North Face EC Ontario 50 Miler

Wow, what a race! Incredible course, incredible scenery! I am still a bit awestruck.

On Saturday, I competed in and completed the North Face 50 miler Endurance Challenge in Collingwood. Knowing little about the course, but enough about the Blue Mountains, I have been spending A lot of time training in Gatineau and Frontenac. This race was my “A” race for the year and I knew it was not going to come easy . Running anything over 35K can have unique circumstances so running 80K up down a ski hill and on the Bruce Trail was going to be something else.  I learned that this is what North Face is famous for, tough vertical challenges. I love it.

For each serious race I do, there always seems to be a song that sticks with me. For this race it “Bleed it Out” by Linkin Park

Race Distance – 80K ( Garmin is reading 83.5)

Total Time – 10 hours 7 mins

Elevation Gain – 2233 meters

Total Calories Burned – 5876

Standings – 13th/95 overall, 3rd/6 age group and 11/61 men

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….Yeah here we go for the hundredth time
Hand grenade pins in every line
Throw ’em up and let something shine…

Training and Strategy Going In

I won’t bore you with all the details of my training. Suffice to say, I feel my coach Neil and I prepared a solid plan and execution strategy.

Since April, I have been spending almost every weekend running in Gatineau or Frontenac. I knew the NFEC was going to be hilly, and since hills have been my weakness I was not taking any chances. Waking up at 4:00 am sucks on a weekend, but this was my “A” race. I was not going to screw it up with lack of training and then wonder what happened.  Our plan was to stay around a 6:00 – 6:30 pace, picking up speed on the flats, but not the point where my heart rate picked up and started kicking me out of aerobic. I wanted my body to burn as much as fat as possible and use the limited Glycogen stores sparingly. My issue in the past has been bad judgment on pacing early on in races, and I was not going to deviate off plan!!

Specific areas of training:

Wolfe Trail off P13 in Gatineau.

Slide Lake, Big Salmon and Arkon Trails in Frontenac.

The Race

Up at 3:00 am. The race starts at 5:00 am, so I need to eat and prepare everything. Drop bags must be dropped before 4:30, so this left me only 1 hour and 15 minutes to leave the hotel. In typical fashion, the night before was a write off for sleep. I prepared my drop bag. Extra shoes, Extra shorts, Extra socks, Extra shirt, Extra gels and food. I left the hotel at about 4:05 am and drove out to the mountain. It was humid with a nice gentle breeze coming off Georgian Bay.

…Truth is you can stop and stare
Run myself out and no one cares…

GO!!!

If you check the elevation profile above, you’ll see that this is a very hilly course with a lot of up and down. It’s also a hilly course with some pretty steep vertical sections. If you had not prepared, it was going to be tough. This meant periods of walking when I knew I could run and letting people go by me. This was perhaps the greatest challenge , but Ultra running, as I have learned is about patience.I followed the race strategy closely and it meant saying goodbye to some people on the first lap. I knew instinctively that I would see some of them again, and I did. The course kept coming back for more and as the heat of the day built, new challenges presented themselves to go along with the hills. The course itself, was a 2 loop x 40K. I paid very close attention to the entire 1st loop so I could guess where some of the trouble spots would be on the 2nd loop. Believe it or not, some of the toughest sections were the ones you had to descend. In particular for me,  the last 1.8K down to restart the 2nd loop or come home. It was close to torture. Hard packed, loose shale rock with uneven, steep and loose stairs. Each step sent your ankles, knees and hip flexors into a scream fest. Slowing down prolonged it, speeding up made the impact that much harder. I loved it because these are the moments that define us.

I was very happy that Lap 1 was executed perfectly, most of Lap 2 also saw the plan, but the last 7K were tough. I started leaking time because I was not able to take advantage of the downhill sections like I should have.

My Mantra for this race : “I’m tired, I hurt but I’m not quitting!”

…this hurts, I won’t lie
Doesn’t matter how hard I try
Half the words don’t mean a thing
And I know that I wont be satisfied
So why try ignoring him
Make it a dirt dance floor again…

 

There is a little bit of everything on this course. Single Path Trails, Stairs, Dirt Roads, Pavement, Ski Runs and bush hogged paths through a forest. It really is a quick run from a perception as terrain moves fast and KM’s do tend to roll by.

