after 24 hours of running – the longest I had run to that point? How would my stomach handle the running? What about using a light at night? And on and on when the question. At the same time I am a logistics …sorry for the language…slut!!! Planning and organizing is a high better than any drug. Even mapping out the relatively easy drive from my home in Orleans to Mansfield Ontario, the race site was exciting. And this planning and organizing went on up until the fateful weekend…….wooooowwwwwww!!!! I guess I should at least let you know how the training went…Now read this together, all at once..CRAPPPPPPPPYYYYY. Yup. In the lead up to the race, for the purposes here lets say the six months before, I had done one 40km training run, one half marathon race and averaged in March 33.9 km’s, April 123.4 km’s, May139.07 km’s, June 162.36 km’s and July 201 km’s.

 One of my rare running moments in 2014

For a recreational runner doing 5 and 10 km events or the odd half that type of training is fine. But for an ultra, well it sucked the big lemon. But I was committed to going so on Thursday August 7th, the truck was packed and I was on the highway heading for Dirty Girls.

Thursday Aug 7
Sleeping bag, two sleeping mats, tent, dry cooler, cold items cooler, clothing for cool and wet weather, running gear, change of clothes….all ready to go…oops forgot the running shoes. Now all ready to go. A few stops in Orleans, one last e-mail to Joanne (group sigh for me…I was going alone without Joanne) and I was on the 417 then the 416 then the 401 to Toronto. BING Bing…what the freeken hell now…battery light..ignore this and what could happen. Ok I am traveling along Canada’s busiest highway, passing towns and gas stations all the way to Toronto I am going to ignore this for now…as long as I get to the race site, that’s all that matters.

5.5 hours later and two stops on the way for lunch and milk for my tea and coffee, I see the sign to the Mansfield Outdoor Centre and pull into the driveway. Finally there. My first order of business is to call Joanne and tell her I made it and everything is fine. She asks see anyone you recognize???? Yup there is Kimberly (Van Delst), we had run a number of Ultra’s so was one of the few Southern Ontario based runners I knew. After finishing my call with Joanne I was given a warm hello from Kimberly and Joe….now I am going to tell you more about “Irish Joe” in a bit but for now meeting Joe was like meeting an old friend, even though this was our first into.

 Kimberly and Joe pre race

I set up right next to Joe and Kimberly and my little home for the next couple of days was set.

Supper that night was a huge heaping plate of pasta followed by a nice cup of tea and cookies. Gear was set out for the following morning and I crawled into the tent for the first time in over 10 years for a nice quiet nights sleep.

Friday Aug 8
Race Day….6am wake up without the alarms going off. A hot cup of coffee followed by a bowl of cream of wheat. Not a lot to start but an 8km course with an aid station at the 4km mark makes for easy food pick up if needed. I also decided that for the first day anyway I would run with one single handheld bottle and go to the hydration pack for the evening if needed.

“Group of 48 hour runners please come to the start for pre race briefing” …crap I am not ready….run around like a crazy man…ahhhh now I know Joanne’s real reason for not coming to the race!!!! I am only slightly manic when I feel rushed…. Some last minute instructions and then the count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go…and off we went at a trot. I had thought I would fly to the first corner to say I was in the lead of a race but looking around at a few of the runners I know they might not see the humor in this so left dead last.

I settled in behind Kimberly and Joe. Up the fist sandy climb steps from the start line we where all soon walking then onto a bit of beautiful single track followed by about 1km of bush trail wide enough to run side by side. I moved up to Joe and thus began my education.

Let me tell you about Joe or Irish Joe as his vanity plate reads. This young man, Mr. Joe Cleary, is a truly historic figure in the Canadian Ultra scene. He recently completed his 500th race and has run many of the great races over his running career…Oh and I should mention that Joe is a youthful 73 years of age. And before you think anything to that just remember he could kick most peoples butt on any long distance trail event. While he isn’t speedy compared to some of the racers that day (he did leave me in his wake on a couple of occasions though) his ability to withstand the time on your feet and think through a race makes him a master at the Ultra. Joe and I would spend then next 9 hours running together and I learnt more about running in that time than I could have from any number of races or books in a lifetime.

Back to the race….Kimberly eventually took off and Joe and I settled into a fast pace walk/run for the laps to follow. Most of the course is an absolute trail runners dream. Almost all of it is tree covered so even in the heat you do not suffer from the added joy of a sun burn. The trails where dry and fast and the RD’s trail team had ensured any branches that would hit you in the face where removed. A beautiful 8km trail….but as with anything, moderation is the key and by lap 10 those nice little hills had turned into miserable slogs with hands on knees and heart rates jumping up to near head popping proportion.

