Thursday, February 16, 2012

Acts of Running Desperation

I've sort of unofficially signed on to this 120 Day Challenge that KateJasonVanessa, and a bunch of the other crazy blogging-runners I virtually associate with have cooked up.  The idea is to run every day for 120 days without missing a day.  Since one DOES need to rest and recover somewhat, the minimum per day is set very low: 1 mile, and it doesn't have to be all at once.
I say I've "sort of unofficially signed on" because I know that I'm not going to make all 120 days.  Running every day of the week is easy, since its my commute, but fitting in even 10 minutes of running on the weekends with two kids is not always possible.  Not that it is impossible, but I know I lack the will to always fit in a run alongside everything else we're doing on a packed Saturday and Sunday; since I don't want to have my running inconvenience my already over-worked partner, if I'm not taking both kids out in Bowser, that means running after everyone is asleep, and that takes an obscene amount of will-power.  I'm hoping to do two runs on the weekends, since a minimum of 1 mile really does only mean 7 to 10 minutes, but I'm going into this with realistic expectations.  Starting a challenge knowing you aren't going to fulfill it does seem a bit cheap, and giving myself that sort of lee-way from the start makes it more likely that I'll give ground when I wouldn't otherwise, as less is at stake, but there it is.
Today was day 10, and so far I've only missed 1 day -- Angelica's birthday -- and that was filled with visitors, last-minute shopping, and cake.  Today was going to be my first day of running the minimal 1 mile; I've got parent-teacher conferences until 6:30 at night, so I decided to bike to school and squeeze in a quick, 10 minute run at lunch.  But when I finally shoved all my students out of my class and dug into my backpack, I discovered I'd left ALL my running gear at home.  I was wearing my Altra Instincts as my walking-around shoes, but my shirt and shorts were sitting back at home on my dresser.
My first thought: "Dammit, I really wanted to go for a quick run."
My second thought: "I could run a mile in my jeans and t-shirt"
My third thought: "It really, really sucks to run in jeans."
Then: "I do have that old pair of dress pants that don't really fit . . ."
So I slipped into the faculty bath-room and used my leather-man to hack the legs off an old pair of twill pants -- instant running shorts!  
I shoved the shredded lower-halves of the legs into the garbage, pulled on my arm-sleeves and head-scarf, and headed out into a slight drizzle.  I had an undershirt on, so I slipped off my tee as soon as I was at the end of the block, and ran in the most unusual combination of cut-off twill slacks, grey tank-top undershirt, and Pearl Izumi arm-sleeves.  
I hadn't worked out a route at all, so I just ran by my watch: knowing my slowest running wouldn't be more than a 10 minute mile, I just had to run 5 minutes then turn around.  Of course, running only 5 minutes is pretty hard, since one's just warming up, so I didn't turn around until 8.  I'd done a real slow jog out, since this one-mile day was supposed to functionally be an "off" day, but heading back I felt I wanted to squeeze something into this small space, so I sprinted back, covering the same distance in just under 6 minutes.  Checking later, I did about 1.8 miles.
Then it was back to the regularly scheduled day.  Back in the faculty bath-room I changed out of my cut-offs into an un-butchered pair of kakis, then pulled on a pin-stripe shirt, vest, and bow-tie in order to be ready for parent-teacher conferences.  And now I have a pair of "running shorts" stashed in the closet of my room . . .
(originally posted @...whenitalkaboutrunning)

The Canadian Death Race: All Signed Up and Ready To Roll

I have never really been one for nicknames, yes I do have a hasher name and a lot of people have affectionately started calling me 'Barefoot Bob' or 'Barefooting Bob'. But the one nickname that has intrigued me over the last couple of years is 'Death Racer', I don't know why it just sounds like a really cool moniker to put after your name, "Barefoot Bob - Death Racer", or the affiliation, Barefoot Bob D.R. (the letters should go after the name don't want to be confused as a Doctor or something) . It just oozes cool, right. I thought so.