 

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Energy and Nutrition

Some of my training, was not just running. It was training my body to reduce the need to constantly takes gels or sport drink. I purposely pushed myself during my running  and cycling with only water. It was rough early on, but I found that it got much easier to go longer without starting to feel that heavy, bonk like feeling. Regardless, you still need some nutrition and I made sure I stayed on top of this. The aid stations were well stocked and I had no problems finding whatever I needed. This ranged from ice, water, M&M’s, skittles…you name it. At my last 50 miler in Haliburton, I hit a bonking wall at 60K. I was very happy to push through without seeing that monster this time. I was tired, but I was always able to draw on energy.

…I bleed it out digging deeper
Just to throw it away…

Physical

Ouch. My body was tired and sore but I’d be more concerned if I was not hurting. In particular, my feet felt like hell. I wore my compression socks, and I think that friction was causing some of the issues as the foot slides around in the shoe. I wore my Trailroc 245’s and I’ll look for something with a little bit more cushion on the long events. Inov8 now has an Ultra shoe  (Trailroc 295 ) and it’s on my list to explore. Climbing the last few hills, I could feel my calf muscles threatening me..they were quivering with each step up the hill but I managed to hold hem off.

Overall

I am happy!

This was my A race and I came away with no questions on whether I could have done anything different. The course is excellent ad the race organization was great. My training got me exactly where I was hoping it would have. Icing on the cake was where I placed overall. This was only my second 50 miler ever.

But don’t ask me about a 100 miler…I’m not considering that beast yet.

Time for Tri!

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Slowly and Surely…2014 starts to form

Slowly and surely, I have been working on my 2014 season. This one has taken me longer than any other. I am truly torn between running Triathlon and doing a full season of Ultramarathons.

So far, it appears Ultramarathons are winning.

2014

There are just too many ways to have fun. So with each lap of a pool and crank on a bike, I come to realisation that I am further away from Triathlon than I have been in a while. But, I think that’s ok. A break after 5 solid years of Multisport is not going to hurt me. If anything, it’s likely to refocus me for next year ( 2015 ) when I sign on for Ironman Canada.

There is still a hidden goal in here as well, that I am not yet committing to but I cannot stop thinking about. That’s to run the Cat Trail from end to end and set the time standard for it.

Cheers,

See you on the trails

Corey

UltraSpire Alpha Vest Review

 

Note: I am not being paid, nor did I receive anything in this review for free. I purchased everything mentioned.

 

In jumping into Ultras and Mountainbiking, it became very evident early on that carrying bottles was not going to be enough.  I needed somewhere to store my fuel and a larger reservoir for liquid.

I owned a camel back, but it was not practical for what I wanted. The storage was all at the back, which meant I had to stop and unbuckle it each time I wanted something. It also sat much higher with a tendency to bounce more. This caused wear on my shirt and chaffing on my skin. I feel it is more suited to hiking, where time was less an issue and stopping was normal.

Derrick Spafford of Spafford Health and Adventure has a lot of years experience built up in the Ultra field. What he uses, carry’s a lot of weight with a lot of people, myself included. He carries the brand in his online store so I knew that it was going to be something worth looking at.

 

So, as with the shoes, I am not going to write a review with a lot of technical jargon. My reviews are based on “ Does it work?”

 

What I wanted

– Something that would sit lower on my back, and not between my shoulder blades

– Something that carried light, I did not want to feel like I was wearing a bullet proof vest

– Something that would give me access to storage, quickly, and without having to stop.

– Something that would transfer liquid in the tube, at a rate that would not have me sucking my toes up

– Something that did not have the fluid tube dragging across my neck for 10 hours. 

 

After doing the research and speaking to a few more folks, I decided to give the Alpha Light Weight Race Vest a try. I contacted Derrick, made the purchase and he had something in the mail to me within a day. I arrived at my door within 3 days. Great Start!

 

Initial thoughts

– When I removed the vest from the box, it seemed to be a little bigger and I was concerned initially about feeling bulky.

– You can see this vest is very well constructed.

– The Feeding Tube is bigger and much stronger.