Let me give you a coles notes version of the course. Please consider this was a dry course so with rain and wet surfaces it likely would be a whole different monster…. Now close your eyes and picture this course…..Ok open and read first……

Map from Dirty Girls web site

Start line is in a nice field with decent footing. The first 25 meters passing families watching and cheering on the runners. Then it all goes to hell for the first climb up a narrow gap in the tall grass and trees. Trudge up to the top of this short steep and sandy hill to a single track. Right, then left, miss the tree, then left up another little incline then down then up then down then around a tree and oooph, first 150 metres done….ok I am exaggerating but what seems like an easy fun trail on the first lap becomes a growing monster. Then you run along a small two lane bush road that has just a slight incline so is runnable until you get to the first big hill. Then only the strongest continue the run up, most will walk. A little further along this road then off to the left back on single track. The bush up here is really open so you see runners ahead and behind through the trees. At night this area was my favorite spot with flashlights and voices all around yet you still feeling like you are alone.

2km sign. Now the fun begins. From this point to the aid station the trail is a bit more technical and the bush seems to close in on you with the exception of one small area through a jack pine plantation which was a moment of reprieve to watching your feet. The ups and downs also get a bit nastier along this part of the course. Not long ups but they seemed more severe. Finally you see the aid station and a moments rest. I should mention at this point the quality of volunteers at this race. Not to say other races are not as good, but there seemed to be a special quality to the folks helping out at this race and I think a lot of that had to do with the Race Director. People like to help out nice people, so the saying goes and at Dirty Girls that saying as apropos.

Following the aid station is a nice run, probably the nicest part of the whole race which follows a ridgeline looking down to the valley below. There is a nice lookout point just off the course which proved to be a good spot to sit and rest a few times. But just as you get comfy in the trail you start a 1km or so downhill. Fast and fun till you look to your right and realize that you are going to be going back up in a moment. Now if Diane Chesla, Dirty Girls Race Director, was feeling her ears burning at numerous points during the race, it was likely here on the up run to the 6km mark where most runners, well lets just say made a disparaging remark or two to Diane and the course designers. So from the base of this long dirt road uphill to the last km is again less than enjoyable with a lot of switchbacks and little twits and turns, ups and downs. In fact, and I think others who have run here might agree, this one km or so stretch really feels 3 times as far. I just couldn’t find a good pace or feeling through this last bit. Then again a longish downhill to the final bit of wide trail that leads back to the field and the start finish line.
 Photo by GarChun Low – Note the Skechers GoBionic Trail shoes!! At least I looked and felt fast.

Friday Night 2330 hrs Aug 8
First runner “Whats that noise….sounds like a moose giving birth”
Second runner “Nahh it might be a Sasquatch with cramps after eating beans and brocolli”
First Runner “ Could it be an animal dying?”
Second runner “ Maybe….look ahead a light….Oh I know who that is…it’s Peter having a puke by a tree…yah I heard him do the same thing a year or so ago…lets just go by him quietly maybe he won’t notice us!!!”

Yup, I laid out my tummy for the forest and then find another spot beside a tree and had a 30 minute snooze in the bush. At 2am on Saturday morning nearly 3 hours after I had started lap 9 I arrived at my tent and crawled in to sleep.

Saturday Aug 9
Woke up at 6am. A bit cold but not terrible. Grabbed my cup and a packet of Starbucks instant Columbian coffee and headed over to the food station in search of hot water…..ahhh hot coffee never tasted so good….wow no sugar or milk, Joanne would be impressed.
Back at the tent some food in my stomach, a mix of red bull and water in my handheld and I was off for more fun…$%#%#$%^ Diane%#^%## Course^#%#^@&% Running!!!

After a couple of laps I met up again with Joe. We compared notes; he was on schedule for 100 miles, I had decided that my 100 mile goal was not going to happen this year so I would aim at 1km further than my longest run to date of 112km’s. We spoke about the night and figured that my stomach problems, along with a number of factors could have been pushed to the brink by my using a headlamp for the first time to run. You see the bobbing and movement of the light is like being in a boat in rough water or how your eyes deal with driving. I made myself motion sick. At least know I know!!

I stopped for a quick snooze around 2pm and then headed out 30 minutes later for my last push. I knew my feet where blistered, I had not checked them out so far that day in case they ended up being worse than I thought and I would have a mental reason to stop running. Plus the pain in my feet was still bearable at a walking pace. At around 9pm I again met up with Kimberly and Joe who were going to start running together to get Joe to his 100 miles. Kimberly had already reached her 100 miles and was content on now helping Joe. I kept up with the two of them for a bit but soon their walking pace was faster than I could handle and they moved on. The remainder of this last lap, lap 15 is a blur. All I remember is my feet feeling like someone had light a match under them in 5 or so spots and my lower back feeling like I was being bent backwards. As I rounded the last corner that led to the finish/start The light that was used to illuminate the area hit me straight in the eyes and I remember squinting so much I teared up…..Yes that is why I was weepy when I got the the line….no other reason. I had just crossed finishing y 15th lap at around 11pm and completing 120km’s. That is all I need.