If you are unfamiliar with the moniker, then what hole has your head been stuck in for the last 11 years (just kidding your head could of been stuck in a paper bag too I guess, I am not out to offend anyone here). The 'Death Racer' is the moniker given to the few who have ran one of the hardest ultra marathons in Canada, 'The Canadian Death Race', a 125km trek through the mountains around the sleepy town of Grand Cache, AB every August long weekend. This race consists of extreme mountain trails, three mountain summits, 17,000 ft of elevation change, one major river crossing and the ever constant possibility of encountering wildlife in their natural habitat (including grizzly bears, cougars, etc), remember we are entering their domain not the other way around. This run is a premier event and will test the best of the best to their limits, and has been on my bucket list as a 'One Day' since I started running. Well, that 'one day' has happened, Nicole and I along with another friend (Dan) have signed up for the relay event this summer. It's kind of a interesting story how it all transpired, two weeks ago, I never would of guessed we would be planning our trip to Grand Cache this summer to take part in this awesome event.

It all started last week when Nicole mentioned that it would be fun to see if we could put a team together for the CDR relay, now I will admit at the time I did not take her to seriously because the Death Race is a huge endeavour to undertake without a lot of commitment. Of course, I said yes we should look into that, half thinking that the idea would dissipate in a few days, but to my surprise Nicole kept bringing it up and there was obvious research being done. Suddenly by the weekend, I was picking the brain of a friend who had partaken in the event last year, we were making arrangements for my parents to watch the kids while we attended the training camp in June on Monday, we were scheduling vacations around June and the race event in August by Tuesday, crap this was turning into more than a possibility the anticipation was becoming pretty intense. Suddenly Nic and I were frantically trying to find some more crazies who wanted to get in on our little adventure lined up. I'm not sure whether the majority thought we were kidding or something because we did get some interest then they researched a little further and the maybe's quickly became no's. This was kind of expected, it not easy to get past the thought of running this event with all the challenges that you would face, but then I got a message from a fellow hash house harrier, with a short and sweet, "I'm in". I did a double take, and quickly sent a response back to Dan to confirm if he was serious, he was, and suddenly we were three. With this confirmation I jumped to the computer and the application process was on. Hoping that we would get another interested party prior to me sending in the application and making payment to round out our team, but not really expecting it, I felt we could not wait any longer, because there was only limited spots and I didn't want to miss out on getting in.

So on Wednesday night I signed us up as a team of three, called "What Were We Thinking?", consisting of Nicole, Dan and myself. It was a good thing I did not wait to long, because low and behold Thursday morning early the run was sold out, now all that remained were some lottery spots, and we did not have to leave it to chance, cause we were in. Now the funny thing with all this, was once you are registered with the numbers of your team you cannot change the numbers, so our team of three could not add a runner, nor can we delete a number. This was ironic because I was contemplating signing up a friend who I did not hear back from before I hit send just in case but figured it would not be a good idea in case he did not want to run. I didn't want to be stuck with three members in a registered four member team. Of course as luck would have it, I hear from our friend the next day and he wants in on the race, not only him but I hear from 2 other friends that would like to run it as well. Crap, wouldn't you know it, I was stuck telling these guys that they were two late, maybe next year. I felt bad, but honestly not for long as the smile grew onto my face once again, I'm going to run the Death Race.

Go Death Racer, Go.

So here we were three runners from Manitoba, going to tackle one of the hardest Ultra Marathons in Canada, no pressure. The description of the legs as defined by 'The Canadian Death Race Website is as below, as for the sequence of runners it follows:

First leg, 19 km: The Downtown Jaunt
Approximately 6 km of pavement initially, followed by trail and 3.5 km of gravel road. It includes a net elevation loss of 500 feet, rolling hills with flat sections, several creek crossings and one significant downhill. The course will start in downtown Grande Cache and the race officially begins at the 5 km mark, after passing the Grande Cache Saddle club. It then continues past Grande Cache Lake and Peavine Lake, mainly on quad trails and including a section along a ridge with a spectacular view of Peavine Lake and the mountains of Willmore Wilderness Park. After crossing Washy Creek and skirting the north end of the CN rail yard through a deep mud bog, enter the first full aid station and relay exchange zone. Cut off Time: 12 Noon

This leg will be ran by me, I will be running this barefoot at least that is the plan as it stands.

Second leg, 27 km: Flood & Grande Mountain Slugfest Includes about.1 km of pavement. The rest is dirt trail with rocky and swampy sections, and approximately 6 km of hard packed dirt road.. Net elevation gain is 500 feet, but the total elevation change is well over 6000 feet. This leg of the race is characterized by long sustained climbing with about 3 km of very rough terrain and two creek crossings. The trail from the summit of Flood Mountain to the summit of Grande Mountain is the roughest piece of trail in the Death Race. The power line down the front of Grande Mountain leading back into town is the most dangerous part of the entire course. This is due to the steep, rocky drop-offs and unstable footing while running downhill. The Slugfest is the most technical section and is rated the second hardest leg of the Death Race (although many rate this leg as the hardest of all). Cut off Time: 6 pm

This leg will be ran by Dan, he will be our anchor to get Nicole to the downhill portion.