– For opening and closing the feeding tube, it’s push and pull for on and off, no valves to open and close.

– Lots of storage, aside from the reservoir, there are two pockets up front that can accommodate extra bottles or other items. There are also multiple smaller areas for storing whatever, all with either zippers or magnetic closures

Filling it

– Filling is very easy, and much different than the Camel Back. Where Camel back opted for a threaded twist lock, Ultra Spire has you fill from the top. You then fold the top down and lock it in place by a slide on fastener. This eliminated any chance of spill and does a wonderful job of sealing it very tight. I shook my mix and held it at several angles and not a drop spilled.

– The reservoir itself holds 2 liters and is made from a clear, strong plastic. Clearly marked for filling levels.

– The tube is detachable with a simple lock and clip, which makes cleaning it Ultra Easy. ( See what I did there? )

– Sliding it into the vest is easy and it quickly reattaches within 30 seconds.

Using it

-So far, I have worn it is very simple. I fill the 2 liter with my fuelling drink, put a bottle of water in one of the front pockets and gels and food in the other. Without it on, it felt heavy. Once I put it on, I was amazed at how quickly the weight seemed to balance. I clipped into place and felt comfortable. The back sits lower then my other one and does not bounce. The drinking tube is well positioned, in that it does not ride too high, or too low. The construction of it is a little heavier duty and to drink you pull to open and push to close. This makes it easier as it can all be done by your mouth with little effort. Pulling fluids is simple and volume very good requiring minimal effort to transfer from the pack to your mouth.

                                                                        

-There are a fewAfter running 9 hours in haliburton, I forgot to take this off for a little while. little pouches as well with magnetic closures that snap into place quickly and easily. Good for storing odds and ends, or other little smaller needs while running.

-What I really liked about this? After running 9 hours, it was still as balanced and light as when I started. There was no bouncing, no rubbing of fabric around the shoulders ( leading to chaffing and a worn out shirt ) and wearing it was not an annoyance or burden.

– Although I have not done so, I have seen people wear this with two bottles in the front and their “stow-away” stuff in the back where the reservoir normally fits.  This makes this vest very, very versatile and able to cover a wide range of adventures or length of races/runs.

 

 

 

 

Over all

-For anyone that is looking for a great fitting, multipurpose nutrition vest, I recommend this without hesitation. You can run unsupported for quite some time with all the options available. 

For more information or to buy one, talk to Derrick Spafford of Spafford Health and Adventure

 

 

Packs and Vests: specs

Alpha Lightweight Race Vest (Back)

Alpha Lightweight Race Vest (Front)

Alpha – Lightweight Race Vest – NEW!
Finally, a vest where you can reach into the back pocket! Brought to you by our UltrAspire Elite Immortals! High on their wish list was a racing vest, which did not have to be removed in order to access contents stowed in the back.

Features
• Comes standard with a 2 L reservoir.
• External shock cord for jacket or reservoir compression.
• Proprietary Passage Pocket™ with left and right-handed access, which is fully accessible while wearing the pack. No worry dual magnetic closures.
• Reservoir rides lower in the small of the back for better center of gravity.
• Ultra-lightweight, and first in the industry use of large hole mesh for increased breathability.
• Reflective details on the front and back for nighttime visibility.
• Stretch panels in the side with elastic mesh pockets for trash.
• Two lightweight mesh pockets in the front to carry bottles or food.
• Sweat proof Magnon Electrolyte Pocket™.
• Zippered small elastic mesh pocket on shoulder strap.

Available colors: Steep Green (S/M), Precipitous Blue (L/XL)
Weight: 200 g (340 g with reservoir)

Haliburton 50 miler, or the first 80K run of my life Race Report

So the big question I am getting asked. Is the 50 miler harder than an Ironman? After thinking long and hard, I have an answer to this but I will wait to the end.

Strategy

I went into this race hoping to land a time around 9:30 – 10:30. Having never ran the distance, I was not sure what to expect. What I did know, was that Haliburton is not a course to take for granted. There are a lot of climbs and some very, very tough technical sections that require full attention. The course is an out and back, so everything you may breeze though going out could get you coming back.

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1) I sent my drop bag to Aid station 6 ( ~ 30K ), this would give me access to it twice. Once on the way out  ( ~ 30K  ) and once on the way back ( ~ 60K ). In it, I placed  extra gels, a couple of natural energy bars, my extra clothes, an extra water bottle belt and an extra buff.

2) At the start of the race, I planned to run quick and create a gap ahead of the main group. I did not plan to stay with the leaders, but I wanted to have free movement on the trail when I entered it. I planned to run/race hard for the first 50K, and then see what the legs had left. I was fully expecting, and was fully prepared to have the wheels come off at some point. I purposely wanted to give myself a full test of physical and mental capability in this race. This may sound strange but I was looking at this as a culmination of the last 6 years of training. This was what I was considering  the end of the first period in my training and a start of a new one.

3) From an nutrition angle, many people with experience kept telling me to keep eating. I am used to this for my Ironman races, but a reminder is always welcome. I figured I better keep eating. I was targeting to consume gels, fruit bars, Larabars and then some goodies at the aid stations. Typically, once every 45 minutes.

4) For liquids, in my Ultraspire vest ( review coming soon )  bladder, I carried 2 liters of Heed going out and also a 650ml bottle of water. Refill as needed.

Race Day

“…Well I woke up to the sound of silence , The cars were cutting like knives in a fist fight..”

The First Half

haliburtonstartThe race began on Saturday morning at 6:00 am. It was dark and cloudy so I chose to wear my headlamp as I was very afraid of finding a pothole early on and rolling my ankle. As some of you know, I spent a great amount of time with my PT Jenn Keller at Podium Sports rebuilding it all winter. The ankle has been holding up, but it is not 100% nor will it ever be again.

The call to the line went out and the Bag piper piped us to the start line. Something beautiful listening the pipes that early.

The start came quick and off we went. The first 6K or so is all road and rolling. I stayed with the lead group for the first 3 or 4K, and then backed the throttle down bringing myself closer to where I wanted to run.  When we went into the trail around Macdonald Lake, I could see two guys in front. Both disappeared within the first 10 minutes and that was the last time I saw anyone for a while. It was cool on the road, but the humidity inside the forest was high and it was not long before I was sweating. The first 17K seemed to fly but suddenly I got a wave of self-awareness. The enormity of the run in front of me went from being a post or two on Facebook to one long bitchin’ day. I swallowed some anxiety , put my head down and adjusted my form. I promised myself that regardless of what would happen, I would try my very best and never give up.

To quote a friend of mine. “Quitting is not an option”

Running across the trails, deep in the forest is both humbling and enlightening. When you get into “flight mode”, you feel like you are flying along the trails and its magical. But the enormity of the forest can be overwhelming at times and being alone inside it is not like running or riding on a road. On the road, you’re rarely more than a minute away from a car, or a house. In the forest like Haliburton, you are not accessible to other people and can run for long periods of time without seeing people. Your foot fall can echo and branches snap loudly.

One of the other things about running on trails, is that it’s much harder than road. For example, a hill on a road has been smoothed and levelled to reduce it’s grade, but not so much on a trail. Walking is a normal part of a race and there are some hills you cannot climb while you run. It requires much more concentration because zoning out with loose rocks could give you a broken ankle. At about 35K, I lost focus and went over hard on my ankle. I yelled, grimaced and had to stop. I quickly started doing the self-analysis and tried to determine how bad it was. This hurt and I knew it was going to impact the rest of my race. The question was, would it stop me? I had no choice but to walk a little bit and during this time, two runners went by. Both asked me if I needed help. I was about 2K from the nearest aid station. I told them to go on and decided that there was only one way for me to figure this out. It hurt, but I slowly started gaining momentum again and it subsided slightly.

The biggest piss off, is that this was very early for me and I now needed to uber careful.  My ankle had nothing left to protect me from another roll. I had no choice but to pull back and take no risks.

The Second Half

Photos Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/andys_camera/

“…If you’re lost and alone, Or you’re sinking like a stone, Carry on, May your past be the sound, Of your feet upon the ground, Carry on…”

I proceeded through the next aid station and ran to the turn around at 40K. I was now one marathon completed, and was going home.  My ankle was hurting and my legs were showing signs of fatigue. The pace started dropping and the hills started grinding more. I doubled up on my fuel hoping to get a bit of a boost and ran the next 15K at about a 7:20 pace.

I crossed the 50K mark with a time of 5 hr 25 minutes. That was a best for me and to do it on a tough course like this (with a rolled ankle) I was happy. Small victories right? It gave me a boost for about 10K

Things got dark ( figuratively ) for me around 60K,  I started missing  and time started slipping. I was tired, grumpy and sore. My knees were bothering me, and I could no longer run down hills. There was no food I was carrying that seemed to be working, so I started taking ginger ale at the aid stations to try and get some sugar. In my head, I started wondering if I could make my goal. Could I make it? My body and mind had gone to a dark room and did not seem to want to come back.

I did a motivation roll over and tried  to reboot my thinking process. “Goals are self-imposed, Limits are meant to be broken  and whether you think you can or you can’t….you’re right”.  I had a very good run up to the 60K, so I should be very happy that I was still moving and was able to finish. Somewhere around 65K, I looked back over my shoulder and saw two friendly faces coming towards me. I can honestly tell you, I felt a huge rush when I saw Dave Yona and Dave Bohn. Mr. Bohn, ever the gentlemen gave me a handshake, a smile  and quickly invited  me along. “ Come on, we’re finishing this thing together! All of us!” he said. He said it not with authority, but with the tone of someone who had been to the corner and someone who would steer the ship home. I found myself bouncing backing and joined the duo. We were now a GGT trio. Choo Choo Choo!!!!

“…Cause we are, We are shining stars, We are invincible, We are who we are, On our darkest day, When we’re miles away, So we’ll come, We will find our way home..”

That was the last time I struggled during the race. We stopped at the next aid station and I grabbed a mouthful of jelly beans. This gave me more energy and I started resetting my form to conserve energy.

-Shoulders Down,

-Swing nip to hip,

-Foot fall under the knee,

-Straight back, head up

– I said head UP!

We ran through Aid Station # 2 and retraced our steps for the second loop around McDonald Lake, the reality started setting in that we would finish this 80K run and we would most likely do it around 9:30. I did not want to get too greedy and banished all thoughts of coming in sooner. We would finish together regardless of how that finish looked. I was still hurting on the downhill’s and my ankle had ballooned, but it was allowing me to keep going. I was in constant “contact” it with it assessing whether I had crossed the line from “hurt” to “injury”. So far, it was only hurt…and that I can deal with just fine. If it crosses to injury, decisions need to be made about potential risks and how long-term the impact could be.

We came out of the forest, and off the last trail for the run. We plodded our way along the roads, talking, distracting and walking when needed. The KM’s ticked off and the minutes rolled by. We stopped quickly at aid station 3, thanked them for their assistance and off we went. No more stopping, it was time to run home. We rolled back through Aid station 2 with a smile, a wave and headed out of the forest.

All of us, all together. The finish line came fast as it always does, and within seconds, we were standing there absorbing what we had just done.

9 hr 21 minutes.

5400 feet of climbing

50 miles / 80 kms

“…May your past be the sound, Of your feet upon the ground, Carry on…Carry on Carry On…”

So finally.

Is the 80K harder than a full Ironman. The answer is “ There is no answer”. You cannot compare the two of them. The only similarity is that they are both endurance events that test you physically and mentally. That is the end of it. There is no way to compare a 3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42.2 run to a single 80K run on the trails. Sorry..just can’t be done. But both are enduring and to be respected.

Breakfast with Team GGT, the day after!

Special Thanks

My wife  – I often forget to mention the most important crew I have. My wife and soulmate who never, ever drops her support and is there at every finish line, whether she comes to a race or not.

My Coach Neil Rosenthal – amazing runner and a great guy. Taking me to places I am excited to go!

Dave Bohn – Dude, you rock. Simply put.

Good Guys Tri – My team and friends, great folks, great support..amazing way to spend a weekend.

My best friend Dale – Dude, we kicked another one in the ass.

My Sport X Family – I took a different direction this time, but you guys supported me as always. Thank you.

Serena, Suzanne and Augusto – Awesome sharing the weekend with you!!! Serena – did you hear those wolves?