I crawled into the tent not taking anything off except my shoes, put on a heavy sweatshirt and fell asleep. My feet would wait till the morning.

“Congratulations 100 miles…how do you feel”…That’s Joe he just crossed the line. 6am. He ran all night with Kimberly. I have to go congratulate them. Now take it from me it must have been very funny to see me trying to get out of a sleeping bag in a small tent, not being able to stand straight or walk without seeming like I was stepping on glass or dog poop. But I made it over to Joe and a smiling Kimberly (she always looks to happy) and shook both their hands.

A few hours later , the truck packed I was heading back home with my finishers medal and a clear plan to be back in 2015 and get the 100 mile belt buckle.

 The final results:
 I ended my race at 39:15:07 with 120.75km’s

Here is the lap breakdown
Lap 1 - 1:27:43
Lap 2 – 1:31:17
Lap 3 – 1:38:19
Lap 4 – 1:41:34
Lap 5 – 1:49:35
Lap 6 – 1:44:50
Lap 7 – 2:40:24
Lap 8 – 2:11:59
Lap 9 – 2:57:20
Lap 10 – 6:36:40
Lap 11 – 2:56:06
Lap 12 – 2:37:40
Lap 13 –2:48:42
Lap 14 – 2:22:35
Lap 15 -  4:10:15

A special thank you has to go out to the following:
  • All the wonderful race volunteers who fed us, counted our laps, joked and even pushed us on our way
  • Two of the many volunteers

  • Diane you are one loco race director!!! You are great!!
  • Joe Cleary simply thanks
  • Kimberly and all the other runners who passed me (Yes I think everyone lapped me at least once) you were all awesome.
  • Joanne thanks for putting up with this, and
  • Skechers Canada and especially Laurent Sirois. You folks are the best and don’t change a thing with the Skechers Ultra..otherwise I will need to hoard about 100 pairs and Joanne would kill me!!!!!

So now when can I sign up for 2015??????????? I am already to go!!!

Please check out for more info on the race and other race reports

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

UltrAspire Omega running pack

An overview:

- Pack volume is a little more than 8 litres
- A 2litre hydration bladder is easily accommodated in the pocket meant for the bladder
- lightweight at just over 450 grams (1 pound)

-light weight
-easily adjusted
-more than enough space for ‘stuff’ on long runs

A great pack for running or hiking. It is extremely versatile and well made. The strap system will allow this pack to fit on almost any body type.

The Review:
I have been promising a review on this pack for some time. So first, thank you for your patience. The delay in doing up a product review means I have had more time with the pack and gotten to know it fairly well. You might say it gave us time to bond! But before I go into the meat and potatoes of the review and explain all the highlights and lowlights (yes there were a few) I want to explain how this pack was added to my pack collection.

As you may recall in the Nathan VaporWrap review back in April last year I am a self-confessed backpack junkie. So it might not be surprising that I added this pack to the collection. However I blame someone else for the purchase!! Yes I was coerced, had my arm bent, compelled, pressured, urged….ok maybe it was just a friendly suggestion from a person who really know's what they were talking about and were providing me with a bit of sound advice, but I had to make my wife believe I was not solely responsible for purchasing the pack…although she did not believe me!!!!!! Anyway this zen master of pack information was Derrick Spafford of Spafford Health and Adventure who is an amazing ultra runner in his own right and along with offering coaching services also is a retailer of a number of running (and snowshoeing) product lines including the UltrAspire line. So in speaking to Derrick about the idea of running the Rideau Trail and using the Nathan pack he suggested that while the Nathan is a good single day product, the length of the Rideau Trail at 320km, and duration of a self-supported run, my plan being around 60 hours, meant that the Nathan would not carry a minimum amount of gear that would be needed for safety let alone any items to make the run a bit more comfortable…ha 320km and 60 hours of running what would be comfortable??? But Derrick’s point was very relevant and his own experiences on running the Rideau Trail as well as other long runs meant he knew what he was talking about. So out came the credit card and within 24 hours the pack was at my door.

Once the box was opened and the pack thrown on my back it was time for a short 20km run with the water bladder filled and a couple of short sleeved shirts thrown in the main compartment to help fill up the space. My first impression was how light the pack felt even with 2 litres of water on my back and another water bottle on the shoulder strap. UltrAspire claims on their web site that the pack is “Feather weight, large capacity pack” and at around 450 grams it is certainly light. But don’t think light is synonymous with cheap or fragile. The material on this pack is very strong nylon and will take a lot of abuse before showing any signs of failure. The other surprising item of note is how easy the pack is to adjust while out on a run. I have experienced many packs that take a bit of time to fit properly. The UltrAspire Omega, on the other hand was easily adjusted on the initial run early on which also meant that putting on a jacket or removing a layer would not result in long periods of re-adjustment by trial and error to get a good fit. Why more pack designers don’t do this I will never know.

Anyway, a number of subsequent runs occurred with the pack and the more I used it the
more I knew Derrick’s suggestion was spot on. The UltrAspire pack is not without its little faults which I think would be appropriate to highlight now. The first is that the Omega is not great pack empty. Maybe it was just me (and in speaking with Derek it seems that he has not experienced the problem so I might consider this as a personal issue and not something inherent with the packs design) but I found the pack likes to be loaded and takes on a bucking bronco persona without any weight. Even a run with full bladder may start out ok but as you drink the water or sports drink the pack begins to bounce. To be fair it was never a significant issue and never resulted in chaffing or discomfort so it may have been more a mental annoyance than anything else. The second nagging issue, and I raised this with the Nathan review as well, is why do companies have running packs with a bottle holder on the shoulder strap and don’t supply the darn water bottle? Again more of a minor annoyance than anything that should stop you from owning the product.

What I liked about the UltrAspire pack is more than would be appropriate to cover in a review blog since most things are subjective so what works for me might not work for you but I think the three big pluses make this pack a clear winner. My first highlight of the Omega is the adjustment. Again looking at the Nathan review, that pack is severely limited by the shoulder strap design and inability for adjusting. The UltrAspire Omega is equally secure when properly adjusted with the added very important benefit that you can add layers or remove layers and still have the pack fit perfectly. Another highlight of the pack is the storage capacity. UltrAspire on their web site does not indicate the capacity of the pack but some other reviews on the web indicate it is around 8 litres. This is a perfect size for most uses and would even be a great pack for someone looking for something that can double as a day pack around town where you might want to carry a jacket, camera and food, or for the runner looking at carrying a bit more than just some water and their id. I used this pack for most of my runs home from work where I carry a number of items including a blackberry, keys, work id, spare t-shirt, rain jacket, iPod and the odd time my kobo electronic reader. All these items along with the bladder fit securely and comfortably in the pack with plenty of space for a few more items if needed. Finally the single water bottle holder, ‘Magnon Electrolyte Pocket’ and front zippered pocked add important easily accessible pockets on the shoulder straps.

So my final verdict is if you are looking for a lightweight, high quality, multi-purpose hydration pack for running (snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, cycling, fast hiking, looking overly cool on urban adventures) then you really need to consider the UltrAspire Omega. If you are looking for a first running pack I would certainly recommend the UltrAspire Omega over the Nathan VaporWrap. The Omega will give you a larger range of practical uses and even if you find running with a pack is not really your thing the Omega will still be usable for other outdoor pursuits. The Nathan is a bit more focused and thus would have less value for other uses should it not be used for running. So if you are looking at purchasing the UltrAspire Omega or one of UltrAsire’s other hydration products check out Spafford Health and Adventure or one of the many UltrAspire retailers.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Some thoughts for 2014

With winter around the corner it is time to really think about the coming season and begin looking at signing up for races that tend to fill up early. My mind has been jumping back and forth on the Rideau Run FKT attempt and the option of holding off one more year for more trail specific training. What has tilted the balance to waiting until 2015 was the recent 112.8km completion of the Ottawa Self Transcendence 24 hour.

 Photo From Ottawa Self Transcendence Race

While I was happy with the distance a few issues popped up during the race that has me thinking a bit more work would make the Rideau attempt more probable of success and even more importantly that I can enjoy the run...ok how can you enjoy 320km in 60 hours is a valid question but the other side of the coin is trying this and failing and deciding I hate running because the attempt was just too painful.

So for now the plan for 2014 will be as follows

February - Winterman Half Marathon (dependent on date we pick for a trip to Cuba)
May - Courons Gatineau Half Marathon
May - Sulphur Springs Trail Ultra (50 miles)
July - Limberlost Ultra (56km)
August - Dirty Girls 48 hour
October - Mad Trapper (50km)

Along with these races in April or Early May I would like to do the Rideau Trail Smith Falls to Ottawa component (100+km) or the Veloroute des Draveurs trail from Maniwaki to Wakefield (100km). The Veloroute des Draveurs could make the perfect Birthday run!!

Finally in the late Fall I would like to run the Prescott Russel Rail Trail from Rigaud back to its terminus near Mer Bleu (100+km).

So that is where my thinking is right now.

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 – A Year in Review

Who does a year end review before year end??? I do!! The reason is simple. I have completed all my running goals for 2013 and with only one race left, which will receive a separate post since it is a new race event, I wanted to get this retrospective done so I can finish up the year with a couple of product reviews (yes the UltrAspire Omega pack is one of them) and start looking at 2014 which right now will be a big year for me.

So 2013...How did it stack up? Since I am new to running I can’t say this was the best year ever since the nature of a newbie runner’s progression should mean that the first 3 to 5 years are positive progressions each year. But, that said, it was the best year so far. No earth shattering events or results but a good consistent progress through the year that I now look back on and feel shows I am in my element as an utra runner.

Running in 2013 started out with a New Year’s Resolution. My goal was to end the year with an average of 50km’s of running per week. That translates to a total of 2600km’s for the year. So far I am on pace and as long as I don’t suffer any injury from now to Christmas I will definitely meet that goal. My first race in 2013 was the Marathon Interior at the Dome in nearby Blackburn Hamlet on January 20th. I had high hopes when the race was announced that I could use this event to better my marathon PB of around 4:40. But three weeks leading up to the race I came down with a flu bug that put an end to any training during that period. So on race day, still getting over that flu I only managed a sub 5 hour finish time. Not a great performance but I was happy to have completed the race. 

In February and early March I had a great two weeks of running. No Ottawa was not under the influence of a warm spell...Joanne and I were in beautiful Cuba on Cayo Santa Maria where I could run to my heart’s content as Joanne had all that extra time to enjoy the beach. This time in Cuba also gave me a better perspective on the future Run Across Cuba (see and some thoughts on shoe choice and the backpack I would carry. Plus a couple of day trips to Trinidad on the West side of the Island and Santa Clara gave me a better appreciation for the road conditions I would be encountering...way more hills in that area than I expected. 

April was a prep month for the upcoming May Ottawa Marathon so many training miles were put in. I also decided to join Joanne on a 10km run for the Spring Fling Running Thing in Smith Falls instead of doing the half marathon at that event. The reason was twofold: first Joanne and I had not raced together in a while and we thought it would be fun and second, she was aiming for a sub 1 hour 10km and I thought I could pace her for the first half where she normally runs too conservatively and then let her go for a fast second half where she normally kicks my butt with her speed. In the end we finished together in 59:02. I think Joanne could have run a faster time on a better surface and in warmer conditions and without me slowing her down but that will be for a future race.

In April I also decided to do one of my non-race long runs. So for my birthday gift to myself I took the day off work, hoped on a bus to the West end of Ottawa and ran back home for a 50km fun run. This was a great day and a wonderful route with only one difficult spot where the roadway and traffic requires a heightened degree of attention not to get killed. As I write this I am thinking of repeating this run next week or in November. This time I would love to do that run in horrendous weather conditions something not unexpected in November when cold rainy days with a touch of snow and heavy wind could make for a real extreme weather run!!!! Yes I know I am nuts!

May roles around and the training seems on pace for two back to back events. With Ottawa Race weekend Marathon May 26 and the Kingston 6 hour Transcendence race 13 day later on June 8th I decided to use the Ottawa Marathon as a fast training run and put my eggs into the Kingston race. So my goal for Ottawa was sub 5 hours and I wanted to go out and enjoy myself. Plus Joanne and I chatted about her spending the morning on the course watching and since this was not an important race we decided (ok she decided and I agreed) that she would stay home to have a quiet morning by herself and do some gardening. This helped me as well since I did not feel a sense that I was keeping her waiting for me at a finish line so I could doddle along at an easy pace and enjoy the marathon atmosphere. 

 The race started out well with no problems though 39 or so km’s when on the last corner leading to the long finish straight my stomach turned. It was bad enough that I stepped off the course for a minute or two. As my stomach settled I walked a few metres and returned to a run. At this point in my head, and based on my watch, I was over my marathon PB by a couple of minutes so I was in no hurry. I even took my camera out as my stomach had returned to normal and took a video of the finish straight. My finish time was 4:42:51. I just missed my PB of 4:40:45 from 2011. If only I had known I was so close. But hindsight is 50/50 and I had to go with the knowledge that I ran as fast as I did two years earlier and felt much better at the finish line. So much so that a day later I went out for a n enjoyable pain free20km training run. 

With the marathon behind me I now spent 13 days concentrating on the Kingston 6 hour event. This was a special race since Joanne had also signed up and we agreed we would run the first few laps of the 800metre circuit around RMC in Kingston together.  I should point out that people who know me and specifically know of my running habit(s) also know that I like to run alone given the choice. One of my running friends calls me a lone wolf when it comes to running and he is right. I like the quiet and tranquility of running alone and feel that with others I need to be sociable. With Joanne I can have the benefit of her company, we can chat if we feel like it but we can also enter into our own little running cocoons, not needing to entertain each other. As the countdown hit three we kissed each other and proceeded to begin our 6 hour run. After a couple of laps Joanne slowed a bit and I sped up to see if I could hit my 50km goal. For the most part things were going well but around 4.5 or 5 hours I lost interest in the run. It wasn’t physical, I felt good and had no issues, I just didn’t see any point in continuing. At this point Joanne and I walk-ran the remaining hour together. At the end of the 6 hours I had hit 47.2km’s and Joanne had a fantastic 38.4km’s. While I felt a bit of a letdown we were able to celebrate her success of both the farthest she had run (her previous longest distance was 14km’s) and the longest she had run.  What was interesting with my result is that in 2012 I finished with 47.6km over the 6 hours which along with the May marathon time comparison was saying that at least I was consistent in time although in both cases had ended the race in a better physical state than I had in the previous event. 

Most of the remaining summer was quiet with nice runs in a variety of locations. I accomplished my second long run July 27 when I set out from my home in Orleans, crossed the Cumberland to Mason Ferry then ran back towards downtown Ottawa along route 148 with a stop at my parents home in Gatineau Quebec. In the end I finished the 71km run in under 11 hours and again while this was nearing my maximum run distance (81km’s in 2012) I felt good at the end and still had gas in the tank.

September and the Ottawa 24 hour Self Transcendence race were my next goal and the biggest for 2013. I had no pre planned goals other than to hit 100km’s. Anything beyond that would be great. The weeks leading up to the race were not the greatest in terms of a proper taper so I definitely should have been following a training plan to keep me on track. In fact not only was I not using a training plan for this race I wasn’t even consistent in my running. A little too organic even for me. Next time better planning. Anyway race day arrived and I set out at a gentle pace, hitting the 50km mark and then 50 miles on target for a possible 100 mile finish. However shortly after hitting the 50 miles and taking a break I found that my right knee would not fully bend making running impossible so for the final 9 hours of the race I was forced into a walk. In the end I finished with 112.8km’s which now that I can look at the race and training in total I feel was good for where I was but certainly can be improved upon. I also did discover that I will never again do an indoor 24 hour event. 12 hours is fine and if this type of race was held outdoors it would be ok, but indoors was just too mentally taxing to have any merit to do again. 

So now we are at the point where I am typing this blog looking ahead to the final few months of 2013 and what lies ahead in 2014. As I mentioned above, one more ultra race awaits, the 50km Mad Trapper Relentless event October 26. Along with a race report on this blog I will be submitting a report to the Beyond Marathon site, where I have posted race reports in the past. That race will officially end the 2013 season.

For 2014 I had posted a few months ago, a list of possible races. A few changes have occurred so here is an update. My first race in 2014 will likely be the Winterman half marathon Sunday February 16. There is always a chance I might bump this to a marathon distance but at this point 21.1km seems likely. After that the next event will be the first running of Courons Gatineau May 10. The plan is to run the half with Joanne at an enjoyable pace. Following that I still have not decided whether to go back to Kingston in June for the 6 hour Transcendence event or take part in the Limberlost Challenge 56km trail race in July. A few things need to come together to decide which race I will do including Joanne’s preference and if we can get work time off for the longer drive to Limberlost. After DNF’ing Limberlost in 2012 (dropped at 42km) I feel I need to redeem myself at race where i first ran an ultra in 2011.

Now August is where things get tricky for 2014. I have been toying with the idea of a FKT (Fastest known Time) attempt on the 320km Rideau Trail. I have already looked at pre run logistics and spoken with some people knowledgeable about the trail as well as run a few sections to get a taste of what the run might be like. It may be just nerves about the distance but I am wondering if I am ready to attempt something like this at the point in my running career where I have yet to complete a 100 mile race or spent any significant time running at night. So the alternative to a Rideau Trail attempt which would take place the long weekend of August 1 to 4 would be the 48 hours at Dirty Girls Ultra on August 8 to 10. This race would offer me a number of benefits including two night runs, the potential (I would consider it my minimum goal) of 100 miles over the 48 hours, more trail running experience (especially in the dark) and hydration and eating training for a long run. All this would then make the Rideau Trail attempt more palatable for 2015 and provide a bit more assurance that I could complete the FTK attempt. So this will be something to consider over the coming months.

Following the summer Joanne and I are planning a trip to Europe so may see if during our time there we can participate in at least one local event. Depending on the exact timing of that trip I may sign up for the 9runrun half marathon usually held mid October or some other road event in the late Fall which would round out the 2014 race calendar. 

I also would like to aim at completing a couple of self supported long runs as I did this year. Not having attempted the Gate to Gate 56km in Algonquin Park this year I would consider it for 2014 if we planned a camping trip to Algonquin. The Rigaud to Navan run on the Prescott-Russell trail at 100km would be one option. If I decide not to do the Rideau Trail FKT attempt then I might consider running the Smith Falls to Ottawa portion of the trail which would be in the neighbourhood of 150km’s and would offer a great planning tool for a full attempt. Finally I have also thought of the Haute Gatineau trail which follows the old train bed from Maniwaki to Low and clocks in around 75km’s and would be a good run for mid May ahead of bug season as a fun attainable goal. Extending the run to Wakefield would put the run close to 100km and make for a very nice, relatively straightforward long run.

As will any plan this one will be subject to change and modify and truly won’t be written in stone until the actual events have been completed. 2014 offers to be an exciting year with new goals and continued progress in my running adventure and lead nicely to the multi year plan of one day in the near future running the entire length of Cuba.

Stay tuned for more....Now dust of those shoes and get out for a walk or run.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Skechers GObionic Trail Shoe Review

I have come to believe that most runners likely take for granted their choice of footwear. They may be swayed by marketing campaigns or who on the professional circuit is wearing a particular brand and consider this as a primary reason for their purchase. But let’s look at shoes from another light. They are both the least important and most important of a runners kit. This dichotomy occurs because a runner is essentially a human being and nothing more. Equipment does not make a runner as say it does a cyclist. It is the bike that make the person a cyclist…or a tennis player, this requires one to play a game within a defined man made environment, the tennis court, using a racquet and ball. But for the runner, the simple plain and beautiful truth is that one could run with only the body he or she was given and nothing more. The simple act of running is purity in and of itself.   At the same time, shoes can be a very important tool in the runner’s arsenal, and the longer and farther one runs the more important the tools. So this is the dichotomy. We don’t need shoes to be runners but with the right shoe we will be happy runners.

You may now be wondering where I am going with this and thinking it is an odd way to review a shoe so let me wrap up the two concepts above as a lead up to the actual purpose of this post. Simply shoes need to be chosen based on how they feel on your feet and taking into consideration the use and environment you are going to run. That is it, plain and simple!!

Now for the Skechers GObionic Trail. This shoe, like an earlier review of the GOrun Ride fits like a comfortable glove right out of the box. There is no messing around here, no need to break in the shoe, or find the right shoe soc combo. You can put this shoe on and go for a run. Unlike my earlier complaint about laces on the Skechers road shoes, lacing on the GObionic Trail is dead on. No need to rip out the laces and change them or try and find a better lacing pattern.


Skechers GObionic Trail

As for the shoe design it is slipper like without any bulky added weight. It is simplicity in design and beauty in function. It goes straight to the heart of my opening of this review that it is a shoe meant to protect your feet and give you comfort. No marketing gimmicks or false promises are needed here.

But how does the shoe perform? This is ultimately the most important question for a review to answer. In coming to an answer I ran with the shoes over a number of weeks on a variety of terrain. Two particular runs stand out as a clear example as to the quality and performance characteristics of these shoes. So let me set each of the runs up for you first.

The first was a 20+km run in Banff National Park. The run was a simple up and down on Sulfur Mountain, 1000m of vertical gain in dry hot weather on three types of surfaces. The first 4km and last 4km were on asphalt or cement (road surface and sidewalk), 5 km was on hard pack soil with exposed rock surfaces and 5 km on crushed stone varying in size from pea gravel to sharp stone the size of golf balls. The days leading up to the run had been very dry in the area so there was no water or mud on trail for the entire run.

The second run was a bit under 20km and occurred in parc national du Mont-Orford in Quebec’s Cantons de l’Est region just south of Montreal. With around 500m of elevation gain this run was not as severe in climbing as the Banff run above but made up for it by offering a very wet and muddy trail. The region had seen a number of days of very heavy rainfall prior to the run and this was made more interesting as the trail had been recently rebuilt and many of the rocks used on the trail for staircases or infill were still placing themselves. This run was about 6km on fire road, 2km on pavement and the remainder on technical single track.

In general the shoes performed at or beyond expectations in both running situations. I was amazed at how adaptable the GObionic Trail was on the various surfaces especially in how comfortable the shoes felt on the pavement. The tread design and light weight of the shoe means that you won’t feel like a Clydesdale horse running on pavement. As well, and I think this will appeal to the environmentalist in all of us, the tread on these shoes are not so aggressive as to tear up the very ground we love to run on, but this doesn’t mean you are running on trails in racing flats either. On the uphill sections in Mont Orford with mud and rocks I never felt out of control and slipping occurred in spots where I would have thought no shoe would have done well. Generally these shoes aided my confidence in being able to place my foot where I wanted to and not worrying about ‘sticking’ to a surface.

The GObionic Trail was especially at home on the Sulfur Mountain climb and descent. While the sole thickness did translate in a few ouch moments when stepping on small sharp rocks on the downhill, this was only a bit of an inconvenience and I was soon adjusting my downhill technique to avoid the sharper rocks. This in turn led to a few “holy crap” moments when my speed and descent exceeded my cornering technique and I came a bit closer to the edge of the trail than I wanted. These shoes performed more like road shoes in terms of their lightness than a typical stiff trail shoe.

I should also mention that the Skechers GObionic Trail offers two offset or Heel to Toe drop options. With the insole in place the shoe has a 3mm drop. This can be changed by removing the insole resulting in a 0 drop. I kept the Skechers insole in place and found it to be a perfect running platform for my running style. The tongue, as in other Skechers products is gusseted which I suspect contributes to the slipper like feeling of the shoes. 

The removable inner sole brings the drop from 3mm to 0

In looking who this shoe would be for I can see it appealing to a number of different types of buyers. The first type, and probably the group least served by the running shoe industry, is the casual runner. Here I mean two types of casual runner. The first is someone who runs intermittently and on varied terrain although I would suggest that the majority of running should occur on trails or dirt roads (if this runner was running more often on roads or multi use pathways they may still be better served by a road shoe for the occasional foray onto a trail). As a single shoe owner the GObionic Trail would offer the most flexibility of use. The second casual runner is the person who is a regular road runner who wants to play on the trails from time to time and is looking to purchase a trail specific shoe. For this person the GObionic gives you a road like shoe in terms of responsiveness without the heavily lugged pattern of some trail shoes which would be overkill for the odd weekend run on gentle trails. It also offers flexibility in trail surface so can adapt too making a good shoe if only one trail shoe was in your immediate future.

A good lug design for a fast responsive shoe with adequate grip for most trail situations

The second group of runners who would be served by the Skechers GObionic Trail are the performance junkies who own a number of trail shoes suited for specific trail types. This shoe, as I mentioned above, is a more than capable star on the dry hard pack trail where speed is a factor. With this shoe you can go out and bomb through trails knowing that you are not wasting energy with a heavier wet weather shoe on a surface that is dry and not overly technical.

A small market group of runners who would also be perfect to consider the GObionic Trail are adventure or multi day stage race runners. This type of runner needs to cover large distance on a variety of terrain types with a shoe that offers comfort for the long running days but a degree of performance in terms of light weight without sacrificing cushioning and foot protection. A good example of the environment for this runner would be my plan on running the 320km Rideau Trail in Eastern Ontario which will occur on paved road and pathways, country roads, dirt roads and single track. Because I plan on running this trail with no support over a 60 hour period I do not have the flexibility to carry two or three shoes for the different surfaces I will be running on. The Skechers GObionic Trail offers a great compromise on all the surface types and will be the shoes I wear on this run (for more info please see 

The final group of runners I can see appreciating the GObionic are those runners who run on a variety of trail surfaces during a given run. For most of us we may start out from a parking lot consisting of gravel or pavement, run up a nice hard pack fire road or multi use trail onto a gnarly bit of root covered single track, across a wet area over some exposed rock outcrop, through a pine forest and back to our vehicle. This type of mixed landscape will be where the Skechers GObionic Trail really shines and shows its strength in comparison to other trail shoes.
In concluding this review I would like you to consider that the Skechers GObionic Trail is what a trail shoe is meant to be. No flash or gimmicks, no hype or hard sell, just a shoe to put on your feet and help you enjoy the very thing you want to do, that is run. But it does this with the required components of making the run more enjoyable with a design that is appropriate  to a wide range of trail runners looking for a shoe that is not so narrowly focused on one environment type nor so generic as to be of little use to high performance trail runners. In short the Skechers GObionic Trail should be a serious contender for your next trail running shoe purchase.

A special thanks to the folks at Skechers Canada for providing the Skechers GObionic for the test. Merci Laurent and Cris.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Future posts

Working on two reviews which I hope to post mid September. The first will be on the Skechers GObionic trail running shoe.   So far I am totally amazed!!! Another superb shoe from Skechers. The second test will be on the UltrAspire Omega running pack. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Skechers GOrun Ride Shoe Review

I forgot to add this link....As one of the iRun Magazine Test Team members I was given the opportunity to try out the Skechers GOrun Ride running shoes. In a nutshell they are a great shoe and what I now wear for all my races and self supported road runs and for the vast majority of my training (I have a few other pairs of shoes that have low millage on them so use them on occasion...but once they are done I will be a 100% Skechers runner)

So here is a link to the iRun review I did a few months ago:

Just an update on the review...I have now put 1000km on the test pair and while the heal has wore a bit the shoe is still in good condition. I will retire these shoes at this point because I don't want the changes in the sole due to wear to effect my running form which has gone from a heal strike to a not consistent, but getting there, mid foot strike. This in turn has as far as I am concerned removed the pain from PF I have suffered with until a month after first running in these shoes.