Third leg, 21 km: Old Mine Road (or “City Slicker Valley”) Includes 5 km of pavement: the rest is dirt road with several creek crossings. One creek runs right down the trail as you descend the first part of the Mine Road., making for very slippery, rocky terrain for 30 meters. This section passes through the lowest point in the race, hitting the very bottom of the Smoky River valley floor, with knee deep water for 25 meters. (If it’s a wet summer, it's worse.) With a net elevation loss of about 1000 feet, this section is the fastest and easiest of the race and one of the most beautiful, offering stunning views of the Smoky River valley. Cut off Time: 7 pm

This leg will be ran by Nicole, with the expectation that she will be able to pick up some time on the downhill portion, because I am going to need it for the next leg.

Fourth leg, 36 km: Hamel AssaultThis is mostly dirt trail and hard packed gravel. While the net elevation gain is zero, the total elevation change is well over 6500 feet, which comes practically all at once. The ascent of Mount Hamel (elevation: 6,986 feet) is broken into two very long climbs, with one small reprieve as you gain the shoulder of the mountain at the mid-point. You will pass the Hamel Escape station where racers can bail out if they've had enough. At the forestry tower on the summit of Mount Hamel runners check in and then continue toward the spectacular cliff bluffs at Hell's Canyon, where they must retrieve a prayer flag as proof they have made the turnaround point. The descent is strewn with boulders and deep ruts. The downhill is not that technical, but any falls will be on very unforgiving ground. (Read the waiver section about being in remote areas and not being rescued in time to prevent serious injury or death.) This entire leg is fantastically scenic. Cut off Time: 4:15 am

I will be tackling this leg, I love running hills, it tests the core to no end. Now I know this is a mountain and not just a hill, but I will be running this with a smile from ear to ear. And yes, I will be wearing shoes for this one, probably a pair of Minimus (I am going to throw some plugs to some friends to see if I can get a pair to test, shhhh don't tell anyone).

Fifth and final leg, 24km, The River CrossingIncludes 1 km pavement, 6 km gravel road, and a river crossing. The rest dirt trail, grass, and single track. Net elevation change of over 2500ft. This section runs from the Northwest end of the Hell’s Gate Access Road southward to the Sulphur Gates Road, across from the Hell’s Gate emergency aid station. It crosses the Hell’s Gate road and heads down to the Boat Launch road . Runners will be ferried across the Smoky River. There is an emergency aid station on the west bank of the river. From the raft crossing, racers will proceed up the east shore of the Smoky River and follow the trail to the Sulphur Rim trail. The course passes the Firemen's park, heads up Firemen's Park Road and continues to the Finish line in the Grande Cache town square. Please note: For most runners this leg will be completed in darkness with much of the trail under a heavy canopy of trees, so eye protection is required. Although this section is well marked with reflective markers, flags and signs, we recommend you bring a halogen headlamp with brand new alkaline batteries. Daylight training on this part of the course is highly recommended.
Last boat: 6 am End of Race: 8 am Course closes: 9 am

The last leg is going to ran by Nicole, she really wants to do the Smoky River Crossing, my only concern is she will be running this at night. But I know I will be so proud of her when she crosses that finish line.

Just to give you a true picture of what the elevation changes are like take a look at the following:

Doesn't it look fun.

Anyway, training for this run is going to be very important, we are going to need every advantage, so we are also signing up for the Death Race training camp in June, so we get a first hand look at what we are getting ourselves into. Over the weekend we will see every inch of the course either with mountain bike, running it or hiking it. All valuable knowledge, because to come not prepared to a race like this is a recipe for a DNF. While just being involved with the race is going to be great, I am not going to settle for anything less than a finish time, because that is just how we roll. Look out Grande Cache we are coming to see ya this summer.

Also want to send a shout out to another Winnipeg runner, who I had the pleasure to run with last summer. Mark will be tackling the Death Race solo, how about that, and you thought we were crazy. This will be his first visit to the Death Race, I know he is going to kill the course.

On that note, I want to leave you with some outtakes from the 2010 race for your viewing pleasure. This will be a prelude to the pictures and video taping I hope to be doing throughout the race. I am hoping to borrow a friend's strap on video camera for the race, and if I can manage it I hope to take some good footage along the way.

Happy Running and

Go Death Racers!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ice Donkey 2012 - The Spirit of Youth (A Story of Perseverance)

Prelude: This is a report my beautiful wife wrote about a very unique race series that takes place in Winnipeg, MB Canada every year. It is called Ice Donkey, basically it is a series of winter outdoor endurance sports that are all put together in one race. This is also with a bit of a twist, a couple of friends of ours have two very determined daughters (one is 13 the other is 12), who also wanted to compete. Now imagine two young teens getting up at 5:00 am on a Sunday in the dark and the cold, preparing for a morning of endurance racing. Honestly, I did not partake in this race because I wasn't sure how I would do, and did not want to not finish and I really hate cold skates. So the team called 'The Young Pups' showed up and rocked the course, not finishing before the cutoff time sure, but they still were determined to finish, and they did, with the full support of the race organizers, volunteers as well as a good amount of the race participants.

This is a story that I think amplifies the true spirit of racing and competition, everybody is a winner whether you finish in a record time or just finish. Getting out there and doing it is half the battle, and these two incredible girls radiated that determination. I also commend Gail and Colin and also my wife Nicole for encouraging them along their path to the end. Just think could you put 16 miles of winter endurance sports (biking, snow-shoeing, running and ice skating) together with no training at the ages of 12 and 13 respectively. I can tell you I probably would not of. The Young Pups, 'Rock'.

Enjoy and Run Smiley:

My Ice Donkey Race Report

This is going to be a bit different today, because today was a bit different.

Wow what an incredible day! Today I took the opportunity to join some friends and run (and bike, snowshoe and skate) Ice Donkey! An awesome event put on by some great race director/ and officials, and how do I even begin to tell you about the volunteers? Maybe I should mention that we were the very last team out there, we did not make the finish time, in fact by the time we finished we were 45 minutes over what the posted time was; and they were still there!(SMILING!) There was some thought of closing the course, but they chose not to after seeing how much work and effort this team was making. They let them finish. The team was made up of two strong, young ladies (12 & 13 years of age!)Their team was called ‘Young Pups’; they were followed along by ones’ father, ones’ mother, and a friend.  When the event was finished by this team and they finally made their way into the area of the forks where the awards had been held, a crowd was there to greet these young ladies with applause for their finish. It brought tears to their mothers’ eyes! What an awesome day! (This is one of the things I love so much about running, the heart of other runners!)

In following this bunch I was amazed at what lessons I learned! Today I was a student being mentored in many things by both the parenting skills of my friends and undertaking of this event by their children. Here are a few that stand out to me:

1.       When you fall down, get back up!  Every time! (After a display of this skill I also had the chance to put it into practice! Yes, I practiced several times)

2.       Perseverance,…. Keep going, sometimes it is just one foot in front of the other, until you are done

3.       Endurance; the thesaurus says- staying power, survival, fortitude, continued existence (I saw every definition of these words on display today as I watched the parents and the girls provide an awesome example of this)

4.       Encouragement; I watched two parents encourage their children down a very difficult road (covered in ice, and snow) with grace and elegance, putting their own competitive spirits on hold to let their children feel out their abilities and find their own competitive spirit

5.       Patience as their children were discovering their abilities

6.       How to have fun with your children

7.       How to coach your kids, and then let them find their own way!

8.       Wind breaking. Did you know that the one, who rides their bike first in line, breaks the wind for those behind? Well I do now, great job parents! Apparently it also works for skating I found out later in the morning!

By the way, when it was all done, that was 16 miles these young ladies pulled out of their hats, and they only signed up last week!

Later I will get into the race itself, you know, the funny stuff… like the comment, ‘I don’t ever look at the map in the city race, there’s always someone to follow’ hahahaha. The grueling stuff…. Biking on snow and ice?! Oh, and the burrs! (You know those round prickly seed things that stick to you when you’re in the forest) The touching stuff….. Seeing the parents encouraging their children to an awesome finish.

I would like to send out a HUGE thank you to all who organized this race and all who volunteered. A great and amazing job you all did.

Have a great day; you never know what you’ll learn if you’re heart is open to it.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Ending the Winter Hiatus

December was kind of full. Not only was work piling up, but I'm also involved in a chamber choir and various vocal ensembles. So with 12 concerts booked, including a short tour in Holland, I had to fight to keep the running in the calendar.

But hey! Why fight? There's a certain kind of satisfaction in relaxing for a while as well! If nothing else it can work as a sanity check: will I miss running as much as I think after a month of resting? If I don't miss it I may have forced the training on myself. And if I miss it, well, it's going to be damn sweet to get going again!

So instead of agonizing I took December as a natural winding down, and from Christmas I did a grand total of four, count 'em, four runs. And yes, I gained in weight. And yes, it felt brilliant!

(And for the sanity check? Yes, I missed running. A lot. )

Now, real winter have finally come to Sweden and the last weeks of January the temperatures plunged well below zero degrees C and the snow came to stay. Hm... Clearly I needed some kind of plan to get started again. I though and pondered and scratched my beard.

Here's what I came up with: My inaugural run in in 2012 would be in London as I would be there for a few days, and after that I would immediately buy a pair of winter running shoes, with studs. Think of it as a double whammy, get to run in London again and then get to be excited over a piece of new equipment. (Who, me? Nerd? Nooo...)

Weaving my way past pedestrians in Earls Court a Monday afternoon brought back memories. The delicate winter-blue sky, the perfect running temperature, the cabs and the pubs. Thinking about it I realized it was eleven years since I ran in London last. The sheer force of nostalgia powered me on the first two kilometers to Hyde Park.

Albert Memorial, Hyde Park

Hyde Park. It is a special place for anyone who have lived in London. Sure, we've got plenty more green areas in Stockholm, and sure, compared to the size of the city, it isn't that large or that spectacular. But for someone who has lived in London it is still magical. Padding across it a winter afternoon as it slowly got dark was magical and I found myself doing a bit some fartleks just for the sheer joy of it.

Inspired I promptly went to the local shop when I came home and bough myself a pair of Icebug Anima. Icebug's a Swedish company that started doing really minimal trail running shoes but are now mostly known in Sweden for their superior winter running shoes. The Animas is no exception: with nineteen carbide studs per shoe the grip is, in one word, awesome.

So here's me having discovered the joy of winter running: A few layers of merino wool and head lamp and Icebugs, on the trails in the snow on the ice, and loving every second of it! Granted, the eight millimeter drop is more than I've used to by now, but so far I've managed to keep my form, and the awesomeness of the grip they provide makes up for any awkwardness by a long shot.

Icebug Anima BUGrip

As far as I'm concerned the winter can stay a few months now: I having damn fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thinking deep thoughts and getting back to training

So I spent the last two months of 2011 in a chair in front of a computer. I mean, I ran my mud race in November, sat down and didn't get back up until Jan 5th (wrote a paper and defended some research, got a Master's degree). I like to say I did a Scott Jurek.

Now I'm moved to another state and getting ready to put my body back in order. I've run 6 times since Nov and rode a bike 7 miles the other day. That's not much exercise. I'm going to pick a couple of races to run during Spring and Summer and start my training.

I really started running less than a year and a half ago. I've discovered that I love it and that it makes my life better in many ways. I've had people comment that I'm nicer when I'm routinely running and my daughter actually told me to go for a run when I was grumpy one day.  My thing is that writing about running motivates me and it's rewarding to hear from people that it helps motivate them. This is really a rough time to convince myself to get out of bed early enough to get the morning run in and of course it doesn't help that it feels like I'm starting from scratch.

One of the things that always amazes me is that people think you have to have a particular kind of body or have some innate love of running to do things like a marathon or ultra. The truth is just about anyone can go from little or no running to half marathon or more. It's all mental. The real problem for most people is not their knees or arches, although that's what they'll talk about. The real problem is that people think running sucks! It's uncomfortable, it's tiring, it hurts. I think that just means you're doing it wrong!

Not every person who goes out to run a race is going to win right? So especially when you are just going into it, why train as though that's the goal. The goal is to finish the race and have a good time doing it. That's my goal for training as well. Of course I push myself, but the truth is if a run is truly miserable, or if running routinely becomes miserable, I'll drop it like a guinea pig peeing in my hand.

Exercise is supposed to make your life better. It cleanses the mind and helps put things in perspective. It's great time for deep thinking, or hanging out with someone. In a world where every thought is about to be interrupted by the ring of a phone or ding of a message, it may be one of the only places our phones have not infiltrated  (I stopped by a restaurant restroom the other day in which the guy on the pot was chatting on the phone).

Now is the time to start training for the Spring/Summer race season. Let me know what you are running, biking, mudding.

Good running everybody!