Running in Kenya

Introduction

As a race director and lifelong runner who coaches Kenyan athletes remotely it has always been a dream of mine to run in Kenya. There is something very compelling about going to the country that has the reputation of being home to the fastest humans on the planet. In May of 2017 through some twists of fate my opportunity to go finally came.

I was asked to produce a website promoting run tourism for runners from North America to participate in the Mully Half Marathon, a race designed to raise funds for the Mully Children's Family. These funds provide housing, food, medical care, clothing and an education to thousands of orphans and street kids. It seemed only fitting that I would participate in the race to find out what we were promoting.

Beyond the first week with the children of the Mully Children's Family I was able to travel 350 kilometres north of Nairobi to Nandi county to run with elite athletes I know in the towns of Kapsabet and Eldoret. These towns are located in the hilly country at 6,600 feet and above, which partly explains the incredible cardio capacity of these amazing runners.

Mully Half Marathon - Ndalani Kenya

During my time at the Mully Children's Family facility in Ndalani Kenya I was privileged to have been able to meet hundreds of children of all ages. I spoke to them at assembly and was able to run with them.

My message was simple. Running can be a way of life and a way to stay healthy over the course of their entire lives. This is quite a new concept for a lot of Kenyans who train to win and to be the fastest at all costs. They feel that their livelihood and all opportunity is entered around this idea and often give up running in their 30's if they don't become the next world champion. That idea is reinforced by the fact that there are generally no participation medals in most races - only top 3! I wanted to say that it's a great metaphor for life and not to be discouraged and give it up.

On the second last day of my stay at the Mully Children's Family facility we were transported by land rover out to the start of the race in nearby Yatta. The dew was still evaporating as we drove the dirt road out to the highway past roadside stands selling all sorts of goods.

Upon arriving at the starting line the other Canadian runners Ross and Bernie from Calgary and I were surprised that they were still taking roadside registrations and had large lineups. The banner was still being strung across the road and the race marshals, members of the Kenyan police were present in large groups. They were all armed with automatic weapons so I doubt any drivers would cut off any runners or cause any other sort of nuisance.

We were quite a novel addition to the race as the only 3 Mzungus (white men) participating. Kenyan national TV (NTV) was quick to interview us to ask about our goals and what the race was raising funds towards. In fact it was the exact opposite of North American races where there is a lead pack that invariably includes Kenyans that breaks away. Instead it was a large pack of very fast Kenyans leaving the 3 Canadians in the dust!

The heat that day was nearly unbearable as Yatta is nearly on the equator so the sun was almost directly above us. Heat from above combined with the heat reflecting back up off the road cooked us. This was compounded by the fact that the start time had slipped by nearly three hours! We had hoped to start before the sun had gotten very high, but the race day registrations had taken longer than expected. This is why most races in other parts of the world have pre-registration with online registration and payment. Be prepared if you do race in Kenya to pay cash or using your phone with the MPesa app. There might not be pre-registration!

The Race

Oh that heat! At home I'm capable of something close to a 1:30 half marathon and maybe I'd take a sip of water half way so that I can keep the pace up. This was definitely not the case in Ndalani/Yatta that morning. As the race time had slipped and the equatorial sun crept higher, the pavement got to blast furnace status.

I started at what I thought was a reasonable half marathon pace like I normally would. The bulk of the race of super quick Kenyans receded ahead and I settled down into a pace I thought I could sustain, being careful to take water whenever it was offered.

About 10K in I had climbed a couple of hills and was completely soaked through! I had also used 3 bottles of water in just 10K! Be prepared because in Kenya most races have no electrolyte drink along the route at all, just warm bottled water. Most elite Kenyans will not take water in a half marathon anyway, but some did on this day given the temperatures.

At 15K I passed a very fast looking young Kenyan who was sitting in the ditch with his head between his knees. I stopped to ask if he was alright and he insisted he was. Since he looked like he had heat stroke I gave him an unopened bottle of water I'd been handed and a couple of guys on a motorbike arrived to look after him.

Moving right along, a couple of things over the last 6K struck me as odd. One was that the race had no cones or barriers so that you really had to be careful to watch for cars and trucks whizzing by. The other thing was whenever I passed a crowd who had come out to see the race from a small village they seemed completely astonished! They must have been completely astonished and wondered who the 50 something white guy with grey hair was! As I passed them, some yelled out "Mzungu! Go Mzungu!" and others laughed outright. I really didn't take it as an insult because I'm quite certain the laughs were the type of laugh you get when you catch someone completely off guard. After all, not many Kenyans in their 50's or even 40's are competing at running or even running at all. This is something I'd like to change for the sake of their long term health.

At the 20th kilometre I reached the place on the highway where the race turned onto a dirt road for the last 1.1 km. I had consumed 8 bottles of water and looked like I had been swimming due to the sweat. I'd never been so happy to be close to the finish line.

At the finish a nice finish tape had been strung across for me as the first Mzungu to finish. I had actually beaten some Kenyans much to my surprise as well given my slow 1:57 time. I truly felt like a celebrity although I know it was really just that Kenyans are very hospitable welcoming people for the most part.

After Race Activities

Another way that running is different in Kenya is that it is revered and celebrated the way Americans celebrate football or how Germans celebrate soccer. In Canada or the US after a race, there may be a modest medal presentation for the top 3 in various age groups, but the vast majority of runners get a participation medal. In Kenya it's medals for the top 3 only. It's is the dream of every young Kenyan to win at running. The podium is all they are shooting for. Success can mean travel, sponsorship, scholarships, in short a better life for them and their family.

At the finish line my friend Edinah Rotich was there to make sure I didn't drop from heat stroke and to get me to the massage area where a young therapist worked on my calf and achilles area which had only recently recovered from injury. Edinah is a top volleyball player on the Kenyan national team and an ambassador for clean sport/anti-doping as well as a guard to the first lady! I was in good company.

After my massage I was ushered over to a large rectangular area that was surrounded by open tenting with seating underneath. We were afforded VIP seating near the race officials and the man himself, Dr. Charles Mulli! There were speeches, choirs, presentations of every kind. For me personally the honour reached it's peak when I was asked to present the medals and bouquets of flowers to the top 3 finishers in the half marathon who had run under 62 minutes!

When the ceremony which was attended by hundreds of people was finished we were invited by Dr. Mulli to a big barbecue meal to cap off an amazing event and day. Although there was some meat at the table, I kept to my vegan diet. It's quite easy to do in Kenya with the fried greens, ugali, corn, rice, potatoes and other vegetables in abundance.

During the ride back from the race I reflected on how lucky we were and the generous, loving character of the Kenyan people. I was made to feel welcome despite being from a different place and having a different colour & customs etc. I think a lot of other cultures could take a cue from Kenyan culture when it comes to not only accepting the differences of others, but celebrating them! I will always have a special place in my heart for my Kenyan friends and they are welcome here any time.

Takeaways

  • When in Kenya always stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water
  • Expect race plans to change including details such as start time
  • Arrive early but be prepared with shade or at least a good hat for waiting
  • Sun protection is key
  • Stay alert and watch for passing traffic and don't wear headphones!
  • Follow instructions given by course marshals

Morning trip to the starting line.

Picking up the race bib.

Kenyan runners at the starting line.

Ross, Me, Edinah, Kenyan runner, Bernie - Start

Finishing like a winner despite being near the back!

The youth leaders of Mully Children's Family.

A massage and shade!

Kenyan choir at the medal ceremony.

Sinister 7 – 2016 Third Time is the Charm!

Sinister 7 - 100 miles/161 Kilometres - 19,000 feet/5,791 metres Vertical Climb - 30 hour time limit.

In July 2016 after 2 failed attempts I finally finished this race which truly lives up to it's Sinister name. More than just a race this was a 2 week trip of epic proportions with my friend Marc. It was a reunion with my western ultra running family. These are the crazy people who run these races and crew the people who do. Before I tell my story I have to thank my friends Marc for being a true friend and great traveling companion, Sherri for the best crewing ever, and Hiro for booking the hotel room at the race a year in advance so I would have to enter again!

Leg 1

On the morning of July 9th, 2016 a crowd of runners from all over Canada, the USA and other parts of the world gathered on the main street of Blairmore Alberta for the start of the Sinister 7 race.

The race is 161 kilometres of rugged trail that is separated into 7 legs that take runners to remote parts of the Crowsnest Pass, looping back towards relative civilization in places. It's wild, it's wilderness and runners had better come prepared. As race director Brian Gallant will tell you "this race will beat you up!"

While the majority of runners are on teams of up to 7 runners there is a solo contingent of 216 entries for 2016 who toed the line ever optimistic of their chances of success. I can say from personal experience that you have to remain optimistic and humble in the face of this thing because it did beat me up twice before in 2013 and 2014 resulting in my only 2 DNF's in my life. I was in good company though because in this year's edition only 61 of the 216 starters would finish this gruelling race.

We set off on leg 1 to the cheers of quite a few supporters who lined the streets leading out of Blairmore and quickly ended up running a grassy ditch that led us out to the Frank Slide. The Frank Slide is a rock slide that took out an entire village and is an ominous reminder of the power of nature.

After climbing through Bellevue and Hillcrest I climbed around the back side of the slide and eventually ducked into the forest enjoying the morning run and trying to put the concept of how much further I had to go out of my mind. IT's always good to break it down and concentrate on things one leg at a time.

Before long I was at the end of leg 1 ahead of schedule and feeling super fresh. That was a good thing because after a brief pit stop to fuel up and fill my water bottles it was on to Leg 2 which is challenging and in my mind good to put behind me quickly to stay ahead on time.

So far so good! Cheering and support at the transfer point and I keep on moving as quickly as possible onto leg 2.

Marc - Truly a great guy and running friend

Sherri - The best crew ever!

Leg 2

On leg 2 I had a sense of Deja vu and strangely a sense of relief. The preliminaries were over and you really feel like it's all business from here.

I ran without any undue fatigue and had cheerful conversations with other runners. Unlike the previous two attempts I climbed the switchbacks up to some tremendous views faster and more comfortably than ever before. 

From there the gritty sections came on with the wild ride down the quad busting switchback descent taking me down to cross the river that flows into Blairmore. With the water levels low this year, I was able to cross the tiny bridge they had put in place and keep my feet dry and therefore free of blisters!

3:59.04 and done 2 legs! That made me feel super happy.

 

Leg 2 - Feeling fresh!

Leg 2 - running with Tara

Leg 3

Leg 3 is the "make or break" leg for a lot of solo runners. In previous years it's been unseasonably hot and humid even at the top of the climbs. It is a 1,357 metre climbing 31.4 km, rugged beast. 

I think the race director, Brian Gallant summed it up best:
Also known as "Satan's Sack", Leg 3 is dry, hot, and exposed. This leg of the Sinister 7 has the second most elevation gain and distance. In return, you are rewarded with stunning views of the mountains atop the Continental Divide! This leg crosses through the haunting remains of the 2003 Lost Creek fire where one feels as though they are on another planet. After passing the burn scar, runners once again climb back into Blairmore for the start of leg 4.

Fully fuelled I climbed out of the transfer and descended into the valley that leads to the more rugged section once used in an episode of Mantracker. If you like running on a combination of single track mixed with washed out ATV trails, this is for you. 

With the temperature being more comfortable this year I reached the point where I had struggled to maintain a running pace last time and managed to continue running! When I reached the 2nd aid station 2/3rds of the way through I actually felt amazing for the first time ever. 

Leaving the aid station and continuing over the top I ran the rugged descent towards the climb out of Satan's Sack. this climb tests everyone as it's super steep and seems to go on forever. At the top of it the reward is a super beautiful panoramic view of the mountains on the other side of the highway. 

Having made that climb and still feeling great I ran down towards the 2/3 transfer for my 2nd visit to take fuel to prepare for leg 4.

I had survived leg 3 in 5:07 (9:05 elapsed) and done 3 legs and 68 km. It may not seem to be such a fast time but when I considered the elevation and the rough nature of the trails I was happy. No time to waste as leg 4 was beckoning.

 

Leg 3 - Hotter but bearable

Leg 3 - Alpine meadows seen through a steamy iPhone lens

Leg 4

Leg 4 hits you smack in the face with a chin scraper! A steep climb up a ski hill reminded me that although leg 3's climb was behind me, there was a whole lot of race left.

Having done the climb it opened up into an area that used to be densely forested but was now open due to some logging which afforded yet more views previously unavailable. this section landed me back at the aid station that is also part of leg 3.

After that aid station I took stock of urinary output and it was good. Not so dark and more volume. These are important health indicators in 100 mile races. This fact bode well for the coming long cross country section of leg 4.

During the rolling cross country section I was hours ahead of previous years and feeling pretty good for the first half of it but of course that changed. Ah the stomach, the bane of any ultra runner's existence! My stomach began realizing how much gel I'd stuffed in there along with the real food, and boatloads of fluids. I had become queasy like previous years near the 89 km mark of the race. Just past half and worried about how it would affect me was not the place I wanted to be. 

I pulled into the checkpoint at the end of leg 4 and was met by my friend Sherri who was crewing her friend Colin and a few others. She had mobilized her own crew of people and before I knew it I was being re-clothed, fresh socks being put on, and fed!

I knew that despite my stomach feeling a little off I'd need calories so I took broth and some potatoes. The mistake I made was the meatballs. My head was not working right at that point and despite normally being 100% plant based I took some. What followed can only be described as the most selective throw-up ever. Only the meatballs returned so my vegetarianism was maintained!

Leg 4 was done in 3:20:36 (12:20 elapsed) and done 4 legs and approximately 89 km. With my jacket on I pressed into leg 5 in full daylight still ahead of schedule on track for 24 to 25 hours.

 

Leg 4 - Leaving transfer 2/3 out on leg 4

Leg 4 - Unbelievable beauty in the afternoon

Leg 5

Leg 5 was probably one of my hardest although none easy! My stomach had declared it's intentions to stop digesting food and water. Without these 2 ingredients it's impossible to continue. 

The absolute best part was meeting up with Colin and Monique and sharing leg 5. Colin is a very determined person who embraces the suffering and stays positive regardless! Monique has a smile that no amount of suffering can erase. Her positivity is infectious! With their company I was able to stagger through to the 2nd aid station on 5 where the amazing staff there fed me raw ginger! 

Reaching the end of leg 5, the ginger had completely turned my stomach back on and I felt positively energized and hopeful that I'd be ok. I met Marc at transfer 5/6 and with his help got salty soup into me for leg 6. His encouragement was amazing and I suited up with 2 jacket and glove layers for leg 6 and near freezing temperatures.

Leg 5 was done in about 6 hours (18:20 elapsed) and done 4 legs and approximately 117 km. I had reached my furthest yet at this race.

 

Leg 5 - Queasy stomach but great company!

Leg 5 - Setting out on leg 6 into the dark but smiling

Leg 6

 

I was officially into uncharted territory on this my 3rd attempt. Leg 6 didn't disappoint in delivering some punishment with a brutal climb off the get-go. The climb had all sorts of creeks crossing it with uneven rocks and for the first time I was running with soaked feet. 

Through the forest canopy I could see billions of stars in the alpine night. Other than the stars, my entire world was described within the cone of light from my headlamp. This was a feeling of total meditative peace and I didn't mind being completely alone. 

After many rolling hills I had come to a clearing and saw the first hints of dawn on and a slightly brightening sky. This was barely perceptible and it's a good thing because I really didn't want to see the climb that everyone talks about on leg 6. It is one of the worst climbs in the race because it comes at a point where you are mentally and physically exhausted from running all day and night. 

I emerged at the highest point on the course and a band of pink on the horizon had developed. With no trees around I had a stunning view of Crowsnest Mountain and the 7 Sisters and a bunch of mountains on the west side of the valley I was about to drop into. These mountains were bathed in fiery orange and red colour from the sunrise. I was in tears because it was so beautiful and because I realized with certainty that I would finish this race no matter what!

I ran as fast as my body could take me downhill and on towards the valley and it's rolling hills and herds of friendly cows! One foot in front of the other and press on was my mantra. I had a lot of soreness but nothing that could stop me running and making decent time. 

I ran into the aid station at transfer 5/6 and Sherri was there again offering all manner of support. I said I'd been fantasizing about a giant coke with ice all night because all that heavy breathing in the climbs had made my throat so dry that my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. Taking my jacket layers and serving up copious quantities of coke Sherri again showed her big heart and amazing crew skills. I let her know where I thought Colin and Monique were on course and proceeded out on leg 7!

Leg 6 was done in about 7:25 hours 25:45 elapsed) approximately 151 km with 10k to go. 

 

Leg 6 - The beauty of dawn!

Leg 6 - The highest point in the race

Leg 6 - A hasty selfie at dawn

Leg 7 to the finish!

This was absolutely the most enjoyable leg for me. Lots of solo runners talk about how the last leg was soul destroying but perhaps because of the sugar and caffeine in that coke I was enjoying it. 

It started with guess what - another brutal climb up Wedge Mountain. I just pretended it was Blue Mountain ski resort back home and got it done as quickly as possible.

The climb led into some rolling technical single track and then into a big switchback descent that leads to the finish at the community centre in Coleman. I have no idea how, but I was ripping the downhills as if it was still yesterday morning. I normally love descending but I was surprised to be moving fast enough for a 9th place for leg 7 in 1:35.

I emerged from the forest and smelled the finish. After a short run down a road it turned into the only pavement since the start in Blairmore. At this point I just hung on and ran as fast as I could. Upon passing a runner with only blocks to go he began chasing me! 160 km and 1 to go and an actual footrace was on. I still can't believe I was still actually running at this point but absolutely ecstatic.

Rounding the last turn and into the parking area and the finish arch I was again pretty emotional. This was partly because it had taken 2 successful failures before I got to the finish line. But mostly it was because of the wonderful people in this and other races that truly make this sport amazing.

There are friendships that form quickly and solidly born out of ultra running. It must be something about sharing the pain and the challenge that makes this so. Although I find that the sport attracts some pretty solid people with big hearts. The whole mentality is about helping each other succeed against some sobering odds. 

Leg 7 was done in about 1:35 and the full race in 27:29 which was inscribed on the bottle of "Sinner" red wine along with my name and bib number. That plus the medal are very nice mementos of the race but insignificant compared to the company of the friends who all went through this event as participants, volunteers or crew.

I'll never be the fastest runner in these events but I do so very much enjoy the challenge and I've realized that no matter what I'll finish eventually. I would encourage anyone out there runner or not to apply this thinking to life. Never settle for ordinary and try again and again until you reach your dreams.

Thanks to Brian Gallant and his huge team of volunteers for putting on a very challenging event in the wilderness with professionalism. I would heartily recommend this race either as a solo runner or on a relay team. It will always be special to me. I highly recommend this race! Visit Website: sinister7.com

Lastly I have to thank my friend Peter Taylor for making me believe I could do this thing. 

Leg 7 - Brief recovery walk at the top of Wedge

Leg 7 - Finishing!

Finish - No better feeling of accomplishment!

Sinner wine!

100 mile dirt tan!

Stonesthrow Cafe in Blairmore a day after.

92.2 km Running Weekend!

The year 2016 threw a slight curve my way when the first weekend in May ended up being the 1st of May. A really excellent trail race I love to run called Pick your Poison which is usually a weekend before the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon ended up being the day before the marathon! This left me with the dilemma of either missing the 50K trail race or missing the marathon which really wasn't an option. I do the website for the Toronto Marathon and the race director is my partner in the Collingwood Half Marathon. My entry was free and I wouldn't miss race weekend. So of course I had to do the races back to back to use them as a training weekend.

After posting my intention to run two significant races back to back on Facebook, my ultra running friend Bert Starke took notice. Within about 2 minutes he had decided that he was in for this crazy adventure as well! Bert, a paramedic in Calgary, Alberta was going to be visiting family in Montreal and Ottawa anyway so decided it would be worth the drive to meet me for these races.

The Race Expo & Reception
In order to promote the Collingwood Half Marathon, I worked at a booth Friday at the Toronto Marathon expo. Bert happily jumped in to help greeting all sorts of runners from all over the world.

Later that evening we were guests of the race director's reception where I had a chance to catch up with everyone including my Kenyan elite athletes that I coach and several other race directors and organizers.

After the reception it was off to bed for us to wake up early for the drive to Horseshoe Valley for the Pick your Poison trail race. My son Tom was primed and ready to take over the booth for us Saturday.

Pick your Poison
The Pick your Poison trail race is aptly named because you can pick 12.5 km, 25 km or 50km by doing 1, 2 or 4 laps of the course. The course is located at a private ski club and is incredibly hilly, technical, and can include some late spring corn snow.

This year we had the driest conditions I remember, pleasant warm sunshine and no corn snow! I had thought I'd have my new PR on the course but it was not to be. On leg 4 about 43 km into the race I develop severe groin cramps as well as calf cramps. This resulted in my 5:20 target time being turned into a 5:55 cramp walk off. I persisted though and finished the race.

As for Bert, he had a super fast race finishing in just under 5:15 with none of the cramp issues. His Icebug shoes with the tiny spikes were basically overkill as the course served up amazing conditions.

Pick your Poison is one of the Ontario Ultra Series races and certainly deserves your attention. You will be pleased with the organization of the event with well stocked aid tables, 3 of which are on course. The friendly crowd of runners and volunteers feels like family. Race director Adam Hill who is an excellent ultra runner himself really cares and puts on an excellent event.

Bert and I hurried back to Toronto to get a good night's sleep and some carbs to prepare for the marathon in the morning!

For more information about Pick your Poison visit: http://www.outrace.ca

The Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon
Morning had come very quickly for Bert and I as we woke to a persistent rain and cold conditions in Toronto. We managed to drag ourselves out of bed, consume some carb and load up for the shuttle bus to the starting line.

Our intention was to simply use the race as a training run for our 100 mile race coming in July as well as afford an opportunity for me to give Bert a tour of Toronto on foot. The Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon is by far the most scenic marathon with the most historical landmarks in Toronto. As long as we came in under 4 hours we really had no pressure.

We also ran into my friends Yvonne and Marie who were also out braving the elements to finish yet another marathon. Camaraderie is one of the beautiful aspects of running!

We arrived at the starting line where I met up with one of the women I coach (Natalie). Nat was feeling the nerves of race morning and hoping to hit my A goal time of 3:30. I calmed her nerves and let her get into the mental zone and concentrate on what she had to accomplish.

Bert and I were feeling surprisingly fresh considering we had finished a 50k trail race a mere 17 hours earlier. We went out and began thoroughly enjoying the race with the enthusiastic supporters cheering us along despite the rain for most of the course. It is really quite touching when so many people brave the elements to stand in the rain and cheer.

We had a few highs and lows where pace would increase then decrease. I continued my travelogue of the city for Bert naming such landmarks as Casa Loma, the Rosedale Valley, St. Lawrence Market, the waterfront etc. We continued this banter and enjoyed the light misting rain until all hell broke loose!

We were 8 km from the finish coming back from the Humberview Park turnaround running into a crazy wind with gusts that threatened to blow our running hats off. The temperature had dropped and the rain intensified to the point where it seemed like we have gone swimming in our running clothes. At that point it became a simple matter of trading the suffering out on the course for a feeling of just wanting to get it over with. Our pace had actually picked up in those last kilometres as a result.

With 500 metres to go the cheering had become deafening! Not only the enthusiastic students working the hydration tables, but the general public at Ontario Place had swelled to the point where it was a roar. Bert had said thank you so many times along the way because it was such an uplifting race and he was so happy to be there. We rounded the last turn and crossed the timing mat with our hands in the air celebrating putting 50k of trail and 42.2k of road behind us within 24 hours! the 92.2k weekend was in the books.

As for my athlete Natalie, she nailed my assigned A time within 24 seconds! 3:30 was hers and she could not be more happy. I could not be more proud!

After the race our core temperatures plummeted and we immediately headed to the medical tent where the nurses assessed us and wrapped us in hospital blankets and hugs near the heaters.

After a shuttle ride back to the Hilton we had the best hot showers ever in our lives. We parted ways as Bert drove to Ottawa to his sister's place and my son Tom and I drove home to Collingwood but not without a stop first!

The Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon is highly recommended for it's fast downhill course, it's scenic quality and historical landmarks. It really is a running tour of Toronto! For more information visit: www.torontomarathon.com

Ugali the Kenyan Wonder Fuel
Heading home after the marathon my son Tom and I stopped at Sammy Chumba's for the traditional Kenyan staple dish of Ugali.

Sammy was 2nd place with a 2:23 time last year at Toronto Marathon and was on pace to win this year but sadly developed some calf cramps due to the cold weather which was not something he is used to.

Ugali is made with corn flour some salt and water. It's boiled to form a solid cake and is often served with vegetable stew and meat when available. As a no meat athlete I was happy to eat the Ugali and vegetables.

Conclusion
This sort of weekend is certainly not the usual thing for most runners. In fact most marathoners taper for a week or two before the event to come into it fresh. Could Bert and I have run the marathon half an hour faster? Sure! But in this case it was more about solid back to back runs to prepare for 100 miles. It's the sort of quality training that must be done to survive that distance.

We will definitely have another crazy weekend like this but until then, I'll see Bert again in July as we run the Sinister 7 100 mile trail race in the Crowsnest Pass Alberta.

Got a race story you would like to tell? Please email info@myactivelifetime.com to feature it here!

Toronto Marathon Expo & Race Director's Reception

Pick Your Poison 50K Trail Race

Muddy, Salty Legs Post Race

Toronto Marathon Start

Cold Wet Final 8K

Nick & Bert after 92.2K Finish

With Ephraim Mwaura

Ugali with Sammy Chumba

Visiting my sponsor 2XU

Annette Sandberg Patrick

Outdoor Adventure Guide
Search & Rescue - Preparation & Survival for the Outdoors

I grew up on the Niagara Escarpment on Blue Mountain, in Grey County, Ontario,  and still reside locally in the Town of Collingwood.  I know this land and these crevices as my childhood playground and I continue to hike and explore our area's incredible section of the Niagara Escarpment.   It gives me great pleasure to guide people in the experience of the splendor of the forest and rock. Come with open eye's,  and an open heart,  and you will see what I see - a world of spectacular beauty and wonder. 

Safety is paramount in any outdoor adventure and I bring with me 9 yrs of Search & Rescue Volunteer experience and a 1yr term as the team SAR training co-ordinator.  During this time I delivered the RCMP Search & Rescue Children's Survival Program "Hug-A-Tree & Survive and continue to include this invaluable safety presentation for groups interested in outdoor safety preparation! Thank-you to Adventure Smart for providing this platform.
I am also newly appointed as a member of the Town of Collingwood Trails Advisory Committee assisting in creating a high quality, all season series of trail contributing to this area's development as a world-class destination while connecting all areas of our community by a safe, off-road, multi-use trail system. 
 http://www.collingwood.ca/taxonomy/term/99
With my knowledge and passion for this area, I present it's ancient history to groups of all ages and I am always happy to share your stories of adventure experiences as well !

I am an active Adventure Guide, rock climber and caver and for those who know me say that I like to "live on the edge"...I suppose that's true, afterall, I believe that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone!

Come join me for an outing into the Narnia that is created by the depths of your own mind, and then is discovered in the playground of the Niagara Escarpment!

 

Website: www.magicaladventuretour.com

Running the Rideau Trail from Kingston to Ottawa

The Big Idea

A few weeks ago I was cheerfully enjoying the kind of easy running that comes after a long hard season in which I ran 6 ultra trail races. This restful time was soon shattered when my friend Noel Paine posted an idea on Facebook about doing something epic to celebrate his 40th birthday. That something was to run the Rideau Trail from end to end starting in Kingston and ending in Ottawa where he lives. 

After a careful period of consideration (about 1 minute) I messaged Noel offering to run it with him. But wait you say...I'm supposed to be enjoying the off-season and recovering for the next training cycle. The idea of running this multi-day run just seemed too compelling and I knew I had to do it. 

Our first plans were based on Noel's idea to run all the trail bits which add up to 327 km and the audacious part was the idea of attempting the fastest known time. In the end this was not to be but we ultra runners are eternal optimists or else we would not even start half the events we enter.

And so after much consultation, planning (mostly Noel's) and building our war chests of gear and nutrition we were off and running with a date set and crews selected and committed. Perhaps we should have been committed. 

I suggested that we might accept pledges towards the Canadian Cancer Society as well to truly put the icing on the cake. This was done and it ultimately resulted in over $1,000 raised!

It was time for the talk to end and the action to begin!

Day 1 - Thursday October 29th

After arriving in Kingston from Collingwood, we met up with Noel, his wife Stéphanie and father-in-law Jacques. We transferred some bags and food containers and headed to city hall to begin.

After some hugs and well wishes and the mandatory photos we set out into the dark city streets heading west towards my son's St. Lawrence College where we turned north to head for the trail and to cross under the 401 highway.

The K&P Railway trail is dead straight and is the former trackbed of a long defunct railway that once transported Sir John A. MacDonald! With the brisk crosswind and the visual image of running through a tunnel of trees towards a black hole it was quite spooky and we wondered if the ghost of Sir John A. MacDonald might make an appearance. It was counterintuitive to run away from the light and security of Kingston into the darkness and the unknown trail.

The darkness did throw us off at one point where we mistook a side trail for a place we thought we had to turn. Having committed to that trail and not wanting to go back, we continued by road checking our position by the hydro lines and other landmarks.

Other than stopping occasionally to check our map and waypoints we continued at a fairly brisk pace putting 40 kilometres behind us that first evening from 8:30 till about 12:30. This placed us in the tiny town of Sydenham at our white van with the futon in the back parked at a lumber yard at the end of a skinny part of a lake.

The quick meal and change to dry clothes removed the chill that comes after running and sweating. We settled into the futon for a quick 4 hour nap. A long day awaited us on the Friday but we still felt confident.

Day 2 - Friday October 30th

We piled out of the van after having a nice Oatmeal breakfast and loading up our running packs. Our initial pace was fast walking for a good distance to warm up the legs for the trail running to come. The nearly full moon and stars were amazing as we moved briskly to stay warm.

Around the Gould Lake trail system entrance we stopped to take on water and fuel and use the washrooms. From this point we began some serious trail running. the terrain was technical but nothing crazy at first. Although we seemingly took an extra loop of 10k we were still feeling strong and in good spirits.

After Gould we passed North Otter Lake, Buck Lake and crossed over some huge domes of rock that culminated in a view from the top of telescope hill. The trail meandered quite a bit causing us to be turning south, then east, then north again then east then south. We felt like we were definitely going a long way, certainly longer than you could by road.

The trail at this stage became more hilly and challenging with some mud and water in places before breaking out at the road somewhere around a place called Bedford Mills. We ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches and boiled eggs and whatever else we could take in. Calories were needed and I felt constantly hungry due to the running.

We ran down the road to the next trail entrance full of fuel and carrying our packs full of food and water. We headed into more technical single track that soon gave way to some long country back roads suitable for ATV's. This was going to be a long leg. It wasn't until the evening that we realized just how long!

We came upon sections of pure swamp in which the main trail road was completely flooded with no way around. We had no choice but to wade through water over the ankles for about 200 metres. This was the beginning of trouble as the water was the beginning of blisters.

In the late afternoon after checking the maps and thinking we were not too far from breaking out to road again I stopped near a beautiful lake as the lowering sun made a beautiful light and cast shadows of trees on the orange leafy trails. Noel had gone ahead as I took photos of this beautiful moment and paused to take on drink and to have a bio break. By the time I started moving again he was gone along with maps and waypoints. I was not yet too concerned because I believed we would be out of the woods soon.

Later again in the afternoon I noticed that the sun was setting a little faster than I'd like it to. Noel must have been way ahead on the trail because the forest was deadly silent. I kept running as fast as I dared on the rough terrain obscured by leaves, constantly looking for the ubiquitous orange arrows that marked the trail. It turned and turned and climbed and descended in a seemingly never-ending procession. Although it was very pretty and quite impressive, my mind would not relax as I started wondering if the trail would ever end.

At the point where the sun went down it was getting dark in the forest and I wasn't thinking straight. I stopped to eat my last calories and drink the last of my water, put on my headlamp and jacket and take stock. My iPhone was down to 5% so I put it on airplane mode to make it last in case I needed an emergency call. I began slowly running from orange arrow to orange arrow searching with the beam of my headlamp and often having to backtrack since the trail was totally obscured by leaves.

After what seemed like hours of this I came to a stretch after crossing a river where the trail went dead straight. I saw no orange arrows for about half a kilometre but remembered I was looking for a road. All of a sudden the trail dead ended and there was the orange arrow turned on it's side pointing hard right! I had reached the road.

The road was long and I was beginning to question myself and if it was the right road. I ran as fast as I could until I spotted a light in the distance! It was Noel's headlamp! The relief was so intense and I was happy to get in the car and eat pizza!

We decided to call it quits for the night as we were on the doorstep of Perth and a wonderful couple Noel had contacted to ask about the trail had offered their house to us! Actually not just their house but everything in it and we could bring our crew too!

Arriving at the house our hosts Jack and Johanne Tannett had left a series of notes on where the food was, the showers, beds and everything else! They had left us home made soup and fresh baked biscuits. A note on the fridge said help yourself to anything you find useful. That hot shower felt like no other shower ever. Delicious and followed by the sleep of the dead I knew we would be in good shape for another long day in the morning.

Day 3 - Saturday October 31st

The morning started cold with a -5 C temperature and frost on the ground. Our hosts provided coffee and oatmeal and a last minute briefing about how to avoid a couple of trail vortex areas on the way to Port Elmsley. It's not that we don't like trail, but more that we had a very specific timeline we had to keep in order to return to our day jobs! What this meant was running the shoulder of the highway to speed up our progress.

We began our warmup walk through the beautiful town of Perth which reminded us of an English town with it's stone work style of older buildings downtown. A river runs straight through the middle of town. 

On the way to Port Elmsley we were talking about how these towns are able to exist and what drives them. Where do people work? What motivates them? It wasn't long before we had some answers as we ran past a huge 3M factory. Perhaps tape was being made in there.

I found that my right achilles had tightened right up to excruciating level and that I was developing large blisters under the ball of the foot and the toes from having wet feet the previous day. This was going to be an agonizing day. We ran at a decent pace through Port Elmsley and on to Smith's Falls where the trail became interesting.

Following the orange triangles and the turn by turn instructions we ended up on the wrong side of the canal and went around a large park only to find we were right back where we started from but an hour late! Yes the Rideau trail run had officially been reclassified "the Rideau Trail Experience!" Sort of like a cover band rather than a concert by the real band.

Arriving at the van it seemed they were a little concerned as to what took us so long. Susan and Tom in the car and Jacques and Mark in the van were troopers for putting up with what must have been a boring weekend of waiting around. We could not have done it without them!

Freshly fuelled we set out again for periods of running and walking before heading into the trail again. The trail here was quite flooded and barely passable. Straight as an arrow and fairly uninteresting we elected to rejoin roads connecting with towns like Merrickville and Andrewsville along the way. These little hamlets were getting prepared for the trick or treating to follow. It was not only Noel's 40th birthday but it was Halloween too!

We came upon a small town where we crossed an old wooden decked iron bridge over the Rideau River. This town of Burritt's Rapids meant to us that we were making good progress towards our goal.

Just past Burritt's Rapids my blisters became nearly unbearable. It was on a super long straight section of road running on the shoulder and at sunset when we had put on our headlamps that I had to get in the van to look after my blisters. Upon removing my shoes they inflated like balloons. Jacques pulled out the first aid kit and I took out the scissors and cut holes in the blisters to drain them. After covering them with second skin patches they felt so much better. At this point we were so close to where we had to be for the night that we decided to stop. 

While sitting there patching my feet, we stopped and Noel came running up to the van super fast. I was thinking wow where did that energy come from? The man was positively crushing km's. Then he showed us chocolate and when asked where he got it we found out he went trick or treating! Yes dressed up as an ultra runner he was able to coax some chocolate from a nice Vietnamese couple. 

The search for a place to crash with showers was our next task. Jacques found one hotel that was cheap but was so dirty he wouldn't dare subject us to it. The other was expensive and fully booked. So Jacques had a light come on over his head and generously offered to drive us to his place in Hull since we were only 27 km from our finish line!

The hot showers and food were superb and again we slept like zombies! This was another oasis in the run to help us recharge for yet another day of pain. Noel Paine was to have his turn with pain in the morning.

Day 4 - Sunday November 1st - End Game

Sunday we woke up at Jacque's place and I was full of energy and ready to rock our last 27 km with my feet feeling a lot better. I don't know if Noel realized how bad his shin was feeling at that point but it was about to cause him grief.

We set out in the van for the point we left off the previous night. Along the way we picked up Noel's friend Bridget Roussy and headed on to the starting point. Piling out of the van we began a warmup walk. At this point Noel realized that his shin had swollen up and that running was nearly impossible without complete agony. The good news was that the pain was tolerable if he speed walked and Noel is a super fast walker setting a pace that equals a jog for most people. 

About 5 km into the last run we were joined by my friend Marc Pelosse. It was great to see him again and awesome to have his encouragement as we left the countryside and started seeing suburban landscapes instead. We knew Ottawa was coming up soon!

After bidding goodbye to Marc we had about 10K to go as we passed the ominously named experimental farm and continued into the urban neighbourhoods of Ottawa. With the kind of pain Noel was in we thought it better to take the most direct route. 

After winding our way through the streets we were finally in striking distance of the goal. We saw the monument to those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I felt quite emotional at this point thinking about what that monument means especially seeing how wonderfully the guards went about their duty.

In this area there is a set of stairs down to the side of the canal which we ran down and then it was a couple of hundred metres to the trailhead sign! Noel and I broke into a faster run and he let out some primal screams that must have had the Sunday trail walkers wondering what could be wrong with this man! I was emotional yet not seriously so because I could stop laughing at Noel's grunting and laughing because it just felt amazing.

Our welcoming committee was load and happy having commandeered a now useless election sign to use as a welcoming sign. Noel was reunited with Stéphanie and his tiny daughter who was asleep in her stroller blissfully. It was a very touching moment for me to see this reunion of Noel with his family. Stéphanie had brought her extended family as well and they were so amazing. It really made for a beautiful finish. 

I had at that moment realized not only what a bad-ass Noel was for fighting through the pain, but that I had a new friend for life. You can't go through this kind of weekend without becoming good friends. People had no idea we had only met in person for the first time on the Thursday night! I think people thought we had been friends for years. Running is such a great sport because it seems to attract really nice people. That statement definitely held true on this Rideau Trail Experience!

 

Without Whom - Special Thanks

Noel and I would like to thank all the people and companies that made this possible.

  • Jacques "Almost There" Seguin
  • Stéphanie "Amazing" Seguin
  • Mark "Pepsi Warmer" Theriault
  • Bridget "There till the end" Roussy
  • Susan & Thomas Brindisi
  • Marc Pelosse
  • Claude "The Van Man"
  • Grandma "What can I do Instead?"
  • Leanne "Social Media" Richardson
  • Rideau Trail Association
  • Bruce "End to End" Watts
  • Jack & Johanne Tannett
  • Allison Mowat
  • Jason "Shower" Silver
  • Tyler "HOKA" Chara
  • David "NB" Korrell
  • The Running Goat
  • Bill "Trail Advice" Murdoch
  • Derrick "Ultra" Spafford

Some Birthday fun courtesy of Leanne "Social Media" Richardson!

Thanks to our Sponsors!

Noel

  • Muscle Milk Canada
  • New Balance Canada
  • Polar Canada

Nick

  • 2XU XTRM, 2XU Canada
  • Clif
  • Toronto Marathon

Links

Rideau Trail Association: rideautrail.org

Ontario Trails Council: ontariotrails.on.ca

Noel's Blog: A 258-Kilometre 2.5-day Birthday run Adventure | No Paine No Gain "a van to follow me, a friend (Nick Brindisi)(Collingwood half-marathon race director) to run with and maps, binders, gear, food and family and..."

Canadian Cancer Society

With the generous donations of our friends & family we were able to raise $1,050 towards cancer research! It's not too late to donate using the link below.

Click to donate to Canadian Cancer Society!

Haliburton Forest 100 Mile Trail Race

 

Peter Taylor with the yellow hood and I with the red socks and plastic at the finish!
Peter Taylor with the yellow hood and Nick Brindisi with the red socks and plastic at the finish!

haliburton Forest Race Report
The weather on Friday night was picture perfect for running. We pitched our tents taking care to kick the horse poop out of the way. It’s like a tradition and it’s bad luck to not play a little horse soccer. It was like visiting my long lost tribe. Those amazing people who run a really long way in the forest in all conditions, their support crews, volunteers and everyone who makes this experience so awesome!

Planning and bringing everything you might need is important.
Planning and bringing everything you might need is important.

We hung around having a little beer and some food to pre-load our carbs in a way that would not cause any gastric distress. Old stories were brought out and newer ones too! Lots of laughs and shared experiences came out.

Race Morning
Despite a poor nights sleep in tent I was stoked. The tent city at any trail race is like sleeping in a field of water buffalo with the snoring, farting and then the wolves joined in! I just meditated and let all the thoughts about the race go out of my head until sleep came. When it came time for my iPhone to wake me up with my usual & appropriate “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel I was already awake.

Lap 1 – 50 miles
I had planned for 24 hours or less and ran the first 80k in 11:30 which was 23 minutes slower than I did 80k there last year. You want to go out slower in one of these 100 milers. Plan A was so far so good. Nutrition was right on, hydration was perfect and my feet and legs felt really amazing considering. After the turn-around Peter Taylor gave me some nutritional potions to take on the 2nd lap and helped change my socks to my 2XU Canadian flag compression socks. I needed & appreciated their support for the 2nd 50 mile lap.

dirty shoes and a belt buckle
My muddy shoes and the best belt buckle I own!

Lap 2 – 50 miles of hell
All hell broke loose at 120 km at aid station 7 with 40 km left to go. The torrential monsoon had begun. It rained consistently from 1am till finishing noon on Sunday. The trail became a soupy mess with ankle deep mud in places, slick mud on rocks and water flowing over the trails. Because I was tensing my legs a lot in trying to maintain balance on this course, my hip tightened up so painfully that I could hardly push off on the left side. There is nothing more disheartening than running alone in the dark up and down the Hali hills by headlamp tripping over rocks and roots getting poured on.

I was really at a low by 3am when I realized that there was no way I could keep up any meaningful pace with my hip and with the hockey rink like traction on the trails. Also I began sleep running. This was quite an odd experience. It’s something Dean Karnazes had talked to me about back in July when he was telling me about his Badwater experience. Basically I nodded off and woke up with a gasp quite a few times realizing I was still running and that I was almost off the trail. Another runner came up behind me and asked if I was ok. He helped remind me that a couple of gels might help with their caffeine. I had a couple of them and continued on feeling miserable but awake.

Keeping core temperature up is key to this whole process and the plastic rain poncho kept me dry and with the layers underneath I was warm.

Kept eating 250 calories an hour with some of the amazing fare from the 7 aid stations on the course. Everything from home made soup to burritos, potatoes with sea salt, every kind of drink concoction etc.

100 mile feet
My feet after the 100 mile punishment. The nurse did a great job of draining my blisters by syringe!

So this horrific last 40 km extended my 2nd 80k lap and now I was flirting with the 30 hour time limit with my excruciating hip and slipping all over the hills on mud. I got to the last 10k lap of the lake and was told I had just over 2 hours to meet cutoff. That loop is gnarly but I told myself pain is temporary but failure is forever. I ignored the pain and pushed anyway.

The Finish!
I came around the lake and had just 8.5 minutes to run up the hill to the finish 2.5k away. That’s a tall order “sprinting” after 157.5 km but I tried my best. I arrived 4 minutes late, but race director Helen Malmberg gave me the buckle anyway perhaps because of the inhuman conditions or because nobody usually sprints at the end of these things.

Thanks!
So much thanks to Peter Taylor for crewing second to none. Thanks Marc Pelosse for throwing down a crazy fast 100 mile good enough to win the race before the monsoon started and for also being so supportive. So nice to see Andrea Moritz bringing her positively and support to us for this event. Thanks to my sponsor 2XU and the 2XU XTRM team whose running wear and compression garments are 2nd to none. Thanks to Helen Malmberg the race director, Don Kuzenko, the guy who is so good at aiding runners in so many ways that it feels like coming into port after a night on stormy seas and all other volunteers! Thanks to the nursing staff who drained my blisters.

Conclusion
I’ll be back next year to run the Haliburton Forest again. Having run the 50 mile and the 25K there in previous years I had no idea how completely engrossing the 100 could be. It may lack the huge rocky mountains of races like Sinister 7 but it makes up for it with never ending smaller sized hills. It seems like you are always climbing and descending. There are always muddy bogs, rocks, roots and very technical running, but without the pouring rain I know I’ll be faster next year! I can’t wait.

Race information: http://www.haliburtonforest100.org

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Liesbeth Halbertsma

Liesbeth Halbertsma is born and raised in The Netherlands, and lived and worked 14 years on the Caribbean island Sint Maarten.  She has been passionate about healthy foods most of her life, being a long time vegetarian, organic food freak and plant-based whole food eater since two years.

She is a mother of two boys, and loves to spend time with her family. She can be found running or hiking with the dog on the trails, browsing farmers markets, or cooking vegan meals.

Since the kids were very young the family went on hiking holidays in the Alps, Italy, Dominica, the Appalachian or the Rockies, and many other beautiful areas.

Liesbeth has a masters degree of the University of Amsterdam, and has had many different jobs, from editing and designing to managing a business. She is currently having time off, and works on a book and a website.

The North Face Endurance Challenge Blue Mountain Ontario

Growing up in Collingwood, Ontario was like an amazing adventure with so many active things to do. With the ski hill formed by the Niagara Escarpment and it’s huge network of hiking trails, Georgian Bay and all the other opportunities for fitness it was and is a great place to live. So when the North Face Endurance Challenge rolled into town for it’s only Canadian stop I jumped at the opportunity to run on my home turf where I knew pretty much everyone!

With Dean Karnazes!
With Dean Karnazes!

Pre Race

On the Thursday before the race I had the pleasure of joining the group who did a quick 5k trail run with Dean Karnazes! For those who may not know, some of Dean’s amazing feats include running 50 marathons in 50 days across the USA, finishing the Badwater ultra marathon across Death Valley – the hottest place on earth and a 3 day run that saw him sleep running on the 2nd night!

We set off on the run and I had a chance to talk to Dean who for all his fame is a truly humble ambassador of the sport. He actually remembered me from our talk last year which I find incredible given how many people he meets each year. We ran down “the Grind” which is a trail that we would be running up on the Saturday morning, twice in the case of the 50 miler. So great to share running stories with a great runner like Dean. I hope to see him at the Sinister 7 race in the summer of 2016 which he said was one he would like to do.

Climbing the Grind
Climbing the Grind

Race Day!

The day of the race came quickly and I was ready. I was sure my training was in place and taper had gone well. The only concern I had was the severe heat and humidity warning issued by Environment Canada for the day. That plus the remnants of a stomach bug I had gotten Wednesday before the race.

The alarm went early at 3:45 am and I was mobilized getting my peanut butter and honey toast eaten and already drinking fluids. The cooler and my war chest of stuff I need like fresh clothes, alternate hats, shoes etc was ready.

Start to 12.5k

The start of the GoreTex 50 miler came in two waves at 5 am and 5:02 am to try and reduce crowding on the trails. I left in the 5:02 am wave and picked my way across from the Blue Mountain Village to a trail called “The Grind” which climbs the ski hill to the top. At the top we traversed to the Bruce trail Mission road segment and up the 6th st. extension. After passing the 1st aid station the heat of the day was already above 25 C. We continued through the forest trails as the first light of day highlighted some of the trees in a ruddy reddish hue. The sunrise in the forest was truly spectacular!

We descended through more winding forest trails that took us to the top of Southern Comfort trail where aid station #2 was located. I was trying to hide queasy feeling from the stomach bug I had contracted 3 days earlier. I forced down my magic mixture of puree potatoes mixed with copious amounts of sea salt knowing that soon I’d be sweating even more and it was getting hotter!

12.5k to 25k

After running across the ski hill dipping down and up to add elevation gain we ended up ad aid station 3 which had a port hottie much to my relief. At that point I was doubled over with stomach cramps and needed relief. I loaded up with ice water and gels and continued down the road.

After a brief road section we dipped into the forest and ran the Bruce trail into the Beaver Valley sections. I was still queasy but pushed through it. Emerging from the forest we followed a road that twisted back to the north to the 25k aid station. At this aid station the temperature was already over 30 C. I fuelled up on bananas, lots of flat coke to settle my stomach, and filled my hand bottle with the Clif lime electrolyte drink rather than water. This was a crucial decision that kept me in the game later.

The Game Face Mid Race
The Game Face Mid Race

25k to 40k

This section is exceedingly difficult for many reasons, the first of which was climbing steeply on exposed pavement followed by climbing a gravel road into the Loree Forest. Once in the forest there was lots of cover provided from the sun and the trail becomes less technical and easier. On the 2nd half of the Loree loop it gets very rough and technical with tons of exposed rock and roots.

After emerging from the Loree Forest you descend a steep ravine into a valley, cross a stream and climb right back up only to descend again into another ravine. The climb out of the 2nd ravine is a mud staircase reinforced with 4×4 lumber and has a rope railing because of the steepness. After a jaunt through the woods I was back to the 3rd aid station.

From there the course takes the lower set of trails and meanders down and up adding yet more vertical to the run. By the time I returned to aid station 2 heat was a huge factor. the temperature was reaching late morning/noon highs of 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 F)! Humidity was now so high that the Humidex was nearing the mid 40’s (114 F).

At this final aid station on the loop I took another portion of my salted potatoes and careened down the wild descent called “the Cascades” through mud and over the bridges. It’s at least cooler in the forest and I was able to drench my hat in the stream. After this section you come to the 40K turn-around station and brace for the second time up the Grind!

Beautiful Afternoon Trails
Beautiful Afternoon Trails

The second Lap to 80k (Finish)

Without describing the course all over again I’ll simply note some interesting things about the 2nd lap.

I had an ice shower at the 46 km mark thanks to the spectacular aid station people at the top of the 6th street extension. I’m now putting ice in my hat and the Buff around my neck at every station.

I had some relief at the Southern Comfort aid station after the cramps in my stomach had gone away! Drank copies amounts of water plus electrolytes and continued on.

No problems through to the 2nd time climbing the road to the Loree Forest. Approaching the aid station at 67 km my legs began cramping in the groin and tops of the calf muscles. I was well trained but the heat was causing the problem with cramps. I filled my entire bottle with electrolyte and ate some salty snacks.

While at the 67 km station a big localized rain storm moved through the Loree forest lasting about 10 minutes then disappearing. Not one cooling drop fell on me but the rain turned the Loree Forest trails into a muddy quagmire making it nearly impossible to run without falling.

The climb into Loree was on pavement that had been drenched and now was exposed to the beating sun which was evaporating the road water into steam! I ran out of my hand bottle water at the 70 km mark and survived to the 72k mark where my friend John Smeh, one of the race organizers was located.

I placed my hands on the aid table to prevent collapse. I was super dizzy and could not catch my breath at all. Core temperature was dangerously high. The amazing volunteers put a huge bag of ice on the back of my neck and put ice in my Buff around my neck and into my hat. I got a cold water shower and drank a litre of ice water. As soon as my core temp came down I was back to normal breathing. I told John thanks for the pep talk and that I would never quit unless a doctor forced me to and continued on my way to the finish.

Happy to Finish at Home
Happy to Finish at Home

Exhausted but Elated!
Exhausted but Elated!

The Finish

After all the climbs and descents coming across the ski hill I climbed the last hill to the final aid station. A volunteer was yelling at me to lift my head and put my shoulders back and open my diaphragm. He yelled this about 10 times and although he meant well I assured him he wasn’t helping and that I’ve been running these hills for 42 of my 52 years and was getting plenty of air!

One more dive down the Cascades with 1.6k to go and I’m tasting the finish. Passed 3 people on the run across to the finish chute! The best feeling in the world was crossing the timing pad at the village. These are the moments of pure joy in running races that you remember.

The extreme conditions made for a 1.5 hour slower (12.5 hours) than personal record time (11 hours). Still I’m super happy to be included in the finishers and 3rd for my age group on a day where there were many DNF results. I was happy not to drop out and look forward to the Halliburton 100 mile race!

Remember that 52 is the new 32 and that anything is possible at any age if you put in the work, never waver from your goals and then have the resolve to never take the easy way out and drop out. You will know more about yourself every time!

Race Medal
Race Medal

Race Information

The North Face Endurance Challenge Website

Other North Face Endurance Challenge Race Locations

Charity

I ran this race to raise money and awareness for our local shelter for victims of domestic violence called My Friend’s House. Thanks to all who donated!! My Facebook page for this: https://www.facebook.com/run50milesinmyshoes